Trump has made clear that he is listening to a powerful group of people eager to set the stage for Armageddon and the Second Coming.
Biblical prophecy is being fulfilled. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has set in motion events that evangelicals have long predicted. Or so it seems to the president’s most faithful supporters.
The president’s latest foreign policy decision is a gift to the evangelicals who have long supported him, those who advise him and those who fill his cabinet.
American evangelicals believe that Jesus is going to return to earth soon. But for that to happen, most of these Christians believe, Jerusalem has to become the capital of Israel.
Polls reveal that evangelicals are eagerly anticipating the Second Coming. A 2010 Pew poll revealed that 41 percent of all Americans and 58 percent of white evangelicals believe that Jesus is “definitely” or “probably” going to return by 2050.
Evangelicals have long taught Americans to read the Bible, especially the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Matthew and Revelation, for predictions about the future. In Sunday morning church services, during local revival meetings, at small group Bible studies, in books and tracts, and through online websites, evangelicals put breaking news into biblical context.
For the last century and a half, a long line of evangelical preachers, theologians and media personalities have insisted that the re-establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people with Jerusalem as its capital would set the stage for Jesus’ Second Coming.
In recent years, best-selling authors and theologians have reinforced such conclusions.
In the 1970s, the heavily mustachioed, Mississippi-River-tugboat-captain-turned-evangelist Hal Lindsey published “The Late Great Planet Earth,” a book that sold more copies in the 1970s than any other work of nonfiction in the United States. It has remained in print ever since.
Israel occupied the center of Lindsey’s analysis. He believed that as the world moved toward the battle of Armageddon, three events would occur. First, the Jews would retake Palestine. Second, they would repossess old Jerusalem and its sacred sites. Third, they would rebuild King Solomon’s temple on its original historical site.
The first of these steps was accomplished in 1948 with the creation of the state of Israel. The second occurred in 1967 when Israel captured Jerusalem during the Six Day War. The final event has not happened. Yet.
Many evangelicals believe that the Jewish temple will rise again on the land currently occupied by the Dome of the Rock, a major Muslim holy site. The most radical among them gleefully anticipate the day when this Muslim sacred space is destroyed and even trade stories about secret farms where ranchers are trying to raise pure red heifers in preparation for future temple sacrifices.
Modern day guards assigned to protect the Dome of the Rock are well aware of these apocalyptic beliefs. They remain on the lookout for overeager Christians who hope to speed up the destruction of the dome through their own actions.
More recently, authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have re-narrated evangelicals’ ideas about Jerusalem in their best-selling, 16-volume fiction series, “Left Behind.” With over 63 million copies in readers’ hands, the “Left Behind” books have become a major cultural phenomenon, inspiring numerous spin offs including a 40-book “Left Behind” series for youth, a run of graphic novels, another fiction series targeting servicemen and women, and a few awful movies.
Jerusalem is at the center of the “Left Behind” plot and serves as the capital of God’s coming kingdom.
Evangelicals look to Jesus’ promise that when certain signs appear the “generation” that witnessed them would not “pass till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:33-34). The creation of the state of Israel in 1948, many evangelicals argue, marked the fulfillment of this prophecy. Time is running out.
With Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, evangelicals are eagerly anticipating what might come next — perhaps the rebuilding of the temple, the rapture of all true Christians from earth, then, for the rest of us left behind, tribulation, war and the battle of Armageddon.
It may well be that none of these things will follow Trump’s actions. We can hope that the God of apocalyptic evangelicalism is not actually orchestrating our foreign policy and that Armageddon is not imminent.
But there is a different reason we should be afraid. Trump has made clear that he is listening to a powerful group of people eager to set the stage for Armageddon and the Second Coming. Their agenda, at least in terms of key aspects of his foreign policy, has become his. That may be the real apocalypse the rest of us are going to have to hope we can survive.