In recent years, there has been a marked increase in interest in end-time prophecy—especially in the U.S. The Y2K hullabaloo, the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center and the continued bloody tension in the Middle East have piqued many people’s concern and curiosity. Many wonder, Are we living at the time of the end?
Yet, modern Christian messages on the subject of end-time prophecy and the chronology of events leading to the return of Christ are both conflicting and confusing. It is a fact that Christians are deeply divided about how the end will come. It is no secret that Christian views on this subject span a wide range—from the laughing scoffers to militant street-corner preachers.
Many mainline Christian church leaders sit in silent embarrassment over the renewed bugaboo about end-time prophecy. It is awkward enough for them to watch evangelicals and fundamentalists engage in prophecy wars. But some church leaders find it even more humiliating to see evangelicals at odds with evangelicals and fundamentalists pointing fingers at other fundamentalists. Some church leaders and thinkers are trying to come to agreement and publish one unified message. Yet, success has eluded them. Why? The answer is a matter of history.
Before we get into the history, let’s briefly look at what is happening now.
Here are several major questions concerning the end under hot debate in many Christian circles. Believe it or not, one big question is: Will Christ return? Others are: Will Christ and the saints rule on the Earth for 1,000 years (known as the Millennium)? When will this millennial rule take place—prior to, or after, Christ’s return? Is there a rapture of the saints?
There are other questions—many others! Go to a Bible bookstore and take a look at Christian publications on end-time prophecy and you’ll see what we mean. Each new publication attempts to uncover the mystery behind some prophetic symbol. For example, look at all the books on the subject of the mark of the beast; you will find a wide range of conjectures as to what this is: Social Security numbers, microchip brain implants, number tattoos required by the IRS. Look at all the literature trying to answer the question, just who or what is the beast discussed in Revelation 13? Answers include the United Nations, the United States, the World Council of Churches, Russia and Iraq.
Of course, all books about end-time prophetic events claim their particular message is true.
Unfortunately, what is most true is that end-time prophecy literature has become big business, and many are cashing in! The Left Behind series, a fictional account of end-time events, is one good example. Some Christian leaders feel that there may be a lot of drama in the books, but there is little Bible. Nevertheless, it is a national bestseller. And the New York Times reported that nonfiction books about prophecy increased 71 percent in the eight weeks after the 9/11 attacks compared with the previous eight weeks (Nov. 23, 2001).