Family Radio Worldwide, a Christian-based ministry headed by 89-year-old Harold Camping, believes that the world is going to end in a little less than a month. What makes Camping and his cronies' apocalyptic viewpoint unique is the fact that they have chosen May 21, 2011 as the date the world will end, instead of waiting a few months like everyone else for the wildly popular 2012 theory. The group has spent what must be a small fortune in an effort to spread their message, erecting thousands of billboards all over the world and sending volunteers across the country to get the word out on a personal level.
I asked to speak with a representative at the FRW camp and was put in touch with Tom Evans. We agreed to publish the interview on the condition that he would do a follow-up on May 22 if the world was, you know, not all fire-brimstoned-and-Rapture’d. Evans made it clear that, due to his being in heaven, another interview would be impossible. Nonetheless, if the world is still around on the 22 we will contact his people. For the sake of brevity we’ve taken out most of Evans’ references to scripture for evidence of the coming apocalypse.
Vice: To start off, can you explain what these billboards are all about?
Tom Evans: In our studies we--Mr. Camping, in particular--determined that God placed a timeline of history in the Bible that culminates on May 21, 2011. In 36 days from now, God warned that He will destroy this world, beginning with an earthquake that will start, we suspect, right around the International Date Line and will work its way westward until the entire globe experiences complete destruction.
Simultaneously, two things will happen: The true believers will be Raptured to be with Christ forever, in the new heavens and the new Earth. And those who remain here--those who have died up until this point--all of their remains will be thrown out to be ashamed by God.
When did you start the media blitz about May 21? I only became aware of it recently.
Back in 1992, Mr. Camping wrote a book. It was entitled 1994? with a question mark. He talked about the Biblical timeline, of evidence pointing to Christ returning in 1994. But he also wrote we have to be careful because we don’t know everything the Bible is teaching. We have to be careful with this date. He believed 2011 was a very significant year, because it was the 7,000-year anniversary of the flood. 7,000 years ago there was a flood that occurred on the 17th day of the second month in the year 4990 B.C. Now, May 21 of this year--if you’re looking at a Jewish calendar--is also the 17th day of the 2nd month. It is the exact 7,000 year anniversary of the flood.
So, 18 years ago Mr. Camping realized that Biblical evidence pointed to 2011, but Mr. Camping was thrown off by some other verses. There’s a 23-year period of time God talks about. It’s a spiritual tribulation, not a tribulation of wars or famines or earthquakes, even though we’ve had some pretty good earthquakes of late. But those do not signal the end. May 21 has been building for the last 17 and a half years, and in the last six years the evidence from the Bible has been growing and confirming what we believe: that May 21 is the beginning of judgment. Judgment will last five months until October 21, when God is going to destroy everything.
Do you know when the decision was made to make the May 21 movement something big?
Probably September of last year. The billboard project started to get off the ground, we had our caravans traveling around, small groups of people. Ten to 20 people going out to different parts of the world.
What’s the goal of the billboards and spreading the word? What do you want to change in people’s ways?
We can’t change anyone’s minds, and that’s not our intent. Our intent is just to warn people, and God can move them if they really feel like there may be something to this. "Why are these people saying May 21?" Most people are going to pass by those billboards and say, "hey, another person is saying the end of the world is coming," and they’re not going to think twice about it. But occasionally someone’s going to look at the Bible to find out why we’re saying it. And we’re just hoping people will feel convicted and cry out to God for mercy.
It seems like--at least from a skeptical point of view--you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket. What’s the feeling in your community? Is there a contingency plan if May 21 comes and goes, or is that not even something that crosses your guys’ minds?
Of course, as a human being that’s going to cross your mind. We’re not robots. Just because we believe May 21 is the end doesn’t mean that we just part our brains from our hearts. But, when you believe that the Bible is God’s word and that God wrote it, God's confirmation of May 21 will move you.
If you know anything about the Bible, you'll know about the flood during Noah’s days. Think about the size of the boat that Noah made: it took over 100 years for he and his sons to build that thing. Something must have moved him, propelled them to get out there and cut the wood and build the Ark. That same faith that Noah had is the same faith that is pushing us, pushing me, Mr. Camping, those of us who believe in May 21.
What’s the feeling around your church or community, just from a purely emotional standpoint? If I thought the world was going to end in a few months, I’d be freaked out.
Well, do you have a father?
You trust him somewhat?
And if he said, "I want you to do this, now trust me, I’m going to take care of you on this, I’m doing this for your own good," you'd believe him because you’ve learned over your lifespan that you can trust your dad. Well, that’s the same thing with us. Me, as a true believer, I trust my heavenly father because I know Him and He made Himself known to me.
One of the signs is the destruction of the church itself. Not the physical destruction of the church, but the spiritual destruction of the church. The churches today are teaching a gospel that God never taught. When Jesus came the first time, the Bible said He came onto His own and His own received Him not. Today, the churches are doing the same thing. They are just like Israel of old that should have embraced Jesus as a messiah, but instead of embracing him they killed him.
There are two kinds of Christians. There are true believers and there are terrors.
Do you guys have plans on the day of?
A gathering of some sort? No. No, we’re not going to gather so the mothership can take us up to wherever. It won’t be like that at all.
So do you mind if I call you after, on May 22?
Still not convinced, huh?
Well, I mean …
I will say this as compassionately as I can: You had better get ready for this. You had better really honestly get ready for this, because it’s going to happen. I know that, like, it’s a ridiculous story, but that’s all I can tell you.
If it does happen, we’d have a lot more to talk about, right? You saw the earthquake in Japan? You saw the devastation? OK. Let me just tell you: God said that there will take place an earthquake mankind has never experienced before. So great an earthquake that it will make the Japanese earthquake look like nothing in comparison. I don’t know what to tell you. There’s not going to be any world left. You will not have a paper to work for. There won’t be anything left. This world, it’s going to be terrible. I don’t know how many people have asked that same question.
A lot of people?
Everyone has asked the same question, “What will you be doing on May 22nd?” All I can say is, I won’t be here, and not because I’m going to commit suicide. No one else is going to be here either. I just pray for you. I’ll pray that God will have mercy on you, Rick.