Will May 21, 2011 be the end of the world?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

For the past few weeks, and this week especially, has been receiving a deluge of "Will May 21, 2011 be the end of the world?" questions. While we already have an article on the issue at "Is it possible to know when Jesus is coming back?", the sheer volume of the questions warrants some additional commentary.

The culprit behind the 05/21/2011 "end of the world" hysteria is Harold Camping of Family Radio. Using an intricate formula that involves a speculative date for Noah's Flood, a misinterpretation of 2 Peter 3:8, and then a misapplication of that misinterpretation to Genesis 7:4 and 7:11 — Harold Camping arrives at May 21, 2011 for the date of the rapture. (Please note, though, that Camping's view of the end times is not the standard pretribulational and premillennial interpretation, so it is not even entirely clear what precisely Camping thinks will occur on May 21, 2011).

It should be noted that Camping previously predicted "the end of the world" would happen in 1994. Obviously, Camping was incorrect. If nothing else, Camping's previous failed prediction should give us serious caution against giving his May 21, 2011 prediction any validity. Also, it is important to be aware that Camping already has a "backup date" set, just in case his May 21, 2011 prediction does not come true. Based on the five months mentioned in Revelation 9:5, Camping also predicts that October 21, 2011 will be an important date in end times prophecy. While Camping does not see October 21 and as "backup date" to May 21, it would not surprise me at all if Camping shifts his prediction to October 21 (or some other date) if the May 21 date turns out to be false.*

Putting the intricate formula and wild speculations aside, to be honest, I sincerely hope that Harold Camping is correct. I would love nothing more than for this current world to come to an end on May 21, 2011. I would much rather be with the Lord in Heaven than spend any more time in this sin-plagued world. However, with that said, I see absolutely no biblical validity to Camping's prediction of May 21, 2011. Everything about it screams "false prophecy" to me. Far more than the question of whether Camping is correct, I am concerned about Christians being made to look stupid because of Camping's failed prophecies. I worry about Christians becoming complacent, even doubting the Second Coming of Christ, due to wackos continuing to fail in their end of the world predictions.

Instead of 05/21/2011, we should have another 5:21 in mind, namely 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Test everything. Hold onto the good." This instruction comes in the context of "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt." The only way to objectively test a prophecy is to compare it with God's Word. In this, Harold Camping's May 21, 2011 prophecy fails miserably. It is a complete misinterpretation and misapplication of Scripture. So, while I honestly hope that Camping is correct, and that May 21, 2011 somehow begins the end of the world, after testing it, I have come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no solid biblical basis for predicting May 21, 2011 as the end of the world. "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority." (Acts 1:7)


*On Monday, May 23, Harold Camping confirmed my suspicion by moving his "end of the world" prediction to October 21, 2011.

Image credit: slworking2; "Mt. San Miguel continues to burn"; Creative Commons

TagsCurrent-Issues  | End-Times  | False-Teaching

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Published 5-17-11