In light of the latest round of failed end times prophecies (one will fail in the next 48 hours, and the next by about October 6th), you might be asking yourself how this keeps happening, and yet people don’t learn.
Do you know what the wine industry and the jewelry industry have in common?
It’s that every single day, someone turns 21, and every single day somebody gets married. That’s how those businesses are sustained. They don’t have to innovate or compete, really. They just take their slice of the pie, day after day, year after year.
Unless humans turn into robots in the next 100 years, and the supply of babies and engagements, and romantic holidays runs dry, you can expect vineyards and jewelers to sustain themselves.
Let’s look at the wine business a little closer.
You can figure out roughly how many people turn 21 on a given day in the United States. You must simply calculate the number of births for 21 years ago, and then subtract the sum of the yearly mortality rate over the past 21 years. That’s a lot of data to research, so let’s go with the easy statistic.
In 2010 in the USA, about 125,000 people turned 21 every day that year.
If any sizable percentage of those people has their first drink that night, and continues to drink, they’re now a customer of the wine industry.
Pick any mundane product or service, and you’ll find it’s a numbers game. Human populations are still growing either through birth or immigration, so there’s always money to be made.
As long as people are people, they will always drink wine, wear jewelry, and eat steaks.
It’s a numbers game, and there is always fresh meat.
Seven different types of “fresh meat”
1. You’re too young to remember the last failed prophecy.
In 1988, I was 2 years old. So the bestseller 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 didn’t pop up on my radar. In 1970, when The Late, Great Planet Earth was written, my parents weren’t even married yet. I wasn’t even a twinkle in their eye.
When Harold Camping came up with his botched Rapture prediction, a bunch of people were 2 years old, and 5 years old and 15 years old, and just wouldn’t care.
Every year or two, a popular end of the world prediction sort of “goes viral,” and it’s not always from evangelical Christians. A whole movie was made about the 2012 Mayan Prophecy.
They were all wrong, obviously.
2. You weren’t paying attention the last time a popular prophecy failed.
“The Lord also tells me to tell you in the mid 90’s, about ‘94-’95, no later than that, God will destroy the homosexual community of America. [audience applauds] But He will not destroy it – with what many minds have thought Him to be, He will destroy it with fire. And many will turn and be saved, and many will rebel and be destroyed.” Benny Hinn (1990)
Maybe you were in the Army, or in Medical School, or enjoying Greek life at college and you were just too busy to care.
Maybe you were an atheist and dismissed religion altogether. Then you finally came to church and whatever random church you landed in convinced you that they were the “real church,” and everybody else was apostate. Somehow, you missed the huge gaff that was their last prophecy.
You’re not too worried though, because they’re really nice people, and you found community.
3. You’re a baby Christian.
There’s something I call the “Prodigal Son” path to Jesus.
These people are every bit as saved and as loved by Jesus as someone who didn’t follow the same path. I mean no disrespect to sinners who have found grace. We are all sinners and we’ve all fallen short. Rather, this is an honest description of a segment of the crowd who consistently find themselves on the Armageddon bandwagon.
It’s where you’ve lived most of your life on the periphery of Christianity. Your grandmother is praying for you, your parents sent you to Christian school, you went to church on Christmas and Easter…
And then you went to college. You spread your wings, did some drugs, had sex with two dozen people, wound up with a few babies out of wedlock, an abortion or two, and an STD or three, maybe even a prison sentence. So you come running back to the church out of sheer desperation from the horrible life decisions you’ve made.
Churches do a good job of accepting people looking for a fresh start, regardless of whatever doctrine they preach, since forgiveness is a central tenant of Christianity. So you – like Mike Huckabee – are just happy they let you in the building and are paying attention to you.
4. You owe money to the Mafia.
When I say “Mafia” I mean the IRS, the bank, your landlord, your cable provider, or a collections agency.
Maybe you have a finals exam on Monday and you didn’t study. More of the unwanted aspects of life have happened to you, and the more unpleasant your future, the more comfortable you are with a worldwide “reset button.”
Your wife left you for a black guy (thanks Obama), or you just went through a church split, or just lost a job, or you haven’t been able to find work in a decade and sort of gave up.
You didn’t go the way of the Prodigal Son, but life has “happened” to you, and it’s not necessarily your fault.
Keeping your sanity meant either the end of the world or a multi-level-marketing business (pyramid scheme), and you chose the end of the world.1
5. You’re in a cult.
You won’t admit it now. It’ll take maybe a painful decade or two of failed prophecies, spiritual abuse, stolen money, sex scandals, or a dead prophet (who wasn’t supposed to die before the rapture happened) before you’re in a place to finally concede.
You’re sheltered from outside information, told to “touch not the Lord’s anointed”, which basically means you’re not allowed to disagree with your prophet. You’re not allowed to go to the movies, dance, or read the news. Anyone who comes to their senses and decides to leave your cult is ostracized by all it’s members, per the orders of the “prophet.”
Then one day you ask too many questions and leave, it happens to you and your eyes open.
The progression is so “textbook” it blows my mind.
6. You’re always looking for something “new.”
“A new word from Heaven.”
“A fresh anointing.”
Those phrases sound harmless, but there are always broken hearts left in the wake wherever those words are over-used.
It results in a vicious circle where you meet some man of God, he makes many claims and performs some “miracles.” Then you find out he was cheating on his wife with the worship leader. News crews come because none of the miracles check out. He divorces his wife, moves in with the worship leader, marries her, mutters something about “David and Bathsheba” and expects you and the rest of Christendom to be cool with it.
So you move on like a groupie to the next man of God, and the next ministry, and spend the rest of your life church hopping, until you decide not to go to church at all, and that you’re going to be a “lone wolf” Christian.
7. You’re a lone wolf Christian.
You’ve either been burned by, or been kicked out of every church you’ve ever been in. You’re still a Christian, you still love Jesus, but you don’t go to church. You’ve tried house-churches, but you’ve been kicked out of those too.
So you’re reading new age books, and you have your pet preachers you follow on Twitter, and you’re really sure that Jade Helm is just around the corner, “All because of that darn Obama!”
But you’re fun to talk to, have funny stories, and you know a lot of stuff people wouldn’t expect you to know.
How the ‘End Times’ prophetic book and speaking circuit works
Wolves like to eat meat, but that’s difficult without a book deal and a speaking circuit. Here’s the definitive guide to being an end times wolf:
Step 1: Research
Read all the old failed end times prophecies to see where your forbearers made mistakes. Find some shady Jewish Rabbis and talk to them for hours. Learn astrology, numerology, cryptozoology, and some Hebrew.
Step 2: Book Deal
Write a new book that avoids all the pitfalls of your forbearers, and factors in some current events that have people worried, like emancipation, women’s suffrage, communism, nuclear war, interracial marriage, AIDS, terrorism, gays, Muslims, Ebola, immigration, or CERN.
Don’t forget to mention the Pope, because your audience are Protestants who hate the Pope, and still think the Papacy today is the same Papacy that Martin Luther fought in 1517 a.d.
If you’re lucky, you can get a feature on a “Christian” TV station. Heck, maybe they give you your own show, but you have to agree to be a shill on their telethons. A feature for a feature, you know how it works.
Step 3: Offerings
Go on a speaking circuit at different backwater churches. The more old walking canes and wheelchairs hung up on the walls, the better.
The pastor of that church will ask for a “love offering” to be collected for you. As you gain momentum, some more prominent churches might take the bait.
Step 4: You were wrong
The date has come and gone, and nothing happened. You were huddled in your bunker, or atop a hill with your followers in white robes, and had to send them all home. Awkwardly, of course.
This doesn’t mean you say you were sorry, or repent or anything. It’s not over yet.
Push the date back by a week or two. This is easy to do during the months of September and October due to Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) each happening within weeks of each other. And you were smart enough to make your prediction fall on a Jewish holiday.
If nothing happens by Sukkot, you’ve got to scrap the whole thing.
Step 5: Backtracking
Issue some sort of face-saving public statement that only pretends to be apologetic. You weren’t actually abusing people’s trust, or faith in God, by making the claim in the first place, you just “heard wrong”.
Spend weeks and months in prayer and quiet seclusion as you re-read your own book and reinterpret the “visions” God gave you, to “correct mistakes.”
Step 6: Publish a second book
Publish a new book with a new end of the world date that’s not too far into the future, lest you lose some of that book deal momentum.
Everyone who bought your first book hates to look like a fool in front of friends and family, so them giving you a second chance is really just giving themselves a second chance.
Step 7: Repeat Step 4 then continue to Step 8
Step 8: Choose your own adventure
Option 1: Keep writing a great library of books about the end times, then die. You’ll be followed by a new generation of fresh meat as their cult figurehead, so long as at least 10% of your prophecies were 30% accurate. Because 3% of the time it works 100% of the time, if you know what I mean.
Your books will be too numerous to be included in the Step 1 of any young bloods.
Option 2: You can fade into obscurity, and let the next generation of “career prophets” correct the errors in your two books.
All of this has happened before, and will happen again
If you’ve made it this far, either you’re pissed at me, or you’re in tears from laughter. I hope it’s the latter. I’m writing from personal experience and people I’ve encountered in my Christian walk these 28 years. I grew up in the church, and despite all the nonsense have been able to hold on to my faith.
Listen to Dan Carlin’s ‘Prophets of Doom’ for free for a limited time2
My favorite amateur historian, Dan Carlin, has a 4 hour historical retelling of an “end times” prophecy in Münster, Germany in 1535 a.d. It’s referred to historically as the Münster Rebellion.
“When Erasmus is writing his friend and saying, ‘People should be able to read the bible,’ it’s hard for modern people to understand the point of view of the person arguing against that. Except, in this period after Luther translates the bible, you begin to see all these real world things happening that maybe make a good argument for people saying, ‘Don’t let them read the bible.'” Dan Carlin
If there’s anything you get out of this entire article, I hope it’s listening to this history podcast, maybe while you’re at the gym, or maybe while you’re driving. I consider it recommended listening for all Christians, because without a good understanding of church history, you’ll see someone like Harold Camping with his Judgement Day prediction or John Hagee with his Blood Moon prophecies, and think this is a new phenomenon. Not even close.
One of the greatest failed prophecies was when some thought Jesus was coming back in 1534 a.d. and that the location of his second coming would be in Strassburg, Germany, which they identified as the New Jerusalem, 481 years ago. Of course they got the date and location wrong, so they “fixed it” and it became Münster, Germany in 1535. Before nuclear weapons, before airplanes, before machine guns, and before two world wars, world events were such that this sect was able to take over an entire European city, barricading themselves inside, challenging the Catholic church to war, and awaiting Jesus’ return.
If you’re think you’re part of something “new”, or that you have hidden revelation in the bible that other generations didn’t have access to, I challenge you to listen to the story of Münster, Germany in 1534-35.
You won’t believe your ears. The saying, “There is nothing new under the sun,” will take on a very personal meaning. The 4 hours contains:
- A short description of the Catholic Church in the 16th century.
- A short bio of Martin Luther and his role in starting the Protestant Reformation.
- Luther translates the bible from original manuscripts into common German, and why he did it.
- The origin of the idea that the common man can read the bible, and interpret it for himself, and that God is still speaking to people through the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit himself can help you correctly interpret the bible.
- Divine Inspiration Pandora’s Box: The explosion of varying biblical interpretations after the split from the Catholic church and opening the bible to private interpretation.
- Anabaptism and the “Radical Reformation.”
- Luther’s opposition to the radicals and communism.
- 1534 end of the world prophecy by an Anabaptist leader.
- Charismatic gifts in 1535 as practiced by the Münster group.
- Sex scandals and hijinks within the Münster group.
- Catholic punishments for heresy.
- Why even modern day Catholics probably wouldn’t want to be part of the Catholic church in 1534.
- What getting a prophecy wrong, and then backpedalling looks like in 1534. “Uh, we got the city wrong, and we got the date wrong, but we totally figured it out now.”
- Where the Protestant hatred of Catholicism comes from, and the big differences between the these two main sects of Christianity.
- What it’s like to be in a cult.
- How similar the Münster Anabaptists are to some modern denominations today.
Like with all end of the world prophecies, at the end of the day people get hurt, the neutral are further turned away from Jesus, and skeptics blaspheme God. The lucky ones are merely embarrassed while some unfortunate souls have lost their entire livelihoods or wound up dead. All of this in the 16th century, when the national pastime was attending Catholic Mass – in the “good ‘ole days” – back before iPhones, Google, and Miley Cyrus were making us all dumber.
How many times do you have to get a prophecy wrong before people learn?
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Featured Image Photo Credit: John Hagee Ministries (The Coming Four Blood Moons)
It is believed that the use of low-resolution images of copyrighted work for commentary* qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law. See Wikipedia:Non-free content for more information.
Which is actually the more honorable of the two choices.↩
Podcasts are the new radio, and Dan lists his latest 13 or so shows for free, with each new show killing the oldest show on the list. From then on, you can pay a small amount to download on iTunes or on his site directly. As of my publishing this article, Prophets of Doom is number 8 of the 13 latest shows, so about 5 more history shows until it’s no longer free.↩