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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1997 > Oct > Oct 26

Millennium Raises Hopes, Fears

From: RSchatte@aol.com [Rebecca Schatte]
Date: Sat, 25 Oct 1997 15:27:36 -0400 (EDT)
Fwd Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 16:42:56 -0500
Subject: Millennium Raises Hopes, Fears


---------------------
Forwarded message:
Subj:    Millennium Raises Hopes, Fears
Date:    97-10-25 12:11:20 EDT
From:    AOL News

.c The Associated Press

      By DAVID BRIGGS

      WASHINGTON (AP) - Jesus Christ is about to return, and the 1,500
folks packed into the Sheraton Washington ballroom couldn't be
happier.

      For 16 hours a day, the End-Time Handmaidens pray and sway,
singing of the day they will ``dance on streets that are golden.''
Around them, middle-aged women clad in white and gold robes glide
through the aisles while other believers blow into rams' horns,
their shrieks announcing the Second Coming.

      The end is near. The end-timers are here.

      ``We're running out of time. We're running out of time,'' Sister
Gwen Shaw, the group's 72-year-old matriarch, says at the
Handmaidens' annual convention. ``This is God's last call.''

      While these Handmaidens may be on America's evangelical fringe,
their beliefs about the millennium and Christ's Second Coming are
remarkably mainstream.

      According to a recent Associated Press poll, nearly one out of
every four Christian adults - an estimated 26.5 million people -
expect Jesus to arrive in their lifetimes. Nearly as many - an
estimated 21.1 million Americans - are so sure of it that they feel
an urgent need to convert friends and neighbors.

      The results are consistent with other surveys that have found a
widespread belief in the Second Coming. But the AP poll, conducted
last spring by ICR of Media, Pa., probes how Christians are acting
on their beliefs.

      The most fervent end-timers gather at prophecy conventions such
as this one in Washington, but their dreams and fears reverberate
throughout the country. America may have already entered what one
apocalyptic scholar calls the ``hot zone'' of end-time speculation:
The year 2000 is far enough away to be plausible as Christ's Second
Coming, yet close enough to spark intense proselytizing.

      ``I look at prophecy as a Polaroid picture that takes five
minutes to develop,'' says Zola Levitt, a Dallas evangelist on The
Family Channel. ``I'd say we're at four minutes, 55 seconds.''

      At the end-timers' convention, believers pay hundreds of dollars
for Jewish liturgical instruments fashioned from rams' horns - for
the chance to play their own small part in announcing the Second
Coming. In unpracticed hands, these shofars sound like a
third-grade orchestra warming up.

      Others, both in and out of the mainstream, are also blowing
horns of warning. There are best-sellers such as Pat Robertson's
``The End of the Age.'' Scores of broadcasters, from Jack Van Impe
to Hal Lindsey, are preaching of the end times. And the Internet
offers more than 100 popular millennial sites, including Apocalypse
Now, This Week in Bible Prophecy and The Jehovah's Witnesses'
Homepage.

      For evangelical Christians, the Second Coming is what's new
about the new millennium. According to the AP poll, almost 40
percent of Christians expect Jesus to arrive in the 21st century,
if not sooner.

      They are looking past Jesus' own admonition that ``no one knows
the hour.'' By their reckoning of Biblical clues, the time is soon.

      Belief in Jesus' return has underpinned Christianity from its
earliest days. Each week, Christians throughout the world recite
the Apostle's Creed, invoking Jesus who ``will come again to judge
the living and the dead.'' Each day, many begin The Lord's Prayer,
passed down by Jesus, with ``Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come..

      But what makes today's prayers so earnest? What separates this
generation of end-time prophets from those of the last two
millennia?

      Israel.

      The New Testament compares the kingdom of God, near at hand, to
the growth of a fig tree. Some believers substitute Israel for the
tree. They say the Second Coming is near at hand when the tree
shoots forth branches - when Israel becomes a nation.

      And that happened in 1948.

      ``Verily I say unto you, `This generation shall not pass away,
till all be fulfilled,''' Jesus says in Luke 21:32.

      Since many end-time prophets also place the apocalyptic
Armageddon in Israel, developments there continue to stir interest.
In 1967, when Israel reclaimed much of Jerusalem from Jordan, the
prophecy in Luke was only strengthened.

      During the 1991 war between the United States and Iraq, many
evangelists - from Billy Graham to John Walvoord, chancellor of the
Dallas Theological Seminary - envisioned the beginning of the end.

      And when the 1993 Mideast peace pact was signed, radio
evangelist Monte Judah of Norman, Okla., identified the beginning
of seven years' tribulation heralding the Second Coming.

      For evangelicals, signs of the end can be found anywhere,
anytime. Worldwide disasters - floods, wars, earthquakes - are what
Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, told followers to look for. The
Hale-Bopp comet, famine in Africa, developments in the European
Common Market, even the convergence of full moons and Jewish
religious festivals - all are sifted for clues of the apocalypse.

      ``There's a lot happening in our time that would give most
people a concern and an excitement that the Lord is going to
return,'' Thomas A. McMahon says. He is executive director of the
Berean Call, a religious newsletter out of Bend, Ore., that
circulates to 80,000 Christians.

      ``Every day has significance. Every political, social, economic
event has significance,'' says Philip Lucas, general editor of Nova
Religio: The Journal of Emergent and Alternative Religions. ``Your
whole experience of time is greatly heightened.''

      If the time is near, why not sometime around the year 2000? For
end-timers who cite a divine plan, great things tend to happen in
2,000-year periods.

      Abraham and Isaac, patriarchs who established a covenant between
God and humans, were born around 2000 B.C. Two millennia later,
Christians believe, God became man with the birth of Jesus.

      Those who believe human history is 6,000 years old wait with
special expectancy. Consider the mathematics in Peter's Second
Letter: ``One day with the Lord is as a thousand years.'' For these
believers, the new millennium starts on the seventh day of
creation.

      For them, after 6,000 years of strife and turmoil, it's time for
1,000 years of heavenly rest as Jesus rules over the Kingdom of God
on Earth.

      ``A lot of people think maybe the year 2000,'' says Leon Bates,
head of the Bible Believers' Evangelistic Association in Sherman,
Texas. ``I would go along with the thought that it would be just
like the Lord to have an overall 7,000-year plan.''

      Oleeta Herrmann believes the end could come any time. She
traveled to the end-timers' convention from Xenia, Ohio, where
three 25-foot crosses in her back yard warn neighbors to get right
with God.

      Like others at the convention, she has heard the rustle of
angels preparing the way of the Lord. One night, she says, Jesus
appeared in her bedroom to reassure her that nieces and nephews
would not be left behind when she is lifted into the clouds to join
others in her family who have died.

      ``You're bringing the rest of them with you,'' were the Lord's
words, she says.

      Willie Mae Johnson, at the convention from Lighthouse Free
Methodist Church in St. Louis, has no such assurances. What will
happen to her father, her children and other relatives who have not
accepted Christ?

      She is beginning to waver as 2000 approaches.

      ``I don't want to leave anyone behind, so you say yeah, and you
say no,'' she says. ``I want Jesus to come back right now, but just
wait a little while, Jesus.''

      Even vendors at the end-timers' convention raise provocative
questions, selling T-shirts that feature three frogs plopped on a
lily pad and asking: ``Where are you goin' when you croak?''

      Many people are not going to make it through the tribulation.
``He has given us...a burden for lost souls,'' says the Rev.
Dorothy Mottern, accompanied to the convention by church members
from Virginia.

      For those who read Revelation as a literal forecast, the future
is frightening for people without God's seal on their foreheads. In
that Book, a third of the Earth burns, and angels kill a third of
those who survive. For others, torture is so severe that ``people
will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but
death will flee from them.''

      Warnings like these can change lifestyles.

      In the AP poll, 98 percent of those who believe Jesus will
return in their lifetimes say they urgently need to get right with
God.

      About 21.1 million Americans, the poll estimates, have decided
to get others right, too, wanting to convert friends, neighbors and
relatives. Among age groups, the urgency is felt most widely among
Baby Boomers. By region, it is most prevalent in the South.

      This urgency has created sweeping evangelistic campaigns.
Celebrate Jesus 2000, a Minneapolis-based coalition of evangelical
churches and ministries, wants to reach the ``entire nation for
Christ'' by the third millennium.

      In an unprecedented action, the 15 million-member Southern
Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination,
last year vowed to make special efforts to evangelize the Jews.

      Of course, the end of the world has been predicted many times
before.

      But dates for the Second Coming have come and gone. In the
1840s, followers of William Miller quit jobs, sold belongings and
moved to upstate New York to await the return of Jesus. He didn't
come.

      Two successful churches arose from the Millerite Movement: The
Seventh-day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses. Both continue
to anticipate the end-times but no longer specify the date.

      Charles Taze Russell, founder of the modern-day Witnesses,
predicted that the millennial age would begin in 1914. World War I
raised hopes he was right, but the movement's catchword -
``Millions now living will never die''- gradually lost its urgency.

      Two years ago, the Witnesses officially dismissed date-setting
as speculation, declaring Jesus was right that ``no one knows the
place and the time.''

      The Worldwide Church of God also no longer sets dates for the
end-times, partly because founder Herbert W. Armstrong was so often
wrong. Hal Lindsey's ``Late Great Planet Earth'' raised end-time
fears in the 1970s. Now he has a new best seller, ``Planet Earth -
2000 A.D.''

      So what will happen this time, if life goes on?

      Some worry that fringe end-times movements may act in
increasingly desperate ways. They point to the mass suicides of the
Heaven's Gate and Branch Davidian communities, whose charismatic
leaders believed they had special word from God about end-times.

      ``There's generally an element of ego involved for anybody who
believes,'' says Stephen O'Leary of the University of Southern
California, author of ``Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of
Millennial Rhetoric.'' And many leaders believe that ``the crisis
must happen while I am alive,'' he says.

      However, most experts on evangelical Christianity think
believers will accept delays - and perhaps even be a bit relieved.

      In the AP poll, only 61 percent of Christian respondents who
believe Jesus will arrive in their lifetime are praying for his
quick return.

      Walvoord, of the Dallas Theological Seminary, says it reminds
him of a Sunday school teacher who asked the class who wants to go
to heaven. When only one boy failed to raise his hand, the teacher
asked: ``Don't you want to go?''

      ``Yeah,'' the boy replied, ``but I thought you were getting a
load to go right now.''

AP-NY-10-25-97 1203EDT
Copyright 1997 The Associated Press.  The information
contained in the AP news report may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without
prior written authority of The Associated Press.


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