Eschatology, a branch of theology concerned with the end times and the ultimate destiny of humankind, plays a prominent part in the thinking of most Evangelicals. Jesus could come today, Evangelical pastors tell their congregations. Evangelicals are encouraged to be looking and waiting for Jesus to return again. They are encouraged to be busy working in God’s vineyard lest Jesus come and find them caught up in the pursuits of this world.
Many Evangelicals think that the next eschatological event to take place is the rapture. The rapture is when Jesus comes in the clouds and secretly spirits away every saved person. After the rapture, the world faces the judgment and wrath of God for seven years.
For seven years, God tortures and kills those who remain on the earth. They had been warned, the Evangelical says, and now they must face the consequences of their rejection of Jesus Christ. During the Tribulation, there will be a chance for people to be saved. Jews and those willing to be martyred in exchange for salvation, will have the opportunity to be saved. However, the Tribulation will not be a period known for mercy and redemption. As the book of Revelation makes clear, the Tribulation will be known for God’s judgment and wrath against unbelieving humanity. (most of the human race)
At the close of the Tribulation, Jesus, riding on a white horse, will physically return to the Mount of Olives and rule and reign over the Earth for one thousand years. During this time, the Law of God will be strictly enforced.Since Satan has been bound, humans will have no reason to not keep God’s law. And so it will go for one thousand years.
At the end of this period, popularly known as the Millennium, God will let Satan loose for a season. Satan will deceive countless humans, causing them to rise up against God. God will wage war against Satan and the humans following him. God ultimately wins this war.
After this war, Satan and Hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Every human being that ever lived will be resurrected from the dead and brought before God to be judged. Christians will be given an eternity with God in his Kingdom and all non-Christians will be given an eternity in the Lake of Fire with the devil and his angels.
After the final Judgment, God will destroy the heavens and earth with fire and will then make a new heaven and a new earth. On the new earth will sit the New Jerusalem, the city of God. Every Christian will have a place (room or mansion depending on the Bible translation) in the New Jerusalem and will live in the presence of God for all eternity.
The Bible, in Revelation 21, describes the New Jerusalem like this:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven…And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones…And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass….
The New Jerusalem is built like a cube, 1,500 miles long, 1,500 hundred miles wide, and 1,500 miles tall. (furlong=660 feet) Around the New Jerusalem will be a 288 foot wall made of jasper. (a cubit=2 feet, depending on the male forearm used for measuring.) This wall will have 3 gates made of pearl on each wall. The street (not streets) of the city will be made of pure, transparent gold,
Sounds like a wonderful movie script, yes? Yet, millions of Evangelical Christians believe that everything I have mentioned above is literally true. They believe that, before we draw our next breath, or before I write the next word of this post, Jesus could come to rapture up every Christian, setting into motion everything I mentioned above.
This fall will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of Edgar Whisenant’s booklet, 88 Reasons the Rapture will Occur in 1988. Whisenant predicted that the Rapture would take place between September 11th and September 13th, 1988.
Whisenant mailed 88 Reasons to 300,000 ministers in the U.S. and an additional 4.5 million booklets were sold and distributed throughout the English speaking world.
The church I pastored in 1988 had a large uptick in attendance on the Sunday before Whisenant’s Rapture prediction. Even though I hade taken a stand against 88 Reasons, the booklet was read by most everyone in the church and many of them were convinced that Whisenant was right.
And yet, here we are, twenty-five years later.
While Evangelicals still think that Jesus could come back at any moment, their lives betray that they really DON’T believe Jesus could come back any time soon. Rapture prognosticators like Jack Van Impe, John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, and Hal Lindsay, have sold millions of books and live the comfortable life of a millionaire. The Left Behind series, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins from 1995-2007, sold sixty-five million copies. (seven of the book made it to number one on the New York Times Bestseller list) The book series gives a fictional account of what might happen in the future. Many Evangelicals think the Left Behind books are more fact than fiction. Speaking of the Left Behind series, Jerry Falwell said, “In terms of its impact on Christianity, it’s probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible.”
I live in an area where Evangelicalism dominates most everything. Yet, I see no real urgency in the lives of Evangelicals. They go about their lives rarely thinking about the second coming of Jesus. I see them bowing their heads to pray in the restaurant and then they conversation turns to family, jobs, or sports. If Jesus really could come back in the next second, wouldn’t Evangelicals have an urgency about them? Shouldn’t they be busy getting their spiritual house in order and trying to get as many people saved as possible? (most Evangelicals never share their faith one time)
Consider, for a moment, the Evangelicals that frequent this blog, defending their version of the Christian faith. If Jesus could come at any moment, is it really a best use of time commenting on an apostates blog?
Most Evangelical pastors believe that Jesus could come at any moment and that we are living in the last days. Yet, look at how they live. Their lives betray they really don’t believe Jesus is coming back any time soon. In every way their life is no different from that of the atheist. if this is not so, where are the Evangelical pastors who have sold all their worldly goods and are busy, day and night, trying to get people to become Christians? Surely, they should be like Noah, preaching repent and believe on Jesus lest you are left behind when he comes again.
What I see, in church after church, all across America, is professional pastors who are more concerned about making a living and having status in the community than they are the imminent return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I am sure more than a few Evangelical Christians and pastors will howl over my portrayal of them but, before they protest too loudly, I would ask them to give an accounting of how they have lived their lives over the past month. Remember, people live out in their day to day lives what they REALLY believe. It is all well and good to preach the second coming of Jesus on Sunday, but how has this belief affected how Evangelicals live?
The evidence is clear. Evangelicals may intellectually believe that Jesus is coming again at any moment, but their lives show they are not much different from the non-Christian. If an Evangelical REALLY believed Jesus could come back at any moment, (since we in the last days) shouldn’t they do without sleep, recreation, and even church, in order to warn the world to flee from the wrath to come?
2,000 years ago, the followers of Jesus believed their Lord and Savior would come back before they died. They died, as have the hundred generations after them, and Jesus still hasn’t returned. Maybe it is time to admit that Jesus exited stage right and he isn’t coming back.
Note: I am aware of ALL the eschatological variations within Evangelicalism and Christianity. I deliberately wrote broadly lest this post become ten thousand words long.