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Comments from Mark

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

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

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

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 it’s all going to be over.”8 What evangelical will call Billy Graham a false

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

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 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
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 doomsayers. 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

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,

“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

and revised by Joseph Kerby (London: Baldwin, Craddock and Joy, 1818), pp. 7,8.

(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 & 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.



THE 21ST CENTURY, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993) p. 5.

End Times