One in four Americans anticipates the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in 2007, according to an Associated Press/AOL news poll.
According to an AP report, 25 percent of those surveyed about what they think 2007 holds for the country anticipate Christ’s return. That’s less than the percentage who expect a terrorist attack (60 percent), a major natural disaster within the United States (70 percent) or that global warming will get worse (70 percent).
Fewer than a third (29 percent) think the U.S. will withdraw its troops from Iraq, while 35 percent predict reinstatement of a military draft.
The Second Coming describes the belief that Jesus Christ will return at the end of time to fulfill messianic prophecy like resurrection of the dead, the last judgment and full establishment of the Kingdom of God.
While the New Testament reports that even Jesus didn’t know the day and the hour of his return, that hasn’t stopped prognosticators through the ages.
The Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses both emerged after a predicted Second Coming in 1844 didn’t occur.
Televangelist Jack Van Impe has predicted many specific dates for Jesus to return over the years, only to move them back when it turned out he was wrong.
Many Christians expected cataclysmic events prophesied in Scripture to coincide with a predicted Y2K massive computer crash on Jan. 1, 2000. The day passed with only minor glitches.
Jerry Falwell said in 1999 the Antichrist may already be alive and that he believed the Second Coming would occur within 10 years.
Interest in the end times helped authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins to become millionaires through sales of 65 million “Left Behind” products, initially launched in 1995, based on Bible prophecies the authors of the novels believe must occur to signal Christ’s return.
Best-selling author John Hagee said in a book last year, Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, that current events in the Middle East could signal the beginning of the end of the world.
“We are on a countdown to crisis,” Hagee, senior pastor of the 18,000-member CornerstoneChurch in San Antonio, wrote in the spring and summer of 2005. “The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty.”
But LeAnn Snow Flesher, author of Left Behind? The Facts Behind the Fiction, published by Judson Press, said many readers of “Left Behind” and Hagee are unaware the books are based on poor scholarship.
In a column for EthicsDaily.com, Flesher said passages in Ezekiel and Revelation refer to events occurring in the era when they were written and not some distant future. Meaning isn’t found in scanning headlines for current events that seem to fit “unfulfilled” prophesies, she said, but rather in the larger message that God is in control and will not abandon God’s people.
According to Religion News Service, pollsters found that 11 percent of those surveyed said it is “very likely” that Jesus will return to Earth this year. An additional 14 percent said it was “somewhat likely.”
Twenty-five percent of those polled said it was “not too likely,” compared to 42 percent who said it was “not at all likely.” Eight percent said they did not know or were not sure.
Views about the topic varied depending on religious persuasion. For example, 46 percent of white evangelical Christians believe it’s at least somewhat likely that Jesus will return this year, while 17 percent of Catholics and 10 percent of those with no religion feel the same way.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.