Christian parents wonder today why the majority of their children today leave the church when they become teenagers and never come back. I’ll tell you why. A big part is due to the nonsensical hounding upon Rapture and End Times by most Christian pastors, teachers, and parents. You’ve heard the phrase, “The economy, stupid.” The modern Christian equivalent should be “The eschatology, stupid.”
Your eschatology matters. What you believe about the future will determine much of how you live your life, and will affect much of your character.
In times of crisis, this truth is magnified. True believers will take action based upon their beliefs without a second thought. This can have detrimental, even tragic, consequences.
A recent and tragic example of this is Lyn Benedetto, a 47-year old California woman who tried to kill her children to spare them from going through the Great Tribulation. She believed Harold Camping’s prediction that the Rapture would take place on May 21, 2011, and apparently feared she or her daughters would miss it. She slit the throats and wrists of her 11 and 14 year-old daughters, and then her own.
Your eschatology matters.
Instead of a possible future Tribulation, the children got immediate tribulation. Instead of facing global catastrophe, they got local, personal tragedy. Instead of some fictional “Antichrist” and beheading by guillotine, they got attacked by their own mother with a box cutter and a paring knife. Instead of heaven, they went to a hospital. Instead of heaven, the mother got caught away to the earthly symbol of hell: jail. This, mainly because she believed bad eschatology.
Your eschatology matters.
And Benedetto was not alone. Armetta Foster of Louisville, KY allegedly was so highly stressed by Camping’s prediction that she decided she needed immediately to rush home from Florida to her family. She stole a car to do so. En route with her 6 and 10 year-old children, the car broke down. She and her children started walking along the interstate. A sheriff’s deputy pulled up and stepped out. She pulled a knife on him, slashed at him, and stole his patrol car. Whether right or wrong by that time (she was already in his car and beginning to drive off, according to the article) he pulled his gun and shot her dead.
Your eschatology matters.
These extreme examples show how some people can crack and misbehave under the influence of bad eschatology. Sure, there were a lot of problems beneath the surface as well, but would they have surfaced apart from this “last days madness”-induced crisis?
These instances also show how the overemphasis on end times in churches and Christian media has led to a de-emphasis on Christian ethics—simple things like “don’t steal” and “don’t murder.” Indeed, eschatology matters—sometimes too much.
Now it is probably correct that Foster suffered from more than just rapture fever—she probably was mentally ill. Pulling a knife on a cop and stealing his car is not the type of thing sound minds do—let alone sound Christian minds. But while we now cannot know the truth about her mental state, it also seems to have been triggered by something unusual. Her untimely death, it appears, can largely be blamed on bad eschatology.
These instances are exceptional only in their degree of tragedy. One news station in Australia reported that some believers were preparing for the rapture by “meeting with their children for tearful last lunches.”
I suppose they later met back up with those same children for an awkward next meal. It’s time to change eschatology.
Many other Christians fall prey to the same bad eschatological delusions and act accordingly. They may not necessarily become violent, but rather irrelevant to society. Some become violent in a different way: they support the military in its aggressions in the Arab world—not because they have any idea of a doctrine of just war, or anything like that, but because they think it’s somehow linked to prophecies about the end times. We gotta kill some ragheads for Jesus! You know those Iranians just want nuclear power so they can make a bomb and bomb Israel! Some Christians have joined the military out of just such a powerful zeal to speed the return of Christ.
This is the point that is so important: eschatology has very real and profound effects on your lifestyle. How you view the future determines how you plan and work both now and in regard to the next generation. If you believe the Rapture will occur in your lifetime—indeed, very soon in your lifetime—then there is no need to engage in any long-term plans, especially for peace and prosperity.
Waiting for Armageddon
Examples of this abound much more than you think. Christians everywhere are paralyzed by fear regarding a soon-coming Rapture and Tribulation. A great example appears in the documentary Waiting for Armageddon. One of the people interviewed was a mother, Devonna Edwards. She adamantly states that the rapture would be coming so soon her teenage daughter will never be married. She says, “Do I believe that I will hold a grandchild? No. No. I just don’t think we have that much time left.”
Bad eschatology breeds bad parenting, at least, and poor planning in general.
Her children display obvious skepticism. As she sits trying to persuade them that the Rapture will indeed happen any day now, one daughter responds sheepishly, “Well, it could happen.” She is rebuffed immediately: “It will happen. There’s no ‘could’ to it.”
In a later private session, the daughter, Kristin, says she does believe but hopes the Rapture happens later: “I always wanted to be a part of it, but I wanted to be like 85.” In other words, she wants to live her life and not be pressured into forgoing perfectly biblical desires for marriage and motherhood because of the threat of imminent rapture.
Her sister, Ashley, then expresses a more biblical view of Christianity than her mother’s Rapture-centrism: “It scares me. Like Kristie feels, I kind of wish that I knew that I had time. I really want to get married and I want to have kids, and raise a family, and work, and do all that.”
Kristin adds, “It doesn’t seem fair. Your grandparents have lived these long lives and have all these stories to tell you, and they’ve kind of adjusted to the fact that, you know, they’re not going to live terribly much longer. And so you’ve grown up hearing all these stories . . . and you want to live these experiences yourself; and if you’re done at 24, there’s only so many experiences you get to have.”
Both of these young ladies have a more biblical view of Christianity than their parents. They want to live in the kingdom of God (as He instituted it), get married (as He instituted it), have children (as He instituted it), work (as He instituted it), and experience all He has for them to experience. In short, they want to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
But they are thrust beneath the dictatorial fear-mongering of their parents who can say nothing but “you’re not going to graduate,” “you’re not going to get married,” “you’re not going to have children.” The only thing that matters is Rapture, Rapture, Rapture. The children’s response to their parents’ view is, “It scares me.” Indeed! It scares them because the Rapture view is constant fear-mongering and denial of Christian duty on earth.
The children know better.
And Christians today wonder why their teenagers are leaving the church in droves. Your answer is right here: eschatology. They have a better worldview than their parents, and yet have never been taught how to express the correct worldview via the Bible.
They’ve been taught all their lives that the Bible goes against the long-term, family centered, ethics-centered worldview: that the Bible teaches a quick end to their lives and voids all need to plan beyond the Rapture. The parents and pastors have hounded these kids with a false message of what the Church and the Bible are, and what is expected of them. The children sense that the “fear the Rapture” message is inherently wrong, and they rightly desire to flee from it. But they have been wrongly taught that this is the message of the Bible. So, they flee from Church and the Bible completely as soon as they get a chance.
Along with this, they also flee the Republican Party (not that I support it), which their parents have also exalted as God’s will on earth, especially in regard to foreign policy. Some leave the faith altogether. We end up with a generation of leftist atheists who are just relieved to be out from under the oppressive fear-mongering, and whose behaviors are now fueled by negative emotions harbored against all things conservative and church-oriented.
And what’s even scarier than the fear-mongering itself is the fact that the people and the parents promoting the Rapture know that the children know better. Instead of learning from their children’s more biblical view—who could expect them to stoop so low as to learn like a little child?—they redouble their efforts.
The girls’ father, Tony rationalizes that the younger people are the less inclined they are to believe the prophecy, for “you’ve got your life ahead of you and you don’t want to let go of that.” So of course (!) the whippersnappers will be skeptical, they’re self-interested! But the serious believer must have an adult’s-eye view and see things as they are—about to end! We must prepare our children to be raptured, not waste time caring for the things of this world. We need escape, not dominion. And escape, of course, is not self-interested at all.
But, getting married, raising children, planning businesses, making homes, saving money—these are the silly desires of children. Put that out of your mind child! We must prepare for escape.
And this is just one family. There are millions. I personally know one young lady who was terrified of having children because she feared they would be born into the Tribulation—she didn’t want to face the prospect of losing them to the corrupt culture. She has since been relieved by learning the truth about eschatology—the Tribulation took place in AD 70. It pertained to Israel, not the whole world. Now, take dominion, multiply, and the Church will prevail in history.
My friend is now a completely recovered Rapturholic. There is a way out!
Perpetual Fear and Ineptitude
Dispensationalism (and other forms of premillennialism) is a religion of fear. It is not motivated by love for God and neighbor. It is motivated by the triumph of Jews in the land of modern-day Israel (triumph being defined as a return to the land and then slaughter of two-thirds of them during the alleged Tribulation). It is further motivated by fear that one may miss the rapture. All else comes secondary to the Rapture-centric theology.
As Gary DeMar wrote last Monday, the vast majority of modern day preachers who preach on the Rapture are far more dangerous to society and the church than the date-setters like Harold Camping. Camping did his evil and had some evil effects, but he will become an infamous footnote in history. These others who refuse to set a date simply keep saying, “soon”—and they oppress, ruin lives, turn people off from the church, and ignore society perpetually. They preach perpetual fear, and present a constant threat against those who wish to ignore the imminent Rapture doctrine and actually practice biblical Christianity.
Camping caused a few deaths. Dispensationalists promise millions.
The fear-mongering by this crowd is everywhere—in every modern Christian prophecy book and DVD you can find. I just grabbed one of Timothy LaHaye’s more recent books (2007) from the shelf, assured I could find an easy example in one try. Here’s what the front cover flap says:
It is only a matter of time before our planet will experience the most devastating catastrophes imaginable. Global conflagration in clearly predicted in biblical prophecy, and the outcome is certain. How much time is left?
The book’s first paragraph begins: “The world is in serious trouble, and everyone knows it. Something ominous is about to happen.”1
This continual propaganda has three effects on society. First, it stifles and oppresses our youth, and tends to drive them from the faith. Thus, it essentially destroys the future generation of Christians, or drives them into obscure, disconnected places.
Second, it renders Christians impotent in the very society they should be reclaiming for Christ. They are told that no business or long-term endeavor has any potential. The “last days” are marked by the triumph of the enemy, the sinking of the ship, the shooting-down of the plane, and a divine-ejection seat for Christians—the Rapture. Thus, it is futile even to think of a multi-generational family business, for example, or even another generation of grandchildren.
Finally, this fear-mongering becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. By denuding the Church and Bible of influence in society, by replacing the preaching of Christian ethics to rulers with the constant announcements that Israel must be invaded, that evil governments must triumph among men, these prophecy fear-peddlers are complicit in the spread of evil in the world rather than the spread of God’s Kingdom which He commanded. The unspoken implication is this: don’t fulfill the Great Commission, for it is not going to succeed anyway.
This is why modern-day Dispensationalists “support Israel” at all cost, yet you will never catch one of them trying to convert Jews. They never preach the gospel to the Jews—they believe it is futile. It is more important that Jews return to Israel and build a Temple so that two thirds of them may be killed. (With the modern Jewish world population standing at 13.4 million, Dispensationalists have a future for Israel far more gruesome than Hitler ever conceived. Close to nine million, allegedly, will die.) This is also why modern Christians rest content when inept missionaries make only a handful of converts after a lifetime—they expect historical defeat, and then a Rapture. To most modern Christians, failed missions are a confirmation of their worldview. Failure, failure! God is really moving!
The Dispensational system, in fact, actually moves Christians to delight as the world degenerates. It sees this as confirmation of prophecy, and thus one step closer to their escape. Burn, baby, burn!
The atheist, Sam Harris, was correct to note this phenomenon:
if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen: the return of Christ.2
The atheist was right on this one. His understanding of the whole system is a tiny bit off, but his understanding of its psychological effects is perfect.
Indeed, were I to let the conspiratorial half of my mind loose, I would say that Dispensationalism was specifically created by Zionist-freemasons for the express purpose of rendering Christians impotent in society and subservient to the goals of a Zionist New World Order. (This is why, concurrently, masonic symbols appear all over the place in the Dispensational world: the logo for Dallas Theological Seminary has the masonic symbol the Hebrew letter yod making up the flames (the express symbol of the masonic “lodge of perfection”), Tim LaHaye has the masonic “York Rite” “cross and crown” symbol on one of his books, and the Zionist hexagram superimposed by the square and compass hidden in the alpha/omega on the cover of his Prophecy Study Bible. The Zionist/masonic-Dispensationalist connections are clear.) I might say these things, of course, if I were to let my conspiratorial mind loose.
The truth is, however, Dispensationalism is not a conspiracy. It just has the effects of one on society. It lets the evil people of all sorts rule, while Christians stand idly by, and, in fact, rejoice over the fact.
The stream of countless writings and publications of modern prophecy teachers is about the single most destructive force in the world today. It is worse than atheism, for it actually affects large numbers, and actually affects the church from the inside. It is worse than socialism—for it is, in fact, the type of Christian social impotence that enables and runs interference for bad economics and politics. It keeps Christians at bay, and enables their enslavers.
Amillennialists and radical two-kingdoms theologians are nearly as bad—but that is material for another day.
Eschatology matters. This is why I have written and taught so much on it in the past three years, given the opportunity. This is why I dedicated my last book to a preterist view of Jesus’ message of judgment: it all pertained to Jerusalem of His era, not ours. This is why I so highly recommend the books and DVDs of Gary DeMar on the topic, as well as Chilton and Gentry as well.
I pray you will pursue at least one of these works, especially if it goes against what you believe about an imminent Rapture and Armageddon, etc. I pray you will be pulled out from under the oppression of modern day prophecy teachers; spare yourself from the grip of fear. Get busy standing and advancing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
And if you are Kristin or Ashley Edwards from Waiting for Armageddon, or know them, please have them contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their story breaks my heart. I will send them free copies of books that will confirm their desires to get married, have children, and work in this world as God commanded and refute the Rapture nonsense that is held over them.