The comic book End Times. (Part 3.)

If you’ve ever wondered why European Christians are so antisemitic, but American Christians love Jews so much, read on.

More on the fearful future within the Christian comic book There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.
Other parts: 1245

As I’ve said previously about those who believe John Nelson Darby’s beliefs about dispensationalism and the End Times, not all Darbyists think alike. Hal Lindsey’s beliefs in There’s a New World Coming (illustrated by Al Hartley) don’t precisely line up with those of Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, or any of the other folks who claim Jesus’s second coming comes in two parts—a secret rapture, Jesus’s actual return seven years later, and in between those events we suffer tribulation: Death, evil, natural disasters, war, mayhem, dogs and cats living together.

Y’see, a small but significant subgroup of Darbyists claim the secret rapture doesn’t take place before tribulation starts, like Hal Lindsey or Tim LaHaye or the makers of numerous Christian movies do. Christians get to experience three years, six months, of the seven-year suffering, same as the pagans. But at halftime Jesus takes us out of the game, and the final 42 months consists of great tribulation. As opposed to the bad-but-not-as-bad, first-half tribulation. “Mid-tribs,” they tend to be called.

What little there is of the fifth seal in the comic book. TNWC 13

Why do they believe this? You may recall in my previous article where, in the middle of the Lamb opening the big seven-sealed scroll of history (which Darbyists insist is the scroll of just the tribulation), the fifth seal reveals a bunch of martyred Christians asking God to avenge them. Rv 6.9-10 Mid-tribs agree this proves the rapture hadn’t happened by this point of the scroll-opening procedure. But like the rest of the Darbyists, they still buy the secret rapture idea, still insist the scroll only represents End Times history, and therefore figure the rapture happens after the next seal gets opened.

And y’know what? Mid-tribs are actually mid-right. I’ll get to that today. Promise.

Sixth seal: Hydrogen bombs.

So the fifth seal is about Christians getting martyred, and the sixth seal is about Jesus’s second coming. Wait, already? Yep.

Contrary to what the Darbyists claim, Revelation’s visions ain’t in chronological order, folks. If you’ve actually read the book, you might’ve noticed Revelation 12, where Jesus gets born and Satan gets tossed out of heaven. That doesn’t happen in the End Times, y’know: That’s first-century history. Happened before John ever put pen to papyrus. Yet Darbyists either pretend it’s not there at all, or turn it into an allegory which has nothing to do with Christ’s birth.

The seven-sealed scroll represents just one cycle of events in the book. The trumpets represent another cycle. The birth of Jesus, fall of Satan, and rise of the Beast, another. And so on. Some of ’em overlap. Some don’t.

Some Darbyists realize this, although they don’t go so far as to realize it’s multiple visions. They’ll say it’s one vision—but a whole lot of flashbacks. They’ll squeeze the overlaps here and there into their End Times Timeline. (Remember the Timeline? If not, here’s your obligatory reminder.)

No matter how a Darbyist interprets the End, it had better look like this. TNWC 2

Orthodox Darbyism is to treat Revelation like one big long timeline, and Hal Lindsey falls into that camp: The rapture takes place before the visions begin, and the second coming takes place in Revelation 19. So the sixth-seal passage, even though it fits exactly into Jesus’s description of his second coming—

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.”

—it simply can’t be, ’cause we’ve not reached chapter 19 yet. But judge for yourself.

Revelation 6.12-19 KWL
12 When he broke the sixth seal, I saw a great earthquake come.
The sun became black, like sackcloth made of hair.
The full moon became like blood.
13 The heavenly stars fell to the earth like a fig tree, shaken by a great wind, drops its late figs.
14 The heavens parted like a rolled-up scroll,
and every hill and island was moved from its place.
15 All the earth’s kings, nobles, generals, wealthy, powerful—
everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in caves and mountain strongholds.
16 They told the hills and rocks, “Fall on us; hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne—
from the Lamb’s wrath! The great day of his wrath came! Who can survive it?”

But back in the 1970s when this comic book was written, Lindsey, and a lot of Americans made crazy with fear by the Cold War arms race, figured if it can’t be the return of Jesus… maybe it’s World War III.

It’s Christians at ground zero. TNWC 13

All those leaders and plutocrats and generals hiding in the caves and tas pétras ton oréon/“the rocks of hills,” mountain strongholds? Those are government officials, and the occasional billionaire (sorry; it’s the ’70s; make that “millionaire”) who could afford sanctuary, tucked away in blast shelters, riding out the falling hydrogen bombs. Nuclear winter will blacken the sky. The earth will shake. It’s the end, as the comic book’s token girl (whom I call “Betty”) fearfully comments. But no, says the boy (whom I call “Archie”) who knows more about the End Times than St. John: It can’t be the end. There’s still more than half of Revelation to get through!

I’ll tell ya though, when I was a kid that H-bomb worried me. Before reading this I had no idea there were H-bombs in the bible. Yikes.

But fear not, Archie reminds us. This is all meant to frighten people into turning to God.

If you survive the H-bombs, that is. TNWC 14

Our loving God, in his infinite wisdom, intends to scare sinners so bad, we empty our bowels in fear, panic, desperation, and pain… and turn to him. Like the pharaoh of Exodus… oh wait, the pharaoh didn’t do that. Okay, like King Ahab… oh wait, Ahab backslid the moment Elijah left town. Okay, like Pilate when he found out his wife was having prophetic dreams about Jesus… oh wait, Pilate had Jesus crucified anyway. Okay, like… Does this tactic work on anyone?

Nope. It just triggers our fight-or-flight instinct. But dysfunctional, abusive parents try it anyway. Which suggests all kinds of stuff about how Lindsey disciplined his own kids, but I’m really not going there. Might get me sued.

Lindsey’s not just wrong about biblical cause-and-effect. He’s wrong about how the biblical cycle of repentance even works. Read Judges. Plus I’ve got a chart.

Found throughout the bible. But mostly Judges.

People sin; God gives them fair warning but they won’t repent; God withdraws his blessings and lets their enemies have at them; they realize they lost God and repent and call upon him; he sends them a judge; they get saved; they follow God again… till they don’t.

Nowhere in the cycle does God rapture his people out of the solution. He may do their fighting for them, but they gotta put on the armor and go into battle anyway, if only just to watch God clean house. They gotta ride out the cycle. We gotta ride out the cycle.

Anybody remember where the Hebrew slaves were while the LORD was plaguing Egypt? Right, still in Egypt; they couldn’t leave till after the last plague. Remember where Jeremiah was when the Babylonians invaded and deported southern Israel’s nobles? Right, living in Jerusalem till a bunch of insurgents forced him to come with them to Egypt… where they killed him enroute, according to tradition. Remember which of Jesus’s apostles didn’t get executed for proclaiming him? That’d be John. This John, writing the visions down. Who may not’ve got the death penalty, but he did get life in an island prison camp. That’s not removal from suffering. That’s smack in the middle of it.

God has a really spotty track record of removing his people before disaster strikes. There’s Lot, and he’s hardly a success story. Ge 19 That’s about it. God never promised any such thing on a consistent basis. The prophets died for him, the apostles died for him, and blessed are you when you suffer for him like they did. Mt 5.10-12 For in this world, suffering is inevitable. But Jesus has conquered the world, Jn 16.33 and we take hope in that. Not in the fantasy of getting raptured before things get awful.

Darbyists love Jews. Not enough to share the gospel with ’em, though.

Imagine 144,000 simultaneous tent revivals. TNWC 14

The gospel’s gonna be preached by “144,000 Jewish evangelists!!!???!!!” the acne-scarred boy (whom I call “Jughead”) bellows. Sounds like he can’t fathom the idea. A Jew, preaching the gospel? Why, that’s unbiblical.

And why not Jews? says Archie over the next two pages of the comic book. Jews are awesome. They’re God’s chosen race. They wrote the bible. Jesus is a Jew. God protected them throughout history. TNWC 15-16 God loves the Jews. And so do Darbyists.

Well, God protected them other than those deportations to Assyria and Babylon. And the Romans destroying Jerusalem in the year 70. And centuries of antisemitism since (by us Christians, I remind you; don’t just blame the Muslims). Plus Nazis: The German Holocaust took place during Lindsey’s lifetime, and most Americans were appropriately horrified by that, and don’t want it ever happening again. But Lindsey entirely blames Satan for all that evil. Not the Jew-hating humans who perpetrated it.

Satan prefers five-pointed stars. TNWC 16

You’re gonna find a lot of Judeophilia among Darbyists, and it’s because of the literalist way they interpret Revelation and other End Times prophecies, whether they’re actually about the End, or whether Darbyists have taken ’em out of context and assumed they’re about the End. Y’see, there are Jews all over the bible. (Stands to reason; they wrote it.) For this reason, Darbyists figure Jews are major players in every End Times scenario.

Darbyists correctly rejected replacement theology, the belief God rejected Israel because they rejected their Messiah, and made Christians (namely gentile Christians) his new chosen people. This teaching is based on a bad interpretation of Acts 28.23-28, when Paul tried to share Jesus in a Roman synagogue—but the Jews dismissed his message, so he told them God’s salvation would therefore go to gentiles. Replacement theologians claim this means God’s replaced Israel with Christendom. It’s easily contradicted by Paul himself in Romans: “Didn’t God push away his people? Absolutely not. For I’m Israeli, of Abraham’s seed, Benjamin’s tribe.” Ro 11.1 KWL The church was founded by Jesus’s family and the Twelve, who were all Jews. Thousands of Jews became Christians after Simon Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Ac 2.41 Millions since.

It’s more accurate to say God’s kingdom expanded—and now includes gentiles. Non-Jews like me have recognized Jesus as Lord, and sworn allegiance to Israel’s king. Basically we applied for citizenship in a new kingdom. And were granted it; we’ve been “grafted in,” as Paul put it. Ro 11.17 Since our Lord is king of Israel, he considers us new Israelis. Not displacing the old Israelis; adding to them. And in Revelation, the way John wrote it, he saw no difference whatsoever between Israel and the church. It’s all the same kingdom—whether it consists of native Jews or immigrant gentiles. (Even immigrants who were awful to the natives.)

But it’s not all the same to Jews. Nor dispensationalists, people who believe God has multiple plans of salvation. Dispys figure God saved people in Old Testament times through ritual sacrifice and following his commands. (Which he didn’t, and never did; they really need to re-read Romans 3.) Today, he saves people by his grace. But there’s a number of Darbyists—a minority, but they write the End Times books—who insist God actually has a separate plan of salvation for Jews. It’s not replacement theology, nor is it “There’s no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, no male nor female: Every one of you is one in Christ Jesus.” Ga 3.28 KWL Instead it’s a third theory: Simultaneous dispensations. There’s the gentile plan of salvation, the one Christianity teaches; and there’s the Jewish plan of salvation, which finally kicks in during the End Times. Both of ’em involve Christ, ’cause you can’t get to the Father otherwise. Jn 14.6 But they’re not the same plan. Gentiles are saved by grace, and Jews are saved by branding.

No, really. First God’s gonna take his Jews, who’ve been scattered to the four winds through various forms of persecution—

Ignore what it literally says, and just go with this. TNWC 16

—and bring them back together into the present-day political nation of Israel, mainly so all the Old Testament “End Times” prophecies regarding Israel can now take place. Then, now that they’re all together, one of his angels is gonna head-stamp 144,000 them (which represents some spontaneous revival) and they’ll turn Christian. And not just a little Christian. Mega-Christian. So Christian, they manage to convert the rest of their fellow Jews, and a ton of gentiles in their enthusiasm.

We read in Revelation about the Son of Man’s angels gathering his chosen people from the four winds Mk 13.27 like so—

Revelation 7.1-8 KWL
1 After this I saw four angels had stood on the earth’s four corners,
grasping the earth’s four winds so the wind wouldn’t blow on the earth, sea, nor any trees.
2 I saw another angel rising from the sunrise, having the seal of the living God.
He called out in a loud voice to the four angels,
which he broadcast to those who were damaging the earth and seas, 3 saying,
“Don’t damage the earth, seas, or trees, till I’ve sealed our God’s slaves on their foreheads.”
4 I heard the number of those who’d been sealed:
144,000 sealed out of every tribe of Israel’s sons.
5 From the tribes of Judah, Reuben, Gad: 12,000 each came.
6 From the tribes of Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh: 12,000 each came.
7 From the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Issachar: 12,000 each came.
8 From the tribes of Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin: 12,000 each came.

So, 12,000 apiece from 11 of the Israeli tribes. (John forgot Dan, and Joseph gets mentioned twice, ’cause Manasseh is one of his sons.) But I’m not discussing biblical inerrancy today.

Darbyists read this and think, “Wow, it’s a mid-tribulation revival!” The left-behind Jews finally discovered their Messiah, and now they can share him with the messed-up tribulational world they’ve inherited.

Mid-tribs interpret this as the rapture. Turns out they’re exactly right. It is the rapture: Jesus is gathering his people to himself. ’Cause the very next verses are about an uncountable mass of people from all over the planet, praising God for salvation. Rv 7.9-12 A heavenly elder informs John they’ve come out of tribulation, and from now on they’ll serve God and be in the Lamb’s presence. Rv 7.13-17 They’re the workforce of God’s kingdom, which Jesus is now going to establish the world over.

But mid-tribs think the End Times Timeline isn’t over yet: There’s 14 more chapters of Revelation to go. And pre-tribulationists claim the rapture happened at the beginning, so this huge mass of believers are simply new tribulational Christians. Not resurrected and raptured, despite the fact they’re standing before the Lamb on God’s throne, with angels and elders and big cosmic things which John can only describe as “living beings.” Rv 7.9-11 The elder’s statement about how they’re never gonna hunger and thirst again Rv 7.16 —it’s about their future, when Jesus finally returns.

144,000 televangelists. Yikes. TNWC 17

Lindsey ignores the elder’s statement that God will wipe away their every tear. Ro 7.17 These mid-tribulation “new converts” get persecuted and martyred, same as always.

(Not sure whether Lindsey or Hartley made the mistake of having Archie say, “144,000 Jews will evangelize the whole world in just seven years!” ’Cause if we’re halfway through the tribulation, they don’t have seven years. Oh well.)

Here’s the dirty little problem with believing God has a special dispensation for the Jews. Just like white kids who appropriate the hip-hop lifestyle, who wish they had a black friend so they could have “credibility” (i.e someone to tell them it’s okay to act that way), Darbyists desperately wanna be friends with Israel and the Jewish people. Deep down, they don’t entirely believe they’re grafted into God’s kingdom, and want credibility from those they consider real chosen people. They figure if they’re Israel’s allies—both religiously and politically—God’ll lump them together with his people, and remove them from trouble in the very same way he does with Israel. Although you may have read Judges and the rest of the bible, and noticed God doesn’t do that with Israel.

In the meanwhile we have a lot of “Israel’s allies” who’ve taken the stance of “I stand with Israel, no matter what, right or wrong”—even though sometimes Israel is wrong. Sometimes the political party or coalition in charge of Israel’s parliament, who care about national security more than God, is behaving as unlike God as one can. Same thing happened in ancient Israel. Kings who didn’t know the LORD had taken the throne, decided freedom of religion sounded awfully tolerant of them, and even dabbled a little. Israel got in deep doo-doo with God more than once ’cause of how wrong they went. Modern Israel is just as likely to go astray as ancient Israel.

Heck, considering Jews still reject Jesus as their Messiah: They already are astray. But if you’re suffering from a heaping helping of gentile guilt, my saying, or even hinting, such a thing is really gonna bug you: “Jews are astray? Jews are wrong? That’s bigotry. That’s antisemitism.” No, it’s orthodox Christianity: We’re wrong, and Jesus is right. True of everybody. Not just Christians, nor gentiles.

But if you believe Jews are an exception to that rule—that despite rejecting Jesus as Messiah, God’s gonna save them regardless; that you needn’t tell them they’re wrong (in fact, you shouldn’t) because God’s got that taken care of; that God may even save them because they’re so devout at following the Law, even though Paul made it plain nobody gets saved that way—well, that’s the fruit of dispensationalism. Multiple dispensations—multiple ways for God to save people—means multiple gospels. So, like the foolish Galatians, dispensationalist Darbyists embrace the idea there exists a different gospel, contrary to the one we received, Ga 1.6-8 which is God’s power to save everyone, Jew and gentile alike. Ro 1.16

Lastly: Where does Revelation say these people are evangelists? It doesn’t. What does it say they actually are? Well, as we’ve seen, they’re tus dúlus tu Theú/“God’s slaves,” Rv 7.3 and the next time we see ’em in the text are in a whole other vision, in chapter 14.

Revelation 14.1-8 KWL
1 I saw—look!—the Lamb standing on Zion’s hill, and with him the 144,000,
who have his name and his Father’s name engraved on their foreheads.
2 I heard a heavenly sound, like the sound of many waters, like the sound of great thunder.
The sound which I heard was like a harpist harping on their harp.
3 They were singing a new song before the throne,
before the four living beings and elders,
and no one was able to learn the song but the 144,000 purchased from the earth.
4 They were never defiled by women, for they were virgins.
They were following the Lamb wherever he went.
They were bought from humanity—God’s and the Lamb’s firstfruits—
5 and in their mouths no lie was found. They’re spotless.

They’re not evangelists; they’re singers. Singing along with a sound which resembles many waters, great thunder, and harps. I hope that means electric guitar. God rocks.

Okay, time I showed you who the 144,000 really are.

  • Literal Jews? No. As I said, John made no distinction between Israel and the church. Both are God’s kingdom. Start with Israel. Subtract the unbelievers who reject Messiah. Add the gentiles who embrace Messiah. But still call it “Israel.”
  • Literal virgins? No. This represents how God’s made us spotless. Likewise not literally people who’ve never lied.
  • Literally have names stamped on our foreheads? Please. Not even Darbyists believe that. Even the Left Behind novels claim it’s some sort of invisible 3-D cross which only fellow Christians can see, and that’s one of the dumber interpretations.
  • Literally 144,000? No. Way more than that. This is a symbolic number. The number 12 represents “everybody,” all the people who should be included, like Israel’s 12 sons and Jesus’s 12 apostles. (Squaring it implies it really means everybody.) The number 1,000 represents a whole lot of people. So 12 × 12 × 1,000 is a symbolically “full” number, ’cause that’s what they are: The full number of believers, and Jesus is delaying his return till he can save every last one of them. 2Pe 3.9

Yep, the 144,000 is us, the Christians. The very same uncountable multitude John saw next in the vision. Rv 7.9 Jesus’s followers, the 2 billion Christians who will be invading the earth with him, Jews and gentiles alike, made clean and new because Jesus atoned for us. We’re not proclaiming the good news so much as we are the good news: When Jesus takes over the world and establishes his kingdom, we are the folks who obediently set it up for him just the way he wants.

The silent seventh seal.

Obviously the seventh seal comes right after the sixth, but for some reason Lindsey and Hartley decide to back up a few verses and refer to the four angels holding back the wind. Rv 7.1

Big ribbony angels. TNWC 18

Mainly ’cause he wants to blame them for freak weather. Now if you read that passage, you’ll recall the angels were holding back the wind, but a fifth angel told ’em not to do that till he sealed all the Christians. Rv 7.2-3 So they didn’t. So there was no freak weather.

Well, unless you believe that right after the rapture the 144,000 Jewish evangelists won a buttload of converts to Christianity, the angels figured, “Oh you’re done? Okay then,” and went right back to restraining the wind.

Or loosing it; in my experience it’s not lack of wind which damages earth, seas, and trees. Which John, as a former fisherman, oughta know. Mk 4.37-39 Which implies we’re not talking about literal wind here. I know of about six or seven theories about what wind represents, but right now it doesn’t matter. Regardless, Lindsey can’t pass up an opportunity to blame bad weather on the End Times. You know, like how Pat Robertson blames hurricanes on homosexuality.

Well, six seals are open, so it’s time for the Lamb to break the seventh, and when he does, heaven goes quiet for 30 minutes.

The calm before the nuke-fest. TNWC 18

Because this cycle of End Times visions, regarding the scroll with the seven seals, is done. Heaven took a break to set up for the next one, involving seven angels with seven trumpets, which tell of the plagues God has hit the world with. Has, past tense. I’m not a futurist; I don’t believe Revelation only tells the future.

Lindsey does, and since in his mind the seventh seal comes right before the first trumpet, he figures the End Times mayhem is just getting warmed up. “The lull before the storm,” Betty calls it, followed by a Cold War vision of more World War III counter-attacks.

And it’s at this cliffhanger I’m gonna leave you dangling.