A book by Francis Gummerlock, entitled The Day and Hour, chronicles the history of predictions of "the end of the world." The author lists would be prophets from the second century to the present, including the Millerite/Adventist prediction of 1844, the Mormon predictions that the Lord would come in that generation, Alexander CampbellÍs belief that his work was to bring about the millennium, the JehovahÍs WitnessÍs predictions for the end in 1874, then 1875, then 1914, 1915, 1925, 1975, etc. etc.. The list goes on and on; it is a list of shame.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus told his disciples that they would encounter men who would say "the time has drawn near," but that they were not to believe them (Luke 21:8). In spite of the LordÍs warnings, one false prophet after another has arisen, and sincere believers have been deceived! Why? Because they did not honor the LordÍs warnings, and His divine parameters for the actual time of the end.
Jesus told his disciples that the false teachers would proclaim that the end was at hand. They were not to be believed. Does this mean that there was not way to know when the end was actually to be near? On the contrary, Jesus gave, in response to his disciplesÍ questions about signs of the end (Matthew 24:3), at least two signs of the end. And in Luke 21:31, Jesus told his audience "When you see these things come to pass, then know that the kingdom of God is near." What this means is that the false teachers would proclaim the imminence of the end before the appearance of the signs! Can it be shown that the signs did appear, and the disciples did have reason therefore, to proclaim that the end had truly drawn near? Yes!
In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world, for a witness to the nations, then comes the end." The disciples asked for a sign of the end, Jesus gave a sign! Remember, Jesus told his disciples that when they saw the fulfillment of the signs they could then know and proclaim that the end was near.
In Romans 10:16-18, Paul said the gospel had been preached in all the world, and in chapter 13:12f, he said "the Day is at hand!" In Titus 2:11-13, he said the gospel had appeared to every man, and they were "looking for the appearing of the blessed Savior." The word "looking" is a word full of imminent expectation. Just as Jesus said the gospel would be preached to the world, and they could know thereby that the end was near, the disciples said the gospel had been preached to all the world–and they used the identical words for "world" that Jesus did — and said the end was at hand! Jesus said the presence of the signs would prove that the end was near. They saw the signs, the end was near in the first century.
The fact that Jesus warned against believing some who said the end was near, but told his disciples how to tell the end was near, shows that time statements of imminence in scripture must be taken seriously. If the statement "The time is at hand" does not mean anything to God, then it would not matter when the statement was made, or who made it. But Jesus said it did matter when the statement was made, and in what context it was made. Those who proclaimed that the end was near, before the appearance of the signs, were too early, and they were wrong. Those who proclaimed — and proclaim — the nearness of the end after the first century generation of the inspired disciples are too late. James was right 2000 years ago when he said "The coming of the Lord has drawn near!" To continue to say that 2000 years later is a misuse of scripture, and ignores the parameters set by the Lord himself.