Why did the Jesus’ Revolution that garnered a Time magazine cover in 1971 fizzle over time? What were to be the next steps that would result in a real worldwide Jesus “revolution” where Christians would learn to apply the Bible to every area of life? There was no worldview follow-up because there was said there was no time or need for a long-term strategy because “the rapture” of Christians who just came to Christ wouldn’t be around much longer. Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth became a mega-bestseller when it was published in 1970. By the end of the decade, nearly 26 million copies were sold. “The Late Great Planet Earth was unarguably the Jesus Movement’s textbook. It appeared next to the Bible in almost every movement commune, church, or coffeehouse, and was responsible for drawing in converts” (Erin A. Smith, source). It became a worldview wet blanket on an entire generation of Christians.

• “What a way to live! With optimism, with anticipation, with excitement. We should be living like persons who don’t expect to be around much longer.” (Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 145.)

• “I don’t like clichés but I’ve heard it said, ‘God didn’t send me to clean the fish bowl, he sent me to fish.’ In a way there’s a truth to that.” (An Interview with Hal Lindsey, “The Great Cosmic Countdown: Hal Lindsey on the Future,” Eternity (January 1977), 21.)

At a three-day conference in 2012, with 8000 in attendance Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel and a participant in the Jesus Revolution, delivered “a strong message of hope in a fallen world,” the Christian Post reported. And what is the message of hope?

We’re on the verge of, it looks like, a war in the Middle East that could expand into a global conflict of nuclear proportions. The economy is tanking. Many nations are on the verge of bankruptcy and our own nation is so many trillions of dollars in debt. It’s just amazing.

How is a “global conflict of nuclear proportions” a “strong message of hope”? It’s simple. Smith believed Jesus was on the verge of returning to “rapture” the church, so Christians won’t have to go through this period of tribulation. Here’s Smith in his own words:

How can you make, you say, all these dire predictions with a smile on your face? Well, because the outlook for the Church is very bright. We’re almost there and I know how this story ends and that it’s always comforting when you know that it ends and “they all lived happily ever after.”

I wonder if the 8000 people in attendance at the conference knew about Chuck Smith’s penchant for date setting going back more than 50 years. I wonder if the Christian Post reporter knew of Smith’s poor prophetic track record. Maybe he was too young to know Smith’s history.

Left Behind: Separating Fact from Fiction

Left Behind: Separating Fact from Fiction

What difference does it make what we believe about the end times anyway? DeMar addresses this, showing how our point-of-view regarding end-times prophecies affects the way we live each day. In addition, DeMar answers skeptics who use failed end-times predictions to disprove the Bible. Giving us a different perspective on the end times, this approach to the Bible could revolutionize the life of the church.

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In his 1976 book The Soon to be Revealed Antichrist Chuck Smith writes, “we are living in the last generation which began with the rebirth of Israel in 1948 (see Matt. 24:32-34).” You will search in vain in the three verse’s Smith references to find any mention of “the rebirth of Israel.” He repeats the claim in his 1978 book End Times: “If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus taught us that the generation which sees the ‘budding of the fig tree,’ the birth of the nation of Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return. I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).” (Chuck Smith, End Times (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, 1978), 35.) If this prophetic math sounds familiar, it’s because the same end-time logic was used by Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth in1970.

In order to cover himself against charges of date setting, Smith wrote that “it is possible that Jesus is dating the beginning of the generation from 1967, when Jerusalem was again under Israeli control for the first time since 587 B.C. We don’t know for sure which year marks the beginning of the last generation.” (Smith, End Times, 36.) A 1967 starting point to begin calculations and a 40-year generation would mean the rapture should have taken place around the year 2000. While it sounds like Smith is simply engaging in conjecture, in his book Future Survival, which was first published in 1978 and updated in 1980, his prophetic dogmatism is retained:

We’re the generation that saw the fig tree bud forth, as Israel became a nation again in 1948. As a rule, a generation in the Bible lasts 40 years…. Forty years after 1948 would bring us to 1988. (Chuck Smith, Future Survival (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, [1978] 1980), 17.)

Keep in mind that it’s not only important to show where Smith was wrong in his predictions, but also crucial that we understand that he was using an interpretive model that directed him to make these predictions.

Smith wrote in 1980 that from his “understanding of biblical prophecies, he was “convinced that the Lord [would come] for His Church before the end of 1981.” He did add that he “could be wrong” but went on to say in the same sentence that “it’s a deep conviction in my heart, and all my plans are predicated upon that belief.” (Smith, Future Survival, 20.) Notice the last statement. He may have voiced some doubts, but actions speak louder than words. He made plans based on his beliefs that were founded on his “understanding of biblical prophecies.”

On December 31, 1979, Smith told those who had gathered on the last day of the year that the rapture would take place before the end of 1981. He went on to say that because of ozone depletion Revelation 16:8 would be fulfilled during the tribulation period: “And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.” In addition, Halley’s Comet would pass near Earth in 1986 and would wreak havoc on those left behind as debris from its million-mile-long tail pummeled the planet. Halley’s Comet also appeared in AD 66 and passed over Jerusalem, four years before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. Could this have been the fulfillment of Luke 21:11? Here’s how Smith explained the prophetic scenario in his book Future Survival which is nearly identical to what appears on the taped message:

The Lord said that towards the end of the Tribulation period the sun would scorch men who dwell upon the face of the earth (Rev. 16). The year 1986 would fit just about right! We’re getting close to the Tribulation and the return of Christ in glory. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. (Smith, Future Survival, 21.)

Nothing significant happened in 1986 related to Halley’s Comet, and there is no reason why it should have since it’s been a predictable phenomenon for more than two millennia as it makes its way around the sun every 75 to 76 years.

Smith wrote, “We’re the generation that saw the fig tree bud forth, as Israel became a nation again in 1948.” We are now 75 years removed from the 1948 founding of Israel. Forty years have passed. Seventy years have passed. The interpretive methodology used by Smith, Lindsey, Dave Hunt, and others today (e.g., David Jeremiah) follow the same supposed literal hermeneutic that is anything but literal. If a claimed literal hermeneutic results in near certainty of when prophetic events will take place but ends in a colossal miscalculation on a key element of the system, how should the interpretive methodology that brought them to that calculation be evaluated? To paraphrase Jesus, “An interpretive tree is known by its prophetic fruit, and the 1948-1988 or 1948-2018 generation claims have turned out to be rotten fruit no matter how they are sliced.”

Last Days Madness

Last Days Madness

In this authoritative book, Gary DeMar clears the haze of "end-times" fever, shedding light on the most difficult and studied prophetic passages in the Bible, including Daniel 7:13-14; 9:24-27; Matt. 16:27-28; 24-25; Thess. 2; 2 Peter 3:3-13, and clearly explaining a host of other controversial topics.

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