In a survey that Left Behind publisher Tyndale did, “More than 50 percent of respondents … said ‘I’m anxiously expecting his return.’” Jan Markell, president of Olive Tree Ministries, writing for a large worldview ministry, argued that “the church is not in the business of taking anything away from Satan but the souls of men.” Hal Lindsey said something similar: “I don’t like clichés but I’ve heard it said, ‘God didn’t send me to clean the fish bowl, he sent me to fish.’ In a way there’s a truth in that.” Of course, when you stop cleaning the fishbowl, it gets dirty, and the fish go belly up.
As I pointed out in a recent podcast, prophecy preachers continue to push the rapture narrative that’s been going on for nearly 200 years. The following are titles of articles published in August of 2023:
• David Jeremiah says apostasy among pastors is a sign of ‘great falling away’ ahead of End Times.
• Michael Youssef warns that biblical illiteracy is setting stage for world’s deception by Antichrist.
• Pastor Greg Laurie lists key signs Jesus is coming back: ‘We’re getting close.’
• Jesus’ return is always imminent. Are you ready?
• Pastor Jonathan Laurie lists 6 features of Christ’s 1,000-year reign on Earth
While secularists and Islamists work toward capturing the future for their respective worldviews, millions of Christians are being told that something called the “rapture” is drawing closer. Is it any wonder that many young Christians abandon the faith because they’ve been told that their future is limited?
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While there are many worldview ministries that claim to teach a Christian worldview, some are schizophrenic. For example, Brannon Howse who heads up Worldview Weekend brings in a group of speakers to warn of the dangers facing society and then he invites another batch telling the same impressionable and eager young audience that the rapture is near. Here’s an example. Howse writes: “Socialism is Here and Tyranny is to Follow If We Allow It.” This is “Item # 1.” Here’s the title of “Item #2”: “Jesus is Returning in Our Time: The Key Sign” by Dr. David R. Reagan who published a book in 2013 with the title Living on Borrowed Time: The Imminent Return of Jesus. One reviewer wrote, “I only wish we had all read this book years ago maybe we could have changed our society long ago. It is a real eye opener about our society and its downfall.” If Jesus is returning in our time, then there is no “if we allow it.” It’s inevitable, and we should embrace it because Jesus is going to rescue us from hell on earth. One step forward and three steps back.
The Left loves schizophrenic Christians because it breeds broad-based spiritual passivity in the name of the Bible. “What a way to live!,” Hal Lindsey wrote in 1970. “With optimism, with anticipation, with excitement. We should be living like persons who don’t expect to be around much longer.” I’m convinced that those at the Oxford Press were thrilled to publish The Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. It made them millions of dollars and put millions of Christians in an eschatological coma for more than a century.
No matter the cultural conditions, it means near eschatological consequences. If there’s peace and prosperity, the antichrist must be alive somewhere in the world today setting the stage for the rapture of the church. This was the theme of Dave Hunt’s 1983 (40 years ago) book Peace Prosperity and the Coming Holocaust and his 1990 (more than 30 years ago) Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist. On the other hand, if there are “wars and rumors of wars,” these are signs that we are living in the last days. If Christians take the gospel to the world and promote peace and oppose war, are they promoting the antichrist’s agenda? So, no matter what Christians do, they are contributing to an end-time delusion. Under such circumstances, the only thing Christians should do is preach the gospel, but to what end after 50 years from when The Late Great Planet Earth was published?
It was in 1926 that Oswald J. Smith wrote Is the Antichrist at Hand? The following copy appeared on the cover: “The fact that this book has run swiftly into a number of large editions bears convincing testimony to its intrinsic worth. There are here portrayed startling indications of the approaching end of the present age from the spheres of demonology, politics and religion. No one can read this book without being impressed with the importance of the momentous days in which we are living.” Remember, this was in 1926 and the prophesied antichrist was Benito Mussolini who was shot, killed, and hung upside down on a meat hook in 1945 by Communist partisans. There has been a parade of antichrist candidates before and after Smith all claiming that the Bible is certain on the issue. This has worked to keep Christians on the edge of prophetic certainty.
William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, recounts the time in the 1960s he spent studying in L’Abri, Switzerland, under the tutelage of Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984):
I can remember coming down the mountain from L’Abri and expecting the stock market to cave in, a priestly elite to take over American government, and enemies to poison the drinking water. I was almost disappointed when these things did not happen.
Edgar speculated, with good reason, that it was Schaeffer’s eschatology that negatively affected the way he saw and interpreted world events. One of Schaeffer’s last books, A Christian Manifesto, did not call for cultural transformation but civil disobedience as a stopgap measure to postpone an inevitable societal decline. “The fact remains that Dr. Schaeffer’s manifesto offers no prescriptions for a Christian society…. The same comment applies to all of Dr. Schaeffer’s writings: he does not spell out the Christian alternative. He knows that you ‘can’t fight something with nothing,’ but as a premillennialist, he does not expect to win the fight prior to the visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to earth to establish His millennial kingdom.”
Dr. North made further comments about Schaeffer’s eschatology in his book Crossed Fingers:
His book and his film series [How Should We Then Live? published in 1976] surveyed the systematic growth of religious self-consciousness on the part of non-Christians in the West: their dedication to removing every trace of Christian influence. The series began with a section on the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. There is no doubt as to what he privately thought must come: something far worse for the Church, namely, the Great Tribulation. But he was not willing to admit forthrightly to his film audience and to his readers that this was the underlying eschatological presupposition of his life’s work. This was why his work was not a call to explicitly Christian social action but a survey of what the Church has given up; not an explicitly biblical blueprint for social and cultural reconstruction but a cataloguing of Christendom’s surrender and hand-wringing disguised as an intellectual’s cultural critique; not a call for the progressive establishment of God’s kingdom on earth in history but a program of religious common-ground anti-abortion politics—yet somehow in the name of a non-utilitarian Christianity.
Tom Sine offers a startling example of the effect “prophetic inevitability” can have on some people:
“Do you realize if we start feeding hungry people things won’t get worse, and if things don’t get worse, Jesus won’t come?” interrupted a coed during a Futures Inter-term I recently conducted at a northwest Christian college. Her tone of voice and her serious expression revealed she was utterly sincere. And unfortunately I have discovered the coed’s question doesn’t reflect an isolated viewpoint. Rather, it betrays a widespread misunderstanding of biblical eschatology … that seems to permeate much contemporary Christian consciousness. I believe this misunderstanding of God’s intentions for the human future is seriously undermining the effectiveness of the people of God in carrying out his mission in a world of need…. The response of the (student) . . . reflects what I call the Great Escape View of the future. So much of the popular prophetic literature has focused our attention morbidly on the dire, the dreadful, and the destruction of all that is.
Eschatological ideas have consequences, and many Christians are beginning to understand how those ideas have shaped the cultural landscape. A world always on the precipice of some great and inevitable apocalyptic event is not in need of redemption but only escape. As one end-time speculator put it, “the world is a sinking Titanic ripe for judgment.” You can’t change the world if the only thing you see are icebergs ahead.
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Jan Markell, “Kingdom Now: We’re Not Returning to Eden” (March 7, 2007).
Hal Lindsey, “The Great Cosmic Countdown,” Eternity (January 1977), 21.
Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 145.
It was in 1970 that Lindsey stated that he believed the antichrist was alive somewhere in the world. He repeated this belief in a 1977 interview when he stated that it was his “personal opinion” that “he’s alive somewhere now. But he’s not going to become this awesome figure that we nickname the Anti-Christ until Satan possesses him, and I don’t believe that will occur until there is this ‘mortal wound’ from which he’s raised up.” (“The Late Great Cosmic Countdown: Hal Lindsey on the Future, Eternity [January 1977], 80). Dave Hunt voiced a similar opinion in 1990: “Somewhere at this very moment, on planet Earth, the antichrist is almost certainly alive—biding his time, awaiting his cue.” (Dave Hunt, Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist [Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1990]).
See Colin Duriez, Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 42.
William Edgar, “Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square” in J. Budziszewski, Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 174.
Gary North and David Chilton, “Apologetics and Strategy,” in Tactics of Christian Resistance: A Symposium, ed. Gary North (Tyler Texas: Geneva Divinity School, 1983), 127-128. Emphasis in original.
He was not a dispensationalist, i.e., a believer in the pre-Tribulation rapture of the Church. In historic premillennialism, the Church is said to go through the Great Tribulation just prior to the Second Coming.
Gary North, “Appendix D: Francis Schaeffer and the Presbyterian Conflict” in Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996).
Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy: You Can Make a Difference in Tomorrow’s Troubled World (Waco, TX: Word, 1981), 69.
Jan Markell, “Kingdom Now: We’re Not Returning to Eden.” This article is posted on Brannon Howse’s Worldview Weekend website. For a response, see Gary DeMar, “Is the World a Sinking Titanic?” This article originally appeared Biblical Worldview Magazine (May 2007), 4-6.