Playing the Eschatological Guessing Game

I have to say this made me smile. Not at the harm the predictors do to the body of Christ, but because I was reminded of a few prophecy websites I check in at once in awhile which constantly have a new rapture date picked out. As soon as one date comes and goes, within a day or two someone (all excited) will post a new one. Frankly, I don’t know how they continue this year after year, for it would drain me emotionally. And on one site, I know its been going on that long, for I first visited it at least 7 years ago.

Reading around the internet, when I see Christians posting about how the end days will play out, and are so sure they are right that they automatically become irate if anyone questions them, it is funny to me. I just can’t help smiling when I run across these heated debates. Why? Because only God really knows the particulars, and He will reveal them to the body of Christ, in His timing. That we can know for sure right now. (Doesn’t stop me from doing my own speculating though..it can be interesting! aha)

Anyway, this isn’t necessarily about rapture daters, but about authors who write prophecy and eschatology books based on the latest headlines and their private speculations, which they pass on as absolute truth, (and make a $bundle$ at doing it). And concerning teachers and preachers who must revise their “eschatology” beliefs based on these newest books/speculations.

This was written shortly after 9/11 so the author was gearing up for a rash of new books to be written and new speculations to be taught. And he was right; it happened.

By Don Walker

There seems to an irresistible urge among many preachers to engage in a prophetic “guessing game” regarding current events. This desire apparently strikes the strongest when a national or world crisis occurs.

Like the political pundits who rush forward to express their opinions on domestic, foreign or military policy; these prophetic pundits rush forward to show how the current events fit into an apocalyptic scenario. Immediately books are written, tapes are produced, and charts are revised to interpret the crisis, and where it fits in the eschatological puzzle. New candidates for the Antichrist emerge, the harlot of Babylon is re-examined, and the timetable for Armageddon re-written.

For those of us who have been around awhile, we’ve seen this before. The names of the players change, but the game remains. Yes prophecy fans, it’s “guessing time” again. Another opportunity to lose credibility. Fortunately, the pain of past losses are soon forgotten when a new season begins.

The scars of past seasons have healed over and hope springs eternal that, “this time we’ve got it right.” The veterans of this game know the fans have a very short memory, and the rookies are fearless in their proclamation of “truth.” Money can be made: write a novel, produce a movie, start a TV program.

Truly the opportunities are endless. Undoubtedly, we will once again hear that familiar cry, “The Lord told me” coming forth from the charismatic players. While on the other side of the field our evangelical and fundamentalist brethren will declare “The Bible says.”

The fans will line up behind their favorite players and debates will rage. The word “heretic” will fill the air, along with such terms as “scoffer” and “false prophet.” Too bad Ol’ Edgar “88 Reasons” Whisenant seems to have retired. Players like that only come along once in a lifetime. There was a player who was not afraid to “swing for the fences,” and even though he struck out, he refused to leave the batter’s box. His sequel “89 Reasons” was a revisionist classic, truly a hallmark of Christian literature.

This all would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad. It is not only the cults who have erroneously issued apocalyptic warnings. Christian leaders have time and time again, thrown away their credibility by playing this game. Unfortunately, the events of September 11th have kicked off a new round of speculations.

I am not questioning the sincerity of the prognosticators, only their wisdom. Time has shown that there have been many sincere, God-loving, men and women who predicted future events based upon their interpretation of the Scriptures and been wrong. In fact, many times over the past one hundred years evangelical leaders have cried, “Wolf,” regarding Armageddon, the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, and various other so-called “end-time” events. I suggest we call for a moratorium on such declarations.

Dwight Wilson, (a premillennial, Assemblies of God minister and professor of history), has written an important book entitled Armageddon Now. He has chronicled the failed prophetic predictions of many well-known leaders since the turn of the last century. In writing this book he hoped to sound a warning to preachers, to avoid making the same mistake. Nevertheless, many of his peers seem to ignore such warnings and march in “where angels fear to tread.”

One of the best known forecasters stated in 1975 with great certainty, “The Soviet flag will fly over Independence Hall in Philadelphia by 1976.” Another popular preacher virtually guaranteed that the Tribulation would begin in 1982 following a Russian invasion of Israel. Still another prophecy teacher wrote, ” I am convinced that the Lord is coming for His Church before 1981.” All of these men are well-recognized leaders, and to my knowledge have never publicly repented for their “false prophecy.”

In addition, it appears that these statements are quickly forgotten, or excused by most of the Body of Christ. We certainly were not so generous when the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Herbert W. Armstrong missed it.

But what is more harmful than simply the failed forecasts, is the way this causes the Bible to be viewed.

The Bible is not a collection of predictions, like the writings of Nostradamus. It is not a “code book” through which we are to ascertain the future. Such an approach lowers the Bible from the place and purpose for which it was given. It is the record of God’s Covenant. The Covenant is the meaning of Biblical history. The Covenant is the meaning of Biblical law. The Covenant is the meaning of Biblical prophecy.

The Old Testament prophets were not into “foretelling” the future as their primary task. Their task was to call Man back to the Covenant. The purpose of prophecy is not “prediction,” but evaluation of man’s response to the Covenant. Because the covenantal context of the Bible has been ignored; it has been reduced in the minds of many, to being nothing more than the basis for speculations. It is seen as an interesting book, in which many mysteries are hidden concerning the future of mankind, not unlike the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

Alas, I suppose the “eschatological guessing game” will continue. It’s become a pretty big business you know. Maybe someday soon we will be able to buy our “prophecy books” at the supermarket checkout counter, along with The National Inquirer.

3 comments on “Playing the Eschatological Guessing Game

  1. i sense something was very wrong, when Peter Herb once shared that he gave out his books “Recommendation 666” to other passengers on a flight, he was more interested in sharing his end time views (which is post-trib)then sharing the gospel to the unsaved. If it is really true that we are in the end times, he should be giving gospel tracts and sharing about how Jesus can save us, we are not regenerated by our end time views, but by the Holy Spirit through repentance and faith in Jesus alone.

    I once challenge a follower of Herb to post a public apology in his blog if his view turn out to be false, he refused. I asked him why is he not sharing the gospel to the unsaved if he believes we are now in the 70th week, he told me he is no evangelist, his calling is to warn others we are now in the 70th week.

    • If it is really true that we are in the end times, he should be giving gospel tracts and sharing about how Jesus can save us, we are not regenerated by our end time views, but by the Holy Spirit through repentance and faith in Jesus alone

      Lee i totally agree. It wouldn’t matter one little bit ‘if’ someone had it all figured out correctly, and shared their thoughts, if those they share them with, are not born again.

      knowledge does not = salvation.

  2. There is nothing at all wrong with someone saying, “God told me,” if, in fact, God did.

    One day I was minding my own business, reading in Dan. 9:27, and when I got to the word “midst” God spoke to me and said, “you can find that exact midpoint, ‘clearly marked” in the book of Revelation.” I don’t mean I was dreaming, or ate too much pizza: I was very alert. It is a fact, God spoke to me that day.

    I also agree, since we are at the very end of this age, we all should be spreading the gospel like wildfire. Our time to work is nearly over. I find college kids in China are VERY open right now, and want to chat, because they want to practice English!! It is a harvest field ripe unto harvest!!!


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