The Rapture In October?—Updated

Date-Setters and Their Dilemmas

  By Timothy S. Morton

Date-Setters of the Past

Claiming to know the likely date of the rapture is not a new concept. Many believers in the past have conjured up usually complex formulas designed to pin down the day or even hour of the Lord's return for His saints. Obviously, hindsight proves them all to be failures. Probably one of the most notable date setters in the not too distant past was Baptist, William Miller. As Thomas Ice describes,

"Miller...took the 2300 days from Daniel 8:14 when "the holy place will be properly restored" and turned them into years. Miller's starting year was 457 B.C., the time when Nebuchadnezzar profaned the Temple in Jerusalem. When you add them up you arrive at the year 1843 as the time of Christ's second coming. But when that year came and went, like any other year, it was discovered that a year had been left out for the shift from B.C. to A.D., thus 1844 was the true year. However, it too came and went and Miller's scheme became known as the "Great Disappointment."   

Those who followed Miller later formed the "Seventh Day Adventist" denomination.

Another notable "seer" was Charles Taze Russell. Although he made some predictions for earlier dates [1874, 1878, 1881, 1910], 1914 was supposed to be the definitive year Christ was to return and "Armageddon" occur. Well, Christ didn't return then and instead World War 1 started. As many of you may know, Russell was founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society which later became the Jehovah's Witnesses. In spite of this failure the JW's have not given up on the prediction business. They officially predicted Christ would return in 1918, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1984, and 1994. History has shown their track record is impeccable. They have been consistently wrong without exception. 

Neither Miller or Russell believed in the Pre-tribulation rapture. Thus they were not predicting the rapture in itself but the date of the second advent or the coming of the Lord to earth.

More Recent Date-Setters  

Your author remembers when he first became a Christian in 1980 that prophecy was an amazing and exciting topic. Most new believers are enthralled with prophecy and as a result are somewhat gullible. They want to know all they can as fast as they can know it and sometimes they can be led down a vain or unprofitable path that will effectively sidetrack them from a balanced Christian life. He will sometimes tend to sacrifice what some consider "dull and mundane" doctrinal studies for flashy and exciting "biblical predictions" and date setting. Unfortunately, there are "Christian leaders" out there to encourage them in their [mis]adventures.

One of the most prominent and visible prophecy teachers is Jack Van Impe. I remember listening to Van Impe in the early 80s and some of his prophecy messages were mesmerizing. He would talk about the pre-trib rapture, tribulation, mark of the beast, millennium, new heaven and new earth, etc., and this was manna to the ears of a new believer. He seemed to have a good grasp of what the Bible said about the future. However, Van Impe also liked to set dates. He did not set specific days the Lord would return but general dates such as the year. I remember him saying in the mid 80s he thought Christ would come in the late 80s. In the late 80s he said the early 90s looked excellent. In the early 90s he specifically said 1996 looked like it would be the year, and on and on. Van Impe usually kept the rapture 2 or 3 years ahead until recently. Now he says it looks like the  second advent will be 2018 making the rapture occur around 2011. He gets this by saying a generation is 51 years and dates that from the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967.

Another date-setter who got even more press than Van Impe for a while was Edgar Whisenant. He wrote a book in 1988 called, "88 Reasons the Rapture is in 1988." He concocted 88 reasons why the rapture would occur during the Jewish feast of Rosh-Hashana which was September 11-13 that year. Whisenant was so confident his calculations were correct that it is reported he said, "If there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 88."  His confidence apparently affected others as well because Paul and Jan Crouch of the Trinity Broadcast Network swallowed it whole [no surprise]. "Instead of airing their nightly Praise the Lord television talk show, they ran videotapes of prerecorded shows dealing with the rapture. For non-Christians who might be watching, the revised programming included specific instructions on what to do in case Christian family members or friends disappeared and the world was thrust into the tribulation."

Whisenant sold over 4.5 million copies of his book, but when the time came and went, he began damage control. As another said, "when nothing happened by the end of September 13, Whisenant revised his prediction, suggesting the rapture would come at 10:55 AM on September 15. When that failed, he revised it to October 3." After that he admitted he made a "miscalculation" of one year and insisted the rapture would occur in 1989. He even wrote another book to "prove" it. However, the damage was done. Few believers wanted to take that ride again. Whisenant has since fizzled into obscurity. There have been many other rapture date setters of note: J. R. Church [ Hidden Prophecies in the Psalms], Harold Camping, and Peter Ruckman. I personally heard Peter Ruckman during the fall of 1988 in Mt. Airy, North Carolina give nearly an hour long message filled with reasons why the rapture would occur in May of 1989. It was a very interesting and powerful message. Ruckman made one stipulation throughout his message, though. He said his "best guess" is  it would occur in May "If our calender is right." That was his only variable. I went back to Mt. Airy the next October to hear his explanation. He basically said our calender "must not be right" and went on. Now Ruckman suggests the Lord has stopped "prophetic time" since the year 2000. One thing I learned from this is even the most seasoned and learned Bible teachers can be caught up in setting dates—and get them wrong. For a large list of date-setting through the ages click here.

The Next "Certain" Date

Recently I have began getting emails from people [along with all the junk I get] asking me about the new-fangled 14000 day generation and the rapture. One fellow in particular, Stuart Cobbs, who fancies himself a prophecy expert and contends his "gift from the Lord is an understanding of Bible prophesy" has flooded me with emails that supposedly prove the rapture must occur between October 3-5 of 2005. As usual with these fellows, he writes to ask me a question and when I answer it he then feels compelled to show me where I am wrong. Of a truth I can be wrong and am wrong on some things [if I knew what they were, though, I would change them. However, I know there are plenty of you out there who are willing to show me], but these fellows can't seem to get anyone to listen to them so they cruise the "net" looking for people to debate and "correct."

Just like most of the other formulas that prove the date of the rapture, Cobbs' idea is about as firm as a wet dishrag. He claims,

"The reason I believe Rosh-Hashana 2005 is the most scripturally grounded date for the Rapture of the Church is because of the seemingly incredible coincidence that Rosh-Hashana 2005 is exactly 14000 days from the recapture of Jerusalem on June 6, 1967. What is even more incredible is that there are two additional 14000 day generations mentioned in the Bible. It is fastinating that the two most important generations in the history of the Jewish people were the Wilderness generation and the generation which rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Both of these generations were exactly 14000 days. It truly appears to me that God is showing us something with the 14000 day timelines which all Christians should understand!"

Cobb claims the Lord has established a "generation" as 14000 days. He goes into the Old Testament and "proves" to himself at least that from the time the Israelites crossed the Red Sea to the time Joshua crossed the Jordon River was exactly 14000 days. From this contention he arrives at the following conclusions: 

69 weeks of years x 7 = 483 years = 173880 days
March 15, 445BC [decree to rebuild Jerusalem]  plus 173880 days is April 6, 32 AD Palm Sunday
Jesus rides into Jerusalem April 6, 32 AD Palm Sunday

Destruction of temple August 5, 70 AD
Time interval is 14000 days or 2000 weeks.
14000 days or 38.8 Jewish ( 360 days/yr)

Israel recaptures Jerusalem on June 6, 1967
to Rosh Hashanah October 5, 2005
Time interval is 14000 days or 2000 weeks.
14000 days or 38.8 Jewish ( 360 days/yr)

That is, since Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the destruction of Jerusalem is supposedly 14000 days, and from Israel's recapture of Jerusalem in 1967 to Rosh Hashana 2005 happens to be 14000 days, this must be a proof of the rapture. Actually it only proves that a person can manufacture dates to say pretty much whatever he wants.

The Formula Analyzed

My reply to this email was, I do not place much confidence in the various timelines and dates that some of the brethren dwell on. There are too many variables. It is easy to adjust the systems to correspond with nearly any preconceived date or time period. We are likely in the "times and seasons," but we don't know the "day or the hour." And that's a fact. I don't waste time trying to determine something that cannot be absolutely determined. Why major in a minor that can't be resolved?

As I suspected my answer to his system was not sufficient for such a gifted scholar, and he replied ridiculing me. He implied I was "asleep" to the truth and too "scared" to reveal it. That is nothing new. Many of the brethren resort to ridicule and mockery when somebody pulls the pacifier out of their mouth. All they want to do is debate and argue about things that cannot be known or changed. I wrote him back with two basic Scriptural challenges. I asked, where in the Bible does it say a believer should seek to find the date of the rapture, and where is there any precedent in the Bible of anyone doing so? As usual he refused to answer them. These fellows seldom to let scriptural principals get in their way of finding "the truth."

A brief look at the 14,000 day generation formula reveals many potential variables and problems.

Over and over again the Bible says the time the Israelites wandered in the wilderness was 40 years, not 14000 days [Ex. 16:35; Num 14:33-34, 32:23; Deut. 2:7; Josh. 5:6; Acts 7:36, 42; etc.].

The Danger of Date Setting

There are several detrimental consequences to setting a date for the rapture. Among them are,

It Turns Believers From Faith to Sight

The Bible Believers Attitude Toward The Rapture

Bible Believers have always rightly contended that the rapture was imminent. Prophetically nothing else must occur before the Lord comes FOR His saints. This position is based on verses like the following,

The above passages make it clear: there are no signs the Church must wait for before the Lord's return for His saints in the rapture........ Ah,...... wait a minute,...... I do know of one—no, three! They are found in 1 Thes. 4:16, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a SHOUT, with the VOICE of the archangel, and with the TRUMP of God: and the dead in Christ SHALL RISE first:"

Before the rapture there will be a resurrection and before the resurrection there will be a shout and a blast from a trumpet. All of this will likely be less than 30 seconds. So, dear Christian, when you hear a shout that is capable of raising the dead, a trumpet sound like you have never heard before, and see bodies of long dead saints coming from the earth and racing to met with Christ in the sky, then you can determine the date of the rapture with the utmost certainty—while you are racing up to heaven right behind them!