Leicester Square, in the heart of the "swinging" West End of London. Standing on a soapbox, a Christian evangelist was stumped by a group of Muslims who were asking him for proof on why his Jesus was greater than their prophet Mohammad. Checking out the situation while passing through, I felt my spirit rise to the level when I was no longer able to resist, and I called out loudly:
JESUS CHRIST HAS RISEN!
I then made haste to my destination, a bookshop geared to the likes of backpackers located close to Convent Garden, without looking back.
Jesus Christ has risen. This was the testimony given by the apostles to their listeners. The apostles were eyewitnesses to this event. It was the ultimate proof that this Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Jewish Messiah. But to add further backing, the apostles added proof from the writings of the Prophets. The very first sermon preached to a wide audience in Acts chapter 2 contained the prophecy of Joel and from King David, while Peter's testimony in chapter 3 contains quotes from Moses. These are prophecies focusing on Christ's first advent, or coming, which includes his death by crucifixion, his resurrection and the formation of the Church, here at the Temple in Jerusalem. The first miracle took place at the same location, the strengthening of the legs of a crippled beggar, to add further endorsement to the prophecies that this Jesus of Nazareth, whom they nailed to a tree, was the Christ, and by believing, receive eternal life.
In acts 4:25,26 Peter continues to quote King David, while in chapter 7, Stephen summarises the entire history of Israel right back to Abraham. The next chapter records Phillip and the Ethiopian who was in his chariot reading from the scroll of Isaiah. From the same scroll, Phillip proved to the Ethiopian that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, and the rider believed and was baptised at a nearby pond.
In Paul's ministry, he quotes from the prophets Isaiah, Habakkuk and the Psalms of King David to demonstrate to his fellow Jews that Jesus was their Messiah. And in every case it was to do with the first advent of Jesus Christ and believing to have their sins forgiven and receive eternal life.
When it came to the subject of the Second Advent, before his ascension to Heaven from the Mount of Olives, Jesus made it clear to his apostles that it was not for them to know the times and the seasons of his return (Acts 1). This applies to us to this day.
But what I have seen and heard about in the last forty-plus years was the rise of what I personally call Antichrist Mania. I believe that three main factors contribute to this rise:
1. The resettlement of the Jews in their original homeland since the Balfour Declaration of 1918, followed by the establishment of Israel as a sovereign nation from 1948 and the city of Jerusalem being made the Jewish capital in 1980, after some 2,500 years after being sacked by the Babylonians.
2. The occurrence of the two World Wars, the Great War commencing in 1914 and the second in 1939. Tying in with this is the misinterpretation of what Jesus called "This generation" as recorded in Matthew 24:34.
3. The dawning of a new Millennium.
Then there is the issue with the term Antichrist. The term first appears quite late in the Bible, in the first letter of John (2:18) which is near the end of the New Testament. When Martin Luther, John Calvin and their followers began to study the Bible for themselves, they eventually concluded that the Great Whore of Babylon of Revelation 17 was the Roman Catholic Church with the Pope as the Antichrist. This interpretation of Scripture grew within Protestantism, with many believing that the Catholic Church was counterfeit Christianity (see my blog, 25th September, 2011).
It was Jesuit Francisco Ribera who in 1590 wrote a thesis defending the Papacy by declaring that the Antichrist is a single person who will rule the world immediately before the end of human history. This idea was taken up by other scholars including Protestants such as Presbyterian minister Edward Irving and James Darby, who developed Ribera's idea into a theological theory known as Dispensationalism which simply means that human history is Biblical divided into seven time periods, each period emphasising a method in which God had, and will relate with mankind.
The fact that I favour the Dispensation theory brings up the question:
Did God speak to Jesuit Francisco Ribera, a member of a society formed by Ignatius Loyola who in turn, had an occultic vision of the Virgin Mary instructed him to destroy all Protestants? Would God enlighten such an individual with the truth of the Bible? Again, why wouldn't he? This is another case of the sovereign will of God, doing what he pleases, and not contained within man's reasoning. After all, the early Protestant movement would never had considered the possibility that the Lord would have chosen a Jesuit, - one who fights against anyone who holds the doctrines of salvation by grace through faith, without works - to reveal to him the secrets of the future. In short, Ribera may not have had a divine revelation. But there was a good chance that he did.
And other Protestants accepted Ribera's thesis, including Plymouth Brethren James Darby, followed by Cyrus Scofield, who published The Scofield Bible which became the focus of Dispensationalism, particularly taught at the Dallas Theological Seminar and reaching into many Protestant churches around the Western World.
With the idea of "Antichrist Mania" (as I call it) finding its roots as early as 1909, I wouldn't have been surprised that as the century wore on with the two World Wars, the formation of Israel as a sovereign nation and the dawn of a new millennium not far away, it only took a little imagination to infiltrate both the bookshelf and the wide screen with Antichrist propaganda.
The first to step out in this direction was author Ira Levin, who wrote the novel Rosemary's Baby (1967) - which was made into a blockbusting movie about a young married woman (Mia Farrow) who was raped by a demon and conceived, with the baby displaying cat's eyes, born on the 28th June, 1966 (6/66). As such, the new millennium would have dawned six months after his 33rd birthday, a good time and age to commence ruling the world!
The Omen was released to the wide screen in 1976. This movie was about a young boy, Damien Thorn (Harvey Stephens), whose mother was a jackal, and displaying evil supernatural power while under the care of his adopted father Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck). Young Damien was also timed to take rule at the start of the 21st Century.
Then evangelical Christian Hal Lindsey in 1970 wrote The Late Great Planet Earth and predicted that the future Antichrist would come to power in the early 1980s. He followed his publication with two follow ups: The 1980s Countdown to Armageddon and The Terminal Generation. All three of these books pushed the idea that the future Antichrist was alive and well at the time of writing and no Christian alive at the time would see the start of the 21st Century - the Rapture already having taken place by 1983.
At about the same time, Tim LaHaye wrote The Beginning of the End with which he had to borrow material from Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth to support his own arguments. LaHaye, however was concerned about "this generation" quoted by Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 24:34, after telling his disciples that "nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be famine, pestilences, earthquakes" and so forth. According to LaHaye, and no doubt, Lindsey as well, this "generation" who were alive to see both world wars were quickly dying out! LaHaye then tries to stretch the time scale by insisting that one only had to be a young child to remember his parents fighting in that 1914-1918 war.
Norman Robertson wrote, Understanding End Time Prophecy in 1989. He believes that the end time generation began in 1948, the year of the birth of the nation of Israel, and not 1914 as Lindsey and LaHaye taught. Even so, at the time of this writing, a baby born in that year would be 63 years old now, so there is still a chance for Jesus to return to earth during this generation, but he'll better hurry up! This generation is already on the wane, and the Lord said that this generation shall in no wise pass away until all these things come to pass.
But there are a few problems. If Jesus was talking about a future generation, then why did he say, "This generation," rather than "That generation." As one who adhered to the dispensationalist viewpoint, I have found this grammatical inconsistency something of a stumbling block. It was the crack which dulled the whole structure from ringing true. Yet with this belief, I felt that I had to wind things up fast, for I wouldn't be around much longer!
It wasn't until I came across another book, perhaps also classed within the "end of century Antichrist Mania" - written by Dave Hunt, How Close Are We? (1992) which solved the dilemma. Of all prophecy teachers, I have found Hunt to be the most sensible, authoritative, and absolutely dismisses any idea of dating prophecy. According to him, "This generation" does not mean a people living at a certain time in human history, as the language imply. It means instead, the Jews as a race of people having a particular characteristic. This changes the whole concept entirely. In this case Jesus was right. The Jew is as much with us now as in his day, and the Jew will continue to exist until the end of history.
With all this "Antichrist Mania" filling our Christian bookshelves and shown on the wide screen as horror movies, has this brought on an influx of new converts into our churches? Rather has this whole propaganda turned people off, thinking that all Christians are a bit nutty?
Let's take the Gay community. I have access into one of its websites, which on its forums there is a column set aside for spiritual issues. Through it, the vast majority of male homosexuals are against the Bible, what it teaches. They are fully aware of Leviticus 18:22 which forbids a man lying in bed with another man, and certainly against what they call "Organised religion" namely the Christian church. Surprisingly to me, the names of Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey are very familiar to them, particularly with his book, The Late Great Planet Earth.
The situation is made a lot worse by leaders such as Fred Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. He and his congregation gather in the street in front of a Gay parade with placards ablaze with "God Hate Fags" logos and "God Hates America" and so forth.
As such attitudes turns the average person away from Jesus Christ and from eternal life he has to offer, I feel that the "Antichrist Mania" has done the same. Why do I say this? Because all the things which Lindsey and LaHaye, and to a certain extent, by Norman Robertson had all written, had failed to come to pass. The Rapture hadn't occurred. 28 years after 1983, the year the Rapture should have occurred, we as Christians are still here. And eleven years into the 21st Century, Antichrist had not shown up.
Then there is the likes of atheists such as Richard Dawkins, to whom the name of Hal Lindsey is well familiar. Lindsey's failure of his prophecies coming true is just the fuel for Dawkins' fire of ridicule. Little wonder that delving into end time prophecy, instead of its original intention of bring people to Christ and filling our churches, had done the exact opposite. Dawkins is driving people out of the churches and Lindsey and his ilk had accelerated this process further, resulting of many perishing in Hell without hope.
Prophecy IS a powerful tool for evangelism. But it must be used in the same way the apostles used it. To prove that the Jesus who walked this planet, was crucified and rose from the grave, is the Christ who has laid his life for our redemption. There are many prophecies relating to Christ's first coming. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 are great examples, and there are plenty more. These are the prophecies we need to use when sharing Jesus Christ with others, as well as a rebuke to the likes of Islam's Mohammad.
Antichrist? Don't bother with him. He's not worth a single mention.