In every generation after the apostles, there have been Christians who mistakenly believed that they were in the last days. They have thought that their generation was the one Jesus spoke of when He prophesied that “all these things” would happen in “this generation.” Failed prognosticators have been a persistent embarrassment to Christianity. Perhaps there is something fundamentally wrong with these predictions.
Francis Gumerlock, in his book THE DAY AND THE HOUR: CHRISTIANITY’S PERENNIAL FASCINATION WITH PREDICTING THE END OF THE WORLD,lists end times prophecy predictions made by Christians beginning in the early centuries. He catalogs more than a thousand failed predictions since the early days of Christianity, beginning with the apostolic fathers.
For example, Ignatius writes around the year AD 100 that “the last times are come upon us.” Cyprian (200-258) writes that “the day of affliction has begun to hang over our heads, and the end of the world and the time of the Antichrist. . . draw near, so that we must all stand prepared for the battle.”
Martin Luther made this statement: “I am satisfied that the last day must be before the door; for the signs predicted by Christ and the Apostles Peter and Paul have now all been fulfilled, the trees put forth, the Scriptures are green and flourishing. . . . We certainly have nothing now to wait for but the end of all things.”
Famous among predictors of the end of the world was Christopher Columbus. Columbus wrote a book entitled BOOK OF PROPHECIES in which he called on many of the same passages of Scripture that false prophets cite today to predict the imminent end of the world. He apparently thought that his discoveries marked the beginning of the end.
The famous American Puritan preacher Cotton Mather believed Christ’s return to be imminent and saw apocalyptic meaning in the conflicts and challenges of the American frontier. Mather was also a date setter. He predicted the Second Coming for 1697, then 1716, and finally 1736. The New Jerusalem, he believed, would be located in New England.
Here are more examples of end-times dating from Christians as well as pseudo-Christian cultists:
—Ellen G. White (co-founder—Seventh Day Adventist Church): 1843, 1844, 1850, 1856.
—Joseph Smith (founder—Mormon Church): 1891.
—Jehovah’s Witnesses: 1874, 1878, 1881, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975, and 1984.
—Hal Lindsey: 1982, 1988, 2007, with contingency dates going as far as 2048.
—Jack Van Impe: 1975, 1992, 2000, 2012. Also, in May of 1991 he said the Anti-Christ would be revealed and the Great Tribulation would begin within 20 months.
—Chuck Smith (founder of Calvary Chapel): 1981, 1988
―Herbert W. Armstrong: 1965
—Pat Robertson: 1982.
—Edgar C. Whisenant: 1988, 1989.
—Bill Maupin: 1981.
—J.R. Church: 1988.
—Charles R. Taylor: 1992.
—Benny Hinn: 1993.
—F. M. Riley: 1994.
—John Hinkle: 1994.
—Grant R. Jeffrey: 2000.
—Lester Sumrall: 1985, 1986, 2000.
—Kenneth Hagin: 1997 to 2000.
—Jerry Falwell: 2010.
—Louis Farrakhan: 1991.
—John Hagee (at age 71): before he dies. Also, appearing on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, predicted the Rapture would occur within 6 months.
—Harold Camping: 1994, 2011.
—Ronald Weinland: 2011, 2012.
—Perry Stone: 2009-2015
—Billy Graham: Even this venerable preacher began telling us in the 1930’s to expect the soon return of Christ.
Pastors all across America’s fruited plains have books of some of these authors proudly displayed in their office libraries. The same books, and videos too, fly off Christian bookstore shelves, and the money continues to flow to these authors and many others of the same ilk. While some of these authors may be good teachers on other subjects, their false predictions force us to doubt their views on eschatology. Many of the above people will be forgotten, but whenever you happen to be reading this book, you will probably be hearing from a new generation of false teachers.
All of these prognosticators had something in common: They all thought they knew better than Jesus, who over and over told his followers that his prophecies would come to pass while some of them were still alive (Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 26:64; Luke 21:22, 32; etc.) There are over 100 such time statements in the New Testament that limit fulfillment of prophecy to the first century.
See these additional lists of false prophets: