End of the world, part deux: The Rapture's second coming

South African followers of the Rapture religious group will more than likely be at home with their families quietly awaiting the world’s end on Friday, according to Johannes Coetzee, the informal local leader of the organisation.

The international religious movement, headed up by American evangelist Harold Camping, was expecting “the end” to come on Friday, October 21 after mistakenly predicting that an apocalyptic raft of earthquakes would rip across the globe on May 25 this year.

Coetzee, who provides a radio broadcast of Camping’s religious sermons across South Africa, told the Mail & Guardian no such cataclysmic events are predicted this time around, and that “matters will be over in the twinkling of an eye”.

“The Bible tells us there are two groups: One that will enter eternal life and a group that will just die. It is very clear the sinners will be among those left behind but the idea of a very bloody type of ending with corpses lying around is wrong. This would be something along lines of what is found in Exodus on the night where the first born of each family was taken; it was not a bloody exercise, they were just sleeping and didn’t wake up.
In the Bible it says God does not take any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” he said.

Coetzee also confirmed that no big gathering of the movement supporters was planned, unlike in May when he and about 80 followers waited in vain for the earth’s end in a Johannesburg hotel.

“The majority of our followers and listeners will be at their own houses and with their families, nothing big is planned. However anybody who wants to find out more or follow the event can turn to their Bible - in particular 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52. It is the scripture which best describes the way things will unfold,” he added.

‘This time we’re sure’
Coetzee concedes the original May prediction was incorrect, but maintains that he along with many of his followers are “certain” Friday will be the day of reckoning.

“We had it wrong in terms of the actual rapture and physical earthquake on May 25 but according to our Bible studies we were correct in predicting the beginning and the end. This end which we expect to take place began in May on the original date.

Coetzee could not confirm exact numbers of followers awaiting events on Friday, but estimated it “to be in the thousands”.

‘Don’t dismiss them’
Professor Farid Esack, head of the religious studies at the University of Johannesburg, likened Rapture believers to “those who stockpiled food on the eve of a new South Africa”, but warned against dismissing them as “fanatical loons”, as their beliefs were couched in the doctrine of established religions.

“All religious communities worldwide have the tendency to paint the idea of an end of time scenario—be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam and so on. This is then backed up with scriptures found in their respective holy books of the Bible, Torah, Qur’an and the like. As of yet, none of this has ever come to pass, but we continue to have the predictions of a judgment day or a day of reckoning,” Esack told the M&G.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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