I call this speculative prophecy.
Sometimes they set dates. A prominent example is Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio. He set dates for the Lord’s return in 1988, 1994, and 2011. Finally in 2012, not long before he died, he repented of his dating-setting schemes. But by then he had confused a lot of people!
For example, in 1999, Jack Van Impe published a video entitled A.D.2000--The End? Note the question mark. Though Van Impe didn’t say for sure that the Lord would return in 2000, he came very close.
In 2015, Tom Horn published Zenith 2016, in which he presents his case that the Antichrist “might” appear in 2016.
This type of thing is unscriptural and wrong, but it tends to sell materials and draw a lot of traffic to blogs.
There are some fundamental biblical reasons why I know that all date setters and semi-date setters are wrong and not worth listening to.
First, Christ said that no man knows the day of His return (Mat. 24:36; Mark 13:32). If it is not possible to know the day of Christ’s return, then it is not possible to know the time of the Antichrist’s appearance, since Christ’s return can be prophetically dated from events in the Antichrist’s ministry.
Second, the Rapture is imminent, meaning that it is always at hand but its exact time cannot be known (Mat. 24:42, 44; 25:13; Mk. 13:33; Phil. 4:5; Tit. 2:13; Jam. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 4:7). The apostle Paul instructed the church at Thessalonica that they did not need to heed signs and times, because the New Testament believer has been promised redemption from the “day of darkness” that shall overcome the whole world (1 Th. 5:1-9). The New Testament believer is not waiting for the Antichrist, but for Christ Himself. The imminency of Christ’s return for the church-age believer means that we will not and cannot know the day, the week, the year, or even the decade. If we could know any of that, Christ’s return would not be imminent.
Third, the Bible says that “he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Th. 2:7). The context is the devil’s mystery of iniquity program to put the Antichrist on the throne of the world, and the One who restrains this program is God the Holy Spirit. Paul is saying that the Spirit of God will restrain the forces of evil until He is ready to allow the final events to proceed to fulfillment. The times are always in God’s hands (Dan. 2:21).
2 Thessalonians 2:7 has some wonderful implications. For one, regardless of how brightly the prophetic signs glow, we can never know when the church age will end and Daniel’s Seventieth Week will begin. Another implication of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is that God’s people need never fret about the times (Psalm 37:1-4).
Fourth, Jesus taught His people to focus on the Great Commission, not on speculative prophecy (Acts 1:6-8). Christ’s words here don’t mean that the study of prophecy is without value. In fact, a large part of Scripture consists of prophecy, and it has great value. It is a great light and motivator in the Christian life. But Acts 1:6-8 is a warning that constant speculation about the “times and seasons” is the wrong emphasis, at best.
These biblical truths have helped me immensely through the years. Not only have they enabled me to reject every date setter but also to avoid being swept up in various hysterias, such as Y2K.
In October 11, 1998, I published “Y2K Hysteria,” stating,
“There should be no hysteria about this. I have no survivalist plans. I do not plan to pull my money out of the bank or stockpile food and water. I do not believe planes will fall out of the sky or the electric grid will fail or the water system will cease to flow or the banking system will collapse or the military will dissolve into confusion. I would not be afraid to be on a commercial flight at midnight on December 31. ... Many of those who are sounding the Y2K hysteria are the same scaremongers, the same prophetic speculators, the same ‘Chicken Little’ crowd that have been proven wrong many times before.”
I made that statement on the basis of the aforementioned biblical truths.
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