RALEIGH, N.C. – The Apocalypse didn’t happen in 2011 but Harold Camping has confirmed that it will happen – October 21, 2012.
May 21st, 2012 has come and gone. The Rapture is over. Now the dread can begin because on October 21st, 2012… all of us that have been Left Behind, will die.
As crestfallen followers of a California preacher who foresaw the world’s end strained to find meaning in their lives, Harold Camping revised his apocalyptic prophecy Monday, saying he was off by five months and the Earth actually will be obliterated on Oct. 21.
Here’s a recap of how we got here:
Marie Exley would have liked to start a family. Instead, the 32-year-old Army veteran has less than two months left on the planet and she is going to spend her time spreading the word: Judgment Day is almost here.
Exley is part of a movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible that the end of the world will begin May 21, 2012.
Technically, May 21st was Judgment Day, or The Rapture, so the world won’t end that day, it’s just the beginning of the end… But, don’t worry, it will end VERY soon after. Probably by October 21st of this year – at the latest.
To get the word out, they’re using billboards and bus stop benches, traveling caravans of RVs and volunteers passing out pamphlets on street corners. Cities from Bridgeport, Conn., to Little Rock, Ark., now have billboards with the ominous message, and mission groups are traveling through Latin America and Africa to spread the news outside the U.S.
“A lot of people might think, ‘The end’s coming, let’s go party, let’s drink and have multiple sex partners” said Exley, a veteran of two deployments in Iraq. “But we’re commanded by God to warn people. I wish I could just be like everybody else, but it’s so much better to know that when the end comes, you’ll be safe.”
Last August, Exley left her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to work with Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio Worldwide, the independent Christian ministry whose leader, Harold Camping, has calculated the May 21 date based on his reading of the Bible.
Her husband left for Vegas to drink and spend his life savings on prostitutes.
Exley, in the meantime, is organizing traveling columns of RVs carrying the message from city to city, a logistics challenge that her military experience has helped solve. The vehicles are scheduled to be in five North Carolina cities between now and the second week of January, but Exley will shortly be gone: overseas, where she hopes to eventually make it back to Iraq.
“I don’t really have plans to come back,” she said. “Time is short.”
Not everyone who’s heard Camping’s message is taking such a dramatic step. They’re remaining in their day-to-day lives, but helping publicize the prophecy in other ways. Allison Warden, of Raleigh, has been helping organize a campaign using billboards, post cards and other media in cities across the U.S. through a website, We Can Know.
The 29-year-old payroll clerk laughs when asked about reactions to the message, which is plastered all over her car.
“It’s definitely against the grain, I know that,” she said. “We’re hoping people won’t take our word for it, or Harold Camping’s word for it. We’re hoping that people will search the scriptures for themselves.”
Camping, 89, believes the Bible essentially functions as a cosmic calendar explaining exactly when various prophecies will be fulfilled. But he’s 89, so he’s not so worried about the world ending. He’s already done all the living he wants to do.
The retired civil engineer said all his calculations come from close readings of the Bible, but that external events like the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 are signs confirming the date.
“Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment,” he said.
The doctrine known as the Rapture teaches that believers will be taken up to heaven, while everyone else will remain on earth for a period of torment, concluding with the end of time. Camping believes that will happen in October.
“If May 21 passes and I’m still here, that means I wasn’t saved and I will be dead on October 21st. Does that mean God’s word is inaccurate or untrue? Not at all,” Warden said.
The belief that Christ will return to earth and bring an end to history has been a basic element of Christian belief since the first century. The Book of Revelation, which comes last in the New Testatment, describes this conclusion in vivid language that has inspired Christians for centuries.
Few churches are willing to set a date for the end of the world, heeding Jesus’ words in the gospels of Mark and Matthew that no one can know the day or hour it will happen. Predictions like Camping’s, though, aren’t new. One of the most famous in history was by the Baptist leader William Miller,who predicted the end for Oct. 22, 1844, which came to be known as the Great Disappointment among his followers, some of whom subsequently founded the Seventh Day Adventist church.
Ron Hardeski of Bayonne, New Jersey also predicted the world would end on February 27th, 2004 – his wife’s 50th birthday. The world didn’t end, so Ron beat his wife to death with a Bible. He’s serving a life sentence.
“In the U.S., there is still a significant population, mostly Protestant, who look at the Bible as kind of a puzzle, and the puzzle is God’s word and it’s predicting when the end times will come,” said Catherine Wessinger, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who studies millennialism, the belief in pending apocalypse.
“A lot of times these prophecies gain traction when difficulties are happening in society,” she said. “Right now, there’s a lot of insecurity, and this is a promise that says it’s not all random, it’s part of God’s plan.”
Past predictions that failed to come true don’t have any bearing on the current calculation, believers maintain.
“It would be like telling the Wright brothers that every other attempt to fly has failed, so you shouldn’t even try,” said Chris McCann, who works with Bible Fellowship, one of the groups spreading the message.
“If you want to say we’re crazy, go ahead,” she said. “But when you’re dead on May 21st (or soon after), you’ll know we were right. And you’ll thank us.”