History is filled with prophecy speculators who claimed that some form of the end was on the horizon. “When Mark Twain was in London, a rumor of his death or imminent death reached the editor of the New York Journal, who sent its London correspondent the following cablegrams: ‘IF MARK TWAIN [IS] DYING IN POVERTY IN LONDON SEND 500 WORDS’ and ‘IF MARK TWAIN HAS DIED IN POVERTY SEND 1000 WORDS.’ The Journal’s man showed the cable to Mark Twain, who suggested the substance of a reply to the effect that a cousin, James Ross Clemens, had been seriously ill in London, but had recovered. [Twain’s] reply ended with ‘[THE] REPORT OF MY DEATH [IS] GREATLY EXAGGERATED.’”
Like the report of Mark Twain’s death, predictions of the end of the world and/or other significant eschatological events have been greatly exaggerated.
The Day and the Hour
Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World. Throughout Christian history, bizarre fringe groups and well-meaning saints alike have been fully convinced that events in their lifetime were fulfilling Bible prophecy. By exposing these erroneous predictions made century after century, The Day and The Hour encourages an approach of ‘cautious ignorance’ concerning the date of the final coming of Christ and related events, and magnifies the truth of Christ's words that the day and the hour is indeed unknown.Buy Now
In fact, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was a better prognosticator than many Christians. He predicted that he would die the year Halley’s Comet returned. Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, two weeks after the comet’s appearance. In his biography, he wrote, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year , and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” Clemens died on April 21, 1910, the day following the comet’s appearance.
Halley’s Comet passed over Jerusalem in AD 66, just four years before the destruction of the temple described by Jesus in Matthew 24. This must have been viewed as an ominous omen. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 AD–c. AD 100) described the comet of AD 66 as a “star resembling a sword” and considered it a foreshadowing of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans to which he was an eyewitness and wrote a history of the events in his The Wars of the Jews.
Here are a few failed contemporary examples from various prophecy writers. This doesn’t include John ‘Blood Moons’ Hagee:
1. Reginald Dunlop, The Coming Russian Invasion of America — Why? (1977):
“World-wide famine by 1986 … many will die as a result … the United States will feel hunger pains for the first time…. Human body parts will be sold in stores.”
2. Chuck Smith, Future Survival (1978):
“From my understanding of biblical prophecies, I’m convinced that the Lord is coming for His Church before the end of 1981.”
3. Hal Lindsey, The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon (1980):
On the Jupiter Effect in 1982: “This alignment causes great storms on the sun’s surface, which in turn affect each of the planets…. They will slow down Earth’s axis slightly…. Tremendous strain on the Earth’s faults [will] touch off earthquakes … great floods and … nuclear power plant meltdowns.”
4. Jeane Dixon, quoted in Are These the Last Days? (1970):
“A child, born somewhere in the Middle East shortly before 7 A.M. EST on February 5, 1962, will revolutionize the world.”
5. Dave Hunt, Global Peace And the Rise of Antichrist (1990):
“Somewhere, at this very moment, on planet Earth, the Antichrist is almost certainly alive — biding his time, awaiting his cue.”
6. Hal Lindsey, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon:
“This man [Antichrist] is alive today — alive and waiting to come forth.”
7. Hal Lindsey, “The Great Cosmic Countdown,” Eternity magazine (Jan. 1977):
“The Antichrist is alive somewhere in the world now.”
8. Hal Lindsey, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon:
· “The decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.”
· The Middle East war against Iraq in early 1991 is “setting the stage for that last, climactic war.”
9. The Daily Oklahoman (July 25, 1986):
“‘Christ is Coming.’ President Reagan will be in Jerusalem on May 15, 1988, and will be killed in a U.S.S.R. invasion attempt.”
10. Edgar Whisenant, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988 (1988):
· “Rapture by September 13, 1988.”
· “Rapture by September 14, 1988, 10:55 AM.”
· “Rapture by October 3, 1988.”
· “It is going to be in a few weeks, anyway.”
· A war is coming “before the election in November 1988” that will leave only “about 2,000,000 people or less” alive out of America’s “240 million.”
· “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong, and I say that unequivocally.”
11. Edgar Whisenant, Charisma and Christian Life (1989):
“My ministry ‘is the final movement of God.’ By the way, God did say that His last movement would come out of Little Rock. I live in Little Rock. I believe this is it…. Corrie ten Boom saw it in a vision.”
12. Jack Van Impe, Crusade Newsletter (April 1975):
“Messiah 1975? the Tribulation 1976?”
13. Reginald Duncan, The Coming Invasion of America:
“The millennium will begin in 1979.”
14. Charles Taylor (1980):
· “We don’t have another decade. Many believe, as I do, that now we most likely have less than one year in which to reach the lost of this nation (and the world) … all gifts are tax-deductible.”
· If Jesus doesn’t come on the “Feast of Trumpets (September 10) of this year , we probably will have one more year to serve Him here on Earth.”
· “Will it [the Rapture] be in September of 1982?”
· “This could be the year .”
“Could this be the year ?”
· “Will that be the day [September 24, 1987] of the Rapture? All signs point to it.”
· “We are about ready to be ‘caught up' to our heavenly home! September of 1988?”
15. Salem Kirban, I Predict (1970):
· “By 1983 several cities will have trees in museums because of their scarcity.”
· “A head transplant will be undertaken in 1978.”
Image from the film The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)
- Arno Gaebelein, Our Hope XXIII (August 1916):
“The time cannot be far off when Russia’s millions, augmented by the armies that she will gather from these and other nations, will be thrown by their rulers into Palestine in order to destroy the nation of the Jews .”
- F.E. Howitt, The Pentecostal Evangel (March 10, 1928):
“Russia is going to war with Palestine. That is coming…. There is where we are today. Therefore, we may expect very shortly that this conflict will take place.”
- The Pentecostal Evangel (March 27, 1948):
“It is entirely possible that World War III will start in ninety days.”
- Grant Jeffrey, Armageddon: Appointment with Destiny (1988):
“The year A.D. 2000 is a probable termination date for the last days.”
- Harold Camping, 1994?, (1992):
“The results of this study teach that the month of September 1994 is to be the time for the end of history” (532). Before the September date, Camping predicted the end would come May 21st of that year.
“I will be surprised if we reach October 1, 1994” (533). Surprise!
21. Marvin Byers, The Final Victory: The Year 2000:
· “One of the principal purposes of this book is to declare that God will begin to visit His people during the time of [the Feast of Tabernacles] in September of the year A.D. 1996” (375).
· “[T]he kingdom age will literally begin in the year A.D. 1996” (375).
· “After three and a half years, or 1260 days, the Church will leave this world in a glorious Exodus (Rapture), at the time of the Feast of Passover in the year A.D. 2000, just as Israel left Egypt may years ago” (376).
22. A Korean group took out newspaper ads predicting that the “rapture” will take place on October 28, 1992. When asked about the failed prediction, Kim Tae-jin replied, “We got the message from God wrong. Jesus will be back in several years.”
23. Jerry Falwell
· On a December 27, 1992, television broadcast, Jerry Falwell predicted, “I do not believe there will be another millennium … or another century.”
· On January 14, 1999, in a speech to about 1,500 people at a conference on evangelism, Falwell said that the second coming of Christ will be within ten years.
· On Old-Time Gospel Hour television broadcast of December 27, 1992, Falwell stated that he is certain that Jesus will return before the year 2000.
Quoted in Clifton Fadiman, gen. ed., The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1985), 555.
Basic Training: Bible Prophecy
In this authoritative 12-part video series, Gary DeMar clears the haze regarding end-times themes by explaining in clear language the interpretation of the time texts, The Olivet Discourse, Daniel's Seventy Weeks, The Book of Revelation, and more!Buy Now