Major Supernatural Event This Saturday!

by Jimmy Akin

in Bible, Current Affairs, Other Christians, Prophecy


Yes! It’s true! A major supernatural event will be occurring *this* Saturday, May 21, 2011!

I’m *not* kidding!

Harold Camping—president of the Protestant radio outreach known as Family Radio—has been predicting for some time that the long-awaited Rapture will occur on May 21st of this year.

Of course, he’s made similar predictions before. He famously got his followers worked up back in 1994 about that being the year the world would end (or something) and, well … y’know.

But this time is different!

There really *is* a major supernatural event occurring this Saturday!

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the reasoning Camping uses to arrive at his conclusion is sound. In fact, it’s not.

If you go to Family Radio’s page explaining why the Rapture is supposed to happen this Saturday, the reasoning used is astronishingly weak. Even incoherent. Dig it:

God declared in 2 Peter 3:8:

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

God had written in the Holy Bible in Genesis 7:4:

For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.

God added in Genesis 7:10-11:

And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the Flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

The ark that Noah had built was the only place of safety from the destruction of the Flood. Likewise, God’s gracious mercy is the only place of safety from the destruction that is coming on the Day of Judgment.

In 2 Peter 3:8, which is quoted above, Holy God reminds us that one day is as 1,000 years. 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. Because Holy Infinite God is all-knowing, He knows the end from the beginning. He knew how sinful the world would become.

Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. (the year of the Flood) is the year 2011 A.D. (our calendar).

4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000
[One year must be subtracted in going from an Old Testament B.C. calendar date to a New Testament A.D. calendar date because the calendar does not have a year zero.]

Thus Holy 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.

Got that?

Me neither.

So let’s employ a technique commonly used by philosophers when trying to analyze someone’s argument. Let’s try to put it in logical form. As near as I can tell, Camping’s argument has a form something like this:

1) Noah’s Flood occurred in 4990 B.C.
2) Noah was warned seven days before the Flood that it would occur, per Genesis 7.
3) A day with the Lord is like a thousand years, per 2 Peter 3.
4) Therefore, 7,000 years after Noah’s Flood some great, Flood-like judgment will occur.
5) 4990 B.C. + 7000 -1 = A.D. 2011.
6) Therefore, the end of the world will occur in 2011.

Camping has other arguments zeroing in on May 21st as the date for the Rapture and for October 21st for the final end of the world (if I understand correctly), but before messing with days, let’s first see if his argument concerning years holds water.

The first thing to be remarked about the argument as I’ve put it above is that it’s not in a logically valid form. The premises do not entail the conclusions. I could fix that by rephrasing and introducing some extra, hidden premises, but Camping’s logic is so obscure that I don’t want to go too far beyond what he explicitly says. So let’s simply look at the premises of the argument and see how likely they are to be true, remembering that if even one premise is false then the whole argument is unsound (and that’s if it had a valid form to begin).

Premise 1, that the Flood occurred in 4990 B.C. is an idiosyncratic claim on Camping’s part. You’ll note that this date is earlier than the conventional Protestant Ussher chronology, which had the world beginning in 4004 B.C. and had the Flood occurring around 2348 B.C. Camping rejects the Ussher dating, and I can’t fault him for that. I reject it myself, as do most Protestants these days, because it is based on unsound methodology and results in unlikely, unprovable, and over-precise dates.

Unfortunately, I have no more confidence in Camping’s dating, which also strikes me as unlikely, unprovable, and over-precise. I don’t know what house of cards he has supporting that date, but I view basing any argument regarding the end of the world on this date as extremely shaky.

Premise 2, that Genesis depicts Noah being told that the Flood was going to begin in seven days (this was after he’d been given an earlier warning and built the ark) is true.

Premise 3, that Peter states that a day with the Lord is like a thousand years is also true.

But can we infer from this that some Flood-like judgment would occur 7,000 years after the original Flood?

Not on your life.

For a start, why zero-in on the warning Noah got seven days before everything started happening? Why not focus instead on the earlier warning he got? Why not at some other time in this narrative? The proposed starting point is arbitrary.

For another thing, why suppose that there’s any kind of prophetic significance to this at all? There is nothing in the text telling us that these seven days, or any span of time mentioned in the narrative, is a scale-model prophecy of when the end of the world will take place relative to the Flood. This is sheer supposition.

What’s more, why should the scale be a thousand years to a day? This is a notorious bugaboo with predictions of the end of the world. Over and over different interpreters pick out some random mention of days in the Old Testament, multiply it by a thousand years, and then declare some prophesied even must occur on the corresponding date.

It’s true that 2 Peter says that a day is as a thousand years with the Lord, this doesn’t give us a license to take any mention of a day and interpret it as a thousand years. Quite the opposite! The exact same passage also says the reverse: That a thousand years is like a day with God (per Psalm 90:4). In other words, time is meaningless with God. He’s an eternal being who can find as much experience in a day as we would in a thousand years and who can encompass huge spans of time like a thousand years in what is only a moment for him. Rather than providing a license to multiply any reference to a day as code for a thousand year prophetic period, this verse is actually a warning against trying to determine God’s timetable for events. That timetable is unpredictable because we cannot know what temporal calculus God is applying to particular prophecies.

Camping’s use of this verse is thus not only over-precise but flatly contrary to the literal meaning of the verse!

And would be even if the seven days mentioned Genesis 7 were a prophetic scale model, which we have no reason to think.

And if those days were prophetic in some way, why treat them and only them in such a way? What God says is that in seven days he would start flooding for 40 days and 40 nights. Does that mean that once the judgment starts it will go on for 40,000 years?

Camping doesn’t think so. He’s got the final end coming in October. This only underscores the arbitrary nature of the figure he has picked out and multiplied. If the seven days mentioned must be literally multiplied by 1,000 years, why should the 40 days also mentioned in the same passage not be similarly multiplied?

Camping does, at least, avoid the trap of thinking that there’s a “year zero” on our timeline. There’s not. It jumps from 1 B.C. to A.D. 1, so he gets points for that. Not all end-time speculators have been so fortunate on that one.

But even if we were to grant all of the foregoing, even if there were some big Flood-like event scheduled to occur 7,000 years after a 4,990 B.C. Flood, why would it have to be the end of the world? Why not just Another Big Judgment?

Even that is giving him too much credit, however. The fact is that this whole prediction is a house of cards. It’s based on over-precise, unknowable dates, arbitrary starting points, arbitrary parallelisms, invalid logic, and a multiplication factor that is wrenched out of context and used in a way flatly contrary to the clear meaning of the text.

Given that his overall year calculation is so shot through with holes, we need not be detained by his more precise datings of the Rapture or the final end. (I should also note that Catholics do not typically use the term “Rapture,” though they do acknowledge the reality of the event St. Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, though it is seen as occurring at the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the world, not before an earthly millennium.)

The whole thing is comic—but it is also tragic, because many people have been misled by Camping, and some have been misled into spending vast sums of money in support of his advertising campaign, telling their friends and co-workers that the world is about to end, and generally bringing scorn on the cause of Christ.

As St. Paul wrote: “It is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’” (Rom. 2:24).

You have to admire the courage of people like this gentleman who spent his life savings promoting these speculations, but not their wisdom.

God help everyone who bought into this come Sunday morning.

Of course, that’s not to say Christ couldn’t come back on Saturday. I don’t see the signs being right for that, but who am I to say it couldn’t happen?

Harold Camping is right, though, that a major supernatural event will be happening this Saturday.

One of my godsons is being confirmed!

Congratulations, James!

So … what do you think?

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Joseph D'Hippolito May 16, 2011 at 9:21 pm

The story about the man who spent his life savings promoting Camping’s speculation has this sentence:
“Camping made a similar world-ending prediction in 1994, but he admitted he got his calculations wrong that time.”
So why should anybody believe him now?
If a prophet declares something that’s shown to be false, nobody has any business believing anything he says.
Then again, as P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
That, sadly, is real prophecy….

Bill912 May 17, 2011 at 3:56 am

Does the Bible Camping uses omit the verses where our Lord specifically commanded us to disbelieve those who say what Camping is saying?

Chuck Reed May 17, 2011 at 6:55 am

Great summary as usual Jimmy. We have been discussing this at work. You insight will be very helpful.

Agnes May 17, 2011 at 7:52 am

Congratulations about your godson’s Confirmation, Jimmy! What a beautiful gift! I will be praying for him.

The Masked Chicken May 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

The pathology of how a reasonable person can be drawn into this would be a welcome study in the field of apologetics. Unfortunately, there is no generally accepted psychological theory in use, today. If I were getting a Ph.D in psychology, I would be very interested to do an historical study of the phenomenon of self-delusional thinking. We know something of the outline of why this happens, but we don’t yet have a complete theory. The whole issue of cult-like behavior is controversial in psychology. I don’t want to wade into the morass, but some of the findings might apply, here. Feynman once gave a talk on Cargo Cult Science and reminded his audience:

But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school — we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid — not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked — to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can — if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong — to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.
In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another…
But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves — of having utter scientific integrity — is, I’m sorry to say, something that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

The Chicken

quasimodo May 17, 2011 at 12:05 pm

when people rapture, do they really hold their arms out from their body like that?

Rosemarie May 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm

People who have dealt with Harold Camping report that he is completely sure that everything he teaches is Bible truth and no one can sway him from that conviction. Sounds like he may have some kind of psychological disorder but without a degree in psychology I can’t really diagnose him.
As for Our Lord’s statement that no one knows the day or the hour, Camping tries to get around that by claiming that it only applied to what he calls the “Church age,” which he claims ended on May 21, 1988. According to some sources, that was the date when he was removed from his teaching position in his church and consequently left that congregation. After that, he declared that God is finished with working through all churches and that all true believers must leave them and only listen to his Family Radio and fellowship with each other – but not form an actual church since the “Church age” is through.
Anyway, his argument is that no one could have predicted the date of Jesus’ return during the Church age, but now that it’s over, God has revealed the exact date of the Rapture to his remnant faithful – May 21, 2011. After which God will pour out horrible judgments upon the world before finally ending everything on October 21, 2011.
Note that he has set that second date as well. Makes me wonder whether he will fall back on that when next Saturday comes and goes with no Rapture. “Whoops, my calculations were off….” If so, he’ll be following in the ignominious footprints of William Miller and Edgar Whisenant, among others.

Rosemarie May 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm

BTW, Jimmy, if you read this, I have a question for you and/or Catholic Answers. I received a mailing today from Rose Publishing in response to Camping’s loony theory. It listed previous failed attempts to predict the end of the world. One of them is this:
“1284: Pope Innocent III predicted Christ’s second coming would occur in this year. He based his prediction on the date of the inception of the Muslim faith, then added 666 years to that.”
I’ve never heard of this before. Is this true or just a misunderstanding of something the pope said? Thanks!

Jimmy Akin May 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm

A preliminary search turns up *no* reliable evidence that Pope Innocent made such a claim. There are numerous references to this on the Internet, however, (1) I can’t find one that gives a quotation from him, (2) I can’t find one that gives a primary source, (3) I find only one that cites a secondary source–and then incompletely so that there is no way to track it down, (4) 1284 is not 666 years after the founding of Islam (Muhammad’s first revelation was claimed to occur in 610 and the Muslim calendar–Anno Hijrah–began in A.D. 622), and (5) there is no mention of any such prediction in his biography in the Catholic Encyclopedia, which there ought to be had he made one.
Hope this helps!

Rosemarie May 18, 2011 at 10:01 am

Okay, I got a chance to do a little more digging. I found the original quote in a book called “The Fortress of Faith: The Attitude towards Muslims in Fifteenth Century Spain,” by Ana Echevarría (you can read it on Google Books). The author says that Innocent III wrote it in his bull, “De negotio Terrae Sanctae.” Here is the original Latin:
Et quidem omnes pene Saracenorum provincias usque post tempora beati Regorti Christianis populi possesderunt; sed ex tunc quidam perditionis filius Machometus pseudopropheta surrexit, qui per saeculares illecebras et voluptates carnales multos a veritate seduxit; cuius perfidia etsi usque ad haec tempora invaluerit; confidimus tamen in Domino, qui jam fecit nobiscum signum in bonum, quod finis huius Bestiae appropinquat, cuius numerus secundum Apocalypsin Joannis intra sexcenta sexaginta sex clauditur, ex quibus jam pene sexcenti sum anni completi
And here is the full translation from a footnote:
“And certainly Christian peoples owned almost all the Saracen provinces continuously until after the times of the holy Regortius. But since then was born a certain son of destruction, the pseudo-prophet Muhammed, who seduced many away from Truth by secular enticements and lustful pleasure. His perfidy has grown continuously until our times. Nevertheless, we trust God, who has already given us some good sign that the end of this beast is approaching, and its number, according to the Apocalypse of John is limited to six hundred and sixty-six, of which almost six hundred years have been completed.”
So it looks like the pope was saying that Islam would only last for 666 years, not that the world would end that many years after the rise of Islam. So this is clearly not an end-times prediction at all. Maybe all the websites quoting this text should be informed of that fact?

Beadgirl May 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Notice only thin people are being raptured? I wonder if larger people will need a second rapture/tractor beam to lift them up, a la Homer Simpson in “Hungry are the Damned.”

Chuck Reed May 19, 2011 at 12:21 pm

@ Beadgirl, now that made me chuckle! Thank You!

Dan May 19, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Cripes Mr Akins, you are reporting on this hee-haw fodder whilst “Universae Ecclesia” has been issued?

Bill912 May 21, 2011 at 7:38 am

It’s past 6 PM in many time zones. So far, no reports of earthquakes or people rapturing. Maybe it’s a world-wide conspiracy meant to hide the news from us for a few hours longer. Or, maybe, the world is like the Energizer Bunny.
I wonder if today’s NY Times’ headline read something like: “World To End Today; Women And Minorities Hardest Hit”.

Mary May 21, 2011 at 9:53 am

“Their god is their belly” — so perhaps the gluttonous are not raptured.
Then, the temporal consequences of sin can last after repentance and forgiveness, so yes, it is odd that only thin people are being raptured — one would think that gluttony, even ensuing in fatness, is not the unforgivable sin.

Agnes May 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Psst! Is it just me, or is the world still here, and I’m still alive?
Let us know how the Confirmation for your godson went Jimmy!

Rosemarie May 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I’m still here, too. Big surprise. /sarcasm

Gregory Williams May 23, 2011 at 4:49 am

Bill912- too funny!

Yeoman May 23, 2011 at 11:37 am

The sad thing about a think like this is that, while it is far outside of mainstream Christianity, and very far from our Catholic faith, many in the medial casually refer to those who fell into believing this silliness as “believers” or “true believers”. while it is subtle in some cases, and not so much so in others, an underlying current of all this in some print articles is that “believers” equates with “all Christians” and that this disproves Faith entirely.
That’s the harm in things like this, and it brings to mind Christ’s declaration that those who harmed the Faith of “Little Believers” were better off having never been born. Camping has harmed Christianity in general and should give some serious reflection to what he has done. No man can presume to know what his own fate will ultimately be, be we should pray for him and for his conversion to a Christianity in keeping with Christ.

Rosemarie May 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Wow, now I’m starting to wonder whether I’m a prophet. In my first post above, I noted that Camping had set a second date, Oct 21, and surmised that he would fall back on that one somehow when May 21 went bust. Well, it seems he’s pretty much done that. He now says that on May 21, Christ returned to earth to judge it “spiritually” but that the literal, physical Judgment Day will be Oct 21.
Okay, so I’m not really a prophet even though I called that one. I was just aware of the fact that date-setters often set a second date after the first doesn’t pan out. However, I am struck by how much Camping’s latest dance resembles the “investigative judgment” dance of some of William Miller’s followers and the “Jesus returned spiritually in 1914” justification given by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is truly nothing new under the sun.

Yeoman May 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm

There is nothing new under the sun.
How pathetic. And so the diversion from serious Christian thought goes on, the damage to Christ’s real message continues, and all Christians will continue to be damaged by this ongoing fascination with a “rapture” which doesn’t appear in the the New Testament at all.
The message, I suppose, should be turn to Christ’s real teachings. And, after all, everyone’s end comes like a thief in the night, and then we’re on to our final judgment end of the world or not.

Rosemarie May 24, 2011 at 6:02 am

And the damage is pretty bad. Camping is now teaching that since Christ (allegedly) judged the world on May 21, no one can be saved anymore. The door has been shut, he said, salvation has ended. Is that really the kind of thing sinners around the world need to hear? “There’s no possibility of repentance anymore, just carry on sinning!” Horrible. Simply horrible. If that message leads souls to despair and end up in hell, what will Camping say when he stands before the Judgment Seat?

The Masked Chicken May 24, 2011 at 9:06 am

no one can be saved anymore.
Did anyone notice that Camping is still here, too?
The Chicken

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