Tag Archive: Second Coming of Jesus

Ushering in the End of the World: The John Allen Chau-All Nations Connection

john allen chau

Last month, a 26-year-old man from Vancouver, Washington named John Allen Chau was killed by an indigenous tribe on North Sentinel Island, a small and isolated island in the Indian Sea. According to friends, witnesses, and his own personal writing, Chau made the dangerous journey to talk about Jesus with the world’s most reclusive and remote tribe, known as the Sentinelese, and convert them to Christianity. While some evangelical Christians hailed Chau as a martyr after news of his death broke, many others — evangelicals and nonbelievers alike — condemned him as naïve, reckless, arrogant, imperialistic, or all of the above.

What many missed while wrestling with the ethics of Chau’s decision, however, was a precise understanding of his likely motivation. Chau was affiliated with a Kansas City-based group called All Nations Family, which believes that missionary work is part of a 2,000-year-old game, the final element necessary to herald the Great Tribulation, the return of the Messiah and, at long last, the Final Judgment.

Far more than the desire to convert a few heathen souls to Christianity, global missionary organizations like All Nations Family, which was founded in 2000 by author and lecturer Floyd McClung, believe they are laying the groundwork for the Second Coming of Christ, ushering in the end of days, when the righteous will ascend to heaven and wicked nations will perish. For Chau, the unreformed souls of the Sentinelese people may have stood between us and the Apocalypse.

In his final letter to his parents, Chau referenced Revelations 7:9-10, which reads:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

….

The eponymous missionary organization states on its website that it wants to “make disciples and train leaders to ignite church planting movements among the neglected people of the earth,” and “to see disciple making movements in every people group of the world so that Jesus may be worshipped by every tongue, tribe and nation.” All Nations claims to train and support 150 workers in 35 countries, each year training 3,500 people in 35 cities to plant churches among purported “unreached people.” Fairly standard stuff, so far. But their website continues: “The Lord wants All Nations to be part of finishing the Great Commission in this generation by igniting church planting movement among the unreached.”

This “Great Commission” is traditionally believed to be the final words and instructions of Jesus, when he explained to his disciples what is required before he will return to earth. Though evangelical Christians have for hundreds of years used these verses to justify global missions, ministries, and baptisms, missionary organizations like All Nations want to “finish” the Great Commission “in this generation,” without further delay. While evangelicals largely share an eschatological worldview, a gap exists between those who believe Jesus will return suddenly, “like a thief in the night,” and those who believe he won’t return until the gospel is spread throughout the world, thus preparing the ground for his reign.

….

y planting churches “among the unreached” (an evangelical term to distinguish any ethnic group or community that hasn’t yet been introduced to Christianity) these missionaries are willing to violate international laws and risk their own safety to fulfill Jesus’s final prophecy. Missionary organizations like All Nations are spurred into action not by social goodwill or love of humankind, in other words, but by the belief that their works will precipitate the apocalypse. (Chau is hardly the first American to be killed doing missionary work; just one month earlier, a missionary named Charles Wesco was shot and killed during a shootout between soldiers and separatists in Cameroon. Further back, five evangelical Christian missionaries who traveled to the Ecuadorian rainforest to contact the isolated Huaorani tribe in 1956 were killed by members of that tribe.)

In their statements of faith, groups like All Nations, Brooklyn-based Christ Covenant Coalition, and Colorado-based Joshua Project declare their allegiance to the evangelical manifesto called the Lausanne Covenant, which was drafted in 1974 at the First International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. Considered to be the foundation of modern global evangelism, the authors and signatories of the 15-point document pledge to spread the gospel throughout the world, “to proclaim it to all mankind and to make disciples of every nation.”

The document goes on to declare that Christians should “reject as a proud, self-confident dream the notion that people can ever build a utopia on earth,” and that the promise of the Second Coming of Christ is “a further spur to our evangelism, for we remember his words that the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”

— Santi Elijah Holley, The Outline, Was the Missionary Killed on a Remote Island trying to End the World?, December 4, 3018

You can read the entire article here.

Previous articles on John David Chau

Who’s to Blame for the Brutal Death of Evangelical Missionary John Allen Chau?

Quote of the Day: Did Christian Arrogance Get John Allen Chau Killed?

Things Christians Say: If the Lord Tarries . . .

imminent return of jesus

Most Evangelicals believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ is imminent; that Jesus could either, depending on which particular eschatological viewpoint one holds to, come in the clouds and rapture (carry away) True Christians®, or physically return to earth to establish God’s millennial kingdom/new heaven/new earth. Evangelicals, since Israel became a nation in 1948, have been saying that this or that generation is the last one before Jesus comes again. Dates have been set for Christ’s return, yet Jesus remains on a 2,000-year-long vacation. Of course, the reason for this is that he lies buried in a grave somewhere in Palestine. Dead people — Jesus included — stay dead, so that’s the obvious reason for Evangelicalism’s coming Lord and King being AWOL. Deep in their heart of hearts, many Evangelicals know this. How can they not? Every person they know who has died has stayed dead. Yes, the Bible speaks of a resurrected Jesus, but until he actually makes a grand appearance – against which the odds are one gazillion to one — all we have in the Good Book are fanciful, fictional stories of a resurrected, coming-again Lord and Savior.

I am sixty-one years old. Evangelical preachers have been authoritatively saying that the return of Jesus Christ could happen at any moment — in the twinkling of an eye, as the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15 — my entire life. As the years have gone on without Jesus returning, preachers have taken to using various clichés to “explain” his absence. One I heard quite often as a teen at First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio was this: IF THE LORD TARRIES. Jack Bennett — married to my uncle’s sister — was the pastor at the time. He loved preaching on future events, and when he spoke of things we might do tomorrow or in the future, he would often say: IF THE LORD TARRIES.

The idea behind this cliché is that Jesus is at the start line revving his engine, ready to speed to earth to rapture True Christians® from the evil, lawless, wicked earth. A popular Evangelical children’s song from yesteryear best illustrates this point:

Somewhere in outer space
God has prepared a place
For those who trust Him and obey
Jesus will come again
And though we don’t know when
The countdown’s getting lower every day.

CHORUS:
10 and 9, 8 and 7, 6 and 5 and 4,
Call upon the Savior while you may,
3 and 2, coming through the clouds in bright array
The countdown’s getting lower every day.

10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
BLAST OFF!

Jesus was crucified, suffered and bled and died,
But on the cross He did not stay
He made this promise true, I will come back for you,
The countdown’s getting lower every day.

Sing along with Brother Bruce, brethren! You know you want to!

Video Link

The countdown is getting lower every day . . . so low that it has been stuck on one for what seems like forever. Why is this? Because Jesus is tarrying; he is waiting. Ask Evangelical preachers what is causing Jesus to tarry, the most common answer is that there are more souls that need saving. If Evangelicals would only get off their lazy asses and go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, well, Jesus might get around to f-i-n-a-l-l-y returning to earth. It seems, then, that the moment Jesus returns is dependent on human volition; that Jesus can’t return until soul 7,000,000,000,000,666 is evangelized. Wait a minute, I thought Jesus’s return was imminent; that nothing was preventing him from splitting the eastern sky and planting his feet on the Mount of Olives. If Jesus is tarrying, this means his return is NOT imminent; that there’s at least one thing standing between Jesus and the finish line.

Further, if Jesus is God, doesn’t he know EVERYTHING? And wouldn’t everything include the exact date and time for his Second Coming? Or maybe, as a very old deity, it takes a long time after his first coming before he is ready to come again. Doesn’t Jesus, the lamb slain before the foundation of the world and the sovereign ruler over all, know exactly who will and won’t be saved and when they will have their come-to-Jesus moment? How, then, is it possible for Jesus to “tarry?”

Did your pastors ever use the if Jesus tarries cliché? In what context did they use it in? Please share your stories in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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Independent Baptist Songs: Jesus is Coming Soon by R.E. Winsett

re winsett

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is Jesus is Coming Soon by R.E. Winsett. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by The Oak Ridge Boys.

Jesus is Coming Soon by R.E. Winsett

Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear
Freedom we all hold dear now is at stake
Humbling your hearts to God saves from the chastening rod
Seek the way pilgrims trod, Christians awake

Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound

Love of so many cold; losing their home of gold;
This in God’s Word is told; evils abound.
When these signs come to pass, nearing the end at last,
It will come very fast; trumpets will sound.

Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound

Troubles will soon be o’er, happy forevermore
When we meet on that shore, free from all care
Rising up in the sky, telling this world goodbye
Homeward we then shall fly, glory to share

Oh, Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound

Video Link

About R.E. Winsett:

Robert Emmett Winsett (January 15, 1876 — June 26, 1952 (aged 76) was an American composer and publisher of Gospel music.

Winsett was born in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, and graduated from the Bowman Normal School of Music in 1899.

He founded his own publishing company in 1903, and his first publication, Winsett’s Favorite Songs, quickly became popular among the Baptist and Pentecostal churches of the American South. Pentecostal Power followed in 1907; that year Winsett completed postgraduate work at a conservatory.

He married Birdie Harris in 1908, and had three sons and two daughters with her. He settled in Fort Smith, Arkansas, continuing to compose gospel songs, of which he would write over 1,000 in total. He became a minister in 1923, and was affiliated with the Church of God (Seventh Day).

Birdie Harris died late in the 1920s, and shortly thereafter Winsett moved back to Tennessee. He founded a new company in Chattanooga, and published more shape note music books. He remarried, to Mary Ruth Edmonton, in 1930, and had three further children.

Winsett’s final publication, Best of All (1951), sold over 1 million copies, and in total his books sold over ten million copies. His song “Jesus Is Coming Soon” won a Dove Award for Gospel Song of the Year at the 1969 awards. He has been inducted into the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.

Taking the Gospel to the Ends of the Earth

mark 16 15

Many Evangelicals believe that Jesus will not return to earth until the gospel is taken to the ends of the earth. This belief is based on several Bible verses, particularly what is commonly called Jesus’ Olivet discourse:

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?  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 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 24:3-14)

In Matthew 28:19, 20, Jesus tells his disciples — the eleven:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

As Jesus was getting ready to depart this earthly realm and return to Heaven, he gave his disciples one final command. His disciples asked him, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Jesus replied, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. And then he said:

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

These verses, as with all Bible verses, can be interpreted many different ways. Some Christian sects believe that these prophetic verses were fulfilled during the lifetime of the apostles. According to their peculiar interpretation, these verses have nothing to do with today. It sure would be nice if Christians treated the entire Bible this way; that it has nothing to do with today. Unfortunately, millions of Evangelicals believe these verses have EVERYTHING to do with today.

Most Evangelicals believe that Jesus will one day return to earth’s atmosphere and rapture every Christian. This catching-up of believers is said to be imminent; meaning that there is nothing prophetically preventing Jesus from returning this very moment. The date and time of Christ’s return is written in God’s Google Calendar, but no one else knows when that will be. God is the best surprise party planner ever; keeping the rapture’s date and time secret until the moment when Gabriel licks his lips, blows his trumpet, and God #1 says to God #2, go on to earth, boy, and get your children. And then, faster than a speeding bullet, the one and only King of Kings and Lord of Lords will, as 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says: descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. At that moment:

The dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (I Thessalonians 4:16,17)

Other Evangelicals believe that two things keep Jesus from returning to earth.

First, the Antichrist must be revealed, and second, the gospel must be preached to the ends of the earth. I want to focus the remainder of this post on the necessity of the gospel being preached to everyone before Jesus can return to earth.

I came of age in an era when the fervor of Evangelicals was heightened by the belief that Jesus would return in their lifetime. I heard countless sermons about the rapture, the great tribulation, the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ on earth, and the great white throne judgment. Preachers would speak of ‘Jesus tarrying’ so more souls could be saved. Such sermons were meant to stir the passion of listeners for lost souls.

jack van impe coming war with russia

Much has happened over the past forty or fifty years. Jesus, of course, did not return to earth as predicted by men such as Jack Van Impe and Hal Lindsey, and Evangelicals, thanks to Jerry Falwell,  discovered and fell in love with political power. Today, instead of winning souls and ushering in the return of Jesus, Evangelicals busy themselves with winning elections, passing right-wing Republican legislation, and doing their part to usher in, not the return of Jesus, but the reign of the antichrist, Donald J. Trump.

One Evangelical collective, however, believes God wants them to win two billion souls before Jesus comes again. Birthed in 2002, the Billion Soul movement is nearing the one billion hamburgers served, uh, I mean souls saved mark — 855,552,199, to be exact. The goal is to see two billion people converted to Christianity. And make no mistake about it, the Billion Soul movement is a mass conversion movement; the conversion of Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, and other non-Evangelicals to Evangelical Christianity.

The man behind the Billion Soul movement is James O. Davis, the founder of Cutting Edge International and the co-founder of the Global Church Network. In 2010, Davis was named in “Top Ten Christian Influencers In The World.”  So, Davis must be a somebody, but I have never heard of him. For readers who are as clueless as I am about Davis, here’s his brag stats:

His [James O.Davis] leadership includes:

  • A biannual Synergize! Pastors Conference, regional Synergize! Leadership Summits, plus the deployment of the Global Church Leadership
  • Summits in all major world regions. During international summits in 2007-2011, leaders committed to plant more than 5.5 million new churches.
  • An annual North American Conference On Biblical Preaching.
  • More than 50,000 pastors have attended these conferences and summits.
  • Before launching the Global Church Network, Dr. Davis served twelve years as the National Evangelists Representative for the National Assemblies of God world headquarters where he provided leadership for some 1,500 evangelists and equipped thousands of students for full-time evangelism.
  • Ministering more than 45 weeks per year to an average yearly audience of more than 125,000 people. In the last nearly 30 years, Dr. Davis has ministered face-to-face to more than 7,000,000 people in more than 121 nations.
  • Annual travel exceeding 250,000 miles with a combined total of nearly 8,000,000 miles.

The engine that drives the Billion Soul movement is the 500,000 churches that have said YES to being a Billion Soul church. What exactly is a Billion Soul church, you ask?  The movement’s website says a Billion Soul church:

  • Is a Synergizing Church that networks and partners with others to complete the Great Commission.
  • Is a Soul-Saving Church with a focus of doubling in size within ten to fifteen years.
  • Is a Seeking Church that prays for the Great Commission to be fulfilled.
  • Is a Sending Church that trains ministers to send into the harvest field and plants churches.
  • Is a Sowing Church that invests resources and finances in the Billion Soul Movement.

Of course, most of this soul-saving is going on outside of the United States, Europe, and Australia. Western countries have been thoroughly picked over by evangelizing vultures, so it is on Africa and Asia to find new suckers to fleece and “save.” And therein lies one the biggest problems I have with Evangelicalism — the pathological need to evangelize non-Evangelical cultures. Non-Christian countries are considered inferior. Their cultures and religions are worthless when compared to Christianity. Instead of respecting the beliefs and practices of other cultures, evangelizing Evangelicals hope to replace these beliefs and practices with Western Christianity.  Evangelicals see non-Christian cultures as blind and deaf to truth; the truth being that the only road to Heaven is paved with the blood of Jesus, and the only way to escape hellfire and damnation is to disavow false gods and, by faith, accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Imagine, for a moment, Hindu missionaries fanning out across the United States intent on delivering Christians from their ignorant ways. Imagine these zealots trashing your culture, beliefs, and practices, saying that the way to life, peace, and eternal rewards is the Indian way. Would American Christians be offended? How dare these people look down on us and denigrate the Red, White, and Blue, millions of Billy Bobs and Suzie Jeans would say. Leave us alone! We have a right to worship our God in peace, without being bothered and harassed by Hindu missionaries. Exactly. Why, then, do Evangelicals believe they are exempt from such common courtesies?

Evangelicals, of course, believe God has commissioned them (see aforementioned verses) to bug, harass, irritate, annoy, agitate, and torment non-believers. Invited or not, zealous Evangelicals shove Salvation Shit Sandwiches® in our faces, thinking that they are doing us a favor by “sharing” with us the “truth.” We should be very glad that most Evangelicals aren’t zealots. Most of them, in fact, are passive church attendees who are content to let the world go to hell. Now, take away their padded seats, air conditioning, and soft toilet paper in church bathrooms, then you’ll see people on fire for Jesus. Let their “felt” needs go unmet, and they will be lining up a voting block to oust the pastor. I live within thirty minutes of more than one hundred churches, yet in the eleven years I have lived in Ney, Ohio, not one Christian has ever knocked on my door and attempted to evangelize me or invite me to church. The Jehovah’s Witnesses stop every year or two, but no one else. If winning souls for Jesus is what it is all about, why do most Evangelicals NEVER, EVER share their faith? If this life is really all about preparation for the life to come, why does it seem that most Christians are in no hurry to leave planet earth? For all their talk of about salvation, death, and the life to come, Evangelicals seem to be quite content with the here and now. They speak of being ready to go; they just don’t want to be on the next train. If life after death is all that Evangelicals say it is, why do they do all they can to keep from dying. If heaven is “a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace,” why not let cancer have its way and give up on life? From my seat in the atheist pew, all I see are Christians who are very much in love with life and who are in no hurry to become worm food.

The next time you stumble into an Evangelical church for anything other than a funeral or wedding, pay attention to what everyone is talking about before and after the service. I guarantee you will hear very little chatter about winning a billion souls to Christ. Instead, those who worship the name above every name, Jesus, will be happily talking about family, grandchildren, sports, their latest vacation, and what they plan to eat for lunch. In other words, life.  And that’s a good thing. As long as Evangelicals are busy talking about Ohio State, deer season, high school football, crocheting, cat videos, and the Blizzard of ’78, they are not focused on attempting to make you and me numbers 855,552,200 and 855,552,201 on the saved list. THAT, is good news, indeed.

For your entertainment:

Video Link

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

How Evangelical Theology Affects American Foreign Policy Regarding Israel and the Middle East

evangelical support of Israel

President Donald Trump, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have set in motion the withdrawal of the United States from UNESCO — United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Israel released a statement today saying that they too will be leaving UNESCO. What, you ask, did UNESCO do to warrant the Trump administration’s decision to cut American ties with the organization? News reports cite UNESCO’s recognition of the Palestinian state and anti-Israel bias as the reasons for the decision to withdraw. The withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018.

UNESCO was founded in 1945 by thirty-seven nations, citing as its purpose “to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture.” What’s not to like, right? Remember, a new day has arrived in America. “America First,” along with the dismantling of everything accomplished during the eight years of the Obama administration, now drives domestic and foreign policy.  If President “my IQ is higher than yours” had his way, the United States would withdraw from the United Nations altogether. Much like Ronald Reagan, who also withdrew the United States from UNESCO in the 1980s, President Trump views the world through xenophobic glasses. “America First” has become “America Only.” Other countries are viewed as inferior, unable to match America’s power, prowess, and greatness. Millions of Americans rabidly support Trump’s flag-waving, national anthem-singing, pussy-grabbing Christian nationalism. Finally, white Evangelicals, KKK members, and white supremacists say, we have a president who understands the importance the CHRISTIAN God and guns; a president who “gets” the plight of white working-class Americans!

Key to understanding Trump’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO is the manner in which many Americans, especially members of Congress and presidential cabinet members and their staffs, view the State of Israel. Fueled by Evangelical theology, which I will discuss later in this post, the United States’ foreign policy is driven by the belief that Israel is God’s chosen people — a nation that must be protected and defended at all costs. Americans have strong opinions about Israel, much as they have in the current debate over NFL players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Opposing Israeli policies towards Palestinians, for example, quickly leads to charges of antisemitism. On several occasions as I traverse the back roads of rural Northwest Ohio looking for photography opportunities, I have come across homes proudly flying Israel’s flag, right next to the red-white-and-blue. I doubt that the same scene can be found in Israel. Why do some Americans think that is perfectly normal to fly another nation’s flag right next to America’s flag?

The modern Jewish nation, officially called the State of Israel, was founded on May 18, 1948, and admitted as a member of the United Nations in 1949. Israel’s history, however, tracks back thousands of years to the mythical Bible figure Abraham. Genesis 12:1-7 states:

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.

Four take-aways from this text:

  • God commanded Abram (later Abraham) to leave the country of his birth and, by faith, travel to a land that God planned to give Abraham and his descendants.
  • God promised to bless Abram and make him a great nation
  • God promised to bless those who bless Abram and curse those who curse him
  • God said all nations of earth would be blessed because of Abram moving to a new land (that new land would later be called Israel)

While Abraham did not see the fulfillment of God’s promises to him, God promised in Genesis 15:18 that his progeny would indeed inherit the land:

 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates

When the mythical Abram (there is no non-Biblical evidence for the existence of Abraham) was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to him, promising yet again to make him a great nation. Genesis 17:1-11 states:

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.  And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

Several things to note from this passage of Scripture:

  • Abram’s name is now Abraham
  • The covenant between God and Abraham/Israel is a never-ending covenant
  • God commanded Abraham to cut the foreskin off male genitals as a “sign” of the covenant between Jehovah and Abraham (Just remember men, the next time you look at your circumcised penis, blame God, Israel, and the Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.)

Abraham, married to Sarah, was, thanks to his wife’s infertility, childless. Sarah, wanting Abraham to experience the joys of fatherhood, gave her servant Hagar to Abraham so he could marry her and bear him a child. Hagar gave Abraham a son whose name was Ishmael. Sarah, at the ripe old age of ninety, finally conceived and bore a son named Isaac. When it came time for God to pass on his covenant, he skipped Abraham’s oldest son, choosing instead to bless Isaac. From that moment forward, there was conflict between Ismael and Isaac. The historical foundation of centuries of conflict in the Middle East rests on two brothers who couldn’t get along with each other. The same can be said for Isaac’s sons Jacob and Esau.

Keep in mind that the aforementioned Biblical “history” is what drives current Evangelical beliefs about the modern Israel, Palestine, and the Judeo-Christian war against Islam. In what other realm would mythical stories be acceptable reasons for foreign policy? Yet, that is exactly what currently drives American foreign policy as it relates to Israel, the establishment of the Palestinian state, and the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Many Evangelical sects/pastors/churches/congregants believe that modern Israel is God’s chosen people; that the land inhabited by Israel (Isaac) was given to them in perpetuity; that Palestinian (Ishmael) land claims are baseless. President Obama was the first post-World War II president to challenge these assumptions, resulting in Obama being accused of antisemitism — the intense dislike (hatred) for and prejudice against Jewish people. Obama supported a two-state solution for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian state, but thanks to irrational (and immoral) support of Israel’s “right” to own ALL the land given to them by God, no progress was made on this front. Israel’s abhorrent policies towards Palestinians, and America’s blind eye to behavior that would be roundly condemned if done by any other government, are driven by the belief that a land covenant made between a fictional God and a mythical Abraham is still in effect.

Liberal and progressive Christians tend to not believe that Israel has a God-given right to their land. Many of the people behind the two-state solution and attempts to broker peace in the Middle East are people of faith. Unfortunately, not many of these people of faith are Evangelical. Thanks to their literalistic reading of the Bible and their commitment to the belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, Evangelicals generally believe that Israel is the Judeo-Christian God’s chosen (covenant) people; that the land grant given to Abraham thousands of years ago is still in effect today, Further, Evangelicals believe that God blesses nations who support Israel and curses nations who don’t. This blind loyalty to God’s chosen people is held by countless Christian/Jewish congressmen/presidents — either out of a commitment to Evangelical theology or political expediency — leading to unwavering military funding and support for Israel.

We in Congress stand by Israel. In Congress, we speak with one voice on the subject of Israel. (Nancy Pelosi)

Now is not the time to be picking fights with Israel in what seems to be an attempt to curry favor with the Arab world. Now is the time when the United States must stand with Israel in the global struggle against the threats posed by radical Islam. We must remember what happens when Americans and decent minded people everywhere fail to stand up to evil. The message to us is: we must do all we can to ensure the survival of the State of Israel. At a time like this, it is crucial to stress the message that a strong Israel is in the best interest of American national security. Should any of us waver in our resolve, we must let the lessons of history propel us to action. If you deal with Iran, you are not welcome to deal with the United States. Our willingness to use force is on the table. (Eric Cantor)

Israel [is] the state where Jews entered into world history again like (the Biblical) ‘nation like all other nations.’ A state where Jews took up again after two millennia the precious burden of nationhood. Like all nations, our relationship has its trials and tensions. The disagreements of the moment cannot and will not undo the bond of generations. We (Eric Cantor and I) are sending a letter signed by a large number of Members of Congress to the administration to send the message that there should be no confusion anywhere in the world that whatever differences there may be on policy, at the core, there is an unbreakable, unshakable bond between Israel and the United States. (Steny Hoyer)

Through centuries of struggle, Jews across the world have been witnesses not only against the crimes of men, but for faith in God, and God alone. Theirs is a story of defiance in oppression and patience in tribulation — reaching back to the exodus and their exile into the diaspora. That story continued in the founding of the State of Israel. The story continues in the defense of the State of Israel. (George W Bush)

I make this promise to you: My Administration will always stand with Israel. (Donald Trump)

We love Israel. We will fight for Israel 100 percent, 1,000 percent. It will be there forever. (Donald Trump)

Pat Robertson, speaking to a gathering of Jews, had this to say about how Evangelicals view Israel:

Ladies and Gentleman, evangelical Christians support Israel because we believe that the words of Moses and the ancient prophets of Israel were inspired by God. We believe that the emergence of a Jewish state in the land promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was ordained by God.

We believe that God has a plan for this nation which He intends to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth.

According to the virulent Evangelical site World News Daily:

The Jewish people have a biblical mandate to occupy and control the land of Israel.

Evangelical pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), had this to say about Israel in an introduction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

He also changed the path of Christianity in America, when he asked me in 2006 if he thought American Christians could unite for Israel. Ancient Israel had Moses who led them in the desert; during the golden era they had King David, who conquered Jerusalem, and today, when there are existential threats, Israel has a champion who can confront the challenge; please welcome the prime minister…

the israel pledge

According to their website, CUFI has three million supporting members; people who support the following statement:

We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.

We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.

We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.

Make no mistake about it, when push comes to shove, the United States will stand behind and in front of Israel no matter what that nation says or does. Donald Trump, along with many congressional Republicans, is itching to destroy Iran — one of Israel’s archenemies. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if someday Israel, at the behest of the American government, attacks Iran in an attempt to destroy its nuclear facilities. This, of course, will lead to war, and the United States will be standing at the front the battle to defend Israel’s action. Why? Because thousands of years ago a mythical God promised a mythical man that he would make him a great nation and give him a plot of land in perpetuity. And this same mythical God promised to bless the United States if she politically and militarily defends Israel and give her billions of dollars a year in aid and military support, and curse her if she didn’t.

Is it any wonder that foreigners increasingly view America as a land of religious nut jobs, enslaved to a Bronze Age religious text? My God, they think, here’s one of the most scientifically advanced countries on earth, yet their foreign policy is driven by the belief that the events recorded in the book of Genesis are real history, and not myths and fables.

As long as the Bible is given preferential and serious treatment by politicians, rational Americans should expect to see policies driven by Evangelical interpretations of the Bible. We see the same ignorance behind demands for creationism to be taught as science in the public schools, global climate change denial, anti-abortion laws, the execution of murderers, and other issues deemed “Biblical” by Evangelical leaders. At times, knowing this leads me to despair, but I remind myself that Evangelicalism is hemorrhaging Millennials, leading to numerical and financial decline. Someday, reason, not fanaticism, will triumph. Although I do not expect to see it myself, I hope my grandchildren will see a day when the Bible is finally relegated to the dustbin of human history.

As long as the Bible is given preferential and serious treatment by politicians, rational Americans should expect to see policies driven by Evangelical interpretations of the Bible. We see the same ignorance behind demands for creationism to be taught as science in the public schools, global climate change denial, anti-abortion laws, and the execution of murderers, along with any other issue deemed “Biblical” by Evangelical leaders. (sentence seems clunky, but I am too exhausted to think) At times, knowing this leads me to despair, but I remind myself that Evangelicalism is hemorrhaging Millennials, leading to numerical and financial decline. Some day, reason, not fanaticism, will triumph. Not in my lifetime, but perhaps my grandchildren will see a day when the Bible is finally relegated to the dustbin of human history.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Jesus is 2,000 Years Late for Dinner

marriage supper of the lamb

According to many Evangelicals, some day real, real, real soon the son of the Christian God, Jesus Christ, is going to return to the clouds of earth and rapture away all those who believe in him. Those raptured away have written-in-blood invitations to the marriage supper of the lamb. Revelation 19:6-9:

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

The Church is the bride who has made herself ready for the groom Jesus. Charles Spurgeon, the great nineteenth century English Baptist preacher, said the following in a sermon about the marriage supper of the lamb:

You noticed that I read parts of two chapters before I came to my text and I did it for this purpose.The false harlot-church is to be judged and then the true Church of Christ is to be acknowledged and honored with what is called a marriage supper. The false must be put away before the true can shine out in all its luster! Oh, that Christ would soon appear to drive falsehood from off the face of the earth!  At present it seems to gather strength, and to spread till it darkens the sky and turns the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood. Oh, that the Lord would arise and sweep away the deadly errors which now pollute the very air! We long for the time when the powers of darkness shall be baffled and the pure everlasting light shall triumph over all! We do not know when it shall be —“But, come what may to stand in the way, That day the world shall see,” when the truth of God shall vanquish error and when the true Church shall be revealed in all her purity and beauty as the Bride of Christ—and the apostate church shall be put away once and for all and forever! Time rolls wearily along just now, apparently, and some hearts grow heavy and sad, but let us take courage. The morning comes as well as the night and there are good days, not so far off as we have sometimes fancied—and some of us may yet live to see times which shall make us cry, “Lord, now let Your servants depart in peace, for our eyes have seen Your salvation.” Whether we live till Christ comes again, or whether we fall asleep in Him, many of us know that we shall sit down at the great wedding feast in the end of the days, and we shall partake of the supper of the Lamb in the day of His joy and glory! We are looking across the blackness and darkness of the centuries into that promised millennial age wherein we shall rejoice with our Lord with joy unspeakable and full of glory!

A fair-minded reading of the New Testament suggests that first century Christians believed Jesus would return to earth in their lifetime. Luke 9 states:

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

Matthew 10 says this:

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

….

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.  But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

Matthew 16:27,28 adds:

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

The New Testament is replete with verses which intimate that the disciples and apostles believed they were living in the “last days.” They believed the end of the world was at hand. Perhaps this is why Paul told Christians it was better if they remain unmarried. The second coming of Jesus was at hand, so there was no need to become encumbered with wives and children. These early followers of Jesus were certain that their name would soon be called by Jesus, the bridegroom, and they would be seated for the marriage supper of the lamb.

It’s 2017, almost two thousand years removed from the days of Jesus and his Jewish followers. Despite their faith and messianic hope, Jesus did not return to earth. These first followers of Christ lived and died without seeing their Lord split the eastern sky. And so has every generation of believers after them. Once it became evident that Jesus was not returning in the first century, Christians began reinterpreting what the Bible says about the last days to mean an unknown (by humans) period of time. According to many Evangelical preachers, the world has been living in the last days for two thousand years. According to them, Jesus is coming soon and it could be today!

88 reasons edgar whisenant

I am sixty years old. I have lived through more than a few end-of-the-world/Jesus-is-coming scares. In the 1970s, Jack Van Impe, the walking Bible, predicted Jesus was coming before the decade’s end. In the 1980s, Hal Lindsey predicted Jesus’ return was nigh, and who can forget the end-time scare wrought by Edgar Whisenant’s 88 Reasons the Rapture Will be in 1988. Even though I preached against Whisenant’s nonsense, I vividly remember the buzz his booklets caused. On the Sunday before Jesus’ return, infrequent attendees returned to church only to hear Pastor Bruce tell them that Jesus was NOT returning any time soon. (At the time, I held a post-tribulational, amillennial eschatological viewpoint.) And sure enough, my sermon was spot on. Jesus did not return. Someone still needed to volunteer for nursery duty or to clean the church, and I still had sermons to preach and souls to save.

Since 1988, numerous Evangelical zealots have predicted the end of the world and the return of Jesus, with every prediction failing and becoming yet another example of Christian stupidity. I am sure some Evangelical readers are screaming at their computers or smartphones, JUST YOU WAIT, BRUCE. JESUS IS GOING TO PROVE YOU WRONG!  How can he? I ask, Jesus is d-e-a-d. The reason the Christian Lord and Savior has not returned is that dead people don’t come back to life. Jesus remains right where his followers buried him two thousand years ago — in the grave. Dead people don’t resurrect from the dead, neither do they ascend to the heavens so they can spend two millennia building condominiums (John 14).

Imagine me telling you that I wanted to take you out to eat real soon — I mean like tomorrow or early next week. I can’t tell you the exact date for our dinner engagement, but I will give you signs that will help you discern when to expect going out to eat with me. You are excited about the prospect of going to dinner with Bruce Almighty. Next week comes and goes without a call. You happen to run into a mutual friend who tells you, I heard Bruce mention that he was planning to take you out for dinner real soon. I am sure you would think that I would soon be calling to tell you when my limousine would arrive to pick you up. Yet your phone never rings. Our mutual friend keeps telling you, SOON, VERY SOON, BRUCE WILL CALL. Weeks turn into months, and months into years without me ever delivering on my promise. I suspect that you would eventually give up on me ever taking you to dinner.

So it is with the promised return of Jesus Christ. After two thousand years of promises, I think we can safely conclude that the marriage supper of the lamb is not going to happen; that Jesus and his followers are big talkers, promising that which they cannot deliver.

It is possible that we live in the “last days”, but these days are not those supposedly prophesied in the Bible. Reading the political tea leaves has led me to conclude that the United States has a psychopath at its helm. Donald Trump threatens North Korea with nuclear annihilation, failing to consider that once the first missile is fired the world as we know it is no more. Such insanity would certainly be the end of the human race, but the world? It will live on, perhaps devoid of life, save for a few cockroaches and Republicans. And what might make such carnage possible is the fact that millions of Americans believe that some sort of Armageddon with bring about the destruction of the planet and then Jesus will return to make all things new. 2 Peter 3:10-13 states:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

I have no fears about the second coming of Jesus, but I sure as hell fear Evangelicals, armed with materialistic interpretations of the Bible, who believe the end of the world is prophesied within Scripture’s pages. I most certainly fear people who think ridding the world of liberalism, false teachings, communism, evolution, and atheism is their divine calling — that Jesus has chosen them to be front line soldiers at the Battle of Armageddon or some other event divined from the Bible. These pious Bible thumpers can’t wait to be seated at marriage supper of the lamb, but before that happens God must cleanse the earth of all that offends and make all things new. I am not worried one bit about not being invited to dinner, but I sure am concerned about what happens to this planet of ours if Evangelicals get their way.

Note:

I realize that Evangelicals hold to a variety of equally insane eschatological beliefs. I am taking a general swipe at Evangelical eschatology, and not attacking any specific system of belief. Regardless of what position one holds, unbelievers are still excoriated from earth and all things are made new so Jesus and his followers can have the resplendent home promised in the book of Revelation.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Oh Jesus, Where Art Thou? Another Failed Rapture Prediction

The following graphic best describes Christian obsession with the rapture, second coming of Jesus, and the end of the world.

rapture and end of the world

Evidently, the following verses are not in some Bibles:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Matthew 24:36-44

After what I thought was another failed rapture on September 23, I received the following card in the mail, letting me know why I wasn’t taken up into the clouds by Jesus.

rapture card

 

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 book of Revelation, Evangelical preachers tell of a day when Jesus will come 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 and could be someone such as Barack Obama or Pope Francis. 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 find it quite easy to label President Obama as the Antichrist, even more so of late since it has been reported that Obama might head the United Nations after he leaves office. (Many Evangelicals believe the United Nations will be 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.

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 and painful death 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 church goers. 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, Evangelical passion for future events cooled. I am of the opinion that the rise of the religious right, a political movement with plans to take over America for Jesus, 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 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: 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, 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 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, 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 thoughts. In other words, they grew up.

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

Note

I am well aware of the fact that Evangelicals are not in agreement about how the books of Daniel and Revelation should be interpreted. That said, it is not hard to find Evangelical blogs, websites, and news services promoting the eschatological beliefs mentioned in this post.

You can read the complete text of 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988 here.

The Rapture, A Doctrine No One Really Believes

the rapture 3

Millions of American Evangelicals believe that Jesus is going to come back some day very soon, perhaps today, and rapture them from the earth.  This rapture, or catching up, is only for those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Most of the population of the world will be left behind. (Left Behind. Hmm, that would  be a great title for a poorly written fictional book series that would make its authors filthy rich.) For the Evangelical, maybe for the first time in their life, they will get to fly first class. All those who laughed at them or mocked their beliefs will be left behind as they soar through the clouds with Jesus on their way to God’s Motel 6.

After all the washed in the blood Christians are raptured, God will open a big can of whoop ass and for seven years he will pour out his judgment and wrath on the earth. (or 3 1/2 years depending on what kind of rapturist you are) By the time the Great Tribulation is over, God will have slaughtered almost every human being on the face of the earth. Awesome, right?

The rapture is a relatively new eschatological belief, dating back to the 19th century. (the history behind the belief is quite interesting)  Central to rapture belief is the notion that Jesus could return at any moment. I am sure most of you have heard a preacher say that we are waiting for the imminent return of Jesus. He could come today!

Evangelicals often try to scare me into repenting. Here’s what one Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) commenter said trying to scare me with the rapture:

Time is short and HE is coming again. I would hate to see you blogging about how the Lord came and raptured the Church, and how you got left behind, because you were to busy bashing Preachers about this or that. Be a man sir, Please for all of us.

The tactic used by this commenter is used every Sunday in uncounted Evangelical churches. Jesus could return today! Are you ready? Are you saved? You don’t want to be left behind! Are you right with God? Do you want Jesus to come back and not find you busy doing HIS work, HIS work meaning doing what the preacher wants you to do. Oh, these scaremongers are earnest in their pleas, yet when the service is over they pile into their car, drive to the local 10% off if you bring a church bulletin buffet for dinner, and then return home to catch their favorite football team on the TV. You see, these preachers really don’t believe what they are saying.  In fact, no one REALLY believes in the rapture and the imminent return of Jesus.

Right now, an Evangelical is reading the previous paragraph and is outraged that I would suggest that they don’t believe in the rapture. Little do they know that the very fact that they are reading this post is proof of my contention. If a person REALLY thought Jesus was coming back today, would they spend their time reading the blog of an apostate ex-Christian preacher? Of course not.

the rapture 2

How many times have you listened to a preacher preach a humdinger of a rapture sermon imploring people to get  saved because Jesus could come today, only to watch this same preacher after the service get in his car and drive down to the local Bob Evan’s for lunch?  If the preacher REALLY thought Jesus was coming back today, would he be spending time eating and fellowshipping at the local Bob Evans? Of course not.

Here’s how you can tell what any Evangelical REALLY believes. Just look at how they live their life from day-to-day. Do they live like a person who is expecting the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to show up at any moment? Does their life reflect their belief that this is the generation that will see the return of Jesus?  Of course not.  Like the rest of us, they are busy going to work, making money, mowing the grass, painting the kitchen, washing the car, and taking a vacation. Outside of what they do on Sunday and maybe on Wednesday, they live lives that aren’t any different from the rest of us. How they live betrays what they really believe.

If the rapture could happen today and we are one day closer to the tribulation than we were yesterday, and Evangelicals really believed this, wouldn’t they would be selling their possessions and doing all they could do to evangelize the world? Instead, they are sitting in front of a computer screen ordering the latest book in the Left Behind series or some other end times fiction series.  Tonight, instead of talking to their family, friends, and neighbors about the soon coming rapture, they will sit down in front of the TV and watch their favorite show or they will surf the internet, perhaps stopping by The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser to read what the apostate preacher wrote.  Their lifestyle betrays that they don’t REALLY believe the rapture is imminent.

If I believed that there was a fire coming that would burn down the homes of my family, friends, and neighbors, I would make sure everyone knew about it. It would be negligent on my part to NOT warn them of the fire to come.  Yet, most Christians rarely, if ever, share their faith. Even preachers who thunder, stomp, holler, spit, and snort as they preach about the need for sinners to get saved, rarely are diligent in evangelizing others. In the 8 years I have lived in Ney, Ohio, not one Christian or preacher has knocked on my door to warn of the doom to come. They left flyers for Back to Church Sunday, their ice cream social, or their craft bazaar, but not one time have they uttered a word or left a piece of literature that warned the village atheist and his family that Jesus is fixing to come to soon.

John the Baptist went to the wilderness and preached the gospel. The Apostle Paul went from town to town preaching the gospel. The Evangelicals of today? They go from conference to conference, church meeting to church meeting, and website to website,  learning how to be a fatter sheep. The world? It can go to hell, Duck Dynasty is on.

[signoff]

 

Charles Attempts to Understand the Fundamentalist Mind

god and knowledge

Several months back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Charles asked:

I know you are probably going to slam me for asking this, but it really is something I have noticed time and time and time again across my nearly 63 years of life—and I am at a bit of a loss to understand it. So, here goes:

Why do Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals believe that the sole purpose of communications media (books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television shows, blogs, etc.) is to “teach me how I should live my life” in this world. All of my semi-fundie aunts are dead now, but they grew up in rural Tennessee in the period 1910-1930. In later years, (1930s onward), they would scrape up enough money to go to a movie, and they would go with the apparent notion that Joan Crawford will today on the movie screen “teach me how I should live my life if I move to the city.”

Whenever a fundie wants to banish a book from the public library, ban a movie, or whatever, the excuse is always something along the lines of: “Well, I’m afraid this book (or this movie) is going to teach people wrong things about…”

I gotta be honest with you Bruce. I think these people are just plain nuts. For example, I saw a DVD of the movie “Lucy” recently. At no time did I insert it into the DVD player, kick back in my easy chair, and say, “Scarlett is gonna teach me how I should live my life with this movie.” If I pick up the newest Superman comic book, I never say, “Superman is going to teach me a lesson on how I should live my life.”

I am a professional anthropologist. Human culture and society are my business, but this one is a little hard to understand. On occasion, I have wondered if this is a uniquely American disease of the mind with religious roots. For example, when the first pioneers pushed westward across the Appalachian Mountains into Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, the Bible was often the only book they owned. It was viewed as a book whose primary purpose was to “teach them how they should live their lives.” Historically, is it possible that they uncritically transferred this notion to every form of communications media that arrived on the scene?

Even nowadays, you can here fundies say, “I don’t like that short story because it does not teach a good moral lesson.” I just want to say back, “Well, maybe the author did not want to teach you a good moral lesson because he was just writing a story that he wanted to tell.”

What goes on in the minds of these people?

Here’s what I know for sure, the Christian fundamentalist operates from six presuppositions:

  • Their God, as revealed through the Bible, creation, and conscience,  is the one true God
  • The Bible is God’s divine revelation to humanity and contains everything necessary for life and godliness
  • Every person is a sinner in need of salvation
  • There is eternal life beyond the grave
  • Heaven/eternal kingdom of God is where Christians will spend eternity and hell/lake of fire is where non-Christians will spend eternity
  • This life is preparation for eternal life after death

Because Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, it becomes the foundation for how they view the world and live their lives (in theory anyway). This thinking permeates every aspect of their lives. It is not uncommon for Evangelicals to label themselves as “people of the book.” The Bible becomes a written oracle that speaks infallibly pertaining to life and godliness. It becomes THE truth above all others. Throw in the notion that the Holy Spirit lives inside Evangelicals as their teacher and guide, and is it any surprise that Evangelicals think the way they do?

Everything in the Evangelicals’ lives is filtered through the pages of the Bible. When they see something in the media that lines up with their beliefs, this is viewed as God giving them a life lesson or reinforcing their beliefs. Since most Evangelicals think homosexuality is a sin, they can turn to Romans 1, 2 and see that their view of the world is going to hell in a hand basket is affirmed by the Bible and recent events such as the legalization of same-sex marriage and the persecution of Christian wedding cake bakers.

Evangelicals often equate the smallest of things to God. From finding their keys to discovering a $20 bill in a pair of pants, every unexpected “blessing” is a sure sign of the truthfulness of the Bible. These “God sightings” are proof that they are on the right track and that their beliefs are true. So, when a Tim Tebow or some other sports star praises Jesus, they see the star’s words as an affirmation of their beliefs. Same goes for utterances about God at the Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards, and other show-biz award shows. Never mind that many of the singers are praising God for songs that promote debauchery and sin. All that matters is that they thanked God or their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Woo Hoo! Another God sighting!!

Evangelicals are also obsessed with eschatology. Always on the lookout for Jesus coming to rapture them away, they look for signs of his soon return (even though they are commanded not to do so). Again, this kind of thinking leads them to “see” God and signs everywhere they look. From RFID chips being the mark of the beast to mathematical formulas that predict the exact date of the rapture, Evangelicals seek out “evidence” for their eschatological beliefs. In doing so, they overlook the obvious; first century Christian expected the second coming of Jesus in their lifetime, yet here we are 2,000 years later, no Jesus. Perhaps Jesus likes his digs in heaven and is not coming back or his body lies silent in an unmarked grave outside of Jerusalem.

Evangelicals also believe God speaks to them, either through the Bible or through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. When a person has God speaking directly to him, it is possible to see almost anything as a lesson or message from God. Spend some time on the CHARISMA website and you will come away thinking that Evangelicalism is actually an insane asylum. No belief is so far-fetched that it cannot be attributed to God. Years ago, a woman stood up in one of the churches I pastored and told a story about God appearing to her. A devout Evangelical Christian, she said God came in the night and spoke to her. Wanting to make sure it was God and not the devil, she asked for a sign. All of a sudden, she saw a blue light and she knew it was God. I thought then, as I do now, that she was confusing a blue light special at K-Mart with a visitation from God. (Note also the number of Republican candidates for President who say the Christian God TOLD them to run.)

Throw all these things in a bag and shake them up and what you end up with is a Christian version of McCarthyism. Everywhere Evangelicals look they see their God. When they pray for Grandma and she gets better they think God did it. When God doesn’t answer their prayer and Grandma dies? It’s God’s will. Either way, everything traces back to God. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

god said it

Understanding this explains why their thinking drives you nuts. As a man of science, you value evidence and facts. While you are still a believer, you do not check your brain at the door and ignorantly view the world as the Evangelical does. Evangelicals will likely say that they too value evidence and facts, but their evidence is the Bible, not what can be understood through reason, healthy skepticism, and the scientific method. When confronted with a challenge to their beliefs, the Bible and faith always win.

This is why I do not get into arguments and lengthy discussions with Evangelicals. The path always leads back to faith and THE BIBLE SAYS!  Once the Evangelical appeals to faith, there is no hope of a meaningful discussion. Just today, an Evangelical preacher “proved” to me that Jesus resurrected from the dead. How?  He quoted the Bible. In his mind, God said it and that settles it.

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Question: Please Explain the Eschatology of the IFB Church

clarence larkin judgments

Chart from Clarence Larkin’s book, Dispensational Truth. This is chart showing the various judgments and resurrections.

To see full size (3970×1811) please click here.

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Charles asked:

Bruce, you said “you said: “Christian orthodoxy teaches that when a person dies their body goes to the grave to await the resurrection of the just and unjust and the final judgment.” How then, could the rich man see and know Abraham and Lazarus and Abraham and Lazarus see the rich man?”

Can you explain where this “Dual Judgement” theology comes from, who originated it, and why not all fundies espouse it—like you did not espouse it in your quote above.

First, for those who may not know my entire story, I was not a fundamentalist towards the latter part of my time in the ministry. I left the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement in the late 1980’s. I then became an Evangelical Calvinist before becoming more liberal politically and theologically. When I left the ministry in 2005, I was aligned with the emergent church, red letter Christians, and Sojourners. My move left cost me almost all of my IFB friends and colleagues. When I became an agnostic/atheist/humanist, I lost all but two of my remaining Christian friends.

Second, when I wrote Christian orthodoxy teaches that when a person dies their body goes to the grave to await the resurrection of the just and unjust and the final judgment,” this was a reflection of my post IFB theology. I held to a post-tribulational, amillennial eschatology. One resurrection, one judgment.

Third, almost all IFB churches and pastors are dispensational, pre-tribulational, and premillennial. As such, they believe in multiple judgments. Lazarus and the rich man would have been judged before the death and resurrection of Jesus. Then there is a judgment after the rapture. This judgment is often called the Judgment (BEMA) Seat of Christ. At the end of the tribulation, there will be another judgment, and after the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ on earth, there will be one more judgment, the final judgment of all who have not yet been judged.

Make sense? Of course not. But, it is in the B-i-b-l-e. Much of dispensational teaching is implied and inferred.

In recent years, I’ve noticed more eschatological diversity in the IFB church movement. I suspect this is due the fact that all the prophecy preaching over past 70 years has failed to materialize. After being theologically embarrassed and made out to be a fear-mongering false prophet, many IFB preachers have turned to simpler eschatological systems. I’ve even met IFB preachers who are Calvinistic and hold to a post-tribulational, amillennial eschatology. Their eschatology and soteriology have evolved, but their social fundamentalism has not. (please read Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? to understand the terms social and theological fundamentalism)