Unfulfilled Christian religious predictions
This article lists predictions of notable religious figures that failed to come about in the specified time frame. They are listed according to the religious groups of which they were members.
Predictions by members of mainstream churches
Adventism has its roots in the teachings of a Baptist preacher by the name of William Miller. He first predicted the Second Advent of Jesus Christ would occur before March 21, 1844. When this date passed a new date was predicted, April 18, 1844. Again the date passed and another Millerite, Samuel S. Snow, derived the date of October 22, 1844. The un-fulfillment of these predictions has been named the Millerite Great Disappointment.
Certain Anabaptists of the early 16th century believed that the Millennium would occur in 1533. Another source reports: "When the prophecy failed, the Anabaptists became more zealous and claimed that two witnesses (Enoch and Elijah) had come in the form of Jan Matthys and Jan Bockelson; they would set up the New Jerusalem in Münster. Münster became a frightening dictatorship under Bockelson's control. Although all Lutherans and Catholics were expelled from that city, the millennium never came."
In volume II of The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, author Leroy Edwin Froom tells us about a prominent Anglican prelate, who made a relevant prediction: "Edwin Sandys (1519–1588), Archbishop of York and Primate of England was born in Lancashire... Sandys says, 'Now, as we know not the day and time, so let us be assured that this coming of the Lord is near. He is not slack, as we do count slackness. That it is at hand, it may be probably gathered out of the Scriptures in diverse places. The signs mentioned by Christ in the Gospel which should be the foreshewers of this terrible day, are almost all fulfilled.'"
Assemblies of God Church
During World War I, The Weekly Evangel, an official publication of the Assemblies of God, carried this prediction: "We are not yet in the Armageddon struggle proper, but at its commencement, and it may be, if students of prophecy read the signs aright, that Christ will come before the present war closes, and before Armageddon...The war preliminary to Armageddon, it seems, has commenced." Other editions speculated that the end would come no later than 1934 or 1935.
The founder of the Calvary Chapel system, Chuck Smith, published the book End Times in 1979. On the jacket of his book, Smith is called a "well known Bible scholar and prophecy teacher." In this book he wrote:
As we look at the world scene today, it would appear that the coming of the Lord is very, very, close. Yet, we do not know when it will be. It could be that the Lord will wait for a time longer. If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus taught us that the generation which sees the 'budding of the fig tree', the birth of the nation Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lord's return; I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the tribulation lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for his church anytime before the tribulation starts, which would mean anytime before 1981. (1948 + 40 − 7 = 1981) However, it is possible that Jesus is dating the beginning of the generation from 1967, when Jerusalem was again under Israeli control for the first time since 587 BC. We don't know for sure which year actually marks the beginning of the last generation.
The founder of the Lutheran Church was the reformer, Martin Luther (1483–1546 A.D.). According to one authority, Luther ventured to predict: "For my part, I am sure that the Day of Judgement is just around the corner. It doesn't matter that we don't know the precise day... perhaps someone else can figure it out. But it is certain that time is now at an end." Another author says: "In all of [Luther's] work there was a sense of urgency for the time was short... the world was heading for Armageddon in the war with the Turk."
Luther is quoted as expecting the end within 300 years.
Even after Luther's death in 1546, Lutheran leaders kept up the claim of the nearness of the end. About the year 1584, a zealous Lutheran named Adam Nachenmoser wrote the large volume '[Prognosticum Theologicum]' in which he predicted: "In 1590 the Gospel would be preached to all nations and a wonderful unity would be achieved. The last days would then be close at hand." Nachenmoser offered numerous conjectures about the date; 1635 seemed most likely.
Thomas Brightman, who lived from 1562 to 1607, has been called "one of the fathers of Presbyterianism in England." He predicted that "between 1650 and 1695 [we] would see the conversion of the many Jews and a revival of their nation in Palestine...the destruction of the Papacy...the marriage of the Lamb and his wife." This did not happen.
Christopher Love who lived from 1618–1651 was a bright graduate of Oxford and a strong Presbyterian. Love predicted that: (1) Babylon would fall in 1758 (2) God's anger against the wicked would be demonstrated in 1759 and (3) in 1763 there would occur a great earthquake all over the world.
Roman Catholic Church
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Saint Malachy (d. 1148) is said to have foretold that Ireland would be subject to England for 700 years: ".. his beloved native isle would undergo at the hands of England oppression, persecution, and calamities of every kind, during a week of centuries; but that she would preserve her fidelity to God and to His Church amidst all her trials. At the end of seven centuries she would be delivered from her oppressors (or oppressions), who in their turn would be subjected to dreadful chastisements.." In 1869, 700 years after the Norman invasion of Ireland began, Ireland was still a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, though an independent Irish state would be created fifty years later.
When in 1525 Martin Luther, an ex-monk, married Katharina von Bora, an ex-nun, his enemies[who?] said that their offspring would fulfill an old tradition that the Antichrist would be the son of such a union. Erasmus remarked that the tradition could apply to thousands of such children.
In 1771 Bishop Charles Walmesley published, under the nom de plume of "Signor Pastorini", his "General History of the Christian Church from Her Birth to Her Final Triumphant State in Heaven Chiefly Deduced from the Apocalypse of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist". In it he attributed to what he called the fifth age of the Church a duration of 300 years, beginning with the Protestant Reformation in 1520 or 1525. This was widely interpreted as predicting the downfall of Protestantism by 1825. In fact, just four years later, the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 brought to a culmination the process of Catholic Emancipation throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Predictions by other groups
The well known Scottish cleric, Edward Irving, was the forerunner of the Catholic Apostolic Church. In 1828 he wrote a work headed The Last Days: A Discourse on the Evil Character of These Our Times, Proving Them to be the 'Perilous Times' and the 'Last Days'. On pages 10–22 we find some telling information which includes the following:
I conclude, therefore, that the last days... will begin to run from the time of God's appearing for his ancient people, and gathering them together to the work of destroying all Antichristian nations, of evangelising the world, and of governing it during the Millennium... The times and fullness of the times, so often mentioned in the New Testament, I consider as referring to the great period numbered by times...Now if this reasoning be correct, as there can be little doubt that the one thousand two hundred and sixty days concluded in the year 1792, and the thirty additional days in the year 1823, we are already entered upon the last days, and the ordinary life of a man will carry many of us to the end of them. If this be so, it gives to the subject with which we have introduced this year's ministry a very great importance indeed.
Charles Taze Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, calculated 1874 as the year of Christ's Second Coming, and taught that Christ was invisibly present and ruling from the heavens since that year. Russell proclaimed Christ's invisible return in 1874, the resurrection of the saints in 1875, and predicted the end of the "harvest" and the Rapture of the saints to heaven for 1878, and the final end of "the day of wrath" in 1914. 1874 was considered the end of 6,000 years of human history and the beginning of judgment by Christ. A 1917 Watch Tower Society publication predicted that in 1918, God would begin to destroy churches and millions of their members.
J.F. Rutherford, who succeeded Russell as president of the Watch Tower Society, predicted that the Millennium would begin in 1925, and that biblical figures such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David would be resurrected as "princes". The Watch Tower Society bought property and built a house, Beth Sarim, in California for their return.
From 1966, statements in Jehovah's Witness publications raised strong expectations that Armageddon could arrive in 1975. In 1974 Witnesses were commended for selling their homes and property to "finish out the rest of their days in this old system" in full time preaching. In 1976 The Watchtower advised those who had been "disappointed" by unfulfilled expectations for 1975 to adjust their viewpoint because that understanding was "based on wrong premises". Four years later, the Watch Tower Society admitted its responsibility in building up hope regarding 1975.
Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith, made several dozen prophecies during his lifetime, many of which are recorded in the sacred texts of the Mormon faith. The prophecies included predictions of the Civil War, the fall of the U. S. government, the coming of Jesus, and several less significant predictions. Church apologists cite many prophecies that they claim came true, and church critics cite many prophecies that they claim did not come true.
- William to Joshua V. Himes, February 4, 1844.
- George R. Knight, Millennial Fever and the End of the World, Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1993, 163-164.
- Samuel S. Snow, The Advent Herald, August 21, 1844, 20.
- When Prophecy Fails, Festinger, Riecken and Schaeter, page 7
- Soothsayers Of The Second Advent, William Alnor, page 57.
- The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, pages 417, 419.
- April 10, 1917 edition, page 3
- May 13, 1916 pp 6–9 etc
- "End Times" by Chuck Smith. 1979. Pages 35, 36.
- see page 43
- Reformation Principles and Practice: Essays in Honor of Arthur Geoffrey Dickens, p 169
- Luther's View of Church History, John M. Headley, Yale University Press, 1963, pp 13,14
- The Familiar Discourses of Dr. Martin Luther, trans. by Henry Bell and revised by Joseph Kerby (London: Baldwin, Craddock and Joy, 1818), pp. 7,8.
- Prophecy and Gnosis — Apocalypticism in the Wake of the Lutheran Protestant Reformation, Robin Bruce Barnes, p 64
- Bartsch, Franz and Richard D. Thiessen. Epp, Claas (1838–1913). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2005. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 November 2006.
- A Great Expectation — Eschatological Thought in English Protestantism to 1660 by Bryan W. Ball and E.J. Brill, page 117
- The Logic of Millennial Thought by James West Davidson, page 200
- Catholic Encyclopedia article on Prophecy; downloaded 23 December 2011
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 7, chapter 5
- "Signior" is the spelling used in the book (see pages iii and following of the third edition).
- Reproduction of the third edition
- General History ..., pp. 227 and 454
- "Pastorini" notes; UCC online essay
- Flegg, C.G. Gathered under Apostles. 1992. Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0198263357
- Edward Irving, The last days: a discourse on the evil character of these our times, providing them to be the "perilous times" of the "last days", J Nisbet Pub., 1850 pp.10–22
- Charles Taze Russell – FREE Charles Taze Russell Information | Encyclopedia.com: Find Charles Taze Russell Research
- "The writer, among many others now interested, was sound asleep, in profound ignorance of the cry, etc., until 1876, when being awakened he trimmed his lamp (for it is still very early in the morning.) It showed him clearly that the Bridegroom had come and that he is living "in the days of the Son of Man." C.T. Russell (April 1880). "From and To The Wedding". Zion's Watch Tower: 2.
- Russell explained how he accepted the idea of an invisible return of Christ from N.H. Barbour in "Harvest Gatherings and Siftings" in the July 15, 1906 Watch Tower, Reprints page 3822.
- The Three Worlds and The Harvest of This World by N.H. Barbour and C.T. Russell (1877). Text available online at: http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/history/3worlds.pdf Scan of book in PDF format
- The Three Worlds, p. 175
- The Three Worlds, pp. 104–108
- See pages 68, 89–93, 124, 125–126, 143 of The Three Worlds.
- The year 1914 was seen as the final end of the "day of wrath": "...the 'times of the Gentiles,' reach from B.C. 606 to A.D. 1914, or forty years beyond 1874. And the time of trouble, conquest of the nations, and events connected with the day of wrath, have only ample time, during the balance of this forty years, for their fulfillment." The Three Worlds, p. 189.
- In 1935, the idea that the 6,000 years ran out in 1874 was moved forward 100 years. "The Second Hand in the Timepiece of God". The Golden Age: 412–413. March 27, 1935..
- Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 7, 1917, p. 485, "In the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by the millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell."
- The Watchtower, May 15, 1922; Sep. 1, 1922; Apr. 1, 1923; Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1925, p. 110
- Kingdom Ministry, Watch Tower Society, May 1974, page 3.
- "A Solid Basis for Confidence", Watchtower, July 15, 1976, page 441.
- The Watchtower, March 15, 1980, p.17 "With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, ... considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. ... there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated. ... persons having to do with the publication of the information ... contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date."
- Boyett, Jason (2005). Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse: The Official Field Manual for the End of the World. Relevant Media Group. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-9760357-1-8. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- Abanes, Richard (2003). One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church. Thunder's Mouth Press. pp. 461–467. ISBN 1568582838.
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