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History abounds with unfulfilled predictions from both Christian and non-Christians about the end of the world or the return of Christ.
The end is near! Very near, since the world will end tomorrow! Or maybe there will just be cataclysmic disasters that greatly impact life on earth. For the past several years, Internet prognosticators and other harbingers of doom have been pushing the idea that December 21, 2012, will bring about Doomsday on our planet. I’ve often wondered why they had to pick my birthday for the end of the world, but at least it’s given me a reason to look forward to growing older.
History abounds with unfulfilled predictions from both Christian and non-Christians about the end of the world or the return of Christ.1 Astronomical signs, special dates, wars, or impending cultural disaster usually add fuel to the flames of the apocalyptic forecasters, who often claim to have been given some special revelation or that they divined their date from careful calculations of numbers in the Bible.
December 21, 2012, has been the most popular Doomsday date since January 1, 2000, failed to fulfill catastrophic predictions. This date corresponds to the winter solstice and is the last day of the current cycle on the ancient Mayan long count calendar. Similar to the way our calendar flips from December to January, the Mayans did not see 2012 as the end of the world, but the end of a calendric cycle.
We don’t have any evidence that the Mayans attached any sort of cataclysmic destruction to that day, but this hasn’t stopped modern-day alarmists and others from doing so. We’ve heard that a planet named Nibiru is due to collide with the earth or come close enough to cause massive damage (although we would be able to see this imaginary planet quite clearly right now if it were on the way). Some have claimed that supposed planetary alignments will cause tidal disasters and that solar storms will devastate our technological infrastructure.
Sounds frightening, doesn’t it? While Answers in Genesis does not hold an official position on eschatology other than the belief that Jesus will “return in person to this earth as Judge of the living and the dead.” I addressed many of these claims and more in a feedback article over two years ago. There I stressed that God alone has perfect knowledge of the future (Isaiah 46:9–10). Jesus said that He would come at “
an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40), and that only the Father knows the day or hour of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36). But even these clear statements have not stopped people from selecting dates for Christ’s return.
Groups connected with the Jehovah’s Witnesses have repeatedly made false predictions about the year of Christ’s return, including 1908, 1914, 1918, 1941, and 1975. More recently, Harold Camping falsely claimed the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011, and the end of the world would be five months later on October 21, 2011. At my desk I have a copy of Edgar Whisenant’s book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. Obviously, book sales declined drastically for Whisenant once 1989 arrived.
One of the most infamous of failed predictions became known as the Great Disappointment. The forefather of Adventist and Millerite groups, William Miller, predicted Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. This was after his earlier prediction of March 21, 1844, did not come to pass.
Thousands of people have been devastated when these types of predictions failed. The world often mocks these individuals as kooks or religious zealots, and it is very easy for any one of us to do the same. When professing Christians make these types of predictions, they make Christianity look bad, and this ultimately reflects negatively on Christ.
It bothers me that believers get caught up in the teachings of these false prophets who are proclaiming something contrary to God’s Word, but ridiculing them is hardly the proper response. We are all fallible human beings that fail in different areas when it comes to criticizing and ridiculing, but we must strive to be above reproach as we lovingly show fellow brethren their error. Paul wrote, “
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Yes, we point out the sin of making false prophecies—of making dogmatic pronouncements about something you do not and cannot know—but we must do this in a spirit of gentleness with the hope of restoring an erring brother. Remember that the hopes and dreams of these people have been shattered, and because they were deceived by those who mishandled Scripture, they may have difficulty trusting God’s Word in the future.
Another error is often connected with these predictions. I have heard some Christians say that because someone predicted a certain date, then we know Jesus won’t come back then. That’s simply not true. The people who make such predictions certainly do not know when Jesus will come back—only God the Father knows (Matthew 24:36). So He could return on one of those dates—we simply just do not know.
Someday Jesus will physically return to this earth. We do not know when it will happen, but God knows exactly when this will occur. What if it were tomorrow? Would you be ready? Have you repented of your sin and placed your faith in Christ to save you from the judgment you deserve? If you are a believer, then Christ’s return will be a glorious day. And as we look forward to that day, we “
should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12–13).
If you have not trusted in Christ, then His return will be the most terrifying day you could ever imagine. I urge you to call out to Jesus, the Son of God who died in our place and rose from the dead to save us from our sins.
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36)
Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.