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. 1988, 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 earliest date range we could locate are 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 Edgar Whisenant predictably failed in his guess that the Rapture would take place between Sep. 11-13, 1988, Ruckman was quick to mock him in his Bible Believers' Bulletin:
No Christian with any sense wasted five minutes with "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988." TEN TIMES IN THE PAMPHLET THE AUTHOR SAYS THAT THE RAPTURE IS ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 11th and 13th. Cockeyed nonsense. Irresponsible, Charismatic nuttiness. Nutty as a pecan pie. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers' Bulletin. Oct. 1988, p. 10)
Although Whisenant was very wrong to have attempted to publicly guess the date of the rapture, he did not come across as absolutely certain as Ruckman portrays him (Ruckman didn't even bother to quote him). Our copy of the booklet (which may have been an update edition) has the title 88 Reasons Why the Rapture could be in 1988. [Underlining not in original]
In the November, 1995 edition of Bible Believers' Bulletin, Ruckman admits that no less than three of his students had attempted to guess the date of the rapture. One in the 1970's, and one in the 1980's (for those two no names are provided nor their missed date of rapture). For the third, more details are given in the article. This was Mel Turner, who was supposed to have guessed Sep. 24, 1995 firmly as the date of the rapture. He is further accused by Ruckman of "deceiving" around a dozen first year students.
Starting on p. 3 of his book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture could be in 1988, Whisenant begins quoting approvingly from a “Joe Civelli of Pensacola, Florida.” Of all places, Whisenant is quoting from a writer of a “50 page type-written report” by the title The Messiah’s Return from Ruckman’s home town! Could this Joseph R. Civelli of Pensacola be one of Ruckman’s unamed students who attempted to guess the date of the rapture? It surely was, as Ruckman admits that Civelli "was raised on my material." Here is the full quote:
The latest attempt was originated by a man named Civelli in Pensacola, Florida, who was raised on my material. He got the attention of one of our students some years ago named Mark Trout and convinced him the Rapture would be at the Feast of Trumpets (roughly September 11, 12, 13) in 1988. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers' Bulletin. Feb. 1989, p. 6)
That a small Bible institute would produce three students in a 25-year period that tried (publicly, apparently) to predict the date of the rapture, and convinced other students (a dozen in one case) is very revealing. This cannot be a coincidence. However, Ruckman does not accept any responsibility whatsoever for this unusual turn of events in an institution in which he is highly influential and had his turn guessing the approximate date of the rapture. Who's example where these students following?
When Ruckman's public 1989 rapture guessing date proved wrong, he did not apologize nor express any humility. He simply blamed the calendar for being wrong. 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 we 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".
Anticipating criticism that we do not distinguish enough between different phases of the Second Coming in refuting Ruckman's statements, this admission from Ruckman should be kept in mind:
I will often speak of the Second Coming of the Lord as synonymous with the Advent, but the fact is that the Second Coming has two parts to it. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Song of Solomon. 2010, p. 92)
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. Notice that Ruckman did not quote his students to prove that they had indeed set a firm date:
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)
Does Ruckman always include a qualifer when guessing the timeframe of the Rapture? The following are quotes in which a disclaimer was not found in the context:
In the last few months before our Lord returns, we intend to double the pressure, Lord willing. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Jan. 1990, p. 15)
If Bob Jones IV ever does take over the University (he probably won't; the Lord's going to come before then)… (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. April 1998, p. 11)
I am preaching on the Rapture. I say: "Boys, if you're saved you aren't going to complete any long sentence. I don't think one of you is going to serve your two year’s time if you are a Christian. You are going to live to see the biggest jail break a nation ever saw, and man, I mean it ain't gonna be over the fence. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. June 1998, p. 8)
At times Ruckman comes across as knowing exact timeframes of the Lord's return:
You are living in the last generation before the Rapture. (Ruckman, Peter. The Books of 1 & 2 Thessalonians and Philemon. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2005, p. 93
Carefully concealed in the King James text is found the Lord’s date for His Second Coming. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of John. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2005, p. 147)
We know when the “thief” (see Luke 12:38-39) is coming! (Ruckman, Peter. The Books of First and Second Thessalonians and Philemon. 2005, p. 84)
Genesis 1:20—Salient: it gives the date of the First Advent in regards to eternal life as a “gift” after the resurrection. The word “life” occurs AFTER four thousand years (four days: see Genesis 1:19). Verse 16, by the way, gives you the date of the birth of Christ and the Second Advent of Christ. It will be between September 20th and 23rd. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Sept. 1989, p. 4)
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 while attempting to make 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).