Can We Predict the End of Time?

For believers in Jesus no event is more anticipated or longed for than His Second Coming. It will mean vindication and glory and redemption and heaven. In our hearts we long for it, pray for it, and hope for it soon (1 Cor. 16:22). Unfortunately, many do more than that. They predict the exact time of Jesus’ arrival.

Jehovah’s Witnesses clearly and undeniably predicted the end of the world and the beginning of the Seventh Millennium in the fall of 1975. awake! magazine (October 8, 1966) specifically said so, even saying that others who have predicted the end of the world were “guilty of false prophesying.”

Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God also predicted much for 1975. In 1957 Armstrong warned it would be the year of drought that would kill one-third of the world’s population, followed by another third killed in atomic war, with the final third to be sold into slavery (1975 in Prophecy, pp. 12-13).

Robert Walvoord, the leading premillenial teacher and writer of our times, wrote in 1967: “In the light of the amazing unification of Europe under the Common Market and the pressure of a modern situation which makes the survival of small, independent nations very difficult, surely a move toward a confederacy (the famed “Ten Nation Confederacy”-MR) fits precisely into the temper of our modern international situation. The appropriateness of this prophecy to our present day is another indication that the church may be ending its earthly course and that end-time prophecy is about to be fulfilled” (Bibliothecra Sacra, April 1967, page 105).

Christadelphians positively identified the invasion of Iraq as the last sign pointing to the end of the world.

An advertisement in USA Today from a church based in Korea warned “Jesus Will Come! In the feast of the trumpet, October 28, 1992” (USA Today, October 22, 1992).

In one of the funniest prophecy episodes, Edgar Whisenant (a retired nasa engineer) produced a little book entitled “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988.” What made this so comical was that he promptly had to follow with “The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989.” We await “This Really is It: Rapture Report 1997.”

We chuckle at some of these stories, and shake our heads at others. How can anyone still have anything to do with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in light of their 1975 failure? Premillenialists have consistently looked to the Soviet Union as the villain that will attack modern Israel and usher in Armageddon. Who will wear their black hat now? All of the date-setters and modern-day prophets ultimately end up making fools of themselves. This is so because:

They ignore what God’s word says about date setting. The Bible is explicit about the time of the Lord’s coming: it is absolutely unknowable and will come when no one expects it. “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:2-3; see also 2 Peter 3:10). If it were true that one could divine from scripture when the Lord was coming why didn’t the apostles tell the Thessalonians the magic formula so they could do so and be assured He was not coming in their lifetime? Instead they (and we) were told there was no way to know when Jesus would return. Does a thief send notes to let you know when he is coming? So it is with the Second Coming. It will come when it is not expected, because there are no signs to interpret, no codes to unravel, and no dates to set.

They misuse scripture terribly. Read any of these date setters and you will find them grabbing a verse from here, and a passage from there so they can calculate dates and times. Yet such is obviously fallacious. One cannot combine times in Daniel with the time of wilderness wandering, add secular history’s dates, and then sprinkle with a liberal amount of “a day equals a thousand years to the Lord.” Many of the prophecies that are construed to speak of the end of the world often are talking about a judgment on a specific people at a specific time (often the end of Jerusalem). To take those passages and make them “end of the world prophecies” is outrageous. The context of each passage must be respected and considered, rather than just lumping verses together willy-nilly.

In connection with this, the treatment of various time passages in the Bible is always wholly arbitrary. It is true that God made Israel wander one year in the wilderness for each day the spies spent in Canaan. However, that does not mean that every time a prophet speaks of a day we can’then plug in a year! Likewise, much is made of 2 Peter’s statement that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”(3:8). This verse simply means that God does not have to work according to our time. It does not mean that every time a verse mentions a day we should take that to mean a thousand years. Yet this is done very commonly, particularly in Revelation and Daniel. Interestingly, no one ever uses the second half of the verse like this. Remember, Peter says “and a thousand years as one day.” No one ever takes the verses that speak of a thousand year reign and says “That will be only one day.” Why doesn’t that work for the end of 2 Peter 3:8 if it works with the beginning of the verse? Such arbitrary and capricious use of the Bible illustrate well that today’s date setters simply cannot be taken seriously, because they don’t take the Bible seriously.

We urge everyone to prepare immediately for the Second Coming of the Lord because we do not know when it will be. It may occur before you finish this sentence, or it may not occur for ten thousand more years. Only God knows when the final curtain will fall, and we must be content to leave such knowledge with Him.