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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Summer Edition 1996

Why Edger Whisenant's Prdictions Failed in 1988

God's Word is true and never fails, but men's interpretation and understanding of it can be quite another matter. Obviously one man's prediction that the rapture would happen in 1988 failed. And what should the Church's response to that failure be? To discredit Bible prophecy in the whole? Or simply to acknowledge that some interpreters of it have been seriously misguided?

We should be very careful not to discredit Bible prophecy in the whole, just because some esteemed as "experts" have done disservice by abusing it. Reactionarism, naturally, follows perceptual disillusionment, but to turn to skepticism, or worse yet, agnosticism, over all such cognitive dissonance can turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The Bible says that scoffers will arise in the last days saying "where is the promise of Christ's coming?" (II Peter 3:2-4). Could it be that some have turned to such extreme behavior today because they have listened to some well-meaning "expert" on Bible prophecy, whose common-sense truncation of the Holy Scripture betrayed the fact that he did not know what he was talking about?

    When prophecy fails, as it did in 1988, the wise should not overreact by throwing the baby out with the bathwater in becoming skeptical of all attempts to understand the Bible. Rather, we should simply take good stock of what goes wrong.

    Many, obviously, were readily enamored by Whisenant's date-setting theory. If it had not found widespread grassroots appeal it would never have made the national sensation that it did in the first place. What happened here was that fact that Whisenant's scenario resonated with conceptions that where ALREADY well entrenched in the popular mindset to begin with. His phenomenon certainly did not come about in a vacuum.

    Other, more orthodox Christians, however, saw through the nonsense and unbiblical tenor of the scenario from the start.

    The fact of the matter is, dear friend, that the prophet of 1988 taught "classic Darbyism"--postponed kingdom, pre-trib rapture, Jewish millennial reign—the whole nine yards. This system of interpretation he did not invent, it had already been widely taught throughout evangelical fundamentalism for many years, and was widely accepted as the gospel.

What Whisenant's novelty was, instead, was the fact that he was successful in pulling off what thousands of other Darbyite dispensationalists, just like him, could only dream of doing. I am taking about the "date-setting" thing. The fact was that he was just a little bit more clever in that aspect of it than all the rest. He had a little more active and more fertile "creative imagination" than the majority of his fellow Darbyites.

    The tragedy lies not so much in the fact that his specific predictions for the date of the rapture failed. The tragedy lies, instead, in the reality that so many millions of modern evangelical fundamentalists had been so gullible as to have swallowed so wholeheartedly that major system of theological heresy (i.e., dispensational premillennialism) that his entire approach to end-time Bible prophecy represented.

Ironically, almost exactly one-hundred year earlier, Dr. Daniel Steele had predicted that the date-setting phenomenon of the likes of Edger Whisnant would inevitably happen. Listen to Dr. Steele's prediction, which, unlike Whisenant's, actually DID come to pass: " . . . we predict from the history of Adventism in past ages, that the Plymouth Brethren will soon begin to fix a definite time for the Advent, which will be followed by disappointment and all the moral and spiritual disasters of Millerism" (Antinomianism Revived, p. 78).

    "Disappointment" followed by "all the moral and spiritual disasters of millerism" is where the true danger of the failure of Whisenant's false prophecy lies. Yet, one can only wonder how many of we "fellow Darbyites" are any less blameworthy than he?

    We are no less implicated in a scandal than he, my friend, if we have swallowed THE SAME SYSTEM OF FABLES, even then though we OURSELVES did not carry those notions through to the RIDICULOUS extent that he did.

Think about it--Whisenant did not embarrass and discredit true end-time Bible prophecy at all. What he did embarrass and discredit, rather, was himself, and the system of fables, called dispensational premillennialism, that he had, obviously, so totally fallen for.

Are we being uncharitable by so rubbing it in?

    No, we are not being uncharitable, dear friend, we are simply being frank, honest and truthful. You need to wake up and deal with the REALITY that dispensational premillennialism, itself, is the REAL SCANDAL, that, even now, is in the breaking.

Be ignorant if you want. Be disillusioned if you want. You have been served notice very plainly that it doesn't have to be that way. The truth of God's eternal, holy Word has not the least been affected by the fact that Whisenant's prophecy  of the rapture in 1988 failed. False prophecy always fails. So what else is new?

What is new is what is true. And what is true is that fact that Jesus is coming soon! Babylon is about to fall! Not the dispensationally-conceived system of fables, either--let me once again make the separation crystal clear! That entire "system" lies outside the pale of truth.

Our point?

There is a stumbling-block in the pathway to knowledge and understanding here. We have done our best--in that just said--to remove it.

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