Gary responds to a critic about his demand for using modern academic works to interpret the prophetic passages in the Bible.

“Apocalyptic thinking is in the air,” so said University of Connecticut psychologist Kenneth Ring in 1990.[1] Long before 1990, speculation about the apocalypse was common, but it wasn’t until 1970 that the topic entered best-seller status and became part of everyday conversation. The 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day War focused attention on the Middle East as an apocalyptic hot spot, and prophecy writers began to take advantage of the emerging crisis as sales of prophetic books skyrocketed. “The single best-selling nonfiction book of the 1970s was not The Joy of Sex or even The Joy of Cooking; it was Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth.”[2] It was declared by the New York Times to be the “no. 1 non-fiction bestseller of the decade.”[3] Estimates put sales at more than 15 million copies before the close of the decade. Since then, it has sold more than 28 million copies worldwide and remains in print today as evidence of Bible prophecy’s staying power even in light of its shop-worn predictions.[4] “As Lindsey says himself, ‘The future is big business.’”[5]

From books like The Late Great Planet Earth and _Beyond the Crystal Ball**[**_**6]** “Evangelicals acquired an abiding interest in ‘signs of the times,’ moments in secular politics that might portend the great religious changes foretold in the Christian scriptures, especially in the Books of Daniel and Revelation. The re-creation of the state of Israel in 1948 signified that the prophetic clock was now ticking, that the countdown to doomsday had begun.”**[7]** Israel’s national resurgence was seen as the key that would open the end-time meaning of prophecies written long ago. All would be fulfilled in quick order within forty years of 1948.

The Late Great Planet Earth had its apocalyptic predecessors, but with a big-name evangelical publisher behind the book, its breezy novel-like writing style, and the instability of world events, Christians were ready for an end-time scenario that would offer some hopeful sign of what the future might bring for them. It didn’t matter that Lindsey’s scenario would mean disaster for billions of others “left behind” to face an apocalyptic nightmare. Christians would be “raptured” before all hell broke loose.

The urgency of Lindsey’s book modernized prophetic passages from the Bible that had been used decades before to make the case that world events were up-to-date evidence that the countdown to Armageddon had begun. This sensational approach to prophetic events has continued, especially gaining popularity among American Christians.

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Today’s prophecy enthusiasts are under the false assumption that what they are reading in books and magazines, seeing on television, and hearing on the radio are recently discovered end-time truths of what they believe are current. We’re assured that this time, in our generation, the ‘prophecy experts’ have finally gotten it right. Don’t bet on it. The track record of prophetic certainty is not very good.

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Gary responds to a critic about his demand for using modern academic works to interpret the prophetic passages in the Bible. While there is nothing wrong with appealing to new scholarship, the fact remains that every new book that claims to find “new” evidence is nothing more than a restatement of what has been claimed before. There is nothing new under the sun…

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[1] Dick Teresi and Judith Hooper, “The Last Laugh?,” Omni (January 1990), 43

[2] Bruce J. Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (New York: The Free Press, 2001), 93.

[3] Quoted in Nancy A. Schaefer, “Y2K as an Endtime Sign: Apocalypticism in America at the fin-de-millennium,” The Journal of Popular Culture 38:1 (August 2004), 82–105.

[4] http://tinyurl.com/2ko72b

[5] Quoted in “Welcome to America’s wildest holy rollers,” Features Section, The Independent on Sunday (London, England) (November 6, 2005).

[6] Merrill F. Unger, Beyond the Crystal Ball: What Occult Practices Cannot Tell You about Future Events (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973).

[7] Philip Jenkins, Decade of Nightmares: The End of the Sixties and the Making of the Eighties in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 84.