Billy Graham on Vinyl, Part 2: “The Climax of History” (1964)

April 7, 2014

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This 1964 sermon from Dr. Graham, “The Climax of History,” is about the Second Coming. [Click the play button above to listen or download by right-clicking on this link.] We can date it precisely because he quotes author Bertrand Russell, who says that he “doesn’t think the world will be here in 36 years”—that we will have nuked ourselves out of existence by the year 2000.

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From the back cover of the album.

I’m impressed by the nuance that Graham brings to this subject. Granted, this nuance may not be apparent at first, when he says that the Bible “lays out very clearly” what will happen in the future. By that, however, he doesn’t mean we can discern dates and timetables, as in The Late Great Planet Earth. In fact, he says repeatedly that we can’t know when the Second Coming will happen. What he means by the Bible’s “laying it out clearly” is that we can be certain that God is drawing human history to a climax—the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—followed by resurrection, final judgment, and eternal life in God’s kingdom or perdition. He even quotes “Dr. Karl Barth, that great Swiss theologian,” who said as much in 1962 when he visited the United Nations.

From the album's liner notes.

From the album’s liner notes.

Graham also addresses the problems that we moderns often have believing in the Second Coming. I would gladly preach the following today:

Anybody that reads the Bible and studies the Bible must come to the conclusion that the Bible teaches that there’s going to be a mighty, climactic moment of history, and that all of history at this hour is moving toward that moment. We don’t know when it’s going to be, but it’s as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. It’s as sure as winter follows fall and fall follows summer. The coming again of Christ is the promise all the way through the scriptures.

Now there are a number of problems with this subject, I know. There’s the problem of doubt. The Bible says, “Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” It says that these are “scoffers, walking after their own lust.” We have them today. There are many people today that would be embarrassed if Christ should come back. They don’t want him to come! They’re scoffers! That’s exactly what Peter said would happen at the end of the age! Scoffers would be coming, walking after their own lust, laughing at those who believe that Christ was coming!

Then there’s the problem of overemphasis. I think that 40 years ago there were a lot of preachers that overemphasized this. And it’s so easy to get one little hobby out of the Bible and ride it—it’s your horse. The great problem today is not overemphasis: the great problem today is underemphasis!

How many pulpits are strangely silent? And such silence often fills the churches with indifference, idleness, lustful living, and worldly living.

Pretty much! 

He goes on to say that as an ordained minister he can’t shirk his responsibility to preach the message of the Second Coming. And neither can I—which is why I’ll be preaching a series on the Second Coming in June, following our James series.

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