6 July 2002, Pr George Porter
(George is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
This sermon is a review of the feature article in Time Magazine 01.07.02. "The BIBLE AND THE APOCALYPSE Why more Americans are reading and talking about THE END OF THE WORLD" The same edition of Time carries a companion article about the religious author, Tim LaHaye entitled, "How an Evangelist and Conservative Activist turned Prophecy into a Fiction Juggernaut."
Title Missed Out
Scripture Reading Matthew 24: 3-4; 36-44
Theme End of World Yes! But no SECRET rapture mentioned in Scripture.
Seventh-day Adventists have always believed in the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ. One in every 25 verses in the New Testament of the Bible confirm this belief. Matthew 24, Luke 21, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Revelation with its details of end time prophecy are just a few of the Biblical sources supporting the fact.
In my lifetime SDA's have often been classed as calamity howlers because of their strong beliefs in the apocalyptic theology of Holy Scripture. However, since September 2001 things have changed.
Time emblazoned across pages 38-39 of the July 1st issue, "APOCALYSE NOW"
When you watch the news WHAT do you watch for?
Signs of interest rates climbing ?
Signs of global warming?
Signs of terrorist activity? Or
Signs that the world may be coming to an end - The LAST Battle between Good and evil about to happen?
Evangelical Christians with keen interests in Bible prophecy watch the headlines in the news and invariably add asterisks and add Scriptural footnotes.
For example, Todd Strandburg the webmaster for site, raptureready.com invented a "Dow Jones Industrial Average of End Time Activity." He tracks prophecies: earthquakes, floods, plagues, crimes, false prophets, economic measures, unemployment, instability and civil unrest. All preparation for Antichrist. How close are we to the end of the world?
On September 24th 2001, his index hit a record 182 - some 8 million visitors to his website. He believes anything over 145 is time to "fasten seat belts".
Childhood calamities and family disasters were always smooted over by mothers who assured us, "That it is not the end of the world yet!" The end is a basic human reference point. We are born with the instinct that the end is out there somewhere. It is a cultural impulse.
Most cultures have creation stories and also views of the End. Now Sept 11 is another time in human history when instinct, faith, myth and the current events creat a perfect storm of preoccupation with THE END.
The September 11 terrorist attack, together with the anthrax deaths aroused Christians interest into the language of Armageddon and Apocalyse. Even secular people see omens in the events. People have suveyed events with a supposed climax- such as 1945 - A Bomb; 1948 Israel estblished; 1967 Israel's six day war; 1991 Gulf war 2000 New Millennium and 2001 September 11!
WHAT HAS FED THIS CRAVING FOR END - TIME THEOLOGY?
The Biblical apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation as well as Matthew 24 and Luke 21 , 1 Thess 4:13-18.
The Millerites in the first half of the 1800's drew the world's attention to these prophecies of the End. By 1863 Seventh-day Adventists took up the banner. It was almost thought that if souls purified themselves the end would be hastened.
In 1862 John Nelson Darby, an Anglican priest turned itinerant evangelical preacher arrived in America with his doctrine of Dispensationalism ( Premillennialism) and the Rapture. Cyrus Scofield expanded Darby's doctrine and developed the Scofield reference Bible which outlined in the margins Darby's doctrines. Thus dispensationalism and the foundations of the secret rapture before THE END were set in full forward motion for the masses .
Time magazine beleives that the most influencial books concerning End Time have been written by Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. A series of novels built around the main themes of Revelation. They have taken a purely literal view of the symbols given in prophetic form. They claim to have broken the code of Revelation. Since 1995 a flood of false information on the prophecies have streamed from their pens. LaHaye's first novel entitled "Left Behind" predicts the Secret Rapture before the tribulation. This is based on 1Thess 4:16-17. The last novel "The Remnant" is about Antichrist and the Last battle. The series has sold more than 35 millon copies. Including CD's,comics, children's books and games the series tops 50 million. A veritable landslide and avalanche of "Retail Prophecy". No wonder Americans and the Christian world are being influenced by these popular religious novels. The two men have earned over $50million each with LaHaye recently signing a contract for $43 million for a new series.The books have a broad audience, about half the readers are Evangelicals.
A Time/CNN poll found that 1/3 of Americans since LaHaye and September 11 are paying attention as to how the news relates events to the End of the world. A whopping 59% say they believe that the events predicted in Revelation are going to come true. One quarter believe September 11 was predicted in the Bible. All this has been fuelled by "some faith, some fear, some imagination but all by the Left Behind series of novels." Even some SDA's have been influenced and deceived by these novels, which with vivid violent and utter detail of what happens at the rapture to those who are left behind to face antichrist. After September 11 sales of the series were up 60% .
Who reads these books? Evangelical pastors who promote them as devotionals. Mainline pastors to see what their parishoners are thinking. Politicians and scholars to know what the masses of people are fearing and contemplating in the backs of their minds.
Time quotes many examples of people interviewd as to the direct influence and impact LaHayes novels have had on the masses worlview of the END. This is a shame and a disaster because Mainline protestantism has little time for the Apocalyptic and it is hard to find scholarly books which do Theological justice to the Books of Revelation and Daniel.
LaHaye has more than a spiritual agenda. He has a political agenda throughout his works as well. There is the matter of the Jews and the Israelite state. The return of the land to the people and the people to the land. It is said that they must return etc so as to make it possible for the Lord to return the second time. The END. Many Christians and Jews push this agenda to the Bush White House as if mankinds salvation depends upon it. Time magazine sites many examples of noteable leaders in politics who have been and are being influenced by lobby groups for this cause.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN
Is there a secret rapture? Is their antichrist after the Messiahs' return? Is there a remnant processing salvation for others during the Millennium? Scripture says, No! But there is an END.
HOW DO WE REACT TO THE APOCALYPTIC HYSTERIA ?
MATTHEW 24:1-3 The disciples asked three questions. When would Jerusalem fall? What shall be the sign of Christ's second coming, and thirdly the END of the World? In verse 4 Jesus initial reply was about deception not the signs. That is most significant. That is the real issue. We are to be alert to false novel prophecies and signs which are not strictly Scriptual. The issue is deception resulting in being unprepared for the End time Judgment. The signs are not salvation itself. The signs are warnings that we need salvation and need to be nurturing a relationship with the God of Truth so as to be ready.
Matt 16:4 What sign do we need? Jesus addressing the Pharisees and Sadducees said, " A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah." A reference to the three days predicted that Messiah would be in the tomb before Christ's resurrection. Clearly signalling that He was the Messiah. see John 6:67-69. Sign, yes the best and only sign Jesus Christ the risen Saviour. The sign and promise of our final salvation at the END.
Matthew 24:36 "the day and hour no man knows--- the Father only. So much for LaHayes novel predictions. The Time journalist has it sorted out pretty well, when he states, "Jesus said that when it comes to the time of judgment , 'no one knows , not even the angels in heaven, but My Father only.' In that light, if Christians are called to put their faith in Christ, whatever trials they face, then it undermines that trust to try to read the signs, unlock the code, focus on what can't be known rather than on what must be done: heal the sick, tend to the poor, spread the Gospel." Well said. That is what Matthew 25 is all about and why it follows chapter 24.
Focus friend on Jesus. Focus on your own life. When you die that is the END. Be ready.
We can be sure the END is near and will come. Signs are only reminders not the heart of Theology.
The real issue is "do not be decieved" and that is not novel. Neither is the second coming rapture a secret. The event will be witnessed by everyone on this planet. Matt 24 :30 and Revelation 1:7 Antichrist and his followers die at His coming. There is no second chance during the millenium. Be not deceived by LaHaye.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
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