What follows is a sampling of predictions concerning the end of the world. Most circulated widely and reflect either the rise of a movement or its demise. This first section covers 234 to 1836 and was drawn from a class called “Ten Issues: Rapture” that was conducted in July 2016 at Trinity Cathedral in San Jose, Ca.
- Hippolytus, a prominent Roman apologist, calculated that 5,500 years separated Adam and Christ, and hence all that remained was 500 years, since the total number was 6,000, or six full days until the seventh “day” of rest.
- When the capital celebrated its one thousandth anniversary in 247, many Christians believed that the end of the world was upon them, because during the same year Rome intensified its persecution of the church.
- Hilary of Poitiers (310-367), a very prominent theologian of his day, and the first Latin hymn writer, claimed that the end would occur in 365. Martin of Tours, his student, declared that the antichrist was already born.
- Donatism was a major schismatic movement in the North African church until the fifth century. The sect asserted, after the death of their namesake, that 380 was the real date for the end of the world.
- When Rome was sacked in 410, Augustine reported that some declared that the 6,000 years of earth were finished and that the next millennia belonged to Christ’s reign; others predicted the end based on the year 500.
- This year caused mass hysteria over Christ’s return; a solar eclipse, fall of the Carolingian dynasty, and Halley’s comet were all signs of the end. In December 999, many sold property and gave proceeds to the poor.
- Pope Innocent III (died 1216) computed the date of Christ’s return to the year 1284 by adding 666 years to the founding of Islam. This was one of the first authorized predictions of the end of the world in Catholicism.
- One thousand years after the ascension of Constantine, again some asserted that it marked the actual end of the millennium and that Jesus would return in 1306 to inaugurate the day of judgment on the world.
- Thirty years later, the bubonic plague spread across Europe killing one third of its population, and many understood the event as a precursor to the end of the world as well as the fulfillment of apocalyptic imagery.
- Spanish born reformer Michael Servetus (died 1553) clamed in his book, “Restoration of Christianity,” that the devil’s reign began in 325 at the Council of Nicea and that it would last 1260 years, thus ending in 1585.
- London citizens were convinced that the end was near due to an outbreak of the bubonic plague killing over 100,000 people, and a great fire also struck that year. That it ended with “666,” contributed to the fears.
- Cotton Mather, the Puritan cleric, predicted the world would end in the year 1697; when it did not happen he extended the date to 1716. He died in 1726, so before then he again changed the event to a decade later.
- Emmanuel Swedenborg predicted that the last judgment would occur in 1757 after the second coming, but it takes place in the spiritual world, and was one of many visions he received over a thirty-year duration.
- The Shakers predicted the return of Christ would occur in 1792, at which time he will establish his true church on the earth; this they called, “the fullness of time,” after which the church will reign for a thousand years.
- Johann Albrecht Bengel proclaimed in the 1730s that, based on careful study of prophecy, the judgment day would occur in 1836, with the pope as the antichrist and freemasons as the false prophets of the apocalypse.