When I heard the announcement that President Trump was going to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and (eventually) move the U.S. embassy there, I knew the news would cause a sensation in the evangelical community. Foreign policy experts may have seen it as just another of example of Trump making a bonehead move to delight his far-right base that does nothing to advance U.S. interests abroad, but those who are keeping an “end times” checklist it is seen in a whole different light.
I find my mind traveling back in time to my middle school years, when the end times were a constant point of discussion in the Sunday School class I attended at a very conservative Southern Baptist church in South Carolina. This was during the heyday of Hal Lindsey and his book “The Late, Great Planet Earth,” which drew parallels between events unfolding at the time (the late ‘70s and early ‘80s) and Biblical verses that were being interpreted as clues to how and when human history would end and Jesus would return to our mortal plane.
Based on what we were being told at the time we were pretty sure that the end would come during our lifetimes, quite possibly before we reached adulthood. I remember that a verse in the book of Matthew was often cited as evidence the end was relatively near.
It was interpreted as saying that the generation that witnessed the reestablishment of Israel as a Jewish state (which happened in 1948) would not “pass away” before all that is prophesied in the Bible has come to pass. There is much debate about how many years constitutes a generation in Biblical terms, but the clock definitely seemed to be ticking and we were all alert and looking for more signs and portents of the coming apocalypse to surface.
And now 40 years later that search continues for Christians who still buy into this particular interpretation of the parts of the Bible that are claimed by some (but definitely not all) believers to prophesy future events in human history.
Even if you aren’t among those who believe in all of this you’ve probably picked up the gist of it from hearing people talk about Lindsey’s book or (if you’re not as old as me) the more recent wildly-popular “Left Behind” series. But just in case you’re completely out of the loop about this, here’s what they believe is in store for humanity in the near future.
All real, true Christians (the ones who are truly saved, not the liberals) are going to get “raptured” in the blink of an eye, which means they will disappear from the Earth without a trace, leaving only their clothes behind. Soon after that, a man known as the anti-Christ (think Satan’s evil counterpart to Jesus) will come to power and rule all the Earth, establishing a single government, currency and religion which everyone who is “left behind” will be required to submit to on pain of death.
That’s when things get very ugly. Really bad stuff happens to the world and its remaining inhabitants for seven years (referred to as “the tribulation period”) and then there is a big battle between the anti-Christ and those plucky souls who stand up to oppose him. Jesus then reappears to save the day, vanquishing the forces of evil and setting up a kingdom on Earth that will last for 1,000 awesome years. After that all the saved people get to enjoy an eternity of awesomeness and the unsaved spend eternity in hell with Satan and his fallen angels.
It’s important to note that not all Christians believe this is an accurate interpretation of the Bible, but the narrative has become quite popular among some of the more fundamentalist sects and they are among Trump’s most ardent supporters. You may not share these beliefs, but they are having an effect on decisions being made by our government at the highest levels. So you need to be aware of them and you need to factor this knowledge into your decisions when you go to the ballot box.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.