The Preacher Says....  
  The Day After  


I heard on the news this morning as I was getting ready to come over here, that half of America saw "The Day After". If thatís true, thatís 110 million people who watched the TV show, which as you know, was a show attempting to portray what the world would be like if there were an all-out nuclear war. Half of America saw it to the exclusion of the commencement of the series on the life of John F. Kennedy. It was reported that the Reagan administration was opposed to the presentation of this program because it viewed it as political propaganda in opposition to the present foreign policy of the United States. More specifically, they were afraid that the vivid depiction of nuclear war would cause a growth in the peace movement, and the disarmament movement, which is incipient throughout the world. Iím sure youíve talked to many people who saw the movie and gotten their reaction. The reaction I got was that they were horrified, but they thought it did some good because people might be exercised to do something about what seems to be an inevitable event.

Right after the program, if you kept the television on, a group of Americaís wise men were gathered, and I donít mean that facetiously, they are as wise as weíve got, certainly wiser than any of us in the ways of the world, commenting on the movie and attempting to make some statement about the probability of it happening and the likelihood that it can be averted, and the results of such a happening. But those men were not very comforting. Carl Sagan, the scientist on the program, predicted that if such a conflagration took place that all life, human and otherwise, would be destroyed on the planet, not only from the immediate effects of the bombing, but also because of the blocking of the sun from the earthís atmosphere, and the consequent death of all life. Robert McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense, and Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State, both agreed that if Russia and the United States started today on some sort of disarmament program, that in ten years they would only have reduced the supply of nuclear weapons to 10,000, (20,000 presently exist), and going as hard as they could with any sort of reasonable policing, it would take ten years to get down to 10,000 of these bombs. Mr. Buckley, as is his wont, attempted to make light of the movie, and to indicate that things are not as bad as they seem to be and that the Reagan political philosophy respecting armament was appropriate, that is to say, America must be strong. And he cited as an example the proposition that if Japan had the bomb in 1945, America wouldnít have dropped it on Japan. The point being that as long as both sides are very strong there is safety in that mutual strength. The flaw in that argument is that there is no room in it for a madman. It assumes that people will act rationally. But after recent experience in the Middle East, people do not act rationally. Witness the suicide driver who drove that truck into the Marine compound in Lebanon, or the fanatical behavior of the Ayatollah Khomeini who, if he had nuclear bombs, would have dropped them on America irrespective of the consequences to himself and his followers. Indeed, their salvation would be assured, according to their religion, so Iím told.

The balance of power political philosophy was good enough, I suppose, for nations when the ultimate weapon was not being devised. This instability in the world makes it possible for madmen to come to the fore. The nations of the world canít take comfort from the fact that there is unrest in Poland; that people tried mightily to get on this side of the Berlin wall, or this side of the iron curtain. Those indications that things are not well in the Communist part of the world make it all the more likely that the Communist rulers will act irrationally with respect to the use of nuclear weapons.

You know, itís curious though, that the world is so horrified at the prospect of universal death. Whatís so different about death by nuclear bombing of the whole planet than death of everything on the planet in an ordinary way, except for time? My point is that everything is going to die, all of us are going to die, every human being on earth is going to die, and even if the bomb isnít dropped, we are all going to be dead in 100 years. All the plants that are alive today are going to be dead. Virtually so. In matter of fact, viewed realistically, death by nuclear bombing is not too bad. The prospects for most of us are not good, Weíre going to get old, weíre going to get sick, weíre going to suffer, and weíre going to die. And the nuclear bomb would wipe us out all at one time.

So what is the unspoken premise here? Why should we be exercised about all this? Is there some secular theology which says that a man has salvation through his successors? Are we concerned that weíll lose our "immortality" because we donít have progeny? Such a theology is absurd. What good could it do us? Is there an unspoken premise that there is some sort of gradualism happening among humans, that is to say, humans are getting better and better and better and their relationships with one another are getting better and better? And if only man had time to work out his own salvation he could. And so thatís why itís important not to have a nuclear holocaust. Well, weíll leave those questions unanswered. I simply say that I think that what makes it so horrible is that the reality of death horrifies us. What do we know of death? Nothing personally. We havenít been here very long; we havenít suffered through the ages and seen one generation come and another succeed it. We havenít lived in a time when 95% of men and women died before they were 40 years old. Death is unreal to us, not only because our instincts make it unreal, but because we do everything we can to make it appear to be unreal. Nobody is lying in the street, they are shuffled off quietly to a funeral home. People die quietly sedated in hospitals. So when you see something like that movie, and the whole world sees it, itís an understatement to say that you are uncomfortable when confronted with the reality of death. And what makes one even more uncomfortable is that it seems clear that there will be a holocaust. It seems clear even to those unacquainted with Bible prophecy because of the confluence of events that are working in the affairs of men, which we donít have time to stay and tally now.

Christians believe that thereís not necessarily going to be a nuclear war, but there is certainly going to be some climax in the affairs of men which will involve a huge conflict. Whatís it going to be like? If in fact there is this holocaust, what is it going to be like the day after? Is it going to be like the movie? In the movie youíll recall the last scene was two old men with their arms around each other, dying of radiation sickness. Or is the world going to be an uninhabited cinder as Carl Sagan said it would if such a holocaust occurred. Will the earth be destroyed? You know a portion of orthodox Christianity believes that the world is going to be destroyed, and Christ and his saints will live and reign in realms beyond the sky, a sort of insubstantial, ghostly existence. It is this notion of Christian salvation, I think, that gives it a bad name in our days and times. Nothing tangible about it, it doesnít relate in any way to our present lives. And the scriptural support for this thesis is in 2Pet 3. 10: "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall melt with a fervent heat, and the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up."

The trouble with this kind of Christianity is that it it has lost its Jewishness. This fact was noted by Voltaire, interestingly enough; he deduced it extra-Biblically. He said that if it were permitted to reason consistently in religious matters, it is clear we all aught to become Jews, because Jesus Christ, our savior, was born a Jew, lived a Jew, died a Jew, and he said expressly that he was fulfilling the Jewish religion. And of course, that in fact, is what Christianity is all about: fulfilling the Jewish religion. Abraham and his descendants were promised the land that they saw, and they were promised it forever. We are also told that they havenít gotten it yet, and theyíre not going to get it until we get it, because they without us cannot be made perfect, the writer to the Hebrews said. David was promised a kingdom on the earth that would last forever. We pray, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In Ps 37 we read, Yet a little while and the wicked shall not be. . .the meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. . . the blessed of him shall inherit the earth and dwell therein forever. And so on and so on.

It is the Christian hope that the earth will not be destroyed, but will be as described in Isaiah 65: In the kingdom they shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them; they shall not build and another inhabit, they shall not plant and another eat, . . . For they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. It shall come to pass that before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. And the dust shall be the serpentís meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord."

Well, what was Peter talking about when he said that the heavens and the earth are going to be burned up? Earlier in the same chapter he is talking about the flood where the heaven and earth that were of old were destroyed. Obviously Peter was describing an order of things that were going to be destroyed, not the earth itself. And he calls upon the testimony of Noah to show how that happened in the past, and could happen again. Now we canít take any comfort from that because in 2Pet 2 Peter talks about Noah and his family being the only group saved in the time of the flood. He talks about Lot and a few of his family being the only people saved when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The point is that the present order of things is going to be destroyed. The earth is not going to be destroyed. When Peter uses Lot and Noah as examples he is simply quoting from the testimony of Jesus, recorded in Luke 17: >"And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given I marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.. . .likewise with Lot. . .they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded, but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the son of man is revealed. In that day he that shall be upon the housetop and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away, and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lotís wife.

When Christ returns will he find faith on the earth? Jesus asked that question. The statement is made that many are called, but few are chosen. This kind of solution to manís problem doesnít suit man. It doesnít suit me. Thereís no assurance that thereís only going to be a few, a very few, that you and I are going to be included in that number. Iíd like for God to be more democratic. Your friends will tell you that if you worship this kind of exclusive God that youíre worshiping a God of an outworn creed. Because how can salvation be limited to such a few select lucky people. Think of the children born to live and die in the Calcutta train station, or in the ghettoes of South America where inflation is 150% and starvation is everywhere. Peer pressure affects children. Peer pressure affects us, and those kinds of statements are difficult to deal with. The only way one can deal with them is to make Godís word a part of himself.

One thing that one can observe in human nature is the tendency to undulate. Iíve recently been reading about Elijah who had Ahab under his thumb, so to speak. He ridiculed 450 prophets of Baal and took them down and slaughtered them after he had proved that the God of Israel was stronger than Baal, when God, through Elijah, ended the drought that had beset the land. Itís almost incomprehensible to me that Elijah could in the very next breath of scripture be so weak when Jezebel, who worshiped Baal, sent to have Elijah killed, that he fled. Later in the story Elijah did get his strength back after God revealed himself to him again. My point is that nobody, no matter how strong and zealous we feel today about our view of the time of the end, and our relation to it, that the feeling will be weakened and strengthened and weakened again unless we make this book, the Bible, a part of our nature, or we may not be able to withstand the trials and troubles that are ahead for us, if indeed we are in the last times.

So you have to develop enough character based on scripture to withstand the peer pressure that you feel all around you. But you cannot develop a siege mentality. It canít be ?them against usí because, after all, the world is going to end for each one of us whether we make it to the time of Christís return or we die. The admonition of Jesus is to "occupy til I come" in the parable of the talents; that is to say, I have given you talents, and I give you pieces of money, trade with those pieces of money. We must be active in this life. We canít go and hide somewhere; we have to participate fully. Yet it cannot be gainsaid that if you do not wish to perish with the world, you must not be of it. Remember Lotís wife.

We must save ourselves, not Pharisaically, but with faith and love. And donít you see the error of that statement? I caught myself when I wrote it down. We must save ourselves, I said, through faith and love. But this is the fundamental flaw in todayís theology, in todayís world where man wants to rule; man wants to save himself. Rather let us say, may God save us, because of our faith and love.