Sunday, December 23, 2012

Do You Know My Jesus?

PFTL #125

Words: V. B. Vep Ellis, 1957 (stanzas); William F. Lakey, 1956 (chorus)
Music: William F. Lakey, 1956; arranged by V. B. Vep Ellis, 1957

Vesphew Benton Ellis (1917-1988), who went by the nickname "Vep," was one of the most prolific gospel songwriters of the modern era. The database lists 107 songs to his credit, and he is estimated by one count to have written over 500.(Slaughter) He was a minister of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) for nearly half a century, and served as music director for the well-known televangelist Oral Roberts.(Southern Gospel History) A search of reveals that Ellis edited gospel songbooks for the Tennessee Music Company during the 1940s and 1950s, and that several albums of his songs have been recorded by the chorus of Lee University. Both institutions are located in Cleveland, Tennessee and are historically associated with the Church of God.

From the frequency of their occurrence in hymnals ( and in recordings (Southern Gospel History), Ellis's most popular songs appear to be "The love of God," "I'm free again," and "Over the moon." "Do you know my Jesus?" runs close behind these. It has been recorded by classic gospel quartets such as the Blackwood Brothers, the Stamps Quartet, the Chuck Wagon Gang, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Statesmen, and the Kingsmen.(Southern Gospel History) also lists recordings of this song by country artists such as Skeeter Davis and Don Gibson, as well as gospel standard-bearers such as George Beverly Shea and the Gaithers.

William F. "Bill" Lakey was a songwriter (primarily a lyricist) associated with Ellis in the Tennessee Music Company. lists about two dozen songs by Lakey, most of them appearing in these songbooks from that publisher: Songs of the Redeemed (1955), Billows of Love (1957), Echoes of Calvary (1958), and Forward in Faith (1959). Records of the U.S. Copyright Office show that Lakey co-wrote at least nine other songs with Vep Ellis, and continued his work with the Tennessee Music Company through the 1960s. If the Copyright Office catalog's "Lakey, Bill" and "Lakey, W. F." are the same person (which appears to be the case, based on the renewal record for EP0000159811), his last publication was Jesus, Jesus, Jesus: lifting His name in song: new sacred poetry & music by Bill Lakey. This copyright was filed from Fairview, Oklahoma, which leads me to think that he is the same William F. Lakey (1926-1996) buried in the Fairview Cemetery.

"Do you know my Jesus?" is a great example of the benefit of collaboration. According to the authorship data given in Praise for the Lord, Lakey wrote the refrain first; this is the heart of the song, confronting the hearer with the all-important question that gives the song its title, but it is not quite enough to stand on its own. Ellis then wrote the stanzas, posing questions about the hearer's life which lead into the stanza in a natural progression of thoughts. It is a model of evangelism put to music; the listener is approached where he or she is in life, led to question the direction of that life, and then gently brought to the great question we all someday must answer.

Stanza 1:
Have you a heart that's weary,
Tending a load of care;
Are you a soul that's seeking
Rest from the burden you bear?

The first stanza speaks to the person who may not actually know what he or she is lacking in life, but simply knows that something is missing. People might cover up this nagging unease with various things, but there is still a gap there that cannot be filled except by God. It was part of the mission of Christ to bring a personal knowledge of God into the world, as He said in John 14:7, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him." John wrote more expansively on this in the prologue to his account of the gospel:
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John 1:10-14)
It was this blessing John wrote of again in his first letter: "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." But John noted again sadly, "The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him."(1 John 3:1)

There is no question that the world is weary-hearted, "tending a load of care." Ecclesiastes presents an honest account of life viewed from this worldly perspective: "All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing."(Ecclesiastes 1:8) But the answer is not found in a philosophy, or in a method, or in a discipline; it is found in a Person.

Do you know my Jesus?
Do you know my Friend?
Have you heard He loves you,
And that He will abide till the end?

One of the pitfalls of the English speaker who studies German is learning the proper usage of the two principal verbs for the concept "to know"--wissen and kennen. Where English uses a single expression, the German wissen expresses the knowledge of a fact, but kennen expresses acquaintance with a person or place. One may legitimately ask, "Wissen Sie, wo Berlin ist?" ("Do you know where Berlin is?"), or "Kennen Sie Berlin?" ("Do you know Berlin?"), but the question, "Wissen Sie Berlin?" would literally mean something like, "Are you aware that Berlin exists?"--if it meant anything at all. The distinctive meaning of kennen carries over into English by way of the Scottish ken, which derives from a similar root word. If something is "beyond my ken" it is outside my experience, or beyond my understanding.

When the refrain of this song asks the question, "Do you know my Jesus?," it is in this deeper sense of acquaintance and personal familiarity. Many people are vaguely aware of the basic claims about who Jesus is; a smaller number could be said to truly know His life and teachings in some depth; but far fewer can claim to know Him as a person knows a close friend. Our friends and family on this earth, who know us and are known by us as nearly as any person knows another, have an impact on us over the years. Our characters are changed and the courses of our lives are altered by these associations. The same effects are seen in those who truly know Jesus, as evidenced by the words of the apostles:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.(2 Peter 1:2-4)
According to Peter, knowing Jesus blesses the believer in a number of ways. He changes our character, and benefits us both now and hereafter with:
  • Grace and peace.
  • All things that pertain to life and godliness.
  • Precious and very great promises.
  • Partaking of the divine nature.
  • Escape from the corruption that is in the world.
Paul wrote to the Philippians, from his imprisonment in Rome, about the central importance of a personal knowledge of Christ. It was worth everything to Paul:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith--that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.(Philippians 3:8-11)
Through knowing Christ, Paul found righteousness from God. By emulating Christ's death (in baptism, as he explained in Romans 6, and also in being a "living sacrifice" day by day) Paul not only died to sin, but received the "power of His resurrection" in a new spiritual life here, and an eternal life following the Resurrection to come. There is no way to exaggerate, no way to overstate the importance of knowing Christ.

How do we come to know Jesus? If I seek to really understand some figure of history, above all I will want to read everything that is known to have been written or said by that person. I will also read everything written or said by those who knew the individual personally; to a lesser extent, I will read from and talk to those who have devoted a great deal of study to that person. In the same way, if I want to really understand Jesus, I will pay careful attention to His words--the sermons, the parables, the questions, and the commands. I will study the writings of the New Testament authors, who knew Him personally and were among His earliest followers. I will also seek out those today who have come to know Him well, and will learn what I can from them as well.

But from the words of Peter and Paul, it is apparent that "knowing Jesus" is incomplete unless it results in a change in our lives. In this sense, it reminds me of the study of music composition. In centuries past, composers studied the works of earlier generations through writing out copies of their works by hand. In the process of copying, they learned the patterns and nuances of each composer's style and absorbed the essentials that made the music work. When I took a course in 18th-century counterpoint, we followed a similar approach: we modeled our work on the inventions and fugues of J. S. Bach, using a compilation of his works as our only textbook. Each week we analyzed the structures of these works in both the large and small scale, and compared our own works to those of the master. It was a humiliating process, and I was never satisfied with my fugue; but I gained a much deeper appreciation for Bach's technique, and what little success I had was certainly derived from emulating his style. In the same fashion, "knowing Jesus" is only fully realized when we put His character into practice in our own lives.

Stanza 2:

Where is your heart, O pilgrim,
What does your light reveal?
Who hears your call for comfort,
When naught but sorrow you feel?


The second stanza addresses the person who is a "pilgrim"--not at rest, or insensible to life's questions, but instead actively looking for answers. Perhaps, like Diogenes with his lamp, this person is using the "light" of human knowledge and inquiry in a search for something true and substantial. Diogenes, of course, was a founder of the philosophy of Cynicism; not surprisingly, his modern followers are left in much the same dilemma as they search for life's answers "under the sun."(Ecclesiastes 1:14) But as the cynic asks the final question, "Who cares?" the Christian offers a lifeline of hope if it will be received.

Or is this pilgrim perhaps a wayward Christian, who has "left the first love?"(Revelation 2:4) Scripture is clear that some will "profess to know God, but deny Him by their works."(Titus 1:16) This is not necessarily done consciously; few people come to Jesus with the intention to backslide. So how can we know that we are maintaining a good relationship with Jesus? The apostle John said, "And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says, 'I know Him,' but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."(1 John 2:3-4) If we know Him as we should, we will keep His words closely in mind and do our best to obey them. We can also look at our relationships to others; if they are not characterized by love, we have fallen out of touch with Jesus. John again says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."(1 John 4:7-8)

Just as in the case of earthly friends with whom we have fallen out of touch, sometimes we have to become reacquainted with Jesus. We should study all of Scripture, of course, but it seems logical that a Christian should never be away for long from the four biographical accounts given of the Christ. We can spend time in the company of those who love Him and love to speak of Him--our fellow Christians today, as well as those apostles who carried out His will, and those prophets who foretold His coming. We can spend time in prayer, and we can focus on His perfect love for us when we meet on every Lord's Day to take His Supper. We can seek every day to live out the example He gave us, as much as our imperfect efforts allow.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.(2 Peter 1:5-8)
Stanza 3:
Who knows your disappointments,
Who hears each time you cry?
Who understands your heartaches,
Who dries the tears from your eyes?


In the final stanza, Ellis turns the premise around--Does Jesus know you? In Matthew 7:23 Jesus warned that some who claim to follow Him, but who do so in disobedience or insincerity, will hear the tragic words, "I never knew you." But faithful Christians who truly know Jesus can rest assured that Jesus knows them as well. In the 2nd and 3rd chapters of the Revelation, Jesus told each of the seven churches of Asia, "I know your works." He knew both the good and the bad, their failures and their triumphs.

When we are disappointed, Jesus knows this disappointment. He too met with disappointment in His earthly life. In John 6:67, after many of His disciples rejected Him and "followed Him no more," Jesus said to the Twelve, "Will you go away also?" When we have heartaches, Jesus knows this feeling as well. Remember His grief over Jerusalem when He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"(Luke 13:34) And when we shed tears, Jesus has done so as well. In that shortest verse of the Scriptures (at least as we have marked off verses), John 11:35, we read a simple but profound statement: "Jesus wept." The Lord of Creation, who has "all authority in heaven and on earth,"(Matthew 28:18) has felt human tears run down His cheeks just as surely as have we.

The question, "Do you know my Jesus?" is the most important question that we will ever answer. May we always follow Peter's advice in 2 Peter 3:18, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."

About the music:

The melody of this song is a little unusual, though not unpleasantly so. The melody in the stanza consists far more of leaps than of steps, reversing the usual tendency. The opening phrase even includes the leap of an octave in the middle of a series of four consecutive leaps, creating a very distinctive profile. The refrain leaps into the upper register and stays there, contrasting with the low range of the stanza. An effective tension is set up in the refrain by the emphasis on the leading tone at the ends of the first two phrases (on the word "know" each time), resolved by the triumphant climb up to the highest note of the tune on the words "Have you heard?"

Ellis was an important player in the creation of the modern commercial Southern gospel style. I admit this is not a kind of music that I care for personally, but Ellis certainly writes it very effectively. One aspect of this song that is very telling of its innate quality is that it translates well to a cappella congregational singing, something that is not always true of this style. In this case, however, the song works well both as a quartet and as a congregational song. One factor in its favor here is that it is adaptable to a wide range of tempo. Mainstream interpretations such as those of the Gaithers and Skeeter Davis clock in at about 82 beats per minute; I even found one Youtube video of Jimmy Swaggart singing it at 70 beats per minute. By contrast, the video below represents a pretty typical tempo (maybe a little on the fast side) used for a cappella congregational singing among the Churches of Christ. The tempo is about 128 beats per minute, nearly twice as fast as Swaggart's!

I think the reason for this huge difference is that instrumentally accompanied gospel uses fills from the accompaniment to keep things moving during long notes of the melody, especially at the ends of phrases. In a cappella singing, however, these long notes can seem to be a sudden collapse of the tempo; it is just more comfortable to keep things moving at a faster pace. Not every song works well without accompaniment and at a radically different speed, but "Do you know my Jesus?" works well at both fast and slow tempos.


"Vep Ellis." Southern Gospel History.

Slaughter, Henry. "Vep Ellis: an example to follow." I Remember

United States Copyright Office. Copyright Catalog (1978-present).

"William F. Lakey." Find-A-Grave.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Apocalypse Now?

According to believers in the 21 December 2012 apocalypse, the ancient Mayan calender predicts the end of the world (or at least an epoch-defining cataclysm) in three days. Speculators differ on the means--a devastating solar flare, a supersized black hole, or the mysterious planet Nibiru? Take your pick. My personal favorite is Timewave Zero, "at which point anything and everything imaginable will occur simultaneously."(Wikipedia) But one belief unites them all: the End is Near (again).

Observers of popular religious culture (for that is what this is, whether people admit it or not) will recognize that the real phenomenon here is that so many people will fall for yet another predicted date for the end of the world. This happens, and will continue to happen, despite the failure of every preceding prediction--not to mention Jesus' clear insistence that "no one knows."(Mark 13:32) In honor of this latest instance of doomsaying, I would like to present some examples of apocalyptic themes in church music from days gone by.

Probably the best known of these is "Jesus is coming soon" (PFTL 351), written by Robert E. Winsett in 1942. This popular gospel song actually won "Song of the Year" in the Gospel Music Association's very first Dove Awards--in 1969!( It is still included in a number of U.S. hymnals. I will write a complete post on this song when I get to it in alphabetical order (in approximately the year 2016 or so if the Lord wills). But for now, consider a few points about the origins and message of this song.

In 1942, the United States was suddenly engaged in World War Two in earnest. Japan had delivered a nearly fatal blow to our navy in the Pacific, crushing Americans' faith that the oceans would keep war at bay. Though that year would also see major turning points in favor of the Allies--such as Midway, El Alamein, and Stalingrad--to the average person at the time it was anyone's guess who would be the victor. And if one were looking for "the Antichrist" (as that term is popularly used; but see 1 John 2:18!), Adolf Hitler was a candidate far better qualified than those names that have been bandied about since. In the early 1940s it certainly looked as though the world were ending!

What were the views of Robert E. Winsett when he wrote this song? I have found no direct testimony from the author, but his personal and professional associations offer pretty conclusive evidence. He was a minister in the Church of God (Seventh Day),(Nickels, 123) an Adventist group that never accepted Ellen White's claims as a prophet.("Questions") Their beliefs about the Apocalypse were originally quite mixed, stemming from the spectacular failure of the William Miller prophecies in the 19th century. But in the early 20th century Andrew N. Dugger, editor of the Bible Advocate and president of the General Conference (church history buffs may recognize his name also from the 1942 Dugger-Porter debate), taught that world events were pointing to an immediate return of Christ. Dugger promoted his view especially heavily during the 1920s to 1940s--the era of the Great Depression and World War Two.(Coulter, 13) He declared as early as 1933,
The end is very near at hand. Signs throughout the world show the Lord is soon coming. European diplomats are prophesying a world war involving all nations in 1934 which they say the League of Nations is powerless to avert. We know what this means. Conditions of the world, and also of the Holy Land, are set in order for Armageddon. Therefore the church must also be set in order, to meet the bridegroom. ... It is now time for his wife to make herself ready.(quoted in Lane)
It is significant as well that Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God, promoters of the Anglo-Israelism version of End Times doctrines, split away from the Church of God (Seventh Day) during this time.("Questions") It is interesting to note that after the war failed to end in Armageddon, opinions again became divided, and today the mainstream Church of God (Seventh Day) officially eschews the idea of predicting the return of Christ.(Coulter, 13; see also McBride, 6-7)

Where was Winsett during the period of Dugger's ascendancy? When the Salem-Stanberry split occured in the Church of God (Seventh Day) in 1933, Winsett was selected as part of the leadership of the Salem branch, which was headed primarily by Dugger.(Nickels, 134) Though the split itself (which was later repaired) was about church organization, not End Times doctrines, this does show the association of the two men. At the time "Jesus is coming soon" was written, on the heels of a global depression and deep into a global war, there was widespread belief in Winsett's circles that the return of Christ was imminent.

The lyrics come into much sharper focus in this context. I believe the first stanza obviously references World War Two, which from the perspective of the U.S. general public had just gone from a distant conflict on another continent to a full national mobilization.
Troublesome times are here,
Filling men's hearts with fear;
Freedom we all hold dear
Now is at stake . . .
The second stanza might be addressing the Great Depression ("losing their homes of gold?"), a traumatic decade of hardship and upheaval that had transformed American society. The first line probably refers to Jesus' statement in Matthew 24:12, "And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold." Matthew 24, of course, is a central text in the debate over End Times predictions.
Love of so many cold,
Losing their homes of gold;
This in God's word is told,
Evils abound.
Winsett's belief that current events pointed to an imminent Apocalypse is most clearly stated in the second half of the stanza:
When these signs come to pass,
Nearing the end at last,
It will come very fast,
Trumpets will sound.
The rest of the lyrics fit in with this interpretation well enough, but do not specifically suggest it.

For those of us who stand simply on Jesus' plain statement that "concerning that day and hour, no one knows,"(Matthew 24:36) what does this song mean? If you didn't know when Winsett wrote it, and what his beliefs were about the events of his day, the song might bear a less controversial interpretation (up to a certain point). The first stanza asserts only that "troublesome times are here," creating fear and threatening a loss of liberties. That has been more or less true for most people throughout the history of the world; the troubles and threats are always there, only the names change. Admittedly, however, to say that those times "are here" implies that they were not before, and that their arrival has significance.

The refrain might not be objectionable either, depending on what one means by "coming soon:"
Jesus is coming soon,
Morning or night or noon!
Many will meet their doom;
Trumpets will sound.
All of the dead shall rise,
Righteous meet in the skies,
Going where no one dies,
Heavenward bound.
Jesus said in His last words to us, after all, "Surely I am coming quickly."(Revelation 22:21) Naturally, what God means by "quickly" and what we mean by "quickly" are two different things; God literally has all the time in the world. The statement "Jesus is coming soon," therefore, is true against this backdrop; but in the overall context of the song it obviously implies that Jesus is coming soon in the sense we humans mean.

If there were any doubt of the interpretation of this song, the second stanza removes it entirely. The line, "When these signs come to pass," claims that the foregoing events are visible indications of the imminent return of Jesus; Winsett either believed the signs were already present, or would be so shortly. For this reason, this stanza is often omitted among the Churches of Christ, either by the song leader in practice or in the hymnal itself (as in Praise for the Lord). The third stanza does not contain anything particularly controversial.

We often sing hymns, of course, that were written by people with whom we disagree in some aspect of doctrine. Sometimes we even sing a hymn with an entirely different meaning than what the author intended--for example, "Faith of our Fathers" is sung by many different religious groups despite the fact that Faber was writing specifically about Roman Catholicism (check the original third stanza). But in the case of "Jesus is coming soon," the lyrics (especially in the second stanza) are so explicit in their intent that many in the Churches of Christ simply will not use it in worship. I do not lead it myself (even with the second stanza omitted) because in my opinion, an honest, straightforward reading of it teaches doctrines I believe to be false. (For two excellent articles on doctrinal issues in this song, see Guy F. Hester, "Is Jesus coming soon?" from the May 2011 Gospel Gleaner, and "Jesus is coming soon?" by Dave Miller at the Apologetics Press site.)

"Jesus is coming soon" in its historical context brings up another interesting point--if this song was proclaiming the Apocalypse in the 1940s, how did it manage to outlive the failure of that prediction and even rise in popularity through the years? Part of the reason is that it is a rousing, well-written song. But I believe another reason was the rapid ascendancy of a new era of "troublesome times"--the atomic age. If the line about "losing their homes of gold" made less sense during the post-war era when American affluence was rising, the Cold War threat of sudden and fiery destruction was "filling men's hearts with fear" once again.

With the rising popularity of commercial gospel music during the post-war era, many songwriters took up the theme of "Jesus is coming soon" in a similar but updated vein. One of the most famous of these "atomic gospel" songs was "Great Atomic Power" by the Louvin Brothers in 1952. Despite its rather macabre lyrics, this has remained a popular song in bluegrass and folk music circles, partly for its historic value and partly because it is just rather catchy.

The paranoia of the Cold War took many forms, perhaps none more unusual than the flying saucer panics of the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1947, the year of the Roswell incident and the Truman Doctrine, the Buchanan Brothers released this interesting interpretation of current events:

Please understand that I am not giving these examples in order to mock them (well, maybe the last one). I still remember, from my childhood in the later part of the Cold War, how the hairs on the back of my neck stood up whenever I heard that shrill tone of the Emergency Broadcasting System. (For some sick reason they always tested it right after school, when I was home alone watching cartoons.) But I do hope to make the point that when society is disrupted by some cataclysm, or the perceived threat of cataclysm, one of our instinctive human responses is to interpret it as a sign.

We also have a recurring fascination with unusual numbers on the calendar. It has happened before and will happen again. Look, for example, at the following text:
Hear, O earth, hear, O great bordering sea;
Hear, O man, hear, everything which lives under the sun:
The day of supreme wrath comes nigh,
Troublesome day,
Bitter day,
At which the heavens will flee,
The sun will turn red,
The moon will be altered, and the day grow dark,
And the stars will fall to earth.
Alas, wretches,
Alas, wretches,
Why, O foolish man,
Do you follow after pleasure?
This is the first stanza (in my imperfect translation) of "Audi tellus," an apocalyptic hymn from the original millennium scare--before the year 1000.(Norberg, 154; see also Landes, 120) Similar fears arose in the 14th century when the Black Death wiped out as much as a third of the population of Europe. In 1349 the Geissler, wandering bands of penitents who flailed themselves with whips in hopes of appeasing God's wrath, sang the hymn "Nu hebent auf die uweren Händ," the gist of which is that Jesus was prepared to destroy the world because of the corruption of the church, but that Mary was interceding on behalf of the penitent.(Runge, 38, see also page 174)

Centuries later in London, the year 1666--ominous enough already--was marked by plague and fire, provoking apocalyptic expectations once again. The library of Samuel Pepys preserved an anonymous broadside ballad from that year, titled "A Bell-Man for England," the first stanza of which follows.
Awake, awake, oh England, sweet England now awake,
And to thy prayers speedily, doe thou thy selfe betake:
The Lord thy God is comming, within the skie so cleare:
Repent with speed thy wickednesse, the day it draweth neere.
The full text of fifteen stanzas (available at the wonderful English Broadside Ballad Archive) covers much of the same ground as "Jesus is Coming Soon," including this striking parallel: "For all things be fulfilled, which Christ before had told, / Small faith is now remaining, and charity is growne cold."

The tendency to express apocalyptic predictions in song is nothing new, because people will sing about things that weigh on their minds; and a feeling that the end is near is something that seems to grip societies every so often, whether because of wars, plagues, natural disasters, or social upheavals. The one thing that these apocalyptic predictions have all had in common, of course, is that they have been wrong! In my own three decades or so of following this subject, I have seen several widely publicized predictions of the Apocalypse come and go. If I had the desire, I could assemble a large stack of books ascertaining the identity of the "Antichrist," depending on the international boogeyman of the moment. I have been solemnly assured that the Lord must surely come by the year 1980, 1990, 2000, 2012, etc.

For every person who hears such a prediction and is caused perhaps to think for a moment about the state of his or her soul, how many more are encouraged to join the scoffers who say, "Where is the promise of His coming?"(2 Peter 3:4) How much better simply to follow Christ's command in Matthew 25:13, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour!" And in a very real sense, of course, the "End is Near" for each one of us. I say this not to be morbid, but as a simple fact: every day could be our last day, whether the Lord returns that day or not. We need to be prepared to meet the Lord on 21 December 2012, and on any other day of the calendar. God help us to devote our energies to serving Him and our fellow humanity, rather than wasting time in speculation on a matter we have been told is not to be found out!


"2012 Phenomenon." Wikipedia.

Nickels, Richard C. History of the Church of God (Seventh Day). Revised by the author in 1993. Freetoshare Publications, 2010.

"Frequently asked questions." General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day)

Coulter, Robert. "Questions and answers." Bible Advocate volume 146, number 6 (November-December 2012), page 13.

McBride, James. "It's doomsday... again!" Bible Advocate volume 146, number 6 (November-December 2012), pages 6-7.

Lane, Jack M. "Why I am no longer an 'imminent Adventist.'"

Norberg, Dag. An Introduction to the Study of Medieval Latin Versification, translated by Roti & Skubly, edited by Jan Ziolkowski. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 2004.

Landes, Richard. "The Fear of an Apocalyptic Year 1000: Augustinian Historiography, Medieval and Modern." Speculum, 75:1 (January 2000), pages 97-145. Online version from Boston University Department of History.