Compiled by Keith Hunt
THE DANGER OF SETTING DATES
by Victor Novak
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And
because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
With these words, recorded in Matthew 24:11-13, Jesus issued a
warning. God's people must be especially vigilant. Why? Because
the devil's plan is to trip up the faithful who are running the
good race and to make them fall short of reaching the goal.
Perhaps the best way for him to succeed in wrecking the spiritual
life of a multitude of Christians is through false prophets and
date-setting prophetic speculators. While few of the faithful
will be misled by such false prophets as Reverend Moon, many can
fall victim to those who set dates for Christ's return. And many
have in the past. What examples do we have of speculators who
have erroneously predicted when Christ will return?
EXAMPLE OF DATE-SETTING
In the 1970's and 1980's Hal Lindsey became a household name.
His books on prophecy sold in the millions, and vast numbers of
Christians bought into his prophetic speculations. In his
best-selling book, "The Late Great Planet Earth," Lindsey
speculated that Christ could return in 1988, despite what Christ
said in Matthew 24:36 about no one knowing the time. Lindsey
When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under
relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May 1948 the
"fig tree" put forth its first leaves.
Jesus said that this would indicate that He was "at the door,"
ready to return. Then He said, "Truly I say to you, this
generation will not pass away until all these things take place"
(Matthew 24:34, NASB).
What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would
see the signs - chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A
generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is
a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all
these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied
Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so."
Rather than accepting Matthew 24:34 for what it says, Lindsey
speculated about dates. Undoubtedly when nothing happened in
1988, many people were disappointed. Some turned against the
study of prophecy, while others, perhaps, gave up on
False prophets and date-setting prophetic speculators are not
new. More than 100 years ago in 1856, Ellen G. White, the
prophetess of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, claimed to have
had a vision in which she learned that the Lord would soon
return. She wrote:
At the General Conference at Battle Creek, May 27, 1856, I was
shown in vision some things that concern the church generally;
... I was shown the company present at the Conference. Said the
angel, "Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last
plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be
translated at the coming of Jesus."
Obviously, this prophecy was false because it went unfulfilled.
Everyone who was at that meeting in 1856 has since died,
including the tiniest infant. Yet Jesus has not come.
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, also tried his hand at
date-setting. He said:
It is the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a
determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be
ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for
the last time, before the coming of the Lord, which was nigh -
even fiftysix years, should wind up the scene."
According to Smith's prediction, Jesus was to have returned on or
before February 14, 1891. However, this date came and went
without Christ's second advent, much to the disappointment of
many of followers.
Recently, Herbert W. Armstrong predicted that the church was to
flee to Petra in 1972, and that Jesus would come by early fall of
1975. Needless to say, those years went without the events being
fulfilled. Instead of his error, Mr. Armstrong letter in January
1972, in stated that the fulfillment of his so-called 19-year
prophetic times had not pointed to the rapture of the church to
Petra after all. Instead they were fulfilled in a) the obtaining
of financing for the multi-million dollar Ambassador Auditorium,
and b) the opening of what Armstrong described as the largest
single door in the history of "the work"; advertising in the
Several years ago Edgar Whisenant's "88 Reasons Why The Rapture
Will Be In 1988" shook the Christian world. The World Bible
Society, the book's publisher, boasted that in 1988 it
distributed 2,000,000, copies of the book.
Sadly Edgar Whisenant and the World Bible Society did not learn a
lesson from the false predictions of White, Joseph Smith, Herbert
Armstrong, and others. Nor did they heed the warning of Scripture
that no one can know the day or hour of Christ's return. Again,
thousands were misled, disappointed, and discouraged.
What lessons can we learn from the failures of date-setting
prophetic speculators? Primarily, that it is futile to specify a
date for an event that only God knows. Prophecy was not given by
God to confuse and discourage believers, but to enlighten,
prepare, comfort, and strengthen them.
We can heed the signs of the times, but we must refrain from
setting dates. We should as Scripture says, live in a state of
constant readiness: "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will
come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I
will come upon thee" (Revelation 3:3).
l. Hal Lindsey, "The Late Great Planet Earth" pp. 53, 54.
2. Ellen G. White, "Testimonies for the Church," vol. 1, pp.127,
3. The History of the Church. Deseret, vol. 2, p.182.
Victor Novak is the Church Extension Specialist for the General
Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day), and an instructor
at Summit School of Theology. Scripture quotations were taken
from the King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
END NOTE by Keith Hunt
THE YEAR AND DAY OF CHRIST'S RETURN?
There will always be those fellows who will go out on a limb and
claim they know the day of Jesus' return. They find the limb cut
away and end up with their followers flat on their faces on the
ground in the mud.
No doubt there will still be more of their sort before the Lord
comes. Maybe you know of some right this minute. They have had a
vision, or seen a dream, should be the other way around - they
have seen a vision and had a dream - but their minds are upside
down and down side up anyway, so it does not matter. They can
give you some fanciful explanation to get around the words of
Jesus when He said "no man knows the day or the hour, not even
the angels in heaven, but the Father only."
Some will come along and tell you that Christ returned in 70 A.D.
or 1914 or some other past date.
Jesus tells you to take no heed of such false prophets!
There were those who wrote whole books back in the 70's and 80's
claiming Jesus would return in 1988 - 40 years after the state of
Israel was founded. They tried to show you the Bible pointed to
this date of 88.
They did not understand those prophecies they were expounding.
They just did not understand much about Bible prophecy period!
THEY WERE FOUND WITH EGG ON THEIR FACES and have crept away into
the woods to hide - whatever happened to Hal Lindsey?
Even from the Churches of God have come recently those who use
various yard sticks to give you the possible year of our Lord's
return. Some use JUBILEE years, others 19 year time cycles, while
others have new concepts of figuring out the year of the second
Some are cautious like Keith Slough and use words like "possible"
while others are dogmatic like John Trescott, and William
Dankenbring, and tell you the year the tribulation will start or
the year of Christ's coming (at least those two fellows did in
the late 80s).
There is NOTHING in God's word in the way of Jubilees, 19 year
time cycles, 40 year periods, 7 x 7 year periods, Sabbatic years,
"generation periods", Pyramid inch for a year lines, or any other
fanciful calculations to tell you when the Great Tribulation will
start or the day of our Lord's return.
All that is given to us in the books of Daniel and Revelation is
that there is about 42 months from the start of the desolation of
Jerusalem - the beginning of the Great Tribulation - to the
second coming of Christ.
Those who will engage in date setting will find themselves with
egg on their faces, unless they happen with chance to guess
right, which some one at some time may do, on the year the
Such people play at sensationalism - it makes good copy for those
who desire the sensational - those who need to "trust men" which
the Bible says not to do.
Jesus gave us overall signs to WATCH for and told us to watch. I
have gone over some of those signs with you in these studies on
NOW YOU NEED TO WATCH!!