Remembering When Chuck Smith Predicted the End Times--And They Didn't Happen

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Much is being made right now about some yahoos predicting that the world will end on May 21 because Scripture says so--you know, because such predictions have never been offered in the history of humanity. You can see their billboards around the county, with an added ad to listen to some radio station or other.

Because nothing has happened in the world of the Internet before 2007, many OCers forget that such dumb predictions used to be made all the time by Chuck Smith, founding pastor of the mighty Calvary Chapel movement. Thankfully, we received a random email from a former Calvary Chapel member, who remembers 20 years ago when Smith predicted the end of the world, the whole of Calvary Chapel gathered in its SanTana compound, and...

...nothing happened.

Without further ado, here's the former congregant. And all he asked for payment was a plug for this book. Enjoy!

Save the date: Jesus is coming on May 21 at 6 p.m.
By Paul Griffo


The doomsayers are at it again.

You may have seen the bumper stickers or billboards heralding 5/21/2011 as Judgment Day. The latest nationwide apocalyptic media blitz is sponsored by an 89-year-old radio preacher from Oakland named Harold Camping.


He seems to have uncovered a formula in the Bible for calculating the exact date and time of Christ's return--May 21 at 6 p.m. (He doesn't specify whether that's Pacific Daylight Savings Time, so give or take a few hours.)  And then the world is supposed to end six months later.

 
Predicting of the end of the world, of course, is nothing new in Christian circles. As a kid in 1971, I remember being enthralled when Chuck Smith, the pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa,  the epicenter of the Jesus Movement, declared that he couldn't imagine the world continuing on for another fifteen to twenty years.

Smith said that if Jesus didn't return, the water wouldn't be drinkable, the air wouldn't be breathable, there wouldn't be enough food for everyone, and the crime rate would be so high you wouldn't be able to go anywhere without being assaulted. Apparently, God forgot to tell Chuck about genetically modified food, vehicle emissions standards, water filters, surveillance cameras, and Rudy Giuliani.


If anyone said that Jesus wasn't coming soon, Smith dismissed them as naysayers. He used a New Testament passage about a fig tree to prove that the "rapture"--when all true believers in Jesus Christ would magically disappear, leaving cars and buses driver-less, and planes pilot-less--was supposed to happen in 1981.

This was to be followed by the rise of the Antichrist and onset of the The Great Tribulation, seven years of the worst turmoil and disaster the world has ever known. At the very end of this seven-year period, Jesus and all his believers would come back to earth riding on white horses to defeat the Antichrist and all his evil followers, casting them into the lake of fire. It was better than a Hulk or Superman movie--and I could have a role in it!


Pastor Chuck, as he likes to be called, would get the congregation worked up to a fever pitch, especially when world events transpired that seemed like they were happening in fulfillment of an end-times Bible prophecy.

One New Year's Eve service, after there had been reports of Arab-Israeli hostilities, Smith came out with a huge grin and addressed a congregation eager for  Armageddon by saying, "It's kinda like waiting for the Rose Parade!" which was followed by raucous laughter. (See, it was supposed to be funny that we were going to be in heaven, and everyone else, including our "unsaved" parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents would be left down here to "take the mark of the beast."


If they refused the tattoo of 666, they wouldn't be able to buy food, and would probably be executed for treason. If they received the mark, then the Book of Revelation says they would suffer the wrath of God, which included mountains falling on them and being tormented by creatures that had scorpions' tails and lion's heads with sharp teeth.  


Smith would also get a big laugh every time there was an earthquake in Southern California. He would pray, "Shake 'em up, Lord! Let 'em know you're comin'!" I bet the families of the 49 patients who were crushed to death when the San Fernando Veteran's Administration Hospital collapsed on them during the Sylmar quake in 1971 didn't get the joke.


Ten years later, a lot of people came to the 1981 New Year's Eve Service not expecting to go home that night, because Smith had been telling them for more than a decade that the rapture had to happen before the end of 1981. No one was laughing when the service was over.

They all left the parking lot after midnight, realizing they now had to face 1982, earthbound and disillusioned. And that meant having to endure the jeers of their friends to whom they'd explained the whole prophetic chart that showed 1981 was the year they would disappear in the rapture. Many never to returned to Calvary Chapel. Some left Christianity altogether. Others just changed their end-times beliefs.


I feel some empathy for the people who now believe Harold Camping, because as a child I believed Chuck Smith. I looked up to him as a man of God rather than one in a long line of eccentrics who have tried and failed to predict the end of the world.

Years later, Smith offered a wimpy non-apology, saying that setting dates was wrong and he "came close" to doing that. He attributed his error to a hobby of trying to correlate current events to biblical prophecies. Unfortunately, Smith never gave up his little hobby, and has since spawned hundreds of thousands of end-times clones who are involved in the very same nonsense.


To those who are waiting to be "raptured" on May 21, I have one simple challenge: If you really believe it, legally transfer all your possessions and your money to me now.  I'll be waiting to hear from you.


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114 comments
bohica27
bohica27

It's rather difficult to take someone seriously and without derision when:

  1. In direct contradiction of all scientific, factual evidence don't accept evolution as fact.
  2. Preached the "the end of the world" was near, but give me more MONEY!!!$$$$$$$$ The goalposts for the "end of the world" moved each year when it never happened. Lol
  3. He was notoriously homophobic and bigoted.
  4. He was a serial philanderer.
  5. He was financially corrupt.
  6. He preached "young earth" creationism.

It doesn't get any more ridiculous than Chuck Smith. He, like most of his ilk, was a charlatan.  Only half-wits, the uneducated and trailer trash morons buy what he was selling.

lumbarhist222
lumbarhist222

I have been a member of Calvary Chapel for over 20 years and I have never heard of this rapture prediction made by Chuck. I have gone through all his old tapes and all I can come up with are rumors, not one bit of proof. Do you have any way to prove these things? I have never heard Chuck anything that even comes close to what your post says he did. I have heard him answer questions about dates and times and he always answers  that he does not know and neither can anyone else predict the day or time of the rapture. You might try calling him and asking him about this, he is on the radio monday - friday 3:00 pacific time. Somtimes people arewilling to believe gossip and slander because they want to

Concerned
Concerned

Even If Chuck Smith didn't directly say it was going to happen, what kind of congregation stands by and accepts this kind of talk? Where were the elders to correct him, and to tell him that by giving the impression the world was going to end in a specific year, that he could be alienating himself from potential believers/current church attenders. 

When Pastor's go too far in making assumptions derived from their own personal revelational interpretations of the bible, they set themselves up for disappointments. disapproval, and discouragement of their congregations. Doesn't it make more sense to be more conservative in your approach to interpreting the Bible, if it is an area of the Bible that does not hinge on your salvation? Yes, it is reasonable and good to tell people to be ready for Christ's return, but to make assumptions or overemphasize that part of the Bible, does a disservice to many other areas of it.

 When one witnesses to someone of a different faith or lifestyle, does someone preach solely from fear tactics(ie believe or go to hell) or do they lay out the evidence: that God is real, there is a need to be reunited with Him through the forgiveness of sins by his Sons death, and that because people are changed by Christ's love,  the Christian faith is a lifestyle change worthy of buying into?

- Believing Jesus is coming back is a key tenet of faith, but I truly feel if a congregation feels manipulated or misled, that many souls can be lost.I went to Calvary Schools for over 6 years, and though I believe most of the people there generally have good hearts and good intentions, but I do not attend their church for several reasons:

The over-emphasis and application of revelation being taught to the church, without a consistent use of sound theological practices (hermeneutics)- read this article of a review of Chuck Smith's book "Snatched Away" which contains many obvious blunders. 

http://www.amazon.com/Snatched...

A harsh judging of the world without examining how the christian church in the west is failing the culture it lives in or how Jesus dealt with culture and was relevant. Many of the ways their teachings failed me, I was very pleased to learn about on this site http://www.qideas.org/church/

A bad track record of the pastors and administration- they let people make big mistakes yet still remain in power. I.E.- lack of accountability from a board of elders/members

Anyways these are just some thoughts and observations regarding this article, and the calvary chapel church. 

Concerned
Concerned

What is wrong with this is that he was still in power after his claims were wrong. I thought the Christian community is supposed to band against liars and false prophets? How can a church move on and witness to the world when its leader is making assumptions contrary to the teachings of the BIble?(ie no man knows the day of Christ's return)....

Mako
Mako

Chuck is right. This world as we know it today is slowing going to die. No one knows the date and times of Jesus return. But we have the Bible and it t ells of events and the way the world is going to be in the end times. And we're in it. Jesus Christ can return at any moment. Nothing is in the way to stop that, and everything the Bible says must happen right before the beginning of the end has happened. So, while No one knows the time we know this, it will happen, and the way things are shapening up theses days ... soon. So remember just because you don't want to believe it doesn't make it untrue. It will happen and you need to get right with God now. Believe and faith in Jesus and His death on the cross, and in His resurrection, Ask for forgiveness and Accept the Son of God as your Savior today. You can believe man, but his way is eternal death. Or you can believe in the Son of God today and have eternal life! What do you have to lose? if I'm wrong? then as they say all dogs go to heaven right? But if I am right (and I am) only those who except Jesus Christ into their hearts will see heaven and have the joy and peace forever! All others burn in hell. ...It's your choice. God has given you a free will to choose, so chose this day whom you will serve and believe in.

john
john

Chuck just needs a friendly touch by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  The Flying Spaghetti Monster  forgives all!  May Chuck be touched with His noodley appendage.

Have a pirate filled day!

RAmen.

DBA
DBA

Thanks for reminder!!

DBA uSA

Phillip Armstrong
Phillip Armstrong

At less they are glad to see the day were people like you would repent.

Kaoartist
Kaoartist

Chuck Smith, is a good example why people should watch what they say. He got caught-up in his own glorious exuberance.

Ruben
Ruben

Well you see Mr. Griffo a common problem with many Christians is we make the very serious mistake in looking at man and not diggin our faces into the word of God. Now i'm not defending Chuck and yes I agree that taking the task of predicting the date of the rapture is a dangerous thing...the fact is...he's human, he makes mistakes like you and I and he sins like you and I...for this reason I thank God for is our Savior Jesus Christ and i'm sure Chuck does too.

But Camping...well there is another story. First off he's not calling it the rapture, he's refering to it as judgment day...really so where in his prediction is the 7 year tribulation. Not only that... the wack job is an already proven False Prophet he predicted the very same thing in 1994 and by the way have you listened to his other teachings?

Look, Simply put... 1rst Thess: 5:20 Warns us to not despise propehesies but in the very next verse it instructs us to test EVERYTHING and hold fast to that which is good. what does that mean? Simple...I go to Calvary Chaple and if my Pastor is interpreting scripture (which includes prophesying) that  I find a little odd then I am to search the scriptures to see if what is being taught is true.

I'm certainly not going to leave the church I attend just because I don't agree with a certain interpretation. We have a responsibility as Christians to study the word ourselves.

But i'm sure as a child you weren't too keen on 1rst Thess: 5:20-21

Anyhow, God Bless you and we'll see all familiar faces on the 22nd of May 

Kate
Kate

Why do people feel the need to bash every other person not in their own religion? Read the comments below, all that is happening is taking low blows at the posts they don't agree with. If Chuck is wrong, woops. If he's right, then we will know eventually. I don't agree with him constantly reporting the end of the world, but if he feels a religious obligation to, then we shouldn't look down on him. Every religion has its weirder people, but we as outsiders to their religion have NO right to bash it's followers (souly for their beliefs). Everyone needs to grow up and learn religous tolerance. 

Rooh4u16
Rooh4u16

No one knows the day or time when god is ready he will return. Are you ready???????

Athirson
Athirson

When the good Pastor Smith stops fleecing grannies out of their SSI checks, I will know we are in the End Times. Until then, carry on, nothing to concern ourselves with.

Briandherrera
Briandherrera

I was raised in Calvary Chapel and still attend. I believe firmly in God, and I for one dont know the date or time when our Lord Jesus Christ will come, but I do know and I'm still learning to try to be ready and not be caught off guard. To show pleasure in all that I do to our Lord. May God Bless us all and forgive those that dont ask or forgiveness.

Dr. Jimmy
Dr. Jimmy

It`s the end of the world as we know it.........and I feel fine.

Lary
Lary

Does Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa make their transcripts from thise 1981 sermons available to the public? It would be nice to be able to read them for ones self. As a Christian I believe many pastors missapply current events to Biblical prophecy in their zeal to better understand God's timing.

Kaoartist
Kaoartist

Many of us remember those days... Chuck Smith, had a powerful effect on many people.

Minister B
Minister B

1Thessalonians 5:2 says "for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." If these precious folks would actually believe the Bible over their religious leaders they would reject anyone who comes up with an "end-time date"Minister B

Erotelli
Erotelli

This has a mean spirited, unforgiving tone to it. The facts are not clear and the opinion is one-sided, lacking in grace, mercy, and love.

OCLocal
OCLocal

When I was driving home on Friday the car in front of me had a license plate cover that read:

Warning: In case of rapture this car will be unmanned.

I laughed so hard. Thanks crazies for making my day!

chris w
chris w

Pastor Chuckunlike Mr. Camping never predicted an exact date. Pastor Chuck still believesthat in his lifetime we shall see the return of Christ. The Bible leaves us to believethat the second coming of Christ could happen at any moment and has so since it'swritings 2000 years ago. The concept is to form a sense of urgency to bringfolks to Christ and to live ones life accordingly. So although I disagree withMr. Camping as to a specific date it very well could be.

Sheridan
Sheridan

I also left Calvary Chapel after seeing things like this. When one claims to believe the Bible and then contradicts the clear teaching that "No one knows the day or the hour" then it is time to run away from that "teacher." Contrary to popular opinion, there are plenty of people who actually teach the Bible.

Friendofadoni
Friendofadoni

The danger comes when you try to place any man or any teaching above God of the Bible. I've followed Chuch Smith's teachings from back in the early 1970's. He encourages people to read for themselves and to check things out for themselves. I did and found his teaching that the Fig Tree was the birth of the nation of Israel did not fit with the facts. When you deal with symbols, and get the wrong application, it can lead to the wrong conclusion. Chuch was not trying to deceive people. If the fig tree symbol was the borth of Israel, the generation that saw it would also see the End Times. Those were the teachings of Jesus, not Chuck. His mistake was two-fold: 1) The fig tree represents religion, not just Israel and 2) a generation can be more than 40 years. Without the right "trigger event" you can't apply the set time frame.

Chuch never told people to quit their jobs, or sell their homes. He did not tell them to stop living their lives. If you want to hold Chuck up to criticism; then please be honest in presenting the entire teaching; not just what you want to remember. You have to bear a certain amount of responsibility because Chuck often warned against false teachings and encouraged his people to read the Bible for themselves. Now you're using Chuck's encouragement as an excuse to not just reject Chuck's teaching, but to reject God and the Bible.If you want to walk away from God that's your choice; but MAN UP. It's not Chuck's fault. You're just looking to blame someone else for your decision.

anti nowhere league
anti nowhere league

Santa Ana Not Santana Wey, Your such a DumbAss. I've known Chuck Since I was a teenageand alls I have to say is he may have made a prediction on judgement dat is near But He never judged someone else this man is the walking epitomy of the teachings of Jesus.

Neil Covert
Neil Covert

Jesus Christ is coming back but no one knows the day or the hour and Chuck Smith has never said he knows the day or the hour. Chuck Smith follows the Bible and he does not add anything to it. This guy Harold Camping is a freak, not a christian and you Gustavo Arellano need to repent for your lies. Neil Covert

RPinSA
RPinSA

Gustavo,

I was just wondering if Chuck Smith and members of his family have been keeping savings accounts and investments since before 1981. I mean, if he knew this world would come to an end during his lifetime, why would he bother to save money toward a future where money would be worthless?

Money. You know, the root of all evil.

DKMFAN
DKMFAN

My favorite Chuck Smith story is when he sold his 1988 Oldsmobile deisel to a female Church member for $10.000. But it had to be towed to her house!

FAT RICK could learn something from this one!

bohica27
bohica27

@Concerned The Christian "lifestyle" is based upon fables, myths, children's stories and fraud.

Bronco
Bronco

"But if I am right (and I am)"

The typical evangelical attitude.

Lumbarhist
Lumbarhist

@Athirson  What a nasty thing to say about him. You could call him and ask him if he is really fleecing anyone ,  three o'clock monday to friday on  KWAVE. At least he would have a chance to defend himself. Your a bully and a coward and a liar

Guest
Guest

...and if you want to talk about mean-spirited, just look at the comments to this post and see who is doing all the vicious name-calling.

Guest
Guest

Opinion pieces are generally one-sided. That's the whole point.

skeptic
skeptic

So they were standing in the parking lot just enjoying the good fellowship ...

Cameron
Cameron

Dude, thank you. You make a great point, Chuck Smith never did anything to hurt paul griffo or any of these other people who are launching these personal attacks against him. In fact, Chuck is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and anybody who knows him personally will tell you that. Why gustavo, paul, and others who have posted negative things about Chuck feel the need to attack him is beyond me, they must be really insecure about their own beliefs to lash out like this.

Cameron
Cameron

Absolutely Neil! Pastor Chuck never said Jesus was coming back in 1981, these people are just pulling stories out of thin are with zero evidence to confirm their stories.

Cameron
Cameron

Actually the Bible says the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. If you actually read it maybe you would know that, wise guy.

Kaoartist
Kaoartist

Who would pay 10 grand for a '88 Old's? That car was a piece of junk!

Cameron
Cameron

Really DKMFAN? Do you actually have evidence to support your idiotic claims, or do you just say stupid stuff in a pathetic attempt to look cool?

Elijah
Elijah

HAHAHA! Poor baby, did we make you cry with our vicious name-calling? 

Flappy Jack
Flappy Jack

When my father was dying of cancer, he had to make an appointment to get out of his death bed and go see Chuck because he couldn't get a pastor to come see him. My father was a wealthy man a gave hundreds of thousands to that church over the years. I guess that Chuck is no respecter of men, but when touring with Chuck, when anyone was sick, my dad would go and give them medical care, free of charge. Perhaps a little professional courtesy was too much to ask for? When my dad died, Chuck did the service and it was some of the worst theology I have ever heard, completely gnostic - yes I have the video.

Cwojo01
Cwojo01

Does NOT say root of "all" evil, or I wouldnt tithe if that were true, just the root of a lot of evil.

RPinSA
RPinSA

Hey, thanks for the assist, Cameron. You conveniently dismissed my point about a man who tells his followers about how close the end times are while banking a small fortune. A tax-free fortune.

But then, it's hard to be a megachurch with just a tent.

Dkmfan
Dkmfan

Cameron, your belief and interpatation of the Holy Bible is laudable, but how is that different from the beliefs of Islam, Bhuddism, Hinduism or followers of The Grateful Dead?

In other words, why is it Christans know something the others don't?

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Oh, I see, Cameron: You're a Calvary-bot. Which means you're a homo-hater as well. You're even more of a pendejo than I thought!

Dkmfan
Dkmfan

Cameron, ask Chuck who he sold his Olds too, he'll tell you Marie XXXXXXX. He'll tell you because it would be a sin to lie!

Get a clue kid. This guy is a scam artist, anyone who is stupid enough to believe him deserves what they get.

Do I have evidence???yeah I saw it!

Cameron
Cameron

Thank you, sir. Did I say anything bad about those religions at any point of this conversation?

Skybred
Skybred

DEMAGOGUE ALERT - DEMAGOGUE ALERTWow, Gus - three narrow-minded pejoratives (Calvary-bot, homo-hater & pendejo) in one sentence! You're sounding like an ignorant, sullen teenager. Your bigotry is being unveiled for all, who read this blog, to see. And you're unwittingly showing the OC Weekly for exactly what it is (hint - it 'aint unbiased or fair-minded)...

Cameron
Cameron

Very good gustavo! Making stupid assumptions must be your speciality! Actually no, i have friends who are gay, I don't exclude people who disagree with my beliefs from being my friends. If I were a ignorant bigot like you, then I probably would! hahaha!

Cameron
Cameron

Is that the same woman who kept coming back to him saying the car had problems with it? Did you know he paid for the repairs each and every time she brought it back and even offered to buy the car back from her for her troubles? What's your problem dude?

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