Radio Preacher’s ‘Rapture’ Prediction Fails, Draws Global Attention
Beginning with a 1992 prediction that judgment might come in 1994, however, Camping began to veer sharply from the Calvinist teachings of his earlier years. By 2002, he declared the “church era” had passed, and true believers should worship at home, listening to his broadcast sermons.
To promote “Judgment Day 2011,” Camping’s followers reportedly spent millions of dollars on billboards, subway advertisements, literature distribution and personal canvassing. A fleet of large recreational vehicles, smaller vans and automobiles -- all decorated with advertising warning of “the end” -- crisscrossed the United States in the weeks leading up to May 21. Overseas advertisements appeared in Iraq, Jordan, Israel, the Philippines and Vietnam, the Guardian reported. The Reuters news agency quoted Camping, before May 21, as saying “there is no ‘plan B,’” should his prediction fail.
Seventh-day Adventist Christians, however, could empathize, since the movement was birthed in large measure out of Miller’s prophetic misunderstanding. Although Adventists believe that an important event in human salvation did commence in 1844 -- the ministry of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary and the concurrent “investigative judgment” -- the church, formed 19 years later by a subset of Miller’s followers, has never set a date for the end of the world.
Adventists hold fast to the belief that Jesus is returning soon, and have proclaimed it to the world for nearly 150 years. Today, 17 million people are baptized members of the church, and it’s estimated that as many as 30 million people globally attend weekly Adventist worship.
Present-day Seventh-day Adventist thought leaders say Camping departed from the Bible’s counsel not to engage in such specific speculation.
He and others point to Matthew 24:36, which quotes Jesus saying, "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father."
"God has accepted responsibility for the day and the hour and not us," Patterson said. "If our hope becomes so strong that we stop regarding His Word, that's a horrible irony. Ultimately, God is going to take care of the things He said He would care for."
Patterson said speculating about God's will isn't the job of humans, and doing so capitalizes on the fear people have about the future. Setting a date may give some people hope, he said, but the tragedy is that it's a false hope.
"As Adventists, we join them [Camping’s followers] in longing to see Christ return, but given our history we also know what happens when mistaken predictions are made," added James Nix, an Adventist Church field secretary and director the Ellen G. White Estate, which manages the intellectual property legacy of one of the movement’s co-founders. "We've been there, done that," he added.
- with reporting by Mark A. Kellner and Adventist News Network