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.
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
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
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.