Date Setting and Sign Looking

Updated January 24, 2016 (first published via the FBIS July 31, 1996) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,

Date Setting
The following first appeared in O Timothy magazine, Volume 10, Issue 3, 1993. The article uses Jack Van Impe to illustrate the point, but the three truths brought out apply equally to many other ministries that focus on prophetic events, conspiracies, and prophetic speculations.

Jack Van Impe's latest video is entitled
A.D. 2000 - The End? Though he doesn't say for sure that the Lord will return in the year 2000, he comes very close. In the Jack Van Impe catalog of publications, he advertises this video in these terms:

A dynamic, power-packed video of Dr. Van Impe expounding on-
* The 6-Day Theory--as predicted in the Jewish Talmud and by the Apostles Peter and Barnabas, and also by church historians, including Irenus in A.D. 140.
* Chronological charts and calendar of Jewish holy days leading up to Messiah's appearing!
* Mystery circles in the field.
* Earthquakes, famines, AIDS ... and the end!
* Why Jewish rabbinical scholars, Hindus, Muslims, New Agers, and secular leaders are proclaiming A.D. 2000 as the beginning of the new and final age.

Though he denies that he is setting a date, it is obvious that Van Impe strongly believes the Lord will return in A.D. 2000. In an article in the January-February 1993 issue of Van Impe's magazine,
Perhaps Today, he reviews a detailed chronology to demonstrate that the Lord will probably return in September of 1999:

"Let's figure that out again--1948.5 plus 51.4 equals 1999.9--around September of the year 1999. Now, we are not date-setters! Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only (Matthew 24:36). But wait! Don't say, `No one can know the APPROXIMATE time when Christ will return,' for Jesus also said in verse 33 that we will know when it is near, even at the doors."

Dr. Van Impe would have done well to have quoted the entire verse in Matthew 24:33: "So likewise ye, WHEN YE SHALL SEE ALL THESE THINGS, know that it is near, even at the doors."

The Lord Jesus said those who see ALL of the events of Matthew 24 fulfilled will know the time of His return. He is referring, obviously, to those who are alive during the Great Tribulation. What are ALL THESE THINGS that Christ had prophesied in Matthew 24? Verse 15 refers to "the abomination of desolation" who shall "stand in the holy place." Verse 21 refers to "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." Verse 24 refers to powerful miracles performed by false christs. Verse 29 speaks of the sun and moon darkened, and the stars falling from heaven.


Matthew 24 describes the events of Daniel's 70th Week. Christ spoke of "the beginning of sorrows" in verses 4-8--false teachers, wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes. These things have characterized the entire church age and have grown in intensity. But the final fulfillment awaits the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week.

This reveals the error of speculative prophecy. It’s interesting to observe current events and to SPECULATE about when the Lord MIGHT come and who the Antichrist MIGHT be and whether the European Community is the revived Roman Empire, but we can never know the time of the Rapture or the time of any of the events pertaining to Daniel’s 70th Week and the Great Tribulation, including the rise of the Antichrist and the battle of Gog and Magog.

Preachers who have focused on prophetic speculation have often proven to be false teachers. They observe; they speculate; then they prognosticate; and their prognostications turn out to be wrong. They prophesy economic collapse, but the economy doesn't collapse. They prophesy societal collapse, but society doesn’t collapse. They prophesy the rise of the Antichrist, but the Antichrist doesn’t rise. They set dates for Christ’s return, and He doesn’t return.

There are dozens of men whose ministries focus almost exclusively on prophecy. They are Middle East watchers; they delve into the new age; they claim to see signs in the heavens; they speculate about the mark of the Beast and keep track of computer technology.

Current events are leading up to and setting the stage for Daniel’s 70th Week. Bible prophecies being fulfilled today (e.g., apostasy, globalism, and Israel back in the land), but these do not pertain to the Antichrist. The rise of the Antichrist is associated with his false peace pact with Israel, which marks the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week, and church age believers will not see it.


Old Testament prophecies about Israel's conversion and glorious kingdom look ahead to the 70th week of Daniel and the second coming of Christ. The church period is an interlude. The prophetic clock ticked away through the 69 weeks of Daniel 9, which are weeks of years, then stopped at Christ’s death. According to Daniel 9:25-26, the Messiah would come, then be "cut off" after the 69th year. That is exactly what happened. The Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, and presented Himself as Israel's Messiah and King. John 1:11 tells us that "he came unto his own, and his own received him not." Christ was rejected by the nation Israel, as prophecy said He would be, and He turned to the Gentiles to call out a people for His name from among the heathen nations. That is what He is doing today.

This is explained in passages such as Luke 19:11-27; Acts 15:13-18, and Romans 11:1-29. Christ’s disciples thought He would establish the kingdom immediately, but He explained that this would not be the case. Israel would be put aside; Christ would return to heaven; and only later would He return to establish the promised kingdom.

During this present interlude in Bible prophecy, "the church age" as it is called, Christ is calling out a people for his name from among the heathen nations. At the end of this period, true Christians will be caught away to heaven, and Israel’s prophetic clock will start again and the final week of Daniel 9, a week of seven years, will be fulfilled. This is also called the Tribulation and is described in Scriptures such as Matthew 24 and Revelation 4-18.

During the Tribulation, also called "the time of Jacob's trouble," the world will undergo great judgments from heaven and unspeakably horrible wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, and such. The antichrist will make a peace pact with Israel and will rule the world. After three and one-half years the peace pact will be broken and the antichrist will desecrate Israel's temple, setting himself up as God. This will mark the beginning of the last half of the seven years and the start of the most horrible period of trouble the world has ever seen (Dan. 9:26-27; Mat. 24:15-28). At the end of Daniel’s 70th Week, Israel will be converted and Christ will return in power and glory to establish the promised kingdom and to judge the nations (Mat. 24:29-30; 25:31-32; Zech. 12:9-14:21).


Christians have an entirely different program from that of the nation Israel. We are not told to look for the fulfillment of Israel's prophecies. Our work is to carry the gospel to all nations. Christians are to be ready to be caught away (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-58). For the Christian, the coming of Christ is imminent, meaning it can occur at any time. Christ warned, "Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. ... Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. ... Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matt. 24:42, 44; 25:13).

This is very important. It is necessary that the believer be ready to depart at all times, ready to stand before Christ. "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. ... For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:4-9).

The New Testament believer can know the general seasons; we can “see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25), but we cannot know the time of Christ's return. We can’t know the day, the year, or even the decade.

The Holy Spirit is restraining the devil's program in the world, and this is the missing element of prophecy which makes it impossible for us to know when Christ will come. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 says: "And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: ONLY HE WHO NOW LETTETH WILL LET, UNTIL HE BE TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY."

I believe these verses say that the Holy Spirit is restraining the mystery of iniquity, and He will restrain until He is taken up with the New Testament saints. Thus, even though signs are being fulfilled in present world events (such as end-time apostasy, the world peace movement, homosexual rights, and Israel back in the land), we cannot know by observing these events when Christ will return. The Holy Spirit's restraining presence is the missing element. We don't know how long He will restrain the devil’s program.

The Bible says: "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain" (James 5:7), and, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Here we see why the Lord “tarries.” His primary purpose in the church age is calling out a people for His name among all nations. The Spirit of God is in the world to draw men to Christ and to control the events of history for His purposes. He will do this as long as He wants, and it is impossible to know when this evangelistic program will be completed and the time of Israel’s prophecies will occur.

We cannot know the time of His coming. It will be a surprise. The church-age believer will not see the Antichrist make his covenant with Israel. He will not see the Antichrist stand in the temple and announce himself as God. He will not see the mark of the Beast forced upon the world. He will not see the great judgments poured out. He will not see the northern power of Ezekiel 38-39 descend upon Israel and be destroyed by God. He will not see the armies of the world congregate against Christ at Armageddon. Those events belong to Daniel's 70th week, which is part of Israel's program, not the church’s.

Christians are part of a different program, and we need to mind our business and make sure that the business of the church is fulfilled.

There is a lot of time wasted by Christians in the study of current events and speculative prophecy. Certainly it is wise to know the times and to realize that the time is late. But we have been living in the last time for 2000 years. God is longsuffering toward this wicked world, "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). God is calling out a people for His name. That is why the gospel is to be preached throughout the world until the very end. This is the means whereby God is saving people. The worldwide preaching of the Word of God must be the priority of every Christian and of every church.

Just before Christ ascended to heaven, the apostles asked, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). They wanted to know about prophetic details and dates. The Lord's reply is instructive, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Juda, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:7-8).

The Lord told them they were not going to know the timing of prophetic events and dates beyond that which is written in Scripture. Instead, they were to devote their attention to proclaiming the Word of God.

In conclusion let me emphasize exactly what I am saying and what I am not saying: First, I don't believe it is wrong to study prophecy. Prophecy forms a large part of Scripture, and it is important for the Christian life. Prophecy is a great light and motivator. Second, I do not believe we can determine the time of the Rapture by observing world events. The Rapture will be a surprise and will not be preceded by specific signs. Finally, anything that detracts from the Great Commission is dangerous, even if it is the study of current events in light of Bible prophecy. This should never be the emphasis.

Subscribe to These Articles by eMail

Sharing Policy

Way of Life Literature -
copyright 2013 - Way of Life Literature

Bookmark and Share print
Send to Kindle