Harold Camping, the California preacher who staked his credibility, along with tens of millions of dollars of his fortune, on predictions that the world would end on several separate occasions only to give up such premonitions when they all failed has died. He was 92.
A spokeswoman for Family Radio, the network which broadcast the bulk of his preaching, confirmed that Mr Camping had died at his home on Sunday after sustaining a fall last month. The preacher, whose brand of Biblical literalism built up a $120m (£74m) empire including 160 radio stations in 49 countries, first predicted Christ’s return to Earth in 1994. It was the first of what became an increasing elaborate series of predictions that saw Mr Camping became an increasingly polarising figure.
But it was the conviction with which he announced the impending apocalypse that was forecast for May 21 2011 that catapulted him to international fame. It spurred hundreds of hours of rolling news coverage; while supporters and opponents turned out in force to watch or ridicule the apocalypse he claimed to have divined from mathematical clues hidden in the Bible.
Days after the apocalypse conspicuously failed to materialize, Camping emerged from a brief seclusion to say he had merely miscalculated, and he pronounced a new Judgment date for October 21. When that day also passed uneventfully he went to ground before emerging earlier this year to apologise. He said he regretted his pronouncements and said he would retire.
In an interview with The Independent in 2011, Mr Camping said: “In the Bible, the Lord says to 'occupy until I come’. So my business is to carry on saving souls as long as I can. The end is now getting real close, and we'll find out whether we're going to be eternally dead, or eternally alive. That's pretty awesome, when you start to think about it!”
An official statement released on Family Radio today said: “Yesterday, Sunday, December 15th, at around 5:30 p.m., Harold Camping passed on to glory and is now rejoicing with his beloved Savior!
“We are so grateful to God for Brother Camping’s dedication to Family Radio and for his lifetime of service to God. We are thankful to know that Family Radio is God’s ministry, and will continue to be in God’s care and keeping.” Mr Camping is survived by a 71-year-old wife, the statement added.