Beware of False Prophets
Fundamentalist Christians take a hard
line on setting dates for the second advent of Christ. Failed
date-setters are labeled as “false prophets.” What are the
implications of these accusations? Are the fundamentalist Christians
consistent in their position?
Dates Predicted by
Martin Luther, John Wesley,
fathers of Protestant denominations were keenly interested in
Christ’s return and attempted to determine its date. For example,
Martin Luther predicted Jesus would return in 300 years from his
time. This would have placed the return of Christ between 1830 and
1850.  Like many of his contemporaries in the latter 1700s, John
Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination, predicted 1836
for the date of the Second Advent.  Certainly, few would consider
Luther or Wesley false prophets.
The 1800s witnessed an epidemic of
“Millennial Fever” and a rash of date setting for Christ’s return.
Joseph Wolff, the world renowned missionary, preached 1847 as the
date of “the coming glory and personal reign of Jesus Christ ...” In
1836 Wolff was invited to present his Second Advent message before
the United States Congress and the legislatures of New Jersey,
Pennsylvania and Maryland.  No born again Christian would dare
call Wolff, a highly esteemed fundamentalist, a false prophet. In
fact many other fundamentalist ministers of that day were setting
dates for the end of the world. 
In the early 1800s one man, William
Miller, was singled out for ridicule for predicting a date (1844)
which failed to be the time of the Lord's return. Why was this so,
when over a hundred of his contemporaries used the same prophetic
reasoning to pinpoint dates which also failed to be the beginning of
the Second Advent?
Unfortunately, the evangelist Miller
used 1844 as the date for the end of the world in order to scare
thousands to convert to Christianity or else be damned eternally.
It’s not that Joseph Wolff and others didn’t try the same strategy.
What then was the difference? Miller was a farmer who became a
preacher. The others were ordained ministers with impeccable
fundamentalist credentials. Like Miller, their dates failed, but
only “farmer Miller” was labeled a false prophet.
Fundamentalists of the 20th century
look with disdain at the prophetic struggles of their 19th century
brethren. Yet hasn’t the 20th century been just as full of failed
prophetic predictions? What has been the record of those who teach
the seven years of tribulation to bring the end of the world? Basic
to their concept is the “imminent coming” of Jesus. They claim that
ever since Jesus’ ascension, no prophetic event had to happen before
his return—for centuries Jesus could have returned on any
day. In the words of John F. Walvoord, President of Dallas
Theological Seminary—“the Lord could come at any moment and
there are no necessary intervening events.”  The obvious
inconsistency is the seven years of tribulation which they teach
must precede Jesus’ return. The tribulationists cover their
inconsistency here by claiming Jesus will secretly return for a
moment to rapture his saints. This secret return, they believe,
precedes the seven years of tribulation. Furthermore, at the close
of the seven years, Christ will visibly return and then “every eye
shall see him.”
Fundamentalist False Prophets
—Return Could Be Any Day
Before Israel Becomes a Nation
Still this is a false prediction.
This view originated in the mid 1800s, when John Darby convinced
some fundamentalists of the seven year tribulation. From that time
until 1948 many fundamentalists preached that Jesus could return any
day. However, on May 14, 1948, a prophetic miracle happened—the
rebirth of the State of Israel. This proved that a prophetic event
did occur before their concept of the Second Advent. Hal Lindsey,
the student of Walvoord, unwittingly destroyed the “eminent coming”
theory when he admitted—
“The one event which many Bible
students in the past overlooked was this paramount prophetic sign:
Israel had to be a nation again in the land of its
If the fundamentalists truly believed
that “no prophetic sign had to occur” before the “eminent coming of
Christ,” then they were wrong all the years from 1830 to 1948 in
saying Jesus could return any day. Literally tens of thousands of
fundamentalist clergy and laity before 1948 declared from the pulpit
or in personal witnessing that Jesus could return any day. According
to their flawed “eminent coming” theory, it was not possible that
any prophetic occurrence would precede the second coming. However,
this theory was proved to be untrue when Israel was reborn as a
nation. By their own definition, these fundamentalists
unwittingly fell into the category of false prophets.
Hal Lindsey’s False Prediction
Jesus' Return Within 40 Years of
After 1948, Hal Lindsey and many
fundamentalists (on the basis of the restoration of Israel and the
generation of Luke 21:29-31) predicted that Jesus would return
within 40 years of 1948.  Well, 1988 came and passed without the
secret return of Jesus to rapture the church—no large groups of
Christians were reported as missing then or since, another failed
prediction of the seven-year tribulationists.
Billy Graham’s False Prediction
It Will Be Over In Two Years
Excited over the new state of Israel,
Billy Graham in 1950 told a rally in Los Angeles, “Two years and
it’s all going to be over.” What evangelical will call Billy Graham
a false prophet?
Many others set the date of 1988 for
reasons different from the 40-year generation.  When their
prediction failed, the date of 1989 was put forward for the return
of Jesus. This, too, failed. Yet none of their seven-year
tribulationist brethren accused them of being false prophets.
Harold Camping’s False Prediction
Jesus’ Return in 1994
several years before 1994, Harold Camping of Family Radio
fame vigorously predicted on radio and by printed page the return of
Jesus in 1994. This has proven to be another failed date among the
seven-year tribulationists, and, of course, fundamentalists would
not call Camping a false prophet. Even Christianity Today,
the brain child of Billy Graham and the voice of evangelicals, found
the need to exonerate Camping.
Both 19th century and 20th century
fundamentalists have had their share of failed predictions. But we
should view kindly their attempts to have the Lord Jesus “come
quickly.” Unfortunately, fundamentalists fail to be kindly disposed
towards those of a different doctrinal view.
An Accurate Prediction — 1914
End of Gentile Times
Many Christians are
convinced of the scriptural validity of 1914 as a prophetic date
from the writings of several Bible expositors. Certain that the year
1914 would mark the end of the “Times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24),
Christians between 1876 and 1914 searched the scriptures to fine
tune the relationship between the end of “Gentile Times” and the
“time of trouble” that would terminate the “present evil world.”
Christians are not prophets of doom. They believe a gradual
destruction of our “world” or “social order”—a destruction of
systems and institutions, but not of people. (Zeph. 3:8,9, Psa.
46:6-10, Hag. 2:7) This destruction
would be accomplished through war, revolution, and eventually
being doomsday prophets, Christians preach the good news (Gospel) of
the kingdom. After the symbolic “earth” (social order) of
Zephaniah's prophecy is destroyed, the people are shown as
remaining. “For then I will turn to the people a pure language, that
they may call upon the name of the Lord with one consent.” By
contrast, Fundamentalists are dooms-dayers. They believe the
overwhelming majority of humankind will be doomed eternally at
1914 Christians preached that the
termination (eviction) of the Gentile nations and their right
to rule would begin with the ending of the “Times of the Gentiles”
What Happened in 1914?
So what did happen in 1914? The
outbreak of an unprecedented world war caused the following reaction
from the publisher of a noted periodical. The August 30, 1914, issue
of The World Magazine in a feature article about Bible
Student predictions reported:
The terrific war outbreak in Europe
has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For 25 years Bible Students
have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied
in the Bible would dawn in 1914. The Bible speaks of a “time of
trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” This prophecy
of Daniel Bible Students identify as the “Day of Wrath,” the “Time
of the Lord,” and the so-called “End of the World,” references which
are plentiful in the Scriptures.
Historians have much to say about
that eventful year 1914. The following is a part of the historical
Edmond Taylor while quoting Arnold
“Looking back from the vantage point
of the present we see that the outbreak of World War I ushered in a
twentieth-century “Time of Troubles”... from which our civilization
has by no means yet emerged. Directly or indirectly all the
convulsions of the last half century stem back to 1914: the two
World Wars, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise and fall of Hitler,
the continuing turmoil in the Far and Near East, the power-struggle
between the communist world and our own. More than 23,000,000 deaths
can be traced to one or the other of these upheavals.”
Britannica Great Books, THE GREAT
“A world mesmerized by Science and
progress mocked the mysticism of religious sects which had long
predicted that the world would end in the year 1914; fifty years
later the world isn't so sure that it didn't end in 1914.”
OXFORD HISTORIAN AND BIOGRAPHER:
“If ever there was a year that marked
the end of an era and the beginning of another, it was 1914. That
year brought to an end the old world with its sense of security and
began a modern age whose chief characteristic is insecurity on a
The year 1914 is clearly marked by
unbiased historians as the ending of a world. The convulsions since
are at once the processes of its disintegration and the birth pains
of a new world. Britannica editors, as noted, observed that a
religious group (actually known as Bible Students) predicted 1914
would mark the ending of a world in just this manner.
The list of writers describing the
unprecedented destructive forces unleashed in 1914 is phenomenal and
more continue to add their observations to this day. The following
are a small additional sampling:
“It is indeed the year 1914 rather
than that of Hiroshima which marks the turning point in our time.” —
Rene Albrecht-Carrie, The Scientific Monthly, July 1951.
“Ever since 1914, everybody
conscious of trends in the world has been deeply troubled by what
has seemed like a fated and pre-determined march toward ever greater
disaster. Many serious people have come to feel that nothing can be
done to avert the plunge towards ruin. They see the human race, like
the hero of a Greek tragedy, driven on by angry gods and no longer
the master of fate.” — Bertrand Russell, New York Times Magazine,
September 27, 1953.
“The modern era . . . began in 1914,
and no one knows when or how it will end . . . It could end in mass
annihilation.” — Editorial, The Seattle Times, January 1,
“In 1914 the world, as it was known
and accepted then, came to an end.” — James Cameron, 1914,
published in 1959.
“The First World War was one of the
great convulsions of history.” — Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of
“Thoughts and pictures come to my
mind, . . . thought from before the year 1914 when there was real
peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know
fear . . . Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men
since 1914.” — Former U.N. General Secretary, Konrad Adenauer, 1965.
“The whole world really blew up
about World War I and we still don’t know why . . . Utopia was in
sight. There was peace and prosperity. Then everything blew up.
We’ve been in a state of suspended animation ever since.” — Dr.
Walker Percy, American Medical News, November 21, 1977.
“In 1914 the world lost a coherence
which it has not managed to recapture since . . . This has been a
time of extraordinary disorder and violence, both across national
frontiers and within them.” — The Economist, London, August
“Civilization entered on a cruel and
perhaps terminal illness in 1914.” — Frank Peters, St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, January 27, 1980.
In his book, OUT OF CONTROL, Zbigniew
Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor and professor of
American Foreign Policy at John Hopkins University, notes that the
20th century began amid great hope and promise, but became the
century of insanity. In elaborating on his observation of 175
million slaughtered in the name of the “politics of organized
insanity,” he says:
“Contrary to its promise, the
twentieth century became mankind's most bloody and hateful century
of hallucinatory politics and of monstrous killings. Cruelty was
institutionalized to an unprecedented degree, lethality was
organized on a mass production basis. The contrast between the
scientific potential for good and the political evil that was
actually unleashed is shocking. Never before in history was killing
so globally pervasive, never before did it consume so many lives,
never before was human annihilation pursued with such concentration
of sustained effort on behalf of such arrogantly irrational
These observations of history confirm
predictions that the old world began to
end in 1914 and is currently being ushered completely out of
existence by a consuming process of wars, revolutions and anarchy.
The evidence of history clearly teaches that 1914 is the most
significant date in modern times as it marks a sharp break with the
past. The wars and upheavals, social turmoil and unrest since 1914
are greater, deeper, and more unrelenting than anything mankind has
ever experienced. No one has given a better explanation of the
events of the 20th century.
The trouble of the present time and
recent past is merely the passing of the old order as a new order of
righteousness, peace, and everlasting life is to be ushered in for
the benefits and blessing of all the families of the earth who
accept and obey God's words of life.
 The Familiar Discourses of Dr.
Martin Luther, trans. by Henry Bell and revised by Joseph Kerby
(London: Baldwin, Craddock and Joy, 1818), pp. 7,8.
 LeRoy Edwin Froom, The
Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Vol. 3 (Washington, DC: Review
and Herald, 1954), p. 602.
 Froom, Vol. 4. Pp. 323, 324.
 Ibid., pp. 406, 518.
 John F. Walvoord, Bibiotheca
Sacra, April-June 1976.
 Hal Lindsey, The Late Great
Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 43.
 Ibid., p. 54.
 Collin H. Deal, Will Christ
Return by 1988? (Rutherford College, NC: Deal, 1979) p. 158.
 Edmond Taylor, The Fall of
Dynasties, (New York: Doubleday, 1963) p. 16.
 The Great Ideas Today,
(Britannica Great Books, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1963) pp.
 Rowse, Oxford Historian and
Biographer, June 28, 1959.
 Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of
Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century,
(New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993), p. 5.