October 7th, the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel in what turned out to be the most audacious and brutal attack on Israel in its modern history. 

Less than 24 hours later, Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California went viral in a video clip declaiming the “End Times” are upon us. Laurie, who fashions himself a modern day Billy Graham, leverages news of this unspeakable terror into an oppoortunity for attracting attention to himself. 

In a side-by-side comparison, Laurie’s prophetic, Hollywood-inspired, demagoguery more accurately resembles celebrity Pastor Aimee Semple McPherson – a 1920’s evangelist, faith-healer, and founder of the Four Square Gospel Church (the same denomination to which Laurie belongs) – than he resembles the sober, always dignified Graham. Billy Graham commanded the respect of an entire nation and became a trusted advisor to twelve consecutive presidents.

When McPherson began her crusades, drawing bigger crowds than PT Barnum, her tent meetings were quite the spectacle. As a female preacher and something of a Pentecostal novelty, McPherson was, herself, a master of self-promotion. Traveling from Los Angeles, California, she pulled into towns all across the country driving a Packard touring car with “Jesus is coming soon – get ready” painted on the side. That should tell you about all you need to know. 

Similarly, Pastor Chuck Smith – Laurie’s longtime mentor – in his 1976 book The Soon to be Revealed Antichrist writes, “we are living in the last generation which began with the rebirth of Israel in 1948 (see Matt. 24:32–34).”

For those unaware, you will search in vain looking for references to “the rebirth of Israel” in this passage. 

Smith repeats the claim in his 1978 book End Times: “If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus taught us that the generation which sees the ‘budding of the fig tree,’ a reference to the birth of the nation of Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return.”

On New Year’s Eve 1981, based solely on Pastor Chuck’s formulations, a lot of his followers came to Calvary Chapel gleefully expecting not to go home. Smith had been telling them for more than a decade that the rapture had to happen before the end of 1981.

Today Laurie extends this unseemly legacy generating headlines, circling dates, pointing to maps, consulting compasses, and fomenting confusion. Don’t get me wrong, biblical messages on eschatology are vital sources of hope and faith. Rightly divided, these passages inspire Christians to thrive during times of crisis. What’s difficult to comprehend is Laurie’s particular brand of Pentecostalism with its sordid history of misleading predictions and beleaguered followers. Laurie’s self-impeaching ramblings, in particular, generate intense heat but very little light, even as it burns off diminishing reserves of Christian credibility in the culture more broadly. 

Happy to indulge his desire for notoriety, DailyMail.com posted this headline: “‘Fasten your seatbelts’: California pastor suggests Hamas terror attack on Israel was predicted 2,500 YEARS AGO in Scripture – with the ‘End Time events’ circling around Jerusalem.” 

Obviously, the article was not a commendation. And there is no mystery as to why Laurie’s video performance was panned.  

A reasonable examination of this passage from Matthew’s gospel  reveals such an execrable mishandling of God’s Word – by both Smith and Laurie – that their conclusions bear no evidence of rational inquiry. Instead, they begin with the desired conclusion, go looking for the facts, then apply a thin veneer of borrowed wisdom with the line: “many Bible commentators believe.” 

The amount of time and space necessary to refute all of Laurie’s false doctrines is prohibitive. Instead, this post will focus below on the main contention of Laurie’s viral video, which is to say that “the last days” began in 1948 being some kind of prophetic starting point. 


Is it any wonder Jesus begins His (verse 4) response to the disciples’ (verse 3) inquiry with an admonition?  “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you.'” 

Jesus anticipates at the outset of this discussion a proliferation of grifters and insincere opportunists who cynically play on the fears and passions of the uninformed with the hopes of gaining popularity and power. Unscrupulous men. Ambitious men. Men who painstakingly manicure empyrean personas as a means to maintain a hold on the public’s attention.  


Following this warning, Jesus outlines, in verses 5-7, the first of three installments of trials and tribulations that will purify the church while functioning as a precursor to Christ’s glorious return. Note the special emphasis at the end of verse 8, cautioning the disciples (and the reader) that this is merely the initial wave of birth pangs. There are more to come. 

5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.  

And right on cue, the first Jewish – Roman war breaks out (66 AD -73 AD). A cluster of earthquakes shake the Roman landscape (50 AD to 70 AD) recorded by historians: Tacitus, Josephus, Luke (Acts 16), and Philostratus. Additionally, three famines strike multiple Roman cities and regions (41 AD to 52 AD) under Claudius Caesar. Luke even mentions one of these famines in the book of Acts (Acts 11). 


The second faith-testing installment involves the religious pogroms perpetrated against Christians causing many to recant their confessions of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 

9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.”

The Roman historian Tacitus documents the Neronian persecution of Christians following the great conflagration of Rome in 64 AD. Christians were encouraged to act as government informants making treasonous accusations against fellow Christians in exchange for their own acquittals. Such persecutions are documented by letters between Governor Pliny the Younger, and Emperor Trajan. 


In the midst of these transpiring events the writer of the book of Hebrews (67-69 AD) confirms that some of these prophetic events have already been fulfilled. 

In Hebrews 1:1-2, the author writes, 1 “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” 

“In these last days” implies that, thanks to the anticipatory vigilance of first century Christians, some were already keenly aware that “last days” events were well underway 


The third and final purifying installment describes the complete razing of the temple, destruction of Jerusalem, and the annexation of the Jews from Judaea. 

15 “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 

No one questions the date of the destruction of Jerusalem (70), which is here referred to as the “abomination of desolation.” This is, in part, due to the granular depiction of those events by the quisling Jewish historian Flavius Josephus; and in part due to the commemorative Arch of Titus which stands in Rome to this day. 

Therefore, all of the prophecies described by Jesus in Matthew 24:5-28 are complete by 70. AD.

The three-phased cycle of tribulations successfully endured, the way is now cleared for Jesus’ victorious return (verses 29-31). Until that time comes, tribulation will beset every subsequent generation in the church age – the anxious longings of creation eagerly await. 

One final note, the Bible uses the word “generation” to mean the average human lifespan. 

Psalm 90:10 defines the length of an average life as “threescore years and ten [70 years].” 

So when Matthew 24:34 says, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” The word “generation”  is an expression commonly used to mean 70 years. 

Here is the point, It’s difficult to believe that Laurie isn’t aware of this fact.  It provides the basis for all of his present day predictions. In other words, buried underneath all of Laurie’s conjectures, prognostications, and counterfactuals is an inconvenient truth. The “super sign” of Israel’s 1948 regathering happened 75 years ago. That puts it well outside of the generational 70 year window, thus making Laurie’s prophecy past its expiration date. And that makes Laurie a false prophet. 

So why does Laurie persist? Why does he ignore the warnings found in this passage? How can he flout the biblical wisdom instructing Christians to ignore false prophets? How can he justify his claim to have special knowledge about Jesus’ next appearing. 

Perhaps, along with his self-produced biopic, it’s simply play for legacy. He was in the shadow of Chuck Smith for so long, not to mention Billy Graham, a quick media blitz and claim to special apocalyptic knowledge might be just the thing to enhance his resume. 

By Terry Sweany

Terry Sweany has served as senior minister of Playa Christian Church since 2006. His education includes a MA in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from Hope International University and a BA from Cincinnati Christian University. He is author of the book Life In Ministry and his greatest joy is helping people deepen their relationship with God. Terry lives in Westchester, California and is a member of the LAPD Pacific Division Clergy Council. He and his wife, Patty, have been married 38 years and have a daughter and granddaughter.

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