Harold Camping breaks his silence: Judgment day is Oct. 21
Family Radio was looking at the Bible in too much of an earthly fashion when it predicted a great earthquake on May 21, 2011 would mark the beginning of judgment day, said Harold Camping, president and general manager, Monday.
Rather, May 21 was a day when God’s judgment came on the world spiritually, Camping said. But Family Radio is sticking to its original assertion that the world will literally come to a fiery end on Oct. 21, 2011.
Camping came out of seclusion and broke his silence on Family Radio’s regularly scheduled “Open Forum Monday,” which began at 8:30 p.m. EST in Oakland, Calif. The “Open Forum” is usually a program where callers, including Camping’s most harshest critics, can call in ask questions about the Bible live on the air. But this “Open Forum,” on May 23, was reserved for reporters to ask several questions of Camping.
Originally, Camping boldly predicted to followers on his radio show that judgment day would begin in New Zealand with a devastating earthquake that would begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 21, 2011, and then it would proceed to ripple across the Earth as 6 p.m. hit each time zone. Many people kept a watchful eye for news reports out of New Zealand, which is 16 hours ahead of the East Coast in the United States. When the earthquake failed to happen, critics quickly declared Camping’s prediction a bust.
Based on figures given in Revelation 9, Camping said it was a strong possibility that God would save 200 million people during the Rapture and bring them into heaven. Meanwhile, the rest of the world would perish or experience hell on Earth until Oct. 21, 2011, when the world and the universe would be destroyed by fire.
“When May 21 came and went, it was a very difficult time for me, a very difficult time,” said Camping, 89, a retired civil engineer and co-founder of Family Radio. “I was truly wondering, what is going on? In my mind, I went back through all of the promises that God has made and all the proofs and signs. I really, really was praying, 'Oh Lord, what happened?'”
Camping read a supportive letter from a woman who wrote that God would not cause a devastating earthquake to occur on May 21 because it would cause too much suffering. Because God is merciful, he would cause the Rapture and the final fiery destruction to both happen on Oct. 21, 2011, so that no one would undergo prolonged suffering.
Camping also spoke about his original prediction in his book, “1994?” He wrote the date of Sept. 7, 1994 was a strong candidate for judgment day. Rather, that date was a double-edged sword, he said. On that date, God brought his judgment on all the churches and congregations because they had become apostate. At the same time, God began to evangelize the world, creating a salvation plan for people outside of the churches. This followed the end of the church age in May 21, 1988, after which few people were saved.
“We were convinced that on May 21, that God would return here in a very physical way and usher in the final five months of judgment,” said Camping, who earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California-Berkeley. “The fact is, when we look at it spiritually, he did come. Let me back up. There’s not a new date. We’ve talked about Oct. 21 being the end of the world. But we’ve not emphasized it because we’ve focused on this date.”
When asked how he could in good conscience predict that the world will end in October, Camping said he has never claimed he is infallible. Only God is infallible, he said.
“I have many pastors who are friends, but except for Dr. Duane Spencer –– a dear friend who died –– I have never heard a pastor say, 'I was mistaken when I taught you last year,'” he said. "All I can do is go to the Bible and very humbly say, 'Look, I’ve done more study and checked this verse out and made a change.' That doesn’t hurt the credibility of the Bible at all. That just shows us that we have feet of clay and we’re not perfect. The Bible says again and again that God resists the proud.”
When asked about finances, Camping said he really did not know how much money Family Radio raised for its multi-million dollar apocalyptic campaign.
“We’ve had the gifts from our listeners. They’re not really giving it to Family Radio. They’re giving it because of their desire to proliferate the word of God,” he said.
The donated money will not be returned, Camping said in response to a follow-up question.
“We’re not at the end. We’re not out of business. We still have to go another five months,” he said. “It was given to get the Gospel out, and we are spending it as wisely as possible.”
Continuing a somewhat hostile line of questions, another reporter asked what advice Family Radio had for those who gave their life savings to promote the Apocalypse. Family Radio is not in the business of giving out financial advice, Camping responded.
Moreover, just as people have dealt with the very difficult circumstances dealt to them by the “great recession,” they can manage now with help from relatives, the city or the state, Camping said.
“People cope,” he said. “We’re in the spiritual business. Pray without ceasing. Believe you me, God is very real. I can personally testify to many times in my life where I didn’t know what to do, I would pray and pray. And the next thing you know, a little door opens here and a little door opens there.”
Camping was also asked if he was willing to apologize for last weekend's non-event.
“If people want me to apologize, that doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “I’m not a genius. I pray all the time for wisdom. When I’m wrong, I say I was wrong. It (judgment day) was spiritual, not physical. Yet, the world is under judgment whereas prior to May 21, it was not.”