The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

The Danger of Prophetic Inevitability

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In 1977, D. S. Russell warned that end-time theorists might “create the very situation which is being described [in their prophetic writings] so that the interpretation given brings about its own fulfillment.”[1] Paul Boyer, professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and currently a visiting professor of history at the College of William and Mary and a long-time analyst of prophetic themes and their impact on politics,[2] pointed out as recently as 2003 that “as the nation debates a march toward war in the Middle East, all of us would do well to pay attention to the beliefs of the vast company of Americans who read the headlines and watch the news through a filter of prophetic belief.”[3] Concern for the way Bible prophecy is influencing foreign policy is becoming increasingly prevalent in numerous books and articles.[4]

The person at the center of much of the talk about an inevitable cataclysmic end is John Hagee, pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. His end-time-inevitability book Jerusalem Countdown has sold nearly a million copies. Christians United for Israel, a Christian support organization for Israel, has tremendous political and fund raising clout. Hagee’s rhetoric and long political reach are scaring a lot of people:

“While Hagee has long prophesized about the end times, he ratcheted up his rhetoric this year [2006] with the publication of his book, ‘Jerusalem Countdown,’ in which he argues that a confrontation with Iran is a necessary precondition for Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. In the best-selling book, Hagee insists that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West. Shortly after the book’s publication, he launched Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which, as the Christian version of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he said would cause ‘a political earthquake.’”[5]

Some of Hagee’s critics say he not only wants “God’s plan—as he sees it—to unfold, but to take an active role in seeing it happen.”[6] At a July 19, 2006 CUFI event in Washington D.C., Hagee told the audience, “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West . . . a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation . . . . and [the] Second Coming of Christ.”[7] Hagee has been described as “Dr. Armageddon” and “Pastor Strangelove” by those who believe his prophetic inevitability scenario could lead a president to believe that an all-out world war is a biblical directive. Hagee is ranked as one of the top ten influential spokesmen among Pentecostals.[8] With that kind of influence, war with Iran or any other anti-Jewish nation might come about because this large end-time-driven voting-block could put pressure on politicians to vote in terms of eschatology.

To help fuel the fire of another war based on prophetic considerations, books with titles like The Apocalypse of Ahmadinejad: The Revelation of Iran’s Nuclear Prophet and Iran: The Coming Crisis are rolling off the presses faster than people can read them. There is no doubt that Ahmadinejad has apocalyptic aspirations. But so did a lot of tyrants. In 1942, James C. Hollenbeck wrote The Super Deceiver on the World Horizon.[9] And who was he? Syrian Prince Abdul Baraba Baha. Never heard of him? Welcome to the club. He’s an obscure historical footnote who many believed was the end-time deceiver.

Dan Gilbert’s Emperor Hirohito of Japan: Satan’s Man of Mystery Unveiled in the Light of Prophecy was another attempt to make the headlines of the day fit speculative prophetic propaganda and set the stage for another world war. Gilbert was certain, based on his reading of Bible prophecy, that Hirohito, even after Japan’s surrender, would amass “a gigantic yellow military horde that will total 200,000,000 men—the greatest army that ever was, or ever could conceivably be, created on earth.”[10] Gilbert predicted, based on Revelation 16:20, that “the Jap islands will be sunk to a depth approaching the bottomless pit of hell itself.”[11] Gilbert made this prediction in 1944.

Fear of a Soviet nuclear apocalypse has a long history. In 1948, Wilbur Smith wrote This Atomic Age and the Word of God. Smith summarizes a speech that French Prime Minister Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970) gave on June 29, 1947 in which he declared “that Russia had now become such a powerful military nation that she could be considered an actual rival of the United States, and that her power threatened to precipitate ‘a gigantic conflict from which no people and no man on earth will be spared,’ also, that Russia was ready to embark in the future on a final conquest of the world.”[12] Similar declarations were made in 1947 by the emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists headed by Albert Einstein and Harold Urey. Their statement warned that “we approach what may be the last hour before midnight.”[13] In 1951, using 2 Peter 3:9–13 as a proof text, as did Smith, M. R. DeHaan writes:

“For the first time in history we can now clearly understand the possibility of these statements of the Apostle Peter. It is a most amazing thing that almost two thousand years ago, Peter, an uneducated fisherman, was able to give us this clear, unmistakable picture of what would happen in the latter days, in the days in which we are living.”[14]

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, American schools practiced “duck and cover”[15] air raid drills, cities enacted civil defense measures, and families built fallout shelters in their backyard. It was a time of great fear and prophetic speculation.

So what’s the proper response? We can’t dismiss the notion that a nuclear first strike might happen. In no way would I call for any type of unilateral disarmament. The biggest guy on the block rarely has to fight. As Christians, we should be pursuing peace. There are Christians in other nations. We should work with them so they can put political pressure on their governments to pursue peace. The same needs to happen in the United States.

Footnotes:
[1]
D. S. Russell, Apocalyptic: Ancient and Modern (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), 64.
[2] Paul S. Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1992).
[3] Paul S. Boyer, “When U.S. Foreign Policy Meets Biblical Prophecy,” Alternet (February 20, 2003)
[4]
The most recent example is Zev Chafets, A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man’s Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), chap. 3.
[5]
Sarah Posner, “Lobbying for Armageddon” (August 3, 2006): www.alternet.org/story/39748/
[6]
Dave Eberhart, “Pastor John Hagee’s D.C. Meeting Worries Jews” (May 17, 2007)
[7] Eberhart, “Pastor John Hagee’s D.C. Meeting Worries Jews.”
[8] “Pastors Reveal Major Influencers on Churches,” The Barna Group (January 14, 2005)
[9]
James C. Hollenbeck, The Super Deceiver on the World Horizon (Los Angeles: Harry J. Gardener, 1942).
[10]
Dan Gilbert, Emperor Hirohito of Japan: Satan’s Man of Mystery Unveiled in the Light of Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1944), 31.
[11] Gilbert, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, 43.
[12] New York Times (June 27, 1947). Quoted in Wilbur M. Smith, This Atomic Age and the Word of God (Boston: W. A. Wilde Co., 1948, 11.
[13] Quoted in Smith, This Atomic Age and the Word of God, 11.
[14]
M. R. DeHaan, Signs of the Times and Other Prophetic Messages (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1951), 145.
[15]
Pat Zacharias, “When bomb shelters were all the rage” See the “Duck and Cover” instructional film produced in 1951 by the United States Civil Defense Department branch shortly after the Soviet Union began nuclear testing. “In The Iron Giant, Hogarth Hughes and his classmates in the year 1957 watch a film clearly inspired by Duck and Cover called Atomic Holocaust; it features groundhogs who, like Bert the Turtle, are wearing Civil Defense helmets. Later on in the film, when a nuclear missile is headed for the town, Mansley suggests ‘We can duck and cover!’ (to which General Rogard responds, ‘There’s no way to survive this, you idiot!’).”. You can see the original “Duck and Cover” film at www.youtube.com.

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