Copyright 1994 - 2013 Endtime Prophecy Net
THE INTERNET : OUR FINAL FRONTIER;
YOUR LAST CHANCE?
Authored By : Bill Kochman (aka The WordWeaver)
Published On : April 22, 1997
Last Updated : February 27, 2013
Is Internet A Final Frontier To Give People One Last Chance?, Armageddon BBS, FidoNet History And BBS'ing, The Rise Of The Internet, Demise Of FidoNet, Lure Of The Internet, Great Was The Company, Brief History Of My Online Ministry, Blessings Through Obedience, God Will Provide Our Needs, Don't Question God's Methods, Extent of God's Love And Mercy, Pride, Ego And Self-Preservation, Our Moment Of Vulnerability In Privacy Of Our Homes, Sharp Sword Of God's Word Pierces Our Hearts, Why God Give People Many Chances, God's Coming Judgment And Wrath
For those of you who may be interested, this article concerns the early history of my online Christian ministry, beginning with my BBS and my presence on the FidoNet message network, and then moving on to the creation of my website -- Endtime Prophecy Net -- on the Internet. In addition to discussing my history with BBSing and the FidoNet network, this article will emphasize my growing realization that the Internet may quite possibly be our final witnessing frontier insofar as Christian evangelism is concerned.
In other words, as I will be explaining in more detail later on in this article, it is my personal belief that once other missionary frontiers have closed, the Internet may provide some people in closed countries with one last chance to here the Christian Gospel. Once this frontier -- the Internet -- is closed to the Christian Gospel, that may be it, and many people may not get another chance. So let us begin by going back in time to the early 1990's, when I became involved with the FidoNet network, and set up my first BBS -- Armageddon -- which was originally called "The Treasure Trove" BBS.
For those of you who may be new to online communications, there is a good possibility that you have never heard of FidoNet. Briefly, back in the late 1980's and early 1990's, FidoNet was arguably as popular as the Internet is today. In fact, some people who are still diehard FidoNet members in its waning hours, won't hesitate to inform the "unlearned", that FidoNet was one of the precursors to the now-public Internet. It was -- and still is -- comprised of individual BBSes -- that is, Bulletin Board Services, or Bulletin Board Systems -- which are run on private computers, and which are networked together using terminal software via local, direct telephone dial-up connections.
Today, FidoNet BBSes -- and BBSes in general -- are likewise accessible over the Internet via the telnet protocol. Such BBSes utilize port 23, which is the standard telnet port. This was the case with the Armageddon BBS, until I finally took it offline in July of 2011 due to low traffic and other technical reasons.
In other words, unlike today where the vast majority of us must rely upon an ISP -- Internet Service Provider -- or at least a LAN -- Local Area Network -- connection, in order to connect to the Internet, there was no need for a middle man back then, because the original FidoNet networks were run by SysOps -- or System Operators -- who all generally lived in the same city, town or general area. Connecting to another computer in the network was simply a matter of making a local telephone call -- via modem -- to a particular BBS. Upon connecting to such a system, one could then obtain a list of other local BBSes -- or nodes -- which formed a part of that particular BBS network. Being as these were usually local calls, there was no charge involved. In fact, in the beginning, most -- if not all -- BBSes were run for free by people who were dedicated to the hobby. How different from today where everything revolves around money and profit.
As the acronym "BBS" implies, the primary purpose of a BBS was to serve as a bulletin board, or message board, for the users of the system, as well as for the other members of the entire local network, via the exchange of message packets by the SysOps. File-sharing also became an integral part of the local BBS environment. While files were for the most part free, many SysOps eventually found it necessary to implement upload/download quotas in order to maintain a fresh stock of interesting files for their BBS members. Sadly, even back then, file leeches -- people who download a lot of files, but who rarely upload anything in return -- were a problem.
Originally, FidoNet -- which was but one of such networks -- was confined to the United States of America and Canada. As more local BBS networks joined FidoNet, it became necessary to form various "stars" -- or hubs -- that served as message relay stations between the various BBS networks which formed a part of the overall FidoNet network. As I recall, there were three such "stars" in the continental USA. If memory serves me correctly, these three "stars" were located in Texas, Pennsylvania and possibly California or Washington State.
The people who administrated these hubs also worked together to set the various policies which governed overall FidoNet operations. There was a lot of politicking going on, and on occasions there were problems. Some FidoNet message echoes were also dominated by dictatorial, tyrannical types, who at times acted like little "gods", and their word was law. If a BBS visitor dared to challenge an echo moderator's word, or worse yet, argued with them in public -- which was a serious taboo within FidoNet -- it could easily lead to that user's temporary, or even permanent, expulsion from participation in that particular message conference; and it still happens on occasion today, although with less frequency, being as FidoNet is now only a shadow of its former self with a lot fewer BBS participants.
On a few occasions, I experienced this myself; but it wasn't because I was disrespectful in any way; I simply wanted to share my Christian faith with others, because it occurred to me that it may have possibly been someone's only chance, -- and maybe even their last opportunity -- to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, some echo moderators just didn't want to hear anything about it. They made their set of rules; and as I said, a BBS visitor either chose to abide by those rules, or else. Sadly, even back then, Wicca, and other false belief systems had already taken root within the online community. I particularly noticed this amongst the military personnel who appeared to operate a lot of the BBSes back then.
One thing is for certain; the FidoNet message conferences -- or echoes as they were known -- were dedicated to a variety of topics and interests. Thus, they served as a springboard for sharing quite a diversity of viewpoints. Whether it was technocrats discussing the latest developments in computer technology, or people interested in politics who were engaged in debating the latest issues from a variety of political perspectives, or young kids who were thoroughly absorbed in the latest networked RPG's -- role-playing games -- or like me, religious people who wanted to share their faith with the world, or scientists and academia exchanging views on the latest speculations and theories, or people talking about their pets or hobbies, within the BBS world, it seems that everyone was represented to one degree or another.
Once it became physically possible to exchange message data packets via the Internet -- and thus cut down on the cost of long distance phone calls between FidoNet hubs and adjoining networks -- FidoNet grew even more, and began to expand to other countries. As a result, it became necessary to divide the online world into different zones, each one of which had their coordinators, North America being Zone 1. Back during its heyday, from about the late eighties to the mid nineties, FidoNet was comprised of literally thousands of BBSes around the world. I suppose that an exact number will really never be known, being as BBSes were coming and going all the time, and it was rather difficult to keep the nodelists up-to-date in a realistic manner. I have no idea how many active BBSes continue to exist today, but I am sure that they are not nearly as many as twenty years ago.
Back during the mid to late nineties, while the rising star of the Internet offered new growth opportunities for BBSing and networks like FidoNet, it also signaled FidoNet's slow decline from popularity, and in fact, its eventual demise, due to the simple reason that FidoNet simply could not keep up with the increasingly sophisticated -- and attractive -- technologies which were being developed specifically for the Internet. Whereas BBSes have been limited to message boards, online chat, XYZ modem file transfers, and sub-standard ANSI graphics -- although us old-time BBSers still think that the graphics we used were cool at the time, particularly those which were animated -- the Internet hasn't faced these kinds of limitations.
In addition to providing all of the above -- except for the PC-ANSI graphics -- the high-speed Internet today offers us live or pre-recorded streaming audio and video in the form of news, sports, special events, video conferencing, Internet TV and radio, worldwide web-cams, music, movie trailers and many other forms of entertainment. For added special effects and interactivity, webmasters also offer us Shockwave and Flash movies, Java applets, CGI scripts, as well as a host of other plug-in technologies which further enhance one's Internet experience. Then, of course, there are social networks such as Facebook, Google+, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.
Clearly, the volume of information the Internet provides, -- whether the information happens to be factual, propaganda or fantasy -- and the speed with which it delivers the data to us, can't possibly be compared to the archaic FidoNet network by any means. Whether we are looking for knowledge, or merely entertainment, the Internet offers each online user instant gratification -- a luxury which was not afforded to BBSers. The Internet is an exotic -- and dangerous-- electronic world full of motion, sounds and colors which immediately flood our human senses; and it is a cyberworld where one can be whoever he wishes to be regardless of the reality that surrounds him. Sadly, a lot of Internet content does nothing to contribute to the betterment of society because it fails to embrace high moral standards; and as I noted earlier, a large part of it now revolves around making a profit, and nothing more.
Yet, at the same time, I can see God's Hand, and His Wisdom, behind the development of the Internet to some degree. While a certain percentage of Internet content has been devoted to things which in my view should be prohibited, we Christians have not allowed Satan to steal the show entirely. Some of us have availed ourselves of this new technology in order to further the Work of the Lord, in the hope that more people will come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. While I don't have a precise figure, from my involvement in Christian web rings, as well as from my general web surfing, I am given the impression that there are currently thousands of individual web sites which are dedicated to the sharing of our Christian faith in some form. I am reminded of the following verses:
"The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it."
Psalms 68:11, KJV
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
Matthew 24:14, KJV
It was from my humble beginnings as a local BBS, exploring the frontier of FidoNet, that my current online Christian outreach ministry evolved. After serving as a missionary for about fifteen years, first in my native country, and then in several foreign nations as well, I eventually settled in my current locale during the mid 1980's, where I continued in a door-to-door and street ministry for a time. But towards the end of the eighties, I grew rather backslidden in my ways and left my first love for the Lord's Work. Instead of preaching the Gospel of Christ full-time as I had been doing, I became involved in various secular jobs; first working as a radio DJ and a security guard, and then as a pet store manager. After being laid off due to a change in ownership, I started my own aquarium design and maintenance business, which was featured twice in our local newspaper. However, that business faltered, which I now believe was by God's design.
In spite of my waywardness, God wasn't through with me yet. It was through one of those jobs that I was introduced to my first computer: a Macintosh Classic. That was in 1990. By today's standards, the Classic is a very ancient machine; and nowadays, most people just throw them away, or give them away for spare parts. Back then though, having a black and white nine inch monitor with a CPU speeding along at about fourteen megahertz as I recall, was something to behold; and need I tell you about our "super-fast" 1200 baud modems of the time? Well, by early 1993, I was finally able to buy my very first computer: a Macintosh LC III. This came with a fourteen inch, 256-color monitor, a 25 MHz CPU, 4 megabytes of RAM, and a 160 megabyte hard drive. I even purchased a black and white laser printer to go along with it. Boy was I moving up in the world. Yes, I know. I can hear some of you chuckling from here, as you work on your 3 GHZ machine with a 27" monitor, 8 GB of RAM and a 2 TB hard drive.
It was towards the end of that same year that I first heard about BBSing; and before long, I managed to borrow an Apple modem from a friend of mine. For those of you who complain about the slow speed of today's dial-up connections, imagine if you can, moving along at 300 to 1200 baud with an Apple modem. Of course, at the time, it didn't seem slow, because we had nothing faster with which to compare it; and just being online was a wonder in itself. Eventually, I acquired a 2400 baud modem as a trade-off for a desktop Christmas lights program at a local Macintosh Users Group meeting. It didn't even come with a modem cable, but I was happy. Later, I moved on to a 14.4 modem, followed by a 56K modem. As fast as that seemed at the time, it obviously could not compare to the DSL line that we later acquired, which was followed by the 7 Megabit cable modem connection that we have today.
At the time, I had no idea that I could actually operate my own BBS, so I was happy with just posting messages on the local boards. But even then, God was already beginning to stir up my spirit again, as I just couldn't keep away from preaching the Gospel. It was during early 1994, after having gotten my feet wet in the BBS world, that I finally bought the Hermes BBS software package, and started my own board, which eventually became known as "The Treasure Trove BBS", or "TTT BBS", due to its Christian content. The name of my BBS was based on the following verse that is found in the Gospel of Matthew:
"Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old."
Matthew 13:52, KJV
Before long, I joined a local Christian BBS network, the name of which I can no longer remember. It was through that BBS network that I also became familiar with FidoNet; and eventually, I began my own FidoNet message conference. That FidoNet echo was actually the beginning of my worldwide online Christian outreach ministry. In fact, it was at that time that I began writing my first rudimentary articles. In short, the BBS world was my missionary frontier at the time, and I shared my faith with a passion; and made some quick online enemies as well as a result of it.
During the same time that all of these events were occurring in my own life, the Internet was also growing and gaining in popularity; and as I mentioned earlier, it was just a matter of time before BBSing and FidoNet would be overshadowed by the same. The Lord knew that it was in my heart to spread the Christian Gospel as far and as wide as possible via this new medium; and after proving myself faithful with the BBS for about three years, He finally opened the doors in late Spring of 1997, when I finally acquired the financial means to set up my first Christian web page. I had finally broken into the still relatively new frontier of Internet Christian evangelism, and more people would be given the chance to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
By today's standards, my site was a rather pitiful endeavor. I knew very little about HTML coding in those days; and so, design-wise, the site was not much different from primitive ANSI graphics. However, with the Lord's help, I have learned, and have slowly improved my website design skills, as well as expanded my online presence; so that today my site -- which is now known as Endtime Prophecy Net - offers an interesting and inspiring assortment of options and materials, including a wide selection of Bible-based commentaries, as well as many useful Bible study tools -- such as a number of dictionaries and encyclopedias, an online King James Version Bible, Hebrew and Greek lexicons, a custom-designed search engine, hundreds of topic-specific King James Version Bible verse lists -- and the Endtime Prophecy Net Messageboard, which I just recently resurrected after a hiatus of two years.
As some of my older friends will already know, in addition to the Endtime Prophecy Net website, for quite a few years, I also operated a small Christian mailing list known as EDGE -- or Endtime Discussion Group Exchange -- and the "Armageddon" file server. The "Armageddon" FTP file server was in effect a modern BBS system which took advantage of a regular GUI -- or Graphical User Interface -- as opposed to the archaic PC-ANSI graphics that were used on my BBS. The "Armageddon" FTP file server offered file downloads -- primarily of a Christian nature -- live chat and newsgroups. It was accessible by both Macintosh and Windows users, simply by using the free FreeShare client -- which was available from software sites such as VersionTracker -- or by using the now-discontinued Hotline client.
As I look back now, I can truly see how the Lord has guided me, and provided for me, as I have sought to do His Will. I am reminded of verses such as the following, where the Lord promises to provide for us, when we seek first His Kingdom, by being faithful witnesses of His Word to the world:
"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:"
Isaiah 59:1, KJV
"Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart . . . I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
Psalms 37:4, 25, KJV
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
Malachi 3:10, KJV
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Matthew 6:33-34, KJV
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened . . . If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
Matthew 7:7-8, 11, KJV
"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
Matthew 21:22, KJV
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."
Luke 12:6-7, KJV
"And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Luke 12:22-31, KJV
"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
Romans 8:32, KJV
"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19, KJV
"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
1 John 5:14-15, KJV
So I am extremely thankful for what God has done for me, as well as through me. As the old saying goes, little is a lot if God is in it; and it isn't until we take that first small step of faith, that God can reveal the next step in His Plan to us. His blessings come through our obedience to His Will, as the previous verses clearly demonstrate. If you wish to learn more about this subject, I encourage you to read some of the other article that I have written, such as "Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God" and "Are You a Burning Ember for the Lord?".
While some conservative Christians view the Internet -- and computers in general for that matter -- as something evil and of Satan which is to be avoided, I must ask such people: Who are we to question the methods God makes available to us in order to get the job done? It seems to me that in the final waning hours of the current worldly system, the Lord would be rather interested in seeing as many people as possible, come to the knowledge of Salvation. Furthermore, it seems to me that He would be willing to use whatever means are available to us, in order to accomplish such an important goal -- such as using computers and the Internet. As I mention in other articles, such as "Is the Message of Salvation Meant for All Men?", the Apostle Peter wrote:
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9, KJV
The fact that God is even willing to reach down into the privacy of people's homes, via their personal computers, in order to try to deliver the Gospel message to them another time, and give them another chance -- for some people, maybe even a last chance -- is in my view, a very powerful sign of His Love and Mercy. Even when organized religion has failed to reach some people; even when popular radio and television evangelists have failed to catch their ear; even when Gospel tracts and street evangelism hasn't gotten through to them; God is still trying to reach those people on a very personal one-on-one level, in the privacy of their own homes; perhaps even in the privacy of their own bedroom or study den where their computer is located, late at night, when no one else is watching, and no other distractions are present.
You see, under such conditions, there is no need to put on the false image that some of us like to display in public. It is sinful, human nature which causes us to create this false impression of ourselves, and to build this wall of defenses around ourselves, in order to preserve our pride, and protect our inflated egos. We feel that we must meet the expectations of others, or else prove to ourselves that we are better than others; and so we pretend to be someone who we are really not.
However, in the privacy of our own homes, we can lower our defense mechanisms, and we can just be ourselves. We can be honest with ourselves; and it is often precisely in such a moment of human vulnerability, when we think that we're safe, that God can strike our hearts with the hot, piercing truth of His Word, when we least expect it. For example, perhaps we "accidentally" come across a particular web site; or out of curiosity, we decide to log on to a certain server, and wham! . . . the Lord delivers the full Salvation message to us once again, hoping that perhaps this time, we will be wise enough, and maybe humble enough, to receive it. As the Apostle Paul informs us:
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12, KJV
God knows us, even better than we know ourselves; and He knows the appointed time He has chosen for our Salvation. He knows when we are finally ready, and willing, to receive the free Gift of Salvation which He offers us. As I have stated before, in some cases, the Lord has to allow certain people to experience many hardships during their lives, in order to break their pride, and bring them to a point where they can be honest with themselves, as well as with Him, and truly admit that they are sinners who are in need of forgiveness and Salvation. Until such a moment of spiritual tenderness arrives, all of the preaching in the world will fall upon deaf ears. Why is God being so merciful to such people when they have resisted His Spirit all of their lives? Why is He giving them so many chances -- and even one last chance -- to accept the Sacrifice of His dear Son? Perhaps the answer is best summed up in verses such as the following:
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"
Hebrews 9:27, KJV
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
2 Corinthians 5:10, KJV
"If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?"
Psalms 130:3, KJV
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
Revelation 20:12-15, KJV
You see, God knows the score even before it has been fully declared, because He owns the Books. As such, He knows what awaits us if we refuse to humble ourselves, and accept the Sacrifice of His Son as Atonement for our sins. As wise King Solomon once wrote:
"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
Proverbs 16:18, KJV
So I tend to believe that it is because of the tragic end which He knows awaits those people who continue to cling to their pride, that the Lord is making every effort possible to reach them with the Gospel before it is too late. God is willing to give them one last chance at Salvation, and that includes reaching out to people via the Internet. Look at it this way. Just like human parents, the Lord is a man of His word. If He warns us that He is going to punish us if we do not behave, then obviously,He has no choice but to fulfill His word if we continue on in our belligerence. Thus it is that we find verses like the following in the Bible:
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
John 3:36, KJV
"He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
1 John 5:12, KJV
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God . . . For our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 10:31, 12:29, KJV
Please go to part two for the conclusion of this article.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .