Last night a friend sent a question to me about the group predicting the end of the world on May 21st, 2011. Peter Smith offers a simple explanation of his reasoning and also mentions several others time the end of the world was to have occurred (capello tip to Bobby at Get Religion).
There are several questionable items pertaining to this claim, the first of which is the rapture itself, as it is commonly (mis)understood; it is not quite biblical. Why? In short, the rapture necessitates three comings of Christ instead of the two found in the Scriptures.
Also of concern with this prediction is the credibility of the one predicting it, Harold Camping; it has already claimed the end of the world would have occurred September 6th, 1994. He was quite mistaken. He claims he used a mistaken calculation this first time (so I guess it can't be held against him). If he was wrong the first time, why would anyone believe him a second time? So far as I can tell, he may well be using a mistaken calculation this time, too.
When someone claims to know the moment when the Lord will at last come again - as many have claimed over the centuries (and all of them were wrong) - we must remember what the Lord Jesus himself said about his Second Coming: "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Matthew 24:36). If even the angels do not know on what day the Lord will come, how could Harold Camping - or anyone else, for that matter - know the day?
Camping claims to have uncovered the coded message hidden in the pages of sacred Scripture (that countless Christian scholars have somehow not noticed until his discovery). Whenever someone claims something similar (that is, to having unlocked some hidden code in the Scriptures of great importance to the faith) I think of what Jesus said to the High Priest: "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly" (John 18:20). If Jesus did not speak secretly, why would he hide secret messages in the Scriptures?
We should also keep in mind what Saint Paul says of the Second Coming of the Lord: "For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night" (I Thessalonians 5:2). I've never heard of a thief who left hidden messages to say when he would come to do his thieving.
If you want to know more about what the Church teaches about the end times, read this excellent article by Carl Olson.