Opinion

Not all evangelicals are seeking Armageddon

Photo illustration courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

(RNS) — If you haven’t noticed, American evangelicals have a fascination with the end of the world.

The president’s recent promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem sparked numerous headlines and proclamations tied to evangelicals saying that the end is near. This interest in the end is not new.

“A Thief in the Night,” a 1970s-era thriller about the end of the world, begins with a ticking clock and a warning about the second coming of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark: “Keep a sharp lookout! For you do not know when I will come, at evening, at midnight, early dawn or late daybreak. Don’t let me find you sleeping!”

Made by the executive producer of “The Blob,” the film has been seen by more than 300 million people, according to Christianity Today. Shown at churches, colleges and youth group meetings, it was part of the evangelical world’s fascination with the end times for decades.

That same fascination drove sales of end-times books such as “The Late Great Planet Earth” and the “Left Behind” series and inspired songs like “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” recently featured on the hit television series “The Leftovers.”

And the end times — or at least biblical prophecies about them — help explain why American evangelicals are so supportive of Israel.

Eighty percent of Americans with evangelical beliefs say the rebirth of Israel in 1948 fulfilled biblical prophecy and signaled that the end times have grown closer, according to a new survey from Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Research.

Most evangelicals think God has a long-term plan for Israel that sets it apart from the other nations of the world. So they have a soft spot for Israel, with some believing that if Israel prospers, so will they.

Sixty-seven percent have a positive view of Israel, while 66 percent support “the existence, security and prosperity” of that nation.

And they’re more likely to side with the government of Israel than with Palestinians. Sixty-nine percent believe the Jewish people have a historic right to the land of Israel. Only 19 percent say Palestinians have that same right.

But just because American evangelicals see a connection between biblical prophecy and Israel, that doesn’t mean they are cheerleading for the end of the world.

That’s been a concern after President Trump’s controversial announcement about moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Some critics of the proposed move — and of evangelical support for the decision — fear it will lead to unrest and violence. And they worry that’s exactly what evangelicals want — more chaos, in preparation for Armageddon, a final showdown between good and evil.

Those critics aren’t completely wrong. There are evangelicals who seem to be waiting with anticipation for Armageddon, hoping to hasten the rapture.

But not all evangelicals — or at least not all evangelical pastors — believe in “A Thief in the Night”-style rapture.

When LifeWay Research asked about the rapture in 2016, fewer than half (43 percent) of evangelical senior pastors said they believe the rapture will set off a time of tribulation. Only 36 percent of Protestant pastors overall hold that view.

For many evangelicals, the focus on the end times is a longing for Jesus to return and usher in the Kingdom of God — a time when, as the Christmas hymn “O Holy Night” reminds us, “all oppression shall cease” and all suffering will be banished from the world.

They don’t want death and destruction. They want peace and an end to suffering — and believe Jesus will bring that about.

LifeWay Research’s most recent survey about evangelicals and Israel didn’t ask about Jerusalem or much about the end times.

But it did reveal that evangelical views about Israel are complicated — and leave room for Palestinians to thrive as well.

While two-thirds of evangelicals want Israel to thrive, only 24 percent support that nation no matter what it does. Just under half (42 percent) support Israel’s existence, security and prosperity but don’t feel obligated to support everything Israel does.

And they haven’t ruled out making peace with Palestinians. Only a third reject the idea of signing a treaty making room for a sovereign Palestinian state, while nearly half say they aren’t sure.

In fact, many evangelicals are concerned about the future of Palestinians. Fifty-nine percent say Christians should do more to care for Palestinians.

And rather than planning for the end of the world, evangelicals seem to want Israel to stick around for a while. They think God wants that as well.

For evangelicals, support of Israel seems rooted not at the end of the Bible — in the book of Revelation — but at the beginning. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, a man named Abraham is told to leave his home and travel to a new country that God would give to him and to his descendants. Eighty percent of evangelicals say those promises are still valid.

Among evangelicals who support the modern state of Israel, two-thirds say one of their reasons is that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people. A third of supporters say they stand behind Israel primarily because God gave that land to the Jewish people.

In a world where promises are easily cast aside by loved ones, employers, business associates and politicians, evangelicals believe God has consistently kept his promises —including God’s promises to Israel.

In the end, evangelicals see Israel like family. Although they may disagree with some of its policies, they still want it to prosper.

But they don’t hate Palestinians or hope the world will end in fire.

Instead, they pray for peace in the Holy Land. And like most of the world, they are not sure how to get there.

(Scott McConnell is executive director of LifeWay Research. Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends, a Lifeway publication. LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

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Scott McConnell

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Bob Smietana

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  • Armageddon is a “final showdown” between all the “kings” or rulers of the entire world against God Almighty, or Jehovah (Psalm 83:18, King James Version; or Yahweh, Hebrew, from the Tetragrammaton).

    The apostle Paul indicates this at Revelation 16:14,16, as being the war of God Almighty, and He will be victorious against them all.

    That is why the prophet, Daniel’s, prophecy in his explaining a dream about world powers to King Nebuchadnezzar, a King of Babylon (Daniel 2:1-43), will finally be fulfilled:

    “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall BREAK IN PIECES and CONSUME ALL these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44).

    Then God’s son and his King, Christ Jesus (Isaiah 9:6,7), will start his millennial rule from that heavenly government over all meek mankind on earth, after destroying all wicked ones (Isaiah 11:1-5)!

    Hopefully, the nation of Israel, as well as all others, will then joyfully accept that loving, just and peaceful rule! ???☝️

  • Dear Scott, I’m not sure what your personal familiarity is with this tradition but it seems tenuous based on the article. The numbers you’ve sought to interpret belie the thoroughly superstitious way evangelicals give secular Israel a pass on so many things. Further, any “hope” most have for Israel after a rapture / tribulation is temporary at best. An insider’s experience would tell you that.

  • Re: “Most evangelicals think God has a long-term plan for Israel that sets it apart from the other nations of the world. So they have a soft spot for Israel, with some believing that if Israel prospers, so will they.” 

    Some of them also think Israel will act as the “trigger” that causes Armageddon to occur. Specifically, they believe Israel will be attacked by a coalition of nations from the east. They even can cite scripture that (they think) “proves” this: 

    “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east. And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (‘Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.’) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.” (Rev 16:12-16) 

    This explains why they were so eager for a war against Iraq, and are now agitating for war against Iran. They hope this will trigger an attack on Israel, from somewhere to the east, which will cause the Battle of Armageddon, and (thus) Jesus’ return from On High. 

    Far from “respecting” Israel, this trope views that country, and Jews generally, as nothing more than “battle fodder” which they’ll happily sacrifice in order to get their precious Jesus back. 

  • C’mon people. If creative wordsmithing is your gig, then go quality or go home.
    Half-baked pejoratives like “scamvangecals”, essentially mean that somebody is skimping on their practice sessions!!

  • Just bear in mind Lifeway Research, which the authors work for, is the propaganda wing of the Southern Baptist Convention. It has no claim to objectivity or representing all Evangelical Christians. Its surveys are of no value except to know the official party line of the SBC.

    All of the people mentioned they support an idealized version of Israel for self serving religious reasons as opposed to recognition of the nation or it’s political realities.

    This article makes it clear, Trumps actions about Jerusalem are strictly to throw evangelicals a bone at the expense of any sane national or international interests. As if their voice is the only relevant one about the region. Very patronizing, very arrogant, extremely boneheaded.

  • Amillennialism, on the other hand, is not obsessed with the so called end times. Those who subscribe to it don’t have to collude with the power-that-be so that they can strong-arm even God to side with their misguided view of eschatology. And they’re called Christians. @YonaNonglang

  • I know of no one who believes this. I’m sure they exist in the margins. But I haven’t met them, and I’ve been in this culture all of my life. Most biblically informed Christians want as many people as possible to find eternal peace and redemption in the Messiah, Gentile, Jewish, all.

  • Amillennialism, on the other , is not obsessed with the so called end times. Those who subscribe to it don’t have to collude with the power-that-be so that they can strong-arm even God to side with their misguided view of eschatology. And they’re called Christians. @YonaNonglang

  • I am not a Preterist……..but every Christian interested in “End Times” should spend a year studying Preterist Theology.
    Get a “Balanced” perspective.

  • The problem is with the term Evangelical. That is not the same as born again, although if you did a Venn diagram there would be a bif common sector. Evangelical is also not the equivalent of Fundamentalist but it is often used as if it is.

    I would prefer finding new words such as Evangelical Christian/Bible-Based and Evangelical Christian/Bible Literalist and Evangelical Christian/Bible Literalist/Rapture Awaiting. Yes I know all Christians could claim to be Evangelical/Bible-Based but I would prefer that most of them would use a term like Christian/Eucharist and Bible based.

  • Just listen tothe TV preachers regularly. Your experience is limited and does not disprove the excellent post by PsiCop.

  • Easy enough to believe when you believe that Jesus, as a human being and God, was a human sacrifice emanded by God. A particularly bloody human sacrifice to appease a a God who demanded a blood sacrifice to let humanity back into His graces. “It better that one man die for the nation.” The High Priest supposedly said this swicked thing, but many Christians believe that same thing.

  • Fran, the bad news for you is that you missed out on THE RAPTURE. You were too late to practice too many times and so you were so slow getting your NOSE RING in when it really mattered that the RAPTURE CAPSULE took off without you.

    Now you are left behind with all the other semi-bearded leftbehinders and muggles, who are wondering why you have that big hole in your nose and your rusty CHAIN beside you. At least now you won’t have to dive for more floaters since the practice sessions have ended for eternity.

    Tough luck, but your life choices left you UNPREPARED for the great PULLUP. I can’t say that we miss your presence on the CAPSULE as we rocket away though; you do take up a lot of SPACE.

    (this message is sent to you via intergalactic gormion transport)

  • Then the term evangelical (as opposed to fringy fundamentalism or cultic Xtianity) has long lost any usefulness as a definition as it was first used in the 1940/50s. Any form of Christianity not fond of Jews (or basic human dignity) is not Christ-founded at all.

  • The “rapture” is not Bible-based since only 144,000 from earth (Revelation 14:1-5; 20:4-6) have the heavenly hope and also to rule with Christ Jesus over all meek mankind on earth (Isaiah 11:1-5). I am just not one of those co-rulers, but hope to receive their direct rule right here.

  • Don’t worry, Lisa thinks your beliefs are no-good as well. Your disbelief in the rapture won’t endear her to the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion.

  • Re: “Any form of Christianity not fond of Jews (or basic human dignity) is not Christ-founded at all.” 

    It’s ironic, then, that this religion which supposedly should be “fond of Jews” actually gave birth to anti-Semitism, and actively promoted it for many centuries. No? 

    The truth about Christianity is that it has long harbored an undercurrent of resentment of Jews. This isn’t even open for debate. I’m not saying all Christians who’ve ever lived hate Jews; I’m just pointing out that there’s an intrinsic component of Christianity … and thus a portion of the body of Christians … which despises Jews. 

  • No way, Jose!???? Earth is my only destination! And should I die here before the end of this wicked era, I’ll just end up in the grave, sleeping in death (Ecclesiastes 9:5,10).

    I will then await resurrection back to life on earth (John 5:28,29)!

    I also have NO desire whatsoever to become a spirit person in the heavens and miss out on all the stupendous goodies on earth (food, drink, hugs and kisses, vegetation, animal kingdom, oceans, seas, rivers, etc.) which are NOT up there!????☝️

  • I would say that any form of anti-Semitism (or racism) is the result of human sin and impure hearts, not biblical Christianity properly read. Paul, a Jewish exemplar in his day, said plainly that in Christ there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free” and that with God there is no partiality. As you know, Jesus taught Jewish listeners from the Hebrew Scripture. So I would agree to the irony you point out, if you speak of what the Roman church became. But I would also say that anti-Semitism long pre-dates Christianity and has a root system that follows deep into the recesses of hell. I don’t think it is at all intrinsic with Christianity, as you say. The New Testament puts us all in the same pile: Sinners in need of a redeemer. No place for self-righteousness or superiority. In fact, such a thing is the antithesis of what the scriptures teach.

  • “Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation “the insanest of all books”.[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he “considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.” [31]

    Martin Luther once “found it an offensive piece of work” and John Calvin “had grave doubts about its value.”[32]

  • Hmm. What “intrinsic component” are you referring to?

    Did the Jewish Jesus tell Christians to despise or hate Jews? In Romans 1:16, did Paul tell Gentiles that the Gospel of Christ was effective for Gentiles but not for Jews?

  • F. Bailey Smith, for,er president of the Southern Baptist Convention:

    God almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.

    You might also take a look at Roy Hobs posting history.

  • Did he tell them that? As usual, when the Bible says anything inconvenient, it must mean something else entirely.

    While all the gospels record Jesus as engaging in debate with the scribes and Pharisees, only the Gospel of John elevates these disputes to an accusation of corporate guilt against “the Jews” in general: “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him” (5:16). The fourth gospel also says of Jesus: “He would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him” (7:1) and adds darkly that “no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews” (7:13). In the crowning accusation, John depicts Jesus as accusing “the Jews” as follows:

    “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”—John 8:44

    When Jesus is tried before Pilate, John writes: “The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die” (19:7), and adds: “Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend” (19:12).

    There are a number of other anti-Jewish passages, as well you know. Since Sandimonious clams that the whole Bible, beginning to end, was written by Jesus, and you have never seen fit to contradict her— no has anyone else claiming to be an Only True Christian— I guess you can say that the answer to your question is YES.

  • You shouldn’t tell that to the atheists, you should tell that to the Only True Christians who post here regularly.

  • Not seeking Armageddon would imply that they don’t really believe jEsus is coming back, or they would like it to be AFTER they die.

    Hmmmmmmm.

  • Slavery and genocide don’t get your god upset. But two guys getting married gets his or your holy hockey truly hot. Got it.

  • Re: “Hmm. What ‘intrinsic component’ are you referring to?” 

    I’m talking about the Christians who, as long ago as classical times, wrote anti-Jewish polemics (and did so down through the ages, including Martin Luther in On Jews and Their Lies and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion). I’m talking about the Christians who, while on their way across Europe to smite the Saracens and drive them from the Holy Land, stopped to wipe out a few Jewish villages in Germany. I’m talking about the Christians who expelled Jews from entire countries (e.g. England and Spain). I’m talking about the Christians who devised insidious and enduring lines of propaganda to use against Jews, e.g. the blood libel and the Dolchstoßlegende, among others. 

    Shall I continue with yet more examples? Or will you do the rational thing and finally concede my point? 

    Re: “Did the Jewish Jesus tell Christians to despise or hate Jews?” 

    Not that I’m aware of … however, that’s never stopped some of them from doing so, in his name. 

    Look, it’s not my fault — nor is it Jesus’, directly — that many Christians over the centuries have gone after Jews, in the name of their deity, offended that they don’t worship him as they do. But, that is precisely what some of them have done. It’s foolish, not to mention ahistorical, to deny this reality. 

  • Re: “I would say that any form of anti-Semitism (or racism) is the result of human sin and impure hearts, not biblical Christianity properly read.” 

    I really don’t give a you-know-what where the anti-Semitism of some Christians comes from. And while I can’t speak for them, I bet most Jews — who’ve been their targets — don’t really care, either. What matters is that that they harbor a fierce animus against Jews and they harbor in the name of their Jesus. The question to be answered isn’t where it comes from; it’s how to quell it, and discipline those Christians who think that way. 

    Re: “But I would also say that anti-Semitism long pre-dates Christianity and has a root system that follows deep into the recesses of hell.” 

    It does, and it doesn’t. Other ancient peoples certainly had their disagreements with Jews and even irrational hatreds of them, but there were (and still are) lots of other festering hatreds, too. The difference is that anti-Semitism has been a running stream through parts of Christianity, virtually since its inception. It’s a virtually ever-present force in history which is part and parcel of Christendom … even if not all Christians hate them. 

    Re: “The New Testament puts us all in the same pile: Sinners in need of a redeemer.” 

    Oh, well then. I guess there’s nothing to be done about. You’ve just given anti-Semitic Christians all the license they need to hate, hate, hate as much as they want. 

  • Okay. So we both agree, on the basis of the Bible texts, that there’s nothing in the Bible that either of us can find, that offers any “intrinsic component of Christianity that despises Jews.” Not in the OT, not in the NT.

    I can live with that.

  • Nahh, this is old easy mess you’re offering. It’s already zapped.
    John 5:16, 7:1, 7:13, 19:1, and 19:12 say nothing about Jesus despising anybody, let alone Jews. See the context for extra proof.

    For 8:44, same thing. Context. The Jews (his audience, 8:31), brought up spiritual parentage in 8:33, effectively calling Jesus a b****** in 8:41. (A slap at Jesus’ virgin birth, and thus His claim as the unique salvific Son of God.)

    As a result, Jesus is simply diagnosing THEIR spiritual parentage and spiritiual condition, in 8:44. (And notice that nobody denied it when Jesus said in 8:37 that they were seeking a way to kill him!)

    So NOPE, He wasn’t despising Jews. Besides, you remember the religion of most of his 12 chosen Apostles? Remember Jesus attended & taught at Jewish synagogues HIMSELF? So there it is. NO despising. Jesus said,

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem….How many times I wanted to gather your children around Me, as a chicken gathers her young ones under her wings. But you would not let Me.” (Matt. 23:37 snippet.)

  • Re: “… there’s nothing in the Bible that either of us can find, that offers any “intrinsic component of Christianity that despises Jews.” 

    Yes. 

    Re: “I can live with that.” 

    Maybe you can … but can Jews, who’ve been the targets of your fellow Christians for so long … also “live with that”? I’m not sure that’s enough. Being smug and self-satisfied about your determination, does nothing to discipline and correct your co-Christians who are anti-Semitic (even if their anti-Semitism is unbiblical). Outsiders to the faith, such as myself, carry no weight in their minds and thus have no way to convince them they’re wrong and force them to give up their anti-Semitism. Only other Christians have that kind of influence. 

    So, what have you done, recently, to coerce an anti-Semitic Christian to give up his/her anti-Semitism? Just asking. 

  • Also, I believe, Revelations was the last book to be accepted into the Eastern Orthodox canon because it was so suspect, and none of it made its way into Orthodox liturgies.

  • Let me clarify: By “the same pile,” I was alluding to people groups, not classes of sinners, per se. No license coming from me on that. I do believe a hater can be redeemed, of course, but we don’t excuse known sin in our own lives or others simply because “oh, well, we are all sinners.” The world flourishes when we all are trying to be our best and most selfless selves. I think we’d both agree on that. Just wanted to be clear on what I meant.

  • Re: “No license coming from me on that.” 

    You may not have intended to grant license for bad behavior, but effectively, that’s what happened. It happens all the time, actually. The slogan, “Christians aren’t perfect, just saved” is rather popular among them. 

    Re: “… but we don’t excuse known sin in our own lives or others simply because “oh, well, we are all sinners.” 

    Again, you personally may not be excusing sin, but as I said, many Christians do exactly that. 

    Re: “Just wanted to be clear on what I meant.” 

    Again, I get that YOU aren’t excusing sin, but you have to keep in mind that many Christians do. 

  • No, Fran. The bad news for you is that you missed out on THE RAPTURE. Thanks to your all your dalliances with floydlee you were too late to practice too many times and so you were so slow getting your NOSE RING in when it really mattered that the RAPTURE CAPSULE took off
    without you.

    Now you are left behind with all the other semi-bearded leftbehinders and muggles, who are wondering why you have that big hole in your nose and your rusty CHAIN beside you. At least now you won’t have to dive for more floaters since the practice sessions have ended for eternity.

    Tough luck, but your life choices left you UNPREPARED for the great PULLUP. I can’t say that we miss your rotten-bearded presence on the CAPSULE as we rocket away though; you do take up a lot of SPACE.

    (this message is sent to you via intergalactic gormion transport)

  • No, Fran. The bad news for you here is that you missed out on THE RAPTURE.
    Thanks to your all your dalliances with floydlee you were too late to
    practice too many times and so you were so slow getting your NOSE RING
    in when it really mattered that the RAPTURE CAPSULE took off
    without you.

    Now
    you are left behind with all the other semi-bearded leftbehinders and
    muggles, who are wondering why you have that big hole in your nose and
    your rusty CHAIN beside you. At least now you won’t have to dive for
    more floaters since the practice sessions have ended for eternity.

    Tough
    luck, but your life choices left you UNPREPARED for the great PULLUP. I
    can’t say that we miss your rotten-bearded presence on the CAPSULE as
    we rocket away though; you do take up a lot of SPACE.

    (this message is sent to you via intergalactic gormion transport)

  • No, Fran. The bad news for you again is that you missed out on THE RAPTURE.
    Thanks to your all your dalliances with floydlee you were too late to
    practice too many times and so you were so slow getting your NOSE RING
    in when it really mattered that the RAPTURE CAPSULE took off
    without you.

    Now
    you are left behind with all the other semi-bearded leftbehinders and
    muggles, who are wondering why you have that big hole in your nose and
    your rusty CHAIN beside you. At least now you won’t have to dive for
    more floaters since the practice sessions have ended for eternity.

    Tough
    luck, but your life choices left you UNPREPARED for the great PULLUP. I
    can’t say that we miss your rotten-bearded presence on the CAPSULE as
    we rocket away though; you do take up a lot of SPACE.

    (this message is sent to you via intergalactic gormion transport)

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