It seems that just about every time there’s a major conflict in the Middle East — such as the recent horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli men, women, and children — someone raises the question: Are we on the way to Armageddon? Is the end of the world just around the corner?
Armageddon is listed in the book of Revelation as the place where the last battle of humanity will take place — as the forces of the ungodly try to overcome God’s people. But by God’s power, the ungodly are completely vanquished.
Setting Dates for Armageddon … and Failing
Through the centuries, Christians have speculated through one upheaval after another whether Armageddon is about to come.
Some have gone so far as to dishonor the witness of Christianity by actually setting dates. You may recall that, a few years ago, one radio preacher who owned many Christian radio stations bought billboard space and predicted the end of the world on May 21, 2011. When it failed to transpire, he revised it to October 21, 2011. “Uh, would you believe….?”
His prediction was wrong — they always are — because he specified a date. Setting — or even suggesting — dates for the end of the world contradicts the teaching of Jesus.
When Jesus told about His Second Coming, the climax toward which history is marching, He warned us that no one knows when the day or the hour will be. Even though He is divine, when He was on earth, He “emptied Himself of all but love,” as the hymn puts it. In His human nature, He said that even He Himself did not know the date that the Father had set for the Son’s return to earth.
So if Jesus didn’t know, why should we trust some human authority who claims they know?
I once wrote a book, Coming Again, long out of print, which compares the major views on the end-times and different opinions by different Christians. The book even contains many failed predictions through the centuries, as to when Christ would return.
For example, one particular year saw many panicking: “This was the dreaded eve of the millennium, the Day of Wrath when the earth would dissolve into ashes.” Thus writes Richard Erdoes in his 1988 book, A.D. 1000 of yet another failed prediction.
“Occupy Till I Come”
Nonetheless, we should so live our lives with the anticipation of His return, whenever that shall be. What if He chooses to come 1000 years from now? What kind of a world do we want to leave for our children and grandchildren? Jesus Himself said, “Occupy till I come.”
The vast majority of the founding fathers of America were professing Christians. Ben Hart reports that 99.8% of the American population around the time of independence were professing Christians.
The Anglicans, for example, would get up Sunday after Sunday, and recite together the Apostles’ Creed, a summary of faith that echoes the teachings of the Apostles and is a unifying confession held to by all Christians.
One of the lines affirms the return of Christ. Speaking of Jesus, the Creed declares:
The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
George Washington affirmed this, as did Patrick Henry. So did Thomas Jefferson, who once proclaimed, “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Divine accountability was important to the founders. Divine accountability is a component of the return of Jesus.
A Gallup poll in 1983 found that 62% of Americans “harbor no doubt” that Jesus is coming back. They note: “Among those who say religion is very important in their lives, 79% believe in the Second Coming of Christ.” (George Gallup, Jr. and Sarah Jones, 100 Questions & Answers: Religion in America (1989).
A decade later, a U.S. News and World Report (12/19/94) survey found that 61% believed in the return of Jesus.
But what about now? Jewish-Christian author Joel Rosenberg wrote an article this year showing that a slight majority of Americans still believe in the Second Coming.
Citing a recent study by Pew Research Center, Rosenberg says, “To be precise, 55% of all American adults aged 18 and over believe in the Second Coming of Christ. And they don’t mean symbolically or metaphorically. They mean they believe that Jesus is literally, physically going to return to Earth one day…. let’s keep in mind that 55% is 142 million Americans.”
Meanwhile, as we see the bloodshed in Israel, we are reminded of the Biblical admonition to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Jesus is coming back. We don’t know when. We should all be ready. But in the meantime, let us be about our Father’s business.
Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is the executive director of the Providence Forum, an division of D. James Kennedy Ministries, where Jerry also serves as senior producer and an on-air contributor. He is also the author or co-author of 33 books, including (with D. James Kennedy) What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? and (with Dr. Peter Lillback) George Washington’s Sacred Fire.