Prophecy for 2012
by Pastor George Van Alstine
What will 2012 bring us? Care to make a prophecy? Might as well; everybody else is doing it.
There certainly will be plenty of end-of-the-world predictions, particularly around interpretations based on the “Mayan Calendar.” It’s interesting that these apocalyptic prophecies are not coming from the Bible, but from ancient civilizations in Central and South America, based on their observations of astronomy and other natural phenomena. This is all being packaged through New Age, neo-pagan groups as an alternative to Christian visions of end times.
No, Christians have not had a corner on date-setting; Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Zoroastrian fringe groups have also done their share. But Christianity believes the Bible teaches that human history has a clear beginning in measurable time, and that it will have a clear end as well. American Christianity, especially, has certainly set the bar high when it comes to brash, bold, super-specific predictions. An interesting website catalogs over 240 various prophecies year-by-year through Christianity’s twenty-plus centuries, showing the cluster of these originating in America in the past two centuries: http://www.bible.ca/pre-date-setters.htm
There’s a reason for this. About twenty-five years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the “Second Great Awakening” began, and this revival lasted until the Civil War years. Active church membership soared, fed by camp meetings and thousands of personal conversions. Baptists and Methodists, in particular, grew with the westward expansion of the population. Also, many distinctly American groups had their start in this movement, such as the Churches of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the Mormons.
One important figure who arose during this time was William Miller (1782-1849), a Baptist leader who developed a very strong emphasis on Biblical prophecy. A group of followers were fascinated with his analysis of dates and numbers, and the spiritual fervor of the time magnified their sense of expectation. A sure date was set for the Lord’s return— October 22, 1844. All of these “adventists” were gathered for prayer on hillsides or in churches, sure that Jesus would come in the clouds. When the day ended uneventfully, all those who had believed in Miller’s teaching suffered what has become known as the “Great Disappointment.” Many turned away after that. Some stayed and transferred their expectations to new dates, set by recalculation and correction of errors. Out of this experience emerged some modern denominations, notably the Seventh Day Adventists and the Advent Christians.
Another group, who continued on Miller’s path and focused on redefining prophetic details, were the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Under Charles Taze Russell and his successors, the Witnesses became the champion date-setters, first announcing that 1874 would be the year, then 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, and, most recently, 1994. They’ve had a lot of “great disappointments.”
Out of the ministry of evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), a new emphasis on lay Bible study emerged, supported by annual Bible conferences in various locations and by the establishment of several prominent Bible institutes. Prophetic teaching became a staple in these circles, and it was dominated by the interpretative system known as “Dispensationalism,” popularized in the Scofield Reference Bible. This has become a very strong emphasis in modern evangelical churches of various denominations. A steady diet of such teaching invites date-setting and other end-time speculation. Popular writer Hal Lindsay (The Late Great Planet Earth) comes out of this dispensational background, and he became involved in date-setting in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Harold Camping has had similar roots, and he and his followers experienced their first “great disappointment” when his 1994 prediction proved erroneous. That didn’t stop Camping from coming up with new dates this past year, first on May 21, then on October 21.
Here’s my prediction for 2012. The Mayan Calendar speculation that the world will end on December 21, 2012 (the Winter Solstice), will stimulate the writing of numerous new age books. Christian prophetic teachers will find proof that the Bible prophesied the December 21, 2012, second coming long before the Mayan Calendar was developed, and they will write their own books.
Wait to do your 2012 Christmas shopping until December 22, because all these books will be on sale at bargain prices!