Jesus’ Critical Question for End-Times Believers :: by Terry James

A recent news item about certain polling data grasped my attention. I’m sure many who peruse’s news section had their curiosity piqued and read it as well.

After looking into the matters reported, I found the poll wasn’t as thorough as I would have liked–but it was fascinating nonetheless. Also, it was too one-sided in ethnic make-up. However, I give it enough credence to examine it here because I believe it revolves around a concern the Lord Jesus Christ expressed while teaching about conditions that will prevail at the end of the age.

A new survey finds that Americans are divided over whether they believe Jesus Christ will return by the year 2050.

Among respondents to the survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and Smithsonian Magazine, 41 percent said they expect Jesus’ Second Coming in the next forty years, while 46 percent said it probably or definitely won’t happen.

The poll suggests that 58 percent of white evangelicals believe Jesus will return by 2050, compared to only 32 percent of Catholics, and respondents with no college education were three times as likely as those with college degrees to expect Christ’s Second Coming in the next forty years. (“Many Americans Expect Jesus’ Return by 2050,” Associated Press/Israel News, 6/23/10).

To be honest, I was quite surprised that 58 percent of white evangelicals believe Christ will return by 2050. This disconnect in my mind comes from the fact that in looking for interest in Bible prophecy with in the church today (by this I mean, of course, born-again believers–see John 3:3), my colleagues and I find no evidence to support that percentage.

Perhaps I should speak just for myself, but if my colleagues are honest, based upon conversations we’ve had among ourselves, they will confess that the interest just isn’t there in those kinds of numbers.

So, a few cynical (I suppose) thoughts regarding the poll come to mind:

1) The poll is a complete “guesstimate”–even a prefabrication.
2) The poll is skewed because it was taken from among a limited group of believers thoroughly educated in Bible prophecy.
3) The poll reflects a flippancy that will agree that Christ could return within the next forty years because the possibility is far enough in the future that the respondents need not worry about changing their personal conduct.
4) My colleagues and I are wrong and the church–“white evangelicals,” in this case–is expecting the Lord’s return in majority numbers.

If the last point is true, then the fact that so many are looking for Christ is well hidden. I’m a blind guy, as many know, so I can’t see things all that well. But interest in Christ’s return–and in Bible prophecy in general, according to everything I hear–is confined to an extremely small number of folks in relationship to the tremendous number of people who claim the name of Christ.

Clicking through Christian TV networks (yes, we blind guys “watch” TV), I rarely come across a prophetic message. The majority of the viewing fare consists of the prosperity gospel or entertainment that is for the most part a rather poor knockoff of secular entertainment. The preachers who do present a sound gospel message and sound doctrine seldom-to-rarely speak on Bible prophecy. And they certainly don’t touch upon the pre-trib return of Christ in the Rapture.

When I’ve personally asked some of the preachers and teachers why they avoid presenting prophecy, they have said things like: “The people just don’t understand Revelation”; “The subject is just too scary to most people”; or ” We just concentrate on getting people the gospel so they will be saved.”

The honest such preachers and teachers say: “I just don’t know anything about prophecy. I’ve not studied it enough to preach on it.”

What a tragedy, a travesty, this is! There is a singular hope (Titus 2:13) that God’s people have in this swiftly degenerating age. Yet, their shepherds–the preachers and teachers, their suppliers of spiritual food–use every conceivable excuse for not telling Christians about their returning Lord.

Some accuse those of us whose mission we believe it is to concentrate on Bible prophecy in these times of doing so to the point that we ignore Christ’s love and the Bible’s life lessons for His people.

We in no way believe that prophecy should be taught exclusively. However, prophecy constitutes almost 30 percent of the whole Word of God, so the Heavenly Father obviously means for prophecy to be a generous part of the mix for His children’s spiritual sustenance. This is especially true in these days when the signals of Christ’s coming again are every direction in which one looks.

Bible prophecy is being marginalized by those who are supposed to shepherd their flocks, but who don’t want to study it and/or don’t want to risk scaring people out of the pews. This is because it is the feel-good and do-good, entertainment-oriented sermonettes that tickle itching ears and build many of the elaborate end-times edifices.

Understand that I recognize there are huge churches that hold to doctrinal truth and include God’s prophetic Word as part of feeding their attending flocks. This is not to castigate these wonderful pastors, teachers, and staffs. God bless them! But these are in the minority. The dearth of interest in Christ’s coming back in the Rapture, then in the Second Advent, demonstrates the lack of faith resident within Christ’s body at this crucial hour.

Jesus asked the following profoundly troubling question in that prophetic context: “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b). The Lord had a somber message for God’s people who will be alive at His sudden, unannounced coming. I wrote the following as part of a chapter for an upcoming book that I believe gets across the gist of this “Nearing Midnight” commentary:

The indifference so prevalent within the church is, itself, an end-times signal, it seems. The Lord obviously spoke to the fact that God’s own children will in large part be indifferent to the prophetic signals. They will not be living as they should at the time of His coming for them, as He promised in John 14:1-3. As a matter of fact, He forewarned: “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36; from a chapter by Terry James in a book to be released in 2010)

I pray more born-again pastors, Bible teachers, and God’s children of this nation and the world will awaken en masse to the staggering implications of Christ’s Second Coming.