When the Future Was Yesterday . . .
Vol: 117 Issue: 24 Friday, June 24, 2011
“Future Shock” is the name of a book written by sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970, at just about the same time that Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth” was hitting the New York Times bestseller list.
Toffler’s book was made into a movie narrated by Orson Welles in 1972. Coincidentally, Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” was also made into a movie, also narrated by Orson Welles, in 1979.
Toffler’s book addressed the speed with which technology was changing, back in the age of microwave ovens and beta VCRs.
He defined the social response to the shattering speed of 1970’s technological and social advancement this way:
“Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.”
Toffler explains, “Man has a limited biological capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the capacity is in future shock.”
As already noted, Toffler’s book was published the same year as Hal Lindsey’s “Late, Great Planet Earth“. Toffler’s book explained future shock as a social symptom. Hal’s book explained what future shock was a symptom OF.
The prevailing feeling of impending doom that existed in the early 1970s was real enough that both books were instant runaway best-sellers. In those days, that sense of ‘something’ was vague and undefined, but it was there.
Toffler tried to define it, Lindsey tried to explain it, movie franchises like ‘The Omen’ and ‘Mad Max’ tried to capitalize on it, but one thing is certain:
Whatever ‘it’ is, ‘it’ made it’s presence known with enough impact to make “The Late, Great Planet Earth” the best-selling Christian-themed book in history (excluding the Bible), it embraced Toffler’s term, ‘future shock’ so completely it is now part of our vocabulary, and made ‘The Omen’ and ‘Mad Max’ franchises among the most successful of their time.
There was a sudden awakening to the fact the Bible gave certain signs for the last days; discernible, chartable, undeniable and precise signs.
The 1967 Six Days War awakened the world to Israel’s existence and thrust her onto the world’s stage. Jerusalem, a city which most people thought of more in mystical than bricks-and-mortar terms, was suddenly the most important city on earth.
Although Bible prophecy was seldom discussed among Christians, suddenly, people started to connect some of the dots. Some ran to guys like Toffler for answers. Others ‘whistled past the graveyard’, by turning their fears into entertainment.
When Hal Lindsey connected the dots for the secular world through Scripture, millions turned to the Bible for the answers, instead.
Future Shock was published forty-one years ago. If the pace of change was shocking back then, consider what it means today. An entire generation has grown up in a world where everything they learned yesterday is obsolete information tomorrow.
If you were born in 1970 and went to college and majored in geography, for example, when you graduated at 22 in 1992, everything you spent the last four years learning was wrong.
There was no Soviet Union, and there were about forty extra countries that didn’t used to be there.
Technology changes so fast last year’s TV is as obsolete as last year’s computer. Last year’s car gave GPS-guided verbal directions to any destination on the globe – this year’s car can parallel park itself.
As all this takes place, that sense of an impending ‘something’ continues to build, as we look for ways to explain it. It sits somewhere at the back of the consciousness; — like wondering whether or not you turned off the iron before leaving for church.
Consequently, there has been an explosion in interest in things spiritual, extra-terrestrial, occultic, and scientific as people look for an explanation for what amounts to a global ‘nagging’ feeling.
Apocalyptic-themed movies like “The Omen” and “Mad Max” broke new ground in the 1970’s — today they are their own genre. Every year a new catalog of ‘end of the world’ movies make the rounds.
- Last year’s blockbuster was called “2012” – there are entire websites devoted to the 2012 Doomsday scenarios.
- A 10th century Catholic priest named St. Malachy is said to have accurately predicted every pope to sit on the throne since Malachy’s death. According to St. Malachy, the pope to follow John Paul II “would be a Benedictine.”
- The current pope took the papal name, “Benedict.” The Malachy prophecies say that the next pope, Peter the Great, will be the last. The current pope will turn 85 in 2012.
- Bible prophecy predicted the rise of a revived form of the Roman Empire, led by ‘ten kings’ that will eventually fall under the spell of the coming antichrist.
- (The newly-expanded European Union is fighting over the wording of their new Constitution. Leading the fight against the inclusion of any mention of Christianity are the leaders of the ten-nation WEU).
- It predicted the restoration of Israel, and said that Israel would be in a constant state of war with her surrounding neighbors, necessitating a peace treaty to be confirmed the leader of revived Rome.
Daniel said all this would take place in the midst of an explosion of knowledge and a sense of disorientation (future shock?), writing;
“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12:4)
At about the same time that Alvin Toffler wrote of the ‘to and fro’ nature of exploding knowledge and gave us the term, ‘future shock’, Christians like Hal Lindsey, Dwight Pentecost and others were taking note of the fact that the words of Daniel were no longer “sealed”.
As Israel took her place among the nations, the Arab-Israeli conflict took global center stage, and Daniel’s ten toes began to wiggle as old Europe began to pull itself together, Daniel and Revelation became less about symbols and more about specific details.
Until this generation, symbols were satisfactory because there was no literal framework in which to put them. Until the restoration of Israel, everything about Bible prophecy for the last days was symbolic.
With Israel’s restoration, symbols revealed themselves as facts, the heads, horns and beasts became identifiable nations, leaders and systems and the words of the Prophets morphed from ancient prose to future history to future shock as the world slowly recognizes that the clock is winding down.
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: (Romans 1:28-31)
The symbols are no longer symbolic, they are literal. Bible prophecy is only as futuristic as tomorrow’s newspapers. The Second Coming of Christ is much less a joke and much more a cause for sober reflection than at any time since the first century.
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:38)
Wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences, false Christs, solar anomalies, signs in the cosmos, global fear and confusion at what appears to be coming upon the earth . . . it’s ALL part of our present existence.
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till ALL be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:32)
This generation. That’s us. Tell your friends.