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As the sun sets on a once-great nation, American Christians face a vital question: what now? It’s evening in America. The remarkable society whose light once shone as a beacon to the world is dimming. This is the sobering assessment of Robert Jeffress in Twilight’s Last Gleaming, yet he brings with that diagnosis a remarkably redemptive and hopefilled prescription for American believers. It’s a timely message. Rarely in U.S. history have Christians been more discouraged and fearful about our country’s future. Now...
As the sun sets on a once-great nation, American Christians face a vital question: what now? It’s evening in America. The remarkable society whose light once shone as a beacon to the world is dimming. This is the sobering assessment of Robert Jeffress in Twilight’s Last Gleaming, yet he brings with that diagnosis a remarkably redemptive and hopefilled prescription for American believers. It’s a timely message. Rarely in U.S. history have Christians been more discouraged and fearful about our country’s future. Now Dr. Jeffress points a way out of this malaise, calling believers to action—not to restore a fading empire’s glory, but to make an eternal impact on millions of eternal souls. With a foreword by Governor Mike Huckabee, here is a bold roadmap to guide your attitudes and actions in these volatile last days.
The Beginning of the End
Several years ago conservative commentator and former Fox News luminary Glenn Beck tapped into the growing sense of angst that Americans—especially Christian Americans—were feeling about the condition of our country. In August 2010, Beck announced he would hold a nonpartisan rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. with the goal of "Restoring Honor" to America. Some reports estimated that as many as three hundred thousand people attended the event.
I happened to be in D.C. the day before the rally, so after finishing my meetings I strolled down to the National Mall that warm Friday evening and was surprised to see hundreds of people already setting up tents along the mall, preparing to spend the night in order to secure a prime spot for the rally. A father who had traveled hundreds of miles with his young family to attend was asked why he had come. "I really don't know, but I realize something is not right in our country and I want to do something about it."
That feeling that "something is not right in our country" is not limited to a group of conservatives crowding the National Mall in Washington. According to a recent Reuters Poll, 73 percent of Americans feel that our country is headed in the wrong direction. I have a feeling that because you picked up this book, you are probably included in that statistic—and for good reason. Perhaps you are deeply disturbed about ...
the wholesale effort to remove any and all restrictions on same-sex marriages, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research;
the failure to protect our borders against illegal immigration, threatening the fiscal and physical well-being of our nation;
the runaway fiscal deficit that will enslave our children and grandchildren with trillions of dollars of debt;
the hesitancy of government officials, shackled by political correctness, to recognize and verbalize that we are in a war against terror;
the willingness to abrogate Americans' First Amendment rights at home to prevent offending Islamic extremists abroad;
the denial by secularists and even some professing Christians that America was founded as a Christian nation.
You wonder what you should do—and can do—to put the brakes on a country that is seemingly about to go over the cliff. You have an abiding love for your country. You have an even greater allegiance to your Christian faith. You have genuine concerns about the kind of nation in which your children and grandchildren will live.
Whatever his motivation, I admire Glenn Beck for his willingness to do something to help turn around a country that has lost its way. As I left D.C. the Saturday morning of Beck's rally and looked out the airplane window at the hundreds of thousands of patriots gathered below, I began wondering what I could do to make a difference in my country.
* America's Coming Collapse *
Maybe you, too, are wondering what you can do to help reverse the course of a nation that has lost its way. Well, I have some bad news and some good news for you. The bad news? America's demise is inevitable. I realize that such a statement seems fatalistic, if not downright unpatriotic. Since I first started discussing the concept of this book with friends, I realized just how unpopular such an assertion is. Whenever I described the theme of my book as "How Christians should respond to America's coming collapse," the look on people's faces was akin to that of having been slapped silly: dismay quickly followed by disgust. "America's coming collapse? How could you say such a thing?" I understand why people react that way. Those of us privileged to live in the greatest country in history have been conditioned to believe that the tenacity and resiliency of the American spirit will ultimately triumph over any adversity we encounter. Yet a simple reading of the Bible tells us that America's days are numbered because this planet's days are numbered:
The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17)
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)
Notice that American exceptionalism (the idea that America is superior to any other nation that has ever existed) will not exempt our nation from the ultimate destruction that awaits the entire world.
Furthermore, the Bible reveals that America will cease to exist before the world comes to an end. According to Daniel 7 and Revelation 17, during the final seven years of earth's history there will be a worldwide dictator (commonly referred to as Antichrist) who will preside over a ten-nation confederacy. All national distinctions will be eliminated, meaning that the United States Constitution will be abolished.
How can I make such an assertion? Our Constitution guarantees our right to elect our governing officials and to worship freely. Yet during the final seven years of history, this worldwide dictator will rise to power without a vote by the American people, and he will abrogate our most cherished freedoms, demanding that he alone be worshipped. Such a usurpation of power can only occur by the abolition of our Constitution. And once the Constitution is gone, the United States of America as we know it will cease to exist.
* Can We Postpone Our Nation's Collapse? *
Enough of the bad news; here is the good news. Although we can't prevent the ultimate collapse of our nation and destruction of the world, we can postpone it. We have both the ability and responsibility to delay the decay of our nation, even if we can't ultimately reverse it. Why should we work to postpone the inevitable? The same reason we exercise, take medicine, and watch our diets. While those efforts can't prevent our ultimate demise, such actions can delay it!
The motivation for Christians working to delay the coming collapse of our nation is not to preserve our way of life, but to buy more time to share the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible before America is swept away by God's judgment.
Most evangelical Christians understand (even if they don't obey) the mandate to serve as lights in this dark world, pointing people to Christ's offer of salvation to all who believe. But I have discovered that many Christians do not comprehend Jesus' command to delay the decay of our culture by acting as salt in the world (Matthew 5:13). Many Christians equate efforts to stop the murder of the unborn, uphold the biblical principles of morality, and elect godly leaders with rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. "If we are going down anyway, why bother?" people wonder.
I understand that sentiment because I used to feel the same way. During the first eighteen years of my ministry I rarely said anything about social issues from the pulpit and felt no need to encourage my flock to get involved politically. I was not about to sully my pastoral calling by entangling myself in secondary efforts that, according to my understanding of the end times, were futile anyway.
However, I have a different perspective today. While our responsibility to delay our culture's decay is not our primary mission here on earth, it is a necessary prerequisite if we are to fulfill our ultimate calling of pointing people to Jesus Christ. At this critical time in our nation's history, we cannot afford to sit back with folded hands as we wait for the end. God is calling you and me to stand up and push back against the tide of unrighteousness that threatens to engulf our country.
What specifically can you do to effect real change in our country? And how do you balance your primary calling to share the gospel with the calling to stand up against ungodliness in our nation? My trip to Washington D.C. that hot August weekend was the beginning of my own journey to discover the answer to those critical questions that would change my life and ministry forever.
* The Islamic Explosion *
It was during this same period of time that an Islamic imam in New York City proposed building a mosque near Ground Zero. I had participated in a debate a few weeks earlier on MSNBC with a Jewish rabbi who surprisingly supported building the mosque. I countered that it was no more appropriate for American Muslims to build a mosque at Ground Zero than it would be for Japanese Americans to build a shrine to Emperor Hirohito at Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, television anchor Contessa Brewer unwittingly pitched me a question right over home plate when she asked, "Pastor Jeffress, why are you characterizing Islam with such a broad brush as a violent religion?"
I responded, "Well, Contessa, I have just been listening to your broadcast for the past ten minutes and heard you report about ten Christian relief workers murdered by Muslim gunmen in Afghanistan, then you reported about a Saudi Arabian woman stoned to death for adultery while her lover was set free, and finally you just reported about a German mosque being shut down because it was a launching pad for attacks. The American people are waking up to the true nature of Islam."
With that media confrontation still fresh in my mind, it seemed only natural to say something to my congregation about the debate raging in the country at that time about the mosque at Ground Zero in particular, but also the larger issue concerning Islam itself. After all, a Pew Research poll reveals that 57 percent of evangelical Christians believe that there are multiple paths to God. If Islam is one of those alternate roads that leads to the same God, why should Christians condemn the faith choice of 1.3 billion people on our planet?
Endless conservative commentators argued against building the mosque at Ground Zero, but in the next breath they affirmed, "Islam is a religion of peace." That made no sense to me. If Islam were truly a peaceful religion, then why should anyone object to building a mosque at Ground Zero? If people wrongly associated the religion of Islam with the attacks of 9/11, should we give credence to peoples' distorted view of Islam by refusing to build a place of worship for this so-called religion of peace?
I thought our church's annual "Ask the Pastor" service, during which members ask me any question they desire, would be the perfect forum for me to address the subject of Islam. Maybe this was the arena in which I could stand for truth and contribute in some way to reversing the downward spiral of our nation. No, it wasn't the National Mall, and I wasn't Glenn Beck. But we all have to start somewhere.
That evening a college student asked me to talk about the true nature of Islam in light of recent events. I responded:
It makes no sense for people to say Islam is a peaceful religion and then object to building a mosque at Ground Zero. The truth is that Islam is a religion that incites violence around the world. It is a religion that promotes pedophilia. The founder of Islam—this so-called prophet Mohammed—raped a nine-year-old girl, Aisha, and took her as his bride. Today, Muslim men around the world use his example as an excuse for taking brides—some as young as four years old. It is a religion that oppresses women. Just look at the example of women living under sharia law around the world. But for Christians, the worst thing about Islam is that it is a false religion that leads people away from the true God. As Christians and conservatives it is time for us to take the gloves off and tell the truth about this evil, evil religion.
The congregation immediately rose to their feet in an explosive and sustained ovation. I had taken a stand, said what I thought needed to be said, and was ready to move on to the next question.
Several days later, someone in our church who monitors blogs mentioned to me that a local online publication had picked up my comments on Islam and was posting particularly angry responses from readers. I thought nothing about it until a local television reporter called and asked for a comment from me to run in a less-than-flattering story they were doing about my remarks.
Then a popular columnist (and fellow Baptist) from the Dallas Morning News called me for a friendly chat, giving me a chance to either retract or support the statements I had made about Islam. I sent him some sources for my comments, including one from CBS News relating to the underage marriages in third-world countries that were motivated by Islamic beliefs. His e-mail to me the next day closed with, "Robert, I am afraid you are not going to like my column on Sunday." I did not know how right he was.
* Un-American and Un-Christian? *
On Sunday morning I, along with many in my congregation, opened the Dallas Morning News to find this headline: "Dallas pastor's broad-brush criticism of Islam goes way too far," followed by this opening paragraph:
It's hard to know where to start in expressing dismay with the Rev. Robert Jeffress—for being uninformed, un-Christian or un-American. The pastor of Dallas' First Baptist Church managed to squeeze all three into a recent rant against Islam....
What followed was a passionate attempt to show that there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that Islam incites violence around the world, oppresses women, or in any way supports marriage to underage children. The columnist interviewed a theology professor and expert in Islam at a local university who did not deny Muhammad's marriage to a nine-year-old girl but excused it on the basis that the girl "was chosen by God" and became a "trusted source of sayings from Muhammad." Furthermore, the professor said that I was endangering our troops abroad by speaking out against Islam—a claim I found somewhat laughable. Will our enemies hate us less if we say nice things about their religion?
And apparently I was being un-Christian by calling Islam an evil religion. The professor opined that I had broken at least three biblical commandments in my comments, including "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The professor must think that Jesus was also un-Christian when He criticized the Pharisees, whom He referred to as a "brood of vipers" (Matthew 23:33).
Knowing that many in my congregation were reading this indictment of their pastor before they came to church, I felt like I had to make a response to the columnist. Before I began my sermon that Sunday, I said that I had a few comments I wanted to make: "Many of you read the column in the Dallas Morning News accusing me of being uninformed, un-American, and un-Christian. Whether I am un-Christian and un-American is something readers will have to decide for themselves. But uninformed I am not."
I then delivered a ten-minute rebuttal to the columnist, citing evidence for the claims I had made, and concluded, "And so I stand by my statements from two weeks ago about Islam. It is a false religion, based on a false book, written by a false prophet."
Again, the congregation stood in unison and applauded wildly. Assuming this would end up on the evening news, I felt obliged to add, "For those of you watching on television, please do not equate this applause with a hatred for Muslims. We love Muslims and want to see them come to faith in Jesus Christ. But you can never point people to the right path to God unless you first of all convince them that they are on the wrong path to God."
The statement not only made the evening news, but nearly three hundred thousand people downloaded the video clip from YouTube over the next few weeks, and the church was flooded with e-mails from around the world. The majority were very supportive. Some from Canada and Europe said that I did not present half of what I could have shared about radical Islamists and their goal of world domination. Of course, there were a few who accused me of being demon-possessed or paid by Fox News to make my comments.
But what astounded me was the number of professing Christians who were convinced that speaking out against another religion was inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. One wrote:
The [First Baptist Church pastor's] comments about Islam serve only to foster bigotry and hatred, not understanding and tolerance. Anyone who thinks Islam is an evil religion does not understand what Islam is all about, and I am speaking as a lifelong Christian and a Baptist. As for his comments about Islam being a "false religion built upon a false book written by a false prophet"—so what? ... Being an American and living in the USA means that we tolerate all religions and respect freedom of choice in religious matters.
* The Real Dilemma *
Even some of my closest friends who agreed with everything I said questioned the wisdom of being so vocal about a potentially volatile subject. Some law enforcement officials warned me of the necessity of increased security around my family and the church. After all, Islamic death warrants had been issued for people making much less inflammatory statements than I had made. Was it really worth endangering my own safety as well as the safety of our congregation by making such incendiary comments?
Excerpted from Twilight's Last Gleamimg by Robert Jeffress. Copyright © 2011 Robert Jeffress. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
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Foreword Mike Huckabee 1
1 The Beginning of the End 3
2 When a Nation Implodes 34
3 The Most Misunderstood Word in America 68
4 How a Christian Should Vote 93
5 For Pastors Only 126
6 When Persecution Comes 167
7 Last-Days Living 190
For Further Reflection 221