I wake up with a loud yawn, it’s another day that God has gracefully given. The suns golden rays pierce my windows causing an embarrassing whirlwind of dust to be illuminated near my ceiling. Continuing to yawn, I roll out of bed and slowly drag myself to the closet. Minutes later I am dressed down in a cheap Walmart suit. I snap in a clip-on tie, taking great care to align it as well as I can, there are girls to impress. Upstairs I hear the muffled sounds of platform shoes striking hardwood floor. “I’m late” I think to myself as I hurriedly begin to ascend up the stairs. Reaching the top I am greeted by familiar faces, and quickly we rush outside and climb in the dark red minivan. A twenty minute ride brings us to our destination, a dark brick building with Lutheran style, stained glass windows. Like every other Sunday morning I find the most mischievous bunch of misfits and join them in the back, careful to choose the side opposite to the pulpit as if the extra distance would provide more cover. As if on cue we stand up & sit down when needed so as to not draw attention. Yet most often paying little attention to the proceeding at the front, unless one of us is pointing a laser in that direction. I pull out a bible and progress to introduce zit faced teenagers to the some of my favorite passages, of course, from the Songs of Solomon. Somewhere in the distance we hear the echoes of an emotionally charged sermon. The man behind the pulpit has turned three shades redder since I last looked up and is violently motioning with his hands. As if through a fog his voice with piercing clarity, punctures my self confidence, “we are living in the end times!” His loud warnings about the imminent appearing of the antichrist who “is now alive” cause a shiver to roll down my back. “It is sooner than you know, sooner than you know” he repeats the last phrase driving another shiver down my spine. Gulping and looking over my shoulder I slowly move down the aisle, away from the door just in case the antichrist and false prophet decide to come bursting in. It is 1999, the year before the end of the world.
This was not the first nor the last time. Not one of few but one of many dire warnings, sermons and predictions I have heard throughout my life. Either everyone is crazy or something really bad is about to happen…. Or is it?
Economic collapse, melting icebergs, global warming, super computers… these are all surely signs pointing to the end of the world, no? Should not pay attention to the latest “end of the world” warnings? Would it surprise you to know that this is not the first time the world has been enamored with fear and terrible expectations. We are not the first generation that has lived under the threat of imminent doom and gloom, in fact every generation since Christ has consistently been involved in propagating end of the world prophecies, fears, and rumors.
20 FAILED PROPHECIES
1. Right After Christ
In the first century Paul wrote a second letter to the church in Thessalonica (2 Thes 2:2-12), calming their fears that Christ had already returned for the church and skipped them. The early church era was marked by many people claiming that Christ had returned or was about to return. It was so prevalent that Christ Himself, before ascending, had to warn people to avoid listening to rumors of him being spotted in the wilderness before his actual second coming (Mat 24:26-27). All of these people are dead never seeing what they predicted.
2. Gen X of the early church
Soon thereafter in the 2nd century a group of hyper spiritual Christians known as Monanists were recorded to announce the looming threat of the second coming of Christ, they taught that He would soon establish New Jerusalem in the city of Pepuza (today in turkey). But not only the crazies predicted it, church fathers such as Ignatius said “the last tiems are upon us.” (1) All these men and the multitudes that believed them are dead.
3. The early catholic era
In 365 a famous bishop Hilary of Poitiers, announced that the end would happen that very same year, Saint Martin of Tours, a student of Hilary and one of today’s most well known “christian saints” was likewise convinced that the end would happen before 400 CE. St. Martin of Tours wrote, “There is no doubt that the Antichrist has already been born. Firmly established already in his early years, he will, after reaching maturity, achieve supreme power.”(2) Tichonus another famous writer in the era was next to predict the end of the world. (3) All three were dead wrong… and are dead.
4. The first round number
500AD was a significant number, after Christ it was the first big number that shouted apocalypse (except year 100, 200, 300, and 400 all of which had their fair share of predictions). Pope Hippolytus, an earlier Christian academic Sextus Julius Africanus, and Lactantius, advisor to emperor Constantine, predicted this was the final date. (3, 4) Theologian Irenaeus also considered year 500 to be the end of the world. (5) All of them are dead.
5. A crazy monk
In 793 a bishop of Toledo, described a short session of end-time panic that happened on Easter Eve. The Spanish monk Beatus of Liébana prophesied the end of the world that day in the presence a crowd of people. The town, thinking that the world would end that night, became frightened, panicked, and fasted through the night until dawn. Seeing that the world had not ended and feeling hungry, one of the fasters, quipped, “Let’s eat and drink, so that if we die at least we’ll be fed.” (6) The monk and his followers are all dead.
6. The calm before the millennium
Bishop Gregory of Tours, a notable roman historian, calculated the end of the world had to land between 799 and 806 (6). Prophetess Thiota who is recorded as one who swayed a large number of men and women by her persuasions and ecstatic prophecies also prophesied that the world would end in 848 (7). Lotharingian mathematicians (from the area between France and Germany) also calculated and predicted the end of the world in 970 which resulted in many massive pilgrimages to such as the one led by the bishop of Bamberg (8). And then everyone died.
7. One Thousand Years after Jesus
The last few years leading up to year 1000 were similar to our own Y2K. Preaching in Europe disintegrated to sermons filled with images of Last Judgment, explicitly linked at points to the year 1000 and the unleashing of Antichrist (9) The elites of Europe were abuzz and some away their belonging to the church in order to be safe from the impending bowls of wrath to be poured out on the earth. Catholic nations went to war in order to “evangelize” as many of their neighbors as possible before this dreaded date. (10) However, 1000 left as quickly as it came, the next 30 years were still filled with all sorts of conspiracies, prophecies, and predictions. Some mystics pushed back the date of Christ’s coming to 1033 to coincide with his death. Historical writings of the area described a rash of millennial paranoia during the period from 1000-1033 (11, 12,). Paranoia or not, everyone from that era is now dead.
8. The Dark Ages
After the excitement died down from the failed millennial end of the world, it was again followed by a spattering of activity in the early teen centuries. Pope Innocent III expected the Second Coming to take place in 1284, because it was the year that marked the occasion of 666 years after the rise of Islam. (13) In the following 70 years the Joachites, a new age semi-christian group who considered themselves to be a upon a new era of the Holy Spirit predicted 3 different end of the world dates.(14) All of these dates failed to bring about the end, and everyone involved died.
9. A New World Flood
In 1524 a group of London astrologists used a planetary alignment (“sign in the sky”) to calculate a forthcoming flood that would wipe our civilization. Records state that around 20,000 people abandoned their homes and local christian clergyman build a fortress in which he stockpiled food and water for them. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t even rain that day. And eventually, they all died. (15)
10. The Reformation Era
A few years later Anabaptist Thomas Müntzer became convinced of an imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God. (16) Müntzer spend a great deal of time disagreeing and debating with Martin Luther on a few issues such as the continuation of modern prophecy. Luther is reported as trying to settle the disputes in a private setting, yet Müntzer continued trying to debate Luther and the city leaders in public which led to his exile. Eventually Müntzer led 8000 peasants in thebattle of Frankenhausen (15 May 1525) prophesying that they are living in “the end of the age” and God would be on their side. He was utterly defeated, captured, and tortured by the Catholics, eventually giving up his faith. (16) He and all his followers died. Another Anabaptist prophet, Melchior Hoffman, also prophesied that Christ told him He is returning in 1533, Hoffman also tried a rebellion and died in prison.
11. A political takeover
A group of “radical Christians” called the Fifth Monarchy Men attempted to take over the Parliament in England to impose their agenda on the country in order to prepare it for the second coming of Christ, to be due between 1655 and 1657. (17) After trying other predictions and prophecies when the first few failed, the large massive political party fell apart and eventually every member died.
12. 1666: 1000 + 666 = the mark of the beast
During this period it is reported that the English world was stricken with fear and strife. The great fire in London only further caused people to panic about the looming doomsday. (18) Rumors of the Apocalypse spread even as far as the Ottoman Empire. Sabbatai Zevi, a Jewish rabbi who gained a prominent following also taught of the last days being in 1666, however, the year passed and Zevi was forced to convert into Islam bringing with him a majority of his followers. (19)
13. The Shakers
The shakers were one of the largest and more prominent group of local communities of new and “charismatic Christians” in the 18th century. They were one of the first groups to claim a new descent of the Holy Spirit and in between singing, dancing, shouting, they were reported to speak in new tongues and utter prophecies. One such prophecy was the return of Christ in 1792, and then when that failed in 1794. (20) Over time the community fell apart and everyone who believed in these predictions died. Today the movement is still surprisingly strong after such failed prophecies, there are 3 shakers left. (21)
14. John Wesley’s Prediction
The father of modern day Methodists and a great man in the church predicted the end of the world would happen in 1836. He also thought that the beast of revelation was to rise from the sea that same year. However, while being highly useful to the Lord in saving souls, his prophetic powers were far less useful. (22)
15. The Great Disappointment
Based on his interpretations of the prophecies in the book of Daniel (Chapters 8 and 9, especially Dan. 8:14 “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”), William Miller, a Baptist preacher, proposed that Jesus Christ would return to the earth during the year 1844. He had initially figured the date to be March 21 and gathered thousands upon thousands of followers. When the date came and Christ did not return, Millers movement had an identity crisis but prevailed in setting yet another date, October 22, 1844. When nothing happened again, Miller said: “I waited all Tuesday [October 22] and dear Jesus did not come;– I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o’clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain– sick with disappointment.”(23) The many different Millerite churches began to splinter with those that remained forming the Seventh Day Adventists.
16. The Christian Cults
The late 19th brought about many new religious groups such as the Jehovahs Witnesses. Along with these groups came prophecies and predictions as well. In 1874 the Witnesses published an end of the world prophecy. This was to become the first in a long string of failed doomsday prophecies by members of this group. (24, 25) Interestingly enough the Mormons did not stay too far behind with Joseph Smith also predicting the end of the world 56 years after his death, making his prediction point to 1891 as the end of all things.
17. World War Era Pentecostals
April 10, 1917 edition, page 3 The Weekly Evangel, an official publication of the Assemblies of God, carried this prediction: “We are not yet in the Armageddon struggle proper, but at its commencement, and it may be, if students of prophecy read the signs aright, that Christ will come before the present war closes, and before Armageddon…The war preliminary to Armageddon, it seems, has commenced.” (26) Unfortunately the war finished and Christ did not come as recorded in the publication, in fact another world war came and still the Second Coming did not come. Yet the writer and all the early Assembly of God leaders died.
18. A Faith Healers Prophecy
Living in the era of the second world war, William Branham was a prophet and faith healer whose name was well known throughout all Charismatic/Pentecostal circles, he led large revivals and was recorded to have healed a great deal of people. Later in his life he gave up orthodox beliefs such as the Trinity and taught that Eve had sexual relations with the serpent. Today he is still revered in all faith healer groups having many of the world famous evangelists and healers claiming him to be one of their spiritual fathers. During his ministry he uttered a prophecy, claiming he was speaking from the Lord saying that by 1977 all denominations would be consumed by the World Council of Churches under the control of the Roman Catholics, that the rapture would take place, and that the world would be destroyed.” (27) He also predicted right after this LA will fall into the sea (28) His prophecies failed, and he died in a car crash.
19. Kenneth Hagin, father of the Charismatic Movement
Hagin is recorded prophesying that the rapture will take place in October of 1997. He said: “It shall come to pass this year! It shall come to pass at last. That which has hindered shall be taken out of the way. The last vestige shall be removed! And it shall come. What is that I see? Shining so bright coming from heaven. Awesome; you want to weep, yet shout, cry yet laugh. I see it coming, nearer and nearer. Blinding light. The fall of this year – October. As the people walk in the light of what they have, the rest shall come to pass. We are going with God. We’ll go off and leave some, but we are going with God. Going with God! In the spirit he speaketh mysteries, secrets. Things which are and shall be. When it comes to pass you will know. In October in St. Louis, the center and heart of the nation, it shall come. It shall spread all over the nation.” (29) Hagin died in 2003 leaving behind him the legacy of the Word Faith doctrines and the Prosperity Gospel.
20. TV Preachers
In a May 1980 broadcast of the 700 club, evangelist Pat Robertson promised “judgment on the world” in 1982; not surprisingly this never came. (30) Strangely enough Pat believes his prophecies are accurate, however, a thorough investigation shows otherwise. Robertson prophesied a tsunami to hit the pacific side of the states in 2006 (30) and later said there will be a terrorist attack on the US in 2007 which will result in millions being affected. (31) Neither happened. Pat Robertson is still alive today.
Benny Hinn also had his hand in the prediction pot, he has said on numerous occasions in the late 80’s that the end is a few year away. Here is a sampling of his prophecies: “A world dictator is coming on the scene. My! He’s a short man. He’s a short man. I see a short man who’s a perfect incarnation of Satan. Never in my life have I had anything happen like what’s happening to me now! ‘This man will rule the world. In the next few years you will see him. But not long after that you will see Me.’” (Orlando Christian Center, 12.31.1989, ) and “We may have two years before the rapture. Can I be blunt with you? I don’t know if we havetwo years left. I’m going to prove to you from the Word tonight, that we have less than two years.” (Trinity Broadcasting Network,11.9.1990,) (33, 34) While we can agree Benny did say “we may” on one occasion and most often he would prophesy that this is a few years away. However, I think 20 years is a little over the “few” mark. Benny hinn is also alive, for a another few years.
FAILED PROPHECIES & THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF
These are just a splattering few picks from the giant bin of unfulfilled end of time prophecies, books, articles, scenarios, sermons, stories, visions, and tales. There are hundreds of instances when humanity has predicted and expected the world to end since Christ’s ascent. That’s at least one prediction or prophecy in every single person’s lifetime, and everyone has been wrong so far. Yet the books continue rolling off the presses, youtube videos with large red letters (IN ALL CAPS) rack up views faster than Justin Beiber, and churches have their speaking schedules filled with guest speakers and prophets.
Faith is Lost
Sure, the end times are thrilling and entertaining… but they don’t lead people to trust Jesus. If I repent only because I think the world is ending in 20 days, what happens when it doesn’t?! There have been countless movements that spoke about the end times, they fanned the flames of incessant hype which paralyzed generations, yet when nothing happed the flames of faith fizzled out leaving disillusioned aimless people. Their faith wasn’t in Christ who died on a cross but some deity who saves from the Apocalypse. And when the apocalypse doesn’t show up, well who needs the deity who saves from it.
Trust is Lost
Of course the end times are popular and sensational… but they sure as heck don’t lead people to trust us Christians. Have you even heard of the story of the boy who cried wolf? We Christians have been screaming wolf for no less than 2000 years… do you think that anyone in their right minds would actually listen to us if and when something did happen? Do you know why droves of young people are leaving the church? Because they can’t trust the church, and I don’t blame them, I have heard tens of prophecies and sermons that say soon or within a few years since I was nearly a toddler. Their time span has come and gone with not even a crackle. I remember numerous occasions when a failed prediction is only followed by the faithful saying “the reason it didn’t happen is because we prayed and stopped it.” Sure, that could work once or twice, but a lifetime of this excuse does not in any way lead me to trust end-time fanatic Christians.
This is where most of you will madly point to horrible things on this earth as an affirmation that we are the special chosen generation who will usher in terrible plagues, famine, and strife. And sure I don’t deny terrible things happen, yet could not previous generations have had an even greater right to think they were in the end times? Imagine living 70 years ago. A great leader, well versed in the occult, has risen up in the former Roman empire. He has persuaded millions of people to eagerly lay down their lives for him . He has swept across most of the civilized world using methods and technologies unseen or unheard of before. He is mercilessly exterminating Jews (the chosen people of God). He makes the big and small obey him and his followers wear his insignia on their arm. Millions die by the sword, millions by famine, millions by pestilence, millions by atomic blasts/radiation, just like the predicted four horsemen. Does this description ring a bell? It reads like a page right out of Left Behind, but this is our historical Hitler and the Nazi empire. He was 100 times more likely to be the Antichrist than Obama or Bush or whatever other idea you are enthralled with, yet Hitler came and went, no end of the world.
THE END OF THE WORLD ISN’T TOMORROW, IT’S TODAY
Here is where the most brilliant irony is revealed: the world did end, thousands and thousands of times. Every so called prophet who claimed there is only five or so years left was wrong by only 50 years, or the average human lifespan. You see, we can spend years and years stockpiling food and guns to survive the coming collapse of civilization, but no one can survive the date that God hath allotted for a man to die. No one. Sinful men or godly men. Take for example David Wilkerson (God bless his heart) who said a calamity would befall his beloved city within three months, yet the calamity did not come, but his own personal calamity did. Almost every one of the predictions we read above ended with the same thing, the men and women involved all died (for the others its only a matter of time). For every past generation the world did end, and sadly many spent much of their time believing a lie and spreading it to others.
Here is the paradox, crazy Christians spend (or earn) millions of dollars to present their prophecies in order to scare people with death, yet people die by the millions every week. A preacher will take a terrorist attack which killed a few hundred people and proudly wave it before his audience as if it is all the evidence he needs that the end must be near, yet billions will die in his lifetime and he wont notice it. We are too busy being pumped up with predictions, conspiracies, and prophecies to notice our own time quickly slipping away.
Here is the ultimate irony, God gave men time and they waste it to (wrongly) convince everyone else there is no time left.
One day the world will truly end, when, I don’t know, but for now, let us remember that every man and woman living on this earth right now has 80 years or less before their world ends.
May God have mercy on us.
1. Tabbernee, William, 1944- Portals of the Montanist New Jerusalem: The Discovery of Pepouza and Tymion Journal of Early Christian Studies – Volume 11, Number 1, Spring 2003, pp. 87-93
2. Abanes, Richard, End-Time Visions. Four Walls Eight Windows, New York, 1998, pp. 119
3. Martin, Luther, Date Setters, Guardian of Truth, Sept. 15, 1994
4. Rubinsky and Wiseman History of the End of the World, , 1982
5. Abanes, Richard, End-Time Visions., pp. 283
6. Weber, Eugen, Apocalypses. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1999 pp. 48-50 7. Abanes, Richard, End-Time Visions., pp. 337
8. Landes, Richard, Giants With Feet of Clay: On the Historiography of the Year 1000
9. Gatch, Milton McC., Preaching and Theology in Anglo-Saxon England: Aelfric and Wulfstan (Toronto, U. Press, 1977)
10. Schwartz, Hillel, Century’s End: An Orientation Manual Toward the Year 2000. Doubleday, New York, 1996
11. Kyle, Richard, The Last Days are Here Again. Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1998 p.39,
12. McIver, Tom, The End of the World: An Annotated Bibliography. McFarlane & Co., Jefferson NC, 1999, pp 50
13. Schwartz, Hillel, Century’s End: An Orientation Manual Toward the Year 2000. Pp. 181
14. McIver, Tom, The End of the World: An Annotated Bibliography. Pp 58
15. Randi, James, The Mask of Nostradamus. Prometheus Books, Amherst NY, 1993 pp. 236-237
16. Gould, Stephen Jay, Questioning the Millennium. Harmony Books, New York, 1997
17. Kyle, Richard, The Last Days are Here Again. Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1998 pp. 67
18. Schwartz, Hillel, Century’s End: An Orientation Manual Toward the Year 2000. Pp. 87
19. Festinger, Leon et al., When Prophecy Fails. University of Minnesota Press, 1956
20. Abanes, Richard, End-Time Visions., pp. 338
22. McIver, Tom, The End of the World: An Annotated Bibliography. Pp 269
23. Quoted in George R. Knight, Millennial Fever and the End of the World, Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1993, 217-218
24. Gould, Stephen Jay, Questioning the Millennium. Harmony Books, New York, 1997 p.50
25. Kyle, Richard, The Last Days are Here Again. Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1998 p., 93
26. The Weekly Evangel April 10, 1917 edition, page 3
27. Burgess and McGee, Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, p. 96
28. Babinski Edward T, Leaving the Fold. Prometheus Books, Amherst NY, 1995
29. (Hagin Holy Ghost Meeting, Oct. 12-24, St. Louis Family Church, Jeff C. Perry, Pastor, with satellite broadcast)http://www.rhemaconnection.com/rhemaconnection_files/prophecies/kennethhagin/KEH_12-24_word.html
30. Boyer Paul S., When Time Shall Be No More, p. 138