Well, May 21, 2011 has come and gone and we are still here and the world wasn’t destroyed as predicted by Harold Camping of Family Radio. His prediction was based on his estimated time for Noah’s flood as May 21, 4990 B.C. (Gen. 7:10-11) and Peter’s statement “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day” (II Pet. 3:8). Harold Camping taught that May 21, 1988 was “the end of the church age and the first day of a 23-year period of Great Tribulation during which Satan has been employed by God to officially rule all of the churches as well as the whole world.”
I’m sure you have heard the proverb, “Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it,” and history is full of unfulfilled predictions of the return of Christ and the end of the world. Harold Camping’s is just one of a long list of predictions which failed to come true. Here are just a few of the failed predictions of the second coming of Christ and/or the end of the world as we know it.
1) The Anabaptists of the early 16th century believed that the millennium would begin in 1533 with the New Jerusalem located in Munster, a province of Ireland.
2) The Lutheran Church believed the gospel would be preached to all nations by 1590 and that Christ would return by 1635.
3) William Miller (who founded the Seventh-Day Adventism) predicted the second coming of Christ for Mar. 21, 1844, then April 18, then Oct. 22. The lack of fulfillment of these predictions was named The Great Disappointment. They explained away the failed predictions by saying that Jesus at that time began what they call His “Investigative Judgment” in heaven, observing mankind to see who is “worthy” of eternal life.
4) Russian Mennonite minister Claas Epp, Jr predicted that Christ would return on Mar. 8, 1889.
5) Charles Taze Russell, first president of the Watchtower Society, and founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, calculated 1874 as the year of Christ’s Second Coming. When Christ didn’t appear, he claimed that He returned invisibly. He also predicted that God would begin to destroy non-Jehovah Witness churches and millions of their members in 1918.
6) J.F. Rutherford, who succeeded Russel, predicted that the Millennial Reign would begin in 1925, with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David resurrected as “princes.” He predicted that Armageddon would begin in 1975. In 1974, Jehovah’s Witnesses were encouraged to sell their homes and property and spend their last days in full-time preaching.
7) Joseph Smith, founder of The Latter Day Saints (Mormonism), made several predictions concerning the return of Jesus.
8) The Assemblies of God in The Weekly Evangel predicted that WWI was the commencement of Armageddon and Christ would come back before the war ended.
9) Calvary Chapel charismatic Pastor Chuck Smith several years ago published the book End Times in which he predicted Christ would return before 1981, based on Israel’s becoming a nation on May 14, 1988 as “the budding of the fig tree” and a pre-Tribulation rapture. This same viewpoint was published by the popular pastor-author Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth.
10) Ed Wisenant, also basing his calculations on Israel’s becoming a nation again in 1948 and the prophecy of the budding of the fig tree and a generation being 40 years, predicted that Christ would come in 1988. He wrote a book titled 88 Reasons Why Christ Must Come In 1988. He sent copies to pastors all across the United States.
11) Most recently, Harold Camping, on Family Radio, predicted that the world would be destroyed on May 21, 2011. Billboards were placed around the nation and letters and postcards were mailed to folks all across the nation to warn them of the coming judgment and how he had arrived at this date.
But, it is now May 23rd, and we are still here, and the world hasn’t been destroyed. How sad that folks don’t believe what Jesus said when He predicted the judgment on the heavens and the earth (Mt. 24:35). He said: “But of the day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone…Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Mt. 24:36,42). As your read through the New Testament letters, it becomes clear that God has wanted believers to expect the return of Christ at any time and live accordingly, but not to set dates and then try to explain away their failed predictions. It is a cause of embarrassment to the church and causes damage to the cause of Christianity. The fact remains that His Word clearly teaches that Jesus will return to catch away the Church (I Cor. 15:51,52; I Thes. 4:13-18; II Thes. 2:1) and then, after the 7-year Tribulation period, will come back to earth to reign for 1,000 years. This really will happen because that is what God’s Word teaches, but we waste our time and energy trying to figure out when and we cause the world to mock and laugh when our predictions fail. No wonder, as Peter wrote, “…In the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (II Pet. 3:3-4). Peter continues, however, saying, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (vv. 10-13).
We are to live with the awareness that Christ could come at any time, but not quit working and ministering to sit around and wait. Jesus told us to “occupy until He comes” (Lk. 19:13 KJV), i.e., we are to stay busy serving Him and doing our job until He returns. And meanwhile we need to heed the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). Don’t “Scripture pluck” by taking verses out of their context to make them say what you want. And remember, “God didn’t give us the Bible to satisfy our curiosity, but to transform our lives.”
“Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit. 2:13)