The End Is Always Near

(A handout from Prof. Dale Allison, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, ca. 2004; edited by Kang Na, 2007)

 

Ignatius (ca. 108)

“These are the last times. Therefore let us be reverent, let us fear the patience of God, lest it become a judgment against us.” (Ignatius, Ephesians 11.1)

 

Barnabus (ca. 130)

“The day is near when everything will perish with the evil one, ‘The Lord, and his reward, is near.’” (Barnabas 21.3)

 

“The last stumbling block is at hand …. For the Master has cut short the times and the days for this reason, that his beloved might make haste and come into his inheritance. And so also speaks the prophet: ‘Ten kingdoms will reign over the earth, and after them a little king will arise, who will subdue three of the kings with a single blow’ (Dan 7.24). Similarly Daniel says, concerning the same one: ‘And I saw the fourth beast, wicked and powerful and more dangerous than all the beasts of the earth, and how ten horns sprang up from it, and from these a little offshoot of a horn, and how it subdued three of the large horns with a single blow’ (Dan 7.7–8). You ought, therefore, to understand …. Consequently, let us be on guard in these last days.” (Barnabas 4.3–9)

 

Justin Martyr (114?–65)

[Justin is speaking to Trypho, a Jew]: “So short a time is left you in which to become proselytes. If Christ’s coming shall have anticipated you, in vain you will repent, in vain you will weep, for He will not hear you.” (Trypho, 28)

 

“The times [are] now running on to their consummation; and he whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for a time, and times, and a half, is even already at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High. But you [Trypho], being ignorant of how long he will have dominion, hold another opinion. For you interpret the ‘time’ as being a hundred years. But if this is so, the man of sin must, at the shortest, reign three hundred and fifty years.” (Trypho, 32)

 

Montanus (last half of the second century ad)

A man named Montanus declared himself to be the “Spirit of Truth,” the personification of the Holy Spirit, mentioned in the Gospel of John, who was to reveal all truth. Montanus quickly gathered followers, including a pair of far-seeing “prophetesses,” who claimed to have visions and ecstatic experiences supposedly from God. They began to spread what they called “The Third Testament,” a series of revelations which foretold of the soon-coming Kingdom of God and “The New Jerusalem,” which was about to descend from heaven to earth (in modern-day Turkey). Word spread, and all were urged to come to Phrygia to await the Second Coming. The movement divided Christians into two camps, even after the New Jerusalem didn’t appear. Whole communities were fragmented, and continuous discord resulted. Finally, in AD 431, the Council of Ephesus condemned Chiliasm, or belief in the Millennium, as a dangerous superstition, and Montanus was declared to be a heretic. Despite the failure of the prediction, the cult survived several centuries until it was ordered exterminated by Pope Leo I. (Alnor, Soothsayers of the Second Advent, 54)

 

Cyprian (200?–58)

“Whatsoever things were predicted are fulfilled; and as the end of the world is approaching, they have come for the probation as well of the men as of the times. (Cyprian, Treatise I, 16)

 

“The world has now grown old.… The whole world itself is already in process of failing, and in its end.… The day of judgment is now drawing nigh.” (Cyprian, Treatise V, 3–5)

 

Lactantius Firmianus (260?–340?)

“The fall and ruin of the world will soon take place.” (Friedrich, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, The End of the World, 27)

 

Ambrose (340?–97)

“The gospel is preached that the world may be destroyed; for the preaching of the gospel has gone out into the whole world, and therefore we see the end of the world approaching.” (Daniel Taylor, The Reign of Christ on Earth, 49)

 

St. Martin, Bishop of Tours (ca. 300)

“Non est dubium, quin antichristus.… There is no doubt that the Antichrist has already been born. Firmly established already in his early years, he will, after reaching maturity, achieve supreme power.” (Friedrich, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, The End of the World, 27)

 

St. Jerome (ca. 400)

“He which held or withheld is removed out of the way; is not Antichrist at hand?” (T. F. Glasson, The Second Advent, 45)

 

410

When Rome was sacked, some proclaimed, Augustine reports some said: “Behold, from Adam all the years have passed, and behold, the 6,000 years are completed.” This alludes to the Great Week theory, held by many, that world would last 6,000 years, to be followed by a thousand years of peace under the earthly reign of Christ.

 

ca. 450

At the mid-fifth century, Vandal invasions recalled calculations that the world would end 6000 years after Creation and spurred new calculations to show that the name of the Vandal king Genseric represented 666: the number of the Beast. (Weber, Apocalypses, 34)

 

Gregory the Great, the First (became pope 590)

“Of all the signs described by our Lord as presaging the end of the world, some we see already accomplished; the others we dread as close upon us. For we now see that nation rises against nation, and that they press and weigh upon the land in our own times as never before in the annals of the past. Earthquakes overwhelm countless cities, as we often year from other parts of the world. Pestilence we endure without interruption. It is true that as yet we do not behold signs in the sun and moon and stars; but that these are not far off we may infer from the changes in the atmosphere.” (Glasson, Second Advent, 45)

 

“Indeed among the clergy and people of this city there has been such an invasion of feverous sicknesses that hardly any freeman, hardly any slave, remains fit for any office ministry. Moreover, from the neighbouring cities we have news daily of havocs and of mortality. Then, how Africa is being wasted by mortality and sickness I believe that you know more accurately than we do, insomuch as you are nearer to it. But of the East those who come from thence report still more grievous desolations. In the midst of all these things, therefore, since you perceive that there is a general smiting as the end of the world draws near, you ought not to be too much afflicted for your own troubles.” (Post-Nicene Fathers, 13:37)

 

Beatus, Abbot of Liebana (793)

AD 793 Elipand, Bishop of Toledo, accused Beatus, Abbot of Liebana, of having prophesied the end of the world. Beatus made the prediction on Easter Eve, predicting the end of the world that very night, sparking a riot. Not learning anything from the riot he started in 793, he wrote in his Commentary on the Apocalypse that the world would end in the year 800 at the latest. (Weber, Apocalypses, 49–50)

 

Adso of Montier-en-Der (ca. 900)

Adso, a Frankish emperor of Rome, believed that, when he went to Jerusalem and put off his sceptre and crown at the Mount of Olives, this would be the end and consummation of the Christian empire and the beginning of the reign of Antichrist.

 

970

Lotharingian computists foresaw the End on Friday, March 25, 970, when the Annunciation and Good Friday fell on the same day. They believed that it was on this day that Adam was created, Isaac was sacrificed, the Red Sea was parted, Jesus was conceived, and Jesus was crucified.

 

992

A rumour that the end would come when the feast of the Annunciation coincided with Good Friday. This happened in 992, when Easter fell on March 22, and eager calculators established that the world would end before three years had passed. (Weber, Apocalypses, 50–51)

 

1033

When the world did not end in 1000, the same Christian authorities claimed they had forgotten to add in the length of Jesus’ life and revised the prediction to 1033. The writings of the Burgundian monk Radulfus Glaber described a rash of mass hysterias during the period from 1000–33.

 

Guibert of Nagent (1064–1125)

Guibert informed would-be crusaders that they should seize Jerusalem as a necessary prelude to its eventual capture by Antichrist. “The end of the world is already near!” he explained.

 

1186

Certain prophecies, during the time of the Third Crusade, began circulating in 1184, telling of a “new world order.” These were believed to have been written by astrologers in Spain, and one of them, the “Letter of Toledo,” appearing in 1186, urged everyone to flee to caves and other remote places, because the world was soon to be devastated by terrible storms, famine, earthquakes, and more. Only a few true believers would be spared. (Alnor, Soothsayers, 55)

 

Joachim of Flores (c. 1145–1202)

Joachim prophesied, when the world was supposed to pass through the reign of Antichrist and enter the Age of the Holy Spirit. Joachim was an Italian mystic theologian who wrote, in his Expositio in Apocalypsia, that history was to be divided into three ages: the Age of the Law (the Father), the Age of the Gospel (the Son), and the final Age of the Spirit. He had indicated at the end of the 12th Century that the Antichrist was already born in Rome. (Pate and Hainers, Doomsday Delusions, 87)

 

1260

A Dominican monk named Brother Arnold gained a following when he wrote that the end was about to take place. According to his scenario, he would call upon Christ, in the name of the poor, to judge the Church leaders, including the Pope. Christ would then appear in judgment, revealing the Pope to be the heralded Antichrist. (Alnor, Soothsayers, 56)

 

1297

Writing in 1297, the friar Petrus Olivi predicted Antichrist’s coming between 1300 and 1340, after which the world would enter the Age of the Holy Spirit, which itself would end around the year 2000 with Gog and the Last Judgement. (Weber, Apocalypses, 54)

 

Jean de Roquetaillade (14th cent.)

A Frenchman, Jean de Roquetaillade, published a guide to the tribulation. Imprisoned for most of his adult life, he predicted Antichrist in 1366, to be followed in 1369 or 1370 by a millennial Sabbath. Jerusalem, under a Jewish king, would become the center of the world. (Weber, Apocalypses, 55)

 

Angolo di Tura (1348)

Angolo, called “the Fat,” wrote during the Black Death: “And I … buried my five children with my own hands, and so did many others likewise .… And nobody wept no matter what his loss because almost everyone expected death.… People said and believed, ‘This is the end of the world.’” (Friedrich, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, End of the World, 115)

 

1349

The group known as the Flagellants claimed that their movement would last thirty-three and a half years and culminate in the Second Coming. They persuaded many people that they were right. One chronicle states: “Many persons, and even young children, were soon bidding farewell to the world, some with prayers, others with praises on their lips.”

(Friedrich, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, End of the World, 125–29)

 

John Wycliffe (1320–84)

“The Last Age of the Church” is the title of a tract which was never printed and exists today in manuscript in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. Wycliffe wrote this tract during a period of widespread earthquakes and ravaging pestilences, which, according to some records, killed one-third of the population of Europe. He thus believed that these terrible events were indeed signs of the end of the world and that the fourteenth century would usher in the advent. (Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, 3:59)

 

“The great day of the Lord is nigh, and cometh fast, and wonders approach quickly; it will not long tarry.” (Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, 2:173, 175.)

 

1420

Martinek Hauska, near Prague, led a following of priests to announce the Second Coming. They warned everyone to flee to the mountains because between February 1 and February 14, 1420, God would destroy every town with Holy Fire, thus beginning the Millennium. Hauska’s band then went on a rampage to “purify the earth,” ridding the world of false clergy. They occupied an abandoned fortress which was named Tabor and defied the religious powers of the day, ultimately succumbing to the Bohemians in 1452. (Alnor, Soothsayers, 56)

 

Christopher Columbus (1451–1506)

“The greatest part of the prophecies and (of) the Holy Scriptures is already finished.... I said above that much remained for the completion of the prophecies, and I say that there are great things in the world, and I say that the sign is that Our Lord is hastening them; the preaching of this gospel in so many lands, in recent times, tells it to me.” (Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, 2:175)

 

1500

The Italian artist Botticelli captioned his painting, “The Mystical Nativity,” with a message warning that the end of the world would occur within three years, based on the predictions of Girolamo Savonarola.

 

1520

Thomas Muntzer, a self-appointed prophet in Germany, made predictions based upon the book of Daniel and called for the overthrow by the peasantry of those in power. “The time of the harvest is at hand,” he declared. Muntzer proclaimed that the last days had come, and that whoever resisted his preaching would be “slain by the Turks when they come next year.” He was executed in 1525, after leading a peasant army in rebellion. (Friedrich, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, End of the World, 153–58)

 

1526

Anabaptists in St. Gallen, Switzerland, excited by various leaders and events, began running through the streets and shouting that the Last Day would arrive in exactly one week. Many were baptized, stopped work, abandoned their homes and set off into the hills, singing and praying in expectant fervor. After a week had passed with no sign of their returning Lord, they returned to their homes. (Friedrich, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, End of the World, 145–53)

 

1528

Hans Romer insisted that Christ was coming within the year, so he organized his own rebellion to attack the city of Erfurt on New Year’s Day of 1528. He was betrayed, however, and arrested. (Friedrich, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, End of the World, 159)

 

1533

Melchior Hoffman (1498?–1543/4) was a Swabian furrier by trade. He converted to Lutheranism in 1522 and became a wandering preacher. In 1526 Hoffman published a detailed pamphlet on the twelfth chapter of Daniel which proclaimed that the world would end in seven years, at Easter 1533. The seven year period was to be divided into two parts. The first part would see the appearance of Elijah and Enoch, who would overthrow the Pope. They would, however, be martyred and all the saints would then be persecuted. After forty-two months of tribulation, (Friedrich, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, End of the World, 160–62)

 

1532

Michael Stiefel, mathematician and follower of Luther, published Apocalypse on the Apocalypse: A Little Book of Arithmetic about the Antichrist. This computed the Day of Judgement for 8 AM on October 9, 1533. (Weber, Apocalypses, 91–92)

 

Martin Luther (1483–1546)

“Printing is the latest and greatest gift, by which God enables us to advance the things of the Gospel. It is the last bright flame, manifesting itself just previous to the extinction of the world. Thanks be to God, it came before the last day came.” (Michelet, Life of Luther, 291)

 

“I know more than thou [Melanchthon] dost about the destiny of our world; that destiny is destruction; it is inevitably so—seeing how triumphantly the devil walks about, and how mankind grow daily worse and worse. There is one consolation, that the day of judgment is quite close at hand. The Word of God has become a wearisome thing to man, a thing viewed with disgust. . . . Nothing remains but to pray: ‘thy will be done.’ … All around me I observe an unconquerable cupidity prevalent; this another of the signs which convince me that the last day is at hand; it seems as though the world in its old age, its last paroxysm, was growing delirious, as sometimes happens to dying people.” (Michelet, Life of Luther, 344)

 

“This world will not last any more, if God wills it, than another hundred years”; “This world cannot stand much longer, perhaps a hundred years at the outside” (Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, 2:278)

 

“It often occurs to me forcibly that the last day will break before we can completely turn the Holy Scripture into German.... We have no more temporal things to expect. All is done and fulfilled.” (J. Barton Payne, The Imminent Appearing of Christ, 23)

 

Melanchthon (1497–1560)

In the British Museum is a copy of the first edition of Luther’s German Bible, in two volumes. The following words are written upon the third page of the fly leaf of the second volume, in the handwriting of Melanchthon: “Written in the year 1557, after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary. Year from the creation of the world, 5519. From this number we may be assured that this aged world is not far from its end.” (Taylor, 160)

 

1594

John Napier published A Plaine Discoverie of the Whole Revelation of St. John, in which he predicted the Last Judgement either for 1688, according to Revelation, or 1700, according to Daniel. (Weber, Apocalypses, 92)

 

1600

The Fifth Monarchy Men, an extreme Puritan sect in England, believed that the time of the monarchy that would succeed the Biblical Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman monarchies was at hand. During this time Christ would appear to reign on earth with his saints for 1000 years. (Encyclopaedia Britannica (1957), 9:227)

 

Samuel Rutherford (1600–61)

Rutherford, a Presbyterian divine, wrote: “The day is near the dawning…. Christ will be on us in haste.… Watch but a little and, ere long, the skies shall rend … and Jesus will come in the clouds.… The day of the Lord is near at hand.” (Silver, A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel, 175)

 

Richard Baxter (1651–91)

“We daily behold the fore-runners of his coming foretold by himself. We see the fig tree putteth forth leaves, and therefore know that summer is nigh. Though the riotous would say my Lord delayeth his coming, yet the saints lift up their heads, for their redemption draweth nigh. Alas! fellow Christians, what should we do if our Lord should not return?” (Richard Baxter, The Saint’s Everlasting Rest, 42)

 

1666

When, in 1666, the Russian church council anathematized the Rascolniks (the so-called “Old Believers” who rejected the liturgical reforms of the Patriarch Nikon, 1605–81), these latter declared that the reign of antichrist had begun. Several popular theologians then took the next step: after three-and-one-half years—this being the prophesied duration of antichrist’s rule—the world would come to its end. (Wilson D. Wallis, Messiahs: Their Role in Civilization, 177–78)

 

1680

The supposed founder of Rosicrucianism, Christian Knorr von Rosenroth, told in his Proper Exposition of the Aspects of the Book of Revelation of the fall of the idolatrous Roman church and the establishement of Christ’s Millennium in 1860. (Weber, Apocalypses, 122)

 

1701

The prophetic writer Mory Cary, writing in 1647, expected the conversion of the Jews in 1656 and the Millennium in 1701.

 

John Wesley (1703–1791)

“We are very shortly to expect, one after another, the calamities occasioned by the second beast, the harvest and the vintage; the pouring out of the vials, the judgment of Babylon, the last raging of the beast and his destruction, the imprisonment of Satan. How great things there! And how short the time! … This fulfillment [Satan’s building] approaches nearer and nearer, and contains things of the utmost importance, the knowledge of which becomes every day more distinct and easy.” (John Wesley, Notes on the New Testament, 438.)

 

1799

Many thought that Napoleon was the Destroyer, the Antichrist, so that the end was at hand. A year later, the Rev Edward Bishop Elliot, fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, provided a massive work in four volumes, wherein he stated that the French Revolution had been the “pouring out of the 1st vial (of Revelation).” There was to be a short time, he warned, before the end of all things. (Weber, Apocalypses, 114–15; Jarrett, The Sleep of Reason, 11)

 

1840

Dr. John Cumming, eloquent preacher of apocalypse, drew audiences of many thousands to his lectures. He warned that the seventh and final vial of God’s wrath was now being poured out. “We are about to enter on the Last Woe ... and to hear the nearly-spent reverberations of the Last Trumpet.” (Jarrett, The Sleep of Reason, 84)

 

William Miller in the 19th century

When Jesus did not come back at the expected date, 2 October 1844, some Millerites (a minority) proceeded to maintain that the second coming had in fact occurred—but spiritually, in heaven, not on earth. For these people, 2 October 1844 became the date on which Jesus entered his heavenly sanctuary and inaugurated a new phase of salvation history. The Seventh-day Adventists, an off-shoot of the Millerites, still believe this.

 

1881

A prophecy in rhyme by Mother Shipton: “The world to an end shall come, in Eighteen hundred and eighty one.” (The Sleep of Reason, 99)

 

Ellen White (1827–1915)

“Now the time is almost finished, and what we have been years learning, they [new converts] will have to learn in a few months.” (Early Writings, 67)

 

1900

Paris priest Pierre Lacheze published several apocalyptic works and predicted the restoration of the Jerusalem temple for 1892 and Doomsday in 1900. (Weber, Apocalypses, 136)

 

1900

Philosopher Vladimir Solovyev, eminent Russian theologian, foretold in his work, War, Progress, and the End of History, of a war with the Japanese in which the Japanese would win, conquering much of the world, but eventually being driven back by the Europeans. Then there would arise a brilliant writer and thinker who would unite the world and decree everlasting peace, ultimately summoning all religious leaders of the world, promising them everything they wanted if they would bow down and accept his sovereignty. The Jews would accept him as the Messiah, until they learned that he is not a Jew. Then would begin the revolt that would lead to the final battle north of Jerusalem, as well as the eruption of a volcano from the bottom of the Dead Sea. Said Solovyev: “The approaching end of the world strikes me like some obvious but quite subtle scent—just as a traveler nearing the sea feels the sea breeze before he sees the sea.” (Friedrich, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, The End of the World, 221–27)

 

1918

Clarence Larkin, a dispensationalist, wrote: “At no time in the history of the Christian Church have the conditions necessary to the Lord’s return been so completely fulfilled as at the present time, therefore his coming is imminent, and will not probably be long delayed.… If the Millennium is to be ushered in in ad 2000, then the ‘Rapture’ must take place at least 7 years before that.… It may have been 4075 years, instead of 4004 (as generally given) from Adam to Christ. In that case we are living in the year 5993 from the creation of Adam, or on the eve of the Rapture. (Clarence Larkin, Dispensational Truth)

 

Kenneth Hagin (1950)

“America is receiving her last call. Some nations have already received their last call and never will receive another.… The time that is left is comparable to the last seven days of Noah’s time. Warn this generation, as Noah did his generation, for judgment is about to fall.… This is the last revival.… The time of the end of all things is at hand.” (Kenneth Hagin, I Believe in Visions, 49)

 

1988

Edgar C. Whisenant wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.

 

Father Gobi (1990)

“In this period of ten years (beginning in 1988) there will come to completion the time of the great tribulation, which has been foretold to you in Holy Scripture, before the second coming of Jesus.” (Flynn, The Thunder of Justice, 12)

 

1992

“Rapture, October 28, 1992, Jesus is coming in the Air.” A full page add in the October 20, 1991, issue of USA Today, placed by followers of the Hyoo-go (Rapture) movement, a loose collection of Korean “end-times” sects.

 

1994

Harold Camping, a radio evangelist, wrote a book entitled “1994?” In it, Camping says, “if this study is accurate, and I believe with all my heart that it is, there will be no extensions of time. There will be no time for second guessing. When September 6, 1994, arrives, no one else can be saved, the end has come.” Thousands believed Camping’s distorted biblical teachings, but again, the end did not come as Camping had wished. (Oropeza, 99 Reasons Why No One Knows When Christ Will Return, 12, 48–50)

 

1997

Mary Stewart Relfe wrote in 1983 that she had been praying to “know the year” of the Lord’s coming, and that subsequently she received detailed “divine revelations” from God. She released a chart showing World War III beginning in 1989, the Great Tribulation starting in 1990, and that Jesus Christ will come back in 1997, just after Armaggeddon.” (Alnor, Soothsayers, 35)

 

1998

Larry Wilson, a former Seventh-day Adventist pastor, predicted four massive global earthquakes beginning around 1994 and ending in 1998 with the Second Coming. (Oropeza, 99 Reasons Why No One Knows When Christ Will Return, 77)