At 83, he looked out over the audience and smiled like he was talking with old friends; it was obvious a warm affection was mutually washing over the people who had come to hear Hal Lindsey address “Future Congress 2.”
Long considered to be the “father” of the modern Bible prophecy movement, the Houston-born Harold “Hal” Lindsey, of course, wrote the 1970 blockbuster, “The Late, Great Planet Earth” – and 28 million copies later, it remains the seminal work on the subject. At the Future Congress event, held Jan. 4-6 in Dallas, Lindsey was on top of his game. His 50-minute keynote went long, and that’s just what his listeners wanted.
Surveying the audience, Lindsey gave his personal testimony, which many had not heard. He spoke warmly of his time as a Mississippi tugboat captain and, in fact, mentioned that it was a near collision at night that caused him to cry out to God.
He said it was after that near miss in 1954 that, “I read the book of Acts and my heart yearned to meet people I’d read about.” He also read books like III John and for the first time began to understand Scripture. Then, an invitation to attend a lecture at Rice University brought it all home.
“There are turning points in every life, and you are blessed if you don’t miss them,” he said. The Rice lecture was one of them, and Lindsey jumped in with both feet.
“The topic that night was prophecy in light of the Suez Crisis. I took copious notes. I took those notes and stayed up all night. Being a draftsman, I drew a map and looked at the power blocs developing around Israel. I became consumed studying prophecy.”
Lindsey began studying for up to eight hours a day after work. Eventually, he developed a desire to study Greek and Hebrew at Dallas Theological Seminary. From there he worked for Campus Crusade for Christ from 1960-69.
Lindsey began noticing a cultural shift long before most did; this was due to his involvement in evangelism on already radicalized campuses, such as UC Berkeley.
“Most of my audiences were hostile; Marxism was becoming popular. They [professors] were actually being evangelized by Marxists.”
He longed to reach those students with the gospel, and one fine day, he remembered something: his study of prophecy. He had remembered the audience at Rice being spellbound by the speaker.
“Prophecy authenticates the [gospel] message,” he told the audience in Dallas. Thus was born the book that changed a generation.
The working title was “Behold a White Horse,” but, as Lindsey said, “It would have been ‘behold the white elephant'” if that title remained. He and his publisher, Zondervan, batted around other ideas. Then one day, he happened into a bookstore near the Berkeley campus.
“I saw a book with the title, ‘The Last Days of the Great State of California’ … and it came to me: ‘The Late, Great Planet Earth.'”
His marketing team at Zondervan was euphoric, and sure enough, the book and title so dramatically resonated with the nation and the world that its influence continues to this day. Lindsey told the Future Congress audience that he was astounded in 1982 when an Israeli colonel told him the book sat on the night table of legendary Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. “He was reading it in the last months of his life,” the officer told Lindsey.
Today, the man revered by Bible-believing Christians (and, perhaps, loathed by the left) is still very active, hosting “The Hal Lindsey Report” from his Texas headquarters.
Jack Kinsella, well-known in prophecy circles as publisher of The Omega Letter, was with Lindsey in Dallas and, along with conference organizer David Hitt, helped present a special award of appreciation to Lindsey.
“I’ve worked with Hal Lindsey for more than 20 years. I would say I have worked for him, but Hal would immediately correct me. ‘We labor together for the same Lord,’ he would say. I can say that working for, or with, Hal Lindsey, it is the most fun one can imagine.”
Kinsella has long been impressed that a man with such a magnetic name doesn’t consider himself anything special.
“I love and respect him as much as any son could. I am enormously proud of him. He is both my mentor and my absolute best friend. One would think of someone like Hal as being aware that he is someone like Hal Lindsey, but he is just a fun guy doing what he loves most. Not a phony bone in his body.”
Kinsella knew too that the audience at Future Congress 2 was in for a rare treat. ”His presentation at FC2 was typical of Hal – it wasn’t about what he did, but rather about how others helped him: Carol Carlson, Col. Bob Thieme, etc. Fiercely loyal, loving, humble, with the heart of a servant – that is the real Hal Lindsey. I only wish that everyone knew him the way that I do.”
Although he told the audience that the America we all once knew is “gone,” Hal Lindsey left them with a surety that God is still in control. His presentation was sandwiched between two rousing, emotional standing ovations.
Thank you, Hal, the audience seemed to be saying.
It was mutual.