After associating with Adventist groups for about ten years, in 1879 the young assistant editor of
Herald of the Morning
broke away to start his own magazine,
Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence.
Watchtower founder Charles Taze Russell succeeded in reaching a muchwider audience with his assertions that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874 and that the worldwould end in the autumn of 1914. Those dates were later abandoned, but Russell's successors inthe modern day Jehovah's Witnesses went on to teach during the late 1960's that Christ'striumphant battle of Armageddon could be expected to occur in the autumn of 1975.Details and documentation of these failed prophecies can be found in several of my books,including
Answering Jehovah's Witnesses Subject by Subject
(1996, Baker Book House) and
Mormonism: Changes, Contradictions and Errors
(by John R. Farkas and David A. Reed, 1995,Baker Book House).My research made me conversant also with the failed prophecies of various other groups, too, both cultic and those closer to mainstream Christianity. All of these forays into date-settingfailed for fairly obvious reasons. In some cases corrupt cult leaders stirred up false expectationsfor their own selfish purposes. In other cases sincere Bible believers got carried away in their eagerness for Christ's return and went beyond what was written in Scripture, adding their ownimagination and wishful thinking to what the Word of God actually said.In all cases, however, regardless of the motives behind those making these pronouncements, theyall abandoned sound methods of biblical interpretation in favor of twisted reasoning and boguslogic.On the receiving end of all these false prophecies were millions of real people who were deeplydisappointed and who suffered very real hurt. The failure of William Miller's predictions thatChrist would return in 1844 was labeled by historians as "the Disappointment of 1844." Somevictims of failed prophecies lost faith entirely, while others were forced to undergo a painful re-examination of what they believed and why. Some had quit jobs, sold homes, or made other sacrifices on the assurance that money and possessions would no longer be needed after the predicted date.In every case it was human interpretation the failed, not the prophecies of Scripture itself. To thecontrary, Bible prophecy has an excellent track record, as I will document in several chapters of this book.Researching the lives and works of false prophets has made me painfully aware of the danger of going "beyond what is written" in Scripture. (1 Corinthians 4:6 NIV) Yet, at the same time, Jesustold us to "keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew24:42 NIV)Watch for what? For Jesus to come? No, rather he indicated that there would be signs to watchfor that would signal the imminence of his return. "When these things begin to take place," wewould know that the time was near. (Luke 21:28 Jerusalem Bible) Keeping on the watchinvolves efforts to match the things happening in the world -- current events -- with the things prophesied in Scripture. However, that is not an easy task.Human understanding of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy has always been better in hindsightthan in foresight. The faithful Hebrews watched to see how the prophetic words of the inspired prophets among them would be fulfilled. But they were often surprised when the fulfillmentactually took place before their eyes, and it was not what they had expected.