A tenet of Dispensationalist/Christian Zionist teaching is that 1948 marked the beginning of the end of the world. Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, Edgar Whisenant, Chuck Smith, and the rest of the rapture gang thought all prophecy would be fulfilled within a 40-year generation after 1948 (Matthew 24:34)―end of the world, rapture, the Parousia, etc. This is because a biblical generation is 40 years (Numbers 32:13; Job 42:16; Psalm 95:10; Matthew 1:17; 23:36; Hebrews 3:8-10). But 1988 came and went, proving them to be false prophets. This should be adequate proof that 1948 has nothing to do with Bible prophecy.
Edgar Whisenant wrote popular a book, “88 REASONS Why the Rapture will be in 1988.”
Here’s what Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel denomination, said in his book, originally published in 1978, said:
“If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus taught us that the generation which sees the ‘budding of the fig tree,’ the birth of the nation Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return. I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean anytime before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).”
Hal Lindsey sold an estimated 35 million copies of “The Late Great Planet Earth,” which was translated into 50 languages. Here’s what he said in the 1970 edition of his book, page 54:
“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. 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.”
How could they have collectively made such a huge error? Is there confusion over just what a biblical generation is? Some Christians try to distract us by citing Psalm 90:10 which says, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty.” But that is about lifespan, not generation. A generation is more about the average age of having children. Besides, 70 years from 1948 was 2018. That year came and went and nothing happened. We’re back to 40 years as a biblical generation.
In the genealogical table of Matthew 1:17, we have data to estimate the length of a generation. There are three fourteen-generation periods listed there. Scholars disagree on just how literal these are as Matthew may have included only the most important people to make it a symmetrical rendering. But the clearest is the fourteen generations from the captivity in Babylon until Christ. The date of the captivity, in the reign of Zedekiah, was 586 BC. From 586 BC until the birth of Christ would be about 583 years which, divided by fourteen, makes the average length of a generation about 41 years.
There are other important reasons for these embarrasing errors by these men. An important one is that the Bible nowhere speaks of the end of the world, only the end of the AGE. So, they were trying to put a square peg into a round hole.
Did you know that there are 16 mentions in the New Testament of the biblical last days or end times—and that the setting and fulfillment of none of them can be placed outside of the first century? Here are five of them:
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, ON WHOM THE END OF THE AGES HAS COME.” (Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:11)
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but IN THESE LAST DAYS He has spoken to us by his Son. . . .” (writer of Hebrews, Hebrews 1:1-2)
“He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but WAS MADE MANIFEST IN THE LAST TIMES for your sake.” (Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 1:20)
“The END OF ALL THINGS is AT HAND.” (Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 4:7)
“Children, IT IS THE LAST HOUR.” (Apostle John, 1 John 2:18)
Here are the other eleven: Matthew 13:38-42; 24:2-3, 13-16; Acts 2:14-20; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Hebrews 9:26; James 5:1-6; 1 Peter 1:5-7; Jude 17-23). It is clear and unambiguous. All the writers of the New Testament spoke with one voice on this. The “last days/end times” were not thousands of years later. They, themselves, were living in the last days. You cannot push the last days beyond the generation of men who were writing the New Testament without doing violence to the text.
Some Christians attempt to get around the obvious by saying that the “last days” merely BEGAN in the first century, but continue to the present time. But that is obtuse, and is reading something into the text that is not there. That idea would make the “end times/last days” longer than the period to which they were an end! That is, it’s been 2,000 years from Jesus till now (and counting), while the Mosaic Age, to which the last days were an end, was appx. 1500 years from Moses to Jesus.
But wait. What about the “budding of the fig tree?” Isn’t that about Israel becoming a nation in 1948? The fig tree metaphor probably does stand for Israel (Jeremiah 24, Hosea 14:6). But this appears in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:32-34). In verse 34, Jesus declared that, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these take place.” Further, a fuller understanding of Jesus’ fig tree analysis is about the tree being cut down―FOREVER:
“And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.’” Immediately the fig tree withered away. (Matthew 21:19)
“He also spoke this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9)
The three years corresponds exactly with Jesus’ ministry on earth. The Jews refused to accept Him as Messiah. So, God would cut them down. There is only one logical conclusion. The last days are not about the end of the world. They are not about a supposed end of the Christian age, which endures forever (Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:31-33; etc.). They are not about a future millennium. Rather, they marked the last days of the OLD COVENANT DISPENSATION, which came to a violent end in AD 70 at the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. At that time, God brought final judgment on apostate Israel.
But there is more that can be said about these false teachers. Many of these guys are still around teaching error, just moving the date:
See my article “A History of False Prophets among our Christian Brothers” here:
See my article “Where Hal Lindsey Went Wrong” here: