(Photo: Calvary Chapel Chino Hills/Steve Hurlbert)
CHINO HILLS, Calif. – Calvary Chapel movement founder Chuck Smith closed out the 2012 SoCal Prophecy Conference at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills Sunday with a message of "blessed hope" for Christians during the end times.
More than 8,000 people attended the three-day conference held at the church that included several speakers addressing the difficult objections and misconceptions associated with the end times.
Smith, 84, who is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, is undergoing treatment for lung cancer. However, he had no problem delivering a strong message of hope in a fallen world.
"We're on the verge of, it looks like, a war in the Middle East that could expand into a global conflict of nuclear proportions. The economy is tanking. Many nations are on the verge of bankruptcy and our own nation is so many trillions of dollars in debt. It's just amazing," he said.
He began his talk on prophesy by quoting Bible verse Titus 2:13, which states, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
"Surely there is a blessed hope that we have as believers," Smith told those in attendance. "As far as the world is concerned there's not much hope. When you look at the world that we live in today, the future doesn't look very bright."
Smith said he feels that the U.S. government is handling the nation's money incorrectly.
"The politicians seem to think the best way to get out of debt is to borrow money, but you know there's a basic law of economics that when your output is greater than your input, your upkeep is your downfall," Smith said.
"Right now at the present time there are several men (presidential candidates) who are making wonderful promises to us here in the United States. They tell us that they have the answers to the problems our nation is facing and they are trying to encourage people to have confidence in them and vote for them because they have the solutions to the problems.
"Well, maybe you are hoping in these men, but I've lived long enough that I've sort of lost hope in the programs of man and I am looking for a better hope – the hope of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," he said.
He went on to explain that the state of the world will not be getting better according to predictions in the Bible.
"The Bible tells us that things aren't going to get better. Evil days are going to get worse and worse. Jesus said in Matthew 24:12, 'And because iniquity of the earth will abound, the love of many will wax cold.'"
Smith, who regularly gives updates on the events of the Middle East at his church in Costa Mesa, often begins with news that shows the potential outbreak of war, but ends by referring to the current events as "exciting times."
"How can you make, you say, all these dire predictions with a smile on your face? Well, because the outlook for the Church is very bright," he explained. "We're almost there and I know how this story ends and that it's always comforting when you know that it ends and 'they all lived happily ever after.'"
Talking about the future, the influential pastor said, "What do we know for sure? We know there are two major events awaiting the Church. One is the rapture of the Church. It's the hope that we have right now of the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ who is coming for His Church."
He explained that although the word "rapture" is not found in English translations of the Bible, "the teaching of the rapture is definitely in the Bible," he said.
"The second coming of Jesus is the next major event when He comes to establish His kingdom here on the earth. That is what we pray for when we repeat the Lord's prayer, 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.'
"In the rapture He is coming for His church, but in the second coming He is coming with His Church," Smith said. "I do believe in the imminent coming of Christ and that it might be today. He could come at any moment ... hopefully, before we are out of here today. Why not?"
The California pastor concluded his message by saying, "The future for the world is pretty bleak, but for church it's exciting. I can hardly wait. The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is our blessed hope that sustains us today and in a world that is falling apart we can stand tall, we can stand strong with the blessed hope predicated on the promises of God based on our faith."
Speakers on the other days of the conference included Miles McPherson, Jack Hibbs (lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills), Mark Hitchcock, Charlie Campbell, Ed Hindson, and General Jerry Boykin, U.S. Army (retired).