The apparent fulfillment of biblical
apocalyptic prophecy has led End Times believers to work
hard to fit more recent events into the scriptural
Books & Wares
There's an entire
universe of books and products related to the popular
series. Here's a sampling...
your letter to the editor
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2002; 2:31 a.m.
It never seemed to hurt that Lindsey's
predictions passed their "sell by" date: during the Gulf War,
sales of his book jumped 83%, as people feared Saddam Hussein
was rebuilding Babylon and dragging the world to its last
battle. Nowadays Lindsey sees his early warnings being
vindicated almost daily. "The Muslim terrorists are going to
strike the U.S. again and strike us hard so that we cease to
be one of the world's great powers," he says. "It's not far
off." When he wrote his best seller, he says, not many people
took prophecy seriously. "I was called a false prophet for
saying there'd be a United States of Europe back in 1970, but
there is one now. People have watched this scenario continue
to come together, and that's why so many people today are
believing we are in the midst of last days."
Actually, the more Evangelicals became involved in
politics, the more they engaged with the world here and now,
the more interest in End Times theology drifted back into the
realm of entertainment. And many argued that was a healthy
sign. Not all Evangelicals embrace End Times theology, and
some see in it a dangerous distraction. 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 the
poor, spread the Gospel.
It is one thing to become politically active to deploy that
Gospel to improve people's lives, another to try to promote a
specific religious scenario. Intercessors for America, a
30-year-old prayer ministry, helps keep people politically
connected through e-mail alerts and telephone-prayer chains.
The June 11 Prayer Alert implored, "Lord, raise up government
leaders in Israel, the United States (and worldwide) who will
not seek to 'divide the land,' and who would recognize the
unique significance of Jerusalem in God's end-time purposes."
A refusal to consider Israel's withdrawal from any occupied
territory would tend to complicate the peace process:
virtually every proposal has involved a land-for-peace swap.
Yet at the same time, "if this wave of terrorism continues
without a meaningful peace treaty soon," predicts John Hagee,
pastor of the 17,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio,
Texas, "the sparks of war will produce a third world war. And
that will be the coming of the End Times. That will be the end
of the world as we know it."
To the true believers, that seems less a threat than the
fulfillment of a promise. "If we keep our eyes on Israel, we
will know about the return of Christ," says Oleeta Herrmann,
77, of Xenia, Ohio. "Everything that is happening—wars, rumors
of war—in the Middle East is happening according to
Scripture." Herrmann is a member of the End-Time Handmaidens
and Servants, a group of global missionaries who preach the
Gospel with an emphasis on End Times teachings. Sept. 11 is
proof of her belief that the Second Coming of Christ is
"closer than it ever has been," Herrmann says.
And therein lies the central paradox in this wave of End
Times interest. If you believe the end is near, is the
reaction hope, or dread? "Even though the Left Behind series
has been popular, many people still think of the End Times as
negative," wrote Kyle Watson on his prophecy news website,
AtlantaChristianWeekly.com. He thinks believers should be
excited about the end of the world. "Try viewing prophecy and
current events [as] how much closer we are to being with
Christ in heaven."
That impulse to hope for a good ending is one Cal Thomas,
the conservative columnist, sees even in the disciples'
questions for Jesus. He cites Bible passages in which the
Apostles press Jesus for clues about how the future unfolds.
"This is intellectual comfort food, the whole Left Behind
phenomenon, because it says to people, in a popularized way,
it's all going to pan out in the end," he says. "It assures
them, in the midst of a general cultural breakdown and a time
of growing danger, that God is going to redeem the time."
Evangelicals who had felt somehow left behind in secular
terms, by a coarse culture and a fear of general moral decay,
welcome arguments that even the most tragic events may be
evidence of God's larger plan. In fact, you don't have to be
religious to be hoping for that as well.
—With reporting by Amanda Bower/New York, Rita
Healy/Denver, Marc Hequet/St. Paul, Tom Morton/ Casper, Adam
Pitluk/San Antonio, Matt Rees/Jerusalem, Jeffrey Ressner/Los
Angeles, Melissa Sattley/Austin and Daniel Terdiman/San
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