What You Say When Someone Predicts the End of the World
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.
Predictions about the End of the World continue to fool millions. I suppose it should not surprise me, but it still does.
My mother was a Baptist and a true believer who got hooked by a Bible prophecy preacher who taught his followers that Mussolini was the Anti-Christ. Mussolini fulfilled all Bible prophecies, according to him. Mussolini ruled from Rome, and his name could be contrived to equal 666.
Even when Mussolini was killed, and did not rule as the Anti-Christ, this particular Bible prophecy guy had a fall-back position. (They all seem to have one when their prophecies fail.) Mussolini would rise from the dead as a fake Christ. So keep those letters and love offerings coming in.
Fast forward to the year 2010. I had just made a presentation to business owners at a swank resort in Scottsdale. At the reception afterward, the wife of one of the business owners told me, “I loved your talk. Let me ask you a question. Do you think Obama is the Anti-Christ?”
I was astonished. She was beautifully dressed, obviously well-off, spoke correct English, and gave no evidence of being a crank.
I told her about my mother, who devoutly believed in the prophecy preacher and his delusion. And then I told her that I had heard preachers say that it was FDR, and that Social Security numbers were the Mark of the Beast.
Then I told her politely—after all she was intelligent enough to like my presentation: “All of this makes me skeptical about any predictions about the Anti-Christ and the End Times.
Those who have not been affected by this delusion tend to dismiss it as a harmless notion, like thinking the earth is flat.
But millions and millions have bought into it. I get emails all the time linking President Obama with the End Times and the Rapture.
Moreover, it affects American foreign policy because of Israel’s role in “Bible prophecy.”
So what do you say to the latest false prophet Harold Camping, president of Family Radio?
He sold a ton of books predicting the End of the World sometime in 1994. That failed prophecy didn’t faze him, so he tried with another date, as most of you know. This time it was May 21. When nothing happened, Camping was ready with a fall-back interpretation. What happened on May 21, according to him, was a “spiritual Judgment Day.” The new date for the literal Judgment Day is now October 21.
I understand Harold Camping is a very wealthy man. So, here’s what I would tell him if we could speak. “Since you have just a few months left, why don’t you give everything you have to the poor? You won’t need it, and they will appreciate it.”
For your further edification, below are some of the most notorious failed predictions
Here are excerpts from a beautifully researched and well-written Time Magazine feature on the Top Ten Failed Predictions.
“William Miller began to preach about the world’s end, saying Jesus Christ would return for the long-awaited Second Coming and that Earth would be engulfed in fire sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. Moved by those messages, as many as 100,000 “Millerites” sold their belongings between 1840 and 1844 and took to the mountains to wait for the end. When that end didn’t come, Miller changed the date to Oct. 22. When Oct. 23 rolled around, his loyal followers explained it away yet again and went on to form the Seventh-day Adventist movement.”
Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, a group that’s now called Jehovah’s Witnesses, “predicted Christ’s invisible return in 1874, followed by anticipation of his Second Coming in 1914. When WW I broke out that year, Russell interpreted it as a sign of Armageddon and the upcoming end of days or, as he called it, the end of “Gentile times.’”
“If you follow Hal Lindsey, you’ve probably changed the ‘end of the world’ date in your calendar several times. His Late Great Planet Earth, which was the best-selling nonfiction book of the 1970s, predicted that the world would end sometime before Dec. 31, 1988. He cited a host of world events — nuclear war, the communist threat and the restoration of Israel — as reasons the end times were upon mankind. His later books, though less specific, suggested that believers not plan on being on Earth past the 1980s — then the 1990s and, of course, the 2000s.
“Edgar Whisenant published a book in 1988 called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, which sold some 4.5 million copies. Whisenant once famously said, ‘Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong.’ When 1989 rolled around, a discredited Whisenant published another book, saying the Rapture would occur that year instead. It did not sell as well, nor did later titles that predicted the world would end in 1993 and again in 1994. The genre’s most popular tales are in the Left Behind series, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which, though they do not predict an end date, provide a vivid fictional account of how Earth’s final days could go. The 16 novels have sold more than 63 million copies worldwide.”
Below are more failed predictions of the End of The World excerpted from a website entitled “Religious Tolerance.” Its url is http://www.religioustolerance.org/end_wrl2.htm
About 90 CE: Saint Clement 1 predicted that the world end would occur at any moment.
2nd Century CE: Prophets and Prophetesses of the Montanist movement predicted that Jesus would return sometime during their lifetime and establish the New Jerusalem in the city of Pepuza in Asia Minor.
365 CE: A man by the name of Hilary of Poitiers, announced that the end would happen that year. It didn’t.
375 to 400 CE: Saint Martin of Tours, a student of Hilary, was convinced that the end would happen sometime before 400 CE.
500 CE: This was the first year-with-a-nice-round-number-panic. The antipope Hippolytus and an earlier Christian academic Sextus Julius Africanus had predicted Armageddon at about this year.
968 CE: An eclipse was interpreted as a prelude to the end of the world by the army of the German emperor Otto III.
992: Good Friday coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation; this had long been believed to be the event that would bring forth the Antichrist, and thus the end-times events foretold in the book of Revelation. Records from Germany report that a new sun rose in the north and that as many as 3 suns and 3 moons were fighting. There does not appear to be independent verification of this remarkable event.
1000-JAN-1: Many Christians in Europe had predicted the end of the world on this date. As the date approached, Christian armies waged war against some of the Pagan countries in Northern Europe. The motivation was to convert them all to Christianity, by force if necessary, before Christ returned in the year 1000. Meanwhile, some Christians had given their possessions to the Church in anticipation of the end. Fortunately, the level of education was so low that many citizens were unaware of the year. They did not know enough to be afraid. Otherwise, the panic might have been far worse than it was. Unfortunately, when Jesus did not appear, the church did not return the gifts. Serious criticism of the Church followed. The Church reacted by exterminating some heretics. Agitation settled down quickly, as it later did in the year 2000.
1000-MAY: The body of Charlemagne was disinterred on Pentecost. A legend had arisen that an emperor would rise from his sleep to fight the Antichrist.
1005-1006: A terrible famine throughout Europe was seen as a sign of the nearness of the end.
1033: Some believed this to be the 1000th anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus. His second coming was anticipated. Jesus’ actual date of execution is unknown, but is believed to be in the range of 27 to 33 CE.
1147: Gerard of Poehlde decided that the millennium had actually started in 306 CE during Constantine’s reign. Thus, the world end was expected in 1306 CE.
1179: John of Toledo predicted the end of the world during 1186. This estimate was based on the alignment of many planets.
1205: Joachim of Fiore predicted in 1190 that the Antichrist was already in the world, and that King Richard of England would defeat him. The Millennium would then begin, sometime before 1205.
1284: Pope Innocent III computed this date by adding 666 years onto the date the Islam was founded.
1346 and later: The black plague spread across Europe, killing one third of the population. This was seen as the prelude to an immediate end of the world. Unfortunately, the Christians had previously killed a many of the cats, fearing that they might be familiars of Witches. The fewer the cats, the more the rats. It was the rat fleas that spread the black plague.
1496: This was approximately 1500 years after the birth of Jesus. Some mystics in the 15th century predicted that the millennium would begin during this year.
1524: Many astrologers predicted the imminent end of the world due to a world wide flood. They obviously had not read the Genesis story of the rainbow.
1533: Melchior Hoffman predicted that Jesus’ return would happen a millennium and a half after the nominal date of his execution, in 1533. The New Jerusalem was expected to be established in Strasbourg, Germany. He was arrested and died in a Strasbourg jail.
1669: The Old Believers in Russia believed that the end of the world would occur in this year. 20 thousand burned themselves to death between 1669 and 1690 to protect themselves from the Antichrist.
1689: Benjamin Keach, a 17th century Baptist, predicted the end of the world for this year.
1736: British theologian and mathematician William Whitson predicted a great flood similar to Noah’s for OCT-13 of this year.
1792: This was the date of the end of the world calculated by some believers in the Shaker movement.
1794: Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, thought Doomsday would be in this year.
1830: Margaret McDonald, a Christian prophetess, predicted that Robert Owen would be the Antichrist. Owen helped found New Harmony, IN.
The next time you hear a prophecy that the Rapture is about to occur, or that President Obama is the Anti-Christ, or that the the End of the World is about to happen, tell them about the above list, or copy and paste it and share it with them. Then ask, “Why is this prediction of the End of the World any different from the others?”