MASERU — Last Saturday was meant to be doomsday.
Jesus was going to come from heaven and the dead were going to be resurrected for the “Judgment Day”.
After that the righteous were going to be swept away in a rapture and go to heaven.
Then a massive earthquake was going to hit the earth and bring the world to an end.
That is the message that the United States-based Family Radio had been preaching for the past few months.
According to the radio and a network of its members in various countries Saturday should have marked the end of humankind on earth.
“There’s going to be a big earthquake that will make the one in Japan seem like a Sunday school picnic,” Harold Camping, an evangelist who founded the Family Radio, told the CBS some five months ago.
“This day, May 21, 2011, is extremely important, as it will also be the first day of judgment, a time of horrible death and destruction, for all those left behind,” Camping, 89, was quoted saying.
As his “gospel” spread Camping found followers in all corners of the world.
In Maseru ‘Mathabo Mokitimi, a member of the global network of Camping’s followers, took the message to the people.
“God would have taken with Him the chosen ones,” Mokitimi had told the Lesotho Times on Saturday around lunch hour.
She sincerely believed that Saturday was going to be her last day on earth.
Camping and his followers were unrelenting in their quest to get the people to believe their gospel.
“Judgment Day — 21 May 2011. God says all people around the world should repent. Because He (God) has set a day in which He will judge the world, Acts 17:30, 31,” screamed a billboard along Seputana Road.
You could miss it but just in case you did Camping and his followers had made sure to distribute as many flyers as possible.
“The end of the world is almost here! Holy God will bring judgment day on May 21, 2011,” said one of the flyers from Family Radio.
“The Bible guarantees it. Judgment Day May 21, 2011. Cry mightily unto God,” said another banner in Maseru.
Members of the network were even featured on various radio stations and Lesotho Television where they continued to canvass for people to dump their churches and build a personal relationship with God.
The time to mend your relationship is now for judgment day is coming on May 21, the members said.
On Saturday Mokitimi was adamant that the world was coming to an end.
So obstinate was Mokitimi in her belief that she even advised that any further questions from this paper should be asked before 6pm “because none of us would be alive any minute later than the hour”.
“As far as I know we will not be here by tomorrow. Today (Saturday) at 6 p.m. there will be the biggest earthquake that has ever hit the earth. The world will end after God has taken His chosen ones,” Mokitimi persuasively said.
When asked what her reaction would be if the predictions turned out to be false Mokitimi said: “As far as I know the world is ending at 6pm. We will never see tomorrow (Sunday)”.
“That is what I believe. The Bible has proved it. I stand for what I believe,” she said.
But the May 21 doomsday proved to be yet another failed prophecy!
Even before the prophecy had turned out to be a lie most people had already dismissed it with contempt.
Camping was called a false prophet that the Bible warns about.
The story was a hoax, some said.
Camping was leading his followers down the garden path for the Bible says no one knows the day nor the time Jesus will come to earth, some Christians said.
Yet that did not seem to discourage Camping and his followers like Mokitimi.
“The Bible says this is the day Jesus Christ will come to take His chosen ones to heaven. They are not people known to anyone. Only God knows them. He has said it in Revelations 8:9 that He would come to rescue his people,” Mokitimi said.
“Those (the chosen ones) would include people who died a long time ago but would “now rise from the dead covered with spiritual bodies”.
After Jesus has come to take His people the earth would vanish in a big earthquake, Camping’s followers said.
“The Bible says that those who will be left on earth will be destroyed in the biggest earthquake there has ever been.
“It is going to happen before the end of the day. We do not know the hour but we just know that we have to stay alert,” Mokitimi said.
She said that the date is given in the Hebrew calendar as the 17th day of the second month, which when translated to the Roman calendar is May 21.
“The Bible says that judgment day would take place 7 000 years following the great floods that ended the world in 4990 BC.”
Well, Saturday came and nothing happened.
This is not the first prophecy Camping had predicted the end of the world and Jesus’ second coming.
In 1994 Camping made the same prophecy and when nothing happened he blamed miscalculations, says a website.
On Monday Camping used an hour-and-half-long programme on Family Radio to make slight changes to his prophecy.
He said his predicted May 21 rapture was an invisible “Judgment Day” that he had come to understand as a spiritual, rather than physical event.
He said the Judgment Day will now be on October 21 this year.
“It won’t be spiritual on October 21,” Camping explained.
“The world is going to be destroyed all together, but it will be very quick.”
That date was not in Camping’s billboards or the flyers.
Since his second attempt to predict the end of the world failed last Saturday Camping’s followers like Mokimiti have been ridiculed.
Mokitimi refused to comment when approached for comment on Monday and Tuesday.
She said they would issue a press statement soon.
Although there was general scepticism about Camping’s predictions it would seem that some people still took some precautionary measures just in case his prophecy turned out to be true.
It is people such as these who are most angered by Camping.
Tefetso Mosia, a Maseru resident, said he had to call her two children from their school in case something happened.
“Even though I knew at the back of my mind that nothing like that would happen, I was scared,” he said.
“I had to use the only money I had left to collect my children from their schools so we could be together. I am so angry with those people. They should pay for lying to the people,” Mosia said.
‘Matlali Chabane, also from Maseru, is so angry that he has suggested that the police should arrest Camping’s followers in Maseru for “disturbing peace”.
“These people disturbed the peace. The government should arrest them for that. We did not know what to tell our children because they were scared,” Chabane said.
But Camping is not the first person to make predictions about the end of the world.
There have been at least over 40 failed end-of-world predictions over the years.
The recent one was January 1, 2000, at the turn of the millennium.
“Probably no end-time, “this is it!” date has been as well advertised and yet produced the least splash than was the belief, promulgated by computer geeks everywhere, that with the turn of the millennium, creaking old 20th century computers would get confused by all those zeros and do all sorts of nasty things or, at a minimum, simply shut down,” said an internet website that lists 10 most famous failed prophecies.
The May 21 prediction made the list longer.
But it is not the last.
The Mayans, an indigenous group of ancient Mexico have also predicted the end will not come in May 2011, but on December 21, 2012.
Doomsday prophecies have in the past triggered cult suicides.
Leaders of some religious groups would convince the congregation to kill themselves claiming it was their only way of escaping judgment day.
There is the popular incident in the US in the 70s where Jim Jones preached about a looming end of the world in a nuclear war.
In 1978 at Jonestown nearly a thousand people died after Jones convinced them to commit suicide by drinking poison.
Those who did not oblige were given poison injections while others were shot dead by Jones and his helpers.
He referred the suicides as “medication” that “living is much more difficult than dying.”
Only a few of Jones’ followers survived to tell the tale.