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Issues related to the end times examined by 2 B&H authors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The beginning of a new millennium has inevitably drawn interest, fascination and anxiety among Christians and non-Christians alike.
Broadman & Holman authors Richard Abanes and Robert Jeffress examine human intrigue with the end times from their particular areas of concern and expertise in their respective books, “End-Time Visions: The Doomsday Obsession” and “As Time Runs Out: A Simple Guide to Bible Prophecy.” Broadman & Holman is the book publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“All I saw was book after book after book saying how close we were to the end,” said Abanes, an author, cult authority and staff member at Saddleback Community Church in Mission Viejo, Calif. “All of them were filled with misinformation, disinformation, and in some cases outright lies.”
After years of observing Christians, other religious communities and the secular world exhibit what he calls a spiritually and emotionally unhealthy obsession with the end times, Abanes said the current fascination stirred him “to write something that would present the truth about supposed end-time signs and doomsday speculation.”
“Many people seriously believe that the world may indeed end by 2000/2001,” he writes in the introduction to his book “End-Time Visions.” “These same people seem unaware that similar pronouncements have been made in the past about other years.
“The whole idea that humanity stands on the brink of annihilation is an ancient one. Nearly every culture throughout history has espoused some kind of doomsday theory,” he writes.
Using primary source documentation illustrated with art or photographs, he tells readers about some of the Christian apocalyptic movements, the seer Nostradamus, the 19th-century American preacher William Miller and the apocalyptic cult Jehovah’s Witnesses. Not surprisingly, the occult is a frequent prophetic source.
Moving to the present, Abanes explores cults with doomsday messages, such as Heaven’s Gate and the Branch Davidians; the patriot and militia movements; and dangerous groups such as the neo-Nazis.
Of course, the United States does not have a monopoly on doomsday cults, he said, describing some recent newsmakers in Japan, Russia and Switzerland.
Abanes, a former member of the cult The Way International, said he hopes people who want the truth about end-time prophecies will do some careful investigation, getting their information from a variety of sources, reading opposing views and taking the time to look up documentation.
“Sadly, most people don’t really want the truth,” he said. “Instead, they want something titillating, something sensationalistic and exciting.”
He said rumors, fringe groups or doomsday prophets draw in some people because “it’s exciting. It’s intriguing. It adds spice to life and gives people something fun to talk about.
“Also, it makes the people caught up in this stuff feel as if they have an inside track to truths that few others have. Hence, it makes them feel special.”
The arrival of 2000 has become a focal point of anxiety, curiosity and interest because it is “something new to most people,” Abanes said. “And, of course, like sharks smelling blood, those persons in the business of making money can smell plenty of financial gain available to them through scaring people with Y2K.”
Why do humans focus on the end?
“First,” he said, “people are gullible. Some people will believe almost anything if the right person says it. This is especially true in the Christian community. Nobody wants to question or doubt a Christian leader, even though God says we should test all things.
“Second, people love to make idols, especially out of fellow humans. Many people have a favorite preacher, Bible teacher, televangelist, guru, spiritual mentor or prophecy pundit. These people can seemingly do no wrong. Even when they make foolish predictions, or full-blown false prophecies, their followers rationalize the mistakes away or simply ignore the errors.
“Third, many people actually want it to be the end of the world. Let’s face it, life is tough. And some people simply want out. What is more comforting than to think the end is just around the corner, especially for us Christians who believe that the end will bring complete deliverance through the return of our Lord and Savior?”
But, Abanes said, “if we get obsessed with this idea that we are in the last of the last days, it can be damaging to our own walk and also to our testimony in the world. We need to draw unbelievers to us with words about Christ, not about when he may or may not return, especially when Scripture has already told us we will never know the time of his return.”
In Jeffress’ book, “As Time Runs Out: A Simple Guide to Bible Prophecy,” the pastor of First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, said many Christians have been “sold a bill of goods” that has convinced them that Bible prophecy is far too obscure for the average layperson.
“I really think that a lot of Christians have been intimidated by the subject of Bible prophecy,” Jeffress said.
People think that they “have to have a seminary degree or at least be able to read tea leaves to understand,” or that “there are so many different interpretations of prophecy that it really can’t be that important, or that it’s totally irrelevant to everyday life.”
Not so, he said. Understanding prophecy in the Bible is essential and should never be divorced from everyday living: “It’s critical to living the kind of Christlike life we’re supposed to live.”
Jeffress said he wrote As Time Runs Out to help readers understand the importance of Bible prophecy. More than one-fourth of the Bible is prophecy, he writes. “Why did God devote so much space to Bible prophecy if we’re not supposed to understand it?” he asked.
Jeffress starts his book with Genesis and the Abrahamic Covenant, not Revelation.
He writes, “Genesis is the foundation for understanding Bible prophecy.”
“All of Bible prophecy ultimately points to the end times,” Jeffress notes as he defines and describes in his book such tough terms as Pre-, Post- and Amillenial, the Rapture, Tribulation, Armageddon and the Great White Throne Judgment.
“Although many of the details about end-time events are concealed, the Bible gives us a clear outline of the events that will lead to the return of Christ,” he writes.
Jeffress’ intended audience is Christians and non-Christians alike, both of whom will have some new lessons to learn.
For non-Christians, he said, the most important thing is for them to trust in Christ.
As for Christians, he said, many don’t understand that they will be judged, too. “2 Corinthians 5:10 says each one of us — talking about Christians — must stand before the judgment seat of Christ that we might give an account for what we’ve done. That means every word, every action, every thought of ours is going to be evaluated by Christ. And that is a very sobering thought.
“The basis of that judgment will determine how we spend eternity,” Jeffress said. “Heaven will not be the same for every Christian. There’s no democracy or socialism in heaven. Certain Christians will have special access to the Creator of life. The Bible even says that Jesus will not treat every Christian alike. These rewards, whatever they are, will be worth working for,” he said.
“The only reason I’m clear about it is that the Bible is clear about it,” Jeffress said. “Bible prophecy tells us where we are and where we’re going. It tells us what to do and how to do it right.”

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  • Kristin Searfoss