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Date Setting

By Hugo McCord

religion, articles, christianity

God "has" appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained" (Acts 17:31). What a day! The day for which all others were made!

The day when Jesus Christ "will appear a second time," coming "on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," never touching the earth, visible everywhere "as lightning," so "will be the coming of the Son of man" (Matt. 24:27­30; Heb. 9:28).

The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Matt. 24:29).

The trumpet of God will sound, and Michael the archangel will speak, and the "Lord himself" will issue a shouted command (keleusma) to every dead person in cemeteries worldwide (1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 9; John 5:28­29). The high priest Caiaphas, who first saw Jesus in A.D. 30, will again, after thousands of years, "see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 26:64). Also, "those who pierced" Jesus' side will see him again (Rev. 1:7).

"[A]ll those in the graves will hear his voice, and will come out," and the "sea" will "give up the dead in it" John 5:28­29; Rev. 20:13). As the "Lord himself" coming "on the clouds of heaven" will no longer have the body of "flesh and bones" which he had had on the earth, so all the dead will have "spiritual bodies" (1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 26:64; Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:44; 2 Cor. 5:16).

The "spiritual" bodies of the dead will, like Jesus, need no earth on which to stand, and there will be none, for the "earth and its works will be burned up," and the "heavens" that we now know "will be destroyed in flames, and the burning elements will melt" (2 Pet. 3:10­12; Rev. 20:11).

The "spiritual" bodies will see Jesus on the "great white throne" as the judge, for "the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22; Rev. 20:11­12). Then all the "dead, the great and small, will be judged according to their works," receiving either "a resurrection of life" or "of condemnation" (John 5:28­29; Rev. 20:11­12).

When is "the day of the Lord" which God "has appointed" as "the day of judgment" (Matt. 10:15; Acts 17:31; 2 Peter 3:10)? The judge himself does not know for "no one knows but the Father only," neither "the angels nor the Son" (Mark 13:32).

If neither the angels nor the judge himself know when is "the day of judgment," how foolish and presumptuous are uninspired date setters! The list of those who have made themselves prophets is long!

Even by A.D. 52 Paul warned against those who were saying that "the day of the Lord" had already "come" (enesteken), was "already here" (NRSV): "Let no one deceive you in any way" (2 Thess. 2:2­3).

Then, in A.D. 67, Paul named two self­made prophets, Hymenaeus and Philetus, who were saying "that the resurrection was already past" (2 Tim. 2:17­18).

Another self­made prophet, Max King of Warren, Ohio, still living, claims that Christ came in A.D. 70, and so he agrees with Hymenaeus and Philetus that the resurrection "is already past," and he makes the second coming invisible. The apostle John wrote that "every eye will see him" (Rev. 1:7).

Furthermore, if "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Matt. 22:30), and if the resurrection "is already past," then there have been no marriages since A.D. 70

Furthermore, if Christians are commanded to observe the Lord's Supper "until he comes" (1 Cor. 11:26), and if he came in A.D. 70, then no one has authority to observe the Lord's Supper now.

Furthermore, if Christ was authorized to "reign until he" had "placed all enemies under his feet," and the "last enemy he destroys is death," if he stopped reigning and delivered "the kingdom back to God" in A.D. 70, then no one has died since A.D. 70 (1 Cor. 15:24­26).

The failure of every date setter has proved no discouragement to other would be prophets. The year A.D. 100 "was set forth" (James M. Tolle, The Second Coming of Christ, p. 6), and in the year A.D. 1000 many prepared ascension robes.

[S]ome scholars argue that much of Europe fixated on the turning of the calendar as if the three zeroes portended an opening of the heavens.
One legend has Pope Sylvester II standing with arms upraised on New Year's Eve 999 at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. People wearing sackcloth and ashes fell to their knees in fear as the hands of the clock climbed toward midnight.
'When the fatal hour struck,' Richard Erdoes writes in his book, A. D. 1000: Living on the Brink of Apocalypse, 'the crowd remained transfixed, barely daring to breathe, not a few dying from fright, giving up their ghosts then and there' (The Oregonian, 12­25, 1996).

John Wesley wrote that "the time, times and half a time" of Revelation 12:14 were 1058­1836, "when Christ should come" (apud A. M. Morris, The Prophecies Unveiled, p. 361).

William Miller, the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, not only specified the year, but even the month and day of the Lord's appearance: March 21, 1843. After his failure, the embarrassed Miller refigured, and set October 22, 1844 (James Tolle, ibid.). Then Miller retired from date setting.

Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saints Church, in 1835 announced that the "coming of the Lord" was "nigh," and that "56 years should wind up the scene" (History of the Church, II, 182, cited by William Hearn, A Reply to a Mormon, p. 73). Smith, like John Wesley, did not live to see that his guess of 1891 was wrong, for he was shot in a Carthage, Mo., jail in 1844.

Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah Witnesses denomination, in 1891 announced, not a future date for the second coming, but that Jesus had already come invisibly in October of 1874 (Studies in the Scriptures, III, 124­133). However, Jesus had said his advent would be as visible as "lightning," and the apostles wrote that "every eye will see him" (Matt. 24:27; Rev. 1:7). Russell later changed the date of Jesus' coming from 1874 to another invisible coming in 1914.

Russell's successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869­1942) in 1920 published a tract entitled Millions Now Living Will Never Die in which he announced that Jesus' coming would be in 1925, and that the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be seen on the earth. His disciples bought a dream mansion, Beth Sarim, "House of Princes," at San Diego to honor the patriarchs. Rutherford himself lived in the home until his death in 1942, and then the house was sold.

Nathan Knorr, Rutherford's successor, set the date for Jesus' return for September 5, 1975. After that miscue, he changed to October 31.

After the failure of five dates by the leaders of the Jehovah Witnesses, it is no wonder that in November of 1995, the current spokesman for that group, Robert Jackson, gives no new guess, but simply says, "We are living in the time of the end" (Christianity Today, Feb. 5, 1996).

Though Jesus does not know the time of his coming (Mark 13:32), Hal Lindsey volunteered that information, writing that Christ would return within 40 years of 1948 (The Late Great Planet Earth, 53­54). Moreover, Lindsey foretold what he himself would experience when Christ would appear:

I was driving down the freeway and all of a sudden the place went crazy ... cars going in all directions ... and not one of them had a driver. I mean it was wild (p. 125).

Because of Lindsey's imagination, bumper stickers appeared on cars: "In Case of the Rapture, This Vehicle Will Be Unmanned." The book Left Behind (Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins) begins with a 747 jet flying over the Atlantic Ocean as 100 people on board are caught up in the rapture, leaving clothes, jewelry and pacemakers in their seats.

Another self­made prophet, Harold Whisenant, following Lindsey's lead on the 1988 date, published a book entitled 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Come Back In 1988. People love the spectacular, buying 25 millions of Lindsey's failure, and over 6 millions of Whisenant's.

Some say that Christ's second coming (public and visible) will be preceded by a secret and hidden return, "visible only to the dead saints resurrected and the living saints transformed":

His appearance in the clouds will be veiled to the human eye and no one will see him. He will slip in; slip out; move in to get his jewels, and slip out as under the cover of night (Oral Roberts, How to Be Personally Prepared for the Second Coming of Christ, p. 34, apud Steve Singleton, Gospel Advocate, October 1996, p. 30).

A secret and quiet coming does not agree with the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of Michael the archangel, and the "shouted command" (keleusma) from "the Lord himself" (1 Thess. 4:16). The Bible does not teach two more comings of Christ, one secret and one public.

The widely proclaimed and talented Billy Graham also made himself a self­made prophet, saying in 1950, "We may have another year, maybe two years.

Then I believe it is going to be over." Next, apparently swayed by Lindsey's book, Graham said that 1988 would be the year. But two years after Lindsey's debacle, Graham took off his own prophetic mantle, and declared: "I do not know the hour, the month, or the year. God alone knows."

Graham has quit date setting, but he holds, with thousands of misguided "evangelical Christians" (self­styled) that Jesus will, when he comes, begin an earthly reign as king in Jerusalem over the converted Jews for 1000 years. If Jesus does that, he will have to apologize to Governor Pilate, for Pilate believed Jesus when he told him, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

In 1975 a Jewish tourist guide, a veteran of the Six Days' War against the Arabs, escorted Scott Little and Hugo and Lois McCord to biblical sites all over the Holy Land. At our last stop, in old Joppa, the guide asked permission to make us a little speech. He said that he believes that someday the Messiah will come and reign at Jerusalem, and that "Billy Graham believes it. " We replied that now, in God's plan, there is "no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon him" (Rom. 10:12), and that all Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, "are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29). He replied that he had never heard of such an idea.

What does God think of self­made prophets?

When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him (Deut. 18:22, NKJV).

Published May 1997