It is ironic that President Donald Trump has gathered around himself as advisors several outspoken Evangelical Christians even though he himself has demonstrated throughout his life to the present time that he is anything but that even though he publicly acknowledges God. Regrettably, a sizable portion of American Evangelicals also have been outspoken in their opposition to protecting earth’s environment and even human health. This has been typical of many Republicans who are professing Christians.
Just hours ago, President Trump announced that he was making Vice President Mike Pence the administration’s leader of the coronavirus task force. This outspoken man concerning his Evangelical faith said in 2000, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” He then gave a few skewed statistics to support his claim. Rubbish! Smoking certainly does kill. It killed my dad.
I’ve always been against smoking. When the PGA Tour had R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as its chief sponsor, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, I wrote Commissioner Deane Beman two letters criticizing that lucrative business decision and exposing the obvious hypocrisy of it. The Tour made an effort to “grow the game” of golf by advertising the benefit of its walking and fresh air as being good for health.
Mike Pence also has stated publicly while governor of Indiana, “global warming is a myth” and Indiana is a “proud pro-coal state.” Trump and Pence agree. Trump is a climate denier. And he has said during political rallies, “we’re gonna bring back coal.”
Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is an evangelical Presbyterian who used to teach Sunday school. Like his boss, President Trump, Pompeo has taken some serious anti-environmentalist positions. In 2009, he called President Obama’s climate change plans “damaging” and “radical.” I don’t think so; rather, Obama was an excellent leader in this in contrast to climate change denier Trump. Obama supported the Paris Climate Agreement, and Trump foolishly took us out of it.
In 2012, while Obama was president, House Representative Pompeo advocated eliminating federal wind power tax credits, calling them an “enormous government handout.” In 2015, Pompeo opposed the federal regulation of greenhouse emissions.
In May, 2019, and as Secretary of State, Pompeo said, “climate change is actually good for the Arctic, since melting ice caps are ‘opening up new shipping routes’ and thus making it more economically viable to expand oil drilling in the region.”
Four months ago, President Trump made Ms. Paula White his official “spiritual advisor.” Trump had first telephoned her in 2002 after watching her on TV. This televangelist and former co-pastor of the megachurch Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Florida, is a Pentecostal who preaches what has generally been called “the health and wealth gospel.” Since its about gaining wealth, no wonder President Trump, who sees dollar signs everywhere, chose her as his spiritual guide.
All three of these advisors to President Trump–Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, and Paula White–believe in the so-called pretribulational “rapture” of the church seven years prior to the Second Coming of Christ. For instance, the Wikipedia article on Pompeo states, “In 2014, Pompeo told a church group that Christians needed to ‘know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world.’ In 2015 in a talk at a church, Pompeo said that ‘politics is a never-ending struggle . . . until the Rapture.”
Christians who believe in the pretribulational “Rapture” believe that Jesus literally will leave heaven someday and return to earth’s atmosphere, the dead “in Christ” will be resurrected and ascend to meet Jesus in the air, the living believers will have their bodies transformed like those of the resurrected ones and join them in the air, and Jesus will take them all to heaven where Jesus and these, his people, will remain for the next seven years of “tribulation” on earth. At the end of this seven years, these people will accompany Jesus as he literally returns all the way down to earth, called his Second Coming, to establish his worldwide kingdom.
I used to believe this because I was taught it. But in 1971-72 I did a study of this subject in the Bible and read many scholarly books about it, both pro and con, and changed to believing that Jesus literally will return in the future one time, not two with seven years in between. Both positions are within the futuristic camp of premillenialism. I changed from being a “Dispensational premillennialist” to a “historic premillenialist.”
The person who first taught this pretribulational rapture was John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren sect. He formulated a theological system called Dispensationalism which a huge number of Evangelicals adopted during the twentieth century. That is how Evangelicals came to believe in a pretribulational Rapture instead of the one Second Coming which early church fathers had taught, called chiliasm (millennialism).
The disturbing thing about belief in the pretribulational Rapture is that most of its adherents believe that the Rapture is imminent, meaning it could happen at any moment. Furthermore, polls reveal that more than half of these Rapture believers expect it will happen in their lifetime. The result of this belief is that these people often are opposed to taking protective measures of earth’s environment because they deem it a waste of time and resources since they expect that Jesus will return at the Rapture “soon.” Their faulty thinking is that it is a waste to save the planet since it will be destroyed any moment at the Rapture.
This any-moment Rapture belief is further supported by some leading English versions of the Bible. For example, the NIV, NRSV, and ESV have the heavenly Jesus saying in Revelation 22.7, 12, and 20, “I am coming soon.” But the KJV has, “I come quickly,” and the NASB has, “I am coming quickly.” The Greek is erchomai tachy.” The word tachy can be translated “soon,” “quickly,” or “swiftly.” There is a big difference between “soon” and these other two words. I believe tachy should be translated, here, either “quickly” or “swiftly.” Why?
In biblical cases like this, wherein a foreign word can be translated with a multiple of English words that have differing meanings, the Bible interpreter should look at the whole of scripture for help. But in this case, we can narrow that down to the entirety of the New Testament (NT) sayings of Jesus.
In Jesus’ Olivet Discourse–delivered privately to his apostles shortly before his arrest and execution–he spoke more about his return than anywhere else in his NT sayings. He said of that time, referring to himself as the Son of Man, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man . . . they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24.27, 30 NRSV).
I believe that what Jesus said in Matthew 24.27 is the proper meaning of Revelation 22.7, 12, and 20. That is, Jesus’ return itself will happen very quickly, meaning his journey from far-away heaven to earth will not take long. Thus, these Revelation texts do not say anything about how much time will elapse between when the heavenly Jesus said these words, during the first century, and when he will return.