Lou: What do you think is the greatest cause for the delay? Are we contributing to this? You have spoken about God’s patience and how the delay really makes God look good. Where might we fit into this?
Graham: We might be candidates for the Kingdom but are not giving the message that must be heard. I think the greatest cause of the delay is that we are giving a beginning message all the time and not a finishing message. We are giving a narrower view, a somewhat self-centered view. We are leading people to be gratefully preoccupied with their own salvation. We are grateful for what God has done for us, yet we are preoccupied with ourselves at another level. The finishing message, the great announcement to the world that will prepare the world for the deception, is about God. We’ve got to talk about the bigger picture, the issues in the Great Controversy. We’ve got to help people understand the whole picture in Scripture. That’s the finishing message. But meanwhile, we’re still using emergency measures to get people to be reverent and to behave. So long as we have to depend on rules and regulations and authority and pomp to keep people reverent, we’re keeping them in a child-like condition. Until we can truly turn people free, we are not giving a finishing message.
Lou: What kind of circumstances will eventually move people to embrace a bigger picture of God? Do you think it will take some fear-producing event, a world catastrophe, or something like that?
Graham: That is often suggested as a catalyst, but fear is more the experience at the foot of Sinai. Fear gets one started. Fear is no way to finish. How the Lord will bring this about, I don’t know. Insurance policies sometimes mention “acts of God.” But when the opportunity comes, will we be ready to take advantage of it? When people want to hear the truth about God, will we be ready to help them find it?
Lou: What’s the best way to prepare for this, to take advantage of these opportunities?
Graham: I think it is understanding the importance of this larger, great controversy view—the truth about our God. Since that is to be found in all sixty-six books of the Bible, there is nothing more practical and essential than learning to read the Bible as a whole. We need a tremendous revival of studying the entire Bible, all of it, every story. We need to take the Bible and read it through and through to get this larger view and decide whether we like it or not. And if we’re proud of it, it will show through in the way we speak. We will not talk so much about ourselves, but about our God. Then when the opportunity comes, we will be ready.
Lou: At a recent funeral service, you shared your conviction about the nearness of Jesus’ return. He is coming soon. Won’t you review that for us here? What do you mean when you say that? You used to preach the same years ago, so, “How near is near?”
Graham: Actually, I used that title about forty years ago up at Pacific Union College: “How Near is Near?” I think historically the great event that is coming is just around the corner, because what needs to be done could be done. And I think the increase of knowledge, which Daniel 12:4 foretold, is occurring. Look at the technology now for communicating with the whole world, incredible technology.
It may be possible to communicate with the whole world and give them this picture. On the other hand, the Second Coming is as near as our last moment of breath. And that’s why I think of it at funerals. When a loved one dies, the next moment of consciousness will put that person face to face with the Lord at the Second Coming. And I love the passage in Thessalonians which says that if someone dies before the Lord comes, they will not have missed anything, they will arise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4:15-17).
More important than knowing when the End is coming is to trust God. If I should die tonight, I want to die His trusting child, because then I will arise His trusting child. I’ll have no complaints, lots of questions, but no complaints. We might even say, “I kind of wanted to live through the final events.” I think Paul did. He felt torn between staying to help the Corinthians and his desire be with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8-9). He didn’t believe in the immortality of the soul. He knew that as a Roman citizen, when his head was cut off with that sharp sword, in the next instant of consciousness he’d be face to face with the One he’d been preaching about with such pride. He had no complaints.
One way or the other, the End is really very near. Especially in a medical center, as many people face the end of their lives, we have good news for them: “If you should fall asleep tonight; you will wake up the next moment from a dreamless sleep face to face with the Lord.” That’s how near it is for us personally. But I believe the big event is also near in the global perspective.
Lou: We’re almost at the end of the book, the last chapter explores the final outcome of the conflict.