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Date setters keep trying and they also keep failing
by Todd Strandberg
One logicalquestion all Christians should ask themselves is: "When is Jesus Christ going to return?" When I read my Bible, I run across words like, "For ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Mat 25:13). I also read, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Mat 24:42). I understand that to mean, "You're not going to know until I come for you."
Other people throughout history have read the same words of Jesus and have come up with different interpretations of what He intended. They've somehow managed to get around all restrictions against precise date setting. On a number of occasions, by doing so, they created pure havoc. Thefollowing is a list of some past failed attempts at date settings and some datesyet to come.
- 53 AD
Even before all the books of the Bible were written, there was talk that Christ's return hadalready taken place. The Thessalonians panicked on Paul when they heard a rumor that the day of the Lord was at hand, and they had missed the rapture.
A Roman priest living in the second century predicted Christ would return in 500 AD, based on the dimensions of Noah's ark.
This year goes down as one of the most heightened periods of hysteria over the return of Christ. All members of society seemed affected by the prediction that Jesus was coming back at the start of the new millennium. None of the events required by the Bible were transpiring at that time; the magic of the number 1000 was the sole reason for the expectation. During concluding months of 999 AD, everyone was on his best behavior; worldly goods were sold and given to the poor; swarms of pilgrims headed east to meet the Lord at Jerusalem; buildings went unrepaired; crops were left unplanted; and criminals were set free from jails. When the year 999 AD turned into 1000 AD, nothing happened.
This year was cited as the beginning of the millennium because it marked 1,000 years since Christ's crucifixion.
The "Letter of Toledo" warned everyone to hide in the caves and mountains. The world was reportedly to be destroyed with only a few spared.
The Taborites of Czechoslovakia predicted every city would be annihilated by fire. Only five mountain strongholds would be saved.
Muntzer, a leader of German peasants, announced that the return of Christ was near. After Muntzer and his men destroyed the high and mighty, the Lord would supposedly return. This belief led to an uneven battle against government troops. He was strategically outnumbered. Muntzer claimed to have had a vision from God in which the Lord promised that He would catch the cannonballs of the enemy in the sleeves of His cloak. The prediction within the vision turned out to be false when Muntzer and his followers were mowed down by cannon fire.
A repeat of the Muntzer affair occurred a few years later. This time, Jan Matthys took over the city of Munster. The city was to be the only one spared from destruction. The inhabitants of Munster, chased out by Matthys and his men, regrouped and lay siege to the city. Within a year, everyone in the city was dead.
The Fifth Monarchy Men looked for Jesus to establish a theocracy. They took up arms and tried to seize England by force. The movement died when the British monarchy was restored in1660.
For the citizens of London, 1666 was not a banner year. A bubonic plague outbreak killed 100,000 and the Great Fire of London struck the same year. The world seemed at an end to most Londoners. The fact that the year ended with the Beast's number--666--didn't help matters.
Mary Bateman, who specialized in fortune telling, had a magic chicken that laid eggs with end-time messages on them. One message said that Christ was coming. The uproar she created ended when an unannounced visitor caught her forcing an egg into the hen's oviduct. Mary later was hanged for poisoning a wealthy client. History does not record whether the offended chicken attended the hanging.
Spiritualist Joanna Southcott made the startling claim that she, by virgin birth, would produce the second Jesus Christ. Her abdomen began to swell and so did the crowds of people around her. The time for the birth came and passed; she died soon after. An autopsy revealed she had experienced a false pregnancy.
John Wesley wrote that "the time, times and half a time" of Revelation 12:14 were 1058-1836, "when Christ should come" (A. M. Morris, The Prophecies Unveiled, p. 361).
William Miller was the founder of an end-times movement that was so prominent it received its own name, Millerism. From his studies of the Bible, Miller determined that the second coming would happen sometime between 1843-1844. A spectacular meteor shower in 1833 gave the movement a good push forward. The buildup of anticipation continued until March 21, 1844, when Miller's one-year timetable ran out. Some followers set another date--Oct 22, 1844. This too failed, collapsing the movement. One follower described the days after the failed predictions: "The world made merry over the old Prophet's predicament. The taunts and jeers of the 'scoffers' were well-nigh unbearable."
Rev. Thomas Parker, a Massachusetts minister, looked for the millennium to start about 1859.
Someone called Mother Shipton had, 400 years earlier, claimed that the world would end in 1881. A controversy hangs over the Shipton writings as to whether or not publishers doctored the text. If the date was wrong, should it matter anyway?
The revisit of Halley's comet was, for many, an indication of the Lord's second coming. The earth actually passed through the gaseous tail of the comet. One enterprising man sold comet pills to people for protection against the effects of the toxic gases.
Charles Russell, after being exposed to the teachings of William Miller, founded his own organization that evolved into the Jehovah's Witnesses. In 1914, Russell predicted the return of Jesus Christ.
In 1918, new math didn't help the Witnesses from striking out again.
The Witnesses had no better luck in 1925. They already possessed the title of "Most Wrong Predictions." They would expand upon it in the years to come.
Once again, Jehovah's Witnesses beleived that Armageddon was due. Before the end of 1941, the end of all things was predicted.
When the city of Jerusalem was reclaimed by the Jews in 1967, prophecy watchers declared that the "Time of the Gentiles" had come to an end.
The True Light Church of Christ made its claim to fame by incorrectly forecasting the return of Jesus. A number of church members had quit their livelihoods ahead of the promised advent.
A comet that turned out to be a visual disappointment nonetheless compelled one preacher to announce that it would be a sign of the Lord's return.
The Jehovah's Witnesses were back at it in 1975. The failure of the forecast did not affect the growth of the movement. The Watchtower magazine, a major Witness periodical, has over 13 million subscribers.
We all remember the killer bee scare of the late 1970's. One prophecy prognosticator linked the bees to Revelation 9:3-12. After 20 years of progression, the bees are still in Texas. I'm beginning to think of them as the killer snails.
One author boldly declared that the rapture would occur before December 31, 1981, based on Christian prophecy, astronomy, and a dash of ecological fatalism. He pegged the date to Jesus' promised return to earth a generation after Israel's rebirth. He also made references to the "Jupiter Effect," a planetary alignment occurring every 179 years that supposedly could lead to earthquakes and nuclear plant meltdowns.
It was all going to end in 1982, when the planets lined up and created magnetic forces that would bring Armageddon to the earth.
A group called the Tara Centers placed full-page advertisements in many major newspapers for the weekend of April 24-25, 1982, announcing: "The Christ is Now Here!" They predicted that He was to make himself known "within the next two months." After the date passed, they said that the delay was only because the "consciousness of the human race was not quite right..." Boy, all these years and we're still not ready.
The Jehovah's Witnesses made sure, in 1984, that no one else would be able to top their record of most wrong doomsday predictions. The Witnesses' record currently holds at nine. The years are: 1874, 1878, 1881, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975, and 1984. Lately, the JWs are claiming they're out of the prediction business, but it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. They'll beback.
The Harmonic Convergence was planned for August 16-17, 1987, and several New Age events were also to occur at that time. The second coming of the serpent god of peace and the Hopi dance awakening were two examples.
The book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988, came out only a few months before the event was to take place. What little time the book had, it used effectively. By the time the predicted dates, September 11-13, rolled around, whole churches were caught up in the excitement the book generated. I personally had friends who were measuring themselves for wings. In the dorm where we lived, my friends were also openly confronting all of the unsaved. It became my job to defuse situations. In one case, an accosted sinner was contemplating dispensary action against my now-distant friends. Finally, the days of destiny dawned and then set. No Jesus. The environment was not the same as Miller's 1844 failure. To my surprise, the taunting by the unsaved was very brief. I took it that people have very little understanding of the Bible, so they had nothing to taunt my friends with. I made one other interesting observation. Although the time for the rapture had been predicted to fall within a three-day window, September 11-13, my friends gave up hope on the morning of the 12th. I pointed out that they still had two days left, but they had been spooked, nonetheless
After the passing of the deadline in 88 Reasons, the author, Edgar Whisenant, came out with a new book called 89 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1989. This book sold only a fraction of the number of copies his prior release had sold.
A group in Australia predicted Jesus would return through the Sydney Harbor at 9 a.m., March 31, 1991.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan proclaimed the Gulf War would be "the War of Armageddon ... the final War."
Menachem Schneerson, a Russian-born rabbi, called for the Messiah to come by September 9, 1991, the start of the Jewish New Year.
A Korean group called Mission for the Coming Days had the Korea Church an uproar in the fall of 1992. They foresaw October 28, 1992 as the date for the rapture. Numerology was the basis for the date. Several camera shots that left ghostly images on pictures were thought to be a supernatural confirmation of the date.
If the year 2000 is the end of the 6,000-year cycle, then the rapture must take place in 1993, because you would need seven years of the tribulation. This was the thinking of a number of prophecy writers.
In the book, 1994: The Year of Destiny , F. M. Riley foretold of God's plan to rapture His people. The name of his ministry is "The Last Call," and he operates out of Missouri.
Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in Los Angeles caused quite a stir when he announced he had received a vision from God that warned of apocalyptic event on June 9, 1994. Hinkle, quoting God, said, "On Thursday June the 9th, I will rip the evil out of this world." At the time, I knew Hinkle's vision didn't match up with Scripture. From a proper reading of Bible prophecy, the only thing that God could possibly rip from the earth would be the Christian Church, and I don't think God would refer to the Church as "evil." Some people tried to interpret Hinkle's unscriptural vision to mean that God would the rip evil out of our hearts when He raptured us. Well, the date came and went with no heart surgery or rapture.
Harold Camping, in his book Are You Ready?, predicted the Lord would return in September 1994. The book was full of numerology that added up to 1994 as the date of Christ's return.
After promising they would not make anymore end time predictions, the Jehovah's Witnesses fell off the wagon and proclaimed 1994 as the conclusion of an 80-year generation; the year 1914 was the starting point.
This year had a special month, according to one author who foresaw September as the time for our Lord's return. The Church Age will last 2,000 years from the time of Christ's birth in 4 BC.
California psychic Sheldon Nidle predicted the end would come with the convergence of 16 million space ships and a host of angels upon the earth on December 17, 1996. Nidle explained the passing of the date by claiming the angels placed us in a holographic projection to preserve us and give us a second chance.
In regard to 1997, I received several e-mail messages that pointed to this as the year when Jesus would return for His church. Two of the more widely known time frames were Monte Judah's prediction that the tribulation would begin in February/March and another prediction based on numerology and the Psalms that targeted May 14 as the date of the rapture.
When Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed their peace pact on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, some saw the events as the beginning of tribulation. With the signing of the peace agreement, Daniel's 1,260-day countdown was underway. By adding 1,260 days to September 1993, you arrive at February 24, 1997.
Stan Johnson of the Prophecy Club saw a "90 percent" chance that the tribulation would start September 12, 1997. He based his conclusion on several end-time signs: that would be Jesus' 2,000th birthday and it would also be the Day of Atonement, although it wouldn't be what is currently the Jewish Day of Atonement. Further supporting evidence came from Romanian pastor Dumitru Duduman. In several heavenly visions, Dumitru claimed to have seen the Book of Life. In one of his earlier visions, there were several pages yet to be completed. In his last vision, he noticed the Book of Life only had one page left. Doing some rough calculating, Johnson and friends figured the latest time frame for the completion of the book would have to be September 1997.
Numerology: Because 666 times three equals 1998, some people point to this year as being prophetically significant. Someone called me long distance just so he could pass on to me this earth-shattering news.
A Taiwanese cult operating out of Garland, Texas predicted Christ would return on March 31 of 1998. The group's leader, Heng-ming Chen, announced God would return and then invite the cult members aboard a UFO.
The group abandoned their prediction when a precursor event failed to take place. The cult's leader had said that God would appear on every channel 18 of every TV in the world. Maybe God realized at the last minute, the Playboy Network was channel 18 on several cable systems, and He didn't want to have Christians watching a porn channel.
On April 30, 1998, Israel was to turn 50 and many believed this birthday would mark the beginning of the tribulation. The reasoning behind this date has to do with God's age requirement for the priesthood, which is between 30-50.
1998Marilyn Agee, in her book, The End of the Age, had her sights set on May 31, 1998. This date was to conclude the 6,000-year cycle from the time of Adam. Agee looked for the rapture to take place on Pentecost, which is also known as "the Feast of Weeks." Another indicator of this date was the fact that the Holy Spirit did not descend upon the apostles until 50 days after Christ's resurrection. Israel was born in 1948; add the 50 days as years and you come up with
After her May 31 rapture date failed, Agee, unable to face up to her error, continued her date setting by using various Scripture references to point to June 7, 14, 21 and about 10 other dates.
Well, you can't call Marilyn Agee a quitter. After bombing out badly several time in 1998, Marilyn set a new date for the rapture: May 21 or 22 of this year.
TV newscaster-turned-psychic Charles Criswell King had said in 1968 that the world as we know it would cease to exist on August 18, 1999.
Philip Berg, a rabbi at the Kabbalah Learning Center in New York, proclaimed that the end might arrive on September 11, 1999, when "a ball of fire will descend . . . destroying almost all of mankind, all vegetation, all forms of life."
Numerology: If you divide 2,000 by 3, you will get the devil's number: 666.66666666666667.
The names of the people and organizations that called for the return of Christ at the turn of the century is too long to be listed here. I would say that if there were a day on which Christ could not return, it must have been January 1, 2000. To come at an unknown time means to come at an unknown time. I think January 2, 2000 would have been a more likely day for Him to call His Church home--right after the big let down.
On May 5, 2000, all of the planets were supposed to have been in alignment. This was said to cause the earth to suffer earthquakes, volcanic eruption, and various other nasty stuff. A similar alignment occurred in 1982 and nothing happened. People failed to realize that the other nine planets only exert a very tiny gravitational pull on the earth. If you were to add up the gravitational force from the rest of the planets, the total would only amount to a fraction of the tug the moon has on the earth.
According to Michael Rood, the end times have a prophetically complicated connection to Israel's spring barley harvest. The Day of the Lord began on May 5, 2000. Rood's fall feast calendar called for the Russian Gog-Magog invasion of Israel to take place at sundown on October 28, 2000.
Dr. Dale Sumbureru looked for March 22, 1997 to be "the date when all the dramatic events leading through the tribulation to the return of Christ should begin" The actual date of Christ's return could be somewhere between July 2000 and March 2001. Dr. Sumbureru is more general about the timing of Christ's second coming than most writers. He states, "The day the Lord returns is currently unknown because He said [Jesus] these days are cut short and it is not yet clear by how much and in what manner they arecut short. If the above assumptions are not correct, my margin of error would be in weeks, or perhaps months."
Priests from Cuba's Afro-Caribbean Yoruba religion predicted a dramatic year of tragedy and crisis for the world in 2002, ranging from coups and war to disease and flooding.
This date for Jesus' return is based upon psalmology, numerology, the biblical 360 days per year, Jewish holidays, and "biblical astronomy." To figure out this date, you'll need a calculator, a slide rule, and plenty of scratch paper.
For the past several decades, Jack Van Impe has hinted at nearly every year as being the time for the rapture. Normally, he has only gone out one or two years from the current calendar year. However, Jack's latest projection for the rapture goes out several years. His new math uses 51 years as the length of a generation. If you add 51 years to 1967, the year Israel recaptured Jerusalem, you get 2018. Once you subtract the seven-year tribulation period, you arrive at 2011.
New Age writers cite Mayan and Aztec calendars that predict the end of the age on December 21, 2012.
Sir Isaac Newton, Britain's greatest scientist, spent 50 years and wrote 4,500 pages trying to predict when the end of the world was coming. The most definitive date he set for the apocalypse, which he scribbled on a scrap of paper, was 2060.
An untold number of people have tried to predict the Lord's return by using elaborate timetables. Most date setters do not realize that mankind has not kept an unwavering record of time. Anyone wanting to chart, for example, 100 BC to 2000 AD, would have to contend with the fact that 46 BC was 445 days long, there was no year 0 BC, and in 1582 we switched from Julian Years (360 days) to Gregorian (365 days). Because most prognosticators are not aware of all of these errors, their math is immediately off by several years.
I believe we will never know the exact day of Christ's return for His Church. It is God's nature to act independently from man's thinking. If He returned on a date that someone had figured out, that person would deprive God of His triumph. When it comes to His glory, God doesn't share the spotlight with anyone.
The return of Jesus Christ for His Church will easily be the most important event in history. The glory of heaven contrasted with our lives on earth is like comparing the job of running a hot dog stand with the job of serving as President of the United States.
Finally, when it comes to knowing the general time frame of Christ's return for His Church, the Word of God is more generous. Jesus forewarned us of a number of events that will take place. When we see the predicted events coming together, we can conclude that time is short. Most of the prophecies will take place during the tribulation. Any forewarning of their arrival would make the rapture all the more likely, because it will occur at the start of the seven-year tribulation period.