I am sure it bothers many people (like myself) when the Global Warming/Climate Change crowd predicts the end of the world in the next 10-20-50 years (take your pick). Well, we should stop it too. By “we” I specifically mean we Christians of every stripe who are constantly doing what I call “newspaper exegesis” and reading biblical prophecies into the latest event in the news. (I guess I’m showing my age … maybe it should now be called “Internet exegesis!”)
We see it constantly. “I’m watching the election in France … one of these candidates sounds like they could be the Antichrist.” Or “Uh-oh, Turkey just shot down a Russian jet … Russia will probably invade Turkey and then Israel, and that would fulfill Ezekiel 38 and 39!” “Because of the economy/UPC numbers/massive spying by supercomputers/the Bilderbergers/the Illuminati/the Freemasons (whatever, take your pick) … we are in the last days.”
Can we all just chill out for a minute? I have been pastoring for the past 30 years now; been a Christian for 37 years. I believe the whole Bible is completely true, from cover to cover. I believe that Jesus Christ — the sinless God-man, King, Lord, and Savior of the world — will return to Earth some day visibly, physically, and gloriously to judge the living and the dead and to establish His Kingdom over all the Earth.
But none of us knows when that will happen. And Christ’s church has a 100 percent failure rate for the past 2,000 years in predicting when that will happen.
As Christians who look forward to His return, we all want to be biblical. And the Bible clearly tells us that we already HAVE BEEN in the “last days” since Jesus walked the Earth! “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Hebrews 1:1,2). So, when people mysteriously whisper to me that “we might be in the last days,” I tell them, “Actually we’ve BEEN in the last days for the last 2000 years according to Hebrews 1:1,2” and then I quote it to them.
They look at me kinda funny until I explain that according to the Bible, since Jesus came to earth we have been in the last era of human history until His return. But when that return is … heaven only knows (literally), so stop trying to tell Jesus and everybody else when He’s coming.
But, for the past 2,000 years there have been plenty of people who have set dates and predicted (sometimes quite specifically) when Jesus would return. It was quite common in the medieval church to believe that the world would end in the year 1,000. Nice round number, seems like that would work. Except it didn’t. And the world went on after the year 1,000.
Some rather famous people of like Sandro Botticelli (the Renaissance artist), Thomas Muntzer (Anabaptist leader), John Wesley (founder of the Methodists), and even Isaac Newton all tried their hands at predicting the return of Christ or the millennial kingdom.
William Miller was a big name in the 1840s predicting the end of the world. 1844 was the year. Didn’t happen. Ooops.
In the 1930s, some Christians thought for sure that Mussolini was trying to bring back the Roman Empire and thus fulfill biblical prophecy for the “end times.” Edith and Ralph Norton even had an audience with “Il Duce” and explained it to him personally!
I bet some people probably thought Hitler was the Antichrist. He and Mussolini both used symbols of ancient Rome. Both were bent on building empires. Hitler boasted his would last 1,000 years (Rome’s Republic and western Empire lasted 1,000 years collectively). But alas, neither were the Antichrist. The tribulation did not occur.
I remember clearly in 1972 the first time I ever heard the term “Antichrist.” It was applied to Henry Kissinger of all people! Yep, I actually heard people whispering that Kissinger was the Antichrist because he was ending the Vietnam War! Oops. Maybe not.
Then in 1980, I had people tell me with a straight face that Reagan was the Antichrist. Know why? There are six letters in each of his three names: Ronald Wilson Reagan. 666. No kidding. Well, as much as some of my friends really believed he was Mephistopheles in the flesh, the 40th President was not the prophesied one world dictator. And neither was Gorbachev (mark of the Beast on his forehead ya know). And neither was Obama. And neither is Trump.
When will we stop embarrassing ourselves? Probably not in my lifetime … there’s too much money in “doom and gloom” end-of-the-world pronouncements. I remember during 2012 I kept hearing a commercial called “End of America — 2012!” They wanted a lot of my money so they could send me their info on how to survive when America collapses. (Why then do they want my money if it’ll be useless in a year?)
It was not a Christian ministry, but the same scare tactics are used by televangelists and wannabe prophets all the time. In recent history there was Edgar Whisonant who predicted the Rapture in 1988, and then again in 1989. Here’s his book.
And who can forget Harold Camping who predicted the return of Jesus for May 21, 2011? Plenty of people gave up lots of their money for his ministry. Here is a good article analyzing his false prophecy.
I remember a book by Hal Lindsay, The 1980s, Countdown to Armageddon. Been a mighty long countdown.
What does the Bible say? It tells us to look expectantly for Jesus’s return. 1 Corinthians 1:7 ends with this: “so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
But the Apostles never tell us when Jesus will come. And Jesus Himself is very specific about predicting the time of His return: “Therefore you also be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Similar statements are made by Jesus in Mark 13:33 and Acts 1:7.
Jesus is pretty clear that none of us know when He will return. There are signs that people in the tribulation will see, such as a Temple rebuilt, an evil man claiming to be God in the Temple (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10) and the world falling at his feet as he performs miracles. Well, none of that has happened yet. Maybe it will in my lifetime. And maybe it won’t.
But I’m not setting dates, and setting people’s hopes, only to let the world see one more false prophet.