Harold Camping, who stirred consternation, ecstasy, complaints to the Federal Communications Commission and widespread ridicule by repeatedly prophesying the end of the world — twice in 2011 — died on Sunday at his home in Alameda, Calif. He was 92.
The cause was complications from a fall, the Family Radio network said in a statement on Monday night.
To a global following probably in the millions, Mr. Camping was the personification of the Family Radio network, broadcasting a nondenominational Christian ministry from Oakland, Calif., over scores of stations in the United States and 30 other countries. For 50 years he was the charismatic host of the network’s “Open Forum,” a 90-minute weekday call-in program of inspirational commentary, discussions and advice.
He was also a lifelong student of the Bible whose books rely on a vast assemblage of numbers, and with his affinity for numerology he became preoccupied with what he regarded as the greatest calculation of them all: the mystery of what the Scriptures might reveal as the date of the apocalypse.
After the failure of his last prediction — he said the world would end on May 21, 2011, and, when that didn’t happen, amended the date to Oct. 21 — Mr. Camping conceded that he had been wrong about the timing and had no evidence that the world would end soon. He offered an apology for his erroneous statements, which he called “sinful,” and hinted that his days of apocalyptic warnings were over.
Critics called him a con man, a lunatic, a heretic and worse. But to his believers he was a throwback to the biblical prophets, spreading the word of Christ’s second coming, of a Judgment Day and a rapture, when the faithful would ascend into heaven and nonbelievers would be destroyed in a five-month worldwide cataclysm of earthquakes, fires and floods.
He was, in any case, a determined messenger. Starting in the 1970s, he predicted the world’s demise many times, drawing scant attention. His first widely noted doomsday was on May 21, 1988. He later published “1994?” — a 500-page book setting a range of dates that September. Despite the derision of mainstream Christian groups and scathing secular critics, Mr. Camping, having conceded errors in his earlier calculations, decided to try again in late 2008.
The end, he said, would come on May 21, 2011. The date was based on a complex formula involving the biblical flood survived by Noah in what Mr. Camping said was 4,990 B.C., a 7,000-year clock that began ticking from that moment, and the subtraction of one year because of a difference in the Old Testament and New Testament calendars.