666, Anyone? (Pick a Date! Any Date!)

“I think things are going to get even worse before the Lord returns.”

- Prison chaplain, on why people involved in Operation Rescue are wrong for their actions

They just don’t give up. The rapture date-setters and the Antichrist-namers never seem to skip a beat, in spite of how many times they’ve been wrong. In recent times, the Antichrist was assuredly Henry Kissinger (Jewish!); then Jimmy Carter (a professing believer – hmmm); then Mikhail Gorbachev (he had that thing on his head); then Saddam Hussein (if he attacked Israel the trumpet would sound). I wonder who their next victim will be. I’m taking bets on Boris Yeltsin or Bill Clinton. (Horror, there’s an idea.)

And, of course, there was the best seller, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. I wanted to write the sequel, 88 Reasons Why It Wasn’t. I don’t think many publishers would have been interested.

Now the insane book, by Harold Camping, 1994, is a best seller (as of the spring of 1993). This book will also be wrong. “How can you be so sure?” you may ask. Well, every time, since the Ascension of Christ, some well-meaning (or deceived) Christian has defied Christ’s words and tried to pick a date, they’ve been wrong. The date-setters are batting 1000 percent at being wrong.

So … I predict 1995! (The whole year! Those reading after 1995, don’t smirk. Just beware of the next date-setter.)

The truth be known, I cut my teeth spiritually around people (and tapes and books) that proved to me – with lots of Bible verses – that because Israel had again become a political state in 1948, and because vultures were laying two eggs instead of one in the Middle East, and because the Soviets’ military hardware could be burned like coal for three-and-a-half years, and because someone was developing a microchip to put in people’s foreheads or hands so we could be a cashless society, and because our credit cards had a hologram, and because “The Beast” (computer in Belgium) was working for the revived Roman Empire, and … and … and … the secret rapture of the church was going to be any minute.

It was probably useless to plan to be in Russia to preach the gospel during the 1980 Olympics because we would be raptured by then. Certainly, we would be whisked away before 1981. Of course, 1981 came and went, as did 1984, as did 1988, as did the war with Iraq. The date-setters and vulture-watchers had substantial vulture egg on their faces. The late, great, planet earth is still here! (It was undoubtedly a greater earth for those who had a good hunk of change in their pockets from book royalties – something an author never scoffs at!)

It would be bad enough if the date-setters simply deluded themselves with New York Times-CNN headlines. But it’s worse than that. Not only don’t they fight to stop America’s moral collapse, they sometimes seem to rejoice in it.

America Is Dying. Hallelujah!

For the secret rapture watchers, the rapid collapse of America’s families and the rampant immorality we see all around us are signs that we are fast approaching the end of time. Like a numbing theological narcotic that keeps people in their rapture-watching armchairs is the belief that the more corrupt America becomes, the more certain we can be that the rapture is any second. “Let it rot, baby! We’re going up!”

The worse it gets, the better. The prevailing wickedness of the hour is a welcome confirmation for the prophets of escapism. “More Christians are being oppressed! The divorce rate is skyrocketing! Homosexuals want to take over! Glory to God, the end is near! Jesus must be coming any second!” This latter part is shrieked in increasingly shrill tones.

Explain to the oppressed Christians in China or in the former Soviet Union – who have suffered for decades – that the minor persecution of American Christians is the prelude to Armageddon. What a joke.

Well, forgive me for being blunt, but I just don’t buy it anymore. I am sick of date-setting and antichrist-watching. I’m sick of the unhealthy distraction it is to Christians. I’m sick of it ripping their hearts out.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I believe the Scriptures. The Bible clearly teaches of the bodily return of the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:11), the blessed hope (Titus 2:13). It will be a glorious event. And I believe His return may happen today, or tomorrow. We should live to please Him, so that if He appears, we will not be ashamed before Him at His coming (1 John 2:28). We should also live in a way that if He doesn’t come for two thousand more years, we will not deliver a cursed nation to our great-great-grandchildren. We want to leave a legacy of righteousness and courage for our grandchildren, not escapism and cowardice.

Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Second Coming was two thousand years from now. (Don’t close the book yet! I’m not a heretic!)

The Long Last Days

“But what about the signs?” some will ask. “We’re in the last days!”

Yes, we are in the last days. We’ve been in the last days since the day of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out with incredible power, signs, and wonders, commencing with the one hundred and twenty disciples speaking in other tongues, Peter stood up and declared we were in the last days (Acts 2:15-21).

Frankly, I believe date-setting is probably a distraction and a deception from hell. Well-meaning, overzealous men and women have fallen into the enemy’s snare. Obviously, they’ve all been wrong. And for the Christians over the centuries who have built their lives or altered their plans based on these erroneous predictions – they have thrown away months, years, perhaps decades of their lives. For example, I wonder in recent times how many Christian men had a yearning to be a congressman or a judge, but abandoned the dream early on because “Jesus is coming any second.” This nonsense of date-setting has robbed the church and the culture.

Saints who are unhealthily preoccupied with the Lord’s coming generally aren’t obeying the parabolic command to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13).

Jesus said, “A tree is known by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33). The fruit of date-setting, second coming star-watchers, and antichrist pickers have been utterly disastrous. Whether Christians sell all they have and cloister on a mountaintop waiting for the trumpet blast, or whether they run up big credit card bills to leave the antichrist while they cloister in their safe, cozy, and culturally irrelevant churches, the result is the same. They are useless in the great cultural battles for biblical justice and righteousness.

What if, rather than being deluded into accepting America’s moral collapse as our divine destiny, a “sign of the times,” the millions and millions of Christians who were unhealthily preoccupied with the rapture for the past seventy years had been the salt of the earth and fought against baby-killers, pornographers, condom-pushers, messianic statists, and sodomite evangelists? We wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now!

We have been deceived by Satan himself into surrendering the greatest nation in the history of the world (save ancient Israel) to pagan elitists – and we’ve done so believing that God had destined for this nation to moral collapse, that he destined the church for defeat! We’ve foolishly believed that God was pleased with us for standing idly by while a nation sank into the bowels of hell, because we were watching eternal drama play out. God deliver us from the theology of escapism.

Yes, the Lord will return. Yes, His coming is the blessed hope. Yes, we should pray with John the Beloved, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20c). But I believe the American churches’ excessive preoccupation with the Lord’s return is out of balance, unbiblical, and has led us into a retreatist, escapist mentality. Compare how much of the Bible is devoted to how we should live here and now, to how little of the Bible is devoted to eschatology (the study of end times).

Why Polish Brass on a Sinking Ship?

As I stated earlier, the fruit of the date-setting “any second rapture” crowd has been absolutely disastrous. Literally millions of American Christians – perhaps yourself included – are content to let America slide into moral anarchy because they think it’s God’s will for wickedness to flourish before the Lord returns. It’s a sign of the times! Jesus is going to come any second.

And besides, if Jesus is going to come tomorrow, why be involved in the moral issues of today? Or to quote a famous radio Bible teacher, “Why polish brass on a sinking ship?”

If you are a rapture date-setter, I have this question for you: What if America’s moral disintegration has absolutely nothing to do with the Lord’s return? What if the mockery of righteousness has nothing to do with Matthew 24, but everything to do with Matthew 5? “If the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matt. 5:13, emphasis added). The Living New Testament says the salt is “worthless”! That’s what many Christians have become – worthless.

I believe the rise of persecution against Christians, the mockery of Christianity, and the spurning of Christian principles in America have nothing to do with the Lord’s return. We and our most sacred principles are mocked and trampled underfoot because we are the salt that lost its savor. Our own selfishness, laziness, bless-me-club Christianity, coupled with our detachment from and irrelevance in this culture have gotten us in this mess. Our own folly has made us a prey to the jaws of tyranny. To use the Lord’s words, we are good for nothing. And as He promised, we are being trampled under foot of men.

Cast Off the Shackles

I believe we must challenge the date-setting preoccupation in the church because of the damage done to the church and the nation. I also believe the great escape mentality has helped bring us to the brink of destruction. Because of the incredible amount of ground we have lost since the early 1900s, we are now entrenched in a life and death struggle for our own survival and for the survival of America as a free nation. We’ve been clearly losing since the early 1960s. To top it off, most Christians don’t have a clue how to fight, where to fight, who to fight, when to fight, and most importantly, why to fight.

I recently talked with an “expert prophecy teacher” who insisted that he could still be an “activist” while being pre-occupied with the rapture. (It was a very polite and amiable conversation.) I told him, “Perhaps you can live with that apparent schizophrenia, but the average person in the pew cannot. Some of the hugest evangelical churches in America that are unhealthily preoccupied with the Lord’s return have little or no influence in the power bases of their communities (the schools, media, universities, the police force, the judiciary, the medicines, the arts, etc.). They have the manpower to take back the ‘power bases,’ but instead they’re all worked up about the latest New York Times headline about Israel or Sadaam Hussein.”

A woman sitting by and listening in suddenly spoke up, expressing her deep frustration. “Every time I go to my church and try to get them involved, people tell me ‘the Lord is coming any time now, and we don’t need to worry about changing the world.’” The prophecy expert ignored her anecdotal evidence and my arguments.

Moreover, many Christians believe we are destined to be defeated. Before the Lord’s return, society will have decayed so completely that it will be impossible to reform it. There’s no way we can win – “until that trumpet blast.” For now, well there’s not much we can do. So why bother? The average Christian simply isn’t going to get in a battle he isn’t going to win. I know a few people declare, “We must remain faithful till the end.” But not many Christians will join the fight if the battle cry is “We’re going to get slaughtered, God has destined us to lose, but we’re called to be faithful! Let’s see who can bang their head against the wall the longest!”

Another tragic side effect of “rapture fever” is amnesia. We forget. We forget from whence we’ve fallen as a nation. We forget what great freedom and justice our spiritual forefathers fought for, and sometimes died for. And perhaps more tragically, we forget our responsibility to our children, grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren. Many Christians have little or no sense of compelling duty for their yet unborn children and grandchildren. Why? Because they think the end of the world will be here before their grandchildren or great-grandchildren are.

In the Year 2525

But millions of American Christians aren’t burdened about their offsprings’ future. The only dark spot they see on the horizon is Armageddon. And for them that is a bright spot! So why strive to achieve righteousness and justice in the judiciary, politics, the medicines, schools, universities or the media, for future generations? Why be burdened for our offspring and their offspring? We’ll be long gone!

What grieves me so deeply is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The pagans don’t have an irrevocable destiny to run this country into hell. They are not invincible. American Christians have the manpower and the money to take back the power bases. Just consider the tens of millions of professing Christians, and the billions we spend on buildings and entertainment. We have the numbers and money, but we don’t have the vision, the passion, or the sense of duty before God to take the Lordship of Christ in every citadel of authority.

If the enemy continues to seduce us to let America perish, and we continue to squander our children’s freedom, future generations throughout the world will hold us in harsh contempt. Our great-grandchildren will curse this generation of Christians for our cowardice and escapist mentality. But I’m sure some Christian author or teacher will try to tickle itching ears in their day telling them that they are the terminal generation. (“This time we’re really sure. Vultures are laying three eggs!”)

So, you may be wondering, what is my eschatology? I’m a pan-millenialist – with post-millennial tendencies. I believe it’s all going to pan out in the end. And I assure you, I’m right. It all will pan out in the end! I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it’s not. Let me put more flesh on the bones.

The Antichrist Who Isn’t

Finally, the Bible does not say there will be one special antichrist. John said, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18, emphasis added). That’s right. Many antichrists. “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ is an antichrist.

I understand that the antichrist-watchers believe the “man of sin” of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and the “Beast” of Revelation 13 is the Antichrist. However, this is a strained, unbiblical leap of logic.

Our preoccupation with an antichrist is an unhealthy, sinister distraction. Daniel wrote, “The people who know their God will display strength and take action” (Dan. 11:32) – not “those who know their antichrists.” Christians who are supposed to be looking for Christ’s glorious appearing are instead looking for an antichrist.

Please, friend, take an honest look at the fruit of the date-setting, antichrist-watching, we’re-destined-to-be-defeated theology in the church; look at what it has done to America. It should give you pause, and at least make you very suspicious of the current or next wave of date-setters.

Yes, the trumpet will sound, and Jesus will return in great power and glory to judge the quick and the dead. It could happen today. It might not happen for two thousand years. Just in case He decides to wait for the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21b), let’s get busy taking ground from the enemy’s hands for His kingdom.

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