By Anthony Lester, Editor
An Amazing Fact: According to CBS News, more than 58 million prints of the Left Behind book series are in circulation, not including spin-off publications. Total annual revenue for the series, including the books, movies, audio recordings, and children's merchandising is $100 million.
In case anyone's missed it, America has been experiencing a massive religious renaissance. Largely driven by popular Christian media, the social and economic impact of this phenomenon can't be overstated.
In early 2004, the latest book in the Left Behind series, entitled Glorious Appearing, reached the top of the New York bestseller list even before its release date. Tyndale, the publishers behind the mega-hit, spent more than $3.5 million advertising the once-final installment in 2003 alone. (The authors have announced plans to write more books for the series.)
However, regardless of unbiblical errors, not every recent bestseller is favorable to Christianity, as in the case of The Da Vinci Code, which seeks to discredit the traditional understanding of Jesus by giving Him a wife and children. This extremely popular but wildly fanciful novel is also being made into a feature film for release in 2006.
And books aren't the sole purveyors of religion. Television, film, and radio have been feeding society a steady diet of religious programming, most notably New Age spiritism. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, and Crossing Over have a tremendous following, especially among young adults. Of course, the Harry Potter movies, aimed squarely at children, remain the standard for occult-oriented entertainment. Each of the three films has a spot on the top-20 Hollywood all-time moneymakers, grossing an astounding 2.5 billion dollars in just a few years.
Still, 2004's most notable religious-minded fare was the blockbuster, pro-Christian film The Passion of the Christ, which raked in more than $370 million in the United States. Hollywood heavyweight Mel Gibson is now considered the most influential man in the business - a position few, if any, Christians have held in the past 30 years. The R-rated film, which dramatically depicts the last 18 hours of Christ's life, has done much to impassion believers and unbelievers alike, a powerful sign of religion's new prominence in the world's most powerful nation.
World Events Add Focus
A number of global factors also continue to direct people's attention to spiritual issues. The 9/11 terror attacks, though retreated in public awareness, continue to have dramatic after- effects today. And the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq appear to have been just the beginning of sorrows in world tensions, with Iran and North Korea continuing to be nuclear worries for the rest of the planet.
Moreover, the war on terrorism - the confrontation against radical Islamic fundamentalists - is far from over. And this is happening in conjunction with terrorist beheadings, a plague of AIDS in Africa, famines, ethnic cleansing, catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis, and killer storms.
Even the pope has drummed up more religious fervor when he urged Sunday observance to challenge "the culture of here and now," asking church leaders to "lead men and women from the shadows of moral confusion." And people all around the world are listening.
Â Within America, the great controversy has come into even sharper focus. In 2004, the Supreme Court debated the pledge and several states clamored to recognize same-sex marriage. Moreover, a mass movement of Christians is now seeking to make religious doctrine the law of the land - just as Revelation forewarns. Yet even as good citizens are growing increasingly impatient with the violence and immorality rampant in Western culture, they continue to run to movies and TV programs that celebrate and normalize the very things the Bible condemns.
Without question, the nation is being flooded with an unbelievable tidal wave of spiritual issues with no sign of slowing. Unfortunately, much of the tidal wave is composed not of the Living Water, but of water poisoned by the salts of half-truths and misdirection. As much as The Passion and the Left Behind series have helped generate this incredible interest in Christianity, both have lacked the most vital truths and, sadly, both have misled Christians and seekers with falsehoods that could damage their faith in the future.
Refocusing the Issues
Pastor Doug Batchelor recognized this tremendous confluence of religion, world events, and popular culture and knew he needed to act. "Regardless of the strong but ill-directed religious interest," he says, "the country is ready for God's last-day message more than ever. Even the run-up to the last election was full of religion. It would have been a terrible misstep for us to ignore this phenomenon."
So with Christianity piqued in the minds of millions of Americans, the chance to offer them straight, biblical truth was too good to let slip away, thus setting the stage for "The Prophecy Code: Bible Secrets Unlocked" (NET '05) satellite evangelistic series in the Washington, D.C., area.
From March 4 to 26, 2005, NET '05 will be broadcast live internationally from the political capital of the world during a time of multiple earth-shaking events. Adds Pastor Doug, "It will be an incredible opportunity to share the truth of the gospel with desperate souls searching for answers in an uncertain world. Now, the country riding a wave of religion will see prophecy in the light of Bible truth." Pastor Doug believes that much of the world's focus is on Washington, D.C., so soon after the election and natural catastrophes, and it's the perfect place to stage a dramatic evangelistic series.
In cooperation with the North American Division, Pastor Doug will present 20 days of incredible truths about Bible prophecy from the General Conference's church headquarters that borders the nation's capital. Many other countries around the world are participating in the program, which will be translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Viewers can also watch the program live on the Hope Channel and at many downlink venues. (More detailed information available at www.net05.org.)
Utilizing state-of-the-art satellite technology and the best multimedia available, including 3D-animations, Pastor Batchelor will share the love of God in a way that will capture the hearts of people from all different backgrounds. Known for his ability to communicate vital Bible truths to experienced Bible students and new seekers alike, he'll create an intense interest in prophecy and how it applies to current events. Then with his vibrant and warm style, he'll lead people to a decision for Christ.
Moreover, this series will come in conjunction with Amazing Facts' 40th anniversary of sharing the three angels' message.
(See the next Inside Report for a special commemorative issue.)
Churches around the country and other parts of the world have caught the vision and feel the urgency of end-time events. Jim Ayer, the North American event coordinator, says, "Evangelism still works as long as our churches plan the work and work the plans. Evangelism is successful when the members are involved in well planned pre-work." He points to the successful pre-work of the Amazing Facts College of Evangelism (AFCOE) students when they joined It Is Written in Denver in 2004. "Much because of their effort, nearly 600 souls gave their lives to the Lord."
Jim adds, "If we are to expect real success in evangelism in this century, the church must be at work in friendship evangelism. In other words, friends invite friends, and friends will go with friends. It's all about relationships, and it still works today!"
To advertise the event nationwide to drive interest and local church participation, Amazing Facts will blanket its networks, such as TBN, BET, ATN, 3ABN, and Sky Angel, with promotions through the Bible Answers Live, Millennium of Prophecy, and Central Study Hour programs. The ministry will also pre-empt regular programming with more prophetic-oriented shows that will close with an ad for the meetings.
Viewers will be encouraged to call a toll-free number, or log onto a website, to discover a location nearest them hosting the series, where they will get a fast-paced, hard-hitting exposÃ© into the major prophetic elements of the Bible's most mysterious books, Daniel and Revelation. Each night, such hot-topic issues as the rapture, the second coming, the millennium, the Antichrist, and more will be covered in a way relevant to participant's lives.
In addition, Amazing Facts has redesigned the Study Guide covers with up-to-date artwork to reach today's seeker, and AFCOE students and graduates have already begun pre-work in the D.C. area in conjunction with local churches.
Although pre-work for a major evangelistic series is not always easy, it is effective and necessary, which is why 12 Bible workers, including several AFCOE graduates, are working hard - going door-to-door with proven AFCOE techniques to attract seekers in the D.C. area to The Prophecy Code.
Furthermore, AFCOE will set up a field school prior to the series and distribute 100,000 copies of Steps to Christ with Bible study enrollment cards in the D.C. area. AFCOE is also planning several health fairs throughout Maryland and Virginia and a major health fair in D.C.
Training for Churches Worldwide
Recognizing the need for strong leadership and direction for these events, Amazing Facts is helping to train Bible workers and churches nationwide for effective and efficient evangelism during the series.
Churches and other organizations will be able to participate in training seminars conducted by seasoned and experienced soul-winners so they can effectively reach their local communities.
In addition, Gary Gibbs will present a new training series on HopeTV, and Amazing Facts is hoping that many will invest in Gibbs' Winsome Witnessing book as an excellent resource to prepare for NET 2005.
Local costs for churches will be minimal since most already own satellite equipment. (Learn how to acquire an affordable satellite dish, or watch on the internet, by visiting www.hopetv.org.)
Amazing Facts has also released an eye-catching, dramatically illustrated handbill, poster, and decision-card designs that can be downloaded from www.net05.org - where many more resources are available to help churches and individuals make this series an all-in-one, comprehensive reaping program from start to finish.
And church communities that wish to participate still have time to join! Register today at www.net05.org.
Amazing Facts' mission has always been to focus on unchanging Bible truth - no matter how world events are changing the course of history. "The Prophecy Code is the perfect program to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Amazing Facts ministries," says Pastor Doug. "It shows the continuing commitment of the ministry to reach the world with God's message with every means possible and to enable others to do the same."
Adds Pastor Doug, "And right now, as I read my Bible and consider the headlines, it truly seems as if the final pieces in the puzzle of prophecy are shaking into position. I do believe history is preparing to culminate in earth's final conflict."
The time for God's remnant church to reach out as never before is now, so the ministry hopes the church gets behind this effort in a big way. Pastor Doug has asked all our ministry friends to pray for this upcoming event - not only for the many details that must be worked out, but also that the ministry will continue to watch God closely so that His will be done. As Revelation 12:12 warns, the devil will do everything in his power to disrupt our preparations and the telecast itself so that millions will remain in the dark about Bible truth. "For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."
So please pray that millions will hear and respond to God's message for earth's final hours!
For more information on The Prophecy Code and how you can help make it a success, log on to www.net05.org or call 800-226-1119 to register. See page 18 for special pre-selected resources available to you and your church for NET '05. You can also go to www.amazingfacts.org for other great resources.
Why "The Prophecy Code"?
The artwork and name of NET '05 was chosen to reach thoseÂ familiar with popular but false Christian ideas yet have very little knowledge of God's end-time message. Three major books have been published on "codes" in the last decade, all of them bestsellers: The Bible Code, The Da Vinci Code, and The Last Disciple, plus Tom Hanks will star in the film version of The Da Vinci Code.
Global Evangelism in Stereo
In March, It Is Written will join Amazing Facts in blanketing the planet with the good news! These two exciting prophecy series will broadcast around the world from two prominent locations. While Amazing Facts is transmitting from Washington, D.C., It Is Written will also be presenting from Kiev, Russia, atthe world-famous International Center of Culture and Arts - the first-ever satellite evangelistic series uplinked from Russia.
While Amazing Facts will reach North America, Australia, and South America; It Is Written will target the former Soviet Union and Europe. Mark Finley is overjoyed to be a part of this joint effort to impact the world for God. He says, "Evangelism is the very heart of who we are, and I am incredibly grateful to the Lord for opening this door of opportunity!"
Â Pastor Doug concurs. "I can clearly see the hand of God leading in these upcoming series, and we are excited and humbled to be channels for God's end-time message to reach the world."
Three Steps to NET 2005
The ministry has been incredibly busy the last 12 months preparing the church and Amazing Facts for The Prophecy Code.
In November, Pastor Doug hosted the '04Revival! series, a vital first step that challenged congregations worldwide to take up the great commission during this "tarrying time."(See page 5 for an update.)
Also in November, Amazing Facts debuted the Final Events of Bible Prophecy CD-ROM/DVD, an unprecedented evangelistic resource that uses special effects and stunning visual recreations to present Bible prophecy's most controversial subjects, such as the mark of the beast, the Antichrist, the new earth, and much more. For more on this, see page 12.
Amazing Facts has also introduced updated covers for our soul-winning Bible Study Guides. The new eye-catching covers are the initial step in a totally new look and feel that will connect with today's reader. The Study Guides are being used extensively in the pre-work for NET '05 and will be a key feature in the series.
"Men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:26, 27).