Even though Jesus specifically stated that no one knows the date of his Second Coming (Mk 13:32), this has not stopped many people through the centuries attempting to predict the date of the end of the world.
I have found around three hundred different dates which have been predicted for the Second Coming or the end of the world. These stretch from the first century to the 21st century. This page lists a number of these. The sobering thought is that every single one of these was incorrect, as we are still here, and Jesus has not come back yet.
The First Century
There was a sense of the imminent second coming in the first century. Paul warned the Thessalonians around AD 50 not to be shaken or alarmed if they hear that the day of the Lord is already here (2 Thess 2:1-2). Peter described people as 'scoffers' in the mid 60's who questioned why the coming of Jesus was taking so long (2 Pet 3).
AD 180's - Montanists, or New Prophecy
Montanism grew from the teaching of Montanus in Phrygia as a reaction against a growing laxity
in the established church. Two women, Priscilla and Maximilla left their husbands to follow him. They
desired to see the use of spiritual gifts to continue, emphasising tongues and prophecy. Initially they were accepted as part of the church and later considered as heretical.
They expected the imminent end of the age and establishment of the millennium in Pepuza, a small village in Asia Minor. They had no hope for the current world and looked with contempt at efforts to change the present order. Maximilla, who was the last of their three prophets to die in AD 179, stated, "After me there is no more prophecy, but only the end of the world". (Armerding/Gasque p. 28)
AD 180's - Bishop in Pontus
Around the time of Montanus at least two bishops, one in Pontus and one in Syria, were expecting the early return of Christ. One bishop in Pontus declared that the last judgement would come in two years and those who believe him ceased to cultivate their fields and rid themselves of houses and goods. The other led his flock into the wilderness to meet Christ. (Latourette p.128-129). In Syria, the bishop led his flock out into the wilderness to meet Christ.
AD 202 - During reign of Roman Emperor Septimus Severus
The Emperor Septimus Severus (193 - 211) made a decree in 202 forbidding people to become either Jews or Christians. The persecution was so strong in Egypt that many thought it was a sign of the last Antichrist.
AD 250 - Commodianus
Commodianus who lived in Palestine saw prophetic overtones to the persecution commanded by the emperor Decius (249-251). He listed seven persecutions that the church had suffered and likened them to the seven last plagues in the book of Revelation. The end of the world is at hand. Rome is the Antichrist, and this is the last persecution which represents the return of Nero. But Nero will be
destroyed by a Jewish antichrist marching at the head of a Persian host. He in turn will be slain by angels and cast in to the lake of fire. The lost tribes will then return to Zion and God will come for judgement and to destroy the wicked. (Wand p.101)
AD 500 - Hippolytus and Augustine
Both Hippolytus (c 170 - c 236) and Augustine (354 - 430) believed in the 'Cosmic week'. Jesus had come in middle of sixth millennium, so they expected the end in AD 500.
Second coming in AD 1000
There are various legends about events leading up to the year 1000, but it is not easy to verify them.
One legend was that there was a mass conversion of whole population of Iceland at Midnight on 1st January 1000 to survive the expected judgement day. Another legend was that thousands sold their possessions and headed to Rome to await the end.
An ancient chronicler tells us that it was widely believed that Jesus would return at the end of the
first 1000 years of Christianity. As the last decade of the first millennium dawned, there was great
apprehension and anticipation. With the birth of the year AD 999 certain amazing things began to
happen. People began to listen to their church with whole-hearted seriousness. There was no stealing;
cheating became almost unknown; bakers gave their bread away free of charge, and there was a constant
cycle of confessions, absolutions, and communion.
Another story which may or may not be true was that in Rome, as midnight neared on the last night of AD 999 masters and servants embraced. Offenders forgave each other. There was open repentance and godly sorrow for sin. In the old basilica of St. Peter, Pope Sylvester II performed midnight mass in silence. The church was crowded. Inside, a huge clock ticked once each second. The Pope prayed in silence. The worshippers lay face down, afraid to look up. Suddenly the clock stopped ticking. Hundreds shrieked. Some died of fright. The bell began to strike the midnight hour. Pope Sylvester raised his hands. All the bells rang at once. From the choir loft came the Te Deum Laudamus - to God be the glory!
AD 1147 - Gerard of Poehlde
Gerard taught that the 1000 year reign of Christ began when the emperor Constantine came to power. From that he predicted that in 1147 Satan would be released from bondage and would conquer the church.
AD 1260 - Joachim of Fiore
Joachim (1132 - 1200) was from Calabria in Italy and became the abbot of the Cistercian Abbey at Corazzo, where he developed into a Bible teacher. He wrote a number of books including, 'The Book of the Harmony of the New and Old Testaments', 'An Exposition of the Apocalypse', and 'The Psaltery of Ten Strings'.
In his books, he divided history into the following three epochs based on the number 1260 from Rev 11:3 and 12:6:
1) The age of the Father (Petrine) - Creation to the birth of Christ
2) The age of the Son (Pauline) - the birth of Christ to 1260
3) The age of the Holy Ghost (Johannean) - beginning in 1260
The third epoch was to be a time of contemplation when all the world would become a vast
monastery. This age would be preceded by the Antichrist, who he identified as the Papacy, which would
be destroyed by the emperor. The empire would then be destroyed by the Saracens, who were the ten kings from the East, who would then be destroyed by the Tartars. An order of contemplative monks would take charge of the church and introduce a reform programme which would usher in the millennium, a time of rest and peace for all. (Armerding/Gasque p. 29)
AD 1186 - The Letter of Toledo
This letter was claimed to have been written by the astrologers of Toledo and addressed to Pope Clement III. It predicted the end of the world would occur in September 1186. It said there would be wind and storms, drought and famine, pestilence and earthquake. The air would grow dark and a dreadful voice would be heard that would destroy the hearts of men. Coastal towns would be covered with sand and earth. All this would be triggered by a rare conjunction of the planets in the sign of the Scales and in the tail of the Dragon. People were advised to flee their homes and find safety in the mountains.
After AD 1260 - Peter John Olivi
Olivi (1248-98), a teacher and theologian belonging to the Spiritual Franciscans, wrote a 'Commentary on the Apocalypse' in 1297, which was based on Joachim's works. The year 1260 had passed without incident, but some had seen Francis of Assisi as the leader of the new era of the Spirit, so Joachim's writings were revived and new dates calculated, especially after the Franciscans were persecuted by the church. (Armerding/Gasque p.30)
AD 1420 - The Taborites
These were extreme followers of Jan Hus from Bohemia. They took their name from Mount Tabor, where they believed Jesus foretold his second coming. They waited for the expected the end in 1420. When this failed to happen, they became a revolutionary movement, calling themselves the warriors of God. They controlled many towns in Bohemia until they were finally crushed in 1434. (Kyle p.52)
AD 1490's - Savonarola
Savonarola (1452-98) was a wandering prophet in Italy, predicting an imminent improvement on the earth before the final judgement. The social and political turmoil in Italy caused Savonarola to see the world as a battleground between good and evil. The last days were approaching with disaster for Florence and Italy, which would be averted if the people of Florence would repent. The coming antichrist would be defeated and the Turks and pagans would be converted. He saw Florence as Zion, the city of God, and himself as its prophet. He thought that Charles VIII of France was the last world emperor. He took control of Florence in 1494, before being defeated by the Medicis and being executed in 1498. (Kyle p.53)
AD 1528 - Hans Hut
Hut predicted the return of Christ at Pentecost in 1528. He gathered 144,000 elect saints to prepare
AD 1533 - Melchior Hoffman
Melchior Hoffman (1498 - 1543) came from Swabia in south-western Germany was an Anabaptist missionary, who preached around Europe, including the Baltic region, Scandinavia, Holland. He was imprisoned in Strassburg for many years. He predicted that after his death, he would return with Christ in clouds of heaven in 1533, the wicked would be judged, and that the New Jerusalem would be set up in Strassburg. However, 1533 passed, with Hoffman still in prison. (Latourette p.781,783)
AD 1534 - Jan Matthys
Jan Beukelssen was an Anabaptist baker from Harlem in Holland, who believed that he was a prophet and that Münster, in Germany, where the Anabaptists had taken control and were attempting to establish a Christian society, would be the site of the New Jerusalem (Latourette p.783)
AD 1550's - Michael Servetus
Servetus (1511-53) was a Spaniard, and is primarily remembered for his conflict with Calvin. Because he denied the Trinity and rejected infant baptism he was condemned to death, and was burned at the stake in 1553. He also denounced predestination and believed that the millennial reign of Christ was about to begin. (Latourette p.759)
AD 1583 - Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn
This conjunction made the two planets appear to become one much brighter body, and produced many end-time anxieties (Kyle p.65)
AD 1694 - Johann Heinrich Alsted
Alsted was a German Calvinist, who was Professor of Theology at Herborn, and a reformed representative at the Synod of Dort (1618). In his book 'The Beloved City', he calculated 1694 as the
start of the Millennium and declared that the Thirty Years War, which had just started, signified the end of the age. His book had great influence in the reformed countries and on the Puritan revolution, particularly in England. (Armerding/Gasque p.30-33)
He calculated that adding 1290 (from Dan 12:11) to the date of the Fall of Jerusalem (AD 69) gave the year 1359. He then added 1335 (from Dan 12:12) to give the end of the millennium in 2694, which meant that the start of the millennium would be in the year 1694.
AD 1652 - Total eclipse of the sun
This was predicted to happen in March 1652, and sent apocalyptic shudders throughout Europe
AD 1650's - Fifth Monarchy Men
During the rule of Oliver Cromwell (1649-1660), several groups existed who desired more radical reform than had existed under the Puritan government of Cromwell. The Fifth Monarchy Men believed that according to Biblical prophecy Christ was soon to return to establish on earth the 'Fifth Monarchy' in succession to the Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires, and that he would reign, with his saints, for 1000 years. They differed greatly among themselves, some wished to use force to establish the Fifth Monarchy, others wished to wait quietly for the coming of Christ. (Latourette p. 822)
They believed that the fifth and last monarchy, the reign of God would begin in England. The
antichrist would be destroyed, England purified, and the kingdom of Christ would spread throughout the
world. The English armies led by Oliver Cromwell would sweep through Europe and defeat the Pope.
The Jews would return to the Holy Land and defeat the Turks. These events would happen between 1655
and 1657. (Kyle p.67)
One group tried to hasten the second coming by attacking the restored Stuart monarchy to prove to
God that there was faith on earth, so Christ would return and establish the millennial reign in London.
The attempt failed, the leaders were jailed or beheaded and the movement fizzled.
AD 1650 - Christopher Columbus
Columbus’s motivation for exploration was partly religious. He wanted to sail west across the
Atlantic Ocean in order to reach Asia directly. He did not know that America was in between. Inspired
by the earlier crusades, his plan was to conquer Asia and take wealth from there to finance a crusade to the Middle East to capture the Holy Land from the Muslims, which he will lead himself.
In order to persuade King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to finance his fourth voyage
to the 'Indies' he presented them with his 'Book of Prophecies'. From the Bible, he had predicted that
the world will end in 1650, and before then he would lead a crusade to liberate Jerusalem.
The year 1666
Many combined 1000 (the millennium) with 666 (the mark of the beast) to arrive at the date 1666. 1666 was the year of the plague followed by the Great Fire of London. The Quaker George Fox wrote that in 1666, every thunderstorm aroused end-time expectations (Kyle p.67-68).
AD 1694 - John Mason
John Mason was an Anglican vicar, who used the writings of Archbishop James Ussher and Johann Alsted to calculate that the millennium would begin in 1694. Later he based his end-time predictions on the voices and visions that came to him. As time went on, he became increasingly bizarre, even insisting that he would not die. When he did die, his followers believed that he would rise on the third day. (Kyle p. 72)
AD 1697 - Thomas Beverly
Thomas Beverly was an Anglican vicar, who predicted the end would come in 1697. (Kyle p.72)
Ad 1697 - Cotton Mather
Cotton and his father Increase were American Puritans, who considered the American Indians as being in league with the Antichrist. Basing his calculations on activities of the Turks and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he first calculated the end to come in 1697. When this date passed, he quietly adjusted the time, first to 1736, then back to 1716. He naturally believed that the New Jerusalem
would be located in New England, USA. (Kyle p.78-79)
AD 1700 - A French Prophet
A French prophet predicted the coming of Christ in 1700 to destroy Catholicism.
AD 1757 - Emanuel Swedenborg
The well-known Swedish mystic and scientist (1688-1772) claimed to have had a vision which
carried him in to the spiritual world, where he had been able to see eternal truths. He believed that his writings were the dawn of a new age in the history of the world. He declared that the last judgement had occurred in 1757, and that the second coming had already been fulfilled spiritually.
AD 1789 - The French Revolution
Many English Bible interpreters thought that the French Revolution was the prophecies of Daniel
chapter 7 and Revelation chapter 13 being fulfilled before their very eyes (Kyle p.72)
AD 1795 - Richard Brothers
Richard Brothers became convinced that God was speaking to him, and wrote several prophetic works in the 1790's, predicting that the millennium would begin in 1795. He believed that his lineage was divine and that he would lead the ten lost tribes back to Israel. In one prophecy he said that God wanted him to wear the crown of England. The government arrested him, and he spent the rest of his life in a lunatic asylum, where he planned the New Jerusalem (Kyle p.73)
AD 1830's - Catholic Apostolic Church (Irvingites)
Edward Irving (1792-1834) was a Presbyterian clergyman from Scotland, who preached in the
Presbyterian church in London. He believed that the apostolic gifts of the early church were being
revived, including speaking in tongues and healing. He also believed that the second coming of Christ
was imminent. He was ejected from the Presbyterian church for heresy, but his views found a home in
the Catholic Apostolic Church, founded in 1832. (Latourette p. 1184)
AD 1844 - Seventh Day Adventists (Millerites)
William Miller (1782-1849), farmer from Western Massachusetts. After 14 years of intensive Bible study, he calculated the second coming in 1843 or early 1844. After it didn't happen during that period, he re-calculated dates to 22nd October 1844. Many people were waiting in church on 22nd October, absolutely convinced that the Lord would appear during the service for all to see. His followers stayed together after the failed prediction and formed into the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. (Latourette p.1259)
His calculations were quite elaborate, but his key was Daniel 8:14, the 2300 days before the sanctuary will be cleansed. He said this described the second coming of Jesus, which would purge the world of evil and usher in the millennium. Miller took the 2300 days to mean 2300 years from 457 BC, when Ezra and 1700 Jews returned to Jerusalem. This linked with the 70 weeks of years in Dan 9:24, so he counted back 490 years form AD 33 (the crucifixion) to arrive at 457 BC. Miller added 2300 years to
457 BC to reach 1843. (Kyle p.89-93)
AD 1860's - Hatley Frere
Frere taught that the Jews would be back in Palestine with a rebuilt temple in 1865, and that Roman
Catholicism would be destroyed by 1864. He identified Louis Napoleon as the Antichrist. (Armerding/Gasque p.54)
AD 1874 - Jehovah's Witnesses
Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), was the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses. He believed that Christ came in invisible form in 1874, and millennium had begun. (Latourette p. 1260)
The Jehovah's Witnesses are the most persistent date setters. The following years have been set by their leaders: 1874, 1878, 1881, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1984 (Kyle p.93)
AD 1940's - Leonard Sale Harrison
Harrison (c.1875-1956) was an Australian Bible teacher, who wrote a book titled 'The Resurrection of the Old Roman Empire' published in 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War. From the statue in Daniel chapter 2, he identified the Italian Government as a revived Roman empire, the final empire represented by the feet of the statue. He claimed that the clay represented the democratic socialists and the iron represented the fascists, calling for strong law and order, who would call for a strong ruler.
Mussolini was identified either as the Antichrist or as one who would precede the Antichrist. Harrison suggested that Mussolini's territorial conquests were an attempt to revive the Roman empire, and that Mussolini was copying Julius Caesar, attempting to establish a state cult with himself as the god. Even though he claimed not to approve of setting dates, he believed that the end would come in 1940 or 1941. (Armerding/Gasque p. 33-36)
AD 1988 - Edgar C. Whisenant
Whisenant wrote a book titled, '88 reasons why the rapture will be in 1988' which sold two million
copies. He predicted the date of the rapture as being between the 11th and 13th September 1988. He reasoned that even though Jesus said that no one can know the day or the hour of his return, we can
still know the month or the year. He even predicted the date of the beginning of World War III as 3rd October 1988.
He later wrote another book titled 'The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989. What went wrong in 1988', explaining errors in his calculations.
AD 1988 - King Juan Carlos
Also in 1988, it was stated that King Juan Carlos of Spain would rise and lead the revised Roman
AD 1992 - Dami Church Korea
Lee Jan Rim of the Dami Church in Korea predicted that the rapture would occur on 28th October 1992 when 144,000 believers would be taken up to heaven.
AD 1994 - Harold Camping
Harold Camping was the president of Family Radio in USA, predicted the world would end in September 1994. His book '1994?', and its sequel 'Are You Ready?' used his own elaborate, rather unorthodox, system of dating, numerology and allegory pointing to the second coming being in September 1994. Even after the date, Camping still believed that Christ would return soon.
AD 1997 - Mary Stewart Relfe
Relfe claimed that God spoke to her through dreams, and on his instructions she released a chart
spelling out the divine timetable. World War III would break out in 1989. The great tribulation would
begin in 1990. The United States would be totally destroyed several years before Armageddon, and Christ
would return in 1997. She had a mid-tribulational plan, that the church would witness the rise of the
Antichrist before being raptured midway through the tribulation. (Kyle p.121)
Carl E Armerding and W Ward Gasque - Handbook of Biblical Prophecy (Armerding/Gasque)
Richard Kyle - The Last Days are Here Again (Kyle)
Latourette - The History of Christianity (Latourette)
J.W.C. Wand - A History of the Early Church to AD 500 (Wand)