Prophetic current events

Prophetic current events DEFAULT

For many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics

Diana Butler Bass
I know that sounds odd. Especially coming from a liberal Episcopalian like me. But there you have it. The President makes a world-important declaration about global politics, and an absurdly apocalyptic thought arises, "Jerusalem? The Last Days must be at hand!"
When I was a teenager in the 1970s, I attended a "Bible church," a nondenominational congregation that prided itself on a singular devotion to scripture. We read the Bible all the time: in personal Bible study and evening Bible classes. We listened to hourlong Sunday morning sermons. For us, the Bible was not just a guide to piety. It also revealed God's plan for history. Through it, we learned how God had worked in the past and what God would do in the future.
Central to that plan was Jerusalem, the city of peace, and the dwelling place of God. It was special to the Jews because it was the home of Abraham and David. It was special to us because it was where Jesus had died and risen. We believed that ultimately, Christ would return to Jerusalem to rule as its king. We longed for this outcome -- and we prayed that human history would help bring about this biblical conclusion.
Jerusalem was our prophetic bellwether. God's plan hung on its fate. Whenever Israel gained more political territory, whenever Israel extended its boundaries, it was God's will, the end-times unfolding on the evening news. Jerusalem, as the spiritual heart of Israel, mattered. Jerusalem was God's holy city, of the ancient past, in its conflicted present, and for the biblical future.
For many conservative evangelicals, Jerusalem is not about politics. It is not about peace plans or Palestinians or two-state solutions. It is about prophecy. About the Bible. And, most certainly, it is about the end-times.
Why Jerusalem's holy sites are so significant
Why Jerusalem's holy sites are so significant01:59
When I was young, our pastor insisted that Jerusalem had an important role to play in these end-times events. When the Jews rejected Jesus as the messiah, he explained, God chose the church to accomplish his mission. Soon this "church age" would end with the rapture of true believers.
But God still loved the Jews, he told us, and wanted to redeem them. Thus, absent the church, the Jews would experience a great religious rebirth and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. This would spark a series of cataclysmic events that would culminate in the Battle of Armageddon, the last war of humanity. But it would also cause the Jews to finally accept Jesus as their savior. After all this occurred, Jesus would return in glory and God's kingdom -- a thousand-year reign of peace. And it would begin in Jerusalem.
This theology -- a literal belief that all these things must happen before Jesus will return to reign on Earth -- is called "dispensational pre-millennialism" and it is not the quirky opinion of some isolated church. Although the majority of Christians do not share these views, versions of dispensational pre-millennialism dominate American evangelicalism.
It originated as a small movement in the 1840s, but by the 1970s, millions of evangelical and fundamentalist churchgoers had embraced some form of it. Dispensationalism was popularized in a best-selling book called "The Late, Great Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsey; and later, in the 1990s, it reached an even larger audience through the "Left Behind" novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The theology spread via Bible camps and colleges, through theological seminaries and revival meetings, in films and videos, by Sunday school materials, and in daily devotional guides -- all teaching that the end of the world was near, and that Jerusalem was the physical place where this apocalyptic drama would unfold.
Colbert: Trump can't locate Jerusalem on map
Colbert: Trump can't locate Jerusalem on map01:08
If you know evangelicals, chances are very good that you know this theology, whether you believe it or not. You cannot avoid it. And if you hear the President of the United States say something about Jerusalem, you take notice. Especially when that President won 81% of the white evangelical vote.
When the President issued his order, I was not the only person hearing echoes of dispensationalism. Robert Jeffress, one of Trump's evangelical advisers, declared: "Jerusalem has been the object of the affection of both Jews and Christians down through history and the touchstone of prophecy."
Other evangelical pastors and teachers also praised the action as "biblical" and likened it to a "fulfilled prophecy."
While that may sound benign (or perhaps nutty) to the theologically uninitiated, they are referring to the "prophecy" of the conversion of the Jews, the second coming of Jesus, the final judgment, and the end of the world -- the events referred to as the biblical apocalypse.
I doubt that President Trump could explain dispensational pre-millennialism. I doubt he knows the term. But his evangelical supporters know it. Some of his advisers are probably whispering these prophecies in his ears. Trump might not really care how they interpret the Bible, but he cares that white evangelicals continue to stand with him. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is one way to affirm his commitment to these evangelicals -- reminding them that he, Donald J. Trump, is pressing biblical history forward to its conclusion and that he is God's man in the unfolding of these last days.
I may not believe it -- anymore, at least. You may not believe it. Donald Trump might not even truly believe it. But millions do. That matters. Not only for American politics, of course. For the peace of Jerusalem. And for peace for the rest of us as well.

Give Me that End-Time Religion: The Politicization of Prophetic Belief in Contemporary America

In 1998, as presidential hopeful George W. Bush prepared to court evangelical voters, he was clearly taken aback by their hatred of the United Nations. Chatting by phone with his friend Doug Wead, a former Assemblies of God minister, Bush read from an aide’s report on a recent gathering of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition: “The mere mention of Kofi Annan in the U.N. caused the crowd to go into a veritable fit. The Coalition…wants the American flag flying overseas,not the pale blue of the U.N.”

Though we tend to accept as a given conservative Protestants’ vehement hostility to the U.N., it is not self-evident that this should be so. While obviously a flawed institution, the U.N. over its sixty-year history has generally been viewed as a force for peace, conflict resolution, and aid to victims of disease, poverty, political violence, and natural disasters—efforts seemingly in accord with Christian values. Why, then, does it induce such paroxysms of rage among conservative Christians?

Part of the answer, I think, lies in the powerful grip on many evangelicals and fundamentalists of premillennial dispensationalism, an eschatological system formulated in the mid-nineteenth century by the British churchman John Darby, a founder of the Plymouth Brethren sect. Darby’s system was popularized in America by Darby himself and by Cyrus Scofield’s influential Scofield Reference Bible (Oxford University Press, 1909). Depending on the precise question, opinion pollsters find that from 40 to 60 percent of contemporary Americans embrace key elements of Darby’s end-time scenario: the imminent Rapture of the saints; the seven-year Tribulation dominated by the Antichrist; the Battle of Armageddon, when Christ and the raptured saints will defeat Antichrist and his earthly armies; Christ’s thousand-year millennial reign; and the Last Judgment, ending the great human drama that began with Creation. Following Darby’s lead, dispensationalists also attentively monitor the “signs of the times”—a convergence of events, many centering on the Jews, signaling the terminus of the present dispensation, the Church Age. (For the relevant biblical passages, the website of the Texas-based Pre-Trib Research Center, founded in 1993 by Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, may prove helpful. The “Rapture Index,” described by its webmaster as “a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end-time activity,” will also help orient the novice.)

To anyone even dimly aware of contemporary religious trends, this is hardly news. The Left Behind series of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, a fictionalized treatment of Darby’s system, has racked up sales of more than 60 million copies. Still active is Hal Lindsey, the modern movement’s John the Baptist, whose The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), a kind of “Dispensationalism for Dummies,” was the nonfiction best-seller of the 1970s. Lindsey went on to produce many more prophecy books, a syndicated radio show, and—inevitably—an Internet website. Other prophecy peddlers, from the venerable Jack (“The Walking Bible”) Van Impe, of Royal Oak, Michigan, to Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Hagee preside over their own multimedia empires. All the components of modern mass marketing—blockbuster printings; book tours; TV interviews; tie-in products; movie spin-offs; distribution through mega-outlets such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, and keep the prophecy biz humming. As Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times recently observed, apropos the many Left Behind spin-offs, from movies to mouse pads, “This isn’t religion; this is brand management.”

This prairie-fire spread of dispensationalism, after decades when a core of believers kept the faith, profoundly impacts how millions of Americans view world events. To be sure, the contempt for the United Nations noted by Bush in 1998 and fully on display during W’s first term has deep historical roots (Thomas Jefferson, after all, was the first to warn against “entangling alliances”), but dispensationalist doctrine strongly reinforces it. According to Darby’s contemporary popularizers, the Antichrist will first present himself as a man of peace, settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, but will soon impose a brutal global dictatorship under the sinister number “666” (Rev 13:18).

For dispensationalists, the United Nations is at least a forerunner of Antichrist’s regime. Earlier prophecy writers found Antichrist tendencies in Saladin, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, and even Juan Carlos of Spain. In current dispensationalist fiction, however, including the Left Behind series and Hal Lindsey’s 1996 novel Blood Moon, the U.N. secretary-general is unmasked as the Evil One. Saturated in such propaganda, dispensationalists understandably recoil in horror when contemplating the United Nations and its penumbra of international organizations. Even the U.S. State Department, viewed as a hotbed of internationalist sentiment, is suspect. Pat Robertson’s October 2003 musings on his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) about detonating a nuclear device in Foggy Bottom were wholly in tune with dispensationalist thinking.

During the Cold War, Russia preoccupied the prophecy popularizers. Van Impe, freely interpreting a cryptic passage in Ezekiel, proclaimed The Coming War with Russia. Falwell’s Nuclear War and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (1983) speculated that an all-out U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange would trigger the destruction prophesied in 2 Pet 3:10 (“The elements shall melt with fervent heat,” etc.). Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth described with ill-concealed glee the annihilation awaiting Moscow’s armies.

Such images retain their pornographic fascination for today’s popularizers, as in the description of the Second Coming in Glorious Appearing (2004), the latest volume of the interminable Left Behind series:

Men and women, soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood. It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through the veins and skin. … Even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted and their tongues disintegrated.

Born-again Christians excepted, millions meet their doom: “Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches, and … they tumbled in[to Hell], howling and screeching.” (For readers frustrated by an inconclusive war on terrorism, what a satisfying fate for evildoers!)

The apocalyptic wishful thinking has persisted, but the Cold War’s end shifted attention from Russia to the Muslim world. The Islam-as-Antichrist theme is actually very old. It helped fuel the Crusades and it loomed large as Muslim armies marched on Europe and the Ottoman Empire extended its reach. It faded somewhat after 1917, with the Ottoman collapse and the communist revolution in Russia, but surged back with the Persian Gulf conflict of 1990–91. While even some biblical literalists have interpreted the “Babylon” whose destruction is foretold in the Bible as an allegory of the Antichrist’s world system, recent works such as Charles Dyer’s The Rise of Babylon: Sign of the End Times (1991) focused on the ancient city itself and Saddam Hussein’s grandiose project to restore its ancient glory. In the Left Behind series, Nicolae Carpathia, the U.N. secretary-general- turned-Antichrist, moves the world organization to a rebuilt Babylon, laying the groundwork for the simultaneous destruction of both the hated U.N. and the doomed city of Revelation 18.

With 9/11 and the Iraq War, the anti-Muslim theme reached feverish levels. In Beyond Iraq: The Next Move (2003), prophecy-writer Michael Evans labeled Islam “a religion conceived in the pit of hell.” Televangelist John Hagee, preaching at his Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, called the Iraq War “the gateway to the Apocalypse” and a sign of Christ’s imminent Second Coming. House majority leader Tom DeLay, present in the audience, then rose to proclaim: “Ladies and gentlemen, what has been spoken here tonight is the truth from God.”

Lt. General Jerry Boykin, a top Pentagon intelligence official, delivered sermons in full-dress uniform in fundamentalist churches portraying the war on terrorism in apocalyptic religious terms: “Why do [radical Muslims] hate us so much?… [B]ecause we’re a Christian nation.” For Boykin, the real enemy “is a spiritual enemy, … called Satan,” and his earthly agents will be defeated only “if we come against them in the name of Jesus.” As for domestic politics, George Bush is “in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.” A Boykin clone, Lt. Col. Gareth Brandl, a commander in Iraq, rejects talk of a “faceless” enemy: “[T]he enemy has got a face. He’s called Satan. He lives in Fallujah. And we’re going to destroy him.”

Since John Darby’s day, dispensationalists have fixated on the Jews’ end-time destiny. England’s 1917 Balfour Declaration, supporting “a national home for the Jewish people,” stirred intense excitement. So, too, did the founding of Israel in 1948, Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem’s Old City in 1967, and the planting of Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. Prophecy believers hailed these events as thrilling prophetic fulfillments, foreshadowing the Jews’ eventual occupation of all the land from the Euphrates to “the river of Egypt,” promised them in Genesis 15:18, and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple preparatory to Christ’s millennial reign. (Temple Mount, sacred to Muslims as Haram al- Sharif, is now occupied by the Dome of the Rock, marking the spot where Mohammed ascended to heaven.)

In this scenario, several million Palestinians and the vast Arab world beyond—the eschatological enemy—are simply ignored, or worse. In Lindsey’s novel Blood Moon, Israel answers a nuclear threat by launching a massive nuclear attack that annihilates “every Arab and Muslim capital…, along with the infrastructure of their nation.” Genocide, in short, fulfills God’s prophetic plan for the region.

Under prime ministers Begin and Netanyahu, the links between Israel’s hard-line Likud  party and American evangelicals grew extremely close. Begin invited Falwell to Israel in 1978, and top Israeli officials addressed U.S. prophecy believers on their Holy Land pilgrimages. When Netanyahu came to America in 1998, he first met with Jerry Falwell in Lynchburg, Virginia, then proceeded to Washington.

In this context, the prophecy brigade bristles whenever Mideast peace threatens to break out. Criticizing a short-lived 1998 agreement based on the principle of land for peace, the prophecy magazine Midnight Call declared: “What we are witnessing … is … the stripping of the Holy Land from its rightful owners, the Jews. The Bible calls it a ‘covenant with hell.’” When the Bush administration floated its 2003 “road map” envisioning land concessions by Israel and shared governance of Jerusalem, Michael Evans declared: “The only road map for peace is the Bible.… God gave [the Jews] that land and forbade them to sell it.” Gary Bauer, prominent evangelical and erstwhile Republican presidential candidate, told the American-Israel Political Action Committee: “God owned the land; he gave it to the Jewish people, and neither the U.N. or Russia or any [other nation] can give [it] away.” John Hagee in Final Dawn Over Jerusalem (1998) agreed: “314ations that fight against [Israel] fight against God.… There can be no compromise regarding … Jerusalem, not now, not ever.… Israel is the only nation created by a sovereign act of God, and He has sworn … to defend … His Holy City.” A coalition of organizations purchased space on more than 100 billboards urging the administration not to violate “God’s covenant with Israel.”

Challenging administration policy, Tom DeLay denounced the road map and assured Israeli hard-liners that congressional support for them remained strong. (When the Zionist Organization of America gave DeLay its 2003 “Defender of Israel” award, ZOA president Morton Klein mused that DeLay might become Israel’s prime minister—a career move Texas Democrats would welcome, suggested the iconoclastic Texas Observer.)

The edginess in prophecyland continues. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has kept the dispensationalists at arms’ length. “Sharon has not reached out to the evangelicals in America,” Michael Evans recently complained; “Taking this group for granted is a huge mistake on Sharon’s part.” Sharon’s planned withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas’s election as Palestinian leader, and revived peace talk have unsettled the prophecy mavens. Writes Hal Lindsey in his website:

I am appalled at how quickly the United States is leaping at the same old bait offered by the Palestinians. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, following the orders of our dear but naïve president, is shoving Israel toward a disastrous agreement to grant a Palestinian state.

The Pre-Trib Research Center’s Thomas Ice, insisting that “God’s ordained pattern for Israel” remains in force and that “Old Testament promises made to national Israel will literally be fulfilled,” urges the faithful to “cast your allegiance with the literal Word of God, lest we be found fighting against God and His Sovereign plan.” Pat Robertson, burned by controversies over his off-the-cuff pronouncements, more cautiously voices “some reservations … about what may happen. I am afraid that the Israelis may be pressured into making a peace.” (Combining eschatology and marketing, Robertson’s CBN website, under the banner “Bless Israel. Show your support for Israel by blessing their economy,” offers El Al airline tickets; Gan Shmuel Citrus; “Essence of Jerusalem Fragrance and Anointing Oil”; and a line of cosmetics “formulated from the rejuvenating minerals of the Dead Sea.”)

Michael Evans, denouncing Mahmoud Abbas as a “Judas,” “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and “the terrorist in the Brooks Brothers suit,” acknowledges that most U.S. Jews back Sharon’s plan and favor a Palestinian state, but boasts: “[M]ore than 90 per- cent of Israel’s lobby of Bible-believing Christians do not support Sharon’s proposal to withdraw, nor do they support a Palestinian state.” Evans has recruited such luminaries as Robertson, Hagee, LaHaye,  and former teen heartthrob  Pat Boone to front his “Jerusalem Prayer Team,” a coalition of 1,700 churches pledged “to guard, defend, and protect the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael [a term encompassing present-day Gaza and the West Bank] … until the Redeemer comes to Zion.”

A struggle is under way for the hearts and minds of American evangelicals. While the LaHayes, Lindseys, and Evanses peddle an eschatology that views the U.N. and Islam as literally satanic; opposes any compromise in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and foresees an imminent eschatological crisis in which millions of human beings will perish in agony, some evangelicals resist the dispensationalist tsunami. Mark Noll in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1995) dismisses dispensationalism as a cobbled- together eschatology that has derailed evangelicalism’s once-acute intellectual tradition. Jim Wallis in God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (2005) reminds his fellow evangelicals how myopically selective is dispensationalism’s reading of scripture, essentially ignoring the countless passages proclaiming an ethic of peace and reconciliation.

The dissidents face a tough battle. The dispensationalists’ supposedly biblical eschatology appeals to a public that reveres the Bible but knows little of hermeneutics or the dismal record of failed prophecies. The popularizers confidently link their end-time scenario to current events, creating the illusion of certitude in uncertain times. And the terrible simplifications of the apocalyptic mindset, with good and evil starkly opposed and no ambiguous gray areas, exert a powerful attraction. In a post-election column last November, the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman spoke kindly of Christian fundamentalists’ “spiritual energy,” but lamented their tendency to “promote divisiveness and intolerance.” This tendency is, in fact, no inexplicable aberration, but a defining feature of apocalyptic thought, from its ancient Mesopotamia origins to the present day. Garry Wills’ post-election op-ed piece in the Times was closer to the mark, noting the appeal of “moral zealots” and of wishful thinking over unpalatable facts in unsettling times. Fundamentalism’s cur- rent ascendancy, Wills suggested, might be seen as “[William Jennings] Bryan’s revenge for the Scopes Trial.”

Paradoxically, with the prophecy-fueled fundamentalists riding so high, some observers lament the alleged silencing of “voices of faith” in public discourse. In The Culture of Disbelief (1994), Yale’s own Stephen L. Carter, in a Rodney Dangerfield mood, complained of the lack of respect for religion in politics and the law. In a 2003 Daedalus symposium on “Secularisim and Religion,” ethicist Jean Bethke Elshtain similarly insisted that religious dogma deserves a place in the public arena:

One enters political life as a citizen. But if one also has religious convictions, these convictions naturally will inform one’s judgments as a citizen. My religious views help to determine who I am, how I think, and what I care about. This is as it should be. In America, it makes no sense to ask people to bracket what they care about most deeply when they debate issues that are properly political.

Fair enough. The First Amendment remains in force. And believers from the Grimké sisters and Harriet Beecher Stowe to the Berrigan brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr., have played a vital public role. But not all faith-based discourse is morally enriching or of the thoughtful Elshtain variety. The religious beliefs that millions of citizens “care about most deeply” and bring to the political arena lead them to attack international peacekeeping efforts, to fight attempts to resolve specific conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, and to predict—indeed to welcome—a coming apocalypse involving the mass extermination of millions. Far from being marginalized, these beliefs are pumped into the public arena by high elected officials and pious hucksters, only loosely tethered by denominational or institutional ties, using all the techniques of today’s mass media and mass marketing.

The rude beast slouches on toward Bethlehem. On January 22, 2005, eight hundred people paid $25 each for a day-long orgy of prophecy preaching by Tim LaHaye and others at the cavernous Village Baptist Church near Pensacola, Florida. Wrote an incredulous Canadian journalist: “I have never heard so much venom and dangerous ignorance spouted before an utterly unquestioning, otherwise normal-looking crowd in my life.” Americans—secular or religious—who find the dispensationalists’ nightmarish visions appalling have scarcely begun to grasp their pervasiveness, let alone consider how to combat them. In the 1920s, liberals like Harry Emerson Fosdick battled the fundamentalists tooth and nail, giving as good as they got. Today’s enfeebled liberals, their ranks dwindling with each new religious census and opinion poll, seem struck dumb.

Paul Boyer, Merle Curti professor of history emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the author of When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (1992).

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Christian Prophets Are on the Rise. What Happens When They’re Wrong?

They are stars within one of the fastest-growing corners of American Christianity. Now, their movement is in crisis.

To hear more audio stories from publishers like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

Jeremiah Johnson, a 33-year-old self-described prophet, was one of the few evangelical Christians who took Donald J. Trump’s political future seriously back in 2015.

This track record created a loyal audience of hundreds of thousands of people who follow him on social media and hang on his predictions about such topics as the coronavirus pandemic, the makeup of the Supreme Court, and the possibility of spiritual revival in America. And they took comfort ahead of the presidential election last fall when Mr. Johnson shared a prophetic dream of Mr. Trump stumbling while running the Boston Marathon, until two frail older women emerged from the crowd to help him over the finish line.

So when Joseph R. Biden Jr. was certified as the winner of the election, Mr. Johnson had to admit he had let his followers down.

“I was wrong, I am deeply sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness,” he wrote in a detailed letter he posted online. “I would like to repent for inaccurately prophesying that Donald Trump would win a second term as the President of the United States.”

The desire to divine the future is a venerable one, fueling faith in figures from ancient Greek oracles to modern astrologists. Christianity in particular is a religion whose foundational text is filled with prophecies proven true by the end of the book. Whether the gift of prophecy continues into the present day has long been the subject of intense theological debate. But in recent years, self-described prophets have proliferated across the country, accelerating in stature over the course of the Trump era. They are stars within what is now one of the fastest-growing corners of Christianity: a loose but fervent movement led by hundreds of people who believe they can channel supernatural powers — and have special spiritual insights into world events.

Many are independent evangelists who do not lead churches or other institutions. They operate primarily online and through appearances at conferences or as guest speakers in churches, making money through book sales, donations and speaking fees. And they are part of the rising appeal of conspiracy theories in Christian settings, echoed by the popularity of QAnon among many evangelicals and a resistance to mainstream sources of information.

The prophetic imagination roams far beyond national politics. It follows the Super Bowl and the weather; it analyzes events in pop culture, like Kanye West’s recent turn toward evangelism, and global events, including a particular fascination with Israel. Many prophets caution followers against trusting what they read in the news, but in its place they offer a kind of alternative news cycle, refracting and interpreting events in the real world through a supernatural lens.

“In my lifetime — 49 years as a follower of Jesus — I’ve never seen this level of interest in prophecy,” said Michael Brown, an evangelical radio host and commentator, who believes in prophecy but has called for greater accountability when prophecies prove false. “And it’s unfortunate, because it’s an embarrassment to the movement.”

The past year has been riddled with prophecies that did not pan out. As the coronavirus swept the United States in the spring, several prophets issued public assurances that it would decline by Passover; Cindy Jacobs, one of the most influential American prophets, led a global day of prayer to “contain” the virus in March. And by the fall, so many prominent prophets had incorrectly predicted the re-election of Mr. Trump that the apologies and recriminations now constitute a crisis within the movement.

The backlash to Mr. Johnson’s apology was immediate. On Facebook, he reported that he received “multiple death threats and thousands upon thousands of emails from Christians saying the nastiest and most vulgar things I have ever heard toward my family and ministry.” He also said he had lost funding from donors who accused him of being “a coward, sellout, and traitor to the Holy Spirit.”

But the popularity of self-appointed prophets shows no signs of waning.

As denominational Christianity declines almost across the board, magnetic independent leaders have stepped into the void. “There’s this idea that you can’t trust anybody except these trusted individuals,” said Brad Christerson, a sociologist at evangelical Biola University. “It’s a symptom of our time. People don’t trust institutions, and people think that all mainstream institutions are corrupt: universities, science, government, the media. They’re searching for real sources of truth.”

The result is that many congregations are awash in misinformation. Almost half of Protestant pastors frequently hear members of their congregations repeating conspiracy theories about current events, according to a survey released last month by Lifeway Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Prophecy is a facet of the fast-growing charismatic Christian movement, which has an estimated half-billion followers worldwide and is characterized in part by the belief that the “gifts of the spirit,” which also include speaking in tongues and supernatural healing, continue into the present day, rather than being an artifact of biblical times.

Mr. Trump supercharged the public profile of this already ascendant stream of Christian culture. His evangelical advisory council included unprecedented numbers of charismatic leaders, including his primary faith adviser, Paula White, a charismatic pastor and televangelist. A few weeks before the 2020 election, he attended services for the third time at a “healing, prophetic” megachurch in Las Vegas, where speakers shared predictions and visions about his second term, to applause from Mr. Trump and the congregation. (The charismatic movement over all is notably multiracial, although the most successful politically oriented prophets of the Trump era were white and appealed to an audience that resembled Mr. Trump’s base.)

Christian prophets are meeting a hunger for reassurance and clarity that can be observed in other corners of American culture. Astrology is exploding in popularity. More than 40 percent of Americans believe in psychics, according to Pew.

Prophecy, similarly, is not only a predictive tool, but an analytical lens for making sense of the past and current events. The most successful prophets can connect seemingly disparate pieces of data in a grand narrative, adding new layers of interpretation as events unfold and inviting others to contribute.

In Crystal River, Fla., Scott Wallis had read Mr. Johnson’s prophecies on Facebook and was encouraged by them. He trusted Mr. Johnson in part, he said, because of two recent prophecies that had proven true, including one about the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the World Series. (Mr. Johnson reported the prophecy two days before the team clinched the championship.)

For Mr. Wallis, a pastor and prophet himself, it made perfect sense that God would be involved in the outcome of the American election, just as he is involved in every human life. “Some people, like deists, believe God created the earth but abandoned the people and left them alone,” Mr. Wallis said. “I don’t believe that.” When a friend prophesied to him in 2014 that he would soon marry, he did not even have a girlfriend, but he was married by the end of the year.

The internet has made it much easier for prophets to disseminate their visions, with many more outlets at their disposal: social media, podcasts, books and a traditional media ecosystem that remains largely under the radar even to many other evangelicals. An appearance on “It’s Supernatural!,” an interview show hosted by the octogenarian televangelist Sid Roth, can be career-making for prophets. So can an endorsement from the venerable Elijah List newsletter, which claims 240,000 subscribers. Charisma magazine and the Christian Broadcasting Network both cover prophetic predictions as news.

Jennifer Eivaz, who calls herself “the Praying Prophet,” realized in college that she could hear God’s voice in a way she could “prove out.” When she and her husband started to lead a church in Central California, she would have dreams and receive specific information about people who attended. She was careful not to scare people, she said, often opting to check in with them rather than launch into specific predictions or insights into their lives.

She also started recording training videos on prayer and prophecy, which caught the eye of Steve Shultz, who had founded The Elijah List and invited her to contribute. As her profile rose, she became an internationally sought-after conference speaker at events with names like the Inner Healing and Deliverance Institute and the Prophetic Wisdom & Prayer conference, where believers pay to gather for music, prophecy and inspiration.

Ms. Eivaz occasionally offers public prophecies about national or international events. In May 2015, she announced that the yearslong drought in California was over and that “the rains are coming back.” The message tied together the biblical prophet Elijah’s experience on Mount Carmel; Ms. Eivaz’s recent trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.; a vision of a mother bear fighting for her cubs; the California state flag; and Gov. Gavin Newsom. (The drought did not formally end until 2017, although the state experienced unusually high rainfall over the summer of 2015.)

But those kinds of visions come to her only once every year or two, she said. She has watched with alarm as predictive prophecies like these have come to dominate the prophetic movement. “It’s like fact-shopping,” she said, adding that social media rewards “buzz and sensationalism” over wisdom, and pressures independent prophets especially to churn out fresh predictions every few days.

Mike Killion, who was a charter-bus driver in North Carolina until the pandemic dried up his business, pays attention to what he calls “synchronicities,” and others might call coincidences. He believes God is intimately involved in world events, and closely attuned to the prayers of his people.

If Mr. Killion’s phone is on the table and he mentions wanting to go on a cruise, for example, the phone “hears” him and starts offering advertisements for cruises, he said. “God works the same way,” he explained. “He’s listening to everything you say.”

Prophets are not always right about every prediction, Mr. Killion said, and they are certainly not always right immediately. “There’s this idea that prophets have to be right all the time, and have to be right next week,” said Mr. Killion, “when there are prophets in the Bible who had prophecies who weren’t fulfilled in their lifetimes.”

Mr. Killion scoffed at Mr. Johnson for walking back his prophecy about Mr. Trump’s 2020 victory. “Jeremiah Johnson should have kept his mouth shut,” he said a few days before Mr. Biden’s inauguration. “It still may happen.”

Mr. Johnson, for his part, appears to remain chastened. This week, he began a new YouTube series titled “I Was Wrong,” in which he plans to survey what the prophetic movement is, and where, in his view, it has gone awry.

In the first installment, he reviewed some of his past prophecies about politics and national events, and picked apart how he had erred in 2020. “Not everything that God speaks to us privately should have been public knowledge,” he said somberly. “I got caught up in the moment.” He spoke about his hope for “reformation,” and his concerns about God’s judgment to come. And in future episodes of the series, he promised, he will share what God is showing him about what comes next.

The Mysterious Prophecy of Isaiah 53

Faith Pulpit
Faith Baptist Theological Seminary
Ankeny, Iowa
November 1990

Prophetic Guidelines for the Persian Gulf

Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

Like a desert sandstorm, the self-proclaimed master of Mesopotamia swept into Kuwait and came dangerously close to usurping by brute force one half of the world’s oil supply. This swirling storm has meanwhile engulfed the Middle East and may well sweep the rest of the world into its maelstrom. Saddam Hussein’s conquest of Kuwait and threats against Saudi Arabia and Israel graphically demonstrate the volatile nature of the Persian Gulf region. In less than two weeks a multinational army under American command, larger than anything seen since World War II, has been deployed to contain the madman. Concerned Christians are asking whether the culmination of history is at hand. They wonder how the present situation fits into the prophetic picture of the end times.

I. Responses to Current Events
Among serious students of prophecy, several approaches can be discerned.

1. Some Christians see no relationship at all between current events and prophecy. They are tired of the “newspaper” exegesis that attempts to find a proof text for every world event.

2. Others are sure that prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes. Their response is that in light of current events, the Rapture cannot be far away.

3. Many believers study the prophetic Scriptures diligently to see if there is any correlation between the world situation today and predicted events. This balanced approach gives full weight to biblical predictions and sees in current events the Lord of history at work. For these students of the Word, the events in Eastern Europe, the reunification of Germany and the dramatic developments in the Persian Gulf region are signs of the times. They are not fulfillments of prophecy per se, but pointers to a possible approaching climax of world events as predicted for the Tribulation and Second Advent, after the Lord has returned for His church.

II. Revelation Concerning World Events
1. The need for a dispensational perspective
“Rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) demands certain dispensational distinctions. The discerning believer needs to distinguish carefully between Israel and the Church. He sees a difference between Christ’s Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16) with Church Age revelation, including the Rapture, and the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24–25) with Tribulation truth, including the Second Advent. No prophecy needs to be fulfilled before the Rapture can take place. On the other hand, numerous predictions are made for the period preceding the Second Advent. World events predicted by Daniel and in Revelation 4–19 will not be witnessed by Church Age believers. They expect the any-moment return of Christ.

2. An outline of end-time events
While there are no prophecies concerning this dispensation in the O.T.—the Church (Eph. 3:4,5) and the Rapture are mysteries (1 Cor. 15:51)–hundreds of detailed predictions for the Tribulation period are found in the O.T. prophets and the Apocalypse. For the present we are concerned with some of the major geo-political events between the Rapture and Second Advent.

a. Immediately after the Rapture, before the Tribulation proper begins, the Jewish people around the world will return to Israel (Deut. 30:3; Ez. 28:25; 37:21). Today’s partial return is not in fulfillment of prophecy. Only three million of the world’s seventeen million Jews live presently in Israel. After the Rapture worldwide anti-Semitism will prompt every Jew to return to the Promised Land.

b. The Tribulation period commences with a treaty which the Antichrist, the Roman ruler, will make with Israel (Dan. 9:27).

c. During the first three and a half years of the tribulation, Antichrist will subdue ten nations which formerly belonged to the Roman Empire. The fourth beast with its fearful ten horns symbolically represents the revival of Rome in a ten nation confederacy (Dan. 7:23-,24). Observant students of prophecy suggest that the current economic union in Western Europe, known as the European Community, and political union, the European Parliament, may well be portents of a revived Roman Empire.

d. Around the middle of the Tribulation, at a time when a regathered Israel lives in peace and safety (Ez. 38: 11), Russia and her satellites will invade Israel. Interestingly, some of these confederates mentioned are Ethiopia, Libya, and Iran (Ex. 38:5). Presently the Soviet Union seems to be economically bankrupt, yet her ominous military might is undiminished. Casper Weinberger cautions the world: “The many welcome changes in the USSR still do not guarantee that the threat from that quarter has vanished, particularly when we see the size of the Soviet’s military and the quality of their weapons and equipment.” (“Atlantic Overture,” National Review. Oct. 1, 1990, p. 30).

Two major reasons are given for Russia’s rampage against Israel: A malevolent spirit (Ex. 38:10) and materials spoil (Ez. 38:11, 12). Russia hates Israel and covets its riches. Also it is attempting to gain access to the oil rich and strategic region of the Persian Gulf, an area which has long held a fateful attraction to the Russians.

e. After the divine and total judgment of Russia, (Ez. 39: 19–23) Antichrist becomes world ruler. Russia’ s loss is Antichrist’s gain. With satanically-supplied strategy, he counters every attack. During the second half of the Tribulation a number of armies attack Israel in what has been called the campaign of Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Israel is invaded from the South, North, and East, as Antichrist moves his military headquarters to Jerusalem from the West (Dan. 11:40–45). At the Second Advent he and the false prophet will be consigned to the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20), and Christ will rule in righteousness and peace.

III. Ramifications For The Persian Gulf

1. Today’s strong alignment of countries like Libya, Ethiopia, Syria, and Iraq with the Soviet Union may well set the stage for the events predicted for the Tribulation.

2. Until the middle of the Tribulation there exist side by side two strong military powers—the Western Confederacy ruled from Rome and the Northern Confederacy (Russia). With the destruction of the Soviet Union and her confederates, Antichrist will dominate the world (Rev, 13:7).

3. During the first half of the Tribulation, Rome is apparently the political and military center of the Western Confederacy. Antichrist allows the apostate world church to function in Rome, but will destroy this spiritual Babylon after 3 1/2 years (Rev. 17:9,16).

4. Meanwhile there will emerge a strong economic power identified as “the great city, Babylon” (Rev. 18:10). Some identify the commercial Babylon with Rome. However, it is more likely that a rebuilding of ancient Babylon is envisioned. J. Vernon McGee comments: “These two Babylons are not one and the same city. Mystery Babylon is Rome; commercial Babylon is Ancient Babylon, rebuilt as the commercial capital of the world” (Reveling Through Revelation, 11, 59).

How interesting to note that Saddam Hussein has been engaged for some years in the rebuilding of Nebuchadnezzar’s capital, some 60 miles South of Baghdad. A report from the site observes: “The New Babylon is self- consciously dedicated to the idea that Nebuchadnezzar has a successor in Mr. Hussein, whose military prowess and vision will restore to Iraqis the glory their ancestors knew … Rebuilding the fabled city is the goal of a ruler who would be king” (“New Babylon …” The New York Times, Oct. 11, 1990, p. A7). Saddam Hussein, the Mesopotamian madman, insists on being considered the new Nebuchadnezzar. Like his proud ancient counterpart, he too will come to ruin. One senior Western diplomat put Saddam’s dilemma in gloomy terms: “If Saddam withdraws from Kuwait, he faces political suicide. If he stays, he faces economic suicide. If he invades Saudi Arabia, be faces military suicide. It is hard to see a solution that has him remaining in power long term” (National Review, Oct. 1, 1990, p, 19).

5. The situation in Europe and events in the Persian Gulf are laying the foundation for fulfillment of prophecy after the Rapture. Before these signs of the times find their full realization, Jesus Christ will have caught up His redeemed Bride to her heavenly home.


Current events prophetic

Bible prophecy clearly reveals that in the last days prior to the rapture of the church, four powerful kings will race onto the world stage with two objectives.

1. To conquer the world, and to reign as global dictators. These dictators will strip you of your freedoms. They will take your civil liberties, and you will become property and slaves of the state.

2. To conquer Israel and destroy the Jewish people. Their desire is to control the city of Jerusalem and prepare for the anointing of the false Messiah.

Israel is currently surrounded by nations that are screaming for their blood. Anti-Semitism is raging through Europe and the United States, often celebrated in liberal universities among our young people. Jews are being targeted around the world for assassination, and their synagogues are being vandalized as worshippers are being killed. It is a sickening sight to be sure!

This massive prophetic, geopolitical drama is unraveling across the front pages of your news feed each day. The Gog/Magog War mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39 has begun!

This war is the beginning of a series of wars that will engulf the world in what many will call World War III. The Bible calls it Armageddon. You don’t need to be a geopolitical expert to know that our world is coming apart at the seams. We are racing toward the end of the world as we know it.

Revelation 13 describes the beast rising out of the sea.

In prophetic terms, “the sea” means the nations of the world. John is telling us that he is looking at the nations of the world. John is pulling back the curtain of time to reveal the pending apocalypse. This is something that was foretold over 2,000 years ago and is now coming true in our lifetime!

The four kings mentioned in Revelation are, right now, taking center stage for the first time in world history.

The King of the North is Russia. Although the name Russia doesn’t appear in Scripture, the geographic location is given in the Bible to pinpoint accuracy. I have given you all of the details for this final showdown, walking you through both history and Scripture in my latest book “Earth’s Last Empire.”

Vladimir Putin is currently trying to rebuild the Russian Empire. With it, he thinks he can conquer the world. They have certainly started working on this with their far- reaching military encampments.

The King of the South is Egypt and the Arab Islamic forces. Keep in mind that all directions given in the Bible are with regard to the city of Jerusalem. In God’s mind, Jerusalem is the epicenter of the universe. When Ezekiel speaks of Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya, he’s speaking of the Arab Islamic nations.

The King of the East is China, a military superpower that neither fears nor respects the U.S. The Bible’s word for “east” simply means “sun rising.” This lets us know that it is describing China. This king, as described in Revelation, will lead a massive march of an army numbering over 200 million soldiers.

The King of the East is distinguished by his number, color, and flag. The three frogs or three demonic spirits that seduce him will get them to come to the Battle of Armageddon. Armageddon is the mother of all wars.

It will be fought on the sacred soil of Israel for global supremacy between the King of the West and the King of the East. The pending prize is the throne of the earth, to rule and reign.

The King of the West is America and the United Kingdom. This king will be led by the antichrist, who will force every person to receive his mark on their right hand or forehead. Those who do not comply will be decapitated.

The target of the King of the West is Israel. He will set up his image and proclaim that he is god in the city of Jerusalem. The antichrist will demand that the world worship him. His false prophet will call fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice laid upon the altar, emulating the Prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel.

These kings who are currently jockeying for position throughout the globe will come face-to-face with the King of kings and Lord of lords in all of His glory. Our God is the Creator of the Universe and promised to rule and reign for all eternity! He has all power in heaven and on earth. He holds the seven seas in the palm of His hand and He calls the stars by name. Who is greater than our God? Absolutely no one!

As a believer in Jesus, all you need to know is... OUR SAVIOR WILL NOT BE DEFEATED BY ANY ARMY OR ANY KING.

Only HE can dictate the future of Jerusalem. And only HE can forgive you of your sin and save you for all eternity.

While this is a very real picture of the future of our world, as described throughout the Scripture, those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior are going to be raptured. We live with the confidence that in HIS Kingdom, there shall be no end. Are you ready?

End Times: Where's America in Bible Prophecy? Dr. Mark Hitchcock


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