Learning From Failed End-Time Predictions

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Is it really the end of the world?
Is it really the end of the world? (Courtesy/World Revival network)

Over the last season I've been pressing into worship and enjoying more of the presence of the Lord. I've also been having wonderful outings with my beautiful wife and children. I keep thinking, how can I bring more encouragement and assist in the expansion of the kingdom of God in this hour?

Yet, every time things begin to advance, feet start dragging and someone "slams on the brakes." Bible-believing Christians are supposed to be talking about "doing life together" and growing in the purposes of God. Yet, most are continually distracted by politics, fear and apocalyptic end-time scenarios. 

I sincerely desire to laugh, love, and leave a legacy, but it can be extremely difficult. Many so-called "prophets" are talking about societal breakdown and catastrophe. In their sensationalist best-sellers, they claim to have witnessed the "signs of the times." 

This is so prominent that a message of "good news" and hope is extremely difficult to find these days (and sometimes it's even rejected).

You probably already know this, but this isn't the only generation that has made these claims. In fact, over the last century there have been countless assertions about "harbingers" and "signs of the apocalypse." Leaders in previous eras also insisted they deciphered the book of Revelation and understood the alarming headlines. 

So, the pessimistic, cataclysmic claims aren't new. They're actually part of the lengthy tradition of anxiety and failed prognostications. In fact, speculative predictions about the end have characterized American Christianity for at least three generations. One would like to think that this madness would ultimately cease, but it never really does. I've found that people keep making these kinds of end-time assertions.

Yet, an honest analysis would show the "track record" isn't good. Thousands of "undeniable" claims in previous decades were proven to be wrong. Let me remind you of some of the things affirmed in the past. 

A Century Of Failed Predictions

At the start of the First World War, the Weekly Evangel, a wide-reaching Fundamentalist publication, boldly affirmed that, "The war preliminary to Armageddon, it seems, has commenced." Less than two years later S.D. Gordon, a popular devotional writer, insisted that the "end of the world" would  

"occur in our generation. That is to say that the man of average age now living, and all younger, barring the usual accidents of sickness and death, will witness the tremendous climax and transition." 

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These mistaken beliefs weren't exclusive to the early 20th century. There were many similar claims made during World War II. In fact, it got even worse in the midst of the Cold War paranoia that erupted during the Eisenhower administration. In 1958, one of the more noted of the Salvation-Healing evangelists proclaimed, 

"Jesus is coming soon ... John the Baptist is preaching again! Have you heard John preach lately? I have. You are hearing one of them now."

Apocalyptic predictions expanded significantly during the 1970s and 1980s. For example, in 1970, Hal Lindsey, made a nuanced prediction that the rapture would take place in 1981—seven years prior to Israel's fortieth anniversary (leaving seven years for the "Great Tribulation"). Explaining his outlook Lindsey wrote:

"A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so ... The most important sign in Matthew has to be the restoration of the Jews to the land in the rebirth of Israel. Even the figure of speech 'fig tree' has been a historic symbol of national Israel. When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May 1948 the 'fig tree' put forth its first leaves. Jesus said that this would indicate that He was 'at the door,' ready to return. Then He said, 'Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place' (Matthew 24:34, NASB). What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs-chief among them the rebirth of Israel."

Obviously nothing of any biblical significance happened in 1981—and for that matter nothing noteworthy occurred seven years later. It was presumed that in 1988, during the fortieth anniversary of Israel's re-establishment, strategic end-time events would transpire. Countless futurists were predicting the rapture or other apocalyptic scenarios, but they were greatly mistaken. 

In his hastily written book titled, 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988, Edgar C. Whisenant argued that the rapture of the Christian church would occur between September 11-13, 1988. He noted,

"Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong, and I say unequivocally. There is no way Biblically that I can be wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town ... if there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 1988."

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