“I wish the rapture would hurry up so we can get rid of [Christians].” This comment was left on a youtube channel I came across recently. A woman called in to the show declaring Donald Trump to be the “fulfillment of the prophecies in Revelation chapters 6 and 13.” She said he was the “white rider” and his voters were the “pale horse. . . pale eyed, pale skinned, pale haired.” She continued by saying that Trump would be reelected because “1.9 billion more people needed to die,” for some reason, and she encouraged the host to stock up on supplies and prepare for the end of times.
Whether this woman is politically left or right, I have no idea. What I do know is that I have heard similarly bizarre interpretations before. This caller is presumably a believer of biblical prophecy and not merely being satirical. She certainly sounded sincere. If she is serious, she is yet another person who is confident that her futurist interpretation of the Book of Revelation is correct and that her visions of coming destruction are upon us.
Our generation is not the first to see the horsemen on the horizon. Prominent and notorious figures alike such as Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus, Cotton Mather, John Wesley, Jim Jones, Pat Robertson, Harold Camping, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins, and John Hagee among countless others have followed their interpretations of Revelation and set dates for the end only to be disappointed when the earth was not destroyed or the “rapture” did not occur as predicted.
With all the fear surrounding the coronavirus and possible economic collapse, people are yet again crying wolf, and the world is no longer listening. Why is the end always just around the corner? People see apocalypse in every crisis, they see an “antichrist” in every public figure they personally disagree with.
I was in the fourth or fifth grade when the scare of Y2K swept the nation. There were stories on the news of duct tape and bottled water flying off the grocery shelves. What would happen at the end of the millennium when the computers’ 99 turned to 00? Economic collapse? Would Jesus return? Nothing. I sat in my grandmother’s kitchen with my sparkling apple cider and quietly rung in the new millennium with a family toast.
I was in high school when Obama first ran for office and won in 2008. Surely this was the end. A Democrat had taken office after the “glorious” years of the Bush presidency, when religious freedom and evangelical influence were presumably at their highest. God was with America, many proclaimed. God was with Bush.
To the same people, God was not with Obama. While Bush’s presidency was the active will of God, many said, Barak’s was merely permitted by God. Obama was the antichrist and was poised to stage a hostile takeover of the American government. He was a Muslim Communist hell bent on tearing down capitalism, God’s system, and building up socialism, the work of the devil. And yet, I survived two terms of his presidency without a whiff of Armageddon.
Enter Donald Trump. The savior and darling of the Christian Right and the Son of the almighty dollar. He couldn’t be the antichrist, many said. He was on the Republican side. But perhaps he was the one to fulfill biblical Prophecy. Perhaps he was a King Cyrus ready to help the Christians gain political power and regain a foothold in the culture wars against those trying to destroy God’s country; the new Israel.
Shortly after Trump’s stunning electoral win, I was working at my local library when a petite and soft-spoken woman came to up to the desk and said, “I’m looking for the Bible. Can you help me find it?” I replied that we had several versions and showed her the shelf. She was looking for the KJV, or the “real” Bible. I pulled out our copy and gave it to her. She stayed for several hours, huddled around the copier.
Before she left, she quietly slipped me a stapled packet, containing what I can only assume was a revelation directly from God. She quoted 1 Corinthians 15:52 which states, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
She claimed Trump was God’s man to usher in the end times diligently working on God’s behalf. His name was predicted in the Bible! Like many before her, she claimed to have the unvarnished truth of God and it conveniently backed up her politics and worldview.
According to the logic of those who make predictions, God has left bread crumbs—words, numbers, codes—in the Bible, and those who are paying attention to the details embedded in the correct translations will attain the ultimate prize: certainty. But, certainty is not what we should seek as Christians. It is comforting but diametrically opposed to faith.
Certainty is merely hubris and arrogance masquerading as discernment. One might say that they know the earth is only 6000 years old. Others might say that they know the second coming of Christ will occur this or that way. But they don’t, and the more they prophesy their “truth,” the more they lose their credibility with unbelievers. You’re sure Jesus is the Christ, just like you were sure about X,Y,Z?
Essentially, by making predictions, we are trading our witness to the world for our own comfort and political expediency, like Esau trading his inheritance for a pot of stew (Genesis 25:29-34). It is comforting to our tired flesh to eat the hot meal, but while we indulge our fleeting hunger, we irreparably change our future and our standing in the world. Our witness and credibility are extremely precious and when we privilege end-times thinking over our present commission to unbelievers we do not treat it as if it were.
Stop claiming this or that person is the antichrist or the savior of the world. Stop worrying about the mark of the beast or a “one world government.” Jesus lived in the Roman Empire. His people were oppressed. Did he cling to his rights, buy guns and ammo, and hunker down for a shoot-out with the opposition? No. He lived peaceably within his society though he lived out his difference by example. Ultimately, he gave himself up willingly to the authorities because he knew that God would take care of him in life and in death.
If we truly believe that we serve the God of the Universe, we should have faith in him and not fear. As 1 John 4:18 states, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.” God has promised to take care of His people—not Americans—God’s Church. Christians everywhere, those who are “free” and “unfree” can rest assured that God will always take care of us despite our circumstances.
Oppression may come, but let us not anticipate it fomenting fear among the faithful and inciting ridicule among the unbelievers. Remain certain of one thing only, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)