It was one of those rare, perfect moments in preaching.

While living in Florida some years back, due to limited choices I

was attending a church of a different denomination than my own. It was a

large, growing, dynamic congregation. The pastor announced a series of

sermons on Revelation. But when he started preaching, it quickly became

clear he was not teaching the Dispensational Premillenial (i.e., Left Behind) interpretation that's so popular in our day. He was an amillennialist.

Many congregation members were not happy about this, and made their opinion known.

After a few weeks of controversy, the pastor got into the pulpit one

Sunday morning and announced that, for the sake of peace, he was

discontinuing the sermon series on the End Times. Instead, he would take

up a topic that would trouble people less.

“I'm going to preach on Hell,” he said.

Growing up in a Lutheran pietist church (yes, there are such

creatures; I had no idea how rare we were at the time), I was introduced

early to Dispensational Premillennialism, and had no idea there was any

other way to approach eschatology.

In the years since, I've been sufficiently exposed to other systems (Joe Carter served up an excellent overview over at First Things

yesterday) to leave me largely agnostic on the subject. When I hear

speakers on the radio suggesting that anyone who holds a different view

from theirs probably has a low view of scripture, I can only marvel at

their assurance. As a Lutheran, I lean toward amillennialism, but my

strongest conviction in this realm is that God probably didn't intend to

give us a detailed timetable, so that we could pay off our mortgages

ahead of time (or pile up a lot of debt, depending on our attitudes

toward commerce and banking).

But I do find one item in prophecy that suggests to me (I certainly

don't insist on it) that these may well be the last days of the last

times.

The apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will

come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit

their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of

teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn

their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” I don't

think it's a big jump to connect this passage to the description of the

great harlot of Revelation 17, frequently interpreted as a symbol for an

apostate church.

We've seen great corruption in the church at many times in history.

We've seen laxity, and hypocrisy, and pride, and bigotry,

bloodthirstiness, and simony.

But (as far as I'm aware) there has never been a time in history

when we've seen great segments of the institutional church openly

turning their backs on the Scripture, the creeds, the teachings of the

Fathers—the faith once delivered to the saints.

This is a new thing.

Is it a sign of the approaching apocalypse?

I would never insist on it.

But I (personally) suspect it.