Have you noticed that no matter how many times charismatic televangelists make outlandish false “prophecies,” they keep right on claiming the Lord has spoken directly to them and people keep right on following them?
Benny Hinn, for example, made a series of celebrated prophetic utterances in December 1989, none of which came true. He confidently told his congregation at the Orlando Christian Center that God had revealed to him Fidel Castro would die sometime in the 1990s; the homosexual community in America would be destroyed by fire before 1995; and a major earthquake would cause havoc on the east coast before the year 2000. He was wrong on all counts, of course.
That did not deter Hinn. He is still making bold prophecies. Early last year, he announced that a prophetess had informed him Jesus soon would appear physically in some of his healing meetings. Hinn said he was convinced the prophecy was authentic, and on his April 2, 2000, broadcast, he amplified it with a prophecy of his own: “Now hear this, I am prophesying this! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is about to appear physically in some churches, and some meetings, and to many of His people, for one reason: to tell you He is about to show up! To wake up! Jesus is coming saints!”
Hinn’s failed prophesies are reminiscent of a string of notorious claims Oral Roberts made a couple of decades ago. Roberts said in 1977 that he had seen a vision of a 900-foot-tall Jesus, who instructed him to build the City of Faith, a 60-story hospital. Roberts said God had told him He would use the center to unite medical technology with faith healing, which would revolutionize health care and enable doctors to find a cure for cancer.
The building, completed in the early 1980s, was a colossal white elephant from the very start. When the City of Faith opened, all but two stories of the massive structure were completely vacant.
By January 1987, the project was saddled with unmanageable debt, and Roberts announced that the Lord had told him that he would die unless he raised $8 million to pay the debt by March 1. Apparently not willing to test the death-threat prophecy, donors dutifully gave Roberts the needed funds in time (with the help of $1.3 million donated at the last hour by a Florida dog-track owner). Nevertheless, Roberts was forced to close the medical center and sell the building within two years in order to eliminate still-mounting debt. More than 80 percent of the building had never even been occupied. The promised cure for cancer never materialized, either.
A list of similar failed prophesies over the past few decades could fill several volumes. And yet, amazingly, the “prophets” who make such fantastic claims now appear to have more influence than ever—even among mainstream evangelicals.