Was the Return of Jesus on May 28th 2020? Nope.

Learning the lessons

The Prediction

As described in part 1 two days ago1, predictions were made by Robert Devine 3 years ago that Jesus would return to the Earth at the end of May 2020 and specifically on May 28th.

This view was fleshed out in 2017 on a website called ‘Deaf Bible’.2 It was also a view promoted by Robert on social media. From August 2019:

From March 2020:

However, at the time of writing, today is now May 30th 2020 and nothing has happened – our Lord Jesus Christ has not yet returned.

The Calculation

The article ‘Why 2020?’3 gives details of the calculations used to determine the previously claimed date for the return of Jesus. It rests on three main points:

  • AD 30 (death of Christ) + 2,000 years – 10 years = 2020
  • It is claimed that God is following a 7,000 year plan. We are apparently approaching the seventh period of history, which will start in 2030
  • AD70 + 2000 = 2070. Subtract a jubilee period of 50 years and you again get to the date of 2020.
  • Nebuchadnezzar began his reign in 605BC. The Dome of the Rock was built in 685AD. This is a period of 1,290 years and 1,335 years, which are the number of days mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 12:11-12).
  • Jesus will return during the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), which takes place at the end of May.4

40 years:

  • Matthew’s gospel talks about the sign of the prophet Jonah. Jonah preached to the city of Nineveh for 40 days. Using the day-for-a-year principle, a period of 40 years is identified. Jesus died in around AD30. Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70. This is a period of 40 years.

10 years:

  • Subtract 10 years from 2030 to get 2020, because of the 10-year proclamation in mid-heaven.5

2000 years:

ReferenceDetails
Hosea 6:2Revival after a period of 2 days
Joshua 3:3-4Talks about the Ark of the Covenant needing to be 2,000 steps cubits ahead of the people at all times
John 4:39-40Mentions Jesus staying at the home of the Samaritans for two days
Luke 10:35Mentions two denarii
Genesis 41Describes a period of two years

7,000 year plan:

  • Robert claims that when Jesus died in AD30, this was the 4,000th year of history and that 2,000 more years takes us to the 7th period of God’s 7,000 year plan
  • Adam and Eve were married on the sixth day, which is representative of the sixth period of the 7,000 year plan, with Jesus returning just before the start of the seventh period

Why Did The Calculation Fail?

There are a number of problems with the explanations listed above:

  • The 2,000 year period is arbitrary and based on very vague analogies. In the table there are five passages listed. From this, a period of two days is twice connected to 2,000 years of history. Two denarii are compared to 2,000 years of history. A period of 2 years is compared to 2,000 years of history. There is no consistency in any of this. How 2 days, 2 years and 2 coins can all represent the same time period defies logic. It is also reading an assumption into the text that isn’t explicitly stated.
  • The 2,000 cubits is mentioned in a passage that is in no way prophetic. At no point in Joshua 3 is it claimed that the 2,000 cubits is meant to be taken as representative of 2,000 years of history. As with Harold Camping’s use of 153 fish in John 21 to represent 153 days between May and October 2011, such a selection is completely arbitrary. We cannot just pick numbers from non-prophetic statements and then plug them into calculations and expect to get a good outcome.
  • It should also be mentioned that two is not exactly an uncommon number. Just as many examples of 3, 5, 7 and 12 can be found in scripture as the number 2. Two is such a low and common number that it is ripe for misuse. And as demonstrated in the image in my first article, you can pretty well make anything add up to anything if you try hard enough given the abundance of symbolic numbers in scripture.
  • Take the 2,000 figure out of the equation and the entire calculation falls apart.
  • The daily sacrifice was not taken away in 604BC. By Robert’s admission, this was simply the year of the start of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.
  • The 7,000 year plan is questionable.6
  • The claim that AD30 is the exact 4,000th year of history is a date that appears to have been pulled out of thin air. Even Bishop Ussher placed his young earth creation at 4,004BC. If AD30 is the 4,000th year, then the year of creation would need to be 3,970BC, which is a seemingly novel date by Robert. The attempts made by Bishop Ussher and others to put a date on creation are unreliable as such an endeavour involves too many Biblical and historical difficulties and uncertainties.7

Where To From Here?

As with other failed predictions in the past, the author of these predictions and those who accepted them will no doubt be quite confused right now. “Where did we go wrong?” they may be asking themselves. On social media, some insisted on waiting for all time zones to pass the predicted date before giving up, while others wanted to wait until the end of May just to be sure. This may buy people some time, but not much. Eventually these extensions come and go. In the longer term, as described in part 1, for some in the past such as Camping and Weinland, they simply refined their calculations and came up with a new definitive prediction, a prediction that may also have failed. For others, they got cold feet before the date of their prediction arrived and backtracked on their claims. And for some they watched their date come and go and subsequently gave up on ‘date setting’ completely.

In the case of Harold Camping8, he set a date of 1994, then afterwards changed it confidently to May 2011, then again changed it to October 2011 but with far less fanfare and with some admission of doubts about his third date and then finally abandoned date setting after all, acknowledging that truly no man can know the day or the hour of the return of Jesus.

Whichever way Robert decides to go, I still very much acknowledge him as a brother in Christ. I admire the enthusiasm and desire to see our Master’s return. Who wouldn’t want the Kingdom to be here now? Regardless, the focus should be on what really matters, which is our attitude and lifestyle, not our understanding of the signs of the times.

The Olivet Prophecy does not finish at the end of Matthew 24. It actually continues straight through to chapter 25 with no break in the narrative. Matthew 25 talks about how we need to be ready always and not just sometimes. It talks about the need to be looking out for our neighbour, visiting the sick, the poor and the imprisoned. It’s about making sure that our heart is right with God. This is far more important than spending our lives following every movement of international news and worrying about the future rather than living in the here and now. If we are ready always, then the specific date does not matter.

And finally, we know that date setting is dangerous. It can be destructive to faith. It can build people up to have enormous anticipation that the most amazing thing in the world is about to happen, only to then have those hopes come crashing back down to Earth when the definitive predictions do not eventuate. Robert’s articles are replete with words like ‘obviously’ and ‘clearly’ despite basing most of his prediction upon vague analogies, types and shadows and numbers taken from non-prophetic texts.

History gives us many examples of people abandoning the faith in droves after failed predictions, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who saw a decline in active membership following a failed prediction, in which they advertised far and wide that the end would be in 1975.9 We need to avoid engaging in such predictions if we want to avoid a similar fate for those who may listen and lose faith when nothing comes of such enthusiastic predictions.

Footnotes

  1. ‘Will the Return of Jesus by on May 28th 2020?’ Living Faith, May 26th 2020. http://living-faith.org/2020/05/26/will-the-return-of-jesus-be-on-may-28th-2020/
  2. ‘Why 2020?’ Deaf Bible, November 22nd 2017. http://2020.deafbible.org/uncategorized/why-2020/
  3. Ibid.
  4. ‘Yahweh’s Appointed Times – Feasts’, Deaf Bible, August 15th 2018. http://2020.deafbible.org/uncategorized/yahwehs-appointed-times-feasts/
  5. ‘Why 10 years of mid-heaven proclamation?’ Deaf Bible, January 31st 2018. http://2020.deafbible.org/uncategorized/why-10-years-of-mid-heaven-proclamation/
  6. ‘God’s 7,000 Year Plan – Biblical?’ Christadelphians Origins Discussion, September 21st 2017. https://christadelphiansoriginsdiscussion.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/7000-year-plan/
  7. ‘The Age of the Earth and the Formation of the Universe’, Prof Timothy Heaton, Fall 2005. http://apps.usd.edu/esci/creation/age/content/creationism_and_young_earth/bible_chronology.html?
  8. ‘Church of God Preparing for the Kingdom of God’, Wikipedia, accessed May 30th 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_God_Preparing_for_the_Kingdom_of_God
  9. Quote: ‘“They lost roughly three-quarters of the movement between 1925 and 1928, then suffered huge losses after 1975 when the end didn’t come as they had implied over and over again,” said Penton, an ex-Witness who writes entries on Jehovah’s Witnesses for the Encyclopedia Americana.’ Source: John Dart, LA Times, November 4th 1995. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-11-04-me-64883-story.html

Author: Dave Hudson

Dave is a Brit who was kindly let in to Australia in 2009 and is here to stay. He is married with two kids. Dave enjoys reading about the background to the Bible, especially the geography, religion and cultures of the lands, as well as the intersection of science and faith.