Predicting the Unpredictable
By Jack Kinsella
Every year, somebody sends me an email predicting that the Rapture will occur this year at the conclusion of the Jewish Feast of Trumpets.
To be sure, each year’s new crop of predictions are based on a new criteria. In 2004, it was based on the fact that for each of the Jewish feast days, there was a corresponding major event in the life of the Church — with the exception of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement which follows the Feast of the Trumpets (Rosh Hashana).
Every prediction has good and solid-sounding arguments behind it. In 1988, Edgar Whisenant found eighty-eight reasons why the Rapture would occur in 1988. Each of his arguments were compelling in their own way — and there were, as I noted, eighty-eight of them!
Whisenant was so confident that he wrote, “If there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 1988.” Whisenant sold over 4.5 million copies of his book, but when the time came and went, he began damage control.
When nothing happened by the end of September 13, Whisenant revised his prediction, suggesting the rapture would come at 10:55 AM on September 15. When that failed, he revised it to October 3.” After that he admitted he made a “miscalculation” of one year and insisted the rapture would occur in 1989. He even wrote another book to “prove” it. (The second book didn’t do so well. His credibility was compromised)
Harold Camping wrote an entire book arguing for a specific date for the Rapture in 1994. (I still have a copy of it somewhere). The book was full of numerology that added up to 1994 as the date of Christ’s return. Once the date came and went, Camping also acknowledged an ‘error’ in his calculations, and came up with 1995 and one last time in 2012. After THAT date came and went, Camping got out of the Rapture prediction business upon his death in 2013.
William Miller predicted the date of the Rapture in 1844. Charles Taze Russell boldly went where no man had gone before, with his group offering predictions for the Rapture in 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975.
Russell himself stopped predicting the Rapture in 1914 and insisted that we had moved right into the Millennial Kingdom, but didn’t realize it yet. (Charles Taze Russell was the founder of what are today known as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”)
Other predictions included those based on the calculations of Bishop Ussher, whose chronologies placed the date of Creation at October 23, 4004 BC.
Using those calculations, some argued that October 23, 1997 would be the date of the Rapture, because it was exactly 6000 years from Creation to that date (when one subtracts the non-existent Year One).
(While I personally find Bishop Ussher’s work to be credible, painstaking, and useful, I draw the line at calling it infallible.)
On April 26, 1989, Doug Clark announced on Trinity Broadcasting Network’s show Praise the Lord that World War III would begin within 3 years.
Christian author Dorothy A. Miller in her book, “Watch & Be Ready! 1992 Millions Disappear?” predicted the “last trumpet” would sound on Rosh Hashanah, heralding the Second Coming.
Mary Stewart Relfe, claiming that God communicated with her in her dreams, predicted the Second Coming in 1997, right after the battle of Armageddon. “America will burn” and be totally destroyed in 1993 or 1994, she claimed.
M.J. Agee predicted the Rapture would occur on May 28, 2001 and the conclusion of the ‘end of this age’ on September 12, 2007. (For those keeping score, Marilyn’s earlier dates were 5/31/98, 6/6/98, 6/7/98, 6/14/98, and 6/21/98).
TBN’s Brother Kenneth Hagin predicted the Rapture would occur in October, 1997 (also based on calcuations about the Jewish Feast of the Trumpets and Yom Kippur.
Peter Hader determined the date of the Rapture as May 31, 1998, basing his calculations on the ‘Bible Codes’ as his source of information.
The number of people who predicted January 1, 2000 as the date of the Rapture are too numerous to mention. They were all quietly wrong.
Fundamentalist cult leader William Branham predicted that the Rapture would take place no later than 1977. Just before this, Los Angeles was to fall into the sea after an earthquake, the Vatican would achieve dictatorial powers over the world, and all of Christianity would become unified.
According to Michael Rood, the Rapture would take place on April 5, 2000. This day “starts out with bloodshed, plagues, and all manner of pestilence”. Ooops.
Jim Bramlett was on record at his website in the fall of 2001 predicting the Rapture, with the 2nd Coming of Christ occurring sometime beween 2004-2007.
As I’ve noted, every year somebody comes up with a new prediction for the exact day of the Rapture, and, as one can see, most of those dates fall sometime around the conclusion of the Jewish Feast of Rosh Hashana or coincided with that year’s Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
Every year around this time, I find myself explaining why I don’t believe there is any way for a believer to determine the exact date for the Rapture, together with the reasons that I believe such predictions are dangerous.
First, for those who accept it, it turns ‘faith’ to ‘sight’. If the Rapture is going to be October 4, 2005, there is little incentive for believers to get right with the Lord until October 3rd. On October 5, what had been, to them, a ‘blessed hope’ becomes a bitter disappointment.
It holds up God’s Word to ridicule by unbelievers. Unbelievers look forward to the latest effort at date-setting so that they can use the failed prediction to ‘prove’ the Bible isn’t true or that God wasn’t listening.
And it distracts believers away from the work of the Gospel, which is to introduce the world to the Savior; God come in the flesh, “Who cannot lie,” which is their assurance of His promise of salvation.
Believers are instructed to await the return of the Lord for His Church, but our emphasis is supposed to be on Who is coming, not when. If the predicted date of the Rapture takes place on schedule, the timing is irrelevant, since the Church Age is over.
If it doesn’t take place on schedule, the predicted date is only relevant in that it provides the skeptics with more ammunition to discredit both the Message and the messenger.
In many cases, when the date comes and goes without incident, it just means readjusting the Rapture from pre-Trib to pre-Wrath to make it relevant again.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 admonishes us;…“to wait for his Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” We are to be waiting for the Deliverer from wrath, not the wrath itself.
To the lost the Lord will come unexpectedly like a thief. But to believers who are expecting Him and do not sleep, Christ will not come “as a thief.”
This does NOT mean that we are prepared because we KNOW the date of His return, rather, we are not surprised because we are EXPECTING an IMMINENT rapture.
It is the job of the Church to prepare the world for the coming of Christ, not to warn the world of His exact itinerary.
Titus 2:13 tells us that we are to be; “Looking for that blessed hope, AND the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Our Blessed Hope is the imminent return of Christ in the rapture. We are to look for Christ Himself, not the date He is due to arrive.
If the Rapture had taken place on any of those dates, then the dead in Christ shall rise first, and we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds. There will be no dispute, no cause for division, no harm or foul, and those who are caught up will spend a joyful eternity with Christ, no matter when they think the Rapture was supposed to take place.
If it does not, then those who advanced their theories will be discredited and be less effective for God. In effect, date-setting becomes a case of a believer having so much faith in his own ability that he is willing to risk his credibility and compromise his effectiveness for the Gospel in order to make an argument that, if correct, will be eternally meaningless (unless he plans to announce ‘I told you so’ when he arrives in heaven.)
But if the date comes and goes, that believer who put his faith in his own, (or someone else’s) ability to rightly divide the Word, will have that faith shattered and will have subjected both the Word of God and Bible prophecy to ridicule by the world.
Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) If somebody guesses right, then bully for them.
If they guess wrong, there is no earthly way to calculate the spiritual damage done by using the Bible to advance what will then have been proved to be false doctrine to one’s witness for Christ.
If there is a Biblical precedent for someone calculating the date of the Rapture, I cannot find one. If there is a unambiguous Biblical precept that encourages the Church Age to peek behind the veil God has clearly drawn around ‘that date and hour’, I cannot find that, either.
The debate raging in the forums over the date of the Rapture has already driven at least a dozen members to demand refunds for their subscriptions and their names to be stricken from the OL membership rolls. From the tone of other emails, I expect to receive more subscription cancellation requests in the near future.
It doesn’t seem that complicated to me. Jesus said, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” The anger, recriminations and disharmony resulting from these pointless debates don’t seem all that Godly or uplifting to me.
Maybe I am missing something, but if we are all still here on the predicted “date”, what will all the anger and recrimination evident so far have accomplished? (Apart from having caused some to break fellowship and the rest to be grieved in their spirit by it.)
And if we are all Raptured on schedule, what difference will having guessed right have made? It won’t mean more decisions for Christ — that time will have passed. If one doesn’t believe in Jesus, why would anybody think that person would be convinced by a proposed date for a Rapture?
If you don’t know Who is coming, what difference does WHEN make? And if you DO know Who is coming, the same question applies: What difference does knowing WHEN make? If one already has their faith in Jesus, what good is that information in the first place?
(If one puts their faith in the Rapture as a substitute, they aren’t seeking redemption, they are seeking fire insurance.)
“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think NOT the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:44)
Scripture is clear: The Lord will come for His Church when He is ready.
Not when WE are. Even if we get mad about it.
Originally Published: August 2, 2005.