A scene from the end-of-the-world movie "2012."
MANILA, Philippines – Even before the birth of Jesus Christ, humans have already been predicting the end of the world. The Romans speculated that a “mystical number” revealed to Romulus by 12 eagles meant the destruction of Rome.
Biblical scholars also interpreted passages such as “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished” (Matthew 24:34) as a warning of impending doom.
As we prepare ourselves for the so-called end of the world this Friday, December 21, based on an earlier interpretation of the Mayan calendar, here’s a look back at some of the most popular doomsday predictions that didn’t come true – although two ended with tragic consequences.
1. Banahaw doomsday
What it is about: In 1999, several pilgrims flocked to the mystic Mount Banahaw to welcome the new millennium, which many believed will bring the end of the world. Isabel Suarez, a woman who leads a sect called Mistica, said the so-called end of the world will come through earthquakes, famine and other disasters.
What happened next: It has been 12 years since the so-called doomsday, with the Philippines undergoing both triumphs and hardships. Mount Banahaw can still be visited by pilgrims and tourists alike.
2. Pat Robertson
What it is about: Best-selling author and “The 700 Club” host Pat Robertson first predicted in 1976 that the end of the world was coming in 1982. In a May 1980 broadcast of his show, he even went on the record to say that “I guarantee you by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world.”
What happened next: Robertson continues to make predictions from the price of oil to who will win the US presidential elections. In 2007, he predicted that the US would suffer from a terrorist attack. When this didn’t happen, he said this was probably because God heeded our prayers and spared us.
3. “The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon”
What is it about: According to the New York Times best-seller “The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon” by Christian writer Hal Lindsey, it was possible that the battle of Armageddon could take place soon, noting, “the decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it." Among his scenarios is a surprise Soviet nuclear attack.
What happened next: The Soviet Union collapsed and not only did the world survive, so did Lindsey, who went on to write “Planet Earth - 2000 A.D.,” which states that Christians should not plan to still be on earth by the year 2000. Lindsey currently resides in Texas.
4. May 21, 2011 rapture
What it is about: Harold Camping, an American pastor and Christan radio broadcaster, predicted that the world would end on May 21, 2011. He said this is the date of the “rapture” – when Jesus Christ returns to earth and gathers the souls of those who have been saved. Camping had previously predicted that Judgment Day would occur on or about September 6, 1994.
What happened next: Well, the world is still here, and it’s nearing 2013. When the so-called rapture did not happen in May 2011, Camping said his prediction was an “incorrect and sinful statement” and announced that he is out of the prediction business.
What it is about: Several analysts predicted that the entire computer network would crash in the year 2000, causing widespread dysfunction to a population that has long been dependent on technology. This as many computers are programmed to record dates using the last two digits of every year – in other words, the year 2000 would register as 1900.
What happened next: The year 2000 turned out to be just like any other year, save for a few scattered power failures. There was no way but up for computing devices, with the invention of smartphones and tablet computers in recent years.
6. Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple
What it is about: Jim Jones, who founded the Christian doomsday cult Peoples Temple in the 1950s, earlier predicted that the world will end in a nuclear war. He then developed a belief called “translation,” in which he and his followers would die together and move to another planet for a life of bliss.
What happened next: His followers drank cyanide-laced grape punch in a mass suicide in 1978. Jones, who died of a gunshot wound to the head in 1978, was found to have been “unbalanced” because of excessive drug use.
7. Heaven’s Gate
What is it about: When the comet Hale-Bopp appeared in 1997, Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the UFO cult Heaven's Gate, believed rumors that were spreading at the time among paranormal followers that an alien spacecraft was trailing it. For Applewhite, this so-called spaceship would “transport their spirits aboard for a journey to another planet” and that “their souls would ascend to the spaceship and be given new bodies.”
What happened next: Applewhite and 38 of his followers committed mass suicide -- the largest to occur inside the US. Applewhite made the cover of both Time and Newsweek after the suicide. Years later, he was parodied in an episode of the cartoon "Family Guy."
San Francisco Chronicle