Since the turn of the century, the coming together of ancient prophecies of Scripture for the last days has increased exponentially, and so precisely, that even the secular world has begun to sit up and take notice.
Hal Lindsey’s “Late, Great Planet Earth” made the New York Times best-seller list in 1970. When it was still on the best-seller list in 1976, 20th Century Fox decided it was time to give Bible prophecy the Hollywood treatment. In 1976, 20th Century Fox released “The Omen”, a movie about a little boy named Damien who was born with a “666” birthmark and destined to become the antichrist.
The film capitalized on the sudden interest in Bible prophecy by mixing Scripture with stuff they made up to sound like Scripture, and Fox expected it to do well, but never expected it to be such a blockbuster that it ended up becoming a trilogy.
Hollywood lost interest in Bible prophecy until the mid-1990’s when, sensing a re-emerging market for “end of days” themes, they released a whole flurry of movies, (including my personal favorite, “End of Days”, in which Arnold Schwartzeneggar saves the world by defeating the antichrist in a fist fight).
As dates are reckoned, 2001 is the FIRST year of the 21st century, with the year 2000 being the last year of the 20th century.
It is worth noting that the dawn of the 21st century was more than just a way of marking the passage of another hundred-year unit of time. It marked the dawn of a literal “New Normal” as a consequence of September 11, 2001.
The world changed in first year of the 21st century — and nothing has been normal since — hence the phrase, the “New Normal.”
In the “New Normal”, anti-Americanism is the new patriotism. Political leaders like Dick Durban can compare US forces — on the battlefield, in combat, in wartime — to ‘Nazis’, and be defended by his Senate colleagues as ‘a patriot’.
In the “New Normal” a Democratic member of the US Congress can make the statement that “good news from the Iraq battlefield is bad news for us,” without fear of censure.
In the “New Normal” Hillary Clinton can be the front runner for President of the United States as the ‘family values’ candidate — and Al Gore can win the Nobel Peace Prize for demanding the US submit to a UN global government.
In the “New Normal” — the hedonistic Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco can advertise its annual Gay Pride party by mocking the Last Supper and enjoy the endorsement of the US Speaker of the House — and the sponsorship of Miller Brewing Company, while the mainstream media pixelated the Danish Mohammed cartoons to avoid offending Muslims.
The Miller-sponsored ad featured a twisted version of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”, substituting Jesus and the Apostles with men and women in various stages of leather dress/undress, (including a man wearing a black dog mask).
Sex toys, including a big red fist, are strewn across the table. Prominently on display in the left-hand corner of the ad — the Miller Lite sponsorship logo.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented dryly of the Folsom ad, that, “she didn’t see anything in the ad that threatened the continued existence of Christianity.” (Nancy wasn’t shy about expressing her ‘concern’ at Danish ‘insensitivity’ over the Danish cartoons — but that’s acceptable in the “New Normal”)
At the same time, niche filmmakers Peter and Paul Lalonde produced a series of films based on Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins book series that not only broke even at the box office, but has sold millions of copies on DVD.
Both Hal’s LGPE and subsequently, Peter and Paul’s films made a successful crossover into the secular market where they’ve been instrumental in leading untold millions to Christ.
Mel Gibson’s independent production, “Passion of the Christ” (which I still haven’t summoned up the courage to watch) broke box-office records.
There is a growing sense in the secular world that the world is mysteriously out of synch and rapidly running out of time. (Al Gore just won the Nobel Peace Prize for telling us that we’re all doomed unless the US submits to a global government, for example.)
Then, too, there are the undeniable similarities between the events predicted by the Bible’s prophets and the global scenario predicated by the imposition of the “New Normal” of the 21st century.
Twenty-five hundred years before it became a reality, the Hebrew prophets confidently predicted the existence of a Jewish state called “Israel” in the last days. They predicted that Jerusalem would occupy the center of global attention.
Even a hundred years ago, such a prediction seemed preposterous. Ancient Israel had been part of the Muslim Ottoman Empire for four hundred years. Few could point out Jerusalem on a map, fewer still even knew that it was a real city and not another lost city of the Bible.
The 20th century closed with the collapse of the Oslo Peace process, when Yasser Arafat broke off negotiations when Israel offered to give in to the majority of his territorial demands and grant the Palestinians unconditional statehood and started the still-raging Oslo War against Israel.
In the surreal environment of the “New Normal” the collapse was blamed on Israel, just as the prophet Zechariah predicted. When Israel surrendered Gaza, the Arabs used it to attack Israeli settlements — so in response, the world put pressure on ISRAEL.
Although Israel’s most basic red-line position since 1967 has been no negotiation over either Jerusalem or the Temple Mount, the prophet Zechariah predicted that Jerusalem would be divided one last time:
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” (Zechariah 14:2-3)
Jerusalem has not left the headlines since Ehud Olmert announced Israel’s willingness to divide Jerusalem with the Palestinians as a shared capital and grant Jordan sovereignty over the Temple Mount in exchange for peace.
The prophet Ezekiel predicted, 2500 years ago, that at that point in history when Israel was again numbered among the pantheon of nations, that a nation called “Gog” would reluctantly ally itself with an alliance of nations — that comprise the modern Islamic world — led by Persia, that would launch an invasion against Israel.
A straight line north from Jerusalem goes right through the center of Moscow. And in 1925, the ancient nation of “Persia” formally changed its name to “Iran.”
(At present, the world is holding its collective breath waiting to see what Moscow’s reaction will be to the virtually-certain impending Israeli attack on the Russian-made nuclear facilities inside Iran.)
Indeed, since the dawn of the “New Normal” and the seemingly accelerated pace of unfolding Bible prophecy since, some Christians believe the anti-christ is already in power and that the Tribulation has already begun. Others are busy calculating the day when it will begin.
Every year of the 21st century has seen some new prediction of the Rapture during Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur, and every October of the 21st century has seen a flurry of emails explaining where their calculations were out and explaining why it will be NEXT year at Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur.
In the “New Normal” its perfectly acceptable for Christians to defy Jesus’ admonition against date-setting, and nobody seems to hold it against them when they are consistently wrong.
Jesus explained in a parable WHY God imposed a prohibition on date-setting, and why nobody can calculate the day or the hour of the Rapture:
“And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.” (Luke 21:39)
It is perfectly logical. If the Rapture’s date could be calculated, nobody would clean up their act until the last minute. The lost would circle the day on their calendar, confident they had plenty of time to repent, or as the Prince song put it; “they’re gonna party like it’s 1999.”
That’s human nature — but salvation comes by putting on the nature of Christ. By faith. Not because of a looming deadline.
In reading through the daily news, I admit that I sometimes marvel that I am still here to report it. And I wonder, (as you do, no doubt), “How long, Lord?” — but in so doing, I miss the point.
When the Rapture happens, the door of opportunity for salvation for those who heard the Gospel but put it off until ‘later’ slams shut forever.
The Scriptures say that “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2nd Peter 3:9)
The Lord is holding the door open deliberately, to give us once last chance to fulfill our Great Commission and to give the lost one last chance to embrace the Gospel.
The Rapture could happen tomorrow, or the Lord could put all these events on hold for another decade. It isn’t so much delaying His coming for the Church, as it is about giving us all every chance possible, according to His promise.
The Lord IS coming. All of the evidence says so, and, viewed from the perspective of the “New Normal,” if He doesn’t return soon, there may not be surviving Christians left to Rapture.
But we can be sure that He will delay His return for the last possible moment. We don’t know when that moment is, but we know this, from our Lord Himself:
“Therefore, be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:44)