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Apocalypse Now?

By: Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – If you believe a fringe Christian radio group, then you’ve got a little more than 24 hours to either party it up, or repent for your sins. Because according to the “Family Radio” network, 6 p.m. Saturday will be when the “rapture” begins and the end of days begins.

There have been billboards across the Sunshine State for months proclaiming the rapture is near. CBS4’s Jorge Estevez profiled the billboards when they first started popping up earlier this year.

But what exactly are the billboards referring to about the rapture? Well, the Family Radio network’s founder, 89-year-old Harold Camping, said Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. will be when the rapture of the church takes place.

The rapture of the church is a relatively new idea in the realm of Christianity. It refers to the time when Christians believe that Jesus will take the faithful to heaven ahead of the calamity and destruction that lies ahead in the tribulations from the book of Revelation.

It’s drawn from passages in the bible including I Thessalonians 4:17 which states, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

This would follow Jesus raising the souls of Christians who had already died over the millenniums.

The idea of the rapture picked up steam in the United States during the middle and late 19th Century with a school of theological thought called Dispensationalism. The movement was led by John Nelson Darby, who preached about a concept of the rapture happening at any moment, among other things.

Dispensationalism would go on to be the basis for vast parts of Christian theology in the United States for decades.

This brings you back to the idea that Camping, a civil engineer, has managed to convince thousands of people the beginning of the apocalypse is near and the rapture will happen Saturday evening.

So how did Camping come up with his dire prediction?

He based his theory for the rapture and second coming of Jesus on two Bible passages. The first is in second book of Peter in the New Testament.

Camping said the 2 Peter passage says that “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years is one day.” By his deduction, Camping implies this to mean 7,000 years from the great flood will be the end of the world.

He also cites the book of Genesis. Camping said Genesis states, the flood began on the “17th day of the second month.” In his interpretation of the Jewish calendar, that date is May 21.

Combining the two, Camping has come up with Saturday as the date of the apocalypse. And what will happen precisely as 6:00 p.m., well, Camping said great earthquakes will be felt to start the apocalypse.

CBSNews.com even crunched the numbers for what would happen if the rapture of the church begins.

But don’t start worrying about not knowing if the Heat can beat the Bulls, or what the final episodes of Oprah will look like on television. Camping also predicted the world would end in 1994, which only happened for hard-core Nirvana fans.

And if you think you’ve heard stories like this before, you have. The most famous was from William Miller who founded the so-called Millerite movement. Miller predicted the world would end in 1843.

After the first time period he called for the end of world was nearing an end, Miller would go on to correct his time period to October 22, 1844. But on October 23, 1844, the previous day turned into the “Great Disappointment” for Millerites; and Miller’s movement lost credibility and steam after that.

So, if you believe the prediction from Camping and are planning on attending the Exxxotica convention, catching some rays on South Beach, or getting in a couple rounds of golf, you might want to do it before Saturday evening when Camping’s forecast calls for cloudy with a chance of rapture.

But what do you think? Share your thoughts with CBS4 on the rapture prediction and what you’re planning to do about it Saturday in the comments section below.

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