As will be documented, starting in the late 1980’s Ruckman made several attempts to guess the approximate date of the rapture. Over the years Ruckman sent mixed signals as to whether this was an appropriate thing to do. In the 1978 edition of his commentary of the book of Matthew, he stated in certain words that it was not unscriptural to attempt to set a date for the Second Coming:
“Knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven.” The thing that is “unknown” (according to the statement) is the “day and hour” of the advent. This truth cannot be brought home with too much force to the Fundamentalist, as he has been taught from his youth that the Second Coming is “IMMINENT” (not found in the Scripture!) and that any attempts to set dates are Satanic and unscriptural. 1Thessalonians 5:1-6 contradicts this position, however, as does also the appearance of the Laodiciean church (Rev 3:22) immediately preceding the rapture – Revelation 4:1, 2. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Matthew. 1970, 1978, pp. 554-555)
On a previous page of the same commentary, he lamented that date setting had fallen into disrepute:
“Date-setting” has fallen into such disrepute that not even pre-millennialists are bold enough to profess to know the “times and the seasons” (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Matthew. 1970, 1978, p. 552)
Only two years later he had a change of heart, and issued the following stern warning:
No man knows the DAY or the HOUR of the Rapture, and inept students of prophecy with little “do it yourself” schemes of arithmetic are going to do nothing but bring dishonor and discredit on the words of God. If Paul didn’t know it don’t you think that some American could figure out what he couldn’t. If it is going to be revealed, it will not be a date that you have to adjust every year to meet the demands of your own stupidity. (Ruckman, Peter. Setting Date of Rapture. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. March 1980, p. 5)
Without mentioning a year, Ruckman predicted the exact month in which the rapture is to take place:
Jesus Christ is calling for His Bride…The setting is May (Ruckman, Peter. The Two Raptures. 1996, p. 9)
In the following quotes, Ruckman affirms the year 1989 as the latest for the rapture “if our calendar is right”:
…for more than 35 years I have been preaching in public (and teaching in private) that the second advent date is Yom Kippur of the year 2000, if our calendar is right. By this figuring, I have told audiences all over America for 38 years that seven years must be deducted for the tribulation (giving us a figure of 1993), and then four years must be subtracted to make up for the differences in calendars. (Note: Christ is said to have been born in 4 B.C. by this adjustment of calendar systems.) This would give a maximum (I didn’t say, “exact”) date of 1989 for a rapture. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Feb. 1989, p. 1)
Any man with any sense would have guessed 1989 as the latest possible date for a rapture if our calendar is right. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Oct. 1988, p. 10)
The most specific earlies date range I could locate is as follows:
If we are right—and we certainly could be wrong—the Rapture will take place the 14th of May, 1989. This means you have less than five months to settle your affairs and do what you are going to do for the Lord. Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Feb. 1989, p. 9)Our own “date-setting” booklet hazards May 14, 1989 as a guess, but only as a GUESS. Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Feb. 1989, p. 6
It is now 1989. Personally, I think the Lord is coming in the late spring. I would guess somewhere between the 14th of May and the 20th of June. That, of course, is only a guess. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin January 1989, p. 5)
It is interesting to note that Ruckman’s third marriage took place on April 30, 1989, a mere two weeks before the projected earliest date that he had guessed.
Ruckman’s Bulletin in 1989 even included the story of a fellow who took his predictions and views on works salvation after the rapture so serious, that he did the following with Ruckman’s tract Millions Disappear:
I have gone through my entire home and taped a copy to each item—such as the TV, stereo, furniture, guns—that I know will be stolen after I am gone, in prayer that those who break in and clean my home out will find these, and that the word will still work in their lives. (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Nov. 1989, p. 16)
During the late 1980’s, it was typical to come across statements such as the following in Ruckman’s writings:
As I write these lines I am quite conscious of the fact that the Rapture at this time is just around the corner; it may be a matter of only a few weeks or months. There is little or no time left to do anything for the Lord… (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Sep. 1988, p. 3)
Ruckman’s typical arrogance was not lacking in his writings on the topic as he promoted one of his books:
This is the last thing that will be said about the King James Authorized Version before the rapture. There will never be any further need to say anything more. This “wraps it up,” as they say on the ten o’clock newscast. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Sep. 1988, p. 9)
In spite of his 1989 fiasco, sometime during this same year he published a pamphlet which complained of others who tried to set a date for the rapture:
In 1988, a man named Whisenant wrote a book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Take Place in 1988. This work did untold damage because it destroyed the faith of thousands of Christians in the Rapture (Ruckman, Peter. Millions Disappear. 1989, p. 16)
When Ruckman’s public 1989 rapture guessing date proved wrong, he did not apologize nor express any humility. He took advantage of the matter to taunt those who objected to the practice of public rapture-guessing:
The apostate Alexandrians at BBC, BJU, PCS, etc., had a little fun last spring when my guess—and that is all it ever was for thirty-nine years—about the Rapture didn’t “jell.” They rejoiced that HE did not come back. (Typical.) Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. July 1989, p. 6
In 1997, Ruckman made the following predictions, with his “if our calendar is right” escape hatch:
Christ returns at The Feast of Tabernacles. That is more sure than the sun coming up tomorrow morning. If our calendar is right, that would be September 23, 2000 or September 23, 2001. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin Reprint Vol. 3 Doctrinal Studies. 2000, p. 411)
In February 1990, after failing at guessing a 1989 rapture, Ruckman tried again, after one of his students made some corrections to his theory:
We now enter the last tenth of the last century of the world’s history before the Second Advent of Jesus Christ. If the calendar is right (and that qualifying clause always has to be included when guessing), the year 2000 is the limit for the Advent. Some subtract four years for a birth of 4 B.C., but as one of my students pointed out to me, a 4 B.C. birth in September would be only a three and three months birth B.C. by our January to January calendar. This would give an Advent date of 1997 instead of 1996 (which subtracted four), and it would put a maximum date for the Rapture in 1990 instead of 1989. However, the calendar can be completely off; (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin Reprint Vol. 7 Strictly Personal. 2004, p. 235)Frankly, I will be looking straight up in May of 1990 and hoping that the 4 B.C. date is right and not the 2 B.C. or (horrors!) the 1 B.C.
(Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Feb. 1990, p. 11)
In a 2002 reprint of the second volume of his commentary on Psalms, it inadvertently continued with the prediction apparently made in the 1993 first edition, that the Tribulation would have ended by the year 2000:
The end of the Tribulation…the date is given in Hosea 6:2. It is A.D. 2000, if our calendar is correct. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Psalms. Vol. 2. 2002 reprint, p. 813)
One of the last attempts I could locate in which Ruckman attempted to guess the approximate date of the rapture was 1997. In his guess he makes a derogatory comment about one of his students who made failed predictions at guessing the date of the rapture for the same year he had guessed.
But as the deadly date of 1989 passed (three nines, occurring eleven years before the “end”—A.D. 2000 [2 Pet. 3:8]), some adjustments had to be made. 1989 would allow seven years for Daniel’s seventieth week (A.D. 2000 minus seven years equals 1993) and four years for Christ’s birth if it was 4 B. C. (1993 minus four equaling 1989). But no rapture took place in 1989…One of our students (who dropped out of school), swore it would be in 1989, which it wasn’t, and another student (who we had to ship) put it out all over the country that we were teaching an absolute definitive rapture in September of 1995, which we weren’t….I will guess. I have been “guessing” a long time. I have often guessed wrongly…I have never “set” any date without the qualifying statement that “IF our calendar is right… I think (and I could be wrong) that the best possible date for a Rapture now (after this much time has elapsed) would be Pentecost (the Jewish Pentecost) of May, in 1997. (Ruckman, Peter. The Fifth Theory on the Rapture. Bible Believers’ Bulletin Jan. 1997, pp. 3, 17)
On a related note, more of Ruckman’s nonsense is evident in this related claim concerning the Feast of Tabernacles:
1 Kings 8:2
This is the Feast of Tabernacles, which gives three absolute, confirmed dates:
1. The exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ.
2. The exact date of the Second Advent of Christ.
3. The exact date of the creation of the sun in the “Solar System.”
(Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. March 1989, p. 15)
1 Kings 8:2 simply says the following: “And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month”.
The following is a collection of quotes of Ruckman guessing the dates of the rapture or related prophetic events:
I think (and I could be wrong) that the best possible date for a Rapture now (after this much time has elapsed) would be Pentecost (the Jewish Pentecost) of May, in 1997.
(Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Jan 1997 p. 17)
The end of Daniel’s 70th Week is the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall (Yom Kippur), between September and October; and if our calendar is right, it lies between 1996 and 2000. (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies, Vol. 9, p. 11)
…the Second Advent…If our calendar is right that would be September 23, 2000 or September 23, 2001.
(Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Aug. 1997, p. 19)
All of this gets into calendars and dates, and it is obvious that Christ did not return in the year 2000. Nevertheless, I stick to my guns on the subject because I know the Lord has a way of counting (or not counting) years that we don’t have (see Job 3:6 and Matt. 1, for example). When the Lord starts the clock ticking again at the Rapture, it will be 2001 on His calendar, no matter what ours reads.
(Ruckman, Peter. The Minor Prophets Vol. II. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 2011, p. 486)
Possible dates for a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church would be either three days after Passover or on Pentecost (on a Jewish calendar).
Year Passover Pentecost
2010 March 29 May 18
2011 April 19 June 8
2012 April 7 May 27
2013 March 26 May 15
2014 April 15 June 4
2015 April 4 May 24
2016 April 23 June 12
(Ruckman Reference Bible, first edition)
Ruckman feels that since he was only “guessing” the date of the rapture and he included disclaimers, no harm was done, even though in the following quote he actually uses the phrase “attempting to set a date” in regard to his guesses. But he was not so willing to brush off the attempts of three of his students who set a date for the rapture:
In attempting to set a date for the Rapture, we have always qualified our guesses by saying two things: 1) “IF our calendar is right,” and 2) “IF Christ was born in 4 B.C.” (or 3, 2, 1, etc.)…He was the third student, since 1970 to date the rapture [sic] “exactly” on a fool-proof, one hundred percent scriptural basis. All three of them bombed out completely…Wrong again. We don’t teach that it is possible for ANY man on earth to locate the exact day and hour of the rapture by any system: at least, not for certain. He can guess, and he might make a very good guess, but a guess it will be at best. But this gentleman—his name is Mel Turner…made no “guesses.” (Ruckman, Peter. Sorry: You Missed the Rapture! Bible Believers’ Bulletin Nov. 1995, pp. 3, 12)
In spite of flip-flopping on whether it was right to guess the date of the rapture, Ruckman denies having changed his position on the matter. He denies that he was messed up, it was just his calendar, or the date of Christ’s birth:
Nor has my position on the Rapture and the Second Coming changed since 1958. We taught that if Christ was born in 4 B.C., and if our calendar was right, the rapture could be no later than 1989. Obviously, He was not born in 4 B.C. or else our calendar is not correct…I have never said a single time that the rapture would be at such-and-such a time, although I have said many times, that if Christ was born in 4 B.C., AND our calendar was right, it would be in 1989. Obviously, something is screwed up and it’s not me and it’s not my theology. (Ruckman, Peter. Rapture: October 28, 1992 Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Aug. 1992, p. 9)
Ruckman should have headed the advice he gave others in 1980, when he stated that date-setting schemes would “do nothing but bring dishonor and discredit on the words of God.” He may feel excused by his “if our calendar is right” disclaimer, but nonetheless the damage he ironically predicted in 1980 came to pass. Several websites exists that make a mockery of Christianity based on failed rapture date setters, with some including Peter Ruckman in their listings. (For an example, see http://www.abhota.info/end3.htm). At least one book was located that mentioned Ruckman making a mockery of Christianity based on failed rapture date setters or guessers (The End of Days: Armageddon and Prophecies of the Return by Zecharia Sitchin, Harper, 2008, p. 166).