Why Are We Even Talking About This?

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post by pastor/evangelist Greg Laurie that came out this past week, entitled “Where is the United States in the End Times Scenario?“.

If you have been around evangelicalism for any length of time, then you, like me, have probably been exposed to a fair amount of end-times teaching.  You have probably even come into contact with the question posed in this post, and you may have heard some of the possible answers.

Laurie gives three possibilities.  First:  The US is absent from end-times prophecy because it has been nuked out of existence.  Exactly the sort of thinking that was prevalent back in Cold War times, only now the bogeyman isn’t Russia, it’s Iran or North Korea or some other rogue terrorist state or terrorist organization that has illegally obtained nukes.  Second:  The US has corroded from within and declined as a result.  This plays into preaching about the soul of the US, about how America was founded as a Christian nation by men who sought God fervently (Heads up:  It wasn’t and they didn’t), about how America has lost its way by legalizing abortion and gay marriage, taking prayer out of public schools, going from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” and how we are seeing the consequences of this through increased abortion, divorce, murder, broken families, etc.  All the usual Focus on the Family/Republican National Committee talking points.  Some of you may be nauseatingly familiar with this sort of preaching.  (I’m not, but I know some places I could go to hear it every week if I wanted to.)

Third:  There is a great revival in the US.  When the Rapture comes, a huge percentage of its people disappear.  With all those Christians gone, the remaining infrastructure cannot survive and the US disappears as a nation.  Feh.  The Rapture is part and parcel of a dispensationalist eschatology which is deeply flawed, to say the least.

But why are we even talking about this?  Why are we even asking about the absence of the United States from end-times prophecy?  The very question itself is based on some flawed assumptions:  that modern nations as we know them today are part of the prophetic teaching of Scripture, that the absence of the US from said prophetic teaching is surely bad news for the nation, that we are in fact living in the last days, that the US as the world’s reigning superpower should be part of end-times prophecy if we are in the last days.

This sort of approach to the prophetic teaching of Scripture is not good.  It turns the Bible into a giant puzzle book of God’s plans for the future.  This plays in conjunction with a moralistic approach to Scripture which is too prevalent in evangelicalism and sees it as nothing more than a book of principles for good living.  This approach to Scripture helps drive the evangelical tendency to create institutions and organizations that separate from the world in all the wrong ways and for all the wrong reasons.

To think that prophecies in Scripture are intended to point to modern nations and current events requires some creative thinking, to say the least.  Most if not all of the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the coming of Christ.  Many of the New Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and subsequent extension of Christianity to all the world.  They also point to the future coming of Christ, but in ways we cannot clearly understand even today, with the benefit of centuries of thought and struggle from thinkers, scholars, and theologians.

The vast majority of Christians outside evangelicalism are loath to go beyond the statements contained in our creeds when thinking and speaking of the end times:

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end

…We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

–The Nicene Creed

We would do very well to heed this example.