View from
the Pew
Mary Adamski

Finding hope in the
world’s final days

It's not the usual fare for conventioneers tonight at the Hawai'i Convention Center, where speakers will discuss the end of the world.

Christian radio evangelist David Hocking will kick off the five-night "In the Last Days" series sponsored by Calvary Chapel Honolulu. He and other speakers will take listeners through a timeline that links 21st-century terrorism, war and natural disasters to teachings of Hebrew prophets 3,000 years ago and writings of the Christian author of the Book of Revelation 1,900 years ago.

People who read literally the Old and New Testament prophecies say the predictions are unfolding today: Evil will triumph temporarily, governments and institutions are going down, the world will be in upheaval before Jesus Christ returns and begins a new kingdom of light. It's been grounds for Christian movements and fire-and-brimstone doomsayers for centuries, not to mention modern fiction and a new television series or two.

Why do they focus on darkness and doom in an anxiety-ridden world when there's so much else in the Bible about love, forgiveness, kindness and other cheering words?

"It's not about doom and gloom, but encouragement," said the Rev. Chuck Smith, who will be a keynote speaker in the sessions, which will continue at 7 p.m. tomorrow through Wednesday at Calvary Chapel Honolulu, 98-1016 Komo Mai Drive in Aiea Heights.

"I don't think it should make you afraid. I think it should give you hope in a rather dismal world. I look at the world today, and I see terrorism, I see things going on in Iraq, the bombings in London and Spain. We don't seem to have any answers for this kind of fanaticism that doesn't really respect human life.

"I look at the drug scene, and we don't seem to have answers for lives being destroyed by drugs. So when we say the end of the world, we're saying the end of the problems that exist in the world and a new age, a new world, a new hope that is coming.

"Jesus said about his coming again that before it happens, evil days would wax worse and worse. We seem to see that. To us it is a precursor of something that is better."

Smith, a cheerful, grandfatherly founding pastor of one of the country's largest churches, seemed an unlikely speaker on Armageddon, especially in the context of an interview in the Hilton Hawaiian Village lounge surrounded by noisily joyful tourists. The nondenominational congregation Smith started in Costa Mesa, Calif., 40 years ago has grown to the Calvary Chapel network of 1,500 congregations around the world.

Smith's church grew out of the Jesus movement of the 1960s, finding a way to reach young people of the anti-establishment counterculture with a new brand of flexible worship with contemporary music and lots of it. Smith said the Calvary way is "simple teaching of the word of God simply, understandably." He believes people need to study the Bible from start to finish because "it's like a puzzle." If you try to understand one piece of the puzzle without seeing how it fits into the whole picture, it will always be a mystery.

Despite this annual series fixed on the end of the world as we know it, the Calvary Chapel emphasis is traditionally upbeat, teaching that Jesus' love promises salvation, redemption and forgiveness.

Smith will talk about the Jewish prophet Ezekiel whose words, he said, are played out in today's turmoil in the Middle East. "Ezekiel ... prophesied the rebirth of the nation Israel in a sense," he said. "The rebirth of the nation as a nation can be found in Chapter 37.

"Chapter 38 talks about the invasion of Israel by the Muslim nations," said Smith. "Chapter 39 talks about God's intervention, and Chapter 40 talks about their rebuilding of their temple.

"We see us in the time zone between Chapter 38 and 39 in the sense that Israel is there and Muslim nations threaten jihad. But we see Chapter 40 is the new age, the new day, the new temple, the new kingdom, the kingdom of God.

"The health of the state of Israel is very important to Christians," Smith said.

Haven't people of other times incorrectly predicted the end of the world?

Smith believes that modern technology is the proof that this truly is the end time:

» "Jesus said, unless those days would be shortened, no flesh shall remain on the Earth. You've never had a period in history where there were weapons of mass destruction that threaten the survival of the human race as we do today," said the pastor.

» "The Bible speaks of money being eliminated as a means of commerce and everybody receiving a number in their right hand or their forehead, and commercial exchange will be done with that assigned number. Prior to the computer age, that was something that could not be. Now we can envision it, we see problems with identity theft."

» Even television fulfills prophecy. Calvary Chapel Honolulu Pastor Bill Stonebraker chimed in with a prophecy from Revelation about "two witnesses on Earth in Jerusalem who will prophesy and will be killed. It says all the world will see them. That would be absolutely impossible when John was writing," he said, but now all the world sees events unfolding on television: "We're seeing things today never seen in history."

Biblical scholars call Revelation and other "end times" references apocalyptic writing, referring to the symbolic language that hides the meaning. Smith said the Greek root of apocalypse "means an unveiling, like taking the canvas off of the statue to unveil it. It's taking the veil off the future, then we see what the future is holding according to Bible prophecy."

"We are trying to alert people there is a better day coming and to give them hope," Smith said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Mary Adamski covers religion for the Star-Bulletin. Email her at madamski@starbulletin.com.

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