WAITING FOR THE END
By Jessie Mills
"The world is coming to an end," is the outcry of many today.
Millions are waiting expectantly for the end to come. No exact date is universally established, but many believe that within
the present generation, and probably sometime in the 2005-2009. Jesus will return to lay the groundwork for His Kingdom and
His thousand-year reign on earth. Many preachers discuss the events of
"these latter days" with bold confidence, as If they will be as real as Noah's Ark or the birth of Christ. These ideas are
proclaimed by such TV preachers as Oral Roberts. Jerry Farwell, Pal Robertson, Rex Humbard, Herbert W. Armstrong, Kenneth
Copeland, Jack Van Impe; and on such programs as the Voice of Prophecy, The King Is Now Coming, and "11:59 pm and Counting".
Very similar concepts are also being widely
promulgated by Independent ministries such as Lamb and Lion, Second Coming. Inc. and World Prophecy Ministry in their periodicals;
It's Happening Now Bible In The News, Bible Prophecy, Prophecy Newsletter, The Endtime Messenger, Blood Runs Deep In Armageddon,
and Moody Monthly Magazine. These ideas are the subject of novels, stage plays, films, cantatas, hymns, gospel songs, and
bumper slickers (such as "Ready or not. Jesus is coming”). A classic example of this in the 1970's was the number-one
non-fiction volume of Hal Lindsey, "The Late Great Planet Earth". Over 15 million copies sold.
It was the basis of a 1977 movie narrated by Orson Welles. This was only
one of the successful books written by Lindsey on the subject.
Though its growth has occurred mostly within
the past two decades, this movement had its roots in the nineteenth century. The French Revolution and its aftermath kindled
intense interest in prophecy. As they experienced the destruction of papal
power, the secularization of the state, and the rise of a religion of reason, they fell they were witnessing the fulfillment
of the events described in Daniel and Revelation. A number of societies and conferences,
primarily In Great Britain, developed an approach to these texts contending that they foretold, in explicit detail, the restoration
of the Jews to the land of Palestine, a cataclysmic end to the present age, the second coming of Christ, and a thousand-year
Millennium of earthly bliss.
Millenarian thought also flourished in the
United States during the nineteenth century. Mormans spoke of themselves as Latter Day Saints, and the shakers viewed Mother
Ann Lee, their founder, as the female complement to the male Christ of the first advent, and taught that she had Inaugurated
the Millennium! The most notable Millenarian during the First half of the century, however, was William Miller, a prolific
writer who held camp meetings and tent revivals that built • solid following of some 50.000 people. Miller believed
so strongly in his ability to interpret Biblical signs that he publicly announced 1643 as the year when Christ would return
to begin His reign over an earthly Kingdom. Since 1643 did not bring the Christ, he reasoned that his calculation was wrong,
and reset the date three more times. His willingness to set dates brought tremendous
interest, but ultimately brought his movement to a stand still, since his predictions never were fulfilled. He was subjected
to ridicule and charges of quackery, but not before he made a fortune selling white robes to those who wished to be fully
dressed when Christ returned.
As time progressed, the Millenarians learned
to avoid date setting, but by 1875 the evangelist D. L. Moody began a new movement, which grew into a super denominational
community characterized by an ecumenical spirit that did not require commitment to any specific interpretive scheme (as long
as it was generally in agreement with their millenarian ideas).
The most widely held view of the end time was
the pre-millennial theory, so called because it taught that Jesus would return before the Millennium. It was developed by
an Englishman, John Nelson Darby, and was incorporated into the Scofield Reference Bible, the one book, which has probably
had the greatest influence toward these ideas. The Scofield Bible was published in 1909 by Oxford University Press. Its latest
revision, a 1967 edition, has sold more than two million copies. In this book, Scofield presents Darby's teachings on the
same page with Scripture, creating the impression that the notes and their teachings were virtually Canonical.
Though factions disagree over the precise sequence
of events, those who adhere to the Darby-Scofield ideas believed that the triggering-action will be the Rapture. This term
Is not used in the Bible, but Scofield says that it is what is referred to in 1 Thess. 4:17, and most who read the word "Rapture”
in the notes get the strong impression that it's a Biblical concept simply because It Is printed on the same page.
Another concept commonly held is a seven-year
period of Tribulation after the Rapture. It will begin with the appearance
of the Antichrist as leader of a ten-nation confederacy. He will seem to be a man of peace and will side with Israel when
it is threatened by a northern coalition, which is generally expected to be Russia, but will include Germany, the Arabs, and
Iran. His help will not be needed, however, because the coalition will be so devastated by earth-quakes and pestilence that
it will take seven months just to bury the dead (Ezekiel 38 and 39).
Realization that the raptured saints had been
prudent to believe in Jesus will cause 144.000 Jews and Gentiles to accept Christ. These converts, along with two outstanding
prophets, namely Moses and Elijah brought back to life, will witness in Jerusalem. Then they will be killed; their bodies
will lay in the streets as a witness. Unfortunately, those who are left will be marked for persecution by the Antichrist,
who will now commit an action so egregious that it will be known as the "Abomination of Desolation". He will enter the temple
at Jerusalem, cancel all worship, and use it as his headquarters. Many will seek refuge in the caves of the rocks. Notice
that this view has the Temple rebuilt with priests offering sacrifices in It. Does God really want the old sacrificial system
restored and His Son's sacrificial work nullified (see Gal. 2:18; 4:9-11; 5:1-4; Heb. 7-10)?
During the tribulation, the earth will experience
unprecedented destruction. Rising sea levels, hundred-pound hailstones, falling stars, and fires will devastate one third
of the earth. The sun will become seven times hotter than normal, and then grow dark; oceans, rivers and lakes will turn to
blood. Scorpions, locusts, and boils will plague man. Stupendous earthquakes
will level the mountains and cities, and an army of two hundred million from the east (China and Russia) will kill half of
those who manage to survive the other disasters. Then the Antichrist will gain total control over the world and require everyone
to wear a mark either on his forehead or the back of his hand. This number will be 666, the mark of the beast. If they refuse
to wear the mark they will be killed.
At about this time, the Antichrist will be
joined by a false prophet, a religious leader associated with Babylon (a city called "the mother of harlots"). As cities crumble
and the perplexity of nations mounts, the army of the east will come to the plain of Megiddo for an all-out assault on the
Holy City, Then Christ will return, touch down on the Mount of Olives and be seen by everyone (probably by means of satellite
TV). Christ and His armies will join in the battle of Armageddon, and will wreak such destruction that blood will flow deep
as a horse's bridle for two hundred miles.
Then the Antichrist (or Beast) and the false prophet will
be slain and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:1 Off). Satan will be bound for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). With Satan
out of the way, at least for a while, the saints will enjoy total bliss in the thousand-year Millennium, an age characterized
by good weather, peace, the end of crime, superior knowledge, and no fears, tears, or sorrow. All things will be furnished
by the Lord, even food and drink; everyone will drink the waters of life (Isaiah 13 and John 3).
At the end of the Millennium God will allow Satan one more chance to work his evil.
He will win-over many who has previously been Christians. Then the army of backsliders will muster for one last and final
battle with the faithful. But God will bring down fire from Heaven, annihilate the earth and destroy the wicked forever. Satan
and all the wicked will be sent to the lake of fire, where they will abide forever and ever.
Out of all these ideas the, one which has provoked the most Intense interest has been
that of Israel being back in Palestine. Pre-millennial doctrine has to have the Jews back in the land with the Temple rebuilt
when Christ returns. The 1917 Balfour Declaration, which permitted Jews to settle in Palestine, was widely viewed by premillennialists
as the fulfillment of Jer. 29:14 "I will bring you back to the place where I sent you into exile". This belief received an enormous boost with the formal establishment of the state of Israel on May
14. 1948. The date on which, according to Hal Lindsey, the prophetic countdown for the end of the world began. (Note: Recently
Hat Lindsey stated on television that his calculation of the end was wrong, that he had made a mistake. But in his new book
he says that all details have been corrected, and that we are now approaching the end!).
Biblical literalists will not admit that "this generation" refers to those alive when
the signs of the end first appeared (the first century). In Jesus’
discussion of the sign' regarding the end of the age. He told His disciples that their "generation would not pass away until all these things took place" (Matt. 24:34). He was apparently
referring to the lifetime of His hearers, since He told them "Some of you standing here shall not taste of death until you
see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom" (Matt. 16:28). This brings Jesus' words about John very sharply into focus: "What
is it to you if I want him to remain until I come back" (John 21:23). Jesus also said "...when you see Jerusalem surrounded
by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand—because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things
which are written may be fulfilled" (Lk. 21:20, 22). These things really happened
in the first century! They have been fulfilled! Josephus, an eyewitness of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD gives a full
and clear account of it.
Since most people today are not aware of the historical events of the first century,
they fall easy prey to the premillennial doctrine. They only know about events that are happening today. Almost any scrap
of bad news is hailed as another sign that we are in the last days. Earthquakes, volcanoes, famine, Russian aggression, China's
emergence as a world power, the rise of OPEC, the revolution In Iran threats against Israel, war in Lebanon, unrest in Latin
America, increase in abortion, explicit sex on television, aw the gay rights parade are all seen as signs of the end. When
Israel regained control of Jerusalem In 1967 during the six-day war it seemed like a miracle to many. But these things are
just as much an illusion now as they were in past generations. The end has already come, in the first century!
The premillenialists suggest that all the prophecies should be taken "literally" (until
they find something which doesn't fit their scheme). Hal Lindsey suggests that the Beast of Revelation Is really not a "literal"
beast, but rather armored tanks and Cobra helicopters: and that the great "eagle" expected to transport Jews to "their place
of protection" may be aircraft from the United States' Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. The trouble with this idea is that
the people being transported are Christians (not Jews), who are trying to escape a persecution like the one the Jews poured
out on the Christians in the first century (Rev. 12:17). The Roman Empire (whose symbol incidentally was an eagle) helped
the Christians on numerous occasions to escape that fierce persecution from the Jews.
As noted earlier, the consensus view of the Antichrist is that he will be a Satan-supported
charismatic czar who will enforce a political and economic dictatorship so complete that buying or selling will be impossible
without his authorization, symbolized by some form of 666 on the hand or forehead. The ten-nation confederacy that will serve,
as his power-base is supposedly the common market, whose giant computer complex located in Luxemburg is said to be nicknamed
"The Beast". Many are appalled at rumors that, in a cashless and check less society, economic transactions will require that
each of us be assigned a number consisting of three sets of six digits, to be invisibly tattooed on our hands or forehead.
And some believe that the laser-read computer code on super-market goods is but one indicator that the mark of the beast is
already in our midst. Just waiting to be applied to humans.
News that various forms of 666 are prominently in use spreads through the fundamentalist
network as rapidly as the false report that worms are used in McDonalds hamburgers or that Satan worship infests Proctor and
Gamble; but the most widely known collection of such information is Mary Stewart Refle’s "When Your Money Fails" then
"the 666 Is here". Reife claims that Olivetti, Lear Siegler, NCR computer systems. Boss work gloves, Scotty fertilizer, McGregor
clothing, shirts made in China, shoes made in Italy, and parts of Caterpillar tractors have all been found bearing the mark
(666) of the beast; and Sears, J. C. Penney and Montgomery Ward are said to use computer programs that call for a 666 prefix.
The ominous number is also reportedly used by the World Bank, the IPS, Medicaid and the Selective Service. Relfe also states,
that when Anwar Sadat of Egypt reopened the Suez Canal to commercial use in 1975. He rode In a warship with 666 emblazoned
in striking letters on the bow, and that tanks built for President Carter's own Secret Service were stamped with 666, as were
metric rulers in 1979. She says that In Israel, 666 is used as the prefix for Arab-owned vehicles. After a survey of this
book I felt a bit queasy, because in 1982 after reorganization of my peach grove, I made $666!
In earlier generations Nero, Napoleon, Mussolini, and Hitler were considered to be
"the Beast"; but all these passed without bringing down the Christ. In our own times Henry Kissinger was suspected to be the
Beast. To feed this speculation, David Webber, pastor of the Southwest Church
Radio program, used numerology (where each letter of a name has a numerical value) to calculate the value of Henry Kissinger's
name. It was 666! In 1981, Relfe declared, "my prudent assessment is that Anwar Sadat of Egypt is history's nearest prototype
of the real Mr. 666”.
Hal Lindsey, who predicted Sadat's assassination declines to name a specific individual,
but says he believes the Antichrist is a passionate humanist who "lives right now somewhere in Europe”. One might be
interested to know that our own President Ronald Wilson Reagan has six letters in each of his three names!
Such things make strong impressions on weak minds, and come to be regarded almost
as sacred as salvation itself. Such dearly held ideas cannot help but be expressed in some kind of concrete action. David
Terall, a fanatic minor-league radio and TV preacher, insists that the Church will experience the Tribulation (instead of
being raptured an opinion shared by Pat Robertson), and has persuaded thousands of his followers to move to rural areas in
the south and southwest; for he wants them to escape the seven-year tribulation without having to buy or sell, and thus miss
the mark of the beast. Relfe, who believes in a physical rapture, recommends erecting a bomb-shelter, planting a garden on
a small plot of land outside the city, and setting aside a bag of silver coins for every member of the family.
In anticipation of "the Beast" some Christians have borrowed money they never intend
to pay back, because they believe Jesus will return before the debt comes due. Herbert W. Armstrong's empire suffered a great
shock when the end of the world failed to begin in January of 1972, as he had predicted, thus bringing much hardship on many
people who had given all they had to him and his church with the expectation of going to Petra where such possessions would
As another example, Salem Kirban, one of the most prolific writers in the field, predicted
in various publications that the 1976 Republican convention would be accompanied by riot and guerilla warfare, that automobiles
would be banned from major U.S. cities by 1977, that a negative Income tax would be approved by Congress, that Queen Elizabeth
would resign before 1978, and that Edward Kennedy would be elected President in 1980. He also predicted that a Bible would
be printed with sex photos and profanity, which many churches would hail as being "in tune with reality."
More significant, one has to wonder how ore-millennial theology will manifest itself
in the activities of the Christian New Right. In wondering about this, one might ask himself, if a President were to appoint
one or more premillennialists to key foreign-policy posts, what incentive would they have to work for a lasting peace in the
middle East if they believe that a Russian-led attack on Israel is not only inevitable, but a necessary precursor of the Millenium?
Then second, what would their attitude be toward the Trilaterlal Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations? And, might not a high-ranking official regard his finger on the button as just an instrument of God's
The best approach to all this that we've seen, and the one we recommend here Is the
one which sees Bible prophecy as being fulfilled by the end of the Jewish age in 70 AD. Daniel 7 depicts the ascension of
Christ, the receiving of the kingdom, a judgment upon Israel, the coming of the Lord. And the saints receiving the kingdom
during the events associated with the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century. Daniel 12:7 lends much credence to this
idea when it says that all the events in the book would be completely fulfilled "as soon as they finish shattering the power
of the holy people" (i.e. the destruction of Jerusalem). In similar fashion, the visions of Revelation are understood to be
symbolic descriptions of the triumph of the church over the persecutions of the Jews In the first century AD. Jesus made it
very clear when His return and the kingdom were to come. It would be during the lifetime of at least "some of those" He spoke
to: "Some of you standing here shall not taste of death until you see the Son of Man coming In His kingdom" (Matt. 16:28.
cf. Matt. 10:23 and 24:34). If these things were not fulfilled in the first century as Jesus promised. His integrity is under
serious question. Those who are still "waiting for the end” in our generation are following a mirage.