Opinion

Beware of End-Time Prophets Who Keep Crying Prophetic Wolf

Charles Wesley Ewing, writing in 1983, describes a clear historical picture of how prophetic interpretation based on current events turns to confusion, uncertainty, and in some people unbelief when it comes to predicting an end that disappoints:

In 1934, Benito Mussolini sent his black-shirted Fascists down into defenseless Ethiopia and preachers all over the country got up in their pulpits and preached spellbinding sermons that had their congregations bulging at the eyes in astonishment about “Mussolini, the Anti-Christ,” and to prove their point they quoted from Daniel 11:43, which says, “And the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.” Later, Benito, whimpering, was hung by his own countrymen, and preachers all over America had to toss their sermons into the scrap basket as unscriptural.1

Ewing goes on to mention how Hitler’s storm troopers took Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, North Africa, and set up concentration camps where millions of Jews were killed in what has become the modern-day definition of “holocaust.” Once again, preachers ascended their pulpits and linked these events to Bible prophecy and assured the church-going public that Hitler was the antichrist.

When the allies routed the Nazis and drove them out, sermons were once again tossed out or filed away to be revised at some future date hoping people’s memories would fade.

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The next end-time-antichrist candidate was Joseph Stalin, the leader of godless Communism, a movement hell-bent on conquering the world. “But on March 5, 1953, Stalin had a brain hemorrhage and preachers all over America had to make another trip to the wastebasket.”2

There are so many examples of these types of examples that an entire book would be needed to list and refute them. Francis X. Gumerlock has written such a book: The Day and the Hour: Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World.

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Like I heard in a sermon this morning, many of the passages that people use to explain events concerning the end of the world have nothing to do with the end of the world. For example, in Luke 17:20-37, Jesus is answering a question put to Him by the Pharisees about the coming of the kingdom of God. To their surprise, Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is in your midst” (v. 21), implying the kingdom was linked to the first coming of Jesus (Matt. 3:2; Luke 21:31). In His further comments, Jesus delivered some disappointing news to the Pharisees and the nation as a whole. Their generation would come under judgment similar to what took place during Noah and Lot’s day. Jesus was not describing the end of the whole wide world in some distant future. He was describing the judgment that was going to come upon Jerusalem before their generation passed away (Luke 21:6-36; Matt. 24:1-34; Mark 13).

Failure to understand the timing of Jesus’ pronouncements about prophetic events and their intended subject (e.g., Luke 13:34-35; 19:41-44) can lead many astray. Here are some examples:

Reginald Dunlop, The Coming Russian Invasion of America — Why? (1977).

“World‑wide famine by 1986 ¼ many will die as a result …the United States will feel hunger pains for the first time…. Human body parts will be sold in stores.”

Chuck Smith, Future Survival (1978).

“From my understanding of biblical prophesies, I’m convinced that the Lord is coming for His Church before the end of 1981.”

Hal Lindsey, The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon (1980).

On the Jupiter Effect in 1982: “This alignment causes great storms on the sun’s surface, which in turn affect each of the planets…. They will slow down Earth’s axis slightly…. Tremendous strain on the Earth’s faults [will] touch off earthquakes ‘great floods and … nuclear power plant meltdowns.”

Jeane Dixon, quoted in Are These the Last Days? (1970).

“A child, born somewhere in the Middle East shortly before 7 A.M. (EST) on February 5, 1962, will revolutionize the world.”

Dave Hunt, Global Peace And the Rise of Antichrist (1990).

“Somewhere, at this very moment, on planet Earth, the Antichrist is almost certainly alive — biding his time, awaiting his cue.”

Hal Lindsey, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon

“This man [Antichrist] is alive today — alive and waiting to come forth.”

Hal Lindsey, “The Great Cosmic Countdown,” Eternity magazine (Jan. 1977).

“The Antichrist is alive somewhere in the world now.”

Hal Lindsey, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon.

“The decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.”

Hal Lindsey (1991)

  • The Middle East war against Iraq in early 1991 is “setting the stage for that last, climactic war.”
  • The Daily Oklahoman (July 25, 1986).
  • “‘Christ is Coming.’ President Reagan will be in Jerusalem on May 15, 1988, and will be killed in a U.S.S.R. invasion attempt.”

Edgar Whisenant, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988 (1988).

  • “Rapture by September 13, 1988.”
  • “Rapture by September 14, 1988, 10:55 A.M.”
  • “Rapture by October 3, 1988.”
  • “It is going to be in a few weeks, anyway.”
  • A war is coming “before the election in November 1988” that will leave only “about 2000,000 people or less” alive out of America’s “240 million.”
  • “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong, and I say that unequivocally.”

Edgar Whisenant, Charisma and Christian Life (1989)

“My ministry ‘is the final movement of God.’ By the way, God did say that His last movement would come out of Little Rock. I live in Little Rock. I believe this is it…. Corrie ten Boom saw it in a vision.”

Jack Van Impe, Crusade Newsletter, April 1975.

“Messiah 1975? the Tribulation 1976?”

Reginald Duncan, The Coming Invasion of America

“The millennium will begin in 1979.”

Charles Taylor (1980).

  • “We don’t have another decade. Many believe, as I do, that now we most likely have less than one year in which to reach the lost of this nation (and the world) … all gifts are tax deductible.”
  • If Jesus doesn’t come of the “Feast of Trumpets (September 10) of this year [1980], we probably will have one more year to serve Him here on Earth.”
  • “Will it [the Rapture] be in September of 1982?”
  • “This could be the year [1983].”
  • “Could this be the year [1985]?”
  • “Will that be the day [September 24, 1987] of the Rapture? All signs point to it.”
  • “We are about ready to be `caught up’ to our heavenly home! September of 1988?”

Salem Kirban, I Predict (1970)

  • “By 1983 several cities will have trees in museums because of their scarcity.”
  • “A head transplant will be undertaken in 1978.”

Arno Gaebelein, Our Hope XXIII (August 1916).

“The time cannot be far off when Russia’s millions, augmented by the armies that she will gather from these and other nations, will be thrown by their rulers into Palestine in order to destroy the nation of the Jews [1916].”

F.E. Howitt, The Pentecostal Evangel (March 10, 1928).

“Russia is going to war with Palestine. That is coming¼. There is where we are today. Therefore, we may expect very shortly that this conflict will take place.”

The Pentecostal Evangel (March 27, 1948).

“It is entirely possible that World War III will start in ninety days.”

Grant Jeffrey, Armageddon: Appointment with Destiny (1988).

“The year A.D. 2000 is a probable termination date for the last days.”

20 End Of The World Predictions That Ended Up Being Wrong

Harold Camping, 1994?, (1992).

  • “The results of this study teach that the month of September 1994 is to be the time for the end of history” (532).
  • “I will be surprised if we reach October 1, 1994” (533).

Marvin Byers, The Final Victory: The Year 2000.

  • “One of the principal purposes of this book is to declare that God will begin to visit His people during the time of [the Feast of Tabernacles] in September of the year A.D. 1996” (375).
  • “[T]he kingdom age will literally begin in the year A.D. 1996” (375).
  • “After three and a half years, or 1260 days, the Church will leave this world in a glorious Exodus (Rapture), at the time of the Feast of Passover in the year A.D. 2000, just as Israel left Egypt many years ago” (376).

Jerry Falwell (1992)

On Old‑Time Gospel Hour television broadcast of December 27, 1992, Falwell stated that he is certain that Jesus will return before the year 2000.

  1. Charles Wesley Ewing, “The Comedy of Errors,” The Kingdom Digest (July 1983), 45. []
  2. Ewing, “The Comedy of Errors,” 45-46. []
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