As the Bible says, “there’s nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). For more than 60 years, Billy 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.’”1
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.’”2
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.”3
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.”4
How do prophetic claims like this affect political participation? (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?
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 becomes the norm.
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 for the return of Jesus to “rapture” his people to heaven.
Of course, not all end-time speculators are political pacifists, but enough of them are that it makes a difference in elections. So when liberals hear prophecy pundits making predictions about the “nearness” of Jesus’ return, they rejoice. They know the history of prophetic speculation. It’s been going on for nearly 2000 years.
- 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. [↩]