Photo: Ted S. Warren, STF
The man whose biblical doomsday claim had people worried about Sept. 23, 2017, is not backing down.
The world did not end last month, and David Meade, a self-described “specialist in research and investigations,” is saying that’s exactly what he had expected. Now, he is focusing on another date, Oct. 15, 2017, which he claims is the beginning of the world’s destruction.
It is “the most important date of this century or millennium,” Meade wrote on his website. The action starts that day, he claimed, when the world will enter what’s called a seven-year tribulation period, a fairly widespread evangelical belief that for seven years, catastrophic events would wreak havoc on Earth.
“Hold on and watch – wait until the middle of October and I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed,” Meade wrote, before going on to promote his book, which he claims has all the details.
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“You don’t have long to read it,” he added.
Meade has earned a fair amount of publicity online for peddling a widely debunked claim that a planet called Nibiru is on a course toward Earth. When it passes the planet later this year, Meade said, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves and other catastrophes would ensue. Other predictions claimed that Nibiru would collide with Earth on Sept. 23, though Meade clarified that he never said that would happen.
NASA has repeatedly dismissed such claims as a hoax.
“The planet in question, Nibiru, doesn’t exist, so there will be no collision … the story of Nibiru has been around for years (as has the ‘days of darkness’ tale) and is periodically recycled into new apocalyptic fables,” NASA said on its website.
Despite the scientific rebuking, these doomsday predictions often come with a great deal of public interest, some of it rooted in Christianity, itself.
“The first market for this sort of prophecy-as-publicity is outside the Christian church. … I couldn’t give you the name of one person who holds the view, and I keep up to date on some of the craziest religious movements in the country. Those without a great deal of familiarity with actual lived religion tend to find this sort of thing exotic and interesting, the way they might find interesting the end-is-near cultists on an episode of ‘The Leftovers,’ ” Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote in an essay for the Washington Post.
“Beyond that, though, there is the very real problem with doomsday hucksterism within American religion. While it is hard to find a nameable proponent of Sept. 23 prophecy, one can watch various Christian television evangelists and talk-show hosts and find a more general, but just as frantic, message: that the world is ending soon.”
As Moore says, this is not a new phenomenon. There were multiple days the world was supposed to end during the 20th century – often tied to the Cold War conflicts between the U.S. and Soviet Union, or casting Middle Eastern dictators as representations of the Antichrist, or celestial events such as comets passing or an eclipse.
This, too, is something that predates that century, as well, with various doomsday predictions having gripped some segment of the population since, at least, the Middle Ages.
For instance, William Miller led a doomsday cult in the 1840s, dubbed the Millerites, who settled in upstate New York. The Baptist preacher’s prophecies were wrong, but his teachings did contribute to the formation of the Advent Christians and Seventh Day Adventists.
“None of this has anything to do with biblical Christianity. Jesus, and then his apostles, told us to expect a day of final judgment, to look for the return of Christ to our present reality of space and time,” Moore wrote.
“But the key to all of this is the unexpected nature of it. Jesus said that life would go on, just as it always does, until, suddenly – like a thief in the night – the eastern skies explode into light. The Bible verses the prophecy-mavens use to fix their dates – wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, and so on – are spoken of by Jesus as the exact opposite. When you see these things, Jesus said, ‘see that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet’ (Matt. 24:6). Upheavals of this nature will happen in every generation, as ‘but the beginning of the birth pains’ (Matt. 24:8).”
Robert Joustra, an international studies professor at Redeemer University College in Ontario, said that those who engage in apocalyptic claims often rely on mainstream information, such as the Book of Revelation. But many also find obscure references in the Bible to make predictions.