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By Gary F. Zeolla
BELIEVED THE WORLD WAS GOING TO END
AND THEY WERE LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS."
The above quotation from sociologist Richard Stephens could be applied to many people throughout the centuries. This was demonstrated in Part One of this article under the subtitle, "A Short History of End-Time Predicting" (Vol.3, No.1).
Introducing that section was the sentence, "End-time predicting has had a long, disappointing and sometimes even tragic history." The "tragic" part of this statement once again found its fulfillment on April 19, 1993 in Waco, Texas.
On that day, "Ranch Apocalypse" was destroyed in a raging inferno. This was the name of the compound occupied by the Branch Davidians. It took less than an hour for the eight building complex to be reduced to rubble. Dozens of people perished in the fire, including 17 children.
This tragedy ended a 51 day siege by federal authorities. The standoff began February 28 after four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents were killed by the group trying to serve warrants for firearms violations.
The quote opening this article was actually spoken about the Branch Davidians and this destruction of Ranch Apocalypse (quoted by Mark Potok in USA Today).
Mind Control and Apocalyptic Beliefs
Janet Reno (Attorney General for the USA) made the decision to use the tear gas in an effort to end the siege. On the "Larry King Live" show that evening, she said she believed the "maternal instincts" of the women in the compound would take over and they would grab the kids and get them out. But she failed to understand the strength of cultic mind control.
Laddie Smith Jr., a former member of a cult, stated about people in cults, "These people operate from a different perception of reality and it's apparent to me that people ... don't get it" (quoted in The Valley News Dispatch, 4/21/93, p.A4).
There are many reasons why cultists have a "different perception of reality" - but one reason is often the apocalyptic teachings of the leader of the group. If people become convinced the end is near and a certain person has figured out all the details, then that person can hold strong sway over them. He can be looked upon as the only one who can "save" them from the soon coming Armageddon.
As an USA Today reporter writes, "Long before the shootout, Koresh showed an obsession with apocalyptic visions and biblical doomsday revelations." Further, "And he convinced all his followers that he was the Messiah who would save them, if they were willing to die with him" (Maria Puente).
When the tear gas from the FBI was shot into the compound, those inside probably thought it was the start of Armageddon. Cult expert Ronald Enroth stated, "When the FBI hit, he (Koresh) probably told them, 'Here it is, friends, this is the beginning of what I told you would happen.' And that only made his claim of messiah-ship more real to them."
Another USA Today reporter adds, "Cult experts say many of those who died in the terrible fire probably believed they were being saved from the 'satanic' world on earth" (Mimi Hall).
So the Branch Davidians probably believed the end of the world had come and only Koresh could save them. With these factors operating, there was simply no way the women would grab the kids and flee to the "satanic world" outside.
Thus, Koresh's obsession with end-time apocalyptics and the resulting control he had over his followers were primary factors leading to the tragedy at Waco, TX.
But it is not only Koresh and the Branch Davidians who are obsessed with end- times prophecy and who "just know" the end is near.
"Larry Nichols, co-author of the Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult, warns there are numerous other small U.S. sects whose beliefs are 'mirror images' of (Jim) Jones and Koresh. 'All of them are getting messages from God about the imminent end of time" (quoted by USA Today writer, Mark Potok).
Some of these groups, such as the Church Universal and Triumphant, are also stockpiling weapons, food, and other supplies as the Branch Davidians did in order to be prepared for the believed, soon coming Armageddon (ABC News special, 4/20/93).
Meanwhile, the media is having a field day grouping these "fanatics" in with Christians in general. And this is rightly upsetting to evangelical Christians. But it doesn't help matters when purported evangelicals also display the same obsession with end-time prophecy and date-setting.
For instance, in the Fall of 1993, 20,000 Christians in South Korea became convinced the "rapture" would occur on October 28, 1992. Because of this belief:
Believers quite their jobs, sold their homes, abandoned their families, and ran up debts in preparation for the end of the world. Some pregnant women reportedly had abortions so they would not be too heavy to be lifted up to Heaven. AT LEAST FOUR FOLLOWERS COMMITTED SUICIDE....
Police, fire companies, and ambulances were placed on alert, and the government monitored churches throughout the country in an effort to prevent Jonestown-style suicides (Watchman Expositor Vol.9, No.10, p.11).
An article in this writer's local paper began by mentioning this incident. It was titled, "Fanatics, astrologists predict end of world" (Valley News Dispatch 12/28/93, p.C7). Can we fault the media for labeling such Christians "fanatics?"
When Will We Ever Learn?
Throughout history and around the world today, end-time predicting has caused heart-ache, suffering, and even death. WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN?
Unfortunately, it will probably not be very soon. In fact, as the year 2000 approaches things will probably get worse. The above mentioned newspaper article stated, "This is, after all, the decade of Armageddon scenarios, fueled by human worries, hopes and fears as the end of the millennium nears" (Dell Richards).
As the '90s progresses, this ministry will continue to monitor this sad, and sometimes even deadly obsession with date-setting and end-times prophecy.
The World Ended!
The world ended on November 14, 1993 - at least it was supposed to according to Russian "prophetess" Maria Devi Christos. Russian authorities feared a mass suicide would occur among her 144,000 followers know as the "Great White Brotherhood." As a result, about a third of them were arrested and placed in jails and psychiatric wards. Many of these followers went on hunger strikes (U.S. News and World Report, 11/15/93, p.16).
Needless to say, the prediction of "prophetess Christos" was wrong. And, fortunately, the feared mass suicide didn't happen - this time. But how many more such fiascoes will it take until people accept Jesus' simple words in Matthew 24:36 and Acts 1:7?
The links below are direct links to where the book can be purchased from Books-A-Million.
Bibliography: All Scripture references from: New King James Version
. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.
Bultema, Harry. Maranatha! A Study of Fulfilled Prophecy. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1985.
Curtis, A.K. Publ. "Wycliffe's England: A Time of Turmoil" in Christian History. Issue 3, 6-9.
Dowley, Tim ed. Eerdmans' Handbook to the History of Christianity. New York: Eerdmans, 1977. Note, This book is no longer available, but a similar one by Dowley is Introduction to the History of Christianity .
Fern, Vergilius. The Encyclopedia of Religion. Secaucus, NJ: Poplar Books, 1945.
Lane, Tony. Harper's Concise Book of Christian Faith. New York: Harper and Row, 1984.
Halverson, Dean. "88 Reasons: What Went Wrong?" in Christian Research Journal. Fall 1988, 14-18.
Latourette, Kenneth. A Short History of Christianity . Vol. II. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.
Miller, Kevin. "Why Did Columbus Sail?" in Christian History. Issue 35, 9-16.
Reed, David. Index of Watch Tower Errors . Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990.
Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church . Vol. IV. Grand Rapids: Eerdman's, 1985.
Tucker, Ruth. Another Gospel . Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989.
Walvoord, John. Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis. Grand Rapids. Zondervan, 1990. This book is no longer available. But a similar newer book by Walvoord is Prophecy in the New Millennium . I guess Walvoord hasn't given up trying to predict the future.
Zachary, John. Threshold of Eternity. Denver: Nehbi Books, 1989.
Is the End Near? Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).
The above article originally appeared in Darkness to Light
newsletter in 1993.
It was posted on this Web site in July 1996.
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