Harold Camping is a false prophet. Six p.m. local time on May 21st 2011 already passed in New Zealand without incident, the first place the apocalyptical earthquakes are supposed to have occurred. Six p.m. also peacefully passed in Sydney, Tokyo, and Beijing.
Then there is the rapture prediction. Camping said about 200 million of God's believers will be raptured into the sky. So far, there have been no reports of such incidents.
So what now for Harold Camping? In all likelihood, his ministry will be destroyed.
Since the beginning of Christianity, there were always false prophets who made failed 'Doomsday' predictions. The survival of the sect or ministry of the false prophets depended on the weight they put on their 'Doomsday' predictions.
The Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, predicted 'Doomsday' at least three times. However, 'Doomsday' is hardly the core activity of their organization. When their predictions failed, they simply admitted their errors and moved on.
Similarly, Pat Robertson, a powerful figure among American evangelicals and a power broker in the Republican Party, made a failed prediction in 1982. However, his ministry and influence survived because he's more known for his popular faith and family message.
In 1994, Harold Camping made a failed 'Doomsday' prediction. His ministry, however, survived for two reasons. One, his prediction wasn't emphatic. He said there was a strong possibility of 'Doomsday' happening, but that language left room for error. Two, Camping's ministry wasn't just about Doomsday - his Family Radio broadcasted hymns and often touched on mainstream Christian issues.
However, there is no escaping his failed 2011 'Doomsday' prediction. He painted himself into a corner by using words like guaranteed and without any shadow of doubt. His massive publicity campaign just made it worse.
The last time something comparable happened was the Millerites' 'Great Disappointment' in 1844. Like Camping's followers in 2011, the Millerites were a Christian sect who believed in a definitive 'Doomsday,' which in their case was October 22, 1844.
The failure of the prediction to materialize was dubbed the 'Great Disappointment.'
Afterwards, many Millerites were devastated and left their faith. In the years afterwards, the sect shrank until it disappeared altogether.
At the time, the public backlash against the 'Great Disappointment' was vicious.
A biography of William Miller, the founder of the movement, recorded the following words Miller wrote to a fellow Millerite:
Some are tauntingly enquiring, 'Have you not gone up?' Even little children in the streets are shouting continually to passersby, 'Have you a ticket to go up?'
More than taunts, Millerite churches were burned and vandalized. Millerites themselves were also subject to physical violence.
In 2011, Camping's believer will not likely suffer physical violence. But the days of his ministry raking in millions a year (and emptying the bank accounts of many of his followers in the process) are probably gone forever.