Small Group Leader Guide

Step 1. Introduce the Session

5 minutes

When it comes to biblical prophecy, there’s no shortage of bad teaching! Here is just a handful of people who have been woefully wrong about their end-times projections. May this hall of shame humble us all.


  • Establish a foundation of humility and open-handedness in earnest, Truth-seeking Bible students.

Step 2. Watch the Video

25 minutes

CONTENT SUMMARY (with timestamps)

  • Watch for Patterns (01:42)
  • 20. Jewish Essenes & Simon bar Giora (04:00)
  • 19. Early Church Fathers (05:28)
  • 18. Europe (06:48)
  • 17. London Astrologers (07:33)
  • 16. Fifth Monarchists (08:06)
  • 15. Mary Bateman (08:43)
  • 14. Joanna Southcott (09:07)
  • 13. William Miller / Millerites (09:29)
  • 12. Camille Flammarion (11:12)
  • 11. International Bible Students Association / Jehovah's Witnesses (11:39)
  • 10. Margaret Rowen / Seventh-Day Adventist (12:49)
  • 09. Dorothy Martin / Brotherhood of the Seven Rays (13:13)
  • 08. Jeane Dixon (14:27)
  • 07. Hal Lindsey (15:39)
  • 06. Edgar Whisenant (16:34)
  • 05. Harold Camping (18:10)
  • 04. Nostradamus (19:11)
  • 03. Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins (20:02)
  • 02. John Hagee & Mark Biltz (20:33)
  • 01. Mayans (but not really…) (21:26)
  • Honorable Mentions (22:13)
  • The End? (23:59)

Step 3. Discuss

20 minutes

Leaders: You might like to split into smaller groups at this stage so everyone has a chance to respond honestly. Don't feel like you have to hurry through all these questions; they are simply conversation starters.

Q. What did you find most helpful or most challenging in this lesson? Any surprises?
Q. Have you ever experienced the wonder/fear/anticipation of a "coming soon" prophetic declaration only to later experience disappointment or disillusionment at having been led astray? How did this affect your relationship with God, the Bible or the Church?
Q. How can you avoid falling into error when you read the prophetic passages in the Bible?

(Answers might include: be Holy Spirit led, be humble, study to understand the historical context in which the prophecy was written; when, where, to whom, what was happening around the people at the time, etc.)

Q. Does God ever change His mind about when the end will come? Could earthly revival push out or usher in the last day?

(God is perfect in His foreknowledge; He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Just as He knows who will or won't respond to Him, He knows when and how the end will come. Yet, in the shadow of our Father's foreknowledge, humanity maintains its free will. We are not robots forced by God to choose evil or good; we make our own decisions, right or wrong. "God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?" (Numbers 23:19) This is the case with His promises for both blessings and judgment. Just as God knew the Jews would reject their Messiah (Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 8:14, Luke 19:41-44), He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple centuries before it happened (Daniel 9:24-27). God already sees whether humanity will or won't repent and His timeline accounts for this. Jesus taught His disciples, "It is not for you to know times or dates which the Father has fixed by His own authority." (Acts 1:7) So, continue to pray for revival, but seek your Father and grow in His Truth more than you seek to avoid end-time tribulation or to usher in Jesus' return.)

Step 4. Report Out [OPTIONAL]

15 minutes

Leaders: If you're a team of leaders taking a class through the course and you broke into small groups in Step 3, regroup at the end and ask each small group to report out on their small group discussion. What were their ah-ha's? What did they struggle with?

Close with prayer.



You're Probably Wrong

(Genesis 6:15-16, Acts 17:11)

What do UFO cults, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christopher Columbus, NASA rocket scientists, Martin Luther, Catholic popes, practically all of Europe and today’s Church all have in common?

Answer: They have all predicted—and utterly missed—dates for Jesus’ return and the end of the world. And the last days madness continues! These days, people are making end of the world predictions like there's no tomorrow!

In this episode of the Prophecy Course, we take a winsome walk through history to humbly put ourselves—and our own hot end-times theories—on ice.


  • Hold what you think you know loosely and humbly.


We humans are fascinated with the end times. Predictions of apocalyptic events that result in the end of the world have been around for thousands of years. Most predictions stem from the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam,) based upon the end times events described in their scriptures. Christian eschatological predictions usually refer to events like global tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, resurrection, rapture and final judgment.

Watch for Patterns

On our journey through epic end-times error, you’ll notice patterns emerging:

  1. The end is often predicted to come during the illuminated person’s lifetime.
  2. A misreading of the Bible is usually the primary source for their special revelation.
  3. Elaborate (and usually inconsistent) mathematical calculations are often involved in cracking the “Bible code”.
  4. When those calculations inevitably fail, new and improved dates may be published.
  5. “Newspaper exegesis” often ties modern-day world news with prophetic fulfillment. Artificial intelligence, nuclear war, pandemics, global cooling, global warming and natural disasters have all taken turns being plausible "end of the world" scenarios, accepted by both the religious and scientific communities. (Nevermind the scriptures being applied to these world events are taken out of their ancient Jewish context.)
  6. Commitment among the illuminated’s followers is high. People sell their homes and belongings, rack up great debt, quit their jobs, euthanize their pets, and give all their money to non-Christians, only to find their misinformed Doomsday never comes.

By the way! I’ve had it pointed out to me that this list of end-times errors should not be an indictment against any particular eschatological position, and that’s so true! There are moments when our varying eschatological lenses may be properly applied; this lesson just happens to be a veritable circus of times when they weren’t! These over-confident calculations were so fabulously flawed that these folks have gone down in history for their folly. Let their failure be a warning to us all.

Here are 20 of the most infamous last days delusions. Names have NOT been changed to protect the guilty. Let’s begin.

20. Jewish Essenes & Simon bar Giora

Right out of the gate, Jesus ascends into heaven and by Acts 2, the early Christian church—being 100% Jewish—realizes the end is nigh. If the prophecies of Joel are coming true, that also means Joel’s “day of the Lord”-sized judgment is on its way to the Jewish nation. But while the early church was on alert, those who rejected Jesus were still left in the tension of expecting a future Messiah.

So when the Jewish uprising against Rome began around 66 AD, the Jewish sect of ascetics in Judea known as the Essenes figured this was leading to the final end-time battle and the arrival of the Messiah. By 69-70 AD, one of the major revolutionary leaders in Jerusalem, Simon bar Giora (gee-ora), minted coins declaring the redemption of Israel.

And, well, we know how that turned out. In 70 AD, Jerusalem was sacked by Romans under Titus Vespasian, effectively putting an end to temple sacrifices and the old religious order.

19. Early Church Fathers

Early church fathers Hippolytus (hip-POL-a-tus) of Rome, Sextus Julius Africanus, and Irenaeus predicted Jesus would return in 500 AD. One of their predictions was even based upon the dimensions of Noah's Ark found in Genesis 6 (v15-16). Creative!

Later, various Christian clerics, including Pope Sylvester II, predicted the year 1000 as the Millennium (a time when many believe Jesus will return to establish an earthly kingdom for 1,000 years and then the judgment.) As a result, riots are said to have occurred in Europe and pilgrims headed east to Jerusalem. (Other historians say these events never took place.)

After January 1, 1000 came and went, some theorists proposed that the end would occur 1,000 years after Jesus' death, instead of his birth, predicting the end would come in 1033.

Finally, this happy-looking chap is Pope Innocent III who predicted the world would end 666 years after the rise of Islam in 618 AD. Though he died almost 70 years too early to see if his prediction came true, the year 1284 came and went as scheduled.

18. Europe

From 1346 to 1351, as the Black Death spread across Europe, northern Africa and into Asia, many felt certain the end had come. Left untreated, the bubonic plague had an 80% fatality rate with most of its victims dying within two to seven days of contracting it. Though there are no exact figures for the total death toll, the Black Death seems to have killed anywhere from 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia. The number of deceased bodies was so great, the need for mass burial sites grew across Europe, sometimes including up to several thousand skeletons.

17. London Astrologers

A group of astrologers in London predicted the world would end on February 1, 1524, by a flood starting in London, based on calculations made the previous June. Anticipating the end was nigh, 20,000 Londoners left their homes and headed for higher ground.

After their first prophecy failed, these same astrologers went on to recalculate the date to 100 years later (February 1, 1624.) This was fairly safe for them, since they weren’t going to be around to learn the results.

16. Fifth Monarchists

In 1666, some Christians felt this year would mark the end of the world. This superstitious fear was fueled due to 666 being in the date, the death of 100,000 Londoners in the third and final wave of bubonic plague, and the Great Fire of London. 50 members of the Fifth Monarchists movement tried to overtake London in the name of “King Jesus”. In the end, the uprising was thrown down, with most of the 50 being killed or captured, convicted of high treason and subsequently, drawn and quartered.

15. Mary Bateman

In 1806, in Leeds, England, a hen began laying eggs on which the phrase "Christ is coming" was written. Eventually, the hoax was uncovered. The hen’s owner, Mary Bateman, had written on the eggs in a corrosive ink, effectively etching them. Then—much to the hen’s chagrin—she reinserted the eggs back into the hen. (Ouch.)

14. Joanna Southcott

At the ripe old age of 64 years, self-appointed prophet, Joanna Southcott, declared she was pregnant with the Christ child, and that he would be born on October 19, 1814. She died later that year having not delivered a child. An autopsy proved she had not even been pregnant. We’ll chalk this one up to immaculate deception.

13. William Miller / Millerites

Though not officially endorsed by his American Baptist leadership, pastor William Miller came to proclaim—through careful and detailed calculation—that Jesus’ Second Coming would occur between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. When Christ failed to return, Miller’s followers—a national movement by then—revised his prediction to October 22 that year, pointing to a miscalculation in their alignment between Scripture and the Karaite (pronounced “care-ite”) Jewish calendar.

When this prediction failed to yield Christ’s return, the Millerite followers entered the time known as the Great Disappointment. Some hopeful believers simply refused to accept the error, choosing instead to wait daily for Christ’s imminent return, while others went on to predict new dates for the following year. Some pretended to be children, taking Jesus' words in Mark 10:15 literally, where He says, "Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." One Millerite reinterpreted Revelation 14:14–16 to claim Christ was on a white cloud waiting to be prayed down.

Several Millerite churches experienced backlash from the public. Churches were burned or vandalized. In some cases, the congregations themselves were attacked. One congregation in Canada was even tar and feathered. Many disillusioned Millerite believers fell away from the Christian faith completely. Others returned to their previous churches. Still others joined the Shakers, who had already missed their own prophetic end-times 50 years earlier in 1792, and again in 1794. (Misery loves company, I guess.)

12. Camille Flammarion

Camille Flammarion predicted the 1910 appearance of Halley's Comet "would impregnate that atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet", but not the planet itself. "Comet pills" were sold to protect against toxic gases. Their slogan? “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, the end is nigh, it t’is!” (Only some of you are going to get that!)

11. International Bible Students Association / Jehovah's Witnesses

The International Bible Students Association—the forerunner of the Jehovah’s Witnesses—believed Christianity would be cut off by the very hand of God and would be overcome by revolutionary governments. During this time, millions of church members would "perish by the sword of war, revolution and anarchy." The dead would lie unburied. This, together with the convenient heavenly glorification of the IBSA church, would occur during the spring of 1918. By 1920, all human government would devolve into worldwide chaos.

About 10 years after splintering off from the International Bible Students Association, a group known as the Jehovah's Witnesses would go on to predict the end in 1941. Failing that and still hungering for more end-times error, from 1966 on, the Jehovah's Witnesses would publish articles targeting the fall of 1975. They claimed this time period would be 6,000 years since mankind's creation and suggested that Armageddon could be complete by then.

Hey, so what if they don't know what "Armageddon" means? It's not the end of the world.

10. Margaret Rowen / Seventh-Day Adventist

The angel Gabriel was said to have appeared to Seventh-Day Adventist, Margaret Rowen, appearing in a vision to give her insider information that the world would end at midnight on February 13, 1925. Remember the Millerites? You might find it interesting to know that the Seventh-Day Adventist movement was born out of the Millerites during their Great Disappointment.

09. Dorothy Martin / Brotherhood of the Seven Rays

A Chicago housewife who practiced automatic writing, Dorothy Martin claimed to be receiving messages from superior beings from a planet she called “Clarion.” Among these messages came a prophecy that much of Earth’s northwestern hemisphere would be destroyed by a flood before dawn on December 21, 1954. A handful of loyal followers supported Martin in her delusion.

As divine providence would have it, three local researchers were already studying the effects of prophecy disconfirmation on disillusioned believers when they read about the prophecy in the city newspaper. Jumping on the opportunity to test their theories with a live case study, the research team infiltrated Martin’s group to collect data before, during and after the prophetic failure.

In the end, several members of this fledgling UFO cult left or lost their jobs, abandoned their studies, ended relationships with non-believers, or gave away their money and possessions to prepare for their departure on a flying saucer, which they believed would rescue them prior to the flood.

The 1956 book, “When Prophecy Fails” details the cult’s unraveling.

08. Jeane Dixon

Along with various Indian astrologers, Jeane Dixon predicted a February 1, 1962 planetary alignment would bring about the end of the world. In response, mass prayer meetings were held in India. Later, Dixon again predicted Armageddon would take place in 2020. It did not.

Many of Dixon's predictions proved erroneous, including her claims that an island dispute would start World War III in 1958, her prediction of a 1964 presidential candidate, identifying the second child of the Canadian Prime Minister would be a girl (it was a boy), and that Russia would be the first to set foot on the moon. In fact, so many of Dixon’s predictions failed, a mathematician at Temple University, John Allen Paulos, took to studying what he called “the Jeane Dixon effect”; that is, the tendency of Dixon and her followers to promote her few correct predictions while ignoring her larger number of failed predictions.

Dixon eventually suffered a heart attack and died at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., on January 25, 1997. Before her death, she uttered the words, “I knew this would happen.”

07. Hal Lindsey

The bestselling nonfiction book of the 1970s was The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. Though Lindsey stopped short of date-setting, he posited (incorrectly) that “this generation,” as mentioned in Matthew 24:34, indicated Jesus' return might be in 1988—within a biblical generation (40 years) of the rebirth of Israel in 1948—and the rebuilding of a third Jewish Temple. In his 1980 work, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, Lindsey predicted that "the decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it". Wrong again. Still, the damage was done. The Late Great Planet Earth has sold over 35 million copies and has been translated into more than 50 languages.

06. Edgar Whisenant

Edgar C. Whisenant (wis-in-ent), was a former NASA engineer and Bible student. In his book, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988,” he predicted the rapture of the Church would occur between September 11 and 13, 1988. During the book’s promotion, 300,000 free copies were sent to ministers across America, and 4.5 million copies were sold. Whisenant is quoted saying, "Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town" and "If there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 88."

Whisenant's predictions were taken seriously by many within the evangelical Christian community. As the date approached, it’s reported the Christian Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) would periodically interrupt its regular programming with special instructions on preparing for the rapture.

After his September predictions failed, Whisenant revised his date to October 3. When the rapture again failed to occur, Whisenant encored with additional books, predicting various dates including 1989, 1993, and 1994. Though these later books failed to sell, Whisenant continued to issue various rapture predictions through 1997, but eventually faded into obscurity.

Here’s a helpful tip: The next time someone claims to be certain the world will end on a particular day, ask if they've paid their mortgage for that month.

05. Harold Camping

American Christian radio broadcaster and evangelist, Harold Camping, predicted the rapture would occur on September 6, 1994. When the rapture failed to occur, he revised the date to September 29, then to October 2, and finally to March 31, 1995. This would be Camping's last prediction until 2011, when he predicted the rapture and devastating earthquakes would take place on May 21, 2011. Camping said "there would follow five months of fire, brimstone and plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day, culminating on October 21, 2011, with the final destruction of the world." When this prediction also failed, Camping claimed that a "spiritual judgment" had taken place on May 21 and that both the physical rapture and the end of the world would occur on October 21, 2011. After that date passed, he eventually repented and apologized for his error.

04. Nostradamus

A French astrologer, physician and prophet, Nostradamus is best known for his 1555 book, Les Prophéties, a collection of 942 poetic quatrains allegedly predicting future events. His predictions have enjoyed a staying power within popular culture due largely to their vagueness and lack of dating which makes it easy apply them to almost any historic event. This allows Nostradamus’ adherents to defend his failed predictions as simply being wrongly interpreted. One particular quatrain by Nostradamus states that a "King of Terror" would come from the sky in "1999 and seven months." This was frequently interpreted as a prediction of doomsday in July 1999. Like many of Nostradamus’ dated predictions, however, this one failed to be fulfilled.

03. Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Christian authors of the popular Left Behind book series and franchise, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, initially stated the Y2K bug would trigger global economic chaos, which the Antichrist would use to rise to power. The Y2K bug was a common shortcut taken in computer software programming that threatened to cause problems once a computer’s date moved beyond December 31, 1999. As the date approached, however, LaHaye and Jenkins changed their minds.

02. John Hagee & Mark Biltz

The so-called blood moon prophecy, first predicted by Christian ministers, Mark Biltz in 2008 and then by John Hagee in 2014, claimed the blood moon tetrad in April 2014 and in September 2015 represented the beginning of the Messianic end times. Their evidence was pinned on a misunderstanding of the national judgment language in the Book of Joel, where it is written "the sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes." Some Mormons in Utah combined the September 2015 blood moon with other signs, causing a large increase in sales of preppers survival supplies.

Say, did I tell you I've decided to get a PhD in how much soda you should have for the end of the world? Dr. Prepper, at your service.

01. Mayans (but not really...)

According to the Mayan calendar, there would be no more days after the 13th b’ak’tun (a Mayan time cycle.) Popular theories ranged from destruction by a planet-killing asteroid named Nibiru, to an alien invasion to even a surprise supernova. This particular doomsday had already been predicted once for May 2003, but was later resurrected and pinned to December 21, 2012, coinciding with winter solstice and the end of this Mayan calendar cycle. Experts on ancient Mayan culture were forced to point out that the end of any calendar does not mean creation ceases to exist; it just means you need to move to the next calendar.

You know, the Mayans taught me if you don't finish something, it's not really the end of the world.

Honorable Mentions

Lastly, we have some honorable mentions. In the interest of time, we won’t go deep, but these folks deserve to be recognized for their prophetic delusions.

  • Catholic monk Joachim (yo-a-kim) of Fiore (fee-yor-ay) and his Joachimites picked at least three dates;
  • Martin Luther (yes, the father of the Protestant Reformation) said the end would come no later than 1600;
  • Christopher Columbus made a case for the end of the world in 1656 and later revised it to 1658;
  • John Wesley, of Methodist Church fame, said Christ would come in 1836 and establish a 1,000-year millennial reign;
  • In February 1835, Mormonism founder, Joseph Smith, told his church leaders that God had revealed to him that Jesus would return within 56 years, ushering in the end times;
  • People’s Temple cult leader, Jim Jones, declared visions of a nuclear holocaust scheduled for 1967;
  • Criminally-insane cult leader, Charles Manson, predicted Helter Skelter—an apocalyptic race war—would occur in 1969;
  • Baptist minister, Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, predicted the end would come in 1982, then again in 2007;
  • Minister Lester Sumrall wrote a book predicting the end would come in 1985. The title of the book? “I Predict 1985.” (Catchy.) Afterward, he went on to write another book titled (wait for it) “I Predict 2000”;
  • Baptist pastor and televangelist, Jerry Falwell predicted Y2K would be the day God unleashed his wrath upon the earth.

All these folks made a bid on the last days and all missed, and some more than once.

The End?

Whew! Well, there you have it! End-times error is indiscriminate and widespread. In this lesson, we’ve seen early Church fathers, popes and theologians get it wrong. We’ve seen New Agers, astrologers and cult leaders get it wrong. We’ve seen housewives, salesmen and astrophysicists get it wrong. In fact, there is way too much error to cover responsibly in one lesson.

A couple take-aways I want you to glean from this lesson:

  • First, no date-setting! (Did you see how well it worked for all those other folks?)
  • And secondly, the folly of poor scriptural exegesis is shared by both the illuminated and their followers. We are called to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” As we move deeper into the Prophecy Course, I invite you to study this material out for yourself! Don’t just take my word for it!

I hope you have enjoyed our short walk through these last days disasters.

Remember: It’s the Truth that sets you free.

[Disclaimer: By continuing beyond this point, all Prophecy Course students agree to commit themselves to earnestly study the Word of God through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Henceforth, these dedicated students will test all biblical teachings they receive by the Word and Spirit of God. They agree to seek Truth more than they rest upon the doctrines of “learned” teachers.]


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