prophecies or false prophets, to one extent or another. During the 1800's and 1900's the world repeatedly heard voices "crying wolf"on the subject of Christ's return and the end of the world.
Do these false alarms and false prophets distract from the words of Jesus Christ and the words of the Hebrew prophets? Many people would probably answer, "Yes, they serve as an excuse that justifies dismissing the Bible and its prophecies." But, for myself, I would answer "No!" It was their false cries that originally caught my attention and led me to begin investigating the Bible and its true prophecies.
"Where there's smoke, there's fire," so goes the saying. Some of the 'smoke' may turn out to be false prophets throwing up dust, but if it causes some people to notice the real smoke that they would otherwise have overlooked, it does, in fact, serve a useful purpose.
My thought that false prophets can inadvertently accomplish good along those lines is not totally foreign to Scripture. The Apostle Paul expressed a similar thought in regard to false 'Christians' who were preaching for bad motives: "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry...out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." (Philippians 1:15-18 NIV)
In much the same way, I rejoice that false prophets caught my attention in the late 1960's with their prediction that the year 1975 was the likely time for the battle of Armageddon. At that time I was a zealous young atheist wandering far away from God, and, although such inaccurate preaching failed to make me a footstep follower of Jesus Christ, it did pull me back onto a path that would later intersect with His. (See "About the Author" toward the end of this book.) And, if it could have that effect on me, it could do the same for others as well.
Nor have there always been bad motives behind those sounding false alarms regarding Christ's return. Some were sincere but over-zealous, or sincere but misinformed.
Others may simply have chosen to err on the side of caution. Years ago I worked as a burglar alarm technician. My job was to install burglar alarms, including the type that are motion-activated. When setting up a motion detector, it was a tricky business to find the right setting. An adjustment in the direction of too much sensitivity would result in false alarms, but an error in the other direction could allow a burglar to enter someone's home undetected. Alarm technicians were taught to err on the side of safety. It would be better to be called back to make the alarm a little less sensitive, after a breeze or a pet had set it off, than to be called back after a costly burglary had taken place.
Christians sounding the alarm about the approaching return of Christ can not be blamed for taking a similar approach.
The apostle used a metaphor similar to the burglar alarm installer when he likened Christ's return to a thief in the night. "Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.'" (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 NIV) Paul could say that his readers 'knew' this 'very well' because Jesus had used the same analogy:
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24:42-44 NIV)
To the extent that false alarms have caused some people to wake up and to "be ready" for Christ's return, they can be said to have served a good purpose, at least to some extent.
Still, the same Apostle Paul who preached that "the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night," also cautioned against some who were sounding false alarms even back then in the first century. "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus