[The following interview took place on May 11. Since then Camping's followers have continued their rapture awareness advertising campaign, despite doubts from their family members and the group's own employees.]
We've followed with interest the Christian movement that believes Judgment Day will occur on May 21. They've put up billboards, they've handed out fliers. Some of them have even burned through all of their savings, so convinced are they that the world is going to end on May 21 and they'll no longer need it. That's the most incredible part of this bizarre story that these people are so sure about something so incredibly unlikely. How can that be? To find out, we went right to the source: Harold Camping, the gravely voiced, 89-year-old founder of Family Radio; the man who pinpointed May 21 as the exact date of the Rapture based on clues sprinkled throughout the Bible. He is very confident in his prediction.
How certain are you that world is going to end on May 21 — do you have any doubts?
God has given sooo much information in the Bible about this, and so many proofs, and so many signs, that we know it is absolutely going to happen without any question at all. There’s nothing in the Bible that God has ever prophesied — there’s many things that he prophesied would happen and they always have happened — but there’s nothing in the Bible that holds a candle to the amount of information to this tremendous truth of the end of the world. I would be absolutely in rebellion against God if I thought anything other than it is absolutely going to happen without any question.
But you were wrong the first time you predicted that the end of the world would take place in September of 1994. So you must think, in the back of your mind, that maybe you can’t actually predict when the end of the world will be.
In 1992, two years earlier than that, I had already begun to see that there was a good likelihood that 2011 would be the end, but at that time when my research in the Bible was not nearly complete — there were whole books of the Bible that I had not gone through yet very carefully — I thought that at that time that there was a possibility it might be 1994, and so I wrote a book, 1994?, but I put a big question mark after it, and in the book it also indicated that 2011 was also a good possibility. And so it was just a preliminary study that I've been able to complete during the last fifteen years.
Describe to me what exactly you expect to happen on May 21.
I know reporters don’t like to hear from the Bible, but the Bible has every word in the original language — it was written by God. Incidentally, no churches believe that at all, they don’t hold the Bible in the high respect that it ought to be. But every word was written right from the lips of God, and God declares: [Camping reads various passages from the Book of Revelation describing the Rapture.] In other words, when we get to May 21 on the calendar in any city or country in the world, and the clock says about — this is based on other verses in the Bible — when the clock says about 6 p.m., there’s going to be this tremendous earthquake that’s going to make the last earthquake in Japan seem like nothing in comparison. And the whole world will be alerted that Judgment Day has begun. And then it will follow the sun around for 24 hours. As each area of the world gets to that point of 6 p.m. on May 21, then it will happen there, and until it happens, the rest of the world will be standing far off and witnessing the horrible thing that is happening.
What will you be doing on that day? Are you just waiting for the earthquake, are you having some kind of ceremony?
There’ll be no gatherings of any kind that I have anything to do with. There'll be no — it’ll just be simply waiting, and the likelihood is that I'll be doing what everybody else will be doing, which is listening to the radio or watching TV, seeing what is happening as it begins on the other side of the world.
If six o’clock rolls around and there are no major earthquakes, are you going to start to get worried?
It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. I don’t even think about those kind of issues. The Bible is not — God is not playing games. I don’t even want to think about that question at all. It is going to happen.
You haven’t thought about what you’ll tell your followers on May 22 if the Rapture doesn’t take place?
I’m not even thinking about that at all. It. Is. Going. To. Happen. Because I trust the Bible implicitly, the Bible is God’s word — it’s not from a man, it’s not from an organization of some kind where there’s plenty of room for error. It is the word of God. When God speaks that it is going to happen, the Bible is a very factual book, and God gives many examples of how he has made prophesies and it always has happened in exact accord with what God has prophesied.
So you have about ten days left on Earth. How are you spending those ten days?
Right now I’m up to my ears managing all the affairs of Family Radio and spending a lot of time with reporters, and spending a lot of time still doing the Open Forum every evening for an hour and a half, and still preparing messages. So I’m just very, very busy going from day to day.
Are you going to do something with all your money before the 21st? Are you going to donate it to charity or something?
What’s the point? In other words, Judgment Day is the end of the world. That means that the whole world is in judgment, it will not be business as usual at all. At all. Nothing that goes on is important any longer, either if you’re a true believer and you’re caught up to be with Christ, of which there are many people that this will happen to, but on the other hand, there will be almost 7 billion people who will be in a tremendous, terrible situation undoubtedly. With those kind of earthquakes millions will die and the Bible teaches that they will not be buried, in fact there’ll be no one to bury them it’ll be so awful. It will not be business as usual at all. This world will be in chaos. It will be in awful suffering.
Do know for sure whether you personally will ascend to heaven on May 21?
Oh yes, I am very convinced because I have found in my life for a long, long time an intense, ongoing desire that I just want to do God’s will and the Bible has become super important to me and so I do believe that I will be caught up when that time comes around in California.
Can Jewish people go to heaven?
Anybody — it’s not a matter of what religion you belong to, but it has to do with a personal attitude, and of course, if the Jewish people will accept the whole Bible — now if they reject Christ as their messiah, which the nation of Israel is doing, as was prophesied in the Bible also . If they’re not trusting in the Bible, they’re not listening to the whole Bible, and so they’re under the wrath of God just like anybody else who’s not trusting the whole Bible.
So a Jew would have to believe that Jesus is the messiah.
Well you see, the fact is that Jesus is the eternal God, and if you deny that Christ is the eternal God, then you’re not listening to the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority and any time you have any doctrines contrary to the Bible it means you are in rebellion against God, you’re walking in your own pride, and God resists the proud altogether.
I know you’re convinced this is going to happen, but if May 22 comes around and you’re still here, can we talk again?
I can’t even think about that question because you’re thinking that maybe, maybe Judgment Day will not happen. But it will happen, and I believe the Bible implicitly.