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While cleaning up my office, I came across a cassette tape of a sermon preached by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel on December 31, 1979. He told his very accepting audience that the rapture would take place in 1981. Russia was about to invade Israel. The former Soviet Republic had gone into Afghanistan. This was the prelude to a full-force invasion of the Middle East, Smith told his audience. Today, Russia is a paper tiger. A rag-tag army of Afghan soldiers sent the Soviet army back to the mother land.
Smith went on to claim that because of ozone depletion, Revelation 16:8 would be fulfilled: “And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.” Halley’s Comet would pass near the earth in 1986 and would wreak havoc on the earth for those left behind as debris from its million-mile tail would pummel the earth. Halley’s Comet also appeared in A.D. 66, four years before the destruction of Jerusalem.
While Smith stated that he “could be wrong,” he nevertheless stated his beliefs with certainty: “It’s a deep conviction in my heart, and all my plans are predicated upon that belief.” Smith later wrote: “Date setting is wrong, and I was guilty of coming close to that. I did believe that Hal Lindsey could have been on track when he talked about the forty-year generation, the fig tree budding being the rebirth of Israel, and I was convinced in my own heart.”
We’ve entered a new year. Christians will be tempted to read the Bible through the lens of current events. It’s been done before. I have a library of books to prove it. Charles H. Spurgeon, the great nineteenth-century Baptist preacher, had this to say in his comments on one of David’s Psalms:
David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensations will wind up with general darkness, and idolatry. Earth’s sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed. Not so do we expect, but we look for a day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, and shall glorify thy name. The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions, and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God, nor inspires the church with ardour. Far hence be it driven.
While it is true there is an attempt by the ungodly to dominate culture, and some are successful for a season, the fact is, that over time “they will not make further progress” (2 Tim. 3:9); their fling with ungodliness is only temporary (cf. Rom. 1:18–32). Christians can be optimistic even if the actions of the ungodly increase in their own day. If Christians remain faithful in influencing their world with the gospel and applying a Christian worldview to every area of life, the world can and will change. History, the gospel, and God’s sovereignty are on our side.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Containing the Book of Psalms; A Collection of Illustrative Extracts from the Whole Range of Literature; A Series of Homoletical Hints Upon Almost Every Verse; and Lists of Writers Upon Each Psalm, 7 vols. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Co., , 1881), 4:102.
 Francis Herbert Stead, The Story of Social Christianity, 2 vols. (London: James Clarke & Co., Limited, 1924) and Phillips Brooks, The Influence of Jesus (New York: Dutton, 1980) and J. Wesley Bready, England: Before and After Wesley—The Evangelical Revival and Social Reform (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1939).