There are times when I am embarrassed to be a Bible prophecy teacher and preacher, and those times are becoming more frequent. It's all because Bible prophecy is a playground for fanatics and sensationalists. In this fifth and last part of this series on prophetic craziness, I'll explain why all this sensationalism prevails.
Why Sensationalism Prevails
One of the reasons prophetic craziness tends to prosper among Christians is because Christians as a whole tend to be rather naive and gullible. All a person with a weird idea or preposterous theory has to do is mention the name of Jesus several times and Christians tend to swallow what he has to say — hook, line and sinker.
A classic example of what I'm talking about is the "Drilling to Hell" scam that swept American Christendom several years ago in the early 1990s. This incredible tale got started in this country when it was announced by the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The story concerned a supposed discovery by a geological group in Siberia which claimed to have drilled a hole over 14.4 kilometers deep (9 miles). They said they had dropped a microphone down the hole and had heard people screaming in agony in Hell!
Many ministries across the United States picked up this report and repeated it in their newsletters and their radio and television shows. But one evangelist, Rich Buhler, a Christian radio talk show host in California, thought he smelled a rat, and he decided to investigate the claim.
His investigation led him to what was supposed to be the source of the claim — a Finnish newspaper owned by Finnish Christians. But the editor of that publication stated that their article was simply based upon a word-of-mouth recollection of a staff member who claimed he had read it in a major daily Finnish newspaper. That newspaper was then contacted, and its editor reported that the "article" was really only a letter to the editor.
Rich Buhler (who died in 2012) must have been a very persistent man because he continued to trace the story from one source to another until he finally ran across a Norwegian man who he discovered was the one who originally wrote to TBN with the tale. His conversation with the man went as follows:
"Are you the one who sent information to a Christian television network in the United States about scientists drilling into hell?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, without hesitation.
"Well," I continued, "Do you have any way of knowing whether it is true?"
"Yes I do," he replied.
"Tell me about it," I asked.
"None of it is true," he said. "I fabricated every word of it!"
The man then told Buhler that he had included his name, address and telephone number with the report he had sent to TBN. He explained that he was prepared to tell them it was a hoax, if they contacted him. They did not.
Responsible Bible Prophecy Teaching
I am glad to say that there are some very responsible Bible prophecy teachers on the scene today — men who do not traffic in speculations and sensationalism. I have in mind men like Andy Woods, Al Gist, Don McGee, Gary Fisher, Don Perkins, Gary Frazier, Nathan Jones, August Rosado and Ed Hindson.
One Bible prophecy expert who has exhibited consistent responsibility over the years is Mark Hitchcock. Mark is an attorney who became a pastor. He currently serves as the pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Mark is a prolific writer of excellent books about Bible prophecy. And every time he sees a new sensationalist fad come roaring down the highway, he puts up a road block in the form of a book on the subject — a book that is always level-headed, biblically based, and full of common sense. The field of Bible prophecy needs more like him.
The Value of Bible Prophecy
There is no doubt that Bible prophecy is a playground for fanatics. Tragically, what is usually overlooked is that it can also be green pastures for disciples.
Pastors often dismiss it to me out-of-hand with a comment like this: "It's all pie-in-sky, with no relevance to the present." I can understand their attitude in light of all the silly nonsense that goes on among Bible prophecy enthusiasts.
But the pastors are dead wrong, and I can easily prove it, for you can radically transform any congregation if you can convince them of two fundamental prophetic truths:
- Jesus really is coming back. Most Christian will confess a belief in this truth, but they believe it superficially with their minds and not truly with their hearts.
- Jesus could return at any moment. There is not one prophecy that must be fulfilled before Jesus can return for His Church in the Rapture.
If a pastor can ever get these two truths firmly established in the hearts of his congregation, they will be motivated to holiness and evangelism. What could be more down-to-earth and practical than that?
The time is long overdue for Christians to start exercising some discernment, first by testing everything by the Word, and second, by using some common sense.
But, of course, the problem with common sense is that it is not very common!
Christians as a whole are very gullible people. I suppose that is due to the fact that our strength is love, and one's strength is always his weakness. The enthusiastic person, for example, is also impulsive. And a people of love can easily be deceived because they are reluctant to challenge motives.
Tragically, the gullibility of the Christian community strikes at the heart of the Gospel. You see, when the world observes how gullible we are, they conclude that only such a people could believe that Jesus was really resurrected from the dead.