On September 7, 1992, David Wilkerson prophesied:

“I have had recurring visions of over 1,000 fires burning at one time here in New York city. I am convinced race riots will soon explode! New York City is right now a powder keg-ready to blow!… federal and State Welfare cutbacks will be the spark that ignites the fuse.

Next year, New York City could have over 100,000 angry men on the streets, enraged because they have been cut off from benefits…. Federal troops will have to move in to restore order. New York City will have tanks running down its avenues…. Churches will be closed for a season because it will be too dangerous to travel about.

Fires will rage everywhere.”

It did not happen. This was a false prophecy. After it failed, he claimed the prophecy was true except for the date. He said he had added the date. The prophecy would happen later.

“This is a common expedient for those who assume themselves to be prophets,” said Tom Riggle, “moving the goal-posts, hoping that others will forget by then.”[1]

It still had not happened by the time Wilkerson passed away in 2011. It is extremely difficult to imagine it will ever happen. It is just so extreme.

Experience

Wilkerson did not have a long track record of many fulfilled prophecies before or after this. This despite people calling him a prophet. He may have preached a thousand good sermons but it wouldn’t make him one bit better at delivering one true prophecy. It is a completely different kettle of fish.

Frequency

Note that Wilkerson said he had had “recurring visions.” It is easily assumed that recurring visions are incontrovertible evidence of authentic prophecy. (People have been assuming one of Paul Cain’s popular but unfulfilled prophecies is still valid because he says he had recurring visions.) The frequency probably convinced first Wilkerson and then the people who heard his prophetic word it was legitimate. The conclusion is frequency can be easily misinterpreted and is dangerous because of how easily it can lead to deception.

Accountability

He would have done better to submit his opinion of the future to a group of leaders for their input before going public. No doubt a lot of people who believed his prophecy and stayed in New York lived in fear for a long time; whereas others probably left the city. Any time a potential prophecy can affect a lot of people in a big way it should get outside counsel before distribution as long as that is possible. No public record was found of Wilkerson saying he did this; likewise no endorsements by other pastors, prophets, or leaders who said they believed it or received a similar impression independently, before or after he did.

End Notes

[1] Tom Riggle, “David Wilkerson False Prophecies & Unscriptural Teaching,” July 30, 2007. http://www.geocities.com/asterisktom/wilkerson.html [Dec. 20, 2008].

David Wilkerson (1931-2011) appeared to be one of the most serious and sincere ministers of his generation. He was an evangelist and a pastor, most notably at Times Square Church in New York City. He was also considered a prophet. He preached against sin often and prophesied about the future occasionally. None of his prophecies were what you can easily find today, soft and comforting. They were typically about judgment for sin.

You might have been inclined to believe his prophecies because he seemed so committed to God, so serious about God, and so focused on His will on the earth. But he did make some false prophecies; some of them were very extreme.

The Vision Prophecies

His book The Vision (1973) was full of prophecies but they were false.

In 2000, Amazon reviewer Daniel J. Elmore wrote: “This book is so full of mis-predictions and obvious extrapolations that it should forever have ruined Wilkerson’s status as a man to be listened to. . . . he did say was that the US would suffer an enormous earthquake outside of the usual quake areas that would be so severe that earthquakes would become the leading cause of fear in the general population, that the economy would become so unstable that no one would ever feel confident in it again, and that rural property would so sky-rocket in price that only the syndicates would be able to afford it. . . did ANY of that happen?” Daniel J. Elmore, “Trust me, it’s kooky,” Mar. 24, 2000.
https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/0515032867/ref=acr_dpx_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar

Another commented: “I read the English version back in the 70s and so respected & trusted Rev. Wilkerson that I was afraid to invest for years because I thought an economic collapse was surely coming at any time. My challenge to David Wilkerson is to come clean with this stuff and either update it or admit that he missed it.” Anonymous, “Why is this book still in print?” Apr. 7, 2000.
https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/0515032867/ref=acr_dpx_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar

The End of Gospel TV Prophecy

Prophecies are not always made before or after a sermon, or even prefaced as prophecies. Sometimes they get mixed in with the message. In December of 1994 at a church he visited Wilkerson prophesied: “Right now I sense in my spirit that in less than five years there will be no more so-called gospel television networks. They will all fall into bankruptcy and absolute ruin.”

This never happened. Over 20 years later it still had not been fulfilled and there was no sign it would be fulfilled in the foreseeable future. Wilkerson was 63 at the time in ’94. He had been a minister since 1952 (42 years). It is more evidence that age and experience does not guarantee prophetic accuracy.

Economic Holocaust Prophecy

In later years he did not prophesy very much, but still failed. The following is a written exchange between Wilkerson and a person who wrote to him.

“Your last book warned of a coming depression,” said a reader. “You have been saying for a long time that the stock market is going to blow and America would be chastened by an economic holocaust. I believed you, even though you say you are not a prophet. But there seems to be no sign of a crash. Will you apologize if it doesn’t happen reasonably soon?”

“I do not understand God’s mercy to America,” answered Wilkerson. “It could only be his extended mercy that has caused God to not yet chasten our nation. I do not want it to happen. We have a ministry to many needy people, and an economic collapse would affect all we do.

“In prayer, I have told the Lord I am ready at any time to confess I am wrong – that I must have spoken from my own fears or that I have spoken unadvisedly. Recently, when the market reached record highs, I wondered if those calling me a false prophet were right. But I know how diligently I seek God. I know what it’s like to weep and groan before the Lord as the Holy Spirit shows me what is coming.

“No matter what others think, I cannot shake off the urgency of the Holy Spirit to warn God’s people. Every time I am shut in with God, fasting and praying, I hear the trumpet blowing. I hear God’s still, small voice saying, “It is coming. It will happen suddenly. Forget the criticism – warn the people.”

“I believe what I have been warning about – more than ever! The speculative boom is almost over. The balloon is about to burst. No matter how high the market goes, it is going to collapse. I don’t know when but I do know it is certain. God will not delay much longer. The next American president is going to preside over a deeply troubled economy.”

David Wilkerson, “Cover Letter,” May 22, 2000. www.tscpulpitseries.org/english/cover_letter/wc000522.html

See also: “What You Need to Know about David Wilkerson’s ‘Urgent Message, Christianity Today, Mar. 16, 2009.

The common denominator of David Wilkerson prophecies was calamity or judgment for sin. His motivation was rarely doubted but his prophetic skills never matched his preaching power. He could preach strong sermons against sin but when he prophesied the consequences of sin his prophecies typically failed.
His prophecies were more consequential than many because some Christians actually believed them and made decisions based on them; for example, the person cited above who did not invest in the stock market.
Despite the risks it is assumed he typically did not submit potential prophecies to reputable leaders or anyone else for review or prayer before going public. There is also no easily found public record of Wilkerson apologizing for his false prophecies or offering restitution to the people who lost money because of them.