I grew up in a fundamentalist Bible church, whose pastor was influenced by Dispensationalism. This is a form of Biblical interpretation cooked up in the nineteenth century and promoted by an American preacher called C.I.Schofield. There were lots of similar freelance Protestant preachers doing end time stuff at the time. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons etc. Like most Protestant doctrines, Dispensationalism is a mish mash of man made, late invented theories never heard of before in the great history of the Church.
Dispensationalism breaks down the Biblical revelation into various eons of time, saying that God works in different ways in different sections of time. This method of Biblical interpretation is still a favorite past time of a huge number of Evangelical Christians in America, and a major part of it is a prediction of Christ’s second coming. (pictured above)
Happily, most of the Evangelicals who are dispensationalists are pretty orthodox in their beliefs otherwise, but their emphasis on Biblical prophecy and end times does skew their Christian understanding and perspective, and the more extreme Dispensationalists actually teach a very weird form of Christianity in which they never preach from the gospels for instance, because that bit of Scripture was not of the ‘Church Age.’
Anyhow, in my boyhood church we were subjected to long sermons from the Book of Revelation and the book of Daniel and various other Old Testament prophets. These sermons were all about the Mark of the Beast, the coming end times, the dangers of Communism and the European Common Market (which would be the herald of the one world government headed by the Anti Christ). The whole thing was a kind of Evangelical Christian fortune telling hobby. None of it has come to pass of course, but this doesn’t stop the preachers. They just adjust their prophecies a little bit and make them more vague and keep going.
Now it seems the world will end in 2012.
For the life of me, I can’t see why people who call themselves Christian fall for this stuff. The gospel could hardly be clearer, “No man knows the day or the hour when the Son of Man comes.” The other thing which ought to be perfectly clear is that somebody’s world is certainly going to end within my lifetime: mine.
It might happen today, and I’d better be ready.