The limits of reading current events into biblical prophecy.

For twentieth-century Christians, prognostication about the End has inspired a vast host of sermons, charts, and films. The coming threshold of another millennium promises to add even more fuel to countdown speculations. CT plans to return to the topic periodically, providing varied perspectives. Here a Liberty University (Lynchburg, Va.) professor scrutinizes the claims of contemporary prophecy popularizers.

If our children should ever read the twentieth-century’s best-selling books on prophecy, they will learn an important lesson. They will understand, perhaps better than any generation, the perils of trying to make Scripture’s prophetic passages fit into the grid of current or expected events.

It is a lesson the church has been slow to learn. Throughout this century, a seemingly endless succession of forecasters has come and gone. Fifty years ago the most prolific was Leonard Sale-Harrison, an Australian-born Bible teacher. Preaching throughout North America and writing three best sellers, Sale-Harrison matched the prophecies of Daniel with events surrounding Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

How could anyone miss the fulfillment of biblical prophecies as Il Duce began reviving the Roman Empire—encompassing Spain, Austria, the Balkans, and the Middle East—while attempting to rearm Italy, rebuild Rome, and place himself at the center of a state cult? Furthermore, when the “Bank of Italy, U.S.A.” became an international organization and it was reported that the fascist emblem appeared on U.S. coins, Sale-Harrison was ready to predict that 1940 or 1941 would mark the beginning of the Day of the Lord. If World War II is what Sale-Harrison had in mind, he was right: ...

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