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10 Dates When the Apocalypse Was Supposed to Happen

by Selme Angulo
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

The apocalypse called—it said it’s running a little bit behind schedule, and not to wait up! For as long as human beings have been alive, we’ve been predicting the end of the world. Many people who choose to predict it like to give hints and clues about events that will usher in the end times rather than offer up specific dates.

But some prognosticators are so bold that they choose specific years, months, and even days on which the apocalypse will commence. That every single one of them has been wrong so far hasn’t stopped the trend, though. There have been thousands of these predictions made throughout history. And surprisingly, many people take them seriously!

In this list, we’ll explore ten crazy instances when the apocalypse was predicted to occur at a very specific time. All ten of these beliefs obviously proved incorrect. After all, we’re still here writing this list, and you’re still here reading it, aren’t you? But who knows—maybe a future prediction won’t be so incorrect. Maybe one day, somebody will actually get it right when it comes to expecting the apocalypse at a particular time. How does that saying go? A broken clock is still right twice a day? Yeah…

Related: 10 Myths About The Ancient World That Many People Still Believe

10 AD 400

St. Martin of Tours HD

Martin of Tours, sometimes called Martin the Merciful, was the third Catholic bishop of Tours, France. He lived from AD 316 (or, alternately, possibly AD 336) until his death on November 8 in AD 397 AD. As a young man, he served in the Roman cavalry in Gaul, but eventually, he left the military service and converted to Christianity. From there, he was a very active bishop throughout France, especially in Tours.

During his time working as a bishop in service of the early church, he was particularly aggressive in stamping out remnants of the Gallo-Roman religion that he saw as pagan. He violently persecuted those who didn’t believe in Christianity and wanted to make his belief system the way of the world. In turn, he is remembered by many Christians in France today. He is honored as the patron saint of the Third Republic, as well as that of many other organizations and smaller communities around Europe.

But Martin, who doesn’t exactly sound quite as merciful as his nickname might suggest, had another thing that preoccupied his mind during his life: the end times. The French bishop was absolutely convinced that the world was going to end on or just before AD 400, and Jesus Christ would return to do battle with the forces of evil. “There is no doubt that the Antichrist has already been born,” he wrote once in the years before his death. “Firmly established already in his early years, he will, after reaching maturity, achieve supreme power.”

Of course, that never happened. But the world did end for Martin just before AD 400 when he passed away. So, he evidently did get to meet his maker right around when he said he would. He just didn’t bring the rest of society with him![1]

9 April 6, 793

The End of the World According to Medieval Spanish Literature | Collection in Focus

Beatus of Liébana was a monk and theologian who was born and lived in what is now modern-day Spain from about 750 until roughly 800. Very little is known about Beatus’s actual life. His childhood is a mystery, as his upbringing has been lost to the sands of time, and even most of his adult activities are a complete question for historians.

It is clear, based on writings that have been discovered by archaeologists and historians, that he was extremely well connected to high-ranking religious members in Spain and around Europe, though. Based on Beatus’s own writings, we can surmise that he was quite the religious scholar for the time period. Even if we know little else about him, it’s clear that he was a deep, focused thinker about God, society, and the afterlife.

Speaking of all that, Beatus is best known for his then-groundbreaking work “Commentary on the Apocalypse.” That was written and published first in 776, then revised in 784, and edited and re-published again in 786. In all three editions, Beatus offers up what is basically a creepy and cryptic picture book of the apocalypse.

He lays out how the end times will come, what will happen to believers (and non-believers), and who will be granted access to the Kingdom of Heaven. Along with the book, he also preached a specific date for the end of the world: April 6, 793. Obviously, that didn’t happen. No word on how Beatus’s followers and backers felt when April 6 came and went, and the world kept chugging along.[2]

8 1368 (or 1370)

How Alchemy was a Weapon Against the Anti-Christ – the Apocalyptic Prophecies of John of Rupescissa

Jean de Roquetaillade, often now known as John of Rupescissa, was a French Franciscan born in 1310 or so and lived for about six decades through the Middle Ages. He grew up studying in the academy and spent five years undertaking courses in philosophy at Toulouse. Then, he entered the Franciscan monastery at Aurillac and studied God, religion, and the texts of his faith for five more years.

By the time he came away from all that, he had a remarkably negative view of what he felt were ecclesiastical abuses and church corruption. He also determined that he was educated and smart enough to start making prophecies about the apocalypse—and the church leaders very much didn’t care for that.

Eventually, John was imprisoned in one of the local Franciscan convents in his area of France. Over the next several decades, he was transferred from convent to convent. At one point, he ended up in Avignon. There, he presented his appeal for leniency to Pope Clement VI himself. The bid to be released didn’t work, and later that year, John wrote Visiones Seu Revelationes.

In that text, and several more after it, he predicted that the Antichrist would come to the world in 1366. Then, he said, the world would end, and the Millennium would begin in either 1368 or 1370. That, of course, didn’t happen. John died in roughly that same time period, though—most likely in the convent at Avignon. So, like many on this list, the world did end for him, even if it didn’t see so much as a hiccup for the rest of us.[3]

7 1504

Sandro Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity

The famed painter Sandro Botticelli was one of the most well-known artists of the Early Renaissance period in Italy. He was a predecessor to many of the later Renaissance heroes. As such, he was seen as a pioneer in the Italian Gothic era. His works, including the well-known paintings The Birth of Venus and Primavera, are still celebrated today.

While Botticelli himself lived in and hung around the same neighborhood in Florence, Italy, for pretty much his entire life, he had worldly thoughts about how society was supposedly headed quickly toward its demise.

For Botticelli, those apocalyptic ideas came up in his Mystical Nativity painting. The piece, done in oil on canvas, dates to 1500 or early 1501 by the time it was completed. Interestingly, it is Botticelli’s only signed work. Even more interesting, it has very unusual iconography, considering it is supposed to be a traditional painting of the Nativity Scene. But it’s not really traditional at all.

That’s because Botticelli used the painting to argue that the apocalypse was going to come in three-and-a-half years from the time the artistic work was completed (so, about 1504, give or take). It was a very bold prediction, and it was made in very explicit text right on the painting itself.

Across the top of the piece of art, written in Greek, Botticelli’s words state: “This picture, at the end of the year 1500, in the troubles of Italy, I, Alessandro, in the half-time after the time, painted, according to the eleventh [chapter] of Saint John, in the second woe of the Apocalypse, during the release of the devil for three and a half years; then he shall be bound in the twelfth [chapter] and we shall see [him buried] as in this picture.”

During his life, Botticelli believed that he and others were living through what was then known as the Great Tribulation. Many in Europe at the time cited the continent’s troubles as proof that Christ’s Millennium was on the doorstep, as explained in the Book of Revelation. For the artist, 1504 was supposed to be the year it all came to pass. But it never happened![4]

6 February 20, 1524 (Then, Uh, 1528)

The Scariest Apocalypses Ever Predicted

Johannes Stöffler was a German-born astronomer and astrologer who lived through the latter half of the 15th and early 16th centuries. During his time alive, he studied astronomy at a local university and later obtained the parish of the city of Justingen. There, he started to study the movement of the planets while doing clerical work for his religious community and more.

Eventually, he started corresponding with other budding astronomers and humanists alike. Most notably, he enjoyed a lively written friendship with Johannes Reuchlin—for whom Stöffler even went so far as to write horoscopes.

In 1499, Stöffler was studying the stars high up in the sky one day when he noticed a unique planetary alignment in Pisces. Always looking to combine his personal religious beliefs with the scientific theories he was reading about from others and developing for himself, he took the alignment as a sign. Using the planetary positioning as a starting point, he somehow concluded that the world would be covered in a flood on February 20, 1524.

Even predicting 25 years out from the event didn’t seem to be too much for Stöffler, who swore by the claim. Of course, February 20, 1524, came and went, and Noah’s Ark didn’t reappear anywhere on earth. Undaunted, Stöffler altered his prediction: actually, he promised the deluge would fall upon the earth in 1528. That didn’t happen, either. Stöffler eventually died in 1531, having lived through two of his own apocalyptic predictions with no success.[5]

5 1555

The Messenger of the Apocalypse: What This Planetary Conjunction Means FOR YOU…

Pierre d’Ailly was a French theologian who lived in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Among other things, he took to predicting apocalyptic events with his supposed knowledge of the world, the afterlife, and the universe. During the last few years of the 14th century, d’Ailly began thinking about how long humans had been on earth.

According to him, the calculation he came up with was 6845. That is, humans had been alive and on earth for 6,845 years at that point—which would mark the year 1400 in contemporary time. In turn, d’Ailly believed that the 7,000th year of human existence was going to be the fateful one. He wrote about how that year—1555—would be the start of the end of the world.

There are a couple of things that are interesting about that. For one, it obviously didn’t happen. Second, it’s notable that d’Ailly would predict a year so far in the future that he would be long gone before it ever came around. (And indeed, he died in 1420). Third, later in his life, d’Ailly evidently thought somewhat better of that prediction because he once argued that the Antichrist would arrive on earth in 1789. But if that’s the case, what about the 1555 apocalypse? It makes no sense!

Finally, there was one more wrinkle to all this: d’Ailly’s beliefs greatly influenced none other than Christopher Columbus. The famed explorer caught on with d’Ailly’s school of thought and began to think he was living during his life, which began 31 years after the French theologian’s death. Columbus thought that he and the rest of society around him were fast reaching the end times and that d’Ailly had been right all along.

That influenced Columbus to sail westward and eventually make land in the New World. And when he got there, he swore he was ushering in the apocalypse by altering the mortal realm as everyone knew it at the time.[6]

4 1689

Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713) and French Theology in Exile | Dr. Martin Klauber

Pierre Jurieu was a French Protestant who led that group of religious adherents for many years through the latter half of the 17th and very early 18th centuries. Before he died in 1713, Jurieu was known and loved by Protestants across France and around Europe. He had seen Catholicism rise and take power, and he was concerned about the rights of Protestant worshipers.

He was also a prolific writer and a very intense and controversial thinker who was well-known in his time for producing works that shocked the public. While “all publicity is good publicity” may be an axiom of the modern digital age, Jurieu’s life and work prove that he used it to raise his profile as a French Protestant at a time when the Catholics were fast on the rise.

From an apocalyptic perspective, Jurieu’s most known and highly cited work was his 1686 treatise “Accomplissement Des Propheties.” In that work, he blasted the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had occurred the year before, and walked back quite a few of the rights that Protestants had previously gained in France.

He used the work to persuade himself and other Protestants around him that the apocalypse would come three years from that publication date, in 1689. That year, he claimed that the Antichrist (which was the Pope for him and other Protestants) would be overthrown and defeated, and Protestantism would rise again.

Of course, that didn’t happen. And, of course, it’s easy to criticize Jurieu for his incorrect beliefs—or even make fun of him for getting it so wrong. But he was an important figure for French Protestants at the time who very badly wanted to feel like they weren’t being persecuted for their beliefs. His apocalyptic thinking went one step further than that, too.

It was one of the things that very explicitly inspired William of Orange’s 1688 invasion of England in that nation’s fight to preserve Protestantism. So, while the apocalypse didn’t exactly arrive in 1689 like Jurieu said it would, his end-times writing proved to still be very influential.[7]

3 1831 (And Then 1847)

The Great Awakening, by Professor Jeffry Morrison

Harriet Livermore was an American preacher born not long before the turn of the 19th century. By the time the 19th century was over, though, she would come to be known as one of the greatest and most prolific female preachers in the history of the United States. Livermore swept into influence in the early 19th century, along with many other preachers during the Great Awakening.

And like many of those other charismatic religious figures, she started out by promoting the basic values of Protestantism: conversion, repentance, salvation, modesty, and all the rest. But she took a turn for the more radical somewhere along the way. Soon, she began preaching openly about how the apocalypse was right on America’s doorstep.

In 1831, she started preaching about how Christ’s Millennium was at hand. She even made that year the date for when the end times would begin. As she traveled around America (she also visited the vaunted Holy Land in Jerusalem at least four times), Livermore claimed that the apocalypse was nigh.

Of course, that didn’t happen. So, to get critics off her trail, Livermore went west. In 1832, she started preaching the Gospel to various American Indian tribes at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and in their ancestral lands. By the end of that, she and her disciples had a new idea: the apocalypse was actually going to come in 1847.

That was a notable prediction because, throughout the 1830s, a group of people called the Millerites thought the end times would begin in 1842. Then, when that faltered, they picked dates in 1843. And when those inevitably came and went, they doubled down on 1844 as being the for-sure beginnings of the end. After all that, the Millerites mostly became American laughingstocks of the highest order.

Livermore didn’t want to be that, so she ran a rift from their predictions and hedged her bets on 1847. Of course, her planned apocalypse date didn’t come to fruition, either. She lived another 20 years past her phony fortune-telling, though, and eventually died in 1868.[8]

2 1873

Second Great Awakening

Born in 1815, Jonas Wendell was a Pennsylvania-based preacher and zealous believer in the Adventist school of thought. He was greatly inspired by William Miller, the leader of the so-called and aforementioned Millerites, who thought the world would end at various times in the 1840s. However, even though Miller’s predictions never came true and eventually turned him into a laughingstock among the American public, Wendell was very much motivated to continue Miller’s legacy.

By the late 1860s, Wendell spent all his time studying the Bible and preaching extensively. He traveled most often through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia while also spending time in New England. He would preach at shows and tent revivals and claim that Christ would soon return. Eventually, he saw that his followers loved his commentary on the rapture and the Second Coming of Christ, so he leaned into it hard.

First, Wendell predicted that Christ would possibly return in 1868. But he quickly discarded that prediction and instead started saying loudly and often that the apocalypse would happen in 1873. By 1870, his predictions had started making regional and then national news. Then, a year later, a problem arose.

The Associated Press circulated a story about Wendell supposedly being arrested in Pennsylvania on a charge known as “improper intimacy.” At issue was his alleged carnal relations with a 16-year-old girl. Wendell denied the claims steadfastly, even noting that he’d never been arrested. No evidence of any impropriety was ever produced, but the mark on his reputation proved difficult to overcome.

Still, Wendell’s prediction hung out there for the whole world to see. Inevitably, 1873 came and went without the Second Coming landing anywhere on earth. Wendell himself died that year in a darkly funny coincidence, but the apocalypse didn’t come with him. Interestingly, though, he did have one major influence on the future: Wendell’s preachings reinvigorated the faith of Charles Taze Russell. He would later become one of the most influential Adventists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, overseeing things like the Watchtower Movement and other religious upheavals.[9]

1 1977

The Truth about William Branham: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

William Branham was a well-known Christian minister who lived in the United States throughout the early half of the 20th century. He was one of the first charismatic preachers who really took hold in both America and Europe after World War II. Today, he is credited with becoming one of the leaders of the second wave of Pentecostalism in the USA. That’s a big deal because that strain of religious worship eventually evolved into televangelism as we know it in the modern age.

While Branham was a little bit of a precursor to the TV preachers we all love to shake our heads at, his charismatic and energetic preaching had a massive influence on many of those who rose to prominence after his life. Sadly for Branham, he died in a grisly car accident in 1965 after being struck by a drunk driver. But his legacy lived on for a few more years after that—until 1977.

See, Branham believed that he was a prophet with the anointing of Elijah from biblical times. As such, he supposedly had the foresight to predict the rapture and the imminent Second Coming of Christ. So, that’s what he did. He claimed to have received an angelic visitation in rural Arizona in May of 1946, and the angel told him that the rapture would come no later than 1977. For the next twenty years before his untimely death, Branham preached to all who would listen that the 1977 end times date was a hard and fast fact.

He even developed a series of followers who started to see him as a Christ-like figure because of it. He didn’t want to be worshiped himself and instead preferred to put the focus on Jesus, but his end-times prophecy proved too enticing to ignore. Of course, it never happened—and sadly, Branham didn’t live to see the failed prediction come to light, anyway. Just another case like all the rest on this list where time simply marches on![10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen