Events in Israel are viewed by millions of evangelicals as a sure sign that the rapture is near. Again! Jerry Falwell, who stated on a December 27, 1992, television broadcast, that he did “not believe there will be another millennium . . . or another century,” has written on July 23, 2006:

It is apparent, in light of the rebirth of the state of Israel, that the present-day events in the Holy Land may very well serve as a prelude or forerunner to the future Battle of Armageddon and the glorious return of Jesus Christ.[1]

Something similar happened in 1990. John F. Walvoord recycled and revised his Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis to fit with what was then considered to be the latest in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in our day. The 1974 edition opened with this declaration: “Each day’s headlines raise new questions concerning what the future holds.”[2] As we now know, Walvoord’s book was guided by current events and not sound methods of biblical interpretation. Described as “the world’s foremost interpreter of biblical prophecy,” in 1991 he expected “‘the Rapture to occur in his own lifetime.’”[3] While Walvoord didn’t invent the prophetic speculation game, as Frank Gumerlock points out it his The Day and the Hour, he did make a ton of money playing it.

Walvoord’s book was reprinted in 1976 and then sank without a trace until a revised edition appeared in late 1990. By August 1991, it had sold 1,676,886 copies.[4] It was decisively predictive based on the events transpiring in the Gulf War:

The world today is like a stage being set for a great drama. The major actors are already in the wings waiting for their moment in history. The main stage props are already in place. The prophetic play is about to begin. . . . Our present world is well prepared for the beginning of the prophetic drama that will lead to Armageddon. Since the stage is set for this dramatic climax of the age, it must mean that Christ’s coming for his own is very near.[5]

Not many people realized that the basic content of the revised edition was nearly sixteen years old when it was reissued in 1990. When the Gulf War ended abruptly, the book was being remaindered for twenty-five cents a copy, if you bought it by the case!

Walvoord’s failed predictions have not deterred other prophecy writers from taking up the mantle of prophetic dogmatism by proclaiming that prophecy is being fulfilled today. And what about their past failed predictions that seemed so sure at the time? They simply moved on “without ever acknowledging their mistake.”[6] This is because current events, not Scripture, serve as their interpretive grid.

In 1974, Thomas S. McCall and the late Zola Levitt wrote The Coming Russian Invasion in which they stated that “the Armageddon conflict grows out of the Russian invasion of Israel.” Now that the former Soviet Union no longer has super power status, a new prophetic theory had to be invented to fit current events. Since necessity is the mother of invention in the end-time speculation business, prophecy speculator Mark Hitchcock wrote The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel. But that was in 2002 and it’s old news. Now that Iran is threatening Israel again, prophetic publishers are looking for the next prophetic blockbuster to take advantage of the always gullible Christian market. Similar in title to Walvoord’s book that was first published in 1974, Hitchcock has written Iran—The Coming Crisis: Radical Islam, Oil, and the Nuclear Threat. How many unsuspecting readers will know that Hitchcock has traveled this prophetic road before in The Silver Kingdom: Iran in History and Prophecy published in 1994?

The only winners in the Armageddon game are the authors who tell us it’s near and the publishers who print their books by the truck load. The losers are the integrity of God’s Word and the poor souls who pin their hopes on prophetic speculations passed off as certainties that are always said to be near.


[1] Jerry Falwell, “On the threshold of Armageddon?” (July 23, 2006):
[2] John F. Walvoord and John E. Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1974), 7. [3] Quoted in Kenneth L. Woodward, “The Final Days are Here Again,” Newsweek (March 18, 1991), 55. [4] Press Release, “Kudos,” Zondervan Publishing House (August 1991).
[5] John W. Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 228. [6] Stephen D. O’Leary, Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 191.