The End of the World
On January 1st 2000, a number of Christian preachers predicted that the start of the third millennium would bring about the return of Christ and judgement upon the Earth.
Some, like Christian authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, made a connection with the Y2K Bug, claiming that this was the means by which the world’s computers and financial systems would be plunged into chaos. As the date approached, the authors changed their mind1.
As detailed in the book ‘The Day and the Hour’ by Francis X Gumerlock2, such claims were nothing new. For 2000 years, people had been setting dates for the return of Christ throughout every century of that time from the first century right through to the 21st century. Each century – and in some cases each decade – have been littered with multiple failed predictions3 ever since the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven.
Around 14 years ago, I came into possession of a book by a preacher called Ronald Weinland. In his book, entitled ‘2008 – God’s Final Witness’4, Weinland made the claim that the events leading to the return of Christ and the beginning of the Apocalypse would be in that year.
In 2008, Weinland declared that the period of 1,335 days would begin that year, with Jesus to return on September 29th 2011. This did not happen, so the date was changed to May 27th 2012. Again, this did not happen. He again then switched to a new date of May 19th 2013, but withdrew his claim shortly before.
Since then, he has predicted that Jesus would return on June 9th 2019, but again wavered before the date and unsurprisingly, the date passed without event. June 9th came and went and June 10th was a normal new day. Every prediction that he made was a failure.5
Another preacher, Harold Camping, once claimed that the rapture would take place in 1994. When the set date came and went, Camping turned his sights to a new date of May 21st 2011 as the date of the rapture. This claim attracted huge media attention and as Camping stood in Times Square looking up to heaven counting down to the exact moment of the rapture, a large crowd, including the media gathered to watch and filmed Camping’s look of confusion as the moment came and went. He had also claimed that after the rapture that the end of the world would then take place on October 21st 2011. When the May deadline came and went, Camping revised his prediction for October 21st, claiming that the May date had been a spiritual day of judgement and that October 21st would be the actual physical date of the rapture.
This date was arrived at by a bizarre calculation whereby he added 153 days to May 21st, with the number 153 being the number of fish caught, as recorded in John 21. Camping, however, admitted to major doubts before this second date arrived and the date again came and went and this time it did so without any comment from Camping himself.
The following year, Camping admitted that he had been wrong to set dates for the end of the world and that he would not do this anymore. He finally acknowledged the meaning of the passage that says that “no man knows the day or the hour” (Matt 24:36) and went into retirement. Camping died the following year (2013) at the age of 92.6
The Problem with Date Setting
There are many problems with date setting:
- People who set dates tend to pick dates that are within their own lifetime. Everyone wants to see the conclusion of everything – the moment of glory – with their own eyes. People in the 1800s would pick end dates in the 1800s. People living in the 1900s would almost always pick dates in the 1900s. It is very often the case that people will pick dates within 10 years of their present day. With a few exceptions, like Sir Isaac Newton’s prediction in the 1700s of an end date of 2060 (which was more likely designed by Newton to be a dig at people who set dates7), very few people will set a date that is beyond their own lifetime.
- There is a tendency to craft the calculation using seemingly significant numbers in a way that was never intended.
Consider Harold Camping and his use of 153 to determine the number of days between the rapture and the end of the world. Why did he pick such a number for his calculation? There is absolutely nothing in John 21 to suggest that the number of fish caught by Simon Peter was ever meant to be used as part of a prophetic calculation to predict the end of the world (John 21:10-14). Such a selection is completely arbitrary.
- There are so many numbers in the Bible and so many ways of crafting a calculation that almost any date can be arrived at if you try hard enough as shown in the image below.
May 28th 2020?
Three years ago (2017), a website called ‘The Deaf Bible’ published a prediction that Jesus would return on May 28th20208, a view which has been promoted by the author as recently as within the last month, always with very strong certainty. At the time that I am writing this article, the date is currently May 26th 2020. In two to three days’ time we will see whether this prediction will be the one that finally got it right or if once again we will see another failed date prediction.
Stay tuned to find out what happens.
- ‘As Jan. 1 Draws Near, Doomsayers Reconsider’, Washington Post, December 27th 1999. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/1999-12/27/069r-122799-idx.html
- ‘The Day and the Hour’, Francis X Gumerlock, 2000. https://www.amazon.com/Francis-Gumerlock-Hour-First-Paperback/dp/B00SCU49ZM
- ‘List of Dates Predicted for Apocalyptic Events’, Wikipedia, Accessed May 26th 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events
- ‘2008: God’s Final Witness’, Ronald Weinland, 2007. https://books.google.com.au/books/about/2008_God_s_Final_Witness.html?id=iG6SXXuE7wUC&redir_esc=y
- ‘Church of God Preparing for the Kingdom of God’, Wikipedia, accessed May 26th 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_God_Preparing_for_the_Kingdom_of_God
- ‘Harold Camping’, Wikipedia, Accessed May 26th 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Camping
- ‘Statement on the Date 2060’, Stephen Snobelen, 2003. https://isaac-newton.org/statement-on-the-date-2060/
- ‘Why 2020?’, Accessed May 26th 2020. http://2020.deafbible.org/uncategorized/why-2020/