Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.

by K.W. Leslie, 19 September

Since I’m writing about the comic book version of Hal Lindsey’s There’s a New World Coming, I should introduce you to the authors. Starting with Hal Lindsey.

Hal Lindsey. IMDB

Harold Lee Lindsey, born 23 November 1929, is a former Coast Guard tugboat captain turned evangelist. He and his second wife Jan began working with Cru (then called Campus Crusade for Christ) in the 1960s, and he got his master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. I’m not sure whether Lindsey got his theological outlook from DTS or brought it with him; not that it matters.

The school was founded in 1924 by Lewis Sperry Chafer, a Darbyist who authored an eight-volume Systematic Theology which taught God from a thoroughly dispensationalist point of view: God, he taught, used multiple systems of salvation throughout human history, and the system he uses in the Christian Era is grace. But the systems of previous era were largely based on karma—on obeying your conscience, obeying your patriarch, obeying the Law, and otherwise doing it yourself. In other words Pelagianism—but the only reason Darbyists aren’t Pelagian is because they don’t claim people are currently saved through their good works. (Although many of them seriously believe the Jews still are.)

If you don’t know DTS, you definitely know its alumni. They’ve run megachurches, seminaries, Christianity Today, and run for office. Like radio preachers Chuck Swindoll and J. Vernon McGee, Ryrie Study Bible author Charles C. Ryrie, The Living Bible author Kenneth N. Taylor, The Prayer of Jabez author Bruce Wilkinson, How to Be Rich author Andy Stanley, presidential apologist Robert Jeffress, and the authors of the Expositors Bible Commentary. The school has made a huge impact on Evangelical Christianity, and the rest of Christendom—and the rest of the world, ’cause Darbyist views on Israel largely drive American foreign policy regarding Israel.

So that’s the belief system Lindsey brought with him when he published The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970, based on his notes and edited together by Carole C. Carlson. It was a monster best-seller. Sold millions of copies when, even today, only a few thousand copies puts you on the Amazon and New York Times lists. This book introduced Americans to Darbyism, and its unique interpretation of the End Times in which Jesus secretly raptures his followers before his second coming. Before any great tribulation happens.

I’ve still never read The Late Great Planet Earth. Didn’t need to: They made it into a movie in 1979. My church got ahold of a copy—on film, no less—and showed it to us. Lindsey actually got Orson Welles to narrate it. (Though I later learned this didn’t mean Welles was a believer; at this point in his career Welles would do anything if you paid him enough, as demonstrated by Transformers: The Movie.) Wanna watch it? It’s currently on YouTube. Scared the bejeezus out of me, as did a lot of the End Times movies back then. Man was I glad to be Christian.

But I have read a few of Lindsey’s books since. The prognostications of The Late Great Planet Earth turned out to be premature, y’know. If I were less charitable, I’d say they’re false prophecies. But Lindsey never claims to be a prophet; only a “prophecy scholar” whose claims about the future are delivered with all the conviction and fervency of a prophet, as if God did personally tell him this is how things will unfold.

So because historical events keep proving him wrong, Lindsey’s gotta write follow-up books. Yep, There’s a New World Coming is one of them. He updates his current events, claims they now match John’s visions—even better than before!—so now we’re even closer to the End.

1970. The Late Great Planet Earth
1972. Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth
1973. There’s a New World Coming
1974. The Liberation of Planet Earth
1976. The Terminal Generation
1980. The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon
1982. The Promise
1983. The Rapture
1983. A Prophetical Walk Through the Holy Land
1986. Combat Faith
1989. The Road to Holocaust
1991. Israel and the Last Days
1994. Planet Earth: 2000 A.D.
1995. The Final Battle
1996. Blood Moon
1996. The Promise of Bible Prophecy
1996. The Messiah: Amazing Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus
1997. Apocalypse Code
1998. Planet Earth: The Final Chapter
1999. Vanished into Thin Air: The Hope of Every Believer
1999. Facing Millennial Midnight: The Y2K Crisis Confronting America and the World
2002. The Everlasting Hatred: The Roots of Jihad
2003. Faith for Earth’s Final Hour

He’s written more, on various other topics. But if you’re reading one of Lindsey’s old End Times books from the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, you probably need the most recent edition. Stupid wars and rumors of wars Mt 24.6 keep starting and ending, never trigger the planetary chaos Lindsey expects, and keep exposing him as a false teacher. 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.

Lindsey also has a TV show, The Hal Lindsey Report, in which he’d talk End Times stuff on TBN and DayStar. He’s been only on YouTube since 2019. Still going strong at age 90.

Al Hartley… and Archie.

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

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, and other superheroes who didn’t have TV programs. Plus there was Archie Comics, featuring trapped-in-the-’50s teenager Archibald Andrews and his chums and their wacky hijinks. The TV show Riverdale is based on them, but other than Archie trying to date Veronica and Betty simultaneously, Archie Comics is meant to be wholesome. Entirely unlike Riverdale.

The Archie books were handy, ’cause unlike other comic books, they had self-contained stories: I didn’t need to read previous comics in order to catch up. But 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 whole lot of exorcisms. Or at least share Jesus with those wacky Wiccans. (I know; comic book witches aren’t anything at all like real ones. I didn’t know this then.)

Turns out Christian Archie wasn’t actually published by Archie Comics.

D.L. Moody and his brother-in-law Fleming H. Revell cofounded the Fleming H. Revell Company in 1870. (Revell was bought out by Baker Books in 1992.) In 1972 Revell created Spire Christian Comics, and one of its primary artists was Archie illustrator Al Hartley. Hartley licensed the Archie characters and put ’em in Spire books. And since your average grocery store stocker doesn’t know one publisher from another (nor care), the Archie books would regularly get all mixed together—Archie Comics and Spire Comics alike.

So every once in a while I’d notice Archie got saved. And then I’d read an Archie book published by Archie Comics and think he backslid. Man was that confusing.

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.

Al Hartley. Wikimedia

Henry Allan Hartley (1921–2003) was an illustrator and World War 2 veteran who drew freelance for all sorts of comic book publishers in the 1950s. He even had a brief stint as Stan Lee’s assistant in the early 1960s. He became Christian in 1967, and some of his Christianity began leaking into his Archie stories. Ordered to dial it back, he jumped at the chance to help Revell begin Spire Comics, and licensed the Archie characters so he could tell full-tilt Christian stories through them. He drew 19 Archie books for Spire.

My only problem with the Spire Archie books: Regular Archie is funny. Spire’s Archie isn’t. Just preachy.

Thanks to Internet Archive a bunch of the Spire books are on the internet in PDF. Interesting reads. Super melodramatic, same as There’s a New World Coming; I’m pretty sure that was Hartley’s style.