Question: "What is wrong with date-setting for the end times?"
Answer: “88 Reasons Jesus Is Coming Back in 1988!”
“October 21, 2011, is the end of the world!”
“December 21, 2012, is the end of the world!”
“Jesus is going to return during the year of Jubilee!”
“Jesus is going to return during the next blood-red moon!”
Pronouncements like these surface every few years, and many gullible people make life-altering decisions based on them. The primary reason that date-setting for the end times is wrong is that Jesus told His disciples, in reply to their question about the timing of future things, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).
The date-setting predictions people make have always been wrong. Always. Throughout history, self-proclaimed prophets, well-meaning preachers, and outright charlatans have declared with certainty that a specific date in the near future was the day Jesus would come back. And then He didn’t. Those prophets had just proven that they were not true prophets (Deuteronomy 18:21–22). Jesus said that no man knows the day nor the hour of His return (Matthew 24:36), yet some rationalize their date-setting by saying that we might not know the day or hour, we can still get pretty close. Apparently not.
One reason God has not told us “the day or the hour” when Jesus will come again is that He wants us to live our lives by faith, for His glory, before an unbelieving world. He wants us to be involved in our communities (1 Thessalonians 4:11), serving our churches (Ephesians 6:7), and raising our children to know and honor Him (Deuteronomy 6:6). One common response to end-times date-setting is that people stop engaging in life. They pack up, preparing for the Apocalypse. One such group in the 1830s followed a preacher named William Miller. Miller became convinced that Jesus would return in October of 1844, and he was able to convince many others, some of whom sold their possessions, quit their jobs, and waited for the end. Miller was wrong. Jesus did not return in 1844, and the non-event became known as the Great Disappointment. Followers salvaged Miller’s reputation by claiming that Jesus had, in fact, returned—spiritually—to the heavenly temple. The disillusioned group was ripe for a new leader and soon found themselves uniting under the leadership of “prophetess” Ellen G. White and became known as the Seventh-day Adventists.
Another reason date-setting for the end times is wrong is that it tends to disregard Jesus’ final command to His followers. Shortly before He ascended back into heaven, Jesus told His followers to “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). He did not say, “Focus your energies on trying to figure out when I’m coming back.” He gave us several parables that encourage an attitude of readiness, but that readiness does not mean sky-watching. It means being faithful in all He told us to pursue, like holiness (Hebrews 12:14), cross-carrying (Luke 9:23), and loving the people He brings across our paths (Romans 13:8). Jesus urged us to store up treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33), to seek unity with other believers (John 17:22–23), and to work as harvesters in His fields (Luke 10:2). He said nothing of trying to predict the date of His return. When we become preoccupied with trying to predict the unpredictable, our priorities are not in the right order.
Date-setting for the end times—and then being proven wrong—also prompts derision from unbelievers. Skeptics already mock the supernatural and discount the Bible as nonsense (1 Corinthians 1:18). They often look for reasons to mock Christianity. When a public figure announces an end-times date with the same authority that he or she proclaims the gospel, it only serves to validate the skepticism. It is fine to say, “It appears the signs that Jesus gave are unfolding, so I believe His return may be soon.” That sentence is merely a personal opinion and leaves room for error. But when date-setters declare with finality that a certain date or time frame must be the right one, they only invite greater derision, which reflects poorly on the name of Christ.
If God wanted us to know when His Son is returning, He would have made that clear in His Word. As it is, He clearly said that we would not know. All we have to go on is what He revealed to us, and the date is simply not in Scripture. Any speculation is only that. Some get involved in date-setting for the end times in order to appear wise, attract attention, or raise money; others may have less dubious motives. Regardless of why, date-setting for the end times is wrong. We should consider the signs Jesus gave and then live in such a way that we wouldn’t be ashamed if He came this very hour (1 John 2:28).