The comic book End Times. (Part 1.)

Presenting a popular, but wack, version of the End. With illustrations!

A particular childhood trauma of mine.
Other parts: 2345

Like most Christians, when I was a kid I had questions about the End Times. My mom didn’t know the answers, but she found me a comic book which claimed to. And now I’m gonna inflict share this book with you: There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.

Y’see, all of us know human history will come to an end. Either we’ll kill ourselves with pollution or war… or we’ll sort all our problems out, like they did on Star Trek, but in a few billion years the sun will expand and fry the planet anyway. But Christians, based on stuff Christ Jesus said in the gospels, figure the end is coming much sooner. He’s gonna take over the world, y’see. Eventually he’ll put us on a better one.

The final book of the New Testament is called Apokálypsis, better known by its English name Revelations, or as educated Christians call it, Revelation, singular. It consists of messages and freakish visions given by Jesus to his apostle, St. John the Divine. (Whether this is the same John who first followed Jesus, who wrote the gospel and letters, is debatable. I think it is.) Just like his parables, Jesus’s revelations only represent various events. They aren’t literally those events. That’s on purpose. You know how people are: Give us enough details, and we’ll either try to force these events to happen prematurely, or fight to prevent them. Jesus wisely stuck to imagery which only hints the future. And the past, and the then-present.

But not every Christian understands this, nor believes it. They think the Revelation visions must be taken literally: The End Times are gonna be crazy. Or they believe Jesus means for us to decode his visions, so they have—and wrote a book series about it. Wanna buy it?

The noisiest bunch of End Times prognosticators follow a system, invented in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby, which they call premillennial dispensationalism. I just call this bunch Darbyists. (Much shorter.) I grew up in Darbyist churches; I brought ’em up in one of my rants. One of my church’s deacons taught a Revelation class, and explained Darbyism top-to-bottom. Today I’m passing that info forward.

In Christendom the most common view of the End is the End of Days, wherein the world ends in plagues and cataclysms, and we Christians all go to heaven to be with Jesus. Probably the next-most-common is the one I hold to, where Jesus returns not to smash the world, but rule it. Whether for a literal millennium, or just a significantly long time, is debatable. But his reign gives pagans one last chance to follow him. One of the things about Darby’s variation on premillennialism is it adds a seven-year Great Tribulation, a violent supernatural funhouse of revenge fantasies. Any hope for pagans in his scenario is gone: Jesus raptures his followers away, leaving pagans behind to destroy themselves, and Jesus occasionally dumps a plague upon them to rile ’em up some more, like a mean kid who likes to shake his ant farm.

Because most Christians know little to nothing about the End’s details (’cause freaky visions, y’know) whereas the Darbyists claim to know exactly how everything turns out, they get lots of attention. And they make noise: They appear on a lot of TV shows, write lots of books and novels (like the Left Behind series) and movies (like Thief in the Night and the aforementioned Left Behindthe sucky version starring Kirk Cameron, and the other sucky version starring Nicolas Cage). Even movies produced by non-Christians, like The Omen, which tend to lean towards the End-of-Days view, borrow Darbyist ideas to help make their stories scarier. But the idea pagans are gonna be surprised if Jesus raptures all the Christians away, is now a ludicrous one: They’ve all heard the story now! They may not believe it, but if it happens, it won’t be an unfamiliar idea.

Still, Darbyism has many, many flaws. To introduce you to ’em, I’m gonna go through There’s a New World Coming and point out the bigger ones.

Hartley, Lindsey… and Archie.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s. Back then, grocery stores had comic book racks. Some still do. I’d often browse the comics while Mom went shopping. There I’d read of Superman, Batman, the Hulk, some other superheroes who didn’t have their own TV programs… and Archie Comics, featuring trapped-in-the-’50s teenager Archie Andrews and his chums and their wacky hijinks. The TV show Riverdale is based on them. Archie Comics had the benefit of self-contained stories, whereas the other books usually required you to have read the past several issues so you’d know where they were in the story.

Archie’s One Way, one of Spire Comics’ Archie books.

Oddly, I noticed sometimes Archie was Christian. And not just a little Christian; super Christian. Which I found strange: Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a regular in Archie books, and my little Fundamentalist brain couldn’t reconcile why Archie and the gang didn’t go over to Sabrina’s house and perform a lot of exorcisms, or at least share Jesus with those wacky Wiccans. (I know; comic book witches aren’t anything like real ones. I didn’t know this then.)

Turns out Christian Archie wasn’t actually published by Archie Comics. Spire Comics employed Archie illustrator Al Hartley, licensed the Archie characters, and put ’em in their Christian comic books. And since grocery store owners didn’t know one publisher from another (nor care), the Archie books all got mixed together, Archie Comics and Spire Comics alike. So every once in a while I’d notice Archie got saved.

Spire didn’t just produce Archie books. They adapted a bunch of popular Christian books, particularly those published by Chosen Books. Charles Colson’s Born Again, David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade, Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, Brother Andrew’s God’s Smuggler, and others. They’re actually good books, by the way. I’ve read ’em. Just skip the melodramatic movie versions.

You could find the other Spire books at the Christian bookstore, but I’d just wind up reading Archie anyway. Problem is, regular Archie is funny, and Spire’s Archie isn’t. Just preachy.

Spire also adapted Hal Lindsey’s There’s a New World Coming: An In-Depth Analysis of the Book of Revelation, so that’s why I brought them up. Now for Lindsey.

A plug for Lindsey’s non-comic-book There’s a New World Coming. TNWC inside cover

Former tugboat captain Hal Lindsey has made a whole career of predicting the End. Started with his 1970 bestseller The Late, Great Planet Earth, which introduced that generation to Darbyism. Lindsey was convinced (and still is) that current events can be matched precisely to certain images in Revelation. ’Cause the End is near. So turn to Jesus before it comes—or he’ll leave you behind and let you suffer Great Tribulation.

To be fair, lots of Christians—not just Darbyists—try to play connect-the-dots with current events like Lindsey does. And not every Darbyist does it either. But fewer and fewer Christians forbear: Lindsey’s popularity got a whole lot of Christians to scour the headlines, find coincidences, and claim they’re signs. Especially the conspiracy-theorist sort, who now have a religious excuse to indulge their fears.

No surprise, it being 45 years later: The prognostications of The Late, Great Planet Earth were premature. (If I were less charitable I’d say they’re utterly false.) So Lindsey writes follow-up books. He updates the current events, claim now they match John’s visions—even better than before!—so now we’re even closer to the End. Which we are, but here’s the thing: Jesus didn’t tell us current events are the sign of the End. Just the contrary.

Mark 13.7-8 KWL
7 “Don’t freak out when you overhear conflicts, and hearsay about conflicts.
These things happen, but it’s not the End yet.
8 People will rise against people; kingdoms against kingdoms.
Earthquakes will happen in other lands. Recessions will happen.
They’re early labor pains.”

But Jesus’s worldview doesn’t sell End Times books by the tugboatload.

Lindsey followed up his first book with There’s a New World Coming. Then The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon. Then Planet Earth: The Final Chapter. Then the chapter after that, Planet Earth: 2000 A.D. If you’re reading one of Lindsey’s old books from the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, you probably need the most recent edition. Stupid wars and rumors of wars Mt 24.6 KJV keep starting and ending, never trigger the planetary chaos Lindsey expects, and keep exposing him as a false prophet. But so long that people have short memories and Jesus keeps delaying his return, prognosticators like Lindsey will always have a lucrative career foretelling soon-coming doom and gloom.

Okay, enough background. Now to the book.

Into the vortex.

It begins with three kids from the 1970s, who weren’t at all fiddling around with LSD. Really. They just opened up their bible and were suddenly sucked into a psychedelic vortex. For totally innocent reasons. Promise.

This is why you don’t lick Revelation’s pages, kids. TNWC 1

Wonder whether Superbook pays Hartley’s estate any residuals for swiping his idea.

The kids never get named. For convenience I’ll call ’em Archie, Jughead, and Betty: The blond boy, who looks like Freddy from Scooby-Doo; the acne-scarred boy; and the token girl. Archie is the know-it-all of the book. Jughead is the stock dumb guy—the fearful character who doesn’t know anything, which means the know-it-all has to explain everything to him, which comes in handy for those readers who don’t know anything either. Betty knows some things.

The kids aren’t alone in the vortex. The guy who wrote Revelation is in there with them.

Hey look, it’s Gimli from Lord of the Rings. TNWC 2

For some reason, he’s ruddy as a Scotsman—not at all as Middle Eastern as one should expect—and is writing his book in English. Not even King James Version English, which’d be the mandatory translation of nearly every Darbyist. Betcha most of them found that the most bothersome thing in this comic book.

Betty comments, “When you see the mess the world is in… it’s hard to believe that Christ is in control of things!” Archie reassures her, “…But history is moving precisely as he predicted!” and then we’re introduced to how Darbyists claim Jesus predicted things: The End Times Timeline.

Let me make this perfectly clear: To a Darbyist, the End Times Timeline is canon. Don’t mess with it.

The divinely-inspired End Times Timeline. TNWC 2

It’s even more sacred than bible, because it’s the lens through which they interpret it. But despite what they claim, it’s not actually based on the bible. John Nelson Darby actually based it on three philosophies: Futurism, cessationism, and escapism.

Futurism is the belief every End Times prophecy takes place in future. Not just the future of Jesus and the bible’s authors: Our future too. Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of the temple Mk 13.2, Mt 24.2, Lk 21.6 was fulfilled in the year 70, when the Romans invaded and razed Jerusalem. But Darbyists claim no it wasn’t. It’s yet to come. Because immediately after Jesus foretold Jerusalem’s demolition, he said this:

Mark 13.24-27 KWL
24 “But in its time, after that tribulation:
‘The sun will go dark. The moon won’t give its light.’ Is 13.10
25 The stars will fall down from the sky.
The powers in the skies will be shaken.
26 Then the Son of Man will be seen, arriving in the clouds with great power and glory.
27 Then he’ll send out the angels.
They’ll gather together his chosen people from the four winds,
from the edge of the world to the edge of the sky.”

And if Jesus’s second coming is part of the Jerusalem-destroyed prophecy—as they insist it is—then it couldn’t’ve happened in 70. It must therefore happen during the End Times.

This is how they treat every prophecy about the End. Or every prophecy which might be about the End. They figure if a prophecy, whether in the Old Testament or New, hasn’t yet been fulfilled as far as they can tell, it will be—at the End. Since few of them know squat about the ancient Middle East, they believe a lot of prophecies aren’t yet fulfilled. So they find a way to shoehorn ’em into the End Times Timeline. And this is why they believe a lot of things will happen at the End, which are nowhere to be found in Revelation.

Why can’t these prophecies have been fulfilled during the past 20 centuries? Mainly ’cause cessationism, the belief God stopped doing miracles once the bible was completed. See, in order for nearly every prophecy to happen (at least as the Darbyists imagine them, with lots of apocalyptic critters and special effects) God needs to turn the miracles back on. And he won’t, they insist, till the End. So they can’t happen yet. Physically impossible.

No, not every Darbyist is a cessationist. I know plenty of Pentecostals and charismatics who believe Darby’s version of the End Times. ’Cause it’s what their churches always taught ’em, and they don’t know of any other way to imagine the End. They have no idea its futurism is based on unbelief—heck, in a deliberate rejection of God’s present-day power.

The rest of us Christians believe in either a spiritual interpretation of the End—that (mostly) everything takes place in heavenly dimensions, and doesn’t touch earth; or preterism—that (mostly) every End Times event already happened, since they had the last 20 centuries to happen in. Either way, absolutely nothing can prevent Jesus from returning. It’s why he’s told us to stay awake—we don’t know when he’ll return! Mk 13.33-37 Stop figuring he can’t come back till Lindsey’s checklist of End Times events gets marked off. The only thing hindering Christ is he wants to save everybody he can before he returns. 2Pe 3.9 That’s all.

Lastly, and briefly, Darbyists believe in escapism: Jesus is gonna rapture out his Christians before the really bad stuff happens. It’s what he insisted “two in a field—one taken, one left” means. Mt 24.40 Jesus isn’t just gathering his followers; he’s abandoning the rest to their doom. While we Christians are living it up in heaven, God smites the earth.

The End Times Timeline posits a future seven-year period, based on various scriptures which refer to various seven-day, seven-week, or seven-year stretches. In it, every single End Times prophecy gets fulfilled in a frenzy. Lots of chaos, war, disaster, destruction: Tribulation, they call it. But we Christians who come to Christ before tribulation, are spared it all. Anyone who misses the pre-trib rapture, who realizes “Aw crap; the Christians were right!” and repents, is nonetheless just as screwed as the pagans. Now they gotta ride out tribulation, and be part of all the End Times prophecies about Christians getting persecuted. While the other 2 billion of us lounge around in heaven.

Well… Darbyists are pretty sure it’ll be substantially less than 2 billion. ’Cause a bunch of us aren’t real Christians like they are. But let’s not get into that today.

God has HAD IT with these motherf---ing pagans. TNWC 3

For those who can’t fathom why a loving, patient, gracious God would suddenly get all medieval on humanity’s ass, Darbyists usually claim it’s because he is loving and patient. The tribulation is just tough love. Really tough love. Big bowls of angry, violent, genocidal love.

They spin it as one very last chance for everybody to repent before Jesus officially returns. ’Cause once he returns, he’s sending the wicked straight to hell. He’s not gonna let them experience his kingdom, where he rules the world and they get to experience his love and grace firsthand. He’s gonna have them experience his wrath, and that has to win them over. Kindness and gentleness didn’t work, so let’s try rage.

No, that’s not consistent with God’s character whatsoever. But Darbyists are dispensationalists: They believe in multiple dispensations, time-periods where God has alternate rules for salvation. He didn’t always save us by his grace, like the apostles taught: Under the dispensation of Law (i.e. Old Testament times), people had to follow the Law or they’d go to hell. And in each different dispensation, God actually has a different character. It’s why God comes across all angry and strict in the OT, but soft and forgiving today, during our dispensation of grace.

Hence during the End Times, it’s sort of a new dispensation. The miracles get turned back on, and God goes back to being pissed, Old Testament style. Not towards us Christians; we’re up in heaven with him. But the pagans? They’re royally screwed.

The pre-tribulation rapture.

The great what now? TNWC 3

I had never, ever heard of the rapture referred to as “the Great Snatch.” Never before this comic book; rarely since, and only because they’re referring to this illustration. I’ve definitely heard the term “great snatch” before, but it meant something entirely different. Go ahead and Google it, though the results may horrify you.

Why’s it used here? Bear with me; I got a theory. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, the Comics Code censored all the comic books to a G-rated level. But comic book artists would occasionally try to slip a naughty joke past the censors. Like when Batman and Robin would talk about having a “gay old time” beating up criminals. Like when the Joker tricked Batman into making a mistake, and wouldn’t stop calling it Batman’s “boner”… way too often. So much, you had to wonder, “Don’t the writers realize 12-year-old boys read this stuff? How do you think their adolescent minds are gonna handle this material?” Um… the writers totally knew. That’s why they slipped those jokes in the books. They shared that adolescent sense of humor.

So did Hartley, or one of the folks at Spire, slip an inappropriate joke into a Christian comic book? Yes. Yes they did. Why? Probably ’cause they didn’t buy Hal Lindsey’s worldview.

Many’s the time I, while working for one Christian ministry or another, was obligated to publicize some Christian nutjob. Still happens. Might be some conspiracy theorist, some preacher who never quoted the bible in context, some dangerously undereducated youth pastor, some false prophets who were trying to spread their fame instead of the gospel. I don’t agree with these loons, but my job isn’t to publicly correct their rotten theology. It’s to do as my boss or pastor instructs, and make the publicity packet, design the ads, or introduce the cranks to the audience. I gotta resist my strong temptation to voice my disapproval—or undermine ’em by picking the least-flattering publicity photo. (Although some of them do that job for me by submitting some of the cheesiest, vainest, Glamour Shots style pics. Creates a little halo effect around the comb-over.) I must resist the temptation to give ’em backhanded compliments, or kick the legs out from under their sermon by pre-correcting their out-of-context verses or inaccurate teachings in my introduction. You know, the usual passive-aggressive tricks.

So somebody at Spire Comics must’ve believed Lindsey’s version of the rapture is all wet, and therefore titled it “the Great Snatch.” And if you poke around the internet, you’ll find a lot of people, pagans and Christians alike, find this description hilarious. It’s the fastest way to mock the rapture as too stupid to take seriously.

How Darbyists imagine the rapture varies. In Left Behind, Tim LaHaye described the Christians as simply vanishing, leaving behind absolutely everything: Clothes, jewelry, artificial hips and knees, pacemakers—as if God wants nothing non-biological. Off they went, to appear in heaven before God… buck naked, missing prosthetic limbs, suffering giant heart attacks.

God turns on the heavenly vacuum cleaner. TNWC 4

In Hartley’s version, at least we’re clothed. But the one thing Darbyists are consistent on is the rapture is secret. The planet’s Christians vanish, totally without warning. The sky doesn’t go black, there’s no parting clouds, falling stars, trumpet blast, nothing. Whoosh, we’re gone. Drivers disappear from their cars, which’ll then slam into things, like pedestrians and puppies. Hence the popular “In case of rapture” bumper stickers.

It’s not what either Jesus or the the apostles told us. Here’s how Paul, Silas, and Timothy described Jesus’s second coming to the Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 4.13-18 KWL
13 Christians, we don’t want you to know nothing about those who are “sleeping”:
You ought not grieve like all the others who have no hope,
14 for if we believe Jesus died and rose,
likewise God, through Jesus, will bring our “sleepers” with him.
15 We tell you this message from the Master.
We who are still alive at the Master’s second coming don’t go ahead of those who’ve died.
16 With a commanding shout, with the head angel’s voice, with God’s trumpet,
the Master himself will come down from heaven.
The Christian dead will be resurrected first.
17 Then, we who are left, who are still alive,
will be raptured together with them into the clouds,
to meet the Master in the air.
Thus, we’ll be with the Master—always.
18 So encourage one another with these words!

Now, compare this with the End Times Timeline:

Green arrow: Rapture. Yellow arrow: Jesus’s return. TNWC 2

The apostles described the rapture as the Master’s coming. 1Th 4.15 They didn’t do so ambiguously. It’s right there in the text, plain as day. But Darbyists claim the second coming and the rapture are years apart. They’re not simultaneous. There’s a seven-year tribulation in between.

What basis do they have for saying so? ’Tain’t bible. There are no other passages in the bible about the rapture. Jesus’s return comes up plenty of times, but Christians going to meet him in the air: 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18 is all we got. (It’s why some Christians wonder whether there’ll even be a rapture: They want at least two proof-texts before they’ll declare a doctrine solid. Otherwise they say it’s debatable. I don’t agree, but that’s me.)

Most Darbyists figure in order for evil to run rampant on the earth, the Holy Spirit, who’s holding back the evil, has to be “taken out of the way.” 2Th 2.7 And since the Holy Spirit lives inside every Christian, he’s not leaving without us. So he takes us with him to heaven. Then evil can run amok. More so than usual.

What about the Christians who’ll be persecuted during the End?—the protagonists of Darbyist novels and movies, whom they imagine will be left-behind pagans who repent after the rapture. If there’s no Holy Spirit, how can anyone become Christian? It’s impossible. Well, Darbyists have explained to me, the “Christians leave because the Spirit leaves” idea is just a theory. A guess as to why there’s a pre-trib rapture. We don’t really know the Spirit will leave, ’cause he’s gotta stick around to make tribulation saints. But just the same, there is a pre-trib rapture. Bible says so.

No it doesn’t, but good luck cutting through that thick fog of illogic and denial. You can’t eat your cake and have it—or in this case, rapture your Spirit then have him sneak back to make new Christians for your End Times novel.

There’s no biblical precedent for escapism either. Noah may not have drowned in the great flood, but he did have to build an ark and ride it out. The Hebrews weren’t smited by the Egyptian plagues, but they were still in Egypt, watching. Passed over, when the LORD’s angel killed the Egyptians’ kids, but still there. When foes came to destroy Israel, and God destroyed the foes first, the Israelis were there, all ready for battle, but sitting it out as God worked. He didn’t rapture them away to a place of safety. He’s their safety. As he is ours.

The point of the rapture isn’t escape, but to join the invasion on our Lord Jesus’s side. He’s coming down. He’s not going back up for another seven years, then coming back for a third coming. Think of it like an ordinary military invasion: When the invading army rolls into town, all the agents in-country, the people who’ve been laying the groundwork for the invasion, quickly come out of their hidey-holes and join the troops. That’s what we’re doing at the rapture: We’re falling in behind the general. We don’t go into the air to stay in the air. We join him in the air—so when he touches down on earth, it’s with his full complement of 2 billion immortal Christians. Picture that.

Gotta admit: I really like the idea of getting taken away before the bad stuff happens. Martyrdom’s gonna suck. But if that’s so, what was the point of Jesus warning us that life is suffering? That he’s gonna reward those of us who hold out till the very end? He promises this in Revelation, of all places. Rv 2.25-26, 3.11 But most Darbyists insist the rapture takes place before anything in Revelation happens. Doesn’t matter that St. John’s depicted in the vortex with the kids—as Hartley reminds us—

You think he dyes his hair? I think he dyes his hair. TNWC 5

—still writing the introduction, for we’re not even in his book yet.

In fact, in today’s article I’ll just barely make it to the book of Revelation. That’s how screwy the End Times Timeline is.

Signs of the times.

After the rapture removed all the Christians from the planet. Archie notes, “Christ is the unfathomable source that keeps every atom from literally exploding!!!” and Betty adds, “With Christ’s influence gone, things have to fall apart!!!” Hartley loves exclamation points!

The nitpicking theologian in me would point out they’ve got the wrong person of the trinity. This’s be the Holy Spirit who’s active in our universe, whereas Christ is busy advocating to the Father on our behalf. But since Darby didn’t believe in miracles, stands to reason his followers aren’t familiar with the Spirit who holds the atoms together, and empowers the miracles.

So when are things gonna fall apart? Wait, let’s show Jughead asking that question.

Quick! Look over there! TNWC 5

Darbyists don’t claim to know the precise day and hour of the rapture, ’cause Jesus said nobody knows it but the Father. Mk 13.32 However, once the rapture takes place, they believe Jesus’s return will be seven years, to the day, after the rapture. In the Left Behind finale Glorious Appearing, the Christians actually wait around all day for Jesus to show up in the clouds—and then he does, and man alive is it gory. So they figure they will know the day the Son of Man will come, if not the specific hour. Once you get left behind, mark your calendar.

While Archie points out we won’t know when, he does claim there are “signs of the times,” events which prove we’re living in the last days, so Jesus’ll show up pretty soon. Pages 6-7 list all “The Signs that Herald the Return of Jesus to Earth,” all the signs Lindsey could think of.

Israel-related signs of the times. TNWC 6

The existence of a nation called Israel is presumed all over the bible—both in Revelation, and all the Old Testament prophecies which the Darbyists shoehorn into the End Times Timeline. Yet for 1,879 years, from Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 to the refounding of the state of Israel in 1949, there was no such political entity. So Darbyists figure Jesus wouldn’t have returned in all that time. Futurism, remember? No Israel prophecies could be fulfilled.

But yeah they could. In the bible, when the Assyrians and Babylonians scattered Israel to the four winds, Israel did still exist, in exile. Currently there are more Jews in my country, the United States, than there are in Israel. You think biblical messages to Israel don’t apply to American Jews too? The Jews sure think so.

It’s why Ezekiel and Daniel, despite living in Babylon, could still prophesy to Israel. It’s why Zerubbabel and Nehemiah could refound Israel the first time: Can’t put it back together if there’s nobody to reassemble. There never needed to be a literal nation of Israel before God could speak to and direct his people. But Lindsey tends to be unnecessarily literal, and a lot of Darbyists have followed suit.

Some Darbyists therefore claim Jesus is obligated to return within a generation of Israel’s founding. Since our culture figured a new generation comes round every 20 years (nowadays, more like 30), the assumption was Jesus would return by 1969. When he didn’t, it spurred Lindsey to double-check his bible—and discover that in Deuteronomy, it took 40 years for a new generation to replace the previous one. So Jesus should return before 1989. And for a while there, a ton of Darbyists targeted that year. One of their more famous books was Edgar Whisenant’s 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Return in ’88. (In 1996 I jokingly said someone ought to publish a follow-up, 0 Reasons Why Christ Will Return in ’00.) 1989 came and went, and the only thing relevant was the Berlin Wall came down, the Cold War ended, and all the Darbyists’ anti-Soviet prognostications went down the crapper.

Speaking of Israel’s foes: Were Russia and the Arabs and Iranians considered their enemies in ancient times? Nope. Persia (now Iran), other than a little difficulty with this one putz named Haman, was Israel’s patron, who sent Zerubbabel and Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem. Debatably the Assyrians were Arab, but Israel got more grief from the non-Arab Amorites, Philistines, Seleucids, Amalekites, and their Semitic cousins from Edom, Moab, and Ammon. The Babylonians and Egyptians weren’t even Arab till the 8th century of our era. John mentioned Gog and Magog, Rv 20.8 Gog being the ruler of a Black Sea nation called Magog, Ek 38 which is debatably Russia (or Georgia, or Azerbaijan), but that nation starts acting up after Jesus’s thousand-year reign, not before.

At the time Revelation was written, Israel’s primary foe was Rome, which’d just destroyed Jerusalem. (Or as John called Rome, “Babylon,” ’cause the woman which represents Babylon sits on seven hills, Rv 17.9 as does Rome. Again, not literal Babylon. It’s a vision, y’know.)

In any event: Neither Russia nor the Arab League are opposing Israel like they did in the ’70s. That could change—but that’s my point, isn’t it? Historical forces change. Reading current events into Revelation don’t always pan out when Jesus permits the short run to become the long run. As he has for the past 198 decades.

World-power-related signs of the times. TNWC 6

In Revelation 9.16 there’s a 200-million-man army. Both China and India could, individually, staff such an army. Why one nation would do it alone, I dunno. But “red China” currently has a huge off-the-books Christian population. Let’s say they were raptured out, to join Jesus’s army: Could China still staff that army? Unlikely.

The 10-nation Common Market has since become the 27-nation European Union. It’s hardly a resurgence of the Roman Empire. More like the Holy Roman Empire. (Historians will get that joke.) Lindsey expects a 10-nation something because the Beast has 10 crowned horns, Rv 13.1 which represent 10 kings who give it power. Rv 17.12-13 Does this symbol have to represent 10 nations? What about 10 corporations?

Religion- and drugs-related signs. TNWC 6

You know those “dark occultic practices of ancient Babylon”? Didn’t think so. Neither did Lindsey. Really, neither do the people who claim to practice them nowadays; they’re a bunch of posers. But magic-based religions have always been around. Nobody needed to revive ’em. And I remind you, Lindsey is mixing up the metaphorical Babylon with the literal one again.

The “unprecedented turn to drugs” isn’t all that unprecedented. There’ve been dope addicts throughout history. Only when westerners made drugs illegal in the 20th century did we discover the vast size of the problem. But Lindsey was likely dismayed at all the drug use among young people in the ’70s. Kids never acted like this when he was a lad! All they ever did was get blind staggering drunk, which is somehow better. Although I know actual history, so I know better. The Opium Wars weren’t fought over tea, y’know.

See, the reason Lindsey said we need to expect these things, is because they fulfill his negative expectations of how bad the End gets. Not what actual history describes. Nor the scriptures.

Wait, wars are a sign? TNWC 6

Remember I quoted Jesus about conflicts and hearsay about conflicts? Mk 13.7-8 Probably the only bit of the bible Lindsey didn’t interpret literally. Jesus also mentioned earthquakes and recessions (a.k.a. famines)…

Earthquakes are a sign? TNWC 7

…and so did Lindsey.

Earth’s population may be greater, but as we know, famines are a problem with distribution, not scarcity. Collectively, humanity produces so much plenty, we could feed everybody and then some. The reason we don’t is warlords and dictators get in the way. In ancient times, famine was a natural disaster, but nowadays we can ship food from anywhere. When California suffers drought, Chile doesn’t. So a shortage of food today is always the result of human evil. A lot of these “signs of the times” are definitely the product of human evil. But these are hardly new evils. Drugs, magic, wars, famine, natural disasters: They’ve always been around. Humanity isn’t worse; it’s the same. It’s just there’s more of us, and our news media is much better at informing us.

I’m surprised Lindsey didn’t also include lunar eclipses, but that’s more John Hagee’s bailiwick.

Pollution is a sign? TNWC 7

Anybody remember how smallpox wiped out 90 percent of the North American population before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth? No? Must’ve skipped that part of the history book—if the publishers bothered to include it. Now that’s what we call a plague. Likewise the Black Plague, which killed a third of Europe. So what plagues are we suffering from lately?… AIDS? Unknown in the ’70s; treatable today. Ebola? First identified in the ’70s; treatable today. Bird flu? Back in the ’70s the big worry was swine flu; both forms now treatable. I’m not saying we can beat every disease, but we’re doing way better than in the past. We’ve even eradicated smallpox. Beat that with a stick.

Pollution is definitely a problem. In the 1970s it was a big new issue, so Lindsey speculated some of the horrific things in Revelation were caused by pollution. See, Lindsey isn’t closed-minded. New disasters, if they can explain Revelation better to his mind, get quickly incorporated into his End Times scenarios. But interestingly, the majority of Darbyists are pretty sure climate change isn’t real. So Lindsey’s gonna have to stand alone on this one.

Finally, some actual signs. TNWC 7

Lindsey finally gets to an actual sign of the End: More heretics. More false prophets. More lawlessness—people following God in their own ways, rather than seeking his will. Mt 24.10-12 The less devout a nation gets, the more likely God’s gonna have to intervene.

As for the one-world religion: Revelation was written during the time of the Roman Empire. And the Roman world had just one religion: Syncretism. They didn’t care what or how you worshiped, so long that you recognized Roman superiority above all, and included in your worship the Emperor’s guardian spirit, which they called his genius. A Christian can’t worship anyone but God, and that’s why the Romans kept crucifying us.

So much for American exceptionalism. TNWC 7

Ties together with the one-world government idea: The Roman Empire was the one-world government. Lindsey is confusing the current events of Revelation’s day, with the current events he expects to see in the End Times. Lots of Darbyists do.

What’s more likely is any prophecies regarding the Roman Empire have been fulfilled already. Like the temple’s destruction, these things are over with. Done. Out of the way. No longer a hindrance to Jesus’s return. Same as all the prophecies of Jesus someday defeating the Romans: He already did defeat them. They became Christian. His biggest church is headquartered in their old capital.

The decline of the United States Lindsey refers to, is because the United States isn’t in the bible. Neither is North and South America. Not just ’cause John didn’t know our continents existed: Jesus, who did know, simply didn’t bring us up, other than in those blanket statements about “the whole world.” So, you know those movies where the Antichrist comes from the States? Not gonna happen. How about all those anti-Catholics who imagine the pope’s gonna be an End Times figure? Not when he’s from Argentina.

Considering the U.S. is the most influential nation on the planet, saying we can’t be around for the End Times is definitely a form of delaying Jesus’s return. It means something would have to turn the U.S. isolationist, or utterly destroy us, before the End.

…Donald Trump? Nah.

But y’know: The United States is currently a giant oasis from Christian persecution. Much as American Christians would like to claim we’re being persecuted because Christianity doesn’t have the favored status they’d like, the reality is we decidedly aren’t undergoing the suffering, hardship, wars, death, and so forth, of the rest of the world’s Christians. We’re ridiculously blessed. Talk to Christians in the Middle East, and they’ll tell you the Great Tribulation is going on right now. And most American Christians are blissfully unaware.

Who knows? Maybe the reason the U.S. doesn’t come up in Revelation is because we are an oasis during the tribulation. But I admit, that’s escapist wishful thinking on my part. Just like the Darbyists’ pre-trib rapture.

And other things Lindsey dislikes. TNWC 7

Paul actually said at the End people will be fruitless, not felonious. 2Ti 3.1-5 ’Cause if you’re looking at crime statistics, in the U.S. they’re down, and trending downward. But if you’re looking at human hearts, they’re pretty awful. Always have been.

I gotta say: Who teaches an “Alternatives to Marriage” course? Haven’t people figured out on their own how to evade commitment?

Let’s wrap this first part up.

Following all these “signs,” Betty comments the countdown has now begun: “…For seven years the world will witness the worst horrors and judgment it’s ever seen!” And Archie makes this interesting claim about the events of Revelation:

The super-secret scroll. TNWC 8

Apparently the visions of Revelation were already revealed to Daniel. But instead of including them in the book of Daniel, God ordered him to keep it sealed up—and the scroll with the seven seals on it, which the Lamb opens in Revelation 6.1-17, 8.1, is this sealed-up secret book.

Most scholars say otherwise: Daniel’s sealed-up book is actually Daniel 7-12. We already have it. It’s sealed only in the sense we can’t interpret it—like Revelation, it consists of freaky visions which we aren’t meant to decode. It’s to hint the future, not spell it out.

Contrary to Lindsey, the scroll doesn’t represent the fall of humanity. It represents human history. As do the things which spring out of it, which I’ll get to next time. Jesus can open it because he’s the only being in the cosmos worthy to unseal and unroll it—for all things are from him, through him, and to him. Ro 11.36 History’s secrets, unless God gets specific about the future to his various prophets, are gonna stay secret. Hal Lindsey’s game of connect-the-dots between apocalyptic visions and current events, isn’t one he’ll win.

Okay. All this stuff in the comic book, right up to Jesus/the Lamb opening the scroll, hasn’t been in Revelation. Everything beforehand has purely been Darbyist dogma. That’s par for the course for their End Times books. Lots of speculation, very little scripture in context. All in support of their End Times Timeline.

Next time: The Four Horsemen. (Even though Revelation states there are five.) Hey, I gotta leave on a cliffhanger.