End Times Prophecies

Most people realize there have been many failed prophecies regarding the Second Coming and Armageddon. A few are particularly well-known, such as Jesus’ own prediction that the end would come within the lifetime of some of his followers. Here are a few others from among the hundreds of failed attempts to predict that momentous event:

Irenaeus (2nd century), one of the important early Church fathers, said the end would come in the year 500.

Martin of Tours, a well-known 4th century bishop, claimed it would occur before the year 400, and, at the time he wrote, had no doubt that the Antichrist had already been born.

Many, of course, predicted the year 1000 would be it, including Pope Sylvester II, who was undoubtedly surprised that he lived until 1003.

Pope Innocent III (13th century) said it would happen in 1284, exactly 666 years after the founding of the Muslim faith.

Martin Luther said it would occur by 1600.

James Usher — the “earth was created in 4004 BC” guy — said it would be on October 23, 1997. (He had said that the creation was on the evening of October 22.)

Cotton Mather, famous for being one of the principal instigators of the Salem Witch trials, predicted the end would come in 1697, and then revised it twice when his predictions didn’t come through.

Jonathan Edwards, the influential 18th century clergyman, said (along with many others) that the millennium would begin in 2000. (Maybe he thought it had something to do with Y2K?)

For John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, it would begin in 1836.

William Miller, leader of a group known as the Millerites, taught that the end times would start on March 21, 1844. After that didn’t pan out, he revised it to October 22. When that prediction also surprisingly failed, the Millerites called it the “Great Disappointment”.

One of Miller’s followers, Ellen White, co-founder of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, explained the great disappointment with her revelation that, actually, what happened was that on that date, Jesus began his work of “investigative judgment” — examining Christians one by one to see who does and who doesn’t merit salvation. Obviously, it’s a big task, as he’s been at it for nearly 175 years. (Though I’m sure he takes Sundays off.)

Wilbur Voliva, famous as the autocratic leader of the early 20th-century flat earth community of Zion, Illinois, after five previous failed predictions, said the Earth would disappear in September of 1935. He also predicted he would live to 120, which would have put his death in 1990. What he planned to do between the earth’s disappearance and the time of his death remains unclear.

Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God and an influential broadcaster, predicted the end for 1936, then revised it three times, all the way to 1975.

Pat Robertson, on an episode of the 700 Club, predicted the end would come in 1982. Later, he said it would occur on April 29, 2007. More amazingly, according to one of his assistants, he actually thought he might televise Jesus’ appearance in the skies.

Jerry Falwell was so certain he would be raptured that he didn't think there was any reason to get a burial plot. He died in May of 2007.

If a theory is supposed to be confirmed by its ability to make predictions, the “theory” that the end of the world may be deduced from Scripture has been a dismal failure. But that, of course, won’t discourage future prophets.