Is it foolish to set dates regarding the return of Jesus Christ?


The definition of the words “foolish” or “folly” can be “a lack of good sense; foolishness: a foolish act, idea, or practice.” In other words, it is just not a good idea!

For almost 2,000 years, there have been many predictions about the return of Christ. Damian Thompson wrote a book called “The End of Time”. In his book of 393 pages, he lists hundreds of failed predictions over the last nearly 2,000 years. This book covers not only the return of Jesus Christ but the beliefs of many other religions and movements over two millennia.

The book was written in 1999 when there was the fear of what Y2K might produce which Mr Thompson describes as “three little digits signifying a crisis of spectacular proportions caused by just two digits. A few years ago, only those initiated into the mysteries of the software code knew or cared what this meant. By 1998, however, most people in the West knew about the problem and were beginning – just beginning – to feel seriously worried by it” (page 334).

As we know, nothing major happened at the turn of the century in terms of computer systems shutting down and all the dire consequences and inter-related problems that that would have produced.

A total solar eclipse occurred on 11 August 1999 and this caused many to predict that it would be the end of the world. One person wrote to us at our office in Derby in the UK saying that Jesus Christ would return to earth on August 11th 1999 at 12:50pm. One website stated that there were 45 failed predictions for the end of the world in 1999.

According to Wikipedia, four different people predicted the year 2000, and one more specifically on April 6th 2000. One minister claimed that “the rapture” (a concept which is not taught in Scripture) would be on May 21, 2011, followed by the end of the world on October 21 of the same year.

Another minister predicted that Jesus would return on September 29, 2011 and when his prediction failed to come true, he moved the date of Jesus’ return to May 27, 2012. That prediction failed too and he changed the date to May 18, 2013. As we know, that date has come and gone.

Others have predicted various other dates, including 2012 and 2017, and one senior minister said recently that a number of other ministers, some years ago, came to realize during their study of biblical chronology that we could “easily” be 20 or 30 years off in either direction and that therefore, it should be easy to realize that Christ may not come until about 2030AD! However, that minister added that he personally did not believe that it would take that long. (In fact, that same senior minister had predicted earlier that Christ would come back in 2017, give or take a year or two).

We must not forget that even though God established a 7,000-year plan (with man ruling on earth for about 6,000 years, followed by Christ’s millennial rule of 1,000 years), it does not have to be exactly 6,000 years from man’s creation, as we can hinder or delay Christ’s return (compare Matthew 24:21-22; 24:48; 2 Peter 3:9, 12). For a more detailed explanation on this, please read chapter 4 entitled “The Day of Christ’s Return – Fixed?” in our new booklet “When and How Will Christ Return”.

Other dates, and those proposing them, are listed in Wikipedia showing that Christ will allegedly return on September 28th 2015, or in 2020, 2021, 2025, 2028 and 2057.

Of course, history shows that date setting has been a problem down through the centuries and hundreds, probably thousands of predictions have all failed. We must be honest enough to admit that some within the Church of God in times past have not been immune from date setting—and some don’t seem to be immune from it today.

Why is it that for those who, from a Christian perspective, supposedly take Scripture seriously, continue to think that they know better than God?  If they all took the time to read, review and accept Scripture, they would realise that NO ONE but the Father “knows” the date of Christ’s Second Coming – not even the angels or Christ Himself—and that the date may not be set in stone as far as the Father is concerned! He “knows” the date because it is HE—and HE ALONE—who will decide when it has arrived.

Demonic activity will increase towards the end of the age and it seems likely that many, if not all who predict a date (and sometimes even the hour) are deceived by the great deceiver, Satan and his demons, or that they have personal delusions of grandeur, erroneously thinking that they know something that no one else knows. Unfortunately, groups or churches can be formed around such a person only for everyone to be disappointed when the prophesied event does not occur.

Of course, many may be entirely convinced of their prognostication(s) and may be entirely sincere, but they have all been (even sincerely) wrong.

We know that some of the early apostles thought that Jesus might return in their lifetime but no dates were set, just a general view that it could happen in their lifetime.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Paul stated:  “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

In 1 Corinthians 7:29, Paul stated:  “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none…”

In 1 Corinthians 15:52, Paul stated, referring to the time of Christ’s Coming: “…For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

In Acts 2:16-21, Luke quoted Peter as applying an end-time prophecy to his day and age: “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’” The process had started but has yet to be completely fulfilled.

In Hebrews 1:2, Paul stated: “(God) has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…”

In James 5:3, James stated: “Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have heaped up treasure in the last days.”

In 1 Peter 1:20, Peter stated: “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you…”

In 1 John 2:18, John stated: “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.”

As we pointed out in a recent Q&A on the “last days,” all these passages, and many more, give testimony to the fact that Scriptures, using prophetic terms such as “last days,” “end time” etc., must be read in context, and that they might refer to events of the past leading to an end-time fulfillment. At the same time, we also need to realise that those who wrote certain passages were apparently under the misimpression that the last days had already arrived in their time. In every case, they later realised that Christ would not return during their life time, but God had inspired their writings and included them in His Word, as they DO refer to the ultimate fulfillment of prophetic predictions at the time of Christ’s Second coming—and beyond.

We have to fully appreciate that God’s sense of timing and our sense of timing are very often entirely different. Peter points this out when he writes, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9).

The belief that Christ would return during a Christian’s lifetime has been the hope of all Church members down through the ages.

One commentator wrote: “The doctrine of imminence is meant to keep Christians from being lazy and lax.  If we live each day in the expectant hope that Christ can return at any moment, how does that affect how we live our lives?  The answer to that question is the whole point of the parables that Jesus tells at the end of the Olivet Discourse (The Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13, and the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30).  These parables teach that Christians should live in constant expectation of the imminent return of Christ.  What does that look like?  The Parable of the Ten Virgins essentially teaches that Christians should be prepared for Christ’s return by being vigilant because we don’t know the hour of his return.”

This observation is of course unbiblical, as stated, because Christ cannot come back at just about any moment—prophetic events such as the Great Tribulation must first be fulfilled. But the point of the author is well-taken, when applied to our personal situation. We should live with a constant expectation of the imminent return of Jesus Christ FOR US; that is, we do not know when we will die, and we must be READY at the time of our death and therefore at all times, because within the next second of our consciousness, we will be resurrected to face Jesus Christ who will judge all of us.

There are those who understand that Christ did not know the date of His return when He was here on earth nearly 2,000 years ago, but they believe that He does now know! Where does the Bible say anything to this effect? It’s just not there!

Let us briefly review some Scriptures that should stop the folly of trying to out-guess the great God.

Matthew 24:23-27 is very clear: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

Matthew 24:36 adds: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

Mark 13:6, 21-22 states: “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many… Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”

Luke 17:23 says: “And they will say to you ‘Look here!’ Do not go after them or follow them.”

Christ tells us that no one is to follow those in respect to such false predictions.

That still applies today, so why should anyone feel that they have “the inside track” on this information?   There has always been deception but this is prophesied to increase right at the end of this age.

2 Peter 3:9 warns us: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Because of all those wrong predictions (everyone to date has been wrong), this gives the gainsayers ammunition to attack and deride the Christian message. However, this was expected as Peter addresses this question in 2 Peter 3:3-4: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

People can get concerned, worried, flummoxed or even suicidal about “the end of the world” but we shouldn’t. Nor should we be concerned about those who sneer saying that Christ will not return or even that He does not even exist. Whatever anyone says or does will not affect God’s timetable. The Father will send Christ at precisely the right time; not at some time predicted by yet another misled individual.

These predictions have not yet finished and so we should be prepared for even more predictions from those who have had “special revelation” they will claim, maybe even from God Himself! But remember, such predictions to date have had a 100% failure rate!

God WILL reveal His Will to His people at precisely the right time and we should completely rely on our great God to do this. To try and speculate and predict the time of Christ’s return, as so many have done over the last 2,000 years, is a waste of time, an exercise in futility and a folly. To anyone who disagrees with this approach and comes up with yet another date, they should be given a wide berth!

In our Update 658 dated September 26th 2014, the Q&A on the age of man and the 6,000-year plan, concluded with these words:

“However, we are not to set dates, even though we are to watch to determine the signs of the time (Matthew 24:32-35).  But Christ warned us very specifically: ‘Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming… Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (Matthew 24:42, 44).”

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

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