In the interest of full disclosure, I should state for the record that I was born and raised an Episcopalian and became an Evangelical. I am now an ex-Evangelical but bear no ill-will toward any faith. With that disclaimer in mind, I respectfully take issue by the recent speculation by Jerry Jenkins (one of the authors of the “Left Behind” series) that we may be in the beginning of The End. Yes, that End.
To be fair, Jenkins does note that the Almighty may not mark time as we do, stating, “On the other hand, God has a different economy of time than we do. He wrote in the Bible 2,000 years ago that the end was soon or imminent, and that we should watch and wait. We’ve been doing that all these years,” but adding, “The Bible also says that to God, 1,000 years is as a day and a day is as 1,000 years. So if He waits one more day, in His mercy, that would be 1,000 of our years. Yet I don’t think there’s any more prophecy that needs to be fulfilled before the end, so it could be today as well”.
The issue of the End Times (aka: eschatology for you Scrabble fiends, if anyone plays Scrabble anymore) has long been problematic for Christians. Particularly Evangelicals. It’s easy to reference passages such as Matthew 24 and draw parallels between it and this age. And the internet is awash with posts, pages, and videos that offer “evidence” that we are just days away from The End.
During my time as an Evangelical, someone attempted to gauge the level and legitimacy of my faith by asking me if I believed in a pre-millennial Rapture. Wanting to make a good impression, I hemmed and hawed my way around it when the truth was, I did not believe in a Rapture at all.
Those who hold to the idea of a Rapture can point to 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17 as biblical evidence for said event. Conversely, others believe that the idea was the result of a sketchy vision by a Scottish teenager by the name of Margaret MacDonald and was picked up by Cyrus Scofield. Others point to John Darby, while some even say it was first put forth by the Jesuits. Then again, some people blame the Jesuits for everything.
Rapture believers and non-believers will never change one another’s minds. And even among believers, the pre-, mid-, and post-Tribulation debate is the surest way to start the Evangelical equivalent of a bar brawl.
But there are problems with using the headlines to determine the proximity to a Rapture or even the Second Coming. First, people have been doing it for years and the cumulative record is something on the order of 0-500. Or close to it. Second, even Jesus himself says that there is no way of knowing when the hour will come. In the aforementioned Matthew 24, Jesus notes that not even the angels know when that hour will be. In the parable of the Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25, he admonishes the listeners to be ready, since they do not know when the bridegroom will return. And the fact is, people are still fascinated with the eschaton, and guys like Jenkins have made serious bank off of the Rapture.
You can’t blame Evangelicals for hunkering down. The legacy media has done everything possible to link them inextricably to Trump, making them de facto terrorists. While some have remained resolute, others have taken a hard left to avoid the Trump taint, and I have met many who have engaged in some impressive gymnastics to appear as apolitical as possible. And while the idea of hiding in your bunker with your freeze-dried food and a Bible to wait for a Rapture may have some appeal, it is in fact a self-centered and ego-centric approach and is lousy theology and soteriology. Better to be able to show God what you did with your time than to show him where you buried your talents. Or as an Orthodox priest once told me, when the end comes, it is better for God to find you doing the work you were given to do.