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Jesus is Coming Soon: The Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast

jack chick tract the beast
From Jack Chick tract, The Beast

Growing up in the Evangelical church, I was exposed to eschatological preaching which purported to divine the future. Based on a literalistic interpretation of the books of Daniel and Revelation, Evangelical preachers speak of a day when Jesus will come in the clouds to rapture (remove) Christians from the earth. After the rapture, God will, for seven years, pour out his wrath on the earth. This period of divine slaughter and judgment is called the Great Tribulation.

During the Tribulation, the Antichrist, a powerful figure who wages war against God, will rise up and exert dominion over the earth. While Evangelicals have multiple interpretations of who and what the Antichrist is, all agree that he is one of the central figures of the Tribulation drama. According to the book of Revelation, the Antichrist will ultimately be defeated by Jesus and cast into the Lake of Fire.

Most Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is a real person. This belief has led to speculation about this or that person being the Antichrist. Some Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is alive today. What is interesting about these predictions about who the Antichrist might be is that the potential Antichrist always has political views opposed by Evangelicals. This is why some Evangelicals found it quite easy to label President Obama as the Antichrist, even more so when it was reported that Obama might head the United Nations after he left office. (Many Evangelicals believe the United Nations will be the vehicle used by the Antichrist to take over the world.)

According to many Evangelicals, during the Tribulation the Antichrist will take control of the world’s economy. No one will be able to buy or sell anything without having the mark of the Beast. The Biblical basis for this belief is found in Revelation 13:16-18:

 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Prior to the modern technological era, many Evangelicals believed that the mark of the Beast was a tattoo of the number 666 on the hands or foreheads of the followers of the Antichrist. In recent decades, Evangelicals have suggested that the mark of the Beast could be some sort of bar code, a mark that can only be read by using a certain type of light, or an embedded chip. I remember one preacher who was certain that supermarket scanners were paving the way for the Antichrist and the mark of the Beast. The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for vaccinations have led countless Evangelicals to conclude that the “jab” is the way the mark of the Beast, in the form of a chip, will be used to control the masses. That’s one of the reasons many Evangelicals refuse to get vaccinated.

While the character of the mark has changed over the years, the importance of it has not. Anyone receiving the mark of the Beast will be doomed forever. Revelation 14:9-11 states:

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

According to these verses, anyone who takes the mark of the Beast will face the fury of the wrath of God. Suffering, painful death, and an eternity in the Lake of Fire await all who take the mark.

The 1970s and 1980s were the heyday for literalistic interpretations of the book of Revelation. Evangelical pastors regularly preached sermons on the end-times, featuring subjects such as the rapture, the Great Tribulation, the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ, and the great white throne judgment. Filled with illustrations from newspapers, these sermons inflamed the passions of Evangelical churchgoers. As the headlines changed, so did the sermons, but the focal point remained the same: Jesus is coming soon.

end of the world

After the 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 debacle (you can read the complete text of 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988 here), Evangelical passion for future events cooled. The rise of the religious right, a political movement with plans to take over America for Jesus and turn it into a theocratic state, turned Evangelical attention from the future to the present. Instead of seeking after the kingdom of Heaven, Evangelicals began to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth. Gone, for the most part, are prophecy conferences and literalistic sermons from Revelation and Daniel. Instead, pastors focus on felt needs and personal fulfillment. There are certainly Evangelicals pastors who continue to preach newspaper headline sermons, but such preachers are on the fringes of Evangelicalism — most often found in Charismatic, Pentecostal, and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches.

As I came of age in the 1970s, I heard frequent end-time sermons. Preachers warned that we were the last generation, those who would see the second coming of Jesus Christ. Men such as Jack Van Impe predicted Russia would invade and take over the United States, thereby ushering in the Great Tribulation. Many preachers believed that the rapture and the second coming of Christ would take place sometime between 1984 and 1988. The thinking went something like this:

  • Matthew 24 lists the signs of the coming of Jesus and end of the world. (verse 3: And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?) In verse 34, the Bible says: Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
  • Israel became a nation in 1948, a generation is 40 years long, thus, at the very latest, Jesus would return to earth in 1988.

In the late 1970s, I was a pastoral assistant to Jay Stuckey, pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church in Montpelier, Ohio, a General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregation. Stuckey, as many preachers of his era, was obsessed with prophecy, the Illuminati, and numerous other conspiracies. Calls to evangelize were driven by Stuckey’s belief in the imminent return of Jesus; imminent meaning, at any moment. Forty years later, Stuckey and I are no longer in the ministry, Montpelier Baptist, a church that at one time had over 500 in attendance, is closed, and those who were once obsessed with the soon-return of Jesus have turned to more earthly matters such as marriage/divorce, children, jobs, houses, and economic prosperity. While these people still tacitly believe that Jesus will someday return to earth, their lives are no longer dominated by eschatological mania. In other words, they grew up.

Were you once part of a sect/church that was obsessed with the end-times? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Sandra Heretic

    Not to say *obsessed* exactly, but I did sit through multiple study series on The End Times from the pulpit, in Sunday School, and in youth groups. Remember the cheesy but absolutely terrifying to a 13yo movie series *A Thief in the Night*? When we changed churches, it seemed the next church was always doing the same topical studies. Then there were parachurch literature: the Chick tracts as you included above, comic book versions of popular conspiracy propaganda wherein I learned that the pope was the antichrist and the Catholic Church run by the Illuminati (until it became the ever changing Soviet leaders in the 1980s) and, of course, the Left Behind franchise that seemed to be virtually canonical.

    I was truly stunned when I stood on the football field one May Sunday in 1987, graduating from college. I seriously hadn’t believed I would live to do so. I thought Jesus would have come back or the world would have self-destructed in a nuclear winter.

    To this day, I cannot read or watch apocalyptic stories. I don’t believe them or take them at all seriously but they trigger an irrational, terrifying anxiety in me.

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      Michael Mock

      That’s… not that weird, and you’re not the first person I’ve heard say that. I don’t know if that’s any comfort to you, but I hope so. The apocalyptic stuff was preached pretty heavily, and it’s not so easy to shake those things off.

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    The Late, Great, Planet Earth.

    Every home in our little Jesus-centric community had a copy.
    And about half of us were scared to death that bad things were coming, God had set it all in motion and no one, not our parents or our teachers or anyone at all could save us from all the horrors that were about to come.

    We all got saved and prayed a lot.

    Fire insurance.

    Pisses me off that so much of my childhood and young teen years were so filled with fear.
    Do these people not realize how scary things are to children?
    Or maybe that’s the point. Scare the shit out of them. Helps to indoctrinate and keep those dollars rolling in. Generation after generation.

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    Yes, we were obsessed. My dad was, my mom, grandfather, everyone. We read stories about it, loads and loads of theology books and were ever looking for signs of the times. People were claimed to be the (possible) antichrist and everything that happened in the world and especially what happened in Israel, but also the EU which was the rebuilt Roman Empire, was put into this narrative one way or the other.

    A couple of short anecdotes:

    My grandpa’s sister or mother, I’m not sure on that, said when she saw her first television: “so that’s how the whole world will see the two witnesses in the end times.” Rev. 11: 9-12. It had always puzzled her and now she had found the answer.

    I thought for a while that a large life like antichrist statue (like in the comic) wasn’t really that impressive, as that had been done in films already right? So I imagined that it would perhaps be a clone. An acual genuine ‘copy’ of the anti-christ and a huge medical achievement that would led to him being heralded and praised. It also meant that the anti-christ could give life, just like God had created life, and could be lifted to God status himself that way.

    When we were little kids we had a few rapture scares where your parents are gone and you can’t find them, believing the rapture has taken place and you are left behind. One was the worst. It was the middle of a hot summer night and my brother came to wake me up because our parents weren’t there. Their bed had been slept in, but neither of them was there any more, they weren’t in the bathroom either. There was only one possible explanation: the rapture had taken place. We sort of decided what to do: call someone, but everyone we knew would probably be gone too! We finally decided to go downstairs and either call our grandparents (at least that would confirm if the rapture had taken place) and if it had, we could maybe warn the neighbours or something, who would still be around because they weren’t Christians. When we came downstairs our parents were sleeping in the livingroom as their bedroom had been far too hot and they couldn’t sleep there. We were so relieved and so angry! After that they pasted a note on their door if they slept downstairs because of the heat again, saying something like, don’t worry, no rapture, just sleeping downstairs….

    Just complete craziness. Only thinking about it makes me feel so many mixed emotions: just how silly (and a little funny) it all is, but also anger over how scared it does make kids and adults alike. It’s good not to see the world through those ideas anymore. The world is already a scary enough place without all that extra baggage added to it.

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    I remember when stores started getting price scanners. All of the sudden, every one realized that this would be how The Antichrist would mark us. There was a book I read, as a teenager, that even showed how 666 was embedded in every bar code. I wish I could remember the name of the book, I’d read it for a laugh. A preacher even explained the “scientific” reasons why a mark on the forehead or right hand were the best way to mark people.

    Then came micro chips. This was the way all men would be marked. Next was using biometric scanners (fingerprint machines) for time clocks. Obviously this was the way all men would be tracked. I know someone who quit his good paying job, rather than submit to being tracked by The Anitchrist. Just before I left Christianity, RFID pellets were being used to track animals. Suddenly, all of the other ideas were wrong- THIS technology will be used to mark people.

    Prophecy can be whatever you want it to be. 40 years has long passed since Israel became a nation. 15 years has passed since the year 2000. There are still wars and rumours of wars. Women can hold high ranking political office, a black man is president and gay people are out of the closet. I don’t think any fundamental Christian from 1950 or 1960 would have ever dreamed Jesus would have let things get this out of control. Where is Jesus? Why would he let this “evil” continue? What more is there to prove by leaving his people on earth?

    There will always be an end time. From the writer of the earliest gospel until now, Christians have always been sure Jesus was just hovering above the clouds with his 9 bladed sword. Nine-bladed! Not two or five or seven, but nine! Which he will wield on all wretched sinners. Wait. Sorry. That is a demon. Jesus has a horse.

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    Ha. I grew up in a true amillennial reformed church and thought all you IFB arminian premils were heretics! (Just saying …..) BTW now an atheist!

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    The late 90s/early 00s were my teen years. The left behind series came out, and my evangelical free church was teaching the end times/dispensationalism, etc to the youth. It is definitely scary. The ID2020 conspiracies even now are freaking me out—hence looking for reality checks.

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    James Moore

    It’s now November 3, 2021. I would have to put blinders on and make a strong effort to not see some correlation to biblical teachings in revelation and other parts of the New Testament

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    There was a period of time when I was in my early teens that every family in our congregation owned a copy of The Late, Great Planet Earth. Even at that age I thought it sounded like bull.
    Now that I’ve escaped religion, I think of times like those, when I questioned, with great pride.
    What a crock of shit.

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    I grew up in a church which, officially, espoused amillenialism (Reformed). But somehow, some of the books and magazines I read – even those sold at the church bookstore! – contained strong pre-millenialist ideas. Signs of the end times, the Antichrist, the EU as the precursor to One World Government, etc. It scared me to no end.

    Funnily enough, I was also (lightly) exposed to the Muslim version of the “End Times” due to the surrounding culture. They were also scared, though obviously for different reasons.

    In the end, people see patterns everywhere, even when none is there. Unfortunately, I think apocalyptic scares will always stay with us in the years to come.

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    I don’t think a global dictator is possible. For one thing, this antichrist will have to contend with the likes of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, and the Ayatollah (forget his name) aren’t going to stand for it. Billions of people from all nations will hate the antichrist, Christian or not, and will die defending their freedom. That is why people like Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab are pushing so hard for a smaller population. No dictator can control 7 billion people.

    This isn’t a troll post. This is my honest opinion. It’s mostly the power elites in the Western world (United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand) who think like this.

    Unfortunately for the West, they are a collapsing, dying civilization. Asia, not Europe, will dominate the next century. The billions of Asians, Africans, Latin Americans, and Oceanian Islanders are not going to passively accept a totalitarian one world order imposed on them from the West.

    Right now, I’m looking to Russia for hope. Russia’s Putin is one of the saner heads of state out there and if anyone can stand against a European Antichrist, it is him

      • Avatar

        I kept trying to think of a reply to Elliot but then I realised your comment covers it! Anyone who can talk about the ‘Antichrist’ with a straight face (metaphorically speaking) isn’t worth engaging.

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          I wasn’t saying the Antichrist was coming. I was saying that if such a person appeared, I don’t think he’d be able to rule the whole world because there are people like Vladimir Putin who would stand in his way.

          And for the last time, I am not a Christian. I acknowledge are certain aspects of the Bible that are historically and scientifically accurate. There are other parts that are dubious and questionable.

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            There is nothing in the bible that is scientifically accurate, other than that which is incidentally and trivially true. It’s little different as regards historical accuracy.

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            “And for the last time, I am not a Christian. I acknowledge are certain aspects of the Bible that are historically and scientifically accurate. There are other parts that are dubious and questionable.”

            and here is a Christian lying. There are no parts historically and scientifically accurate. It seems we just have one more Christian who has invented his religion yet again in his own image.

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          Job mentions that God suspends the earth over nothing and Jonah mentions that he descended to the roots of the mountains. The oceans were found to have mountain ranges by submarines. Isaiah also says that God sits upon the circle of the earth and stretches out the heavens as a curtain. So these parts are scientifically accurate

          There are parts of the Bible that are questionable such as God saying “No one does good” and that “our righteousness is as filthy rags”. Yet God declared Noah, Job, and Abel to be righteous men, meaning that there are men who do good. Jesus himself was impressed at the faith of a Roman centurion who believed Jesus had healed his servant. So there do exist righteous men.

          The Gospels unfortunately frequently flip-flop regarding Jesus’s relationship to God and his identity. There are verses that on surface, support the trinity, and others that reject it.

          I for one reject the Trinity. I think it’s gobbly-gook designed to obscure the truth and confuse people. Trinitarians themselves openly admit that don’t know what they are talking about, yet want you to believe what they are saying

          Then there are other portions of the Bible that are flat out poppycock like two people populating a earth and 8 people repopulating the planet. That’s impossible. They would destroy each other with incest long before that happened.

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            Yep, Elliot is a Christian. It’s always curious when they try to lie about what they believe. There are plenty of antitrinitarians, and their bullshit is just as wrong as the rest.

            The earth isn’t suspended by anything anywhere. It’s also hilarious that Elliot evidently thinks the earth is flat and the “heavens” are some flat hanging surface.

            It is nothing surprising to think that the “roots of mountains” are under the water since it looks like mountains are rising out of the water. As per the usual failure of a Christian, we have Elliot ignoring the parts of Jonah that dont’ fit reality, like a fish swallowing a human being. No fish can do this, especially in the Mediterranean. And there are no “weeds” at the base of mountains that may rise from the sea.

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      “Right now, I’m looking to Russia for hope. Russia’s Putin is one of the saner heads of state out there and if anyone can stand against a European Antichrist, it is him”

      wow, that takes a lot of stupid to say. It also says a lot about how so many Christians will follow any strongman since they have no more morals than “might equals right”.

      • Avatar

        This is too funny that I have to convince you that I am not a Christian. That’s the last thing I could ever be confused for.

        Last year, I was in a huge argument with a Calvinist who said I was damnable heretic who was going to hell merely because I told him I disagreed with parts of the Bible. Didn’t say which parts. I just said I disagreed with some of it.

        As for Putin? Vladimir Putin is a man who actually cares about his country. A pity the same can’t be said of the current administration of the United States. He has the full backing of the Russian Orthodox Church. He encourages traditional, conservative Christian family values. The US, mostly the Democrat Mob, hates and rejects these values.

        Right now, this whole Ukraine fiasco is 100% the fault of the West. It is nothing but an excuse to go to war with Russia. Unlike say, South Korea and Japan who are strong US allies for 70 years and major players in Asia. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 and serves ZERO! strategic value to the United States. Ukraine is a poor, bankrupt, corrupt failed country run by oligarchs who plunder and destroy their own people. It would need to be repeatedly bailed out by NATO even if joined.

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          I have no problem at all knowing you are a Christian who makes up his own version. You are nothing new at all. You admit this since you only disagree with “parts” of the bible.

          I also love how you idolize an ignorant dictator like Putin and are ever so impressed that this vicious man has the “full backing of the Russian Orthodox Church”. Yep, it shows that they are villians too. Christianity is built to have the morality of might equals right. It’s also great to see you natter about “traditional conservative Christian values”. Even conservative Christians can’t agree on what those are.

          I do also enjoy seeing that you are likely just another Trumpee failure.

          It’s lovely to see an apologist for Putin and you do try so very hard to blame anyone but him. Alas, no one but Putin put 100K+ troops on the border of a sovereign nation and who took part of it. Yep, it was part of the Soviet Union and was kept that way under threat, until Putin and his KGB cronies failed to keep the Union together. Then morons put him back into power.

          It’s so cute to see you whine about who and what should be NATO allies. As for “poor, bankrupt corrupt failed countries”, Russia is that. They are at best a second world country whose dictator has no problem in killing those who disagree with him and ignoring the plight of the people.

          I am quite happy to see a failure like you supporting a coward like Putin.

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    Steve Ruis

    I wonder how an all-powerful god can resist eliminating Satan, Lucifer, all demons, fallen angels, etc., etc., oh, let’s throw in vicious virus and bacteria, too, and just make them nonexistent with a snap of his fingers. We humans are talented enough to provide moral quandaries, ethical issues, physical conflicts aplenty and we don’t need the outside interference.

    The fact that this god could do this but doesn’t tells us something: it doesn’t care, it is evil itself, it doesn’t exist, etc.

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    aren’t all the death cultists fascinated with the end times? I remember being taken to see “Late Great Planet Earth” by my church in the 70s. What a load of horseshit, but it was scary at the time.

    I think I’ve mentioned being sure I must be fated to be the antichrist since I didn’t hear this god talking to me like every other Christian claimed.

    then I read the bible and saw that this god is quite the asshole in the “end times”. it makes humans work with its supposed archenemy for this god’s “plan” in Revelation 17, poof! goes free will. It also “must” release this archenemy to corrupt people. Alas, the only ones left are christians since this god has already killed every one else. Must suck to be thrown under the bus by your god when you are so close.

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      I don’t believe that a globalist dictator will rule the entire earth. I do believe that Russia, China, India, and the other Asian powers will eventually dethrone Western dominance.

      But don’t get me wrong. While I highly respect admire Putin, I have nothing but unbridled rage and disdain for Xi Jinping. The latter is a first class dictator who violently persecutes Christians and Muslims. I fully believe COVID was engineered in a lab and purposefully released by the highest levels of the CCP.

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        Yes, dear, we know you are just one more Christian who picks and chooses his way through the bible.

        Poor dear, you love one dictator and hate another one. And you think you should be lauded for your stupidity. How nice.

        Thanks for yet again confirming you are a Christian.

        Of course you think that COVID was engineered in a lab. You are just one more very stupid conspiracy theorist who has no evidence for his lies.

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          Just because I hold views that are similar to those of conservative Christians does not mean I am a Christian. I have said it before and I will say it again. I am not religious. I am not spiritual. I do not pray. I am not into the supernatural. I share many of Mr. Gerencser’s viewpoints but disagree strongly on others.

          I don’t hate everyone who is a Democrat. What I truly hate is the Radical Democrat Mafia led by the likes of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, AOC, Kamala Harris, Barack Obama, etc.

          Tulsi Gabbard is someone I would have supported.

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      I went to church as a youth, but could never quite get the appeal. I enjoyed watching Van Impe because he was so obviously such a knucklehead as were/are so many others. I am blessed with a good BS detector and it has operated well for me since my early years.

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    This is a person who was a pastor at a couple of protestant churches In Tazewell County Illinois several years ago. I believe one of these churches was Tremont Baptist church and the other church was in Groveland Illinois. This JB Hixson at one time had a radio program on WPEO a local radio station in Peoria Illinois. This would have been in the early 2010’s. This I got off the Illinois State Police sex offender registry. If the pictures of the three different websites come up, do you see any physical resemblance between the president of and the person on the other two websites. This is a newsletter of the Until He Returns Bible Prophecy group located in Morton. Illinois from 2013. This JB Hixson was involved in the group. This could be at least one reason to be skeptical of some Bible Prophecy groups.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    The Evangelical church to which I belonged—after abandoning Catholicism—wasn’t focused on the end times. But I was involved during the time Bruce describes, when apocalyptic churches were at their peak.

    It occurs to me that time was also more or less the peak of the Cold War. While folks on the left were rallying to end the arms race, Ronald Reagan and his minions (many of whom were fundamentalists and evangelicals) wanted to accelerate it (and unconditionally support Israel) because they believed that it would hasten the Rapture.

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    Ah, eschatology. The Southern Baptist church I grew up in was big on that. I remember right after Reagan was elected some of my middle school friends thought he was the anti-Christ because each of his names was 6 letters long. This was right before the South flipped irrevocably into GOP world – by 1984 my family and most of their church friends had flipped to GOP after generations of their family being staunch Democrats. We thought that Israel and her lions meant Israel and her English colonial allies (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc) and that the EU and the UN were trying fo force a One World Government which is BAD REAL BAD because of hummmmmm-something- anti-Christ-Beast. And that Russia and China were Gog and Magog though I don’t know which was which. And that bar codes were most definitely the Mark of the Beast. And you better get ready to be persecuted for being Christian, and be able to hide and live off the land, and the Rapture is totally coming in 1988 because that’s 40 years after 1948 establishment of Israel as a nation. And there’s totally going to be a war where the USA and England will have to fight USSR and China in the Middle East, so you better get ready. Then when nothing happened in 1988 the narratives started changing over, and in 1989 the Berlin Wall was dismantled, and in 1991 the USSR broke up, and I was getting out of Southern Baptist church. My mom and grandma switched over to more spiritual warfare prophecy stuff. I don’t know if that was typical or just them.

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Bruce Gerencser