Opinion

Prophets Who Cry “Wolf!” Will Eventually Be Eaten

History is filled with prophecy speculators who claimed that some form of the end was on the horizon. “When Mark Twain was in London, a rumor of his death or imminent death reached the editor of the New York Journal, who sent its London correspondent the following cablegrams: ‘IF MARK TWAIN [IS] DYING IN POVERTY IN LONDON SEND 500 WORDS’ and ‘IF MARK TWAIN HAS DIED IN POVERTY SEND 1000 WORDS.’ The Journal’s man showed the cable to Mark Twain, who suggested the substance of a reply to the effect that a cousin, James Ross Clemens, had been seriously ill in London, but had recovered. [Twain’s] reply ended with ‘[THE] REPORT OF MY DEATH [IS] GREATLY EXAGGERATED.’”1

Like the report of Mark Twain’s death, predictions of the end of the world and/or other significant eschatological events have been greatly exaggerated. Here are a few failed contemporary examples from various prophecy writers:

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

“World-wide famine by 1986 … 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 prophecies, 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.”
  • “The decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.”

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

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

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  AM.”
  • “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 on 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 coming…. 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.”

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).

A Korean group took out newspaper ads predicting that the “rapture” will take place on October 28, 1992. When asked about the failed prediction, Kim Tae-jin replied, “We got the message from God wrong. Jesus will be back in several years.”

Jerry Falwell (1992):

  • On a December 27, 1992, television broadcast, Jerry Falwell predicted, “I do not believe there will be another millennium . . . or another century.”
  • On January 14, 1999, in a speech to about 1,500 people at a conference on evangelism, Falwell said that the second coming of Christ will be within ten years.
  • 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.on
  • 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.

For a history of date setting going back nearly 2000 years, see Frank Gumerlock’s book The Day and the Hour.

In The Day and The Hour, Gumerlock spans two thousand years of conjecture on the last days, disclosing the dreams and delusions of those who believed that their sect was the 144,000 of Revelation 7; that the 1290 days of Daniel 12 had expired in their generation; that the “Man of Sin” of 2 Thessalonians 2 was reigning in their time; that a Rapture of the saints, a Great Tribulation, a Battle of Armageddon were just around the corner; or that the Millenial Kingdom was about to dawn.
By exposing these erroneous predictions made century after century, The Day and The Hour encourages an approach of “cautious ignorance” concerning the date of the final coming of Christ and related events and magnifies the truth of Christ’s words that the day and the hour are indeed unknown.
  1. Quoted in Clifton Fadiman, gen. ed., The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1985), 555. []
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