Billy Graham is a well-respected evangelist, generally speaking. He’s been preaching the gospel since the late 1940s. He’s met with presidents, all of whom used him as a prop to get the “religious vote.” Graham was criticized early because of his “cooperation with the National Council of Churches, beginning with his New York City crusade in 1958.”1 John D. Rockeller “had donated $75,000 to help fund that New York crusade.” (North, Crossed Fingers, 8. See Peter Collier and David Horowitz, The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (New York: Hold, Rinehart and Winston, 1976), 150n.))
Graham was an outspoken critic of “godless Communism,” so much so that noted adulterer William Randolph Hearst (the 1941 film Citizen Kane was based in part upon Hearst’s life) called on his newspaper editors to “Puff Graham” any time the budding evangelist ran one of his “Crusades.”
“For a year, Graham served as a pastor in a small church in Western Springs, Ill., and then became a barnstorming evangelist for the Youth for Christ movement. His big break came in 1949 in Los Angeles, where he managed to convert several well-known figures, including a gangster, and caught the attention of William Randolph Hearst. The publisher reportedly sent a wire to his staffers: ‘Puff Graham.’ The evangelist says that he does not know to this day why Hearst singled him out and insists that he ‘never had communications with him at all.’”
For more than 60 years, Graham has been pushing the belief that Jesus’ Second Coming is near.
“In the early years of his ministry, Billy Graham, whose revival crusades attracted many thousands throughout the world, proclaimed the imminent apocalyptic end of history in so uncertain terms. In the early years of his ministry, Graham even ventured into the risky realm of date setting. ‘I sincerely believe that the Lord draweth nigh,’ Graham preached to a crusade audience in 1950. ‘We may have another year, maybe two years to work for Jesus Christ, and [then] ladies and gentlemen, I believe it is all going to be over. . . . Two years, and it’s all going to be over. In 1952, as the end of the designated two years approached, he was still insisting: ‘Unless this nation turns to Christ with the next few months, I despair of its future.’”2
In his 1965 book World Aflame, Graham wrote, “Secular history . . . is doomed. . . . The whole world is hurtling toward a war greater than anything known before.” Nuclear holocaust, he speculated, might be God’s chosen means of achieving the earth’s purification.’”3
In 1986, Graham wrote: “If you look in any direction, whether it is technological or physiological, the world as we know it is coming to an end. Scientists predict it, sociologists talk about it. Whether you go to the Soviet Union or anywhere in the world, they are talking about it. The world is living in a state of shock.”4
In Storm Warning, a 1992 revision of his 1983 book The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Graham wrote that he does not “want to linger here on the who, what, why, how, or when of Armageddon.” He simply states that “it is near.”5
How do prophetic claims like this affect political participation, education, medicine, science, media, film making, etc? (I’ve dealt with the “last days” argument in a number of books and numerous articles. For a study of the subject, see my books Last Days Madness and Is Jesus Coming Soon?) Why bother with long-term projects if the end is near?
There’s a long history of prophetic defeatism disguised as eschatological inevitability sprinkled with the thwarting pixie dust of Manichaeistic dualism. Consider Augustine (354–430):
“[T]he Augustinian theology that dominated Europe for 1,000 years had a power and beauty that led to great contributions to the arts in the Middle Ages, but its ‘eschatology which perpetuated the idea of decay and collapse of the world and of salvation as redemption out of it, directed attention away from the world to the superterrestrial, while its conception of the sacramental universe allowed only a symbolic understanding of nature and a religious, illustrative use of it’ thus ‘taking up and sanctifying a cosmological outlook that had to be replaced if scientific progress was to be made.’”6
Liberals love it when conservatives talk about the end times. Liberals know that political change takes lots of time. It took more than a century to get us to this political place in history. When Christians hear of the latest claim that we don’t have much time before the end, social and political disengagement seeps in.
When liberals see wars, potential future disasters like “Global Warming,” economic turmoil, and technological over exuberance, they use these as an excuse to increase the power of government. They never let a crisis go to waste.
Prophecy pundits, on the other hand, see these as signs of an inevitable end that cannot be changed. There is no use trying to fix what is prophesied to take place. There are millions of Christians who never vote because they believe that most of the prophetic signs are in place. Chuck Baldwin gets it right:
“I believe it is an absolute fact that many pastors and Christians are using the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture to justify sitting back and doing nothing to actively resist evil and wickedness. In their minds, there is no need to be politically involved because everything is going to get worse anyway — but they are going to be raptured to Heaven before it all falls apart. I have actually had pastors say to me, ‘Chuck, by resisting evil government, you are fighting against God, because it is God’s will that government gets worse and worse so that Jesus can come back.’
“The wretchedness of this kind of thinking should be obvious to any rational person. In the first place, how arrogant are these American Christians to think that they are so special that God would have to rapture them before any real tribulation began? Think of the millions of Christians in oppressed nations throughout history — and even today — who have already been, and continue to be, IN GREAT TRIBULATION. The tribulation of Christian martyrs throughout church history is legendary. Have they never read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? Do they not know what has taken place in southern Sudan over the last 20 years? Have they not read the history of Christians in Mao’s China, Idi Amin’s Uganda, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, etc. Who do they think they are? Why should Christians in America be spared what Christians throughout the world have endured and are enduring? Even if their interpretation of a pre-tribulation rapture is correct, that doesn’t mean for one moment that Christians in America would not be called on to suffer great tribulation at the hands of a wicked and oppressive government — especially considering that the vast majority of pastors are doing almost nothing to resist our government from becoming wicked and oppressive. For the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture to be used as some kind of sit-back-and-do-nothing-because-a-divine-Seventh-Cavalry-is-coming-to-rescue-us attitude is the height of absurdity. Dare I say it borders on blasphemy?7
Of course, not all end-time speculators are political pacifists, but enough of them are that it makes a difference in elections and everything else.
- Gary North, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), 7.(↩)
- Paul Boyer, “The Growth of Fundamentalist Apocalyptic in the United States,” The Continuum History of Apocalypticism, eds. Bernard McGinn, John J. Collins, Stephen J. Stein (New York: Continuum, 2003), 534.(↩)
- Boyer, “The Growth of Fundamentalist Apocalyptic in the United States,” 534.(↩)
- Quoted in Mike Evans, The Return (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986), 22.(↩)
- Billy Graham, Storm Warning (Dallas, TX: Word, 1992), 294.(↩)
- John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (Oxford, England: Lion Hudson, 2009), 22. Lennox is quoting Thomas F. Torrance’s Theological Science (1969) based on the Hewett Lectures of 1959.(↩)
- Chuck Baldwin, “The Rapture Problem,” The Sword & the Plow, 16:11 (November 2013), 16–17.(↩)