Harold Camping, the Family Radio Bible teacher who startled the public with his end-of-world prophecies in May, has a less-than stellar track record when it comes to the reliability of his prophetic calculations.
When May 21, 2011, came and went, Camping insisted that there had been a "spiritual rapture" that had to happen before the "physical rapture" on Oct. 21, so he was still right, according to is calculations.
In 1994, however, it was a different story when the world did not end as he had predicted it would.
In 1992, Camping predicted that the world would end sometime between Sept. 15 and 27. "Apparently, I was incorrect," Camping told Christianity Today (CT) on Sept. 28, 1994. The doomsday broadcaster and former civil engineer told the magazine that he misunderstood the importance of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, which led to his miscalculations.
However, similar to what he said after his incorrect May 21 end times date, Camping said that the end would still come before 1994 was over and that the extra time was a "blessing."
So what happened after Camping was wrong the first time? According to CT, many still believed Camping was more or less right, even if he forgot the importance of the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles.
"We still feel the Lord is going to come very soon, although it doesn't look very likely it will be in September," Brown, 35, told CT. "This might be for [God's] glory. He might allow the world and church to revile us for a time. That might be a part of his plan."
Camping has influenced his listeners in such a way that they consider his complicated explanations of numerology and biblical timetables, mixed with a strong dose of fire and brimstone warnings, to be that of a prophetic genius.
Eva Schwartz, a Jewish-born Camping follower who converted to Christianity later in life, is one such person. "I cannot begin to tell you what is my opinion of this man. He has such knowledge - and he is humble, too," she told The New York Times in Aug. 1994 – only weeks away from Camping's first doomsday date.
The Times reported that she had been distributing tracts in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Trump Tower, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Plaza Hotel. She also contacted several newspapers and talk shows to spread the warning - similar to what Camping's supporters did leading up to his failed May 21, 2011 forecast.
"I don't want to be famous or popular," she said. "I just want to give a wake-up call. There is still a couple of weeks to repent and cry out for mercy. I pray every day for my beautiful Jewish people."
The affect Camping had on his followers was spiritually intense – but it was also lucrative. CT reported that Camping's Family Radio gained 15 percent more revenue in 1994.
When an Assemblies of God pastor Scott Temple asked Camping on a talk show in 1994 if he planned on refunding the money to people who believed his doomsday date, Camping refused.
"They don't support Family Radio because someone's got a crystal ball," he said. "They support Family Radio because they dearly love the Lord and want to see the gospel go forth."
Camping, now 90 years old, recently released an audio message to supporters informing them that the rapture and the end of the world would "likely" occur by Oct. 21.