For a number of years now, Gary DeMar has had the thankless job of critiquing, responding to, and debunking much of the eschatological nonsense espoused by misguided “prophecy experts” who propagate speculative “end times” scenarios which inevitably culminate in an alarmist “end is near” message. Challenging the veracity of claims made by Billy Graham is probably not the best way to win friends and influence people but, in his latest column, DeMar notes that the legendary evangelist does not have a particularly stellar track record when it comes to predicting the end of the world.
Here we go again. In 1983, in his book Approaching Hoofbeats, Graham said that the end was “near.” That was 30 years ago. He published a revised edition in 1992 with the title Storm Warning.
Why the revision? Because he was wrong about world events in the 1983 edition like so many prophetic speculators before him who read the Bible through newspaper headlines instead of paying attention to biblical time indicators, audience relevance, and historical context.
Graham’s larger contributions to worldwide evangelism should not be diminished by his periodic slips into speculative prophecy twisting. Worse offenders, like Chuck Smith, have turned such speculation into a cottage industry and have not been deterred by their own repeated miscalculations. DeMar continues:
Prophetic speculation has a dismal track record. For centuries prophecy writers have predicted the near end of all things. The 20th century alone brought out the speculators in droves. Two world wars, Adolf Hitler, genocide, the rise of Communism, and the development of nuclear weapons led many prominent doomsayers to argue that the end was near.
The Bible passages that were used to make these predictions are the same ones being used today, only the names, events, and dates have changed. These prophetic speculators are counting on the short-term memories of their receptive audiences or their general ignorance of how failed date setting has infected and immobilized the church.
I’m all for revival. But must we tie it to the end of the world? What are these evangelists going to tell people to do once they are “revived”? To wait because the end is near?
His final paragraph is a devastating indictment of the prophecy speculators.
People aren’t going to work for change if they believe the end is nigh. One of the reasons we’re in this mess is because millions of Christians believed the prophetic speculators and were neutralized by the belief. They waited for an end that never came while their ideological enemies took over, the schools, Congress, the media, and just about everything else.
Essentially, these prophecy speculators are co-conspirators with the libertines who have wreaked havoc on Western civilization over the last generation. The dispensational theology at the root of such speculation was born of the same naturalistic worldview which birthed Protestant liberalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dispensationalism and liberalism are, in fact, two parts of the same naturalistic whole. While they appear, on the surface, to be diametrically opposed to one another, they have, in fact, worked hand in hand to water down the church’s mission and render its witness irrelevant.
A “revival” whose sole purpose is to prepare a bunch of individual believers for an “end” that is supposedly just around the corner is ultimately pointless. A revived church, that is, a church upon which the transforming power of the Spirit of God again breathes, will not exist merely for the short-term benefit of those already within its walls. Rather, it will exist for the long-term benefit of a hurting world and the eternal glory of the everlasting God.