Skip to comments.Making Bad Prophecy Predictions Vanish
Posted on 08/04/2009 7:20:37 AM PDT by topcat54
Ehrich Weiss (18741926), best known as the master magician Harry Houdini, lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, as a young boy where his father served as rabbi of the Zion Reform Jewish Congregation. Over the years, Houdini astounded audiences with his artful showmanship and his ability to escape from any contrivance. One of Houdinis most famous non-escape stage illusions was performed at New Yorks Hippodrome Theater when he made a full-grown elephant (with its trainer) disappear from the stage. The act was called The Vanishing Elephant.
Theres going to be another vanishing act held, this time appropriately in Houdinis hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, at the 2009 Great Lakes Prophecy Conference. Some of the speakers include David Hocking, T.A. McMahon, Dave Hunt, and Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapter, Costa Mesa, California. What will disappear are the many false predictions made by Smith over the years. I suspect that very few people in attendance at this conference and the other Calvary Chapel prophecy conferences that are scheduled are aware of Smiths long history of date setting.
arWhile cleaning up my office (a never ending task), I came across a cassette tape of a sermon Smith preached on December 31, 1979. He told his very accepting audience on that day that the rapture would take place in 1981. The former Soviet Republic going into Afghanistan in August of 1978 was the prelude to what Smith considered to be a full-force invasion of the Middle East. It would not be long before Russia would invade Israel, Smith told his audience. All of this was said to have been predicted by Ezekiel 2600 years ago.
Smith went on to claim in his end-of-the-year message of 30 years ago that because of ozone depletion Revelation 16:8 would be fulfilled during the soon-coming Great Tribulation: And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. According to Smith, Halleys Comet would pass near the Earth in 1986 and would wreck atmospheric havoc for those left behind as debris from its million-mile tail pummeled the earth. Halleys Comet did appear in 1986 with no damage done to our planet. (A similar prelude to the end had been predicted based on the so-called Jupiter Effect.) If Halleys Comet has had any prophetic import, it was in A.D. 66 when it passed over Jerusalem just a few years before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (see Storms from the Sun, 37). And just in case you havent noticed, contrary to Smith, the rapture did not take place in 1981 as he and others (e.g., Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth).
In his 1976 book The Soon to be Revealed Antichrist Smith wrote, we are living in the last generation which began with the rebirth of Israel in 1948 (see Matt. 24:3234). You will search in vain in the three verses Smith references to find any mention of the rebirth of Israel. He repeats the claim in his 1978 book End Times: If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus taught us that the generation which sees the budding of the fig tree, the birth of the nation of Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lords return. I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 7 = 1981). If this prophetic math sounds familiar, its because the same end-time logic was used by Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970.
In order to cover himself against charges of date setting, Smith wrote that 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 B.C. We dont know for sure which year actually marks the beginning of the last generation. A 1967 starting point plus a 40-year generation would mean the rapture should have taken place around the year 2000. While it sounds like Smith is simply engaging in conjecture, in his book Future Survival, which was first published in 1978 and updated in 1980, his prophetic dogmatism is retained:
Were the generation that saw the fig tree bud forth, as Israel became a nation again in 1948. As a rule, a generation in the Bible lasts 40 years. . . . Forty years after 1948 would bring us to 1988.
Keep in mind that its not only important to show where Smith was wrong in his predictions, its crucial that we understand that he is using an interpretive model that leads him to make these predictions.
Smith wrote in 1980 that from his understanding of biblical prophecies, he was convinced that the Lord [would come] for His Church before the end of 1981. He did add that he could be wrong but went on to say in the same sentence that its a deep conviction in my heart, and all my plans are predicated upon that belief. On these and other prophetic claims, the test of time has proved Smith to be wrong over and over again. This has not stopped him and others from dogmatizing that the end is near. Mark Hitchcock, following in the footsteps of Hal Lindsey, has written The Late Great United States: What the Bible Reveals about Americas Last Days (2009). Like Lindseys Late Great Planet Earth, Hitchcocks new prophecy book is another exercise in newspaper exegesis.
In the book Dateline Earth: Countdown to Eternity, Smith criticized Edgar Whisenant for predicting Jesus would return in September 1988: He was certainly well-intentioned including about his revised prediction of September 1989, when September 1988 came and went but he was also dead wrong. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Smith to admit his own mistaken foray into predicting the end-point of this generation, but he did not take it.
To be fair, in a March 30, 1989 interview with William Alnor, Smith admitted that he was guilty of coming close to date setting, and this was wrong. But when we look back over Smiths statements about the timing of specific prophetic events, we can see that he did more than come close to date setting. He wrote, Were the generation that saw the fig tree bud forth, as Israel became a nation again in 1948. We are now more than 60 years removed from the 1948 founding of Israel. The interpretive methodology used by Smith, Lindsey, Dave Hunt, and others making the 19481988 connection was fundamental to their claim that they were following a literal hermeneutic. If a literal hermeneutic results in near certainty of when prophetic events will take place but ends in a colossal miscalculation on a key element of their system, how should the interpretive methodology that brought them to that calculation be evaluated? To paraphrase Jesus, An interpretive tree is known by its fruit, and the 19481988 timetable has turned out to be rotten fruit no matter how you slice it.
In addition to some very specific prophetic predictions, Smith claimed that the rapture is at hand. His 1976 book on the antichrist states that he will be revealed soon. Early in Dateline Earth, Smith stated, Very soon there are going to be some strange and terrible things happening on this planet of ours. These very soon happenings are based on his futuristic reading of Revelation. He reinforces this argument when he states, Jesus is coming back, and Hes coming back soon. In his book The End, he writes, It is later than you think. It is time to wake up from your lethargy and realize that the coming of the Lord is at hand!
What do you think Smith wants to convey to his readers when he uses words like soon, close, and at hand? When the New Testament uses time words like at hand, near, and shortly, generally futurists like Smith argue that these words are non-specific and do not relate to the timing of prophetic events.
As a futurist, Smith believes that Revelation says what it means and means what it says, and he or she does not need to twist its words to make them fit any particular doctrine. The futurist believes this book is to be taken at face value. . . . Earlier in Dateline Earth Smith argues that much of Revelation is symbolic in nature, so the seven churches are used to signify that the message is for the complete Church for all of Gods people, in every country and in every age. If Revelation says what it means and means what it says, then why dont the seven churches mean seven literal named churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 23) that were in existence in Johns day in the first century? Where does Revelation say, as Smith tells it, that these churches are representative of the universal church, each representing a particular period of Church history? How does he know, for example, that the church at Pergamum represents the beginning of the church-state system that developed under Constantine or the church at Sardis is the church of the Protestant Reformation? Revelation doesnt say any such thing. Smith is reading his interpretive system into the Bible.
 Jim Steinmeyer, Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003), 269272
 Astronomers John Gribben and Setphen Plagemann predicted the Jupiter Effect in 1974 in their book The Jupiter Effect: A Scientific Exploration of the Plants as Triggers of Major Earthquakes. They wrote that when various planets were aligned on the same side of the sun in 1982, tidal forces would create solar flares, radio interruptions, rainfall and temperature disturbances and massive earthquakes. The planets did align as seen from earth, as they do regularly. Nothing unusual happened. In his 1999 book The Little Book of Science, Gribbin wrote that he was sorry he ever had anything to do with it.
 Chuck Smith, End Times (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, 1978), 35. Dispensationalists like Smith, Hocking, and Hunt believe that the rapture takes place seven years before the return of Christ.
 End Times, 36.
 Chuck Smith, Future Survival (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today,  1980), 17.
 Smith, Future Survival, 20.
 Heres what one reviewer wrote about the book: Years ago, I used to read Dr. Hitchcocks books with great eagerness. As his new books continued to roll off the presses, I began to see a repeated theme emerging. Hitchcock no longer writes to teach the Body of Christ but rather to fleece them and make a buck off of the booming prophecy industry. There are many excellent books out there on the subject, but they are often not published by the mainstream book publishers. After Hitchcocks last book which as a transparent effort to jump on the Iranian Presidents prominence in the news, I was disappointed to say the least. But I still chose to give him the benefit of the doubt and I purchased this book as well. My worst fears were realized. With the United States in a serious financial and moral crisis, Hitchcock has proven to me that he is simply capitalizing on the latest events in the news and the anxieties of the sheep for the purpose of making a quick buck. Mr. Hitchcock and the Christian publishing world should be greatly ashamed. It is not about growing ones own little empire, but about proclaiming the coming Kingdom of Christ. This will be the last book written by Mr. Hitchcock that I will ever purchase or read.
 Chuck Smith with David Wimbish, Dateline Earth: Countdown to Eternity (Old Tappan, NJ: Chosen Books, 1989), 26.
 Chuck Smiths interview with William M. Alnor in Soothsayers of the Second Advent (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1989.
 Smith, Dateline Earth, 38.
 Smith, Dateline Earth, 21.
 Smith, Dateline Earth, 25. Emphasis in original.
 Smith, The End, 46.
 Were getting close to the Tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ in glory! (Smith, Future Survival, 21). Emphasis in original.
 Smith, Dateline Earth, 20.
 Smith, Dateline Earth, 20
 Smith, Dateline Earth, 28.
 Smith, Dateline Earth, 2829.
 Smith, Dateline Earth, 33.
"For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22)
“Keep in mind that its not only important to show where Smith was wrong in his predictions, its crucial that we understand that he is using an interpretive model that leads him to make these predictions.”
Great analysis of Chuck Smith's failed date-setting. Thanks for the ping, TC!
Shoulda bought that book, but I was very broke in those days. It remained on sale until sometime in 1985, and then it quietly disappeared.
Nevertheless, I always had a problem with the dogmatic eschatology espoused by CC, and I let Chuck know that I believed that it was contray to the teaching of scripture, and was risky business, specially when those predictions failed to materialize. He listened to what I had to say, and never made me feel that I was any less of a Christian for believing the way I did (and still do). It seemed to me during that time that Chuck was not really setting dates or prophesying events, but was rather conjecturing as to a possible scenario for the return of Christ. That fit with the dispensational premillennialism that was (and still is) prevalent in protestant circles. Personally, I was staunchly Calvinistic at the time (I am even moreso now), though I didn't know enough about it to realize it. It really didn't matter anyway back then, because all we cared about was loving and serving Jesus, and one another.
I cannot speak to the years since I left CC in 1982. About the only remnant I have of that time are a few Maranatha Music CDs and tapes.
You can fault Chuck Smith on his eschatology, but bear in mind that he is not the only practitioner of the form. His preaching that Jesus is the only way to God, falls right in line with scripture.
Calvary Chapel tapes while I was overseas in the military as a young man in 1972 was the first Christian teaching I ever received after coming to Christ. Chuck Smith was line-by-line, clear, and convincing. He ably explained his model of eschatology, and I still consider it my favorite model.
The problem with conjecture is that those who disagree with your model and those who agree with your model can be your worst nightmares.
Those who disagree with you will not hear your use of modifiers like "might" or "maybe" or "possibly", and they will assert that you have taught that certain things WILL be, when you've really only said that they "might" be, as based on scripture.
Many of those who agree with your model also will not hear your "mights" and "maybes." They will then use your words to take them to outlandish biblical conclusions that you never would have supported.
The bottom line is that Christians must know and appreciate more than one model of biblical eschatology and keep track of them all. Future things have always involved a bit of interpretation.
Surfing Calvinists! Righteous! 8~)
“Conjecture is NOT date-setting”
The question of imminency has always been a problem in eschatology, starting with the prophets. Even the eminent Amillennial scholar, Oswald Allis, thought that Augustine had predicted the Second Coming taking place in 635 A.D. because of Augustine’s 7 millennium “dispensations”.
"Neither Jew nor Greek...all one in Christ Jesus."
I'm a big backer of the idea that the counter Reformation never ended, but has continued to work its mayhem through the centuries.
Disrupt, divide and conquer.
Excellent point, b-d!!
Christ’s own instructions: “Watch!”
The bottom line, DrE, with Israel and the Church is Romans 9-11 and Acts 15.
You find BOTH.
In Matthew 25:31 and following, Christ tells us that our actions reveal our faith. He is not the least concerned as tho whether we are pre-trib, post-trib, or pan-trib. It is all about the actions our faith inspires.
It really is comparable to the Jews waiting for their literal Messiah who was going to usher in their literal kingdom. Well the Messiah was literal, but He was also Spiritual, but as He told them, the kingdom is spiritual,not of this world, yet here they are still today,going to build that temple and they've convinced many Christians, that the kingdom is earthly.
The only "future thing" we are to be concerned with is our heavenly destination while today we "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" as a good watchman. Today is our duty to serve God through worship and the preaching of the Gospel which will transform lives and nations.
But the time of Christ's return is not for us to know or even debate. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10)
How doth Christ execute the office of a king? The answer is Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace on his elect, rewarding them for their obedience, and correcting them for their sins; preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel."
Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith - Question 45:
How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
The answer is Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace on his elect, rewarding them for their obedience, and correcting them for their sins; preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel."
That's today, even if it's not always so obvious.
I just used the 2 Pe 3 verse on a thread about global warming. :>)
DrE, I’m not going to agree on this one. I think Jesus does tell us both to watch and to watch for signs. Paul reiterates the same.
So, there is an element of negligence in not being a Berean on this subject. To be a Berean on the subject of eschatology requires interpretation.
It just does.
And I still love ya as a sister in Christ.
Grace & Peace,
I do not get in the slightest how Christians can think building that third temple makes sense for Chrisianity. Let the lost build whatever they want. But Christians should preach the Gospel to all men for the saving of their souls by the third and final temple, Jesus Christ.
***Shoulda bought that book, but I was very broke in those days. ***
BROKE? They only cost two dollars! I bought two and still have them. I keep them with my other “failed end times” prophecy books.
And right back at ya, brother/pastor/pal. 8~)
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