Did Chuck Smith Predict That the Rapture Would Come in 1981


Apocalyptic literature and teaching has always been very popular. When I was in my Teens and 20’s I was a regular attendee of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and people are always telling me, “Chuch Smith said that Christ would return in 1981.” Well I was there and he did not actually say that he received this date as a vision or prophecy, for Chuck would have been the first to admit that he did not have those gifts. His gift was Teaching and he was a very good teacher of the Word.

Now the basis of the complaint that Chuck Smith taught that Christ would come back in 1981 was based on his sermons and writings and I’ll quote him from the book Future Survival, ©1978. Page 20. “From my understanding of Biblical prophesies, I’m convinced that The Lord is coming for His Church before 1981. I could be wrong, but it’s a deep conviction in my heart, and all my plans are predicted upon that belief.”

From his own understanding! This is where we all seem to get into trouble, when we lean on our own understanding.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.”
Proverbs 3:5 NASB

Now as long as I’ve been around Calvary Chapel, I’ve heard it said that in the parable of the “Fig tree” we find a prophetic message regarding Israel. That Israel is the Fig tree and that when the modern nation-state of Israel was reborn in 1948, that event set into motion the end times.

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
Matthew 24:32-34 NASB

Another quote from Future Survival, page 17.

“We’re the generation that saw the fig tree bud forth, as Israel became a nation again in 1948. As a rule, a generation in the Bible lasts 40 years. The children of Israel journeyed in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation died. Forty years after 1948 would bring us to 1988.”

So we have the reason for 1981. Israel reborn in 1948 + 40 years for the generation – 7 years for the tribulation and Chuck concluded that the rapture would be in 1981. Well we were excited, but in 1978 when several books about the end times came out, (and I was an avid reader and listener to Chuck on the radio station KYMS), I wondered if a generation might be only 30 years, after all we used to say, “You can’t trust anyone older than 30.” That’s for all the Jesus Freaks out there who remember the 60’s and 70’s.

At this same time we were also very excited about the Millennial Sabbath Theory. Let’s examine a sermon given in 1979 by Chuck Smith. “Now there is that interesting pattern of the six years of servitude, the seventh year being the year of liberty being set free. I see it really in the earth. I believe that Adam sold out the possession that God had given to him just about six thousand years ago. How close to the six thousand years, nobody really knows, awfully close now though, because we do know that Adam sold out to Satan. If you take the figures out of the Bible and add them all up, the ages of each person and all, you come to about 4000 B.C. that Adam sinned against God and gave the earth over to Satan.

Now we are in 1979, coming towards the close of it. So you’ve got a few years divergency here that could be eaten up in several different ways. We are approaching, certainly approaching, and at least at the longest, we are less than twenty years from six thousand years of slavery to sin to Satan, his possession of this earth.

Now we know that there is a thousand-year period coming of restoration, of a righteous reign of Jesus Christ of peace and glory upon the earth. The fact that the six thousand years are almost over is extremely exciting to me, because I am personally convinced that the seventh millennium of the earth will be the glorious Kingdom Age, and we can’t be more than twenty years away. Now I’m excited about that. And to me there’s nothing of doom and gloom but glory to God, the mess is over. Oh, I’m so excited. What an exciting time to be living. The close of this age, the close of this millennium, the close of this final millennium prior to that glorious seventh millennium, the millennial reign of Christ. He shall rule and reign for a thousand years upon the earth. He’s gonna rule and reign forever, a thousand of it will be here upon the earth, and we shall rule and reign with Him as kings and priests. Can you imagine that? How close we are, whoosh it’s exciting. I love it.”
“The fact that the six thousand years are almost over is extremely exciting to me, because I am personally convinced that the seventh millennium of the earth will be the glorious Kingdom Age, and we can’t be more than twenty years away.” Chuck Smith C2000 Series Leviticus 25:25

Again Pastor Chuck never said that God told him or revealed anything to him regarding the return of Christ, but he was very excited and personally convinced in the Millennial Sabbath theory and that the seventh millennium which we are currently in now was to be the last millennium of rest. That would require the return of The Lord for pre tribulation rapture theology.

Beloved I strongly believe that any attempt to put a date on Christ’s return is futile and only leads to disappointment and discouragement of the faithful. I have heard of dozens of predictions about Christ’s imminent return over the last forty some odd years. The first I can recall was 1968, again the anniversary of the rebirth of Israel and just about every other ten-year cycle of their rebirth. Does anyone remember the Y2K hype from Chuck Missler and his book “The Millennial Bomb” and the latest 2012 Myan calendar debacle?

So what are we supposed to be doing? We are to be waiting upon The Lord, we are to be watching and we are to be working for Him and His glory. Do not be deceived by the cunningness of men and their words for there will be no secret second coming for when He comes in the glory of His Father with His holy angels all will see and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the Jesus Christ is Lord.

Remember the words of our Lord in the Olivet Discourse.

As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 25:3-14 NASB

May God bless all who watch, wait and work until His return.





About didaskologos

Hi, my name is Norm Robinson and I'm a grateful believer. I have been on a quest to discover authentic Christianity and essential theology for over forty years and I invite all who are called by His name to join me. You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ's authority, knowing that God is watching us. 2 Corinthians 2:17 NLT.
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7 Responses to Did Chuck Smith Predict That the Rapture Would Come in 1981

  1. Paul MacAllister says:

    Excellent commentary Norm, appreciate that even though I do not recall hearing Chuck making those statements.


  2. Angela Briggs says:

    Thank you sooo much! I couldn’t sleep last night and so I decided to get on my phone. I’ve been wanting to look up and see if I could order Chuck Smith’s teachings on his verse by verse through the Bible when I came across the “1981” thing. I couldn’t believe it! I was devastated! I have been a Christian for about 24 years now and it wasn’t until just last year that I was introduced to Chuck on a Calvary Chapel’s radio station. He is truly anointed by God! Just his humble personality alone conveys that! Anyway, it bothered me all day at work about what I read. It just didn’t make any sense to me. when i got home, I got on line again to see if that was really true when I came across your article. I feel so much better! It’s terrible when people twist the truth. Thanks again!


    • didaskologos says:

      Thank you Angela. I’m very touched and grateful that my humble post shed some insight into the great disappointment of 1981. Pastor Chuck was as humble and hard working servant of the Most High God as has ever existed, but he was not perfect. Something he once told me was to always keep my eyes on Christ because men will always fail you for they are mere mortals. I praise your Berean spirit by searching to see if these things are true. You can find Pastor Chuck’s verse by verse teachings for free at, The Word For Today or my favorite website, Blue Letter Bible.

      May God’s Word always be a lamp unto your feet, may His Spirit always be upon you and guide you deeper into His Truth.



  3. monica lozornio says:

    I’m grateful and thankful to read your explanation of the comments some have made about this misnomer that Pastor Chuck predicted the rapture. I was saved in 1977, the most wonderful 1st time occurance of my life. The Lord immediately led me to Calvary Chapel, when I was living in the California desert. As I started studying the Bible, verse by verse, precept by precept I really became a new person. Pastor Chuck exemplified so many of the characteristics of a Christian (follower of Jesus) as I learned in scripture. Some one just yesterday brought up this subject of the rapture and Chuck, and I didn’t recall hearing him speak this or that the people i worshipped with were ever talking about.it. The main thing I remember is Pastor Chuck would say it was a desire of his heart to live long enough to be part of the rapture of the church. It gave me so much hope to realize the Lord would come for us, his children. Although Chuck went home before the rapture, it doesn’t matter now, I know he has that wonderful smile as he communes with Jesus. See you later Pastor Chuck! Thank you Mr Norm for writing this post. Monica Lozornio


  4. didaskologos says:

    Thank you Monica, it’s gratifying to be able to clarify this issue for you. As you remember CCCM and the other emerging Calvary Chapels were for the most part very apocalyptic and led by apocalypitists. The end of days was at hand and you needed to get saved to avoid the wrath of God or tribulation to come. Chuck Smith was only 1 of 3 Pastors that I’ve been blessed to serve under and with. The best selling book in my teen years was, The Late, Great Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsey with Carole C. Carlson, was first published by Zondervan company in 1970 and was based on the apocalyptic interpretation of the Parable of the fig tree as espoused by Chuck Smith and many other Premillennial eschatological exegetical Pastors.
    LaHay is best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction that depicts the Earth after the pretribulation rapture which Premillennial Dispensationalists believe the Bible states will occur. But few hold onto the premise that, the generation of Israelis who were alive and present in Israel in 1948 will not all die until they see the Lord and the Kingdom of Heaven come in power and authority. The same holds true for the Millennial Sabbath theory, which dates back to the pseudepigraphal (forged) Epistle of Barnabas written in the second century AD.
    Anyway before I start wandering down the rabbit trail 😂 I’ll leave you with this reply, always be watchful, working and waiting upon and for our Lord. For no man knows the hour or the date, not even the Son himself.

    Bless you and your Berean spirit. May the One God our Father, our Lord Jesus the Christ and Their Holy Spirit bless you and prosper you even as your soul prospers.



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