WHOA, HAROLD! Apocalypse This Year, Says Christian Broadcaster

The Rapture will occur at 6:00 p.m. May 21, 2011.  Five months later—on October 11, 2011—the world will end with a cataclysmic earthquake.

So says talk radio mogul and self-published author Harold Camping.  [Spoiler:  I don’t believe this stuff.]

Camping is president of Family Radio, a California-based religious broadcasting network that broadcasts on more than 150 outlets in the United States, and of the millennialist website www.familyradio.com. A civil engineer by trade, he has employed complex mathematical formulae to interpret the Bible. 

By Camping’s calculations, as published in his 1970 Biblical Calendar of History, the Creation of the world occurred in 11,013 BC and the Flood followed in 4900 BC.  He achieved these findings by redefining biblical words such as “called his name” and “begat”—which does not, in Camping’s view, refer to a direct father-son relationship.  

Camping avoids established religion since the churches, in his view, “add to” the Bible with their own unique doctrines and hermeneutics.  Camping sees the secret to the Rapture and the Apocalypse hidden in scripture verses such as Daniel 12:9:

He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!”  (Daniel 12:9-12, NASB)

and Revelation 22:20

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen Come, Lord Jesus.   (Revelation 22:20, NASB)

He finds support for the theory of predestination in Ephesians 1:4-5. 

just as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (Eph. 1:4-5, NASB)

His critics call him a “date-setter” and add that he uses his own unique calculations to arrive at his timetable. 

Many are puzzled that he still attracts so many followers since he earlier published a book titled 1994?, which alleged that the world would end in September 1994. 

Another Time, Another Disgraced Prophet

I remember meeting another engineer who enjoyed a moment in the limelight back in the 1980s—until his particular end-times prophecy proved wrong.  Edgar Whisenant penned a best-selling pamphlet, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.  In it, he asserted that the Rapture would coincide with Rosh Hashana that year, sometime between September 11 and September 13. 

I remember that some adherents had sold all their possessions and given everything they owned to the poor, since they would not need a house or car after being “caught up with him in the air.”  Others packed up and drove to a common meeting point to watch Jesus as He arrived in glory.

Back then, I was producing Al Kresta’s show on WMUZ-FM in Detroit, and we talked with Whisenant personally.  After the date came and passed, Whisenant faded into obscurity.

The Rapture:  Are You Pre-, Mid- or Post-?

If you’re a Catholic, you’re probably scratching your head at that question.  The words are shorthand for pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation, and all refer to when the Rapture is supposed to occur.  The Tribulation, according to many evangelical churches, is described in Revelation 20:1-3, 7-8, where we read:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while. . . . And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth.

The “thousand years” is an extended reign of Christ here on this earth.  It’s interpreted one of three ways by Protestants: 

  • Pre-millennialists believe that the thousand years will be an earthly golden age when the earth will be Christianized.  Hal Lindsey (“The Late Great Planet Earth”) took this view.  One problem, from the viewpoint of Catholicism, is that this implies not one but TWO comings of Christ—a “Second Coming” (at the start of the thousand years), and a “Third Coming” at the end of time.
  • Post-millennialists believe that the world is now being Christianized, and that Christ will return at the end of the thousand years.
  • The amillennial view interprets Revelation 20 symbolically and sees the millennium not as an earthly golden age in which the world will be totally Christianized, but as the present period of Christ’s rule in heaven and on the earth through his Church. This was the view of the Protestant Reformers and is still the most common view among traditional Protestants, though not among most of the newer Evangelical and Fundamentalist groups.

So What Does the Catholic Church Teach About the Rapture?

Well, for starters, we don’t talk about it.  In fact, most Protestants (including the Reformers) through history have not adhered to millennialist theology, and so have been “amillennial.”  The Catholic Church officially rejected the pre-millennial position in the 1940s, when the Holy Office ruled that it “cannot safely be taught.”  Before that time, St. Augustine was “amillennial” in that he taught, following the consistent understanding of the Church, that Jesus would return not twice, but once at the end of time.

Although Catholics do not use the term “rapture,” they do believe that we will be gathered together to be with Christ.  We call this the “Last Judgment.”

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To read more about the Rapture, and about Pre-, Mid- and Post-Millennial theology, go to:   http://www.catholic.com/library/Rapture.asp