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Christian History Home > 1999 > Issue 61 > Recent Premillennialism: Late Great Predictions

Recent Premillennialism: Late Great Predictions
The events of recent decades have fired the imagination of a host of premillennialist, especially Hal Lindsey.
Robert G. Clouse | posted 1/01/1999 12:00AM

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After World War II, premillennialism reached an eschatological frenzy. Atomic weapons with incomprehensible destructive power and delivery systems left no place safe from the threat of thermonuclear annihilation. Israel was established as a Jewish state and successfully defended its territory during the ensuing decades.

Furthermore, the United States and the Soviet Union entered a Cold War; in evangelical circles, this was portrayed not as a geopolitical conflict but as an ideological struggle —capitalism versus communism, democracy versus dictatorship, freedom versus slavery. And such themes pervaded the prophetic and apocalyptic literature that rolled off the evangelical presses in the 1960s through the 1980s.

Scores of sensationalist prophetic teachers issued these volumes, but none was better known than Hal Lindsey.

Suicide and Second Coming

Born in Houston, Texas, in 1929, Harold L. Lindsey dropped out of the University of Houston to serve in the Korean War, then worked as a Mississippi River tugboat captain. When his first marriage broke up, he contemplated suicide, but instead found a Gideon New Testament and was converted. Lindsey became an avid reader of Scripture, particularly prophetic sections, which convinced him that the Bible was truly the Word of God.

Though not a college graduate, he entered Dallas Theological Seminary in 1958 (with the help of "Colonel" Robert Thieme, pastor of Berachah Church in Houston, where Lindsey had attended), and graduated with a degree in theology. He also met his second wife, Jan, and they became missionaries for Campus Crusade for Christ, lecturing to college students throughout North America.

In the late 1960s, Lindsey began gathering his lecture notes into a book that would make his name a household word around the world: The Late Great Planet Earth. It quickly became one of the best-selling nonfiction books of the 1970s, and was translated into more than 50 languages with sales of over 35 million copies. Lindsey even made a film version of the book, narrated by Orson Welles.

Generation is the key

The Late Great Planet Earth and its 12 sequels deal specifically with the "signs of the times" that make up the prophetic "jigsaw puzzle" of end-time events: the creation of the Jewish State of Israel in 1948, the recovery of Jerusalem in 1967, the rise of Russia, an Arab confederation arrayed against Israel, military power in East Asia, European integration, revival of dark occult practices in Babylon, the apostasy of Christian churches, the move toward a one-world religion and government, and the decline of the United States as a world power.

Lindsey prophesied the Antichrist will head up a revived Roman Empire comprised of the European community, the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt, an Arab-African confederacy will assault Palestine followed by the even larger invasion of the region by Russia. Then the European alliance, after having defeated the Russians, will be attacked by an army of 200 million Asians. In this Armageddon battle, a nuclear exchange will kill a third of the world's population. But just as the battle reaches its peak, Christ will suddenly appear, halting the hostilities and protecting believers from total destruction.

The critical point in this scenario is Lindsey's concept of the "generation" of Matthew 24 ("this generation shall not pass away until all these take place"). He defined a biblical generation as 40 years, and concluded that "all these things" could take place within 40 years of the founding of Israel. Thus he predicted the return of Christ in 1988 and the rapture of the church seven years earlier.

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