Specific Prophecies of Christ's Return, Unfilled

Wednesday, June 13th 2007
Sep/Oct 2001

Time Line:

172 Montanus496 Hippolytus (c. 200) 800 Beatus of Liebana, John of Modena, et al.1000 Various1260 Spiritual Franciscans1420 Taborites1533 Melchior Hoffman1694 J. H. Alsted1843 William Miller1914 Charles Taze Russell1988 Edgar C. Whisenant1992 Lee Jang Rim 1994 Harold Camping

Depending upon the particular eschatological outlook represented, these dates refer to a wide range of consummation events, e.g., Christ's Second Coming, the Rapture, the dawning of the millennium. These notes merely give the briefest outline of each prediction. A key source used in compiling this chart is Tom McIver's The End of the World: An Annotated Bibliography (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1999). He provides more than 3,000 references to texts which have apocalyptic overtones, the vast majority post-1810. The Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University also offers a wealth of scholarly information at their website, http://www.mille.org

1 Montanus stands out as one of the first figures in the Church who clearly declared himself a prophet and predicted the return of Christ, foretelling the descent of the New Jerusalem in Phrygia (present-day Anatolia) sometime between 156-172. The only documentation of these prophetic claims is via his opponents, primarily because his heretical writings were not preserved by the Church.

2 Hippolytus (170-235) of Rome exhibits the opposite tendency of Montanus, predicting the return of Christ some 300 years beyond his own lifetime in order to dampen apocalyptic expectations (Commentary on Daniel, II.4-6). His prediction is based upon the common scheme of six creation days plus a Sabbath rest, which-because "a thousand years in the Lord's sight are as a day"-suggests that the Sabbath millennium will begin in the year 6,000 of the world's existence, or annus mundi (a.m.). The creation of the world is presumed to have occurred 5,500 years before the birth of Christ, which means the end of the world will come in 500 anno domini (A.D.).

3 Eusebius, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory of Tours all date the creation three hundred years later than Hippolytus, c. 5200 B.C., which on the above schema suggests the conclusion of 6,000 years in approximately 800 A.D. It is important to note that they didn't necessarily give the year 6000 a.m. any special significance, and Augustine explicitly urges against millennial speculation (City of God, XII.10, XX.7). Yet the year clearly drew widespread attention, and there is little doubt that Charlemagne's coronation as Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas of the year of the world 6000 (i.e., 800 A.D.) was viewed as a very auspicious event. Beatus of Liebana's Commentary on Revelation is the clearest written testimony to this speculation.

4 Venerable Bede (672-735) shifted the date of creation to 3952 B.C. based on his use of the Masoretic text of the Old Testament, and also began counting years from the coming of Christ, anno domini (A.D.). This transition deemphasized the 6,000 year mark and shifted speculation to the year 1000. While Augustine clearly taught that the millennium was not to be interpreted literally, his emphasis on Christ's present reign spurred speculation concerning the dates 1000 and 1033 A.D. Historians debate the degree to which widespread panic gripped Europe on the verge of the "first" millennium, but Abbo of Fleury and Radulfus Glaber (Historiarum libri quinque, c. 1040) are among many contemporary witnesses who report that specific predictions were made.

5 Joachim de Fiore (c. 1132-1202) inspired many speculations of the end times with his apocalyptic writings (The Everlasting Gospel, The Exposition of the Apocalypse), especially among the "Spiritual Franciscans," a rigorous branch of the Franciscan order. Gerard of Borgo San Donnino wrote an Introduction to the Everlasting Gospel (1254), which predicted the dawn of the new age in 1260 A.D., based upon Joachim's reading of the 1,260 days of Revelations 12:6.

6 Radical followers of Jan Hus (1370-1415) in Bohemia (modern Czech republic) anticipated the return of Christ, taking their name from their mountain fortress, which they renamed "Mount Tabor."

7 Melchior Hoffman (1495-1543), known as the "Father of Dutch Anabaptism," predicted the return of Christ and the end of the world in 1533, fifteen centuries after Christ's resurrection. He attempted to make Strasbourg the New Jerusalem, and was imprisoned there until his death. However, other Anabaptists were inspired by his writings, and managed to take over the city of Munster, which fell under the chaotic reign of Jan of Leiden until 1535.

8 Johann Heinrich Alsted (1588-1638) calculated that the millennium would commence in 1694. He reached this date by adding the 1,290 and 1,335 prophetic days of Daniel (12:11-12) to A.D. 69 (the year of the destruction of the temple), to arrive at A.D. 2694. Since the world would end at that time, the millennium must commence 1,000 years earlier, or A.D. 1694.

9 William Miller (1782-1849) originally predicted the return of Christ sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. When both these dates passed without event, some followers revised the numbers to October 21, 1844. A general conference of his followers, styling themselves "Adventists," held a conference the following year, and served as the genesis for many Adventists groups, including the Seventh-day Adventists.

10 Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), founder of the movement that became known as the Jehovah's Witnesses, predicted many dates for the return of Christ (1874, 1881), but 1914 stands out as the most well known. This date has had many revisions after the fact. Also, Russell's followers have often claimed that his predictions were right, but that the coming of Christ was a spiritual coming not visible to those who lacked faith.

11 Edgar C. Whisenant authored 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988, which claims two million copies sold. The date was set as somewhere between September 11 and 13. His follow-up Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989 added one year to his prediction because his first volume had erroneously counted the year zero. Understandably, Resurrected, 88 Reasons Revisited in 1995 didn't achieve the same circulation. Whisenant's book reflects the trend of post-Hal Lindsey (Late Great Planet Earth) predictions, which suggests the rapture will be within a generation (forty years) of the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.

12 Lee Jang Rim ("Getting Close to the End"), pastor of the Korean Tami Church, managed to get a worldwide following for his prediction of the rapture on September (or October) 28, 1992.

13 Harold Camping, founder and owner of the Family Radio Network, gained widespread notoriety for his predictions in his book 1994?, due in large part to his reputation as a somewhat mainstream, "Reformed" Bible teacher. Camping states that while it is true that "no one can know the day or hour" of our Lord's return, the month and year may be known to believers." While he "modestly and humbly" acknowledges that it is possible he may have overlooked something (p. 533), this doesn't stop him from concluding that "when September 6, 1994, arrives, no one else can become saved" (p. 534)

Wednesday, June 13th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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