Family Radio evangelist Harold Camping spoke out on Monday to reassure his followers after his prediction of May 21, 2011as the beginning of the Rapture failed to come about. As Elizabeth Tenety reported:

You’ve been warned.

Radio evangelist Harold Camping said in a special broadcast Monday night on his radio program Open Forum that his predicted May 21, 2011 Rapture was “an invisible judgment day“ that he has come to understand as a spiritual, rather than physical event.

“We had all of our dates correct,” Camping insisted, clarifying that he now understands that Christ’s May 21 arrival was “a spiritual coming” ushering in the last five months before the final judgment and destruction.

In an hour and a half broadcast, Camping walked listeners through his numerological timeline, insisting that his teaching has not changed and that the world will still end on October 21, 2011.

“It wont be spiritual on October 21st,” Camping said, adding, “the world is going to be destroyed all together, but it will be very quick.”

Camping had previously pointed to October 21 as the last day on earth for all humanity.

His former assertion was that a faithful three percent would be physically pulled into heaven by God through the Rapture on May 21, to be followed by a five month period of great suffering known as the Tribulation, ending, finally, on October 21. On Monday’s broadcast, Camping speculated that perhaps a merciful God decided to spare humanity five months of “hell on earth.”

Camping and his followers expressed confusion and shock when the Rapture failed to being at the appointed time. As AP reported:

The hour of the apocalypse came quietly and went the same way — leaving those who believed that Saturday evening would mark the world’s end confused, or more faithful, or just philosophical.

Believers had spent months warning the world of the pending cataclysm. Some had given away earthly belongings. Others took long journeys to be with loved ones. And there were those who drained their savings accounts.

All were responding to the May 21 doomsday message by Harold Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multi-million-dollar Christian media empire that publicizes his apocalyptic prediction.

“I had some skepticism but I was trying to push the skepticism away because I believe in God,” said Keith Bauer — who hopped in his minivan in Maryland and drove his family 3,000 miles to California for the Rapture.

He started his day in the bright morning sun outside the gated Camping’s Oakland headquarters of Family Radio International.

“I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth,” said Bauer, a tractor-trailer driver who began the voyage west last week, figuring that if he “worked last week, I wouldn’t have gotten paid anyway, if the Rapture did happen.”

Gabe Lyons and Jonathan Merritt explained why so many were taken by Camping’s message and some lessons Christians can take from his failed prediction:

Most Americans dread Monday mornings, but it’s safe to say that no one is languishing more this morning than Harold Camping. The 89-year-old Christian radio broadcaster told the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday that he had “a really tough weekend.” Camping created a media firestorm with his prediction Jesus would return and the world would end last Saturday. The “Rapture,” as it’s known among Christians, didn’t happen, as both Camping and the world are still very much here. But the whole debacle leaves us wondering what, if anything, we can learn from this.

If you grew up in evangelical homes like we did, rapture-talk isn’t new to you. Evangelical pastors preach sensational end times sermon series, while their churches put on fear-inducing apocalyptic experiences during Halloween. The sense of urgency generated by this trend in American Christianity has created armies of evangelizers and hordes of Christian teens rushing to get that magical first kiss. They need to beat Jesus to the punch.

In such a context, so-called “prophets” thrive. Who could forget Hal Lindsey’s 1970 best-selling book The Late, Great Planet Earth or his follow-up, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, that predicted, “The decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it”?

Of course, California mega-church pastor Chuck Smith also predicted Jesus would return “before the end of 1981”? And what about controversy-prone Pat Robertson’s rock-solid “guarantee” that the end of the world was coming in October or November 1982? None of their predictions panned out, and for a time it seemed that Christians had learned their lesson.

More On Faith and May 21, 2011

Photos, video: Scenes from the apocalypse

Under God: How did Harold Camping calculate the Rapture?

John Shelby Spong: Camping does not represent Christianity

Richard Dawkins: Science explains the end of the world

Matthew Paul Turner: The harm that ‘Judgment Day’ will do

Panel responds: How do end-times theologies impact real world behaviors?