Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"It's the end of the world as we know it..."

What, may I ask, is humankind's obsession with its own demise? Whereas the reasons for our obsession with predicting it are obvious (ameliorate feelings of helplessness, manipulate the actions of others through fear), the reasons so many of us are looking to the end aren't always clear. For many, it's religious; they are promised a better life in the world beyond the fall of ours. For others, however, the reasons can be head-scratching to say the least. Whatever the rationale, there is no denying that as long as man has existed, he has pondered his demise.

In examining the varied attempts at prognosticating the end-of-the-world, we quickly see a pattern - of failure. Here is a not so short list of the many failed apocalyptic prophecies that have rolled out over the past 2,000 years. Perhaps reading these might place the upcoming 2012 into perspective. Of course, I'm not fool; come 2013, there will be another slew of dates with which we will contend.

About 30 CE: The Christian Scriptures (New Testament), when interpreted literally, appear to record many predictions by Jeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) that God's Kingdom would arrive within a very short period, or was actually in the process of arriving. For example, Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew 16:28: "...there shall be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." In Matthew 24:34, Yeshua is recorded as saying: "...This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Since the life expectancy in those days was little over 30 years, Jesus appears to have predicted his second coming sometime during the 1st century CE. It didn't happen. More details.

About 60 CE: Interpreting the Epistles of Paul of Tarsus literally, his writings seem to imply that Jesus would return and usher in a rapture during the lifetime of persons who were living in the middle of the 1st century. More details.

About 90 CE: Saint Clement 1 predicted that the world end would occur at any moment.
2nd Century CE: Prophets and Prophetesses of the Montanist movement predicted that Jesus would return sometime during their lifetime and establish the New Jerusalem in the city of Pepuza in Asia Minor.

365 CE: A man by the name of Hilary of Poitiers, announced that the end would happen that year. It didn't.

375 to 400 CE: Saint Martin of Tours, a student of Hilary, was convinced that the end would happen sometime before 400 CE.

500 CE: This was the first year-with-a-nice-round-number-panic. The antipope Hippolytus and an earlier Christian academic Sextus Julius Africanus had predicted Armageddon at about this year.

968 CE: An eclipse was interpreted as a prelude to the end of the world by the army of the German emperor Otto III.

992: Good Friday coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation; this had long been believed to be the event that would bring forth the Antichrist, and thus the end-times events foretold in the book of Revelation. Records from Germany report that a new sun rose in the north and that as many as 3 suns and 3 moons were fighting. There does not appear to be independent verification of this remarkable event.

1000-JAN-1: Many Christians in Europe had predicted the end of the world on this date. As the date approached, Christian armies waged war against some of the Pagan countries in Northern Europe. The motivation was to convert them all to Christianity, by force if necessary, before Christ returned in the year 1000. Meanwhile, some Christians had given their possessions to the Church in anticipation of the end. Fortunately, the level of education was so low that many citizens were unaware of the year. They did not know enough to be afraid. Otherwise, the panic might have been far worse than it was. Unfortunately, when Jesus did not appear, the church did not return the gifts. Serious criticism of the Church followed. The Church reacted by exterminating some heretics. Agitation settled down quickly.

1000-MAY: The body of Charlemagne was disinterred on Pentecost. A legend had arisen that an emperor would rise from his sleep to fight the Antichrist.

1005-1006: A terrible famine throughout Europe was seen as a sign of the nearness of the end.

1033: Some believed this to be the 1000th anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus. His second coming was anticipated. Jesus' actual date of execution is unknown, but is believed to be in the range of 27 to 33 CE.

1147: Gerard of Poehlde decided that the millennium had actually started in 306 CE during Constantine's reign. Thus, the world end was expected in 1306 CE.

1179: John of Toledo predicted the end of the world during 1186. This estimate was based on the alignment of many planets.

1205: Joachim of Fiore predicted in 1190 that the Antichrist was already in the world, and that King Richard of England would defeat him. The Millennium would then begin, sometime before 1205.

1284: Pope Innocent III computed this date by adding 666 years onto the date the Islam was founded.

1346 and later: The black plague spread across Europe, killing one third of the population. This was seen as the prelude to an immediate end of the world. Unfortunately, the Christians had previously killed a many of the cats, fearing that they might be familiars of Witches. The fewer the cats, the more the rats. It was the rat fleas that spread the black plague.

1496: This was approximately 1500 years after the birth of Jesus. Some mystics in the 15th century predicted that the millennium would begin during this year.

1524: Many astrologers predicted the imminent end of the world due to a world wide flood. They obviously had not read the Genesis story of the rainbow.

1533: Melchior Hoffman predicted that Jesus' return would happen a millennium and a half after the nominal date of his execution, in 1533. The New Jerusalem was expected to be established in Strasbourg, Germany. He was arrested and died in a Strasbourg jail.

1669: The Old Believers in Russia believed that the end of the world would occur in this year. 20 thousand burned themselves to death between 1669 and 1690 to protect themselves from the Antichrist. 1689: Benjamin Keach, a 17th century Baptist, predicted the end of the world for this year.

1736: British theologian and mathematician William Whitson predicted a great flood similar to Noah's for OCT-13 of this year.

1792: This was the date of the end of the world calculated by some believers in the Shaker movement. 1794: Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, thought Doomsday would be in this year.

1830: Margaret McDonald, a Christian prophetess, predicted that Robert Owen would be the Antichrist. Owen helped found New Harmony, IN.

1832?: Joseph Smith (1805-1844) was the founder of the Church of Christ, which became the Restorationist movement after many schisms. It now includes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- a.k.a. the Mormons, and about a hundred other denominations and sects. He heard a voice while praying. He wrote, in Doctrines and Covenants section 130:

14: "I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:"
15: "Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter."
16: "I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face."
17: "I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time."

The year in which this event occurred is not recorded. However, one commentator suggested 1832 or earlier. Smith is later recorded as having said:

"I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written--the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old."

Smith would have reached the age of 85 during 1890. Unfortunately, by that year, Smith had been dead for almost a half century, having been assassinated by a mob. Note that his prophecy is ambiguous. It can be interpreted that: Jesus would return during 1890 (which did not materialize) or that 1890 would pass without Jesus' return (which did come to pass).

Some anti-Mormon sources quote only verses 14 and 15, and draw the former conclusion -- that Smith's prophecy failed.

1843-MAR-21: William Miller, founder of the Millerite movement, predicted that Jesus would come on this date. A very large number of Christians accepted his prophecy.

1844-OCT-22: When Jesus did not return, Miller predicted this new date. In an event which is now called "The Great Disappointment," many Christians sold their property and possessions, quit their jobs and prepared themselves for the second coming. Nothing happened; the day came and went without incident.

1850: Ellen White, founder of the Seven Day Adventists movement, made many predictions of the timing of the end of the world. All failed. On 1850-JUN-27 she prophesized that only a few months remained before the end. She wrote: "My accompanying angel said, 'Time is almost finished. Get ready, get ready, get ready.' ...now time is almost finished...and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months." 10
1856 or later: At Ellen White's last prediction, she said that she was shown in a vision the fate of believers who attended the 1856 SDA conference. She wrote "I was shown the company present at the Conference. Said the angel: 'Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus." 11 That is, some of the attendees would die of normal diseases; some would die from plagues at the last days, others would still be alive when Jesus came. "By the early 1900s all those who attended the conference had passed away, leaving the Church with the dilemma of trying to figure out how to explain away such a prominent prophetic failure."

1891: Mother Shipton, a 16th century mystic predicted the end of the world: "...The world to an end shall come; in eighteen hundred and eighty-one."

1891 or before: On 1835-FEB-14, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, attended a meeting of church leaders. He said that the meeting had been called because God had commanded it. He announced that Jesus would return within 56 years -- i.e. before 1891-FEB-15. (History of the Church 2:182)

1914 was one of the more important estimates of the start of the war of Armageddon by the Jehovah's Witnesses (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society). They based their prophecy of 1914 from prophecy in the book of Daniel, Chapter 4. The writings referred to "seven times". The WTS interpreted each "time" as equal to 360 days, giving a total of 2520 days. This was further interpreted as representing 2520 years, measured from the starting date of 607 BCE. This gave 1914 as the target date. When 1914 passed, they changed their prediction; 1914 became the year that Jesus invisibly began his rule.

1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994, etc. were other dates that the Watchtower Society (WTS) or its members predicted. Since late in the 19th century, they had taught that the "battle of the Great Day of God Almighty" (Armageddon) would happen in 1914 CE. It didn't.

The next major estimate was 1925. Watchtower magazine predicted: "The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914; but it would be presumptuous on the part of any faithful follower of the Lord to assume just what the Lord is going to do during that year." 6
The Watchtower Society selected 1975 as its next main prediction. This was based on the estimate "according to reliable Bible chronology Adam was created in the year 4026 BCE, likely in the autumn of the year, at the end of the sixth day of creation." 8 They believed that the year 1975 a promising date for the end of the world, as it was the 6,000th anniversary of Adam's creation. Exactly 1,000 years was to pass for each day of the creation week. This prophecy also failed. The current estimate is that the end of the world as we know it will happen precisely 6000 years after the creation of Eve. There is no way of knowing when this happened.

1919: Meteorologist Albert Porta predicted that the conjunction of 6 planets would generate a magnetic current that would cause the sun to explode and engulf the earth on DEC-17.

1936: Herbert W Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, predicted that the Day of the Lord would happen sometime in 1936. Nothing much happened that year, except for the birth of the compiler of this list -- who has been referred to as an Anti-Christ. When the prediction failed, he made a new estimate: 1975.

1940 or 1941: A Bible teacher from Australia, Leonard Sale-Harrison, held a series of prophesy conferences across North America in the 1930's. He predicted that the end of the world would happen in 1940 or 1941. 7
1948: During this year, the state of Israel was founded. Some Christians believed that this event was the final prerequisite for the second coming of Jesus. Various end of the world predictions were made in the range 1888 to 2048.

1953-AUG: David Davidson wrote a book titled "The Great Pyramid, Its Divine Message". In it, he predicted that the world would end in 1953-AUG.

1957-APR: The Watchtower magazine quoted 6 a pastor from California, Mihran Ask, as saying in 1957-JAN that "Sometime between April 16 and 23, 1957, Armageddon will sweep the world! Millions of persons will perish in its flames and the land will be scorched.'

1959: Florence Houteff's, who was the leader of the Branch Davidians faith group, prophesied that the 1260 days mentioned in Revelation 11:3 would end and the Kingdom of David would be established on 1959-APR-22. Followers expected to die, be resurrected, and transferred to Heaven. Many sold their possessions and moved to Mt. Carmel in anticipation of the "end time". It didn't happen. The group almost did not survive; only a few dozen members remained. Most Branch Davidians did die on 1993-APR-29 as a result of arson apparently ordered by their leader, David Koresh. They were not bodily resurrected -- on earth at least.

1960: Piazzi Smyth, a past astronomer royal of Scotland, wrote a book circa 1860 titled "Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid." It was responsible for spreading the belief in pyramidology throughout the world. This is the belief that secrets are hidden in the dimensions of the great pyramids. He concluded from his research that the millennium would start before the end of 1960 CE.

1967: During the six day war, the Israeli army captured all of Jerusalem. Many conservative Christians believed that the rapture would occur quickly. However, the final Biblical prerequisite for the second coming is that the Jews resume ritual animal sacrifices in the temple at Jerusalem. That never happened.

1970's: The late Moses David (formerly David Berg) was the founder of the Christian religious group, The Children of God. He predicted that a comet would hit the earth, probably in the mid 1970's and destroy all life in the United States. One source indicated that he believed it would happen in 1973.

1972: According to an article in the Atlantic magazine, "Herbert W. Armstrong's empire suffered a serious blow when the end failed to begin in January of 1972, as Armstrong had predicted, thus bringing hardship to many people who had given most of their assets to the church in the expectation of going to Petra, where such worldly possessions would be useless." According to an article in Wikipedia: "The failure of this prophetic scenario to take place according to this Co-Worker letter scenario, which was often repeated over the years in print by Armstrong, may have been one of the initial reasons why the church organization began to decline as unfulfilled expectations led to great disappointment. As events unfolded, it became obvious 1972 did not have the biblical significance that the church had anticipated for nearly two decades."

1974: Charles Meade, a pastor in Daleville, IN, predicted that the end of the world will happen during his lifetime. He was born circa 1927, so the end will probably come early in the 21st century. 1975: Many Jehovah's Witness predicted this date. However, it was not officially recognized by the leadership.

1978: Chuck Smith, Pastor of Calvary Chapel in Cost Mesa, CA, predicted the rapture in 1981. 1980: Leland Jensen leader of a Baha'i Faith group, predicted that a nuclear disaster would happen in 1980. This would be followed by two decades of conflict, ending in the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth.
1981: Arnold Murray of the Shepherd's Chapel taught an anti-Trinitarian belief about God, and Christian Identity. Back in the 1970's, he predicted that the Antichrist would appear before 1981. Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church predicted that the Kingdom of Heaven would be established this year.

1982: Pat Robertson predicted a few years in advance that the world would end in the fall of 1982. The failure of this prophecy did not seem to adversely affect his reputation.

1982: Astronomers John Gribben & Setphen Plagemann predicted the "Jupiter Effect" in 1974. They wrote that when various planets were aligned on the same side of the sun, tidal forces would create solar flares, radio interruptions, rainfall and temperature disturbances and massive earthquakes. The planets did align as seen from earth, as they do regularly. Nothing unusual happened.

1984 to 1999: In 1983, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later called Osho, teacher of what has been called the Rajneesh movement, is said to have predicted massive destruction on earth, including natural disasters and man-made catastrophes. Floods larger than any since Noah, extreme earthquakes, very destructive volcano eruptions, nuclear wars etc. were to happen. Tokyo, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Bombay will all disappear. Actually, the predictions were read out by his secretary; their legitimacy is doubtful.

1985: Arnold Murray of the Shepherd's Chapel predicted that the war of Armageddon will start on 1985-JUN 8-9 in "a valley of the Alaskan peninsula."

1986: Moses David of The Children of God faith group predicted that the Battle of Armageddon would take place in 1986. Russia would defeat Israel and the United States. A worldwide Communist dictatorship would be established. In 1993, Christ would return to earth.

1987 to 2000: Lester Sumrall, in his 1987 book "I Predict 2000 AD" predicted that Jerusalem would be the richest city on Earth, that the Common Market would rule Europe, and that there would be a nuclear war involving Russia and perhaps the U.S. Also, he prophesized that the greatest Christian revival in the history of the church would happen: all during the last 13 years of the 20th century. All of the predictions failed.

1988: Hal Lindsey had predicted in his book "The Late, Great Planet Earth" that the Rapture was coming in 1988 - one generation or 40 years after the creation of the state of Israel. This failed prophecy did not appear to damage his reputation. He continues to write books of prophecy which sell very well indeed.

Alfred Schmielewsky, a psychic whose stage name was "super-psychic A.S. Narayana," predicted in 1986 that the world's greatest natural disaster would hit Montreal in 1988. Sadly, his psychic abilities failed him on

1999-APR-11 when he answered the door of his home only to be shot dead by a gunman.

1988-MAY: A 1981 movie titled "The man who saw tomorrow" described some of Nostradamus predictions. Massive earthquakes were predicted for San Francisco and Los Angeles.

1988-OCT-11: Edgar Whisenaut, a NASA scientist, had published the book "88 Reasons why the Rapture will Occur in 1988." It sold over 4 million copies.

About 1990: Peter Ruckman concluded from his analysis of the Bible that the rapture would come within a few years of 1990.

Sep 28, 1992: "Rockin" Rollen Stewart, an eccentric evangelist who started the craze for holding up signs representing bible verses at public events [John 3:16 was the most popular of these] was certain that The Rapture would occur on this day. He went on to instigate a campaign of stink-bombing churches and other religiously inspired acts of madness, which culminated with his imprisonment for kidnapping.

March – May 1997: The year of the comet Hale-Bopp gave rise to a welter of "end of the world" theories all based on a mistaken observation by amateur astronomer Chuck Shramek. When his assertion that the comet was being trailed by a companion object found its way onto Usenet message boards, it was magnified by the full power of the then-young internet into a worldwide hullabaloo. Another contributory factor was the suggestion that the Solar System was about to pass through a mysterious and entirely imaginary region of space called the Photon Belt. The Heaven’s Gate cult seized on these combined rumours as their signal to commit mass suicide in March of this year. It was also the 6,000th anniversary of the Creation, as calculated by Bishop Ussher, leading to another wave of "Last Days" panic.

12:01am, Mar 31, 1998. One of the more precise predictions of the Second Coming. Hon-Ming Chen, leader of the Taiwanese cult "The True Way" - claimed that God would announce his imminent return on every television in the USA at this moment, prior to an actual landing in his spacecraft. Chen had the good grace to admit his mistake and offer to be crucified when the deity failed to materialise, but no-one seemed enthusiastic.

1999: Throughout 1998 and 1999 the predictions of Apocalypse came so thick and fast as to dwarf any previous doomsday craze. For Nostradamus, arguably the best-known seer of all time, July was the chosen date of Armageddon. No sooner was the July panic over when the rumour began to spread that the Cassini space probe would crash to Earth, spilling its radioactive fuel and fulfilling the prediction in Revelation 8:11 “And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

2000: No less a luminary than Sir Isaac Newton believed that the year 2000 would see the events foretold in the Book of Revelation as detailed in his book Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John.

Feb 12, 2006: Clinton Ortiz claimed on his website that Prince William, whom he suggests is the Antichrist of Revelation, would come to power on this day. He also quotes William’s mother – Diana, Princess of Wales – as having said: "I believe Wills can rebuild Camelot and I will be his Merlin. Together we will return to the chivalry, pageantry, and the glory that was King Arthur's Court. William will remake the Monarchy by showing love, leadership, and compassion."

Friday 13th April 2007: An un-named punter placed a £10 bet at 10,000/1 with Ladbrokes, the bookmakers, that the world would end on that day. It is unclear how he expected to collect.
Mar 21, 2008. A minor Christian sect The Lords' Witnesses announced this date for the end of days on their website, which is still online.

Sources: religioustolerance.org, timesonline.co.uk

8 comments:

Buck said...

Of course, we should not forget the latest money making EOW craze: 2012. At least the New Agers are a little more slick and many are hedging the bets by claiming it's not "REALLY" then end of the world, but just the start of a new "consciousness". But, that hasn't deterred the History Channel and their love of eschatology.

RRRGroup said...

Cullan,

Are you exhausted by that end-time presentation?

Quite thorough, so thanks.

RR

Cullan Hudson said...

Thoroughly exhausted - and I'm not certain that this comprises the whole of failed predictions. In fact, I am quite certain it doesn't. This Chicken Little scenario runs around every few years and the world pays attention as if THIS is the one. You can easily see why, when I saw the recent MAD magazine cover, I had to put up the slogan "Why So Stupid?".

Word Woman said...

Two ideas present themselves. One involves the very real generational turning taking place in society (see the book The Fourth Turning for insight)and any such times lead to uncertainity, fear, and concern because things are changing; the other one is that fear and horror "sell" and to be competitive and attract a larger audience such cable shows are ratcheting up the 'fear' element to win viewers...I guess, a third one is there as well. Maybe we are really going to hell in a handbasket, the asteriod is coming, and this is everyone's way of warning us for the moment when out radios and TV's sound with "We have some bad news...."

thedude said...

It is much better to have looked to the end, and have it not come, then not having looked at all.

Cullan Hudson said...

I would say, enjoy the ride.

Mark said...

Hi Cullan,

Yes, MANY Christian sects or leaders have given false prophecys of "the end" which Christ speaks of.

But when it comes to the NT scriptures / writers themselves many problems that seem to be there are easily explained.

"For example, Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew 16:28: "...there shall be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom"

Now, since Christ stated in other parts of the scripture :no one, not even Himself knew the day nor hour of His coming, only the Father"

This would seem to contradict.

But John, a diciple, was shown and did see the end times as he wrote Revelation, and Christ coming into His kingdom.
He saw everything as it transcended up until Christ millinial reign and into the new heaven and earth.
( There are also other explanations you can see at the link below this post )

Also,

Many believe Christ came into His kingdom after His resurrection. He had taken back what Satan had stolen. Though His second coming and total reign has yet to arrive.

Also:" In Matthew 24:34, Yeshua is recorded as saying: "...This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Since the life expectancy in those days was little over 30 years, Jesus"

This is confusing yet simple. When Christ states "This generation shall not pass" He is referring to the generation that see all these events stated come to pass. Not the "present" generation as many thought.
It is sometimes written as "The generation shall not pass".

I am terrible at debating apologetics to someone, but the site below might be a link of possible interest.
Its an Apologetics site that is orderly and easy to find answers with out a lot of gibberish to mask any explanations.

As a note. The majority of Christains do not follow these date setters.
Christ said we could know when the time is "near" by all the signs, but never an exact date. Anyone giving one is a false prophet ( or publicity seeker / book author trying to make some dough. )

All the best,
Mark

http://www.carm.org/

Rocky2 said...

Dave MacPherson, a journalist and historian, has the following message for the Hal Lindsey who sees significance in the year 2012 because of the Mayan calendar: "2012 may be YOUR latest date. It isn't MAYAN!" Rocky2