Sitting on my bookshelf is my Granddad’s copy of “88 reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988” (I think he kept it for a laugh). That booklet was based on Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth”. Much of that same line of thinking continues in books like John Hagee’s “Four Blood Moons”. Thankfully, I did not grow up heavily influenced by such books, but I did witness the influence such books had on others around me. And I think that some of the influence of these books is playing out right now in Christian America, namely in the startling belief in conspiracy theories among Christians. It is surprising to me the number of Christians who are spreading conspiracy theories on social media right now. To their credit, most that I have encountered have not completely fallen for them and are honest about being overwhelmed and confused.
But I do believe that these “prophecy” books dealing with the end of days have, at least in part, conditioned Christians to believe in conspiracy theories. After all, Hal Lindsey has proven to be a conspiracy theory about the divine. To create a conspiracy theory one takes true information; in Lindsey’s case that demonic forces are trying to manipulate our world. The Bible is pretty clear that there is a character or characters behind the scenes so-to-speak quietly trying to influence humanity’s efforts and specifically the governments of the world.
But here is where Lindsey and others go off the rails. They believe that God has provided a crystal clear picture of the future (sometimes complete with names) it is simply jumbled up, These prophecy gurus then manipulate the the individual pieces of the Bible into a “clear picture” of reality. As they tiptoe through their portrait they conveniently distract from one’s attention away from the gaps in logic and the data which do not fit. For instance “there will be a one world government” conveniently forgetting that in Revelation many nations come to the final battle (Revelation 19:19).
I think what is happening is that these individuals are building on the fact that we as Christians are in on a secret. We, in Paul’s words, have had the mystery revealed to us; and so now we feel like there is more to the story. the temptation becomes thinking there is a deeper secret for the more devout, a more mysterious revelation if we draw closer to God. The reality is there is no secret, just a clearer picture of God. There is no Bible Code or key to knowing the future there is only God (though can we speak of “only God”). Remember these words “walk by faith not by sight” or “only the Father knows the times…”. The reality is those who are looking for a clear picture of the future seem to be violating the clear message of Scripture.
Many of the “prophecy experts” I have heard have made the claim that not only is Satan trying to influence governments, but these governments are in league with Satan. That is governments are manipulating circumstances to bring about the end of the world. Forgive me but this is laughable, and it both makes too much and too little of the demonic. It makes too little of the demonic because the plans created by these preachers are laughably simplistic. If the goal is to get humanity to rebel against God there are far more sinister ways than those created in the minds of these preachers. Second, they often make too much of the demonic. As if once one is initiated to a high enough level the demonic spirit can say, “look I’m in charge and we’re doing evil from now on.” The reality is that demonic forces are far subtler than that because, in part, they have to be, they don’t have as much power as we think. In someways these preachers have fallen into both traps C.S. Lewis warned of in the introduction to “Screwtape Letters”.
I will say that some of these preachers may indeed eventually stumble on some truth about the world’s end but that would be like finding the right sum to a math problem despite doing all the wrong steps. I have seen where this theology has primed Christians for believing conspiracy theories. Reading comments I find statements like “micro-chipped vaccines could be the mark of the beast”, or how “The U.N. is fanning the flames of the pandemic to form the one world government”. These are directly uniting the current conspiracy theory du jour with those about the end-of-the-world. But I also see where those end-of-the-world theories have taught Christians not to think. I pointed our above that the theories of Revelation point people away from gaps in logic or contradictory evidence. I think that in part because of these Christians are not developing critical thinking skills. Couple this with a desire not to appear “wise by the world’s standards” and we create a dangerous cocktail. We are developing believers who are not living out the command to love the Lord “with all your mind.”
I am deeply saddened by these kinds of comments, as I said, I see many people who are truly scared and confused. I am also angered by preachers who continually peddle these theories. I wish the church could create a rule that after three failed end-of-the-world predictions you are excommunicated. These preachers are creating fear, and fear does not produce love, at least not directly.
For some good easy to follow info on understanding Revelation try here.