One hundred and seventy years ago today marks the day that came to be known to many as “The Great Disappointment.”
William Miller was a well-known Baptist preacher and student of Bible prophecy. After years of research, he concluded that Christ would return sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. When that time period passed, further study convinced him and another preacher that the wrong Jewish calendar had been used and a new date was proposed, October 22, 1844.
The support for this prediction was compelling enough that up to 100,000 followers gathered in groups to await Christ’s return on that day. When midnight passed without Christ’s return, most of the followers gave up their hopes and left; some even gave up their faith.
Fast forward one hundred and forty years or so. Edgar C. Whisenant, a former NASA engineer and student of Bible prophecy predicted that the Rapture would occur sometime between September 11 and September 13, 1988. His books, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988” and “On Borrowed Time” were very popular and hundreds of thousands of them were published and distributed.
Whisenant was so convinced of his research that he was quoted as saying, “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong…” and “If… I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on [my predictions].”
Since many of my Christian friends were convinced of his compelling arguments and conclusion, I too read “88 Reasons.” While his research was flawed, at least many complacent Christians began to witness and give as never before!
When his prediction failed to come to pass, Whisenant wrote more books with revised predictions for the Rapture specifying dates in 1989, 1993, 1994, and even as late as 1997. Not surprisingly, his subsequent books received little attention.
Sadly, predictions like these are common. It’s been well documented that those who will not learn from history will be condemned to repeat it. Additionally, many well meaning Bible students over the years have made the error of focusing on certain scripture passages while ignoring or minimizing “the whole counsel of God.”
For instance, Jesus himself made it crystal clear in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but My Father only.” Nevertheless, in verses 32-35 Jesus also warns that we can know “the season” of His return! Therefore, His subsequent warning to “keep watch” for His return are especially relevant in light of the many Bible prophecies that continue to be fulfilled!
While the sincere predictions of Bible students like Miller and Whisenant never materialized, we would be remiss to miss another clear warning in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
What we can know for sure boils down to this; each passing day brings us one day closer to Christ’s return. Be ready!