Recently there has been much publicity, curiosity and even hope or fear because of forecasts of the "end of the world" made by a person who says he is a believer and a student of the Scriptures. He insists on the nonsense of trying to calculate the date of the return of Christ based on prophecies interpreted by recent and current events, and to proclaim the results of his research as if it were what the Bible says. As his predictions have not been fulfilled, he and his followers are now being ridiculed, at the expense also of biblical teaching because people in general do not know how to distinguish false teachers.
He was not the first to make predictions of this order. Already in 1555 AD the French apothecary and reputed seer Michel de Nostredame, Latinised as "Nostradamus", published his cryptic writings, and these were linked by his admirers to dozens of historical events, although his language is cleverly obscure in its entirety. A text of his became famous for its apocalyptic suggestions: "in the year 1999 and seven months, the great King of terror will descend from heaven" and it did not happen, to the relief of many people...
A Baptist preacher named Miller, in USA calculated by his biblical studies that the world would end in 1843 with the coming of Jesus Christ. He convinced a lot of people but declined to set a definite date, saying only that it would be between March 21, 1843 and the same date in 1844. As what he anticipated did not occur, he changed the date to 22 October, 1844. This date came to be known as the day of the Great Disappointment. Miller died in 1849, still convinced that the Day of Judgment was about to arrive. He was a founder of the sect of the Adventists.
There were many others that we don't have space to mention here. To us the emergence of these prophecies, erroneous interpretations and "other Gospels" is no surprise, as they are foreseen in the Scriptures, and it is interesting to see that most of the texts concerning the second coming of the Lord Jesus are also accompanied by warnings of false prophecies, for example:
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” (Matthew 24:11).
"Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'Look, He is there!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand... “(Mark 13:21-23).
"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies… and many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber." (2 Peter 2:1-3).
It is particularly wrong to try to set dates on the calendar for the events foreseen because, as the Lord Jesus said to his disciples: "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority...” (Acts 1:7). Any "deduction", for more plausible it might seem to be before some verse in the biblical prophecies, is a mere "hunch" or worse, a "divination" as the Bible teaches in Jeremiah 14:14 "the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart...”
Although those who say they are interpreters of the Scriptures claim that they are not introducing new prophecies because they are based on the sacred text, the fact is that they are giving it a whole new interpretation that only they understand. The Bible teaches us: "... no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.." (2 Peter 1:20 .21).
The Bible also teaches us how to test if anyone is prophet of God: "But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). God cannot err. If a prophecy (or interpretation of a prophecy) is given by God, it will come to pass. If not, the prophet (or interpreter) is false. He is anathema, accursed (Galatians 1: 9) because he is teaching a Gospel that is not what we were given. "... such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:13).
However, God has not left us ignorant about the "end times" and there are various prophecies in the Bible and indications that it is a reality within His sovereign programming. Most of the prophecies of the Old Testament have many details, especially in relation to the people of Israel. In the Old Testament, the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel stand out by their volume. Through Daniel (some 2500 years ago) we are advised of the sequence and duration of some events, most of which have already happened but the last are still in the future even for us. The New Testament also has them, especially in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, who is our supreme authority.
Our sovereign God knows all that there is to come, and when. By His grace, He gives us to know through His word what is suitable for us and quite clearly so that we can understand it when the Holy Spirit opens our minds. The word "secret", which is also translated as "mystery", appears 6 times (Chaldean râz) in the book of Daniel, and 21 times (Greek mustêrion) in the New Testament, its equivalent being spoken once by the Lord Jesus in Mark 4:11, written twice in Revelation, and written 18 times in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, and to Timothy. It always refers to the revelation at the appropriate time by God to His people of things that only He knows.
In Daniel 12, for example, when the questions were asked "How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be? ...My lord, what shall be the end of these things?" (verses 6 and 8) the answer was "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." The future existence of the church of Christ, in a period of some two millennia, at least, it was not revealed, being a "mystery" divulged by the Lord Jesus in parables (Mark 4:11) and clarified by Paul in his Epistles (Romans 11:25, 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2: 7, Ephesians 1:9, 3:3,4,9, 5:32, 6:19, Colossians 1:26,27, 2:2, 4:3, 1 Timothy 3:9). In vain we might seek prophecies about the Church in the Old Testament, as it was a "mystery" not yet revealed, although we can find certain parallels, as the choice of the bride of Isaac, pictures of what only God knew would occur far in the future.
Two other great mysteries that were never before revealed were also transmitted to the church through the Apostle Paul: the rapture of the Church (1 Corinthians 15:51, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) by the Lord Jesus Christ and the arrest of the action of "wicked one" (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Unfortunately, many believers have not given due importance to these revelations and continue with a very vague idea about them, and therefore also the last seven years of Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 9:26) described in detail in the book of Revelation.
In view of this, they cannot explain how to fit the period of the church in the prophecies of the Old Testament (impossible, because it had not yet been revealed), the rapture of the church foretold by the Lord Jesus (John 14:3), the great tribulation, also foretold by him (e.g. Matthew 24:21-29, Mark 13:19-24) and almost all the book of Revelation that tells us about the Day of the Lord, which He clarified through John, as well as the "millennium" which is described in detail in the prophecies of the Old Testament, and is also mentioned in Revelation.
This is very unfortunate, because what God tells us in His word is no longer a mystery, but reality. It should not be considered as mere fables, still mysterious sayings that wiser minds could turn into spiritual applications to the times in which we live. It is what the false teachers who must be repelled from the churches do.
The "end of the world", or rather its replacement by a new world, heaven and earth, is certainly laid down in the Scriptures, but according to what is explained in Revelation, this will only be after the rapture of the Church, the great tribulation, and the millennial Kingdom of Christ (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1).
Only God knows the future, and He has already revealed to us all that we need to know in His Word (Revelation 22:18 and 19). His Word is firm and reliable, and should be the light that guides our steps. What we know of the future, He gave us to know for our instruction and strengthening our faith. Those who will be here during the period of tribulation and are then converted will have the consolation of knowing that God is in control, and that it will be of short duration. They will also know that if they are killed because of the word of God and because of their testimony they will receive the blessing of God (Revelation 6:9-11, 14:13).
We, however, who are in the church of Christ have a “homeland in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:20,21) and will be taken to the place prepared for us in the Father´s house (John 14:2,3).