Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Has Bible Prophecy Failed?

Fifty years ago, I was influenced greatly by the bestseller, ‘The Late Great Planet Earth.’ In it, I read how last-day prophecies were being fulfilled before our eyes in the daily news headlines. All the “signs” indicated that I was a member of the “last generation” that would live before the return of Jesus. The Antichrist, Armageddon, and the Millennium were just around the corner.

The claim was appealing. Who is not thrilled by the thought of witnessing the fulfillment of prophecy firsthand? At first glance, all this was quite compelling. Reportedly, the “Last Days” commenced with the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, and the “generation” that saw that event would witness the concluding act of the age, the appearance of Jesus. In the popular interpretive scheme, a “biblical generation” was defined as “forty years” in length.

Dartboard - Photo by Marc A on Unsplash
[Photo by Marc A on Unsplash]

This was a life-changing perspective. I could expect to see the rise of a ten-nation confederacy and the Antichrist, the start of the “Great Tribulation,” the invasion of Israel by “Rosh, Gog, and Magog,” the “
Mark of the Beast,” the “False Prophet,” and, of course, the return of the “Son of Man on the clouds of heaven.”

Mathematics may not be my strength, but by simply adding 40 years to 1948 I came up with a date of 1988 for the arrival of Jesus, and so did many other unsuspecting Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatics.

By the late 1980s, expectations were running so high the Prophecy Industry began to produce books and pamphlets with titles like ‘88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988,’ and since 1970, the view represented in ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’ has become the dominant version of the “end-times.”

So, here we are in 2024. Two “biblical generations” have passed since the founding of Israel. Rather than become a ten-nation revived Roman Empire, the former European Common Market is now the European Union headquartered in Brussels with 27 member states. Rather than evolve into “Gog and Magog” and attack Israel from the north, the former Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight. 1988 came and went with NO Tribulation, NO Antichrist, NOMark of the Beast,” NOFalse Prophet,” and NO “Rapture” or Second Coming.

I admit it. At times I hesitate to buck the popular trend. Still, by around 1991 or 1992 I was beginning to smell a prophetic rat. Things did not turn out as expected. So, what went wrong? Had Bible prophecy failed?

According to the Prophecy “experts,” things are still proceeding according to plan, only perhaps they have found it necessary to make slight adjustments to their arithmetic.  Maybe they forgot to carry the number ‘2’ or convert forty 365-day years into 360-day years.

This Industry still pegs the start of the “Last Days” to 1948, but rather than admit error, they have redefined a “biblical generation.” Now, it is anywhere from forty to eighty, and even up to one hundred and twenty years long. All very convenient, all very self-serving, and all extremely dishonest. It seems, whenever an interpretation fails, one only needs to redefine terms and recalculate dates.

To put it another way, when has the Prophecy Industry ever got a prediction or chronological projection right? According to Deuteronomy, if a prophet gets one prediction wrong, he is a false prophet. Whether that warning is still applicable under the New Covenant, it does not bode well for the end-time prophecy gurus and “experts,” nor does common sense or logic.

However, the multitude of failures of the Prophecy Industry does not mean that Bible prophecy has failed. These many failed predictions demonstrate that something is fundamentally wrong in popular assumptions about the Last Days. It is time to discover and restore the Apostolic Faith.

It would take days, even weeks, to examine all the predictions, assumptions, and interpretive nuances of popular preaching, so I will point out just three common errors.

First, in the Bible, the “Last Days” commenced with the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost following the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. “In the last days, declares God, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” This may be counterintuitive; nevertheless, this final period has been underway since those pivotal events. It did NOT begin in 1948.

Second, no one except “God alone,” period, end-of-discussion, knows the timing of that day. He alone knows the “day,” the “hour,” and the “season” of the “coming of the Son of Man.” The idea that we can approximate the date of his return by adding a certain number of years to 1948 is incompatible with and contrary to the teachings of the New Testament.


Third, Israel is NOT the determining factor or the key to understanding prophecy. Jesus was explicit. The “end” will only come when the church has completed its primary task – to preach “this Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations.”

In the Apostolic Tradition, there is one Lord, one gospel, one salvation, one covenant, one covenant people of God, and one’s ethnicity has no bearing on inclusion in it. In Christ, no longer can there be “Jew or Gentile.” Jesus is the center of and key to prophecy, not the modern nation of Israel.

Boy Surprised by Bible - Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
[Photo by Ben White on Unsplash]

Sooner or later, the prophecy “experts” must explain why Christ’s warning does not mean what it obviously does. Most often, they claim we could not know the “precise day or hour,” but Jesus did not say we could not know the general “season.” Putting aside the false logic (‘
argumentum e silentio’), Jesus said that very thing. “It is NOT for you to know the season” or ‘kairos’ – (Mark 13:33).

Before his Ascension, Jesus told his disciples that “it is not for you to know times [plural] or seasons [plural], which the Father has set in His own authority,” and the plural terms “times” and “seasons” cover any way one might delimit time – (Mark 13:33, Acts 1:7).

Church history is replete with examples of men who have predicted the timing of Christ’s return. While their methods and conclusions have varied, one thing they all had in common was that ALL of them without exception failed. Today’s Prophecy Industry is NO exception to the rule. Like all their predecessors, the “experts” have chosen NOT to heed the clear warning of Jesus.

In none of this am I claiming that Christ’s return is not imminent, nor that it will not occur before the present generation ceases. For all I know, he may arrive “on the clouds” tomorrow, and that is why we must always be ready for his “sudden” appearance.

That is the point. I do NOT know, you do NOT know, and most certainly today’s self-appointed prophecy “experts” do NOT know when the “end” will come, or whether we are members of the “last generation.”

Since we cannot calculate the time of the “end,” is it important to study Bible prophecy? Yes! Absolutely! Among other things, prophetic passages teach us what is coming and what to expect (e.g., the “apostasy,” deceivers, the resurrection), and how to be prepared for every eventuality so that his “arrival” does not overtake us “like a thief in the night.”

What I am “suggesting” - “shouting from the rooftops” - is that it is high time for us to reexamine the many popular claims and fads about the “Last Days” propagated by the Prophecy Industry.  Bible prophecy has NOT failed, but the so-called "experts" have, and miserably so.

  • Apostasy and Misdirection - (Believers who are watching for apostasy outside the Church will be among the first who are overtaken by it as it operates in the Assembly)
  • House of Cards - (The history of the failed expectations in popular preaching is causing many to begin grasping at prophetic straws)
  • Spirit of Antichrist - (The Spirit of Antichrist is at work in the church even now using deceivers and false prophets)