- Religion and Philosophy
Religious Leaders and Their End-Of-Time Predictions!
Will They Ever Learn?
Prophets of Doom has been around probably since the beginning of man’s existence on earth. Whether one believe man was created by God from the dust of the earth, or he evolved from a sea creature, a monkey, or matter from a collision of the planets commonly known as the big bang.
Whatever your preference for the origin of man it is no secret that from the time he began walking on planet earth he began predicting its end. It’s now estimated that more than 50% of the world population give doomsday prophets some credibility regarding “End Time Events” thereby giving their predictions "serious consideration", despite the fact that the track record of these predictions through the centuries have been as inaccurate as predicting the weather – or worse. This article highlights a few of these Religious Doomsday Prophets and their predictions and the outcome.
We’ll start with the founder of Australia’s Christian Revival Crusade - Leo Harris who confidently predicted that 1979 will be the date for the return of Christ. This probably happened for those who actually died in 1979 but for the rest of the world – it was a failed prediction. Afterwards some members of his movement predicted that the actual time would be the year 2000 and not 1979. The Worldwide Church of God (founded in 1934 by Herbert W Armstrong) predicted that 1972 would be the year of the Rapture –or the "Great Tribulation" followed by the return of Jesus sometime in 1978. In 1955 Herbert predicted that all Americans "will be totally consumed and carried away captive to other nations as slaves within 20 years.”
The 450 member True Light Church of Christ of North and South Carolina predicted the end of the world to take place in 1970. Another group called “The Children of God: predicted catastrophe in early 1974 by the then rapidly approaching comet named ‘Kohoutec’. Another religious cult called “The Great White Brotherhood, located in Kiev, Russia, took over the city’s St Sofia Cathedral preparing for the end of the world on November 14 1993 resulting in over 600 of their members being arrested for trespassing and citing a riot. Various writers in the early 19th and 20th centuries set precise dates for end time events – which also has come and gone without major incidents. Writers from the Pentecostal movement predicted precise dates as well. A pamphlet created in 1974 by Leon Bates titled ‘Tribulation Map’ included a picture of a hypothetical future newspaper reporting the "rapture" which is a religious event whereby Christians will be secretly snatched off the Earth to meet Jesus in the sky. This was to take place on February 8 1996.
A New Zealand Assembly of God preacher named Barry Smith wrote the books titled ‘Second Warning (1984) and Final Warning (1989)’ which he predicted the end before 2000 AD. The latter book predicted (at the time) that humans have less than 16 years until the end of man’s allotted time to choose God or Satan. History has reported numerous examples of cults gathering on mountain tops or other remote places waiting for the end time – cults like The Russellites who in 1878 waited in white robes on the Sixth Street Bridge in Pittsburgh on Passover night to be swept up into the sky by Jesus. On February 19, 1979 a man named Roch Theriault and 17 of his followers gathered in a log cabin in Quebec waiting for the end. Still another group called “Mission for the Coming Days” claiming over 10,000 members, on October 28, 1992 waited for the end while gathering in houses and on bridges in a dozen countries across the planet. In February 1976 The News (an Adelaide newspaper) reported that a group of 25 people were entrenched in an Arkansas house keeping a vigil for the second coming of Christ to save them from doomsday and its unpredicted hour.
In the West, the main authority for Christians regarding end of-the-world predictions is the Bible, and the misunderstanding thereof. For an example Jehovah's Witnesses who have over 25 false prophetic predictions are considered to have the worst record among Christian organizations for predicting world ending times. Their Governing Body still sums up their old books with the failed predictions as "Bible truth" and "true Christianity" decades after discarding them! Anequal number of books by Pentecostal and Evangelical writers in the early 1960s to the mid 1970s predicted the imminent "rapture" followed by the "great tribulation". Miles across the oceans in the Soviet Union, their inaccurate prophecies argued that The Soviet Union would invade Israel while at the same time predicting that a ten-nation revival of the Roman Empire would be led by the "Antichrist". The most popular book with a doomsday theme was The “Late Great Planet Earth“(1970) by Hal Lindsey. His book sold over 10 million copies and 140 printings worldwide. In his book Hal Lindsey predicted that the end will probably come within 40 years i.e. one generation after 1948! It's interesting to note that Hal Lindsey is still on the air in some US markets predicting more doom and gloom!
Unfortunately, false prophets and inaccurate predictions have been around since the early stages of Christianity. Jesus, Paul and Peter all warned against it. In 156 AD Montanus (founder of Montanism, a schismatic movement of Christianity in Asia Minor [modern day Turkey]), assisted by two other self proclaimed prophetesses, predicted the end of the world was just ahead – in a year - in the already crowded city of Jerusalem. As a result so many people flocked to the spot where heavenly Jerusalem would supposedly descend (now near modern Ankara in Turkey) that a new town was created to accommodate everyone. In the third century, a religious leader named Novatian (a Roman priest who in 251 opposed the election of a Pope) had a huge following around the Mediterranean lands based on his predictions – none of which came true. Another spiritual leader named Sabbatal Zevi of Smyrna (now modern day Turkey) convinced a vast number of Jews in Europe and the Turkish Empire that he was the Messiah and the world would end in 1666. After this failed prediction the Prophet/Messiah migrated to Rome to visit Constantinople where the Sultan converted the "Messiah" to Islam!
Doomsday prophets continued from century to century - to century! Early America was not without its doomsday watchers. One group calling themselves ‘The Women in The Wilderness’. Led by the flamboyant leader Johann Jacob Zimmerman predicted the end to be February 1694. Another group calling themselves ‘The Rappites’ founded by George Rapp, who migrated to America from Germany in 1804. George Rapp predicted that the Second Coming would occur before he died and while on his deathbed at the age of 90, Christ did come – but the only person who saw him on that day was George Rapp. Yet another end-time prophet was a man named William Miller who deceived over 200,000 people with his prediction that Christ would return in 1843. When this did not happen he changed his prediction to 1844. From this failed prediction arose a religious movement called “The Seventh Day Adventists”. This failed prediction also created a smaller religious group who later called themselves the Russellites (now recognized as the early day Jehovah’s Witnesses). R D Cronquist of Grace Chapel in California predicted the end within 40 years of the birth of Israel which took place in 1948. In the early 80’s over 90 radio stations got on the bandwagon and began advertising that Jesus would return on either September 11 or the 13th to take believers with him. This excitement was sparked by the book titled ‘88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 by Edgar Wisenant a former NASA rocket engineer. The list of false prophets and philosophies goes on and on including other famous theories such as the 'British Israelism' which isthe doctrine suggesting that Britains/Americans are descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel. Their prediction was that the world was ending in 1840, a prediction made by the London phrenologist named John Wilson.
Not all prophets of doom were religious leaders who used the Bible to justify their self-proclaimed predictions of ultimate earthly doom. Some doomers base their predictions on environmental or political events, alleging the end will be a result of potential threats from Space, including the idea of comet or asteroid strikes which has gained world wide publicity, particularly with the recent events in Texas. Others include the “The Jupiter Effect” (1974) by John Gribbin and Stephen G Plagemann who predicted that the line up of planets on one side of the Sun would take place in1982 and again in 2000, causing major destruction via sunspots and earthquakes. Another scientific Doomer was Charles Berlitz. In his book titled “Doomsday 1999” he stated that "Seventeen years from now the world will come to an end." He made this statement in 1981. The book titled “The Survival of Civilization” (Hamaker & Weaver) went as far as having a picture of a tombstone on the back cover which read “CIVILIZATION - BORN 8000 B.C. DIED 1990 A.D.”
Sean Blair in his book titled ‘End of the World’ (December 1996) predicted ten different world ending scenarios, ranging from dust clouds in space and killer rays to failure of the food chain, giant volcanoes, superbugs, self-destruction, energy wave from space and a "solar hiccup". A well know woman respectfully called 'Mother Shipton' who lived in the 16th century predicted that the "The end of the world will be in the year 1881. Numerous "New Agers" often comment on the "Age of Aquarius" which will be a time of global peace and brotherhood. Age of Aquarius doomers included the following authors and their predicted dates for end time; Authors such as Gerald Massey 1905, Willaru Huatya 1962; Alice Bailey 1999; Wolben 2000/2023/2160; Peter Lemesurier 2010; Adrian Duncan 2020; Dane Rudhyar 2060; Robert Hand 2813. One author named Dot Griffiths who wrote a "witch" in Britain predicted a "world holocaust" for November 1988.
Numerous tribes across the globe in North and South America and in Africa all had prophets at one time or another who predicted doom on their societies. North American Indians in California and the "Warm House cult" in Oregon had their own unique doomers. In 1870 they created a cult called the "Earth Lodge" who predicted the end of the world in 1890. Multiple tribes in Brazil started a mass migrations effort to escape destruction and find paradise. In 1539 for example the Tupinambas traveled for 9 years through the Amazon jungles to Peru to escape destruction. In 1825 a Prophets in Hawaii calling herself Hapu, founded a cult and claimed she was the third member of the Trinity and that the world was going to end within months. People flocked to her side in numbers for safety.
In 1920 a Jamaican laborer named Alexander Bedward, gained massive following by predicting that he would ascend to heaven on December 31 and then return and destroy the Earth. In Vietnam the prophet Huynh Phy's many followers waited on a hill-top during the Japanese invasion in World War II expecting the end. This list of doomers include Numerous so-called psychics, astrologers, UFO groups and other prognosticators of various sorts who also set dates which always fail. Jeane Dixon predicted that “Towards the middle of 1980 the Earth will be struck by a comet. Earthquakes and tidal waves will be the result of this tremendous collision which will take place in one of the world's great oceans. Although the approximate point of impact has been revealed to me, I believe I should not reveal it yet, but at a future date I will give more detailed information." Unfortunately she died before she could reveal the information she promised. Jeane Dixon also claimed the "Antichrist" was born in 1962 and: The influence of this man will begin to be felt by the end of 1980... She predicted that the power of this man will increase greatly until 1999 – none of which has happened. Canadian psychic Winnifred Barton predicted on television and radio that the world would end on June 13 1976. An American psychic named Criswell was quoted predicting that “The world will come to an end on August 18, 1999. A black rainbow will draw the oxygen from the earth. Earth will race toward the sun and the only people left will be colonists on 200 space stations."
Many leaders such as Hitler, Karl Marx, Mao of China, The Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, and the list goes on have made predictions of end time events. End time doomers no longer believe the world will end on a religious note. They believe it can end by anything from alien invaders and comet impacts to biological warfare and climate change. Although past predictions have failed miserably, End-of-the-World cults still proliferate, even in the 21st century. We can now add one more prominent name to the list of false prophets - Harold Egbert Camping, President, and broadcaster of Family Radio, who predcted that the rapture would take place on May 21, 2011. It is now July 20, 2011. Did I miss it.......again?!.....Damn!
So what’s my point?
We’re entering a time of uncertainty and people are looking for an out. Some are joining religious cults at alarming rates seeking spiritual comfort but eventually following false prophets deeper into spiritual darkness. Those who don’t commit suicide are subconsciously either waiting for a miracle or the end time to resolve the challenges of suffering and pain on this earth. Some predict the end will be 2012 and they're currently preparing for this ultimate conclusion by rushing to stock up supplies. There is certainly enough mess going on in our daily lives which could easily drive people towards personal self-destruction. Therefore, if you are one of those people on the edge who are expecting 2012 to be mankind's final stand, may I suggest you panick now, get it over with, and avoid the rush!
However, if you are among the millions of mature Christians who understand and accept biblical instructons on the subject of end time events, you will find your individual comfort and peace in the book of Matthew 24:36 as it clearly states:
“But of that day and hour knows no man, neither angels of Heaven nor the Son, but my Father.”
Stick to the word of God and avoid the insanity!