The Expository Files

The Deleterious Effects Of Date Setting

Number 5 of 12 in the Second Coming Series

We are in the midst of an epidemic of date setting concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ. It is only going to get worse as we get closer to the year 2000. How should a Christian view the millennial madness that is swirling around us? How should we respond to the divination of date setters?

It is entirely possible that we are living in the last days. Jesus could return at any moment. However, it is also possible that Christ's second coming is yet a long ways off. The Bible repeatedly says that man cannot know the day or the hour when the Lord will come (Mat 24:36, 42-44; 25:13; Mar 13:32-37; Luk 12:35-40; 1Th 5:1-2). Such knowledge belongs only to God. The Lord will come in an hour when he is least expected. Therefore, children of God should not be in the business of setting dates for the Lord's return. In this lesson, let us consider the deleterious effects of date setting.

It Is Foolish
Those who surrender to millennial madness may end up making decisions that are harmful to their lives. People who accept the predictions of prophetic prognosticators have been known to quit their jobs, sell their possessions, climb to a mountain top, and await the Savior's return. Others stop their education, withdraw from society, leave their family, and become cult-like followers of the latest self-proclaimed prophet. Such destructive actions can ruin a life.

Christians must act responsibly. We must approach our various obligations with diligence and zeal (Ecc 9:10). We must provide for our families, train our children, encourage our brethren, teach the lost, visit the sick, help the needy, etc. Life must be lived. We must not waste time and opportunity (Eph 5:15-16). After discussing the certainty of the Lord's second coming, Paul reminded the Thessalonians that there is much work to be done (1Th 5:14-15). Yes, the Lord could return at any time. Yet, we should manifest the attitude of Jesus who said, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (Joh 9:4). Therefore, let us not sit and wait. Rather, let us be busy about our Father's business.

It Is Sensationalistic
Millennial soothsayers tend to be sensationalistic. Many people are looking for a high, especially in matters spiritual. Everything for them must be spine-tingling, spectacular, stupendous. If its ordinary, it's inadequate. Those who make dramatic predictions of the Lord's second coming appeal to such persons. Yet, just as sensational journalism is not responsible journalism, in like manner, sensational Christianity is not responsible Christianity. God does not call us to breathless hysteria, commotion and chaos. He is not the author of confusion, but of peace. A constant appeal to sensationalism is unbefitting of Christians who are called to live quietly (1Th 4:10-12; 1Ti 2:1-2) and soberly (1Th 5:6-8; Tit 2:11-12).

It Is Destructive
Those who surrender to millennial madness harm the cause of Christ. Reflect upon the poor track record of prophetic prognosticators: Over the past 2,000 years, those who have predicted the date of the Lord's return have been 100% wrong. Their batting average is zero! Those who trust the predictions of date God's Word may also fail. Many individuals do not distinguish between the worthless utterances of a false prophet and the reliable testimony of God's inspired word (Pro 14:15). Jesus, the great Prophet of God, must be heeded in all things, but the prophet who speaks presumptuously is not to be feared (Deu 18:18-22). Yet this distinction is often lost, this difference is not perceived, and as a result the faith of such persons suffers shipwreck.

Furthermore, those who set specific dates for the Lord's return become a stumblingblock to others. Potential converts may be driven away because they believe such failed prophecies show that Christianity is just so much humbuggery and hocus pocus. Disciples must be mindful of their influence on others (Rom 14:13; 1Co 10:32-33). Obviously, Christ must not be blamed for the folly of false teachers, but the ignorant and unlearned often don't realize this. As a consequence, date setters often drive people away from the Lord.

Finally, the folly of date setting gives the enemies of truth an occasion to blaspheme. Unbelievers delight in ridiculing those who put stock in such predictions. The media love date setters. It makes a great story. So they focus their cameras closely on the date setter and his naive followers and gleefully let him hang himself with his rash predictions. When the anticipated date comes and passes without event, the media goes to work. Many reporters are not honest enough, intelligent enough, or diligent enough to uncover the real story. They are not going to distinguish between true Christianity and spurious counterfeits. Instead they take full advantage of another opportunity to portray all believers as a bunch of country bumpkins. Christians are repeatedly admonished not to give the enemies of truth an occasion to blaspheme (1Ti 5:11-14; 6:1). However, date setters inadvertently play into the hands of their secular enemies.

It Is Negligent
Since the need for watchfulness is often related to the importance of holy living, date setting has a negative impact upon morality. Christians should live with the expectation that Christ could appear at any moment. This motivates purity, holiness and godly living (Tit 2:12-14; 2Pe 3:9-12). However, date setting generates slackfulness and has a generally negative effect on our Christian walk.

The worst effect of date setting is that it spawns a lukewarm attitude toward the Lord's second coming. Do you remember the little boy who cried "Wolf!" over and over again when there was no wolf? People eventually stopped listening to his shouts. They were deaf to his cries when the wolf finally appeared. So likewise, when there is an epidemic of date setting -- as there is now -- people stop paying attention and grow apathetic about the Lord's return. Christians should be watchful (1Pe 4:7). In this strange way, date setters end up contributing to the spirit of apathy (Mat 24:38-39).

Date setting diverts man's attention from the person of Jesus to the pages of a calendar. It builds expectations that are guaranteed to be shattered by disappointment. Let us realize the deleterious effects of date setting. It is foolish, sensationalistic, destructive, and negligent. Therefore, let us shun all manifestations of this destructive disease.

The Bible teaches that God's Word is sufficient for all things that pertain to life and godliness (2Ti 3:16-17; 2Pe 1:3-4). If something is not revealed in the Bible, it is not necessary to accomplish God's plan in our lives. The Scriptures do not divulge the date of the Lord's return. Therefore, such knowledge is superfluous to godly living. Moses said, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deu 29:29). The date of Christ's coming has not been revealed. It is a secret belonging only to God.

Therefore, let us ignore the rash predictions of prophetic prognosticators. Such prophets speak presumptuously. Do not be afraid of them. Instead, let us live as if Jesus were coming back today, and prepare for the future as if he were not returning for a long, long time. This approach ensures both our continued readiness and usefulness. It fulfills our obligations toward God and man. It allows us to be prepared for both time and eternity.

By Mark Mayberry
From Expository Files 6.5; May 1999