By DAVID GREEN
There’s a pastor in California who knows this newspaper you’re reading is the last Observer you’re ever going to see. This is it; the final edition.
That’s because the world as we know it will end Saturday. No more newspaper, no more nothing. Everything devastated by a tremendous earthquake.
Actually, I’m rushing things a little. The earthquake comes Saturday. One-hundred and fifty-three days of death and horror will follow and maybe I’ll have the opportunity to get something published during that time. It’s not until Oct. 21 that all life is extinguished and the official end of the world takes place.
Harold Camping is the 89-year-old leader of Family Radio and his followers seem to be looking forward to the event. A photo of his followers shows some pretty happy faces as they prepare to travel across the country to exalt in the good news that Earth is about to be destroyed. They’ve given up their jobs and possessions—many have left their families—to embark on a nationwide tour to announce the “Awesome News.”
It’s good news to them because they’ll be among two to three percent of the world’s population that will be taken to heaven by Jesus. At least they hope to make the cut.
And don’t tell them they’re nuts because they’ll tell you the proof is in the Bible. Their slogan, “The Bible guarantees it,” appears in large print on the sides of their three large RVs driving across the country.
Here’s how it works, twice over.
Proof One: Noah's great flood occurred in the year 4990 B.C., what they say is exactly 7000 years ago. Don’t check their math; just believe. God told Noah the flood would begin in seven days.
Jumping ahead to the New Testament, Peter explains that for God, a day is like a thousand human years. Therefore, Mr. Camping reasoned that seven “days” equals 7,000 human years from the time of the flood, making 2011 the year of the apocalypse.
Proof Two narrows things down to the exact day: The date of the crucifixion is said to be April 1, 33 AD. There are exactly 722,500 days from April 1, 33 A.D. until May 21, 2011. That number can be represented this way: 5 x 10 x 17 x 5 x 10 x 17 = 722,500.
Don’t forget that numbers in the Bible have special meanings, with the number 5 signifying atonement or redemption, the number 10 signifying “completeness” and the number 17 equaling Heaven.
Mr. Camping isn’t the first person to practice Bible math. One of the most famous was Vermont pastor William Miller who predicted that Judgment Day would arrive somewhere between March 1, 1843, and March 1, 1844.
When the prescribed time passed, Miller announced that he recalculated and set Oct. 22, 1844, as the big day. He missed again but soon realized it was actually coming in the spring of 1845. Perhaps this went on and on through 1849 when Miller finally did die an ordinary death.
Miller’s preaching was influential, however, and one of his followers founded the Seventh-day Adventist church. Adventists, through history, have had many doomsday dates of their own.
The 16th century psychic Mother Shipton said the world would end in 1881 and her followers thought it was right on due to a meteorite crashing to Earth, some big earthquakes and unusual weather.
There’s still Dec. 21, 2012, to prepare for. Some say the ancient Mayan calendar ends that day, leaving nothing more of future history.
There’s some Awesome News about Mr. Camping’s prediction—or totally disheartening news, depending on what you’re after in life and death.
Back in the 1990s, he made the news with another prediction: The world would end Sept. 6, 1994. So if you’re still around Sunday morning, don’t despair. He’s recrunching the numbers one more time and a new date will soon be unveiled.
I’m not sure how I feel about all of this. Maybe just tired. My prediction? I’m going to have to put out another newspaper next week.