Articles End-times Eschatology
Harold Camping Will go Mad on May 11, 2011
Jan 5, 2010
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“In many cases sheer fanaticism has been the result of exclusively dwelling on prophecy, and probably more men have gone mad on that subject than on any other religious question.”[1] —Charles H. Spurgeon

Harold Camping is at it again. He is predicting that an eschatological “end” will take place in 2011.[2] The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “Camping, 88, has scrutinized the Bible for almost 70 years and says he has developed a mathematical system to interpret prophecies hidden within the Good Book. One night a few years ago, Camping, a civil engineer by trade, crunched the numbers and was stunned at what he’d found: The world will end May 21, 2011.”[3]

Camping sounds a lot like Edgar Whisenant who predicted that the rapture would take place in September 1988, a certainty that he backed up with his booklet 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988 and the claim “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town.”[4] When the certainty of his prediction failed with the passing of September 1988, Whisenant, who worked as an engineer with NASA, claimed he had “made a slight miscalculation of one year because of a fluke in the Gregorian calendar. Jesus was actually going to return during Rosh Hashanah of 1989! Whisenant published his discovery in The Final Shout—Rapture Report 1989. ‘The time is short,’ he said. ‘Everything points to it.’ This publication was subsequently retitled The Final Shout—Rapture Report 1990 and has since been re-titled yearly as The Final Shout—Rapture Report 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and so on.”[5] In case you don’t know, it’s now 2010.

The failure of Whisenant did not stop Camping from plunging into the prediction game, and it didn’t stop people from following his nonsense. Camping sold tens of thousands of copies of 1994?[6] He followed this book with Are You Ready?: Much More Evidence that 1994 Could be the End of the World. The media give Camping’s view front-page coverage every time he opens his mouth because of his calculated prediction that Jesus will return on a specific date. They know he’ll be wrong. Their goal is to discredit the Bible. That’s why the San Francisco Chronicle describes Camping as a “Biblical scholar.” If a “scholar,” even a self-proclaimed wone, makes a prediction about the Bible and is wrong, then the Bible must be wrong (see example here).

Some might dismiss Camping as someone with limited audience reach, but he is the president of the California-based Family Radio, a world-wide conglomerate of dozens of radio stations broadcasting a conservative and somewhat idiosyncratic Christian message. The network’s website homepage includes a banner that reads “Judgment Day: May 11, 2011.” Camping is an anomaly in prophecy circles because he is amillennial. Amillennialists are not known for setting dates.

Camping’s prophetic methodology is based on his own strange version of numerology. In John 21:1–14 we learn that Jesus’ disciples were about 200 cubits out from the Sea of Galilee engaged in their trade as fishermen. On this day the disciples catch 153 fish. According to Camping the Bible is teaching that the 200 cubits represent about 2,000 years between the first and second comings of Christ.[7] Since Jesus was born, according to Camping, on October 4, 7 B.C., the interpreter is to add 2,000 years minus one year for the year zero and “presto change-o,” out comes 1994! What about the 153 fish? The number 153 equals 3 times 3 times 17: “The number three signifies the purpose of God whereas the number seventeen signifies heaven. Thus we learn that [the] purpose of God is to bring all believers that are ‘caught’ by the Gospel into heaven.”[8]

Camping reconstructs the genealogies to fit his interpretive model, pinpointing Adam’s creation at 11,013 B.C. While the exact year of creation is important to Camping’s overall system, it is his conclusion that the numbers 13, 130, and 13,000 have date-setting significance. He bases this on the following: Adam was 130 years of age when Eve gave birth to Seth (Gen. 5:3); Jacob was 130 years of age when he came to Egypt (Gen. 47:9); Jehoida was 130 years of age when he died (2 Chron. 24:15). Because of the 11,013 B.C. date for the creation of the world, Camping is stuck with the number 13,000 (11,000 years B.C. + 2000 years A.D. = 13,000 years).

Camping then searches the Bible to find a way to make the number 13 and its multiples significant. He does this by trying to convince his readers that while there are apparently 12 tribes, there are actually 13 tribes. He does the same with the number of apostles. While there seem to be only 12 apostles, there are actually 13 apostles.[9] Camping then moves in for the kill. While there are apparently 12,000 years for the duration of the earth, there are actually 13,000 years.

But we can play the numerology game as well as Camping: There are actually 14 tribes—the ten tribes + Joseph + Ephraim + Manassah + Levi = 14. Fourteen is the result of 2 X 7, the number of the church (2) and perfection (7), according to Camping.[10] Fourteen thousand years becomes the duration of man’s existence on earth. The same can be done with the number of apostles. Using Camping’s math, there are really 15 apostles: “The twelve,” including Judas (Luke 22:3), plus Matthias (Acts 1:26), Paul (1 Cor. 15:9), and Barnabas (Acts 14:14). But this will not do, since neither 14 nor 15 fit with Camping’s belief in the soon return of Jesus and the arbitrary 13,000-year marker.

You might think that I’m making this up, that I’m putting the worst possible spin on Camping’s prophetic system? I assure you that his entire book reads like this. Consider the following:

Likewise, the Bible apparently assures us that there were to be 12,000 years in the duration of the earth. That is, creation occurred 11,000 years (remember 11,000 + 6 years) before Christ [Jesus was born in 7 B.C.]. And Revelation 20:1–3 teaches that Satan was to be bound a thousand years. Since it can be readily shown that Satan was bound at the cross so that Christ would not be frustrated in His program of salvation for the world [!], the duration of the earth should be 11,000 plus 1000 years for a total of 12,000 years. Moreover, you recall that God told Noah in Genesis 6:3: “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’” While this 120 years could be the 120 years during which Noah constructed the ark, it apparently could also be a reference to the fullness of time for all mankind. The number twelve does signify the fullness of whatever God has in view. Then the 120 years could also signify 1200 years or 12,000 years or 120,000 years for the duration of man’s existence on earth. Given all the other information in the Bible, we know that 12,000 years is the only number that can relate.[11]

Of course, Camping has a problem. He is one thousand years short. He must now figure out a way of stretching 12,000 to 13,000. It is at this point that he hunts for the mystical 13: 12 tribes become 13 tribes and 12 apostles become 13 apostles. “Now we should broach the question: Where does 13,000 years bring us? This is easily answered. Creation occurred in the year 11,013 B.C. Exactly 13,000 years later brings us to 1988. This was the thirteenth thousandth anniversary of the history of the world.”[12] Camping’s calculations only take us to 1988, the end of the 13,000 years for the duration of the earth. “We see again how 13,000 years or the year 1988 stands out as the end of the world. Does that mean,” Camping argues, “that we could expect the year 1988 to be a candidate for the year of Christ’s return? Surely it must be a very important year, but we know it cannot be the year of the end of the world because we have already passed the year 1988.”[13]

Did you follow any of this? Camping maintains that 12,000 years is the magic number, but this leaves him a thousand years short. The number 13 which becomes 13,000 is the missing component. But this only takes us to 1988. The reason 1988 is not the year Jesus will return is because Jesus did not return in 1988! Camping must now come up with six additional years to make 1994 the year Jesus will return. How does he do it? Camping goes to Daniel 8:14 and finds 2300 days that are to be, according to Camping, “the final tribulation period. . . . Therefore, six years later than 1988 (actually 2300 days), Christ would return and we would be at the end of this world’s existence. That is the year 1994.”[14]

For all his certainty, Camping abandons this numerological scheme for a new one based on numbers related to the flood. Camping contends that the flood occurred in 4990 B.C. Seven days before the beginning of the Flood, God commanded Noah to warn the peoples of the world that they had seven days to get into the safety of the ark. The Bible tells us that on the 17th day of the 2nd month of that year God shut the door of the ark. With these numbers in hand, Camping go to 2 Peter 3:8, the fallback verse of all prophetic speculators: “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” Here’s how Camping puts all of it together:

Therefore, with the correct understanding that the seven days referred to in Genesis 7:4 can be understood as 7,000 years, we learn that when God told Noah there were seven days to escape worldwide destruction, He was also telling the world there would be exactly 7,000 years (one day is as 1,000 years) to escape the wrath of God that would come when He destroys the world on Judgment Day. . . .

Thus God is showing us by the words of 2 Peter 3:8 that He wants us to know that exactly 7,000 years after He destroyed the world with water in Noah’s day, He plans to destroy the entire world forever. Because the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. when the flood began, the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment.

Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C.

There is more substance in the Mayan Calendar than the prophetic works of Harold Camping. I cannot understand why people believe this guy. Camping has zero credibility. He blows the 1994 prediction (of course), and then he has the nerve to make another more definite prediction? Give me a break.

Endnotes:

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1876), 23:644
[2] Harold Camping, Time Has an End: A Biblical History of the World 11,013 B.C.–2011 A.D. (New York: Vantage Press, 2005).
[3]
Justin Berton, “Biblical scholar’s date for rapture: May 21, 2011 (January 1, 2010).
[4] Quoted in Richard Abanes, End-Time Visions: The Road to Armageddon? (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1998), 93. Whisenant made the same claim when I debated him in 1988.
[5]
Abanes, End-Time Visions, 94.
[6] Harold Camping, 1994? (New York: Vantage Press, 1992), 531.
[7] Camping, 1994?, 503.
[8]
Camping, 1994?, 504.
[9]
Using Camping’s math, there are really 15 apostles: “The twelve,” including Judas (Luke 22:3), plus Matthias (Acts 1:26), Paul (1 Cor. 15:9), and Barnabas (Acts 14:14). The New Testament describes the number of apostles as “the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:5).
[10]
Camping, 1994?, 371.
[11] Camping, 1994?, 440–441.
[12]
Camping, 1994?, 441.
[13]
Camping, 1994?, 443.
[14]
Camping, 1994?, 444.

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About author

Gary DeMar

Gary is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. He is the author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles, His most recent book is Exposing the Real Last Days Scoffers. Gary lives in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife, Carol. They have two married sons and four grandchildren, Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).

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