This is the 5th part of a series on my personal recollections of the Jesus Movement, a revival that swept like wildfire across the nation, and nowhere more fervently than in Southern California where I found myself at age 15 in 1971.
Part and parcel to the vibe of the Jesus Movement was the belief that Jesus Christ was returning and that His return was both imminent and likely soon. It was easy to believe that in the early 1970's the world was indeed in "the last days" spoken of in the New Testament. The war in Viet Nam was still dragging on, racial tensions wrought violence in riots across the country, students were shot down demonstrating against the war on the campus of Kent State University. And the ever present Cold War threat of nuclear mutually assured mass destruction only grew stronger. And then there was Israel.
On a personal note, it was our pastor's sermons on the return of Christ in 1966 that convinced me of my need to accept Jesus as my Savior. So, that doctrine played a great part in who I would be in the years to come. And as I met the Jesus Revolution face to face in '71 I had already been a believer for nearly five years. But, until that time without the passion I saw in these kids in California.
Preachers and authors were able to tie current events to both Old Testament and New Testament writing and teachings from the prophets, Jesus and the Apostles Peter and Paul. They found Russia and China in the Old Testament prophecies. Armageddon was a real place in Israel. and much of what was happening was determined to be "signs of the times" - things Jesus warned would come prior to His descent from Heaven. Along with their new found faith in Christ, the idea that Jesus was coming back (and soon) only served as gasoline to the Jesus People's fire, giving greater urgency for evangelizing the world.
Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel's preaching seemed to center on the 2nd Coming. That resulted in songs being written and sung about the same. The earliest in my memory were Larry Norman's "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" and "Unidentified Flying Object" along with Love Song's "Maranatha"(with its haunting violin) and the guitar driven "Cossack Song" about Armageddon. Adding to the flame were books like Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth and Salem Kirban's fictional novel 666. I read both as a teen. I wanted to be ready!
The eschatology (the doctrine of things to come) of the "people' was strongly a pre-tribulational- rapture of the church view. That made their passions strong and acceptable on that count to most evangelicals. Not only was it exciting to know Jesus loved them and gave them eternal life, but to know He was literally returning was just "far out"! In 1973 the Christian movie "A Thief in the Night" came out and lent itself to church youth group evangelism throughout the '70's.
In 1977 country/rock Daniel Amos (at that time a band on the Maranatha! label) composed a rock opera style telling of the Tribulation on side 2 of their "Shotgun Angel" album. Definitely one of my favorite albums ever, by the way. Super-creative, with songs like "He's Gonna Do a Number On You" ("Can you choose the place, my hand or my face") and the Eagle-esque "Posse in the Sky" continued the 2nd Coming theme into the later part of the decade as the movement had slowed down from its early years.
And me? I'm still looking up! I'm really not far from the movement. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
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