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False Prophecies for Fun and Profit
By Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
The "Transitional Verses" in Matthew 24 | Recent Developments in the Eschatological Debate | As Lightening Cometh From the East | The Spiritual Nature of the Kingdom | Apocalypse Then | Book Review: Revelation: Four Views | A Brief Theological Analysis of Full Preterism
The foreword to The Beast of Revelation, 1989
Those Christians who believe that we are drawing close to the last days are continually trying to identify both the beast and the antichrist. This game of "find the beast and identify the antichrist" has become the adult Christians' version of the child's game of pin the tail on the donkey. Every few years, the participants place blindfolds over their eyes, turn around six times, and march toward the wall.
Sometimes they march out the door and over a cliff, as was the case with Edgar C. Whisenant, whose best-selling two-part book announced in the summer of 1988 that Jesus would surely appear to rapture His church during Rosh Hashanah week in mid-September. Half the book was called On Borrowed Time. The other was more aptly titled, 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988. I can think of one key argument why his book's thesis was incorrect: no rapture so far, and it is now February, 1989. So much for all 88 arguments. The anti-Christian world got another great laugh at the expense of millions of fundamentalists who had bought and read his two-part book. The story of Mr. Whisenant's book was front-page news briefly around the U.S. But Mr. Whisenant is now ancient history, one more forgotten laughingstock who brought reproach to the church of Jesus Christ while he piled up his press clippings.
This is the whole problem. The victims self-consciously forget the last self-proclaimed expert in Bible prophecy whose predictions did not come to pass. They never learn to recognize the next false prophet because they refuse to admit to themselves that they had been suckered by the last one. Thus, this sucker's game has been going on throughout the twentieth century, generation after generation, a pathetic story chronicled superbly by Dwight Wilson in his well-documented book, Armageddon Now!, a book that was not regularly assigned to students at Dallas Seminary, I can assure you. Again and again, some prominent world political figure has been identified as either the beast or the antichrist: Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and even Henry Kissinger. (It was President Reagan's good fortune that he was a conservative so beloved by fundamentalists, given the remarkable structure of his name: Ronald  Wilson  Reagan .)
The back cover promotional copy of former best-selling author Salem Kirban's self-published book, The Rise of Anti-Christ, is representative of this paperback prophetic literature. Published in 1978, it boldly announced:
And so on. None of this has happened, of course. My favorite is this one: "HEAD TRANSPLANTS will become a reality." I wonder who will be the first two volunteers? Who will get what? This book is to Bible exposition what the National Enquirer is to journalism. (The trouble is, the National Enquirer sells 7 million copies each week; it is by far America's largest-circulation newspaper.)
If we take Mr. Kirban's words literally - as literally as he expects us to take the Bible - we are forced to conclude: "This man simply did not know what he was talking about when he wrote those predictions." But he sold a lot of books in the 1970's - 30 different titles on prophecy by 1978 alone, the back cover informs us, plus a huge study Bible, plus a comic book. By 1980, the total number of Mr. Kirban's book titles had soared to 35, according to back cover copy on Countdown to Rapture (published originally in 1977).
He concluded on page 188 of this book:
He wisely avoided the mistake of putting a date on the rapture - a mistake that Mr. Whisenant made (assuming that the publicity and mailing list from well over four million books sold constitutes a mistake) - but his book was sufficiently explicit. Given the fact that the supposed "clock of prophecy" reached 11:56 in 1976, when the world's population passed 4 billion people (p. 45), and then reached
in only one year with the peace accord between Israel and Egypt in 1977 (p. 175), you get the general picture. Only "one minute" to go in 1977!
The rapture will be soon!
Once again, however, pre-tribulational dispensationalism's notoriously unreliable "clock of prophecy" stopped without warnings The years passed by.
No beast. No antichrist. Few book sales. Scrap the topic! Try something else. Why not books on nutrition? Presto: Salem Kirban's How Juices Restore Health Naturally (1980). Oh, well. Better a glass of fresh carrot juice than another book on the imminent appearance of Jesus or the antichrist. Nevertheless, a stopped "clock of prophecy" is always good news for the next wave of pop-dispensational authors: more chances to write new books about the beast, 666, and the antichrist. There are always more opportunities for a revival - a revival of book royalties.
After all, a sucker is born every minute, even when the "clock of prophecy" has again ceased ticking. The next generation of false prophets can always draw another few inches along the baseline of their reprinted 1936 edition prophecy charts. They can buy some new springs for a rusted prophetic clock. These stopped clocks are a glut on the market about every ten years. Any fledgling prophecy expert can pick one up cheap. Clean it, install new springs, wind it, make a few modifications in a discarded prophecy chart, and you're in business!
13) Dwight Wilson, Armageddon Now! The Premillennial Response to Russia and Israel Since 1917 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1977).
14) Salem Kirban, Kissinger: Man of Peace? (Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania: Salem Kirban Inc., 1974). As you might expect, this book is no longer in print. It sometimes appears in local library book sales for a dollar or less. If you spot it, buy it. It is a classic.»
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