I guess you have all heard by now that the Rapture scheduled for this last week has been rescheduled. Harold Camping, the man who first informed the public of God’s plan, now says he was mistaken. The date he should have given is October 21. Well, after all, anybody can make a mistake.
Throughout the history of civilization, people have been predicting the end of the world. Nostradamus is probably the best known, but there have been others. And they haven’t always been human.
For example in 1806, a farmer in Leeds, England, thought he had prophetic hens. They suddenly began laying eggs with a message on them: “Christ is coming.” He tried to keep it a secret, but it did not take long before people all over the country had heard about it and began making preparations for the big event.
Others were skeptical and one of them hid out to watch the hen house, and discovered the hens had human help with their message delivery.
In 1848 William Miller, a New England farmer, was a dedicated scholar of the Bible. He studied it carefully, trying to understand God’s plans. He interpreted it literally, and concluded that the world would end between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844.
Thousands of people believed him. They sold or gave away all their possessions as they would not need them in Heaven and gathered together to get ready for the big day. (They even acquired a name--Millerites.)
When nothing happened on April 23, they were discouraged and most disbanded. Some, however, remained together and eventually formed a new denomination still in existence today.
Joseph Smith, the man who founded the Mormon Church called a meeting of church leaders in February 1835 to inform them that he and God had had a little chat, and God told him that Jesus would return to Earth sometime in the ensuing 56 years. After this second coming, the End Times would begin. Most were greatly relieved when nothing happened.
One of my favorite American writers Mark Twain may not have believed that the world would end with the appearance of Halley’s comet in 1910, but he always believed that he would die when it appeared.
A lot of people believed the comet’s appearance would signal the end of the world. This belief arose from the investigations of a scientist who found the deadly gas cyanogen, similar to cyanide, in particles from the comet’s tail.
Newspapers--even The New York Times got into the act--were quick to run the stories speculating what was going to happen then. Panic ensued as the earth approached the comet’s tail, in spite of advice by scientists and church leaders to the contrary.
And, while Earth continued on its circular path around the sun, Twain was right about one thing: his world ended just as he predicted it would.
We have had our share of end of days predictors. Pat Robinson, the well known evangelist, 700 Club host, and television personality announced in May 1980 that he knew when the world was going to end. According to an article on the Internet, he said, “I guarantee you by the end of 1982, there is going to be a judgment of the world.” We’re waiting.
Another comet-inspired prediction occurred in 1997 when a group called “Heaven’s Gate” began teaching that the comet Hale-Bop would soon appear. The comet’s tail would be hiding a spacecraft manned by aliens from a distant planet.
The spacecraft would scoop up the believers and transport them back to the home planet. The reason more people didn’t know about this is that NASA and the scientific community were keeping it top secret.
On March 26,1997, 39 members of the cult killed themselves.
The year 2000 brought some confusion to the computer world because people did not know if the computers could handle a new century’s number designation. Should all the computers suddenly quit working, chaos would occur and the world would be hopelessly messed up. Groups of survivalists gathered their tents, canteens and sleeping bags and prepared to live off the land and gun sales by people who expected to have to defend their food and belongings bought guns at an alarming rate.
In 2006 Ronald Weinland, a minister in God’s Church (The name of the church), wrote a book entitled “2008: God’s Final Witness,” in which he said that millions of people would die,” and by 2006, there would only be two years left before civilization as we know it would collapse.
Nobody’s got it right yet, but start making your plans now. In 2012, according to the Mayan calendar, the world will end for sure. After all, we know what an intelligent group of people they were. I wonder what happened to them?
Alma Joyce Hahn taught in the Benton schools for more than 30 years. Her column appears each Monday.View more articles in: