Comments from Mark and Don on the End-Times

From: Mark T.
Sent: Monday, April 22, 2002 7:02 AM
Subject: Your article on Apocalypticism in History

Hello. Your article perhaps left out some important information.

Fundamentalist Christians take a hard line on setting dates for the second advent of Christ. Failed date-setters are labeled as “false prophets.” What are the implications of these accusations? Are the fundamentalist Christians consistent in their position?

Martin Luther predicted Jesus would return in 300 years from his time. This would have placed the return of Christ between 1830 and 1850.[i] Like many of his contemporaries in the latter 1700s, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination, predicted 1836 for the date of the second advent.[ii] Certainly, few would consider Luther or Wesley false prophets.

The 1800s witnessed an epidemic of “Millennial Fever” and a rash of date setting for Christ’s return. Joseph Wolff, the world renowned missionary, preached 1847 as the date of “the coming glory and personal reign of Jesus Christ . . .” In 1836 Wolff was invited to present his second advent message before the United States Congress and the legislatures of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.[iii]

No born again Christian would dare call Wolff, a highly esteemed fundamentalist, a false prophet. In fact many other fundamentalist ministers were setting dates for the end of the world.[iv]

In the early 1800s one man, William Miller, was singled out for ridicule for setting a date (1844) which failed to be the time of the Lord’s return.

Why was this so, especially when he appeared on the scene when many others had used the same prophetic reasoning to pinpoint dates which failed to be the beginning of the second advent?

Miller was an evangelist who, unfortunately, used 1844 as the date for the end of the world to scare thousands to convert or else be damned eternally. It’s not that Joseph Wolff and others didn’t try the same strategy.

What then was the difference? Miller was a farmer who became a preacher. The others were ordained ministers with impeccable fundamentalist credentials. Like Miller, their dates failed, but only farmer Miller was labeled a false prophet.

Twenty Century Fundamentalists

Fundamentalists of the 20th century look with disdain at the prophetic struggles of their 19th century brethren. Yet hasn’t the 20th century been just as full of failed prophetic predictions? What has been the record of those who teach the seven years of tribulation to bring the end of the world?

Basic to their concept is the “imminent coming” of Jesus. They claim that ever since Jesus’ ascension, no prophetic event had to happen before his return—for centuries Jesus could have returned on any day. In the words of John F. Walvoord, President of Dallas Theological seminary[v] – “the Lord could come at any moment and there are no necessary intervening events.”

The obvious inconsistency is the seven years of tribulation which they teach must precede Jesus’ return. They cover their inconsistency here by claiming Jesus will secretly return for a moment to rapture his saints. This they believe will be followed by seven years of tribulation, then “every eye shall see him” at his visible return.

Still this is a false prediction. Actually, back in the mid 1800s, John Darby sold the seven year tribulation concept to some fundamentalists. During the balance of the 1800s up until 1948 many fundamentalists preached that Jesus could return any day. On May 14, 1948, a prophetic miracle happened – the rebirth of the State of Israel. This proved that a prophetic event did occur before their concept of the second advent. Hal Lindsey, the student of Walvoord, unwittingly destroyed the “imminent coming” theory when he admitted[vi] –

“The one event which many Bible students in the past overlooked was this paramount prophetic sign: Israel had to be a nation again in the land of its forefathers.”

If they believed their “imminent coming, no prophetic sign had to occur” theory was true, then these fundamentalists were wrong all the years from 1830 to 1948 in saying Jesus could return any day. Israel restored proved their “imminent coming” theory was a failed prediction.

Literally tens of thousands of fundamentalist clergy and laity before 1948 declared from the pulpit or in one-on-one witnessing that Jesus could return any day. According to their flawed “imminent coming” theory, it was not possible that any prophetic occurrence would precede the second coming. However, this theory was proved to be untrue when Israel was reborn as a nation. By their own definition, these fundamentalists unwittingly fell into the category of false prophets.

After 1948, Hal Lindsey and many fundamentalists, on the basis of Israel and the generation of Luke 21:29-31, predicted that Jesus would return within 40 years of 1948.[vii] Well, 1988 came and passed without the secret return of Jesus to rapture the church—no large groups of Christians were reported as missing then or since, another failed prediction of the seven-year tribulationists.

Excited over the new state of Israel, Billy Graham in 1950 told a rally in Los Angeles, ”Two years and its all going to be over.”8 What evangelical will call Billy Graham a false prophet?

Many others set the date of 1988 for reasons different than the 40-year generation.9 When their prediction failed, the date of 1989 was put forward for the return of Jesus. This, too failed. Yet none of their seven-year tribulationist brethren accused them of being false prophets.

For several years before 1994, Harold Camping of Family Radio fame vigorously predicted on radio and by printed page the return of Jesus in 1994. This was another failed date among the seven-year tribulationists, and, of course, fundamentalists would not call Camping a false prophet. Even CHRISTIANITY TODAY, the brain child of Billy Graham and the voice of evangelicals, found the need to exonerate Camping.

Both 19th century and 20th century fundamentalists have had their share of failed predictions. But we should view kindly their attempts to have the Lord Jesus “come quickly.” Unfortunately, fundamentalists fail to be kindly disposed towards those of a different doctrinal view. For example, gross misrepresentations have been made about Charles Taze Russell and his prophetic teachings. 2

Pastor Charles Taze Russell

In his day Pastor Russell was a well known Bible Student and prophetic expositor. Just how popular was Pastor Russell? THE OVERLAND MONTHLY, a noted periodical of that time, reported in the February 1908 issue, that STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES by Charles Taze Russell, was one of the world’s three most circulated works surpassed only by the BIBLE and the CHINESE ALMANAC.

The CONTINENT, a publication whose editor often opposed Pastor Russell, once published the following significant statement concerning him:

“His writings are said to have a greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America.”10

George Swetnam, the official historian for the Pittsburgh Bicentennial in 1958-1959 wrote:

“Pastor Russell traveled constantly, covering more than a million miles, delivering more than 30,000 sermons and lectures and talks, writing books totaling over 50,000 pages, which have reached a circulation of more than 20,000,000 copies . . . his influence has easily been the widest of any man who ever lived in the city, (Pittsburgh) not even excepting Andrew Carnegie.”11

The LONDON GRAPHIC (April 8, 1911) described Pastor Russell as follows:

“The advent of Pastor Russell brings to this city and country a man of international reputation, who is known almost as well in Great Britain as he is in America . . . who is reputed to be the most popular preacher in America . . .”

And, finally, the CHRISTIAN GLOBE (May 5, 1910) of London, states:

“Since the days of Henry Ward Beecher and Dr. Talmage, no preacher has occupied so prominent a position in the United States as Pastor Russell of Brooklyn tabernacle holds today.” Clergy Opposition

Why do some ministers today use the same old worn out vilifications that “doom and gloom” ministers in Russell’s day concocted in desperation? Sheer jealousy! The people clamored to hear Russell and demanded that the newspapers carry his sermons.

His “opposition” lamented that Pastor Russell’s writings had a “greater newspaper circulation every week . . . than the combined circulation of all the priests and preachers of North America.” Why? Because Pastor Russell’s message gave hope in contrast to those “doomsday preachers.”

The fundamentalist position has long been that every Jew, Hindu, Moslem, etc., and even any Christian who does not accept their particular brand of Christianity before death is damned to an eternity of torment. These preachers of “doom” both in Russell’s day and now hold in contempt the Gospel of love taught by Pastor Russell and the Bible Student movement he founded.

Calvinists especially cringed under the heat of this sunlight of this love. No wonder—they taught that the vast majority were eternally damned before they were even born. Unable to meet Russell’s scriptural logic, many resorted to personal attacks on him. All these attacks have been refuted by the facts of the case. Included among these untrue and disproved accusations is that Pastor Russell was a false prophet.

Contrary to misrepresentation, Pastor Russell never taught the Lord would return in 1914. Jehovah’s Witnesses assert the Lord returned invisibly in 1914. Pastor Russell was not a Jehovah’s Witness. Never claiming to be an originator of truth but a compiler, Pastor Russell was convinced of the scriptural validity of 1914 as a prophetic date from the writings of several Bible expositors.

Certain that the year 1914 would mark the end of the “Times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24), Russell between 1876 and 1914 searched the scriptures to fine tune the relationship between the end of “Gentile Times” and the “time of trouble” that would terminate the “present evil world.” Pastor Russell was not a prophet of doom. He taught a gradual destruction of our “world” or “social order” – a destruction of systems and institutions, but not of people. (Zephaniah 3:8-9, Psalm 46:6-10, Haggai 2:7)

This destruction would be accomplished through war, revolution, and eventually anarchy. Far from being a doomsday prophet, Pastor Russell was a teacher of the good news (gospel) of the kingdom. After the symbolic “earth” (social order) of Zephaniah’s prophecy is destroyed, the people are shown as remaining. “For then I will turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the Lord with one consent.” By contrast, Fundamentalists are doomsdayers. They believe the overwhelming majority of humankind will be doomed eternally at Christ’s return.

By 1904, Russell realized the “time of trouble” would extend beyond 1914.12 He began to realize that its processes – war, revolution, and anarchy could cover a period of time after 1914.

How long? Although he favored a shorter period of destruction he at times cautioned the “time of trouble” could extend for many years. In 1909 – 5 years before 1914 – Pastor Russell wrote “ ...our faith and hope would be equally clear and logical whether this age ends in October 1914, or a century later...”13

In no way can Pastor Russell’s teachings on 1914 be compared with the failed dates of John Wesley, Joseph Wolff, William Miller, Hal Lindsey, Collin Deal, or Harold Camping. Years before 1914 he taught that the termination (eviction) of the Gentile nations and their right to rule would begin with the ending of the “Times of the Gentiles” in 1914. He did not set an absolute date for the completion of the destruction process after 1914.

What Happened in 1914?

So what did happen in 1914? Is there any evidence to support or deny the position of Pastor Russell? The outbreak of an unprecedented world war caused the following reaction from the publisher of a noted periodical. The August 30, 1914, issue of THE WORLD MAGAZINE in a feature article about Bible Student predictions reported:

The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For 25 years Bible Students have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. The Bible speaks of a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” This prophecy of Daniel Bible Students identify as the “Day of Wrath,” the “Time of the Lord,” and the so-called “End of the World,” references which are plentiful in the Scriptures.

Historians have much to say about that eventful year 1914. The following is a part of the historical record.

Edmond Taylor while quoting Arnold Toynbee said: “Looking back from the vantage point of the present we see that the outbreak of World War I ushered in a twentieth-century “Time of Troubles” ... from which our civilization has by no means yet emerged.

Directly or indirectly all the convulsions of the last half century stem back to 1914: the two World Wars, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise and fall of Hitler, the continuing turmoil in the Far and Near East, the power-struggle between the Communist world and our own. More than 23,000,000 deaths can be traced to one or the other of these upheavals.”14

Britannica Great Books, THE GREAT IDEAS TODAY: “A world mesmerized by Science and progress mocked the mysticism of religious sects which had long predicted that the world would end in the year 1914; fifty years later the world isn’t so sure that it didn’t end in 1914.”15

OXFORD HISTORIAN AND BIOGRAPHER: “If ever there was a year that marked the end of an era and the beginning of another, it was 1914. That year brought to an end the old world with its sense of security and began a modern age whose chief characteristic is insecurity on a daily basis.”16

1914 is clearly marked by unbiased historians as the ending of a world. The convulsions since are at once the processes of its disintegration and the birth pains of a new world. Britannica editors, as noted, observed that a religious group (actually known as Bible Students) predicted 1914 would mark the ending of a world in just this manner.

The list of writers describing the unprecedented destructive forces unleashed in 1914 is phenomenal and more continue to add their observations to this day. The following are a small additional sampling:

“It is indeed the year 1914 rather than that of Hiroshima which marks the turning point in our time.” – Rene Albrecht-Carrie, THE SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY, July 1951.

“Ever since 1914, everybody conscious of trends in the world has been deeply troubled by what has seemed like a fated and pre-determined march toward ever greater disaster. Many serious people have come to feel that nothing can be done to avert the plunge towards ruin. They see the human race, like the hero of a Greek tragedy, driven on by angry gods and no longer the master of fate.” – Bertrand Russell, New York TIMES MAGAZINE, September 27, 1953.

“The modern era . . . began in 1914, and no one knows when or how it will end . . . It could end in mass annihilation.” – Editorial, THE SEATTLE TIMES, January 1, 1959.

“In 1914 the world, as it was known and accepted then, came to an end.” – James Cameron, 1914, published in 1959.

“The First World War was one of the great convulsions of history.” – Barbara Tuchman, THE GUNS OF AUGUST, 1962.

“Thoughts and pictures come to my mind, . . . thought from before the year 1914 when there was real peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know fear . . . Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914.” – Former U.N. General Secretary, Konrad Adenauer, 1965.

“The whole world really blew up about World War I and we still don’t know why . . . Utopia was in sight. There was peace and prosperity. Then everything blew up. We’ve been in a state of suspended animation ever since.”—Dr. Walker Percy, AMERICAN MEDICAL NEWS, November 21, 1977.

“In 1914 the world lost a coherence which it has not managed to recapture since . . . This has been a time of extraordinary disorder and violence, both across national frontiers and within them.”—THE ECONOMIST, London, August 4, 1979.

“Civilization entered on a cruel and perhaps terminal illness in 1914.”—Frank Peters, St. Louis POST-DISPATCH, January 27, 1980.

In his book, OUT OF CONTROL, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor and professor of American Foreign Policy at John Hopkins University, notes that the 20th century began amid great hope and promise, but became the century of insanity. In elaborating on his observation of 175 million slaughtered in the name of the “politics of organized insanity,” he says:

“Contrary to its promise, the twentieth century became mankind’s most bloody and hateful century of hallucinatory politics and of monstrous killings. Cruelty was institutionalized to an unprecedented degree, lethality was organized on a mass production basis.

The contrast between the scientific potential for good and the political evil that was actually unleashed is shocking. Never before in history was killing so globally pervasive, never before did it consume so many lives, never before was human annihilation pursued with such concentration of sustained effort on behalf of such arrogantly irrational goals.”17

These observations of history confirm Pastor Russell’s prediction that the old world began to end in 1914 and is currently being ushered completely out of existence by a consuming process of wars, revolutions and anarchy. The evidence of history clearly teaches that 1914 is the most significant date in modern times as it marks a sharp break with the past..

The wars and upheavals, social turmoil and unrest since 1914 are greater, deeper, and more unrelenting than anything mankind has ever experienced. Were Pastor Russell’s expectations then flatly and patently wrong? Was he indeed a false prophet? NO! Pastor Russell was correct concerning 1914 being the beginning of the end.

He was indefinite as to the length of this trouble that would terminate our world or social order. Without making a prediction, he allowed that it could last a hundred years after 1914. No one has given a better explanation of the events of the 20th century.

Let the reader note that this was not the last word of Pastor Russell on the subject — that the world would end amidst the greatest and most widespread trouble ever before experienced by man.

NO! The trouble of the present time and recent past is merely the passing of the old order as a new order of righteousness, peace, and everlasting life is to be ushered in for the benefits and blessing of all the families of the earth who accept and obey God’s words of life.

This is the real reason the doomsdayers opposed him. Their theology could not accept this good news of the Gospel of the Kingdom for the vast majority of humankind.

[i] 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.

[ii] LeRoy Edwin Froom, THE PROPHETIC FAITH OF OUR FATHERS, Vol.3 (Washington, DC: Review and Hearld, 1954), p. 602.

[iii] Froom, Vol. 4. pp. 323, 324.

[iv] Ibid., pp.406, 518

[v] John F. Walvoord, BIBIOLTHECA SACRA, April-June 1976.

[vi] Hal Lindsey, THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 43.

[vii] Ibid., p. 54.

8 U.S. NEWS and WORLD REPORT, December 19, 1994, p. 67.

9 Collin H. Deal, WILL CHRIST RETURN BY 1988? (Rutherford College, NC: Deal, 1979) p. 158, 160, 170.

10 Menta Sturgeon, THE LAODICEAN MESSENGER (Chicago: Bible Educational Institute, 1923), p. 99

11 George Swetnam, WHERE ELSE BUT PITTSBURGH (Pittsburgh: Davis and Warde, Inc., 1958), p. 110.

12 REPRINTS (Chicago: Chicago Bible Students), July 1, 1904, p. 3389.

13 Ibid., December 15, 1909, p. 4530.

14 Edmond Taylor, THE FALL OF DYNASTIES, (New York: Doubleday, 1963) p. 16.

15 THE GREAT IDEAS TODAY, (Britannica Great Books, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1963) pp. 107, 108.


17 Zbigniew Brzezinski, OUT OF CONTROL: GLOBAL TURMOIL ON THE EVE OF THE 21ST CENTURY, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993) p. 5.

Comments from Don

I've Attached the first page (see above) of the article that appeared in the above August 30, 1914 "The World Magazine" It shows the title of the article which Mark didn't mention...

END OF ALL KINGDOMS IN 1914 'Millennial Dawners' 25-Year Prophecy

Mark quoted the first sentence of the main portion the article which said... "The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy." What prophecy is the writer referring to?

It seems reasonable to assume that it is the same "25-year prophecy" that is mentioned in the title. The one about the "end of all kingdoms in 1914." Where is that 25-year prophecy located? The article refers to "The Time Is At Hand" which was written 25 years earlier in 1889. The only place I could find such a prophecy was on page 99 where Pastor Russell said it this way...

"Within the coming twenty-six years all resent governments will be overthrown and dissolved...We consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world...will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914." - 1889 Edition. But that didn't happen in 1914. As of 2004 it still hasn't happened. I wonder why Mark would want to draw anyone's attention too this prophecy which did not occur or come true? Mark went on to say...

"Pastor Russell was correct concerning 1914 being the beginning of the end." But in his July, 1894 Watch Tower he said... "Bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning but the end of the time of trouble."

Am I missing something?

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