Prophetic Doomsdayers are at it Again
There are many Christians who believe and teach that the existence of certain forms of evils in the world is prime evidence that Jesus’ return must be near. For example, someone posted the following on Facebook:
A *legal* online British company sells human leather products, and postmillennialists still exist.
The meme suggests that since there’s a company making belts and wallets out of human skin, we must be living in the last days. A wallet will set you back $14,000. While abhorrent, there have been numerous abhorrent things happen over the centuries, and we’re still here. In fact, using human skin as leather is not new. “The Anthropodermic Book Project ‘has identified 47 alleged anthropodermic [Greek: “man” + “skin”] books in the world’s libraries and museums [going back 600 years]. Of those, 30 books have been tested or are in the process of being tested. Seventeen of the books have been confirmed as having human skin bindings and nine were proven to be not of human origin but of sheep, pig, cow, or other animals.’” (Wikipedia)
There doesn’t seem to have anything illegal about the practice.
Again, there are situations that have been worse: “I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them” (Jer. 19:9).
Again, there are situations that have been worse: “I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them” (Jer. 19:9). Something similar happened during the time the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. You can read about it in my book Wars and Rumors of Wars.
HumanLeather.com is no more a sign of the return of Jesus in the 21st century than it was a sign of the return of Jesus in the 16th century when some books were bound with human skin, one of which is in the Harvard Library.
Postmillennialists believe in the progress of the gospel and its effect on culture in the long run. The Pilgrims and Puritans were mostly postmillennial. Postmillennialists do not look at cultural conditions as a sign of the end of the world. The Pilgrims ventured to a new land to build a “city on a hill,” not to hunker down to wait until Jesus returned.
Historian Harry S. Stout writes:
Throughout the colonial period, ministers rarely preached specifically on millennial prophecies pointing to the end of time, and when they did it was generally in the most undogmatic and speculative of terms. For the most part, they did not base their preaching on the assumption that history would stop tomorrow, and in this respect they differed radically from popular millennarian movements in Europe and post-Revolutionary America whose plans of action were governed exclusively by apocalyptic considerations.1
Dispensational premillennialists teach that cultural conditions will get continually worse and will lead to the return of Jesus to rescue (rapture) His church by taking believers off the earth prior to a seven-year tribulation period when all hell will break loose. Historic premils believe nearly everything dispensational premils believe except their rescue comes at the end of hell breaking loose. Both positions teach that the world is a sinking Titantic. The logic of these positions (and the other three “rapture” views) does not stand up to historical scrutiny. If the world is supposed to get worse and worse since Jesus ascended into heaven, then it seems to me that the world would have ended a long time ago.
There is a long history of prophetic speculation and predictions (general and specific) going back nearly 2000 years.
The 20th century brought out the prophetic speculators for each World War, which were worse than making over-priced belts and wallets from human cadavers. Mussolini and Hitler were pegged as the Antichrist. Mikhail Gorbachev was an antichrist candidate during the Cold war. So was Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6). Some even speculated that Barack Hussein Obama was the antichrist. Like prophecy in general, antichrist candidates have had their own special category of failed predictions. See the book The Day and the Hour.
There are a number of bad things happening in the world. No one would dispute this claim. But there are a lot of good things happening as well. It’s always been this way. Let me give you some examples. The gospel can be sent around the world at the speed of light, people affected by natural disasters can be reached within days instead of weeks or months, there are hospitals within driving distance of most people in the US and other developed nations. The above meme was made possible because of the Internet and a relatively new application called Facebook.
The Bible has been translated into numerous languages. Many translations are available online … for free! There is no need to smuggle Bibles in some countries if someone has an internet connection.
Up until the invention of the locomotive, the speed of transportation was no faster than a horse. Can you imagine what living conditions would be like today if we are literally using horse power for transportation?
Sanitary experts in the early part of the twentieth century agreed that the normal city horse produced between fifteen and thirty pounds of manure a day, with the average being something like twenty-two pounds. In a city like Milwaukee in 1907, for instance, with a human population of 350,000 and a horse population of 12,500, this meant 133 tons of manure a day, for a daily average of nearly three-quarters of a pound of manure per person per day. Or, as the health officials in Rochester calculated in 1900, the 15,000 horses in that city produced enough manure in a year to make a pile covering an acre of ground 175 feet high and breeding sixteen billion flies.
Would we have these modern inventions and improvements (and many more) if people believed that the end of the world was right around the corner?
Homosexuality was a problem in Paul’s day (Rom 1:26-32; 1 Tim. 1:8-11; 1 Cor. 6:9). So was infanticide. Cannibalism was common in some cultures, but it’s a rarity today. Even the rise of Islam is not new. “The Mozarabic Chronicle, 754 AD, recorded that thousands of churches were burned and: ‘God alone knows the number of the slain.’ In 846 AD, just 46 years after Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome’s old St. Peter’s Basilica, 11,000 Muslims on 73 ships invaded Rome and sacked the Basilica.” (William Federer)
Christians in every generation have believed that their generation was the final generation based on certain cultural conditions. One of the reasons Christians are not having much of a cultural impact is because many believe Jesus is returning before their generation passes away and there is nothing that can be done to change anything.
Christians need to stop focusing on the end of the world. It’s not going to happen. There have been wars, famines, earthquakes, false messiahs, teachers, and prophets in every generation. They are not signs of the end for us; they were signs for the end of the temple that was standing in Jerusalem and was later torn down, stone by stone, by the Romans in AD 70, just as Jesus predicted it would happen (Matt. 24:1-2). For a verse-by-verse study of the Olivet Discourse, see my books Wars and Rumors of Wars, Last Days Madness, and Is Jesus Coming Soon?
The claim has been made that Israel becoming a nation again in 1948 is THE end-time sign. There is not a single verse in the New Testament that says anything about Israel becoming a nation again or Israel’s relationship with the end times (see here and here).
We were told in 1970 by Hal Lindsey in his book The Late Great Planet Earth that the end of what we know of this world would come within 40 years of Israel’s re-establishment as a nation in 1948: 1948 + 40 = 1988. Next year will be 70 years, a 30-year error.
While Christians are waiting for a promised end that never comes, anti-Christian forces fill the cultural vacuum. When this happens, Christians often say, “See I told you the end is near.”
- Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (New York: Ocford University Press, 1986), 8. [↩]