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In the US, 39% of adults believe humanity is 'living in the end times.'

"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere. The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." William Butler Yates

By David W. Virtue, DD
August 11, 2023

If you think that we might be living in the last of the last days, you might be right.

Of course, we have been living in "the last days" for over 2000 years, and current apocalyptic predictors who are usually American and British end of the world doomsdayers, believe the world is coming to an end with the righteous raptured and those "left behind" to face God's wrath, damnation and ultimately, hell. Of course, the Second Coming Has Been 'Imminent' for 2,000 Years.

A lot of this comes from the End Times theology of John Nelson Darby, a former Irish Anglican priest who went on to found the Plymouth Brethren movement whose dominant dispensational theology and exegesis was later exported to the U.S. becoming the rallying cry of Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary.

Socially active evangelical para church movements had a hard time with this theology which implied that the worse things become the faster Jesus would return and rapture his people home, thus making attempts to alleviate poverty only delaying Jesus's inevitable return.

However, evangelicalism took a sharp turn with evangelical social activists like Tony Campolo, Tom Sine, Waldron Scott and Ron Sider, to name but a few, offered a different understanding of Jesus' ministry, which they believed focused on the poor.

With the recent emergence of extreme right wing evangelical movements and their attendant ideologies pushed by Donald Trump, all four would now be classified as Cultural Marxists or Commie sympathizers, possibly woke, and should be consigned to outer darkness.

However, a number of world class organizations emerged in the mid-twentieth century including World Vision Int, Food for the Hungry, the prison outreach ministry of Chuck Colson, Bread for the World and numerous other ministries believing Jesus wanted evangelicals to reach out to the "least of these" in his name, taking Jesus both literally and seriously. "If you have done it unto one of the least of these you have done it unto me." (Mt. 25:40)

God's people are enjoined by Scripture to care for the poor, widows, orphans, foreigners in our midst, and prisoners. God champions widows and orphans. Psalm 68:4-6 explains that he is "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."

A new class of evangelical travelled internationally seeing global poverty and hunger, vowing to do something about it. World Vision's first president Bob Pierce saw the situation and acted. Today WVI is a $3.14 billion dollar operation focusing largely on the reclamation of children.

Nonetheless there is a persistent strain of evangelical, like David Jeremiah who watch the signs of the times and "prophetically" believe the end is near. They base this on what they see as the collapse of western civilization, a vast tide of immorality, the emptying liberal churches, and "wokeism" which they believe heralds the soon return of Christ. Even among some Jewish groups there is a strong expectation that the messiah will soon return based on how they see and experience the modern state of Israel. Israel also figures into end-time speculation for many evangelicals.

This American and British centric view of things while compelling hardly comports with a God who sees beyond the narrow confines of western civilization, viewing the world in more global terms. Past civilizations that have risen and fallen are numerous. They include Ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization, Mesopotamia, Rome, and Persia.

Certainly as one looks at the world today with the possibility of nuclear war breaking out in the unresolved Russian-Ukrainian conflict; the loss of God in the west with the rise of Nones and Nons; the in-your-face-at-God with multiple forms of blatant sexual immorality that certainly must grieve Him; the huge gaps between rich and poor; the arrogant belief that wealth is a sign of God's blessing; and the notion that we are not our brother's keeper can certainly give rise to the belief that Jesus's return is imminent.

But we need to pause. We have been told that the end is presaged by the gospel going to the ends of the earth with many still having not heard the Good News. While portions of the Bible can now be found in most languages and tribes, still millions have never heard the gospel.

Why would Jesus suddenly return if more than a billion Chinese have never heard the gospel. (Over 100 million already have.) Add North Korea and vast swaths of peoples in Africa and the Middle East many of whom are only now hearing the Good News for the first time.

I am in touch with missionaries who are discipling Kurds, Iraqis, and Iranians, to name but a few ethnic groups, who are learning about Christ for the first time. Why should God call a halt to their evangelistic endeavors just to satisfy a handful of wealthy American evangelicals and their lust for Jesus' return, just so they can say, "we told you so," and lifting them out of their internet miseries from trolls.

There is a mountain of irony in Jesus' own words when challenged about the end times. He said he did not know: only the Father knew and apparently, he wasn't saying. (Mt. 24:36)

Sadly, the flaws of end times thinking include its lack of historical perspective and its enculturated worldview.

It is time evangelicals in America got off their high arrogant "End Times" horses and realize God may have bigger plans in mind and that millions more need to hear the gospel before Jesus returns. Who knows many who now plead for the Rapture to occur might find themselves not among the Elect and may in fact hear those terrifying words, "depart from me I never knew you."


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