Papers of Isaac Newton have surfaced that show that he predicted the end of the world would take place no earlier than the year 2060, exactly 1,260 years after the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire. His calculation is based on passages that use “ 1260 days” … “42 months” … “time, times, half a time” (Dan. 7:5; 12:7; Rev. 11:2–3; 12:6; 12:14; 13:5). These periods of time are interpreted to mean 1,260 years.
Newton wasn’t alone in predicting when the end might come. The year 2000 preoccupied a number of revolutionaries and self-styled “prophets” long before our generation took an interest in the seemingly mystical number. Restif de la Bretonne, revolutionary and pornographer, wrote The Year 2000 in 1789. He was the first person to use the word “communism.” Other utopian novels focused on the year 2000. A German communist published a book for use in France at the beginning of the 1840s, Paris en l’an 2000 (Paris in the Year 2000). It “depicts a historian lecturing in that year in Notre Dame Cathedral to an incredulous audience about the horrors of the by-gone age of war and class conflict.” One of the most famous utopian fantasies is Edward Bellamy’s “more widely read Looking Backward, 2000–1887 of 1888.” Bellamy’s fiction became much of the world’s reality in twentieth-century communism. There was little diversity in Bellamy’s utopia. “The stores, the clothing, the residences, and the incomes were all the same, made uniform by the governance of bureaucrats.” Bellamy believed, in one of his many “sermons” that break in on the narrative, that “human nature is naturally good and people are ‘god-like in aspirations . . . with divinest impulses of tenderness and self-sacrifice.’ Therefore, once external conditions are made acceptable, the Ten Commandments become ‘well-nigh obsolete,’ bring us a ‘second birth of the human race.’” In this, Bellamy was a man before his time. He managed to mix the perversions of communism, secularism, and New Age philosophy into one impossible world.
Utopians as well as occultists saw significance in the year 2000. Edgar Cayce (1877–1945), the “sleeping prophet,” saw 1998 as the beginning of a New Age—-“right after a catastrophic shift of Earth’s axis.” Cayce made other predictions, most of which are so far into the future that no one reading this will be able to check their accuracy. Based on his past failed predictions, we can be certain that they will not come to pass. Much of his work was devoted to the lost continent of the imaginary Atlantis. In 1940 he predicted that part of Atlantis would reappear “soon.” Cayce made very specific predictions about the California coastal cities and the sinking of Georgia and the Carolinas into the Atlantic.
Doomsday prophets are a dime a dozen—from predicting earthquakes, “pole shift,” flooding from the polar ice cap melting, and general ecological disaster.
Bob Nelson, also known as Mobius Rex, a California radio talk-show host and author of Prophecy, a compendium of doomsday predictions across the ages, expects that “less than one third of the world’s population will be around by 2020.” He adds, “It might be best for this planet and humanity if this civilization collapses as quickly as possible.”
Ecological catastrophes and New Age thinking have been brought together. A new glacier period is about to dawn, according to New Age seer and UFO contactee Earlyne Chaney. “This will all happen, says Chaney, between now and 1999.” Oops! A modern-day interpreter of the “in” prophet Nostradamus, Erika Cheetham, proposes that Nostradamus predicted that the Third Antichrist (the first two were probably Napoleon and Hitler) will enter center stage on the world scene in July of 1999. After this, of course, the “millennium” will dawn. Time has proved him wrong.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet (her real name, the surname of her second husband), also known as Guru Ma, had expected imminent doom for some time. She described, through “the Word she receives from the Ascended Masters (a New Age heavenly host),” the “coming Aquarian Age and the 12-year ‘time of troubles’ that will precede it.” How seriously should we take the word of the “Ascended Masters”? As the Bible says, “test the Spirits” (1 John 4:1). One of the “Masters,” El Morya, warned in 1987 that “the U.S. risked war with the Soviet Union, possibly as early as Oct. 2, 1989. When the day came and went, El Morya told Mrs. Prophet that ‘the timetable for war had been set back.’” How convenient.
Doom, the Society for Secular Armageddonism, had a phone number that you could call to get the latest information on what they perceived were signs of the end. They believed that there was ample evidence to conclude that it’s later than we all think. Doom cited the following as evidence of an impending “do-it-yourself apocalypse”: “chemical and biological weapons, nuclear proliferation, deforestation, the greenhouse effect, ozone depletion, acid rain, the poisoning of our air and water, rising racism, massive species lost, toxic waste, the AIDS pandemic, the continuing population explosion, encroaching Big Brotherism, and at least a thousand points of blight.” The following recorded message from Doom, Inc., reproduced in the December 1990 issue of Harper’s Magazine under the title “DIAL-A-BUMMER,” gives you some idea of their apocalypticism:
You have reached the hot line of Doom for news and information related to the coming apocalypse. This is a service for the organization Doom, the Society for Secular Armageddonism, a nonreligious group dedicated to promoting public awareness of the coming end of the world. We believe the apocalypse is at hand, and the reasons for that belief are overwhelming. . . . These aren’t just conversation topics for yuppie cocktail parties; they’re grade A, unadulterated harbingers of destruction, 100 percent bona fide specters of doom, and they’re all proof that we don’t need God to end it for us. The coming end will be a strictly do-it-yourself apocalypse.
By the way, the Society’s phone number was 415–673–3666. It wasn’t toll-free. If the end didn’t come as predicted, they didn’t want to be stuck for the phone bill.
Predicting the end in ecological terms is now all the rage. One of the earliest attempts at calculating the time man had left on earth was Reverend Thomas Malthus. His was pure science: the lifeboat scenario—too many people and not enough food. In 1798 he published An Essay on Population. According to Malthus, population grows at a geometric rate while food lags far behind because it is entrapped in the mathematics of arithmetic growth. It’s a matter of multiplication over addition. Population growth would always outdistance the food supply. As history attests, Malthus has been proved wrong time and time again. “Since World War II, world grain production tripled while the world’s population doubled.” Most famines are caused by governments, war, and socialistic economic policies.
In 1968 Malthus was “reincarnated” in the person of Paul Ehrlich. The stilted nineteenth-century academic work An Essay on Population had to give way to a modernized title for the times: The Population Bomb. And what a bomb it was, an instant best-seller. Ehrlich’s predictions, like those of Malthus, have been proved wrong, but few people seem to have noticed. This did not stop him from updating his failed theories. He came out with The Population Explosion in 1990 predicting the same end-time scenario.
How many of these new “predictions” will come to pass? It’s anybody’s guess, because that’s what it is—a guess!
** James H. Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (New York: Basic Books, 1980), 512, note 5.**
** Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men, 512, note 5. ****Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books,  1993), 189. **** Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 190. **** Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 44. **** Teresi and Hooper, “The Last Laugh?,” Omni (January 1990), 44.**
** Teresi and Hooper, “The Last Laugh?,” 8.**
**Teresi and Hooper, “The Last Laugh?” 83. **** R. Gustav Niebuhr, “Millennium Fever: Prophets Proliferate, The End is Near,” Wall Street Journal (December 5, 1989), A13. **** Niebuhr, “Millenium Fever,” A13**
** Setting the Doomsday Clock has been a ritual since it was set seven minutes to the end in 1947. It has been set as close as two minutes till the doomsday hour in 1953 when the Soviet Union tested a hydrogen bomb in 1952 and as far as seventeen minutes till in 1991 when the United States and the former Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. See Paul Hoversten, “Doomsday Clock on borrowed time,” USA Today (December 5, 1995), 4A.**
** Cited in Harper’s Magazine (December 1990), 22. **** Ronald Bailey, “Raining in Their Hearts,” National Review (December 3, 1990), 32