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Articles: Evangelism
The Rapture That Never Happened by Rich Rodriguez

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This was originally a blog post written on May 23, 2011. It was updated on January 6, 2013 with new information on the struggles Family Radio has been enduring as the consequences of the failed prophecies of its president Harold Camping two years earlier.

Photoshopped billboard mocking Harold Camping's failed May 21, 2011 prediction for Judgment DayThe attached billboard says it all. After being plastered on thousands of other billboards around the world eerily proclaiming Judgment Day on May 21, 2011, the doomsday prophecy of Harold Camping, the president and general manager of Oakland-based Family Radio, failed to come true.

Camping claimed that based on information gleaned directly from the Bible, on May 21 there would be cataclysmic earthquakes, dead bodies coming alive from graves flung open, and 200 million people disappearing skyward into heaven to escape five more months of catastrophe culminating in the end of the world on October 21, 2011.

After spending an estimated $100 million to warn the world of its pending doom, its failure, indeed, was awkward.

The day after, Camping appeared at the front door of his residence in Alameda, California and told reporters "It has been a really tough weekend." Ya think?

"I'm looking for answers," he added, referring to frequent prayer and consultations with friends, "but now I have nothing else to say. I'll be back to work Monday and will say more then."

But people hoping that Camping would admit that he was wrong and ask forgiveness were sorely disappointed when during a press conference at Family Radio headquarters Monday night on May 23, he claimed that May 21 was a "spiritual" Judgment Day rather than a literal one, and he was initially "flabbergasted" that nothing was destroyed because he was focused on a literal judgment. Instead, God has now judged the world "spiritually" and will bring about the end of the world on October 21:

God completed his judgment and salvation plan on Saturday, so there was no point in warning people about it anymore. Thus, Family Radio would instead play Christian music and programming until the real end on October 21.

Bizarre RamblingsAs he continued to explain himself before an army of reporters and cameras, his bizarre theology came out of the closet with these rambling remarks:

With all due respect, these are the confusing and contradicting words of a unrepentant, rambling idiot.

The Consequences of Camping's Failed ProphecyBut when October 21, 2011 date came and went, Family Radio circled the wagons, refused all media requests for an explanation, put a gag order on all its employees, and tried to keep a brave face. Regular programming continued as usual, as if the ministry was trying hard to pretend its embarassing high-profile failures never happened. Meanwhile, an attorney in Media, Pennsylvania began offering his services to devastated Camping followers who wanted to sue the pants off him for losses and damages incurred from his misleading information.

It wasn't until well into 2012 that Camping finally admitted that he was wrong with his Judgment Day predictions, people were right in admonishing him the nobody knows the day or hour of Christ's return (Matthew 24:36), and that he would never again set dates for the Rapture, Judgment Day, or the end of the world. This confession came after Family Radio sold two powerful FM stations in Baltimore and Philadelphia to pay off debt it incurred because all donations to the ministry came to a halt, amid rumors that it was crumbling from within and could be forced to shut down. By the end of 2012, it sold its highly prized flagship FM station in New York City with Camping admitting that it either had to sell that station or have Family Radio go off the air altogether.

What We Can Learn from Camping's ErrorsSo what happens now? Camping has again been proven to be a false prophet and bona-fide cult leader, but the damage has been done to Christianity in general.

Well, I've made the following observations.

So much more can be said of what we can learn from this whole debacle, but this will suffice.

In closing, I am humbled that at least two frightened listeners of Family Radio were convinced to switch it off completely and instead tune in to better Christian alternatives and return to the church through my corresponding with them on Crosswalk.com. Never did I ever think that I would help set a lover of God free from a dangerous cult, but I have always been passionate about apologetics, which is part of evangelism and the Great Commission. In addition to the 25-30 others now being counseled by the aforementioned pastor, I hope that this evangelism to former Camping followers is replicated nationwide and worldwide. If even one person comes out of the darkness back into the light, it will be worth it all.