And so another year kicks off with a certain Christian magazines/websites making gloomy predictions about these last days. (I was going to provide some links here but it was depressing reading and I don’t wish to promote newspaper eschatology. If you’re interested, this stuff is not hard to find.)
What do all these articles have in common? I mean, apart from peddling fear and anxiety about current events? Answer: they all believe Jesus is coming back soon. In other words, they don’t believe what the Bible says about the timing of Christ’s return. (TL:DR; The scriptures are emphatically and deliberately silent on the date of the Lord’s return.)
“But the Lord’s return has to be soon, right? I mean, all the signs are there!”
If by signs you mean earthquakes, famines, wars, lawlessness, and false messiahs, these are signs that Jesus listed in connection with the fall of Jerusalem. There is not one scripture that links these signs with the Lord’s final return to earth.
“But there are other signs mentioned in scripture, like the rise of the antichrist, false prophets, the man of lawlessness, animal extinctions, new diseases, a rebuilt Jerusalem, a third temple …”
These so-called signs have been falsely connected with the return of the Lord for 2,000 years. They are not new, and they are not signs.
One of history’s clearest lessons is the consistent wrongness of eschatological predictions. For example, the turn of the first millennium was marked by fears that the devil would be released after 1,000 years of captivity, as “predicted” by Revelation 20:7. A few months before the critical date a new pope was installed in Rome. Many believed that Pope Sylvester II was the antichrist in league with the devil, for he had studied with the Saracens. Judgment Day was imminent.
When the new millennium came and Jesus didn’t, those who sought to excite the masses with their eschatological predictions simply revised their dates. If Jesus wasn’t returning in the year 1000 he would come in the year 1006 (when a supernova was seen in the heavens), or 1033 (the thousandth anniversary of his death), or 1186 (when the planets aligned), or 1284 (666 years after the founding of Islam), or 1346 (the apocalyptic terror of the Black Plague), or 1496 (it was 1500 years after the birth of Jesus), and so on. The dubious practice of picking dates for the Lord’s return continues to this day, as evidenced by our current fascination with ISIS, blood moons, and Russia.
You would think that with such a spectacularly abysmal record the prognosticators would give up. But there’s money to be made in this game. In the old days, fearful Christians anticipating the end of the world gave their possessions to the church. These days they buy books and fund doomsday ministries. They sign up to “prophetic” newsletters that spam their inboxes with newspaper eschatalogy. “Pope Francis is the antichrist.” “No wait, Mohammed Bin Salman is the antichrist. Here comes the Great Tribulation!” “Another red heifer got sacrificed – the third temple is about to be built!” “There was a tsunami – sudden destruction is coming on the whole world.” “Israel! Israel! Israel! Brace yourself for Armageddon!”
The puzzle is not that bad predictions continue to be made; it’s that people continue to heed them despite a 2,000-year record of being wrong. Every. Single. Time.
The inability to learn from history or believe what Jesus said remains one of the greatest follies of the church.
How’s this for a New Year’s resolution: I refuse to be swayed by fear-mongers and doomsayers who claim to know more than Jesus did.
Extracted and adapted from chapter 32 of Paul’s book AD70 and the End of the World.
Enjoy this article? Why not sign up to our free email list and we’ll notify you about new articles as soon they come out. No spam, we promise.
Are you sick of seeing people sidelined by end times’ hype and hysteria? Would you rather they heard about an alternative, grace-based view of the end times? Support E2R on Patreon.