Russia Triggered The End Times? (3 Ways You Can Disarm An End-Time Preacher)

As Jesus followers in post-modern America, we have a big task on our hands. The great reformation happening currently within American Christianity has created a long ‘to-do’ list for those of us who wish to carry this movement forward to a more beautiful expression than has been in generations past. There are gaps to fill, narratives to help change, and leadership that’s needed.

There will also be a host of barriers to what we’re trying to accomplish. While I believe we ought give the majority of our energy to constructing a better expression of Christianity, we must also not neglect the need to deconstruct the elements that are obstacles to our goals and which drive people away from Jesus instead of closer to him.

Perhaps one of the greatest barriers to this Jesus movement is the “end times” movement. The modern, unbiblical end-times movement has been wreaking havoc on the Jesus movement for more than a century. When we look back to historical evangelicalism in America, it all began with a beautiful movement that for a time, proclaimed a holistic gospel of personal conversion plus social usefulness (Finney’s term). This evangelical movement did all sorts of great stuff to contribute to the long-term common good of society, the most beautiful of which was the abolition movement to abolish slavery.

But, as we’ve discussed before, that all went away when the end times movement was invented and took hold in America. This movement has caused Christians of various flavors to abandon our calling as Jesus followers and instead opt to follow salacious end-times preachers who preached a far more interesting (and easy) message: hunker down, ’cause the end is coming.

Prepping for the end, is always easier than building the future. This is precisely why we’re likely going to be fighting this battle for a while– it will always have followers, not because it’s good theology, but because it’s easier theology. Preparing for the end will always be more attractive to some folks because it is infinitely easier than investing your life into reforming and building something new.

In order to take this reformation to the next level, we’re going to need to find creative ways to get people to stop taking these end times preachers seriously– because we need everyone working towards the future, instead of bracing for an impact that never comes.

We need to be busy both pointing out why they’re wrong, but also busy replacing this bad theology with good theology. While I get at least one reader e-mail a week that says “maybe you shouldn’t critique what other Christians teach” (before some of them fire off a post about me on their own blogs), I think this is a necessary part of the process– we’re simply not going to be able to completely construct a new narrative for American Christianity if we don’t also explore where we have, and were we still do, go wrong.

Such is the case with end times preachers…

Just today I saw the following clip from John Hagee that reminded me that we must not grow lax in pushing back against the narrative that folks like Hagee continue to push, because it is destructive to our quest to build an optimistic Christianity that invites engagement/investment instead of isolationism, pessimism, and destruction.

In the below video, Hagee goes to the standard playbook of looking at any current event that includes war, and interprets it as being a sign that the end is near:

The question becomes, what do we do? How do we push back against this kind of stuff in the right way?

Here are three ways you can disarm someone who’s making claims about a certain event triggering the “end times”:

1. Point out that their message stays the same– the only thing that changes is the current event.

Any time there is a “rumor of war” or a horrible natural disaster, the end times folks start clamoring that the end is near. Usually they’ll also throw in that someone is going to try to attack Israel really soon. It doesn’t matter what the event is, their message stays the same: the end is near and almost anything in the news can be used as “proof”.

The problem with that? The end never comes. How many times must they falsely predict the end will come before we stop listening to them entirely? Some of these folks have created entire careers out of making false predictions using current events.

Ironically, in Deut chapter 18, the Law of Moses taught that if a “prophet” gave a prediction that did not come to pass, they should be put to death because it was a sign they falsely claimed to speak for God. Just remind the person who is making such claims that had they lived in Bible times, there’s a good chance they’d be dodging a lot of rocks.

2. We need to point out that their message is fear based, and fear based messages are not of God.

The New Testament teaches us that God’s perfect love will “cast out all fear”. However, the end times preachers rely on fear to keep their income flowing. If you watch folks like Hagee more than a few times, you’ll quickly see that the message is all fear based: the Muslims are taking over, there’s going to be a lot of war, and the end is coming… it’s all fear based. This, my friends, isn’t of God. Any time a message plays to fears, we know it has no association with the God who is love.

3. We need to point out that they’re just making crap up.

When you listen to these folks, such as in the video above, you’ll hear them say things like “scripture teaches”, but what will follow will be a country, or event, that doesn’t exist in the Bible. For example, when we hear someone say that the Bible teaches Russia will attack ______, we know it’s total BS, because they are super imposing modern identities on a very ancient, apocalyptic document.

In the video, Hagee claims we can know that “Gog” is Russia, because Gog comes from the north.

Really? Is Russia the only place that’s north of wherever the author was sitting when he wrote the book? Seriously– I’m not kidding– they’re really just making stuff up and we need to keep pointing that out.

Here’s what they’re doing: they’re taking apocalyptic literature which is highly symbolic and metaphoric by nature, and just filling in their own blanks and justifying those blanks by saying “scripture teaches”. Especially when working in Daniel or Revelation– we’re dealing with symbolism such as a 7 headed beast coming up out of the ocean. Anytime someone says they know exactly what that means, they’re guilty of simply making crap up. The truth is, we’re hard pressed to know what any of it means, so your guess is as good as mine– and I’ve got six years of seminary under my belt.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever be completely free from end-times preachers, but I do think we can work towards making them less relevant. If we continue to press forward with a Christian narrative that is hopeful, engaging, and transformative I believe the narrative we’re pointing to will grow, while there’s will continue to drift into the shadows.

At least, I hope that’s the case. I know where I want to make my investment– into an optimistic Christianity that radically transforms culture for the good of everyone instead of a Christianity that is busy prepping for the end of the world.

Together, I believe we can point to something far more beautiful and relevant than the end-times madness the old guard was obsessed with.

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  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin

    Oy, vey… *sigh*

    I’ll say that there is one “end times” kind of thing that I do listen to and agree with… that the USA is heading in a post-Christian direction with the potential of there being hostility towards believers… But this is different than the “end times” preachers you talk about here…first and foremost because it is simply predicting what is always predicted “Empires rise, empires fall, but the Kingdom is eternal”.

    In fact, it is news that I actually, in a rather strange way, celebrate. Why? Because it means that we who profess to follow Jesus will actually get put to the true test and get knocked out of our comfortable, happy, pink-cloud, rose-colored stain-glassed window world into the reality of living an alternative, counter-cultural life style… not because it’s the “cool” thing to do, but because it is what we feel truly convicted about.

  • JenellYB

    I think another thing emerging it will be interesting to see how plays out, is the rising objections of those within the Christian fold itself starting to speak out about how they feel they and what believe Christianity really is about has been and is being slandered through being misrepresented and misused by the wolves whose sheep’s clothing outfits are starting to really wear thin.

  • http://www.landoverbaptist.org/ Team Red vs. Team Blue

    In a way I hope this end times crap is true, and we’ll finally be rid of all these pinheads. Bring it on!

  • gimpi1

    I think this is one thing we outsiders have to offer you. When someone who isn’t part of a religious tradition makes a prediction and it doesn’t come true, they usually get fired, disciplined or laughed at. If they have the arrogance to make further predictions, they are almost always ignored. We don’t cut the sort of slack that believers give their false prophets.

    When I make a mistake in what or who I choose to put stock in and I learn that they weren’t worth paying attention to, I examine my decision-making process to see where it went off the rails. Frankly, I don’t often see that kind of reflection in many believers.

    Am I on target with this, or way off?

  • R Vogel

    These are basically religious conspiracy theorists and those prone to believe in conspiracies – truther, birthers, anti-semities – are virtually impossible to dislodge. The delusion is constructed in such a way that it is self-supporting. I think the those who fully buy this crap are not quite a big as they appear, although I do not have data to back that up beyond my personal experience, but their propensity to scream it from street corners and rooftops make them seem far more prevalent than they are.

  • gimpi1

    I think you’re most likely right about the numbers being lower than they appear, R. The squeaky wheel and all that.

    I just remember the Camping fiasco, and how it took not one but two failed prophecies before Mr. Camping admitted he’d “made errors in his interpretation” and stopped announcing the supposed end. And even then, people were still following him. Not many, but that he had believers at all puzzles me.

    Oh well, If I actually understood this sort of thing I’d most likely be bored. Or crazy. Either way, not as much fun.

  • JenellYB

    Actually, I’m not going to go look up ch/vs, but there IS instruction to the people in the Old Testament about discerning false prophets, and that any that claims themselves a prophet that prophecies something that does not come to pass, is to be rejected as a false prophet. What is also really interesting is that seems to indicate this is to be discerned in that prophet’s lifetime, ie, if they prophesy something that does not come to pass, they can only be rejected if still around, right? That means, to be trying to read into words spoken as prophecies thousands of years ago something that pertained to anytime beyond that prophet’s own lifetime, let alone today, is entirely out of line with what is biblical pertaining to prophets and prophecies. The prophecies in Daniel and other OT books, applied to their own times, of the nation of Israel, the Babylonian captivity, and eventual return from the exile. Whatever the Revelations is about, and no one in any honestly can say just what it ever WAS supposed to be about, again, under the instructions for discerning a prophet/false prophet given in the bible, it would have had to have been in the author’s own lifetime.

  • gimpi1

    I’m sure you’re right, Jenell. That just raises another question, however. Why are the people who claim to regard the Bible as literal, absolute truth – to be followed in all things – ignoring the warnings against false prophets and even lining up to buy false prophet merchandise? I’m looking at you, Left Behind series…

  • JenellYB

    Actually the biblical reference I was thinking of is the Deut reference given IN Ben’s article here. Embarrassing I didn’t catch that when I posted. Sorry Ben, you already had that one covered!
    Gimpi what is just beyond all understanding to me is that so many people that follow, are bought into, the kind of religion that promotes that stuff, are for the most part people that do NOT even read their bibles, do NOT know what of that stuff is ad is not even in the bible, and as you mention ‘Left Behind,’ not just on ‘end time; but a lot of other things popular among that set, demon possession, demonism in general, witches, evil spirits, is ALL out of FICTON, novels, movies, tv shows, some based on old world folklore and superstition, a lot made up for modern horror genre entertainment, and not even hinted at in the bible! Most of these people know absolutely nothing about any form of traditional or even marginally reasonable theology. And are the very same ones that also fall for the miraculous natural foods cures scams and the like. An annoying ad that keeps showing up in my FB feed lately is one claiming there’s a cure for cancer secretly encoded in the book of Matthew, that for some fee of course, you can find out about, It is all the same mentality, and it is scary being around people that are that gullible to stuff like that. I have some branches of family that are, and its a most uneasy experience when I have to encounter them at family gatherings.

  • JenellYB

    This synchronistic to my line of thoughts today, about denial as a mechanism for evading the discomforts of having to recognize a problem that might cause us inconvenience and put us in an uncomfortable position of having the change somehow or do something, if we acknowledge it. Speculative end time religious ideas have been serving as one of the excuses for not acknowledging and committing to action on a while range of global issues, from industrial pollution, destitution of third world nations and poverty, to now, of course, climate change. Just keep preaching, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, because God is going to destroy this old earth and replace it with a new one! Jesus is coming any day, any day, and none of that will matter, so why bother? It has served right alongside the worldview that emerged with the industrial age and rise of science, that whatever mess human kind makes, no big deal, our science and technology can solve the problem.
    Denial serves so well in not having to feel any conscience about the poor, or our role in creating poverty in much of the world with our extravagant lifestyles. It serves to keep even the good Sunday Christian from feeling any prick of compassion or conscience about the plight of the poor and needy and suffering right in our own communities, since they are not really poor, or they are poor because they choose to be lazy. Compassion and conscience for the poor is uncomfortable when you are living the high life, and have to stay convinced you deserve it.
    Denial that people have a choice in sexual orientation prevents discomfort at thinking about how a young person faced the reality of emerging sexuality feels and thinks under the onslaught of being told the horrible things our society, especially religious society, tells them about themselves.
    I think it may be that there is always something like that involved in denial. Something that to recognize and acknowledge a truth, would mean discomfort of convenience. It is easier to tell oneself there really is no poor, there really are none suffering already, and certain to suffer more in the future, due to effects of climate change, that to acknowledge it and be honest, ok, so it is so, god isn’t going to destroy the world and give us a new one, people are just going to keep suffering, but fact is I just don’t frickken care, ok? I just don’t care about anyone else’s suffering. And I can’t let myself care, because then I’d feel I should do something, make some change in what is comfortable to me. So its easier to deny at the start. Easier to cheer, Come, lord Jesus, come and sweep me away into the clouds, and let those left behind deal with climate change or whatever.

  • Alan Christensen

    Great points, Ben! There are just a couple things I’d like to add about end-time methodology:
    1. Cherry-picking of verses to fit their narrative (we see some of that in the Hagee clip above).
    2. They often turn from Biblical literalists into metaphoricalists (is that a word?) when literal interpretation doesn’t suit them, e.g., glossing references to ancient weapons like swords and chariots as rifles and tanks.

  • gimpi1

    That’s an interesting point, Alan. I hadn’t noticed, but you’re right. Anachronistic weapons and technology are routinely translated into modern things, often by people who get profoundly upset if anything else is adapted into modern usage. Worth noting and thinking about.

    I do remember one fellow trying to convince me that natural disasters would force reliance on antiquated technology (swords, horses) but he also believed that a pole-shift meant the earth would flip upside down, rather than the magnetic pole would ‘flip’ from the north pole to the south so I had to consider the source.

  • Michael Morris

    I appreciate your bringing this up, Benjamin. As an atheist, I have a pretty strong feeling that all the predictions of Jesus’ return are just never going to pan out. And like you suggest, there has got to be a better use of their time and energy to do some good in this world. The Gog quote was pretty hilarious. Once people have finally worked out who Gog is, they may be too far down the rabbit hole to come back.

  • Cindy Harthorne

    “We need to point out that their message is fear based, and fear based messages are not of God.” Perfectly stated!

  • Jeff

    Great post bro! Having said that as followers of Jesus we still need to live within the tension of where eschatology intersects missiology. Any biblical eschatology worthy of the name will only give greater impetus for your missiological engagement and drive. If you don’t feel driven to reach out to unbelievers with everything you have under pressure of end times developments then maybe you should wonder if you are truly born from above. Because if you really are, then your life in this world means nothing to you. You wrestle against the natural man. You are living in the hope of the coming kingdom because you have already glimpsed it when you were born again by the Spirit. ANNNDDDD you want as many to share in that hope as you do- so you will be under constraint by the Spirit working in your heart to go forth proclaiming the Gospel.
    If you just want to hunker down and do the prepper thing under false Christian end times teachings you might want to look at that, for if you seek to save your life you will lose it.
    Having said all that the end will come, and probably sooner than later, given all the signs currently playing out.

    Blessings bro!