As I moved into my teen years, my personal eschatological views were heavily reinforced by some of my book choices. One of these books was Charles R. Taylor’s World War III and the Destiny of America. In the summer of 1985, my grandparents invited me to spend a week with them in Mountain View, California, located just outside San José. I remember the year quite distinctly: Back to the Future made Michael J. Fox a motion picture superstar, Coca-Cola had just introduced Pepsi New Coke, and Bob Geldof produced the massive Live Aid concert event. In addition to being treated to such tourist destinations as the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and the Winchester Mystery House, as well as a brief tour of Stanford University (my college of choice at the time), my grandfather and I drove up and down central California’s coastal Highway 1 on his Honda Gold Wing GL1200LTD motorcycle, with its new driver-passenger intercom system. During the trip we briefly discussed, among other things, certain aspects of my grandfather’s theology, some of which differed from that of my dad’s. Because my grandparents lived so far away from our Michigan home, my interaction with my grandfather was relatively sparse and I was curious to know what he thought of the End Times. Vehemently anti-Communist (among other anti- philosophies), he expressed a considerable amount of concern over the imminent establishment of a New World Order and the arrival of the Antichrist. When we arrived back at my grandparents’ apartment, he pulled Charles Taylor’s book off the shelf and gave it to me.
What I found in this book was, to an impressionable teenager, absolutely fascinating! Not only did Taylor believe that the New World Order was right around the corner with the establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC) – re-stylized as the European Community (EC) in 1993 – but he had also essentially identified which world leader was the Antichrist! He backed up his New World Order claim by showing how the EEC – which was, at the time of the book’s 1980 revision, just about to add Greece to its number for an even 10 nations – was a literal fulfillment of a “mashup” of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13. Both instances of the “ten horns” in Daniel 7:7 and Revelation 13:1 were equated with the first 10 nations admitted into the EEC, with Greece already the tenth nation by the time I read the book. The eleventh nation, claimed Taylor, was to be “another horn” that “came up among them” to pluck up three of the original 10 by their roots (cf. Daniel 7:8 and Revelation 13:1), supposedly as a prelude to ultimate world domination. With Portugal and Spain having already applied for membership in the EEC and scheduled for accession into the organization in January 1986, Taylor concluded that the country from which the Antichrist would arise would come from one of those two countries, with Spain being the most likely since it was ruled by a monarch, King Juan Carlos I, who began his reign in late 1975 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco. For years, I kept my eye on King Juan Carlos and confided my suspicions to friends and family. I also kept the other eye on those sneaky Russkies that Taylor and Hal Lindsey predicted would fulfill the prophetic role of Gog and Magog (see Ezekiel 38-39) and invade Israel, which served as a precursor to the Great Tribulation.
I also kept my eye on the size of the EEC, wondering (fleetingly, of course) whether I would need to revise my views should the EEC ever increase beyond 11 nations. Little did I know that revising one’s theories about End Times fulfillment was a noteworthy pastime among prophesy prognosticators like Hal Lindsey and Grant Jeffrey. Of course, if one read only Taylor’s World War III, and not his earlier (1975) Get All Excited! Jesus Is Coming Soon!, one would never have known that Taylor once predicted that the Rapture would likely take place on 5th or 6th of September 1975. Not once, however, did I doubt Taylor’s genuineness and apparent command of both Scripture and geopolitics. Neither was I aware that Lindsey had, in The Late Great Planet Earth, predicted that the Rapture would occur in 1981* and, once 1982 had been ushered in, begun rewriting those damning passages from future publications of his book, which were conveniently retitled as apparent sequels Planet Earth 2000 A.D. (1994) and Planet Earth: The Final Chapter (1999) with nary a mention that Lindsey’s penchant for “newspaper eschatology” was well off the mark.
I don’t really recall any further study into eschatology other than Taylor’s and Hal Lindsey’s books during my high school years. Much of Revelation still didn’t make much sense to me and I chose to stick with some of those tried and true proof texts that Taylor and Lindsey provided to help make sense of the newspaper headlines. (I remember using Revelation 13 on a variety of occasions, one of which was during a late night phone call with my girlfriend, hoping to scare her into being saved.) Besides, I hadn’t had any real exposure to any other eschatological paradigms until I began scanning my dad’s bookshelves for books on the End Times. Lo and behold, there was a book by the late Dr. John Walvoord titled The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation: A Historical and Biblical Study of Posttribulationalism (1976). Although Walvoord was a proponent of a pretribulational Rapture, the book did a pretty good job of showing me that there was considerable debate within the Evangelical church over the timing of the Rapture in relation to the Second Coming. Perhaps this book was the seed that caused me to eventually cast a more critical eye on any and all End Times chronologies, but it would still be some time before that seed took root. Until then, I would still cling to a pretribulational rapture and eventually fall prey to some potentially spiritually and physically damaging behaviors …
*In The Late Great Planet Earth, Lindsey predicts that Jesus’ Second Coming would occur in 1988, 40 years after Israel’s independence. Why 1988? Because, according to Lindsey, Jesus states in Matthew 24:32-34 that His Second Coming is intimately tied with the flowering of the fig tree, an alleged biblical symbol for national Israel, and that the “generation” that sees the flowering of the fig tree (i.e., Israel) would witness the return of the Christ. Since, according to Lindsey, a “biblical” generation is exactly 40 years long – it’s never been explained to me how this “fact” is calculated! – and Israel’s nationhood was restored in May 1948, then the Second Coming would have to occur in 1988 (1948 + 40 = 1988). Based on Lindsey’s beliefs in a pretribulational Rapture and 7-year Great Tribulation – yet another eschatological “fact” for which there is no explicit biblical mention – Jesus would have to rapture His Church no later than 1981.