About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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My Prophetic Path


Are you ready for the Battle of Armageddon?  These words haunted my six year old Evangelical Fundamentalist soul.  How did my grandmother Sweetman expect me to respond to her question?  The thought of being blown to smithereens in a war that would obliterate humanity scared the hell out of me, but that was probably the intent of her question.  How was I to enjoy my childhood when I feared being hurled into the last great war, or worst still, being burned alive in the Lake of Fire?  To avoid those eternal flames, I got saved every other Sunday evening at an altar of prayer.  "Walk, run if you must, but get down to this altar.  Get saved.  Don't put it off.  The end of the age is near, and besides, you may die in a car accident on the way home.  You can't afford to take any chances," it was often said.  What could I do, but get saved every chance I had. 


Along with my grandmother's Battle of Armageddon, was dad's Great Tribulation, the anti-Christ, God's wrath, fire and brimstone, and most importantly, Israel's prophetic significance.  At the young age of ten years, my prophetic path was in the process of being paved.     


June, 1967 confirmed it.  After Israel miraculously demolished its enemies in six days, we all knew this was the beginning of the end.  It was the talk of the church, but couldn't Jesus wait a while.  Like all teenage boys, I desired to experience the ecstasy of my wedding night, but I was only fifteen years old.  Without a girlfriend, let alone a wife, marital bliss would be left behind.            


All alone in my bedroom, in February, 1970, Jesus rescued me from my ever-present, guilt-ridden obsession to get saved every other Sunday.  There was no emotion, just an inner assurance of salvation that inspired me to a serious study of the Bible.  In part, that led me to Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth.  I soon realized that I'd never see 1975.  There'd be no marriage, not even one evening of ecstatic joy.    


"This is the last big purchase of my life," were my exact words when my friend and I left Radio Shack in 1973 with my two new Realistic stereo speakers.  I could now enjoy better quality sounding music as I waited for the rapture, or if Lindsey was wrong, my martyrdom during the Great Tribulation.       


In 1974 Dave MacPherson's books, "The Late Great Pre Trib Rapture" and "The Unbelievable Pre Trib Rapture" caused me to question Lindsey's Futuristic approach to the Book of Revelation.  I learned that John Darby (born 1800, died 1882) was the father of today's Prophetic Futurist, pre-trib rapture, doctrine.  Now, with no pre-trib rapture, I'd join those martyred souls of Revelation 6:9 who in agony constantly scream to God for justice.          


In 1975 I discovered that my two favourite Bible teachers, Derek Prince and Malcolm Smith, held opposing prophetic views.  That put me in one prophetic pickle of a mess, but then came Maxwell Whyte, a prominent Toronto pastor.  After talking with him and reading his book, "Who Is The Anti-Christ," I was convinced of his historical view of prophecy.  Lindsey became a blurry memory in the foggy world of Biblical eschatology.  I realized that the Book of Revelation has been unfolding over the last two thousand years, but what about David Edwards, my Bible college president.  He believed that we are living in the thousand year rule of Christ right now.  So, I piled his views on top of my stack of prophetic beliefs.   


During the mid 1980's I was a somewhat confused Prophetic Historicist, but with one nagging irritation, and that was the Israel factor.  Dad would tell me of Israel's prophetic importance.  I'd tell dad that there are other views to consider, but He'd hear of no other views.


By 1988 my pile of prophetic scenarios was ready to topple over, and I didn't feel like cleaning up the mess, so I almost gave up my pursuit of prophecy, but I couldn't.  I had inherited that Sweetman prophetic gene, something my pastor friend told me was evident after hearing of dad's life at his funeral in 2001.  Prior to then, I told my pastor friend who rejected Israel's prophetic importance that God wasn't finished with Israel.  I'd then turn around and tell dad that God was through with Israel.  I was suffering from Prophetic Schizophrenia, and there's no vaccine to cure that illness.      


By 1995 I was well aware of the main prophetic scenarios.  I was determined to reach my own conclusions.  I began my search in Genesis, where it should begin.  I worked my way through the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the prophets.  A good hermeneutical approach to the study of Biblical prophecy must never begin with the last book of the Bible, but that's where most want to start their search.       

It took me about 10 years, but I finally fell on dad's side of the prophetic fence.  It's sad to say, but dad died before I could tell him that the prophetic wall of separation between us had fallen.  Like dad, I was now a Prophetic Futurist, with the acknowledgement that all prophetic positions have their problems.  Unlike dad, I can not hold to his dogmatism.


A bouncing ball doesn't bounce forever.  Sooner or later it settles down to rest.  My prophetic bouncing days are over.  That doesn't mean my prophecy ball doesn't roll around a bit as my prophetic path shifts beneath my feet.  I have my eschatological leanings, but I'm not consumed by the slightest hint of the Battle of Armageddon.  Until the future becomes the present, I'm engaged in the work of the Lord, as is required of us all (Luke 19:13).   

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