Don’t Get Infected With Last Days Fever

by | Aug 25, 2009 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

Don’t let the sensationalism of eschatology distract you from the priority of evangelism.

You might remember Edgar Whisenant. He wrote a best-selling book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988—and a much less popular sequel, The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989. The second book said Jesus didn’t come back in 1988 because the author, who was a former NASA engineer (!), missed his mathematical calculations by a year.

The mood of the 1980s was uneasy. After Ronald Reagan was elected president, some Christians began to surmise that Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was the Antichrist. When he died they gave the title to the next Soviet leader, Yury Andropov, and then to his successor, Konstantin Chernenko. When Chernenko died unexpectedly, people were certain that Mikhail Gorbachev was the Antichrist because he had that awful red birthmark on his forehead.

If you study the great Christian revivals of the past you will find that none were triggered by date-setting, rapture fever or Bible prophecy seminars.”

But Jesus didn’t return during Gorbachev’s tenure. In fact the Soviet system crumbled and Christian missionary activity began to blossom all over the cold Russian landscape. The people who expected the sky to fall any minute found someone else to fill the Antichrist’s shoes. First it was Bill Gates, then Osama bin Laden. Today it’s a toss-up between Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan despot Hugo Chávez.

Through the years there have been gloomy rumors about computer chips and global conspiracy. I remember one story warning us that JCPenney credit cards carried the mark of the beast. Today if you believe everything you read on the Internet, that same evil mark is on President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

All this date-setting and foolish prognostication bothers me because Jesus said it is strictly off-limits. He told His disciples before His ascension, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7, NASB). That means we don’t have the right to predict the date of His return or to make guesses about the timeline of final judgment.

The apostle Paul also warned the early church to stay away from date-setting. He told Timothy: “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Tim. 2:23). Paul wanted his followers to keep their focus on the main thing—the spreading of the gospel—so they wouldn’t get sidetracked.

Christians hold different views of the last days. Pre-millennialists focus on the imminent rapture of the church—an event that is described in the New Testament. Post-millennialists focus on the triumph of Christ through history—something that is also reinforced in the book of Revelation. Preterists emphasize the ever-increasing government of God—which Isaiah and other prophets spoke of.

I am not writing here to push a particular view of the end times. When people ask me about my eschatological position I tell them I am a “pan-millennialist”—as in: “It will all pan out in the end.” I know Jesus will return in triumph. But we can’t figure out these things beforehand. Anyone who claims to be an “expert” in the mysteries of Christ’s return has forgotten that Jesus Himself said, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt. 24:36).

What concerns me most about an unhealthy focus on eschatology is that it distracts us from the ultimate priority of evangelism.

People who get carried away by rapture fever can become escapists. I’ve met Christians who want Jesus to come back tomorrow even though they know there are entire tribes and people groups in Asia and Africa that have never heard the gospel. On the other hand, I’ve known smug post-millennialists who were so happy that God’s kingdom is advancing that they felt no personal responsibility to reach the lost. I also know people who are so focused on what God is doing in Israel that they forget He has a plan for Nigeria, Bolivia or Indonesia.

In all these cases a wrong emphasis on eschatology caused Christians to lose sight of the Great Commission.

If you study the great Christian revivals of the past you find that none were triggered by date-setting, rapture fever or Bible prophecy seminars. We must preach the cross. Of course we tell the world that Christ is returning. But we do not have permission to muddle our message with nonsense about dates and global conspiracies.

John Wesley and George Whitefield preached repentance, the atonement of Christ and the reality of hell. William and Catherine Booth wept for souls and preached the message of salvation throughout England. Evan Roberts begged God to close the gates of hell in Wales for a year so that he could preach the simple gospel of a perfect redeemer. In all these cases genuine revival was the result. How I wish we could adopt this passionate focus on what really matters.

British revivalist Charles Spurgeon rebuked the preachers of his day for their eschatological speculations. He wrote in Lectures to My Students:

“O that Christ crucified were the universal burden of men of God. Your guess at the number of the beast … your conjectures concerning a personal Antichrist—forgive me, I count them but mere bones for dogs; while men are dying, and hell is filling, it seems to me the veriest drivel to be muttering about an Armageddon … and peeping between the folded leaves of destiny to discover the fate of Germany. I would sooner pluck one single brand from the burning than explain all mysteries.”

If only the American church would leave this drivel behind. I pray we will reconsider our priorities and embrace a fresh anointing for evangelism.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. You can find him on Twitter at leegrady.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

How to Operate in the Power Gifts of the Holy Spirit

How to Operate in the Power Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told the apostles in Acts 1:8 (NLT), “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Jesus promises a gift that would give them comfort, power, strength and encouragement. That gift is the Holy Spirit, and that...

Messianic Rabbi: Make the Choice to Be an Outsider

Messianic Rabbi: Make the Choice to Be an Outsider

One of the wonderful things about reading through the Bible is that the more you read it, the more things you find within its pages. No matter how many times you read a verse or a series of verses, because the Bible is a living document, there will always be more to...

Kingdom Economics: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Kingdom Economics: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress unanimously voted to pass a declaration of independence from Britain. Each signatory was facing death by hanging if the bold experiment failed. The Declaration of Independence declared that all men were created equal and that...

Consider This Unsung Hero of the Bible

Consider This Unsung Hero of the Bible

Sometimes, I think Martha in the Bible gets a bad rap! I am not saying that Jesus labeled Martha at all. Please hear me out. But I think we would be wise to avoid picking up and holding onto some of the dynamics in this potential sibling rivalry between Martha and...

Prophetic Word: We Are Entering the Books of Acts

Prophetic Word: We Are Entering the Books of Acts

On the morning of June 5, 2022, I was praying in preparation for the Arise Women’s Summit I was hosting near Knoxville, Tennessee, when the Lord took me into an encounter. I found myself in the library of heaven standing before a giant staircase made of extremely...

The Church Revived: 3 Keys to the Emerging Move of God

The Church Revived: 3 Keys to the Emerging Move of God

During the past two years, I believe the church at large has been in a season of returning to God. Repentance is crucial when it comes to revival. Scripture shows a clear pattern that repentance precedes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Joel 2:12-28 and Acts...

RECENT ARTICLES

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

All of us at some point will hit a place of getting the wind knocked out of us. We all experience unexpected detours and times when there seems to be no way out. But there is One who lives in us,...
Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Whether it is the Spirit leading or forbidding in the book of Acts, or the Spirit leading throughout Christian history, it’s clear that the leading of the Spirit is important. In the Old Testament, it appears that the Spirit of God could be withdrawn completely from...

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Everyone has a race to run. That just means we all have a life to live. The apostle Paul says in Hebrews 12:1 (NIV), “Therefore...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for...

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

In 1971, I was invited to spend one month in Singapore at a new institute that had been started by John Haggai. It was still in the formative stages then—a place where Asian church leaders would be trained and challenged to witness for Christ. Today, more than 40...

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

It was a Pentecost bloodbath and most Christians never heard about it. More than 50 Christians were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks on Nigerians this year. Scores of gunmen rushed in to kill Christians in the midst of worship. All told, over 360 million...

Pin It on Pinterest