By Troy Anderson
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth story in a seven-part series by veteran journalist Troy Anderson about major evangelists who are turning their attention toward America to help ignite what Billy Graham describes as an end-times "great spiritual awakening." The first story featured Graham's warning for America and the second centered on another famed evangelist's testimony that God spoke to him in a dream last year saying, “America will be saved!” In the third story, Graham told of his fervent prayers for a "fresh awakening" in America.
Just as Noah did in ancient times, world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham is sounding the alarm that the Second Coming is “near” and signs of the end of the age are “converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions.”
Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly "biblical prophecies are being realized.”
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And last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., claimed the world has entered the last days.
“When you see up is down and right is wrong, when this is happening, we were told this: that these days would be as the days of Noah,” Bachmann said.
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The remarks by Graham, Netanyahu and Bachmann come amid a steadily rising wave of public interest in the end times, as demonstrated by recent polls and New York Times and Amazon.com bestselling books such as "The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future," by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, and "Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change," by Pastor John Hagee.
In September, a poll by the Ventura, Calif.-based Barna Group found 4 in 10 Americans – and 77 percent of evangelical Christians – believe the “world is now living in the biblical end times.”
Now, a new wave of end-times predictions for 2014 and 2015 involving blood moons on Jewish holy days and prophetically significant events on the Shemitah – the ancient biblical year of the Sabbath – are igniting even more interest in humanity’s ultimate fate.
Throw in next year’s reboot of the "Left Behind" film featuring Nicolas Cage and the cinematic destruction of biblical proportions in "Noah," starring Russell Crowe, and last-days fever is back with a mainstream vengeance.
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“I think we’re on the verge of a global awakening in interest in apocalyptic events,” said Paul McGuire, an internationally recognized prophecy expert who is a regular commentator on Fox News and CNN and appeared on two highly rated History Channel specials, including “7 Signs of the Apocalypse.”
“I see a fuse being lit here, between what Billy Graham, Michele Bachman and Benjamin Netanyahu said, and I think there is going to be an explosion of interest in the end times like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” McGuire said.
Watching the signs
In an exclusive email interview with WND, Graham, 94, who is giving what may be his last message to the world as part of the My Hope America with Billy Graham evangelistic outreach in early November, said the world is “coming toward the end of the age.”
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“There’s a great deal to say in the Bible about the signs we’re to watch for and when these signs all converge at one place we can be sure that we’re close to the end of the age,” Graham wrote. “And those signs, in my judgment, are converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions.”
In his new book, "The Reason for My Hope: Salvation," the famed preacher who has delivered the gospel message to more people face-to-face than anyone in history wrote the great hope of the Christian faith rests in the promised return of Christ.
Graham said he now has a burden for “sounding the alarm for humanity to repent and turn from their sin … just as Noah did in ancient days.”
“God keeps his promises, and this is why we can be sure that the return of Christ is near,” Graham said. “Scripture tells us that there will be signs pointing toward the return of the Lord. I believe all these signs are evident today.”
The evangelistic outreach and book come as a number of major evangelists – Graham, his son Franklin Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, Greg Laurie, Luis Palau, Banning Liebscher and others – are turning their attention toward America in the hope of helping ignite what Graham calls an end-times “great spiritual awakening.”
In what the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association describes as the largest outreach in its six-decade history, Graham will give a dynamic and poignant pre-recorded message the week of Nov. 7, his 95th birthday. The My Hope programs will be available for viewing online and on YouTube. The Cross, the primary program in the My Hope series, will be broadcast on the Fox News channel, TBN, Christian networks and local television stations in a number of cities.
The event follows an open letter Graham released in the summer of 2012 titled “My Heart Aches for America.”
In the letter, Graham wondered what his late wife, Ruth, would think of a nation in which “self-centered indulgence, pride and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.”
Graham compared America to the ancient city of Nineveh, the lone superpower of its time. When the prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, the people repented and escaped judgment, Graham wrote, adding he believes the same thing could happen today.
The end-times warnings by Graham, Netanyahu, Bachmann and others come amid a series of events in recent years that have prompted many to ask whether the countdown to Armageddon has begun.
The events include the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the global recession and more recently what some view as an increase in purported end-times signs, including super-earthquakes, mega-tsunamis and gargantuan storms and tornadoes.
“We’re looking at things like the possibility of another global economic meltdown,” said McGuire, an author of 22 prophecy books, including "The Day the Dollar Died" and the upcoming "A Prophecy of the Future of America."
“Consider the earthquake warnings, the potential volcanic eruption of Yellowstone, the Japanese tsunamis and the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster traveling across the ocean and contaminating the food supply here on the West Coast, along with massive tornadoes the size of which we’ve never seen in human history,” he said.
McGuire said government and scientific experts are also expressing concerns about the potential of a massive West Coast tsunami, increased solar flare activity and severe climate change.
“The dramatic and unprecedented planetary climate change is something on the level of the apocalyptic predictions of the Bible,” McGuire said. “We’re on the verge right now, because of climate change, of massive food and water shortages, which could affect tens of millions of people worldwide because of the droughts that have occurred. The intense heat and water shortages have dried up the crops, and we are going to see that play out in the near future because of all the freak weather.”
Against this apocalyptic backdrop, prominent faith leaders such as Graham, Greg Laurie, Cahn and John Hagee say they are witnessing an unparalleled acceleration in last-days signs that suggest the Second Coming is fast approaching.
Hagee, pastor of Cornerstone Church and author of the newly-released book "Four Blood Moons," told his 22,000-member congregation recently that the appearance of four blood moons on Jewish holy days between April 2014 and October 2015 points to a "world-shaking event" that could signify the beginning of events leading up to the seven-year Great Tribulation.
“I believe that the heavens are God’s billboard – that he has been sending signals to planet Earth and we just haven't been picking them up,” Hagee told his San Antonio, Texas, congregation. “Today, with the help of God’s word and some very astute scientists, I’m going to walk you through 500 years (of four blood moons on Jewish feast days) and show you how God is literally screaming at the world: 'I am coming soon.'"
The phenomenon, a rare combination of lunar and solar eclipses, has only occurred a few times in the last 500 years – 1492, 1948 and 1967. It will happen again in 2014-15.
The previous dates correspond with the Jews' expulsion from Spain and Christopher Columbus' discovery of America (a sanctuary for the Jewish people), the creation of Israel, the Six-Day War and what Hagee and other Bible prophecy scholars believe could be the Middle East "War of Gog and Magog" predicted by the prophet Ezekiel 2,700 years ago. This war, according to Bible prophecy scholars, involves an attack on Israel by a coalition of nations led by Russia and Iran.
“The Bible speaks of signs in the heavens that have been discovered and recorded by NASA that you yourself can find on Google on the Internet," Hagee told his church. "The coming four blood moons point to a world-shaking event that will happen between April 2014 and October 2015. What does it mean? What is the prophetic significance? Is this the end of the age?"
Likewise, Cahn, author of "The Harbinger," which has remained on the New York Times bestseller list since its release in January 2012, says his book highlights a pattern of escalating judgments at seven-year intervals on the Shemitah that may point to another major prophetic event between September 2014 and September 2015.
Cahn’s book, based on a real-life prophetic mystery he discovered in Isaiah 9, frames a biblical warning of national judgment in a narrative as a journalist encounters a mysterious figure, “The Prophet,” who claims the same nine harbingers of divine judgment that preceded the destruction of Israel 2,700 years ago are now manifesting in America.
The book, and its newly released nonfiction version, "The Harbinger Companion," notes that the greatest stock market crashes in American history occurred seven years apart. The first was shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the next on Sept. 29, 2008, amid a global economic panic.
"Both crashes took place on the exact same biblical day, Elul 29, the day of the Shemitah, the day appointed in the Bible to strike a nation’s financial realm, and wipe clean its financial accounts,” said Cahn, the senior rabbi at the nation’s largest messianic congregation, the Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, N.J.
“The Shemitah is based on a seven-year cycle," he said. "If you go back seven years from the greatest crash in our financial history, it takes you to [Sept. 17, 2001].”
And while Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 29, 2008, are not exactly seven years apart on the Western calendar, they are on the biblical Hebrew calendar, Cahn pointed out.
“On the biblical Hebrew calendar, it was Elul 29, the Day of the Shemitah, to strike a nation's financial realm,” Cahn said. “So the greatest crashes in American history, up to those days, each happened on the exact same biblical day, the day that just happened to be appointed to strike a nation's financial realm, and exactly seven biblical years apart to the very day and the very hours."
The next Shemitah begins in September 2014 and concludes in September 2015. And while he's not "dogmatic as to what will happen," Cahn said it's quite curious to note that the dates of the blood moons "in some ways parallel the Shemitah’s in that they take place also between 2014 and 2015.”
“The correlation between (the blood moons) and the Hebrew holidays are very interesting,” Cahn said. “The occurrence of the blood moons on these Jewish holidays occurred only a few times in the past 2,000 years. Some of these, in the early Middle Ages, are hard to connect to significant dates. But the last three, the Spanish expulsion, the birth of Israel and the regaining of Jerusalem, are all very significant dates in Jewish history and, in the case of two of these, in end-time prophecy.”
Haven't we heard this before?
Despite these apocalyptic portents, critics point to a nearly endless string of failed end-times predictions dating back thousands of years. This includes the the Mayan apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012, and radio evangelist Harold Camping’s prediction that Christ would return on May 21, 2011.
Laurie, pastor of the 15,000-member Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., and president of Harvest Crusades, said he’s seen many end-times prognosticators come and go over the last several decades.
Laurie, who got his start under the ministry of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa Pastor Chuck Smith, who died Oct. 3 at age 86, became a Christian during the Jesus Movement of the 1970s – a time when there was a great emphasis on the imminent return of Christ.
It was the decade of Hal Lindsey’s "The Late Great Planet Earth," the book the New York Times called the “No. 1 nonfiction bestseller” of the 1970s. The book popularized prophetic beliefs about the last days and contributed to the Jesus Movement.
“Well, clearly, decades have passed and Jesus has not returned,” Laurie said. “Were we misguided in our beliefs? Well, I don’t think we were. The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and it also says in the same series of verses that God is not late as some men count lateness, but is longsuffering toward us.
“And I’m glad that God did not answer our prayers back in the early '70s for Jesus to come back, because if he had, there would have been a lot of people who would have missed the Rapture and would have gone through the Tribulation period.”
Today, Franklin Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said there is an urgency and sense “that the Lord Jesus could be returning soon.”
“The Bible gives us warning signs,” he said. “Jesus told his disciples the things people should be looking for, and I believe all the prophecies that have to take place for Jesus to return have been fulfilled.”
One of the big prophecies was the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948.
“It’s just now a question of when is that time, and I believe in my own heart that it’s sometime soon,” he said. “When I say soon – the next 10, 20 years – I don’t know. But as far as the history of the world, I believe we’re coming down to the midnight hour on God’s clock.”
'We can’t go on much longer'
Charlie Daniels, the country music legend and the host of the recent documentary, "Behold a Pale Horse: America’s Last Chance," said Billy Graham is a very dedicated man of God and “what he’s feeling is very much valid and in connection with what is going on now.”
“I also feel the end times are approaching,” said Daniels, who is best known for his No. 1 country hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." “I don’t know the chronology. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but I know it’s closer than it was. I believe that the things left to be fulfilled in the Bible could be fulfilled in a very short amount of time.”
It's a time, Billy Graham wrote in "The Reason for My Hope: Salvation," to take the news of the day in one hand and the Bible in the other and watch the unfolding of the great drama of the ages come together.
“This is an exciting and thrilling time to be alive,” wrote Graham, a man who has preached to more people – 2.2 billion – than any Protestant in history and who has appeared on Gallup’s list of the most admired men in the world 56 times since 1955, more than any other individual in the world.
“I would not want to live in any other period," he said.
“The Apocalypse (the unveiling of the end times) speaks powerfully of trouble ahead with storm warnings that carrying a booming jolt of truth. The warning is clear: prepare to meet thy God – followed by the voice of the gentle Shepherd – ‘Come.’”
A new world is coming, Graham wrote. The paradise that humanity lost in the Garden of Eden will be regained. Christ is coming to conquer evil and establish his perfect rule over all creation
“But until then God wants to give everyone an opportunity to know Christ through repentance and faith,” Graham wrote. “Regardless of what society says, we can’t go on much longer in the sea of immorality without judgment coming. We are at a crossroads, and there are profound moral issues at stake. It is time to return to biblical truth.”
An award-winning journalist at the Los Angeles Daily News, The Press-Enterprise and other newspapers for two decades, Troy Anderson writes for Reuters, WND, Charisma and many other media outlets. He’s also the president and editor-in-chief of the World Prophecy Network – An Online Newsmagazine and Community Spreading the Hope of Jesus in the End Times. He lives in Irvine, Calif.