As you have probably heard, some people are claiming that May 21st, 2011 is when Jesus is coming back. They claims its the apocalypse, the last day, the end of days, the day of days, the return of Christ. Despite the fact that Jesus said “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32) Harold Camping claims to use some interesting math to have infallible proof that May 21st is the date. Albert Mohler has a more in depth article about why Camping is off base.
This stuff is nothing new. Plenty of men in the past have proclaimed that the end is soon, often giving an exact day. Some of their movements are still around today, despite failed predictions! Below is a list of some failed predictions (much of this I learned about as a non-Christian in a class called “Messiahs and the Millennium” taught by Dr. Gary Gilbert at Claremont McKenna College).
I’ll say up front that I think Jesus could come back any day… which means he could even come back on the 21st. But probably not. I do think Jesus is returning bodily and that all people will know when it happens. All of us should be ready to face our Maker, as we could die any die or he could return at any moment.
William Miller – 1843 and 1894
William Miller was a preacher who predicted the end of the world… TWICE, in 1843 and on October 22, 1894. Both times failed. And yet still today we have a major denomination – the Seventh Day Adventists – that is heir to the movement this man started. The second time – called the “Great Disappointment” – was in 1844, after months where people sold all their possessions and spent the day on their housetop waiting for Jesus. Now the denomination he started is almost 20 million strong (which has some good churches nowadays as they have moved to be more evangelical in their beliefs).
Joseph Smith – 1830-31 and 1890
He is founder of Church of Christ, which after many schisms is now the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons. Joseph Smith made a lot of prophetic predictions, none of which appear to have come true. There is evidence that he preached an impending arrival of the Christ in 1830 and 1831. In 1843 he changed his mind (as happens with ALL apocalyptic leaders as their predictions fail) and said it wouldn’t happen until he was at least 85, which would have been in 1890 (he died almost 50 years earlier).
There are various interpretations of Smith’s predictions now, but based on his writings and other witnesses we know they early Mormon movement had a lot of end-time expectations and saw much of their tribulations as tied to end-time events. Even today they have an expectation of Jesus coming back and they often store up a year’s worth of food in their house… because apparently the Jesus who fed 5,000 people from a few loaves and fishes won’t feed anyone when He comes to set up His Kingdom.
Charles Taze Russell and the Jehovah’s Witnesses – 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1941, 1975, 1994…
I’m not aware of a major organization that has been so incredibly wrong. I am continually amazed that this organization still exists, and that they keep coming to my door!
Russell apparently used Bible dates – especially from Daniel – and information from “the Great Pyramid” to come up with 1914 as the end of the world, including the destruction of all the other Christian denominations. They predicted the same thing again in 1915 and 1918. They continued to predict more dates. After ever failed attempt they changed their minds or claimed something spiritual happened but it was not yet fully completed. Here’s a list of all their various predictions.
Almost Everyone – 2000
Does anyone remember the year 2000? I was in high school at the time. I remember some people being extremely freaked out. I had friends whose parents stocked up on a year’s worth of food (which was like a 5 year project for their family to collect and package it all!).
What more? Here are a few great links of other lists of failed end-times predictions:
- http://www.life.com/gallery/60451/image/3432095#index/0 – Great photo gallery
- http://www.religioustolerance.org/end_wrld.htm – a Great archive of a time of end-times predictions
- http://listverse.com/2008/09/18/top-10-failed-apocalyptic-predictions/ – A succinct little blog post of some end-times predictions.
- http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/false_prophecies.htm – Some end-time predictions from the Prophet Muhammad.
What do we learn?
So what do we learn? Well, predicting the last day is VERY profitable. Three large religious groups in the US were all started this way. Apparently it doesn’t matter if you’re wrong. In fact, being wrong may even be the key to success. It makes me want to cry.
Jesus, please come and straighten this mess out!