In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, biblical scholar Harold Camping claims that the Rapture will occur on May 21, 2011. Here's how he came up with the exact date:
The number 5, Camping concluded, equals "atonement." Ten is "completeness." Seventeen means "heaven." Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011.
"Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.," he began. "Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that's 1,978 years."
Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days - the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.
Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.
Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.
Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.
In the words of Bill Cosby, "Rrriiiight."
Now if you're not an eschatology scholar this may seem convincing. However, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, the article says that Camping originally thought the Rapture was going to happen on September 6, 1994. Camping claims that he made a "mathematically error" the last time, and he's really got it figured out now. However, the book of Deuteronomy says if a prophet says something is going to happen and it doesn't happen, he shouldn't be trusted. So if Camping got his math wrong the last time, what makes you think he's got it right this time?
But most importantly, Jesus clearly says that no one except God knows when the world will end (Matthew 24:36). So do you really think God would plant some special code in His Word that a nerd with a calculator (and a lot of time on his hands) could figure out?
I might get left behind for saying this, but I don't think it's time to start putting together a "Welcome Back, Jesus" party just yet.