Endtimes believers tend to have very short memories for their own predictions. But today’s example was surprising, even by their very expansive standards. Today, we’ll trace an interesting shift in how Endtimes hucksters sell their products to worried evangelicals.
(Some evangelicals prefer to write the term as separate words: the End Times. It sounds a little less fantastic that way, I suppose. Whatever their reasoning, Christian Post seems to have decided to do that for their posts. But it’s usually put as one word, so that’s how I’m writing it.)
An introduction to the Endtimes
In evangelical Christianese, the Endtimes is a catchall term for those events they think will occur at the end of the world. And by that, they don’t mean in about 7.5 billion years, when the Earth is finally swallowed up by our own expanding sun as it enters its red giant phase. No, they mean in the very immediate future when Jesus finally decides to kick-start the end of the world.
For their feverish predictions, most Endtimes believers draw upon a set of misconstrued, out-of-context prophecies from the Book of Daniel, Chapter 9. There, the writer describes a seventy-week period that ends with the Jews’ victory over their oppressor. Endtimes believers call this the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks.
It’s important to note that this chapter is not actually much of a prophecy at all. It’s an after-the-fact description of events that is phrased like a prophecy with a prediction tacked onto the end. In very inflated language, it describes events that took place very roughly between the 500s and the 160s BCE. Though its writer claims to be the legendary Jewish hero Daniel, this, too, is almost certainly a fiction. That Daniel would have lived and died centuries earlier.
Having assumed his heroic persona, the writer of Daniel 9 sets the stage for the pseudo-prophecy by saying it’s set in “the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede.” This person is probably entirely fictional, because archaeologists have found no evidence that there was ever a ruler by that name. Instead, scholars think the writer simply means that events in the pseudo-prophecy began somewhere between 600 BCE and 450 BCE.
In the 2nd century BCE, the Seleucid Emperor who controlled Judea, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, super-persecuted Jews. The writer of Daniel 9 even refers to the big shocking event of the persecution, the “cutting off” of “the anointed one.” This might refer to the execution of the Jewish High Priest at the time, Onias III, in 171/170 BCE.
Whoever is meant, this persecution sparked the Maccabean Revolt that began in 167 BCE and eventually led to them briefly gaining independence from 110 BCE to 63 BCE.
Daniel was written around 164 BCE. It simply is a recording of that persecution and the beginning of the war. Its writer wanted to tell Jews that they’d win this war against the hated Antiochus, and then there’d come this glorious golden age afterward. In that golden age, Jews would come into their own at last.
Daniel 9 was never actually meant to refer to anything else. It’s certainly not some weird prediction about the Messiah and the entire end of the world. The writer of this book had no idea that Christians would ever even be a thing.
I doubt he’d have approved of them overmuch, either, since their religion incorporates so many Hellenic influences. The entire persecution broke out in the wake of a big spat between Hellenized Jews and traditionalist Jews. Like the Maccabees who began the revolt, the writer of Daniel 9 clearly favored traditionalists.
What Endtimes enthusiasts decided Daniel 9 means instead
Using the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks as their working timeline ruler, Endtimes prophets like to try to shoehorn the events described in the Book of Revelation into its list of weeks. And that turns out to be very easy to do, since Revelation seems to be based on Daniel 9, and its descriptions could apply to just about anything.
So now, instead of spanning from about 600 BCE to 160ish BCE, the Endtimes riff on Daniel 9 spans from Week 1 in 606 BCE to Week 69, which ended with Jesus’ supposed execution around 30 CE, and then, after an unspecified gap of time, Week 70, after which the whole world ends.
To support their interpretation, Endtimes believers have come up with a variety of interesting diagrams based on Daniel 9. Here’s my fave, which is of course the best damn diagram ever made by anybody, ever:
That gap has always been a big problem for Endtimes fantasists. To make their timeline look correct, they must add in this huge, unspecified gap between the end of week 69 and the start of week 70. Nobody knows exactly how long the gap will last. It’s supposed to give Christians enough time to convert everyone they can possibly can. It also gives Israel time to fulfill a number of prophecies that these fantasists believe must happen before the Endtimes can really begin.
(Endtimes fantasists consider 1918 and 1948 very important dates for that very reason. But 40 years passed without incident after both dates. Accordingly, Endtimes fantasists forgot they’d ever made predictions along those lines.)
Prophets split that last week, Week 70, in half. They do so for an important reason. Several important events supposedly occur during those years: the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the Battle of Armageddon. Some Christians think the Rapture will occur right at the very start of Week 70 and before the Tribulation and battle, so they’re often called pre-Tribulationists. Others think it’ll happen right smack in the middle and at the height of the persecution, so they’re mid-Trib. Still others think it’ll happen at the very end and after everything’s finished, so they’re post-Trib.
Further, prophets insert another separation between the end of the seven years and the beginning of a thousand-year period when Jesus will rule the Earth and hold Judgment Day. Premillennialists think that Jesus will return, rule for 1000 years, then hold Judgment Day. Postmillennialists think that there’ll be a worldwide theocracy for 1000 years, after which Jesus returns and holds Judgment Day. Oh, and amillennialists think that all that stuff is just metaphorical language, and we’re already in the metaphorical thousand years right now because it began on the Feast of Pentecost described in the Book of Acts chapter 2.
During the last week, the Antichrist will, Endtimes fantasists reckon, take over the world. He’ll institute a One World Government somehow, and then he’ll begin viciously persecuting TRUE CHRISTIANS™. Many Endtimes fantasists think that it’ll still be possible to convert during these seven years. But after the Rapture occurs, that’s it, no more Rapture for anybody. They’ll have to stick it out until they die or the world ends. Harold Camping’s famous riff on that theme was a claim that once the seven years begins, nobody can even convert anymore.
Without Daniel 9, Endtimes fantasies fall apart
By now, almost all Endtimes predictions incorporate the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks. Their peddlers don’t even need to explicitly spell that fact out. Their viewers will understand completely.
Like many of today’s evangelicals, Christian Post tends toward both Premillennialism and pre-Tribulationism. Back in my day, Mid- and Post-Trib thought Pre- folks were weenies who couldn’t hack a little persecution. They really worried that Pre- folks would renounce their religion almost immediately if they didn’t get Raptured before the shit well and truly hit the fan.
For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to agree. I’ve seen how today’s evangelicals respond to demands for fasting and long-term prayer. They only managed to stage their insurrection attempt on January 6th because they thought the President, Donald Trump of course, was giving them permission to storm the Capitol for him that day. (And no Endtimes prophets seem to have predicted that one!)
No way, no how could today’s American evangelicals ever handle anything like what Antiochus threw at the Jews in the second century BCE. Dude was forcing Jewish rabbis to eat pork, sacrifice pigs, and sprinkle pork blood and broth around their temples. He was making Jews sacrifice at pagan temples, work on the Sabbath, not cut their baby sons’ penises, the works! And a lot of them obeyed. It wasn’t until a country priest refused to do it that anything changed. He not only killed a fellow Jew who began to do the sacrifice for him, but also killed a Greek officer tasked with restoring the peace! Then, the guy tore down the altar itself and fled into the hills with his sons.
A year later, those guys marched at the head of a new army: the Maccabees. It sounds like they weren’t much better than what they fought, though. They were driving Greeks off their land, tearing down their temples, forcibly circumcising pagans’ sons, and burning stuff to the ground. Still, you can see why the writer of the Book of Daniel liked them. After years of oppression, Jews were finally fighting back.
No, today’s Christians just like martyrbating to the idea of experiencing and withstanding persecution. For the most part, they’re not interested in experiencing the real thing. They’ve already shown how easy it is for wicked megalomaniacs to fool them into lifelong obedience.
The best-case scenario for these Christians, really, is that nothing in the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks or the Book of Revelation is actually going to happen—to them or anyone else.
Christian Post has always loved to spread Endtimes fear
The evangelical sorta-news site Christian Post loves the idea of the Endtimes. For decades now, they’ve been telling their readers that the Endtimes will begin Any Day Now™.
Early on in 2009, they covered an annual Prophecy Conference put on by the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry (FOI, though more properly FOIGM). As the name suggests, these are right-wing evangelicals who have a major, major, maaaaaajor boner for Judaism. FOI still runs these conferences, but they call them “Proclaim” now. This year, the event’s subtitle is “Biblical Insights Into the Global Transformation.” They explain a bit more:
Discover how the sweeping global changes we are witnessing relate to God’s ongoing conflict with Satan and His plan to triumph over the Evil One. You will be strengthened in your faith and grow in the hope to endure these troubling days.
The trailer on their page is an absolute hoot, too. It has very global-inspired images superimposed with labels saying “increasing globalization” (<— that second word generally means Jews controlling the world in secret, by the way), “Satan’s deception,” “false religions,” “Antichrist,” and then it sells this conference as the way to find hope throughout all that stuff.
Back in 2009, these folks were saying the same general things that Endtimes fantasists say today. At the time, though, they thought that the economic crisis of 2007-2008 would be the catalyst for the beginning of the Endtimes. One speaker noted:
While he doesn’t believe the world is going to end tomorrow, the evangelical pastor [Jack Hibbs] said there are signs that would indicate we are in the Last Days leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.
If you’re a careful evangelical-watcher, Jack Hibbs’ name will definitely ring a bell for you. He gets regularly ridiculed for his willful ignorance, like when he insisted that animals never ever ever have homosexual sex or sex for pleasure, or when he demonstrated an abysmal understanding of early American history. When NPR ran its viral story about the January 6 insurrection attempt, Hibbs was on hand to blame an increasingly secular government and school system for the rioters’ decisions. Earlier this year, YouTube terminated his channel for, apparently, plagiarism. So he’s the full meal deal of evangelical belligerence, dishonesty, entitlement, crybullying, narcissism, and thinly-veiled threats of violence whenever he doesn’t get his way.
Another interesting thing about that 2009 Prophecy Conference: At the time, the Left Behind franchise was still a publishing powerhouse. That year, one of its authors, Tim LaHaye, gave a speech at the conference.
Shifting Endtimes prophecies over the years
Well, obviously the world didn’t end anywhere near 2009, not even seven years later. But that didn’t stop Christian Post from regularly running articles about the Endtimes. Gotta keep that fear level topped up, right?
In April 2011, they ran something about Jim Dixon, a megapastor who dabbled in Endtimes bullshittery. He was upset about all the incorrect prophecies about that period. I’m sure. This period was the lead-up to the infamous failed 2012 Rapture prophecy of Harold Camping. Dixon earnestly told Christian Post,
“I am not saying that we are the last generation. [But] I think that I would be surprised if Christ doesn’t come back soon. By that I mean perhaps in my lifetime, perhaps in my children’s lifetime, or certainly in my grandchildren’s lifetime.”
Talk about hedging your bets! But he died in 2016, so obviously the Rapture failed to materialize during his lifetime.
The next month in May 2011, Christian Post ran an article complaining about all those meaniepie atheists who mocked Harold Camping’s May 2011 prediction. Then, in June 2011, they ran an article containing pushback to the entire Seventy Weeks of Daniel model. It clearly represented dissent with Camping’s predictions. (Another in 2018 covers the same territory. In 2019, another article pushed back against that pushback. Endtimes infighting is evangelicals’ favorite contact sport.)
Speaking of him, they ran countless Harold Camping articles between March and October 2011, including this story of a Russian teenager dying by suicide out of fear the world was ending. They also covered his death in 2013. But they seem to have said little about him in 2012, arguably his biggest year of fame among normies.
Instead, in 2012 we got an article claiming to fix the Endtimes’ beginning year. It’ll start “between 2018 and 2028.” Okay.
How many Endtimes prophecies can get proven wrong?
Remember, once the Endtimes begins, the countdown begins as well. There can be no more than seven years between its start and its final end. So I got a real kick out of a 2014 article they ran.
That year, David Jeremiah earnestly declared that the Endtimes had, in fact, already begun! It was already happening! But he thinks it began in 1948, when Israel became its own country:
Dr. David Jeremiah, megachurch pastor, bestselling author and popular Bible teacher, believes the End Times began in 1948, when a nation that features prominently in the Bible was re-established as a state for the first time in 2,000 years. In fact, considering “the whole scope of world history,” Jeremiah would have to conclude that “yes, we are in the End Times,” or Earth’s last days.
Yeah, and we all thought exactly the same thing in 1988. That’s why the “88 Reasons” Rapture scare was so potent. The Bible told us (we thought) that a “generation” lasted forty years, and that the generation wouldn’t end from the time Israel became a nation to when the Endtimes began. When the Rapture and Endtimes failed to happen in 1988, then suddenly a generation became a literal age cohort. After that failure, Endtimes fantasists suddenly claimed that at least one of the people alive in 1948 will still be alive before the festivities begin.
Jeremiah clearly counts himself among the fantasists who don’t hold to a literal 40 years paradigm. But after Camping’s spectacular failures in 2011 and 2012, he refuses to pin down any specific dates.
Once COVID began, Endtimes prophets entered a period of overdrive. From urging caution to revisits of the 1948 figure, 2020 functioned like the Wild West. Clearly, many evangelicals had the Endtimes on their mind.
Ramping up in 2023
2023 has been a banner year for Endtimes bullshittery. Starting in January, Christian Post ran an article about an actor in an upcoming Left Behind film. He’s Catholic, but that’s apparently fine now. In February, they ran another about the movie, this time focusing on Kevin Sorbo, the same film’s director and star. K-Sorbz, of course, is a true believer in the Rapture.
By May 2023, Christian Post offered advice about how to get through the Endtimes and its accompanying Tribulation: Just make sure you’re all Jesusing as hard as you can! Oh, and the guy saying that had just published a book about Jesusing super-hard. I’m sure that’s a coincidence.
The next month, Jack Hibbs returned to talk about the Endtimes. Of note, he did not mention that his 2014 prediction failed to happen. Instead, he went over the same exact symbolism that I learned in the 1980s. It was amazing. All that changed were the exact names he applied to some of the symbols. In the 1980s, we didn’t think Barack Obama was part of the prophecy. He didn’t exist yet as a known political force. Instead, we all thought Donald Trump would be the Antichrist.
Then, David Jeremiah returned twice in July 2023. But he’s no longer claiming that the Endtimes already began in 1948. More specifically, he’s not claiming that, but he’s also not not claiming that. He’s careful with his wording, and I can’t blame him a bit for it. In the first article about him on July 15, he declared that “apostasy among pastors” was a for-sure sign of the end of the world.
The next day, he offered non-advice for how to prepare for the Endtimes. You’ll be shocked to know that it’s just Jesusing super-hard.
Endtimes prophets have learned their lesson about setting specific dates
Never let it be said that evangelicals can’t possibly ever learn anything. Their wingiest wingnuts have certainly learned not to set specific dates for anything related to the Endtimes. They learned that lesson in spades after Camping’s failures. Sure, a few tried even afterward, like that Blood Moon guy in 2018-2019 or this frantic-sounding fellow sounding a warning in 2017. But most are way more careful now. Now, they’re telling the flocks to disregard anyone setting a specific date:
“The Bible never predicts the date,” [David Jeremiah] stressed. “The first thing you should do is if you hear somebody say He’s coming back, and they start saying dates, you should walk away because that’s not the truth.”
Too bad nobody had told us that in the 1980s! Or in 2011. Or 2012. Weird how that little detail somehow slipped Jesus’ mind as he was talking to his pet humans, isn’t it?
How to prepare for the Endtimes
I love it when evangelical wingnuts talk about preparing for the Endtimes. Nothing about this modern advice varies even a little from the advice given in previous years. None of it’s even halfway different from what I heard in the 1980s.
To prepare for the Endtimes, just Jesus your li’l heart out and be expecting it Any Day Now™.
That’s it. David Jeremiah offers this advice in that July 16 article. And he insists that Christians ignore his advice at their “own peril.” That’s how serious it is that they listen to his advice and take it seriously. However, he never lays out his advice in an easy-to-understand format. I had to pare it out of his word salad. Here it is, or at least as close as I could get to it:
“I believe that Christians really need to stay glued to the Scripture and not get too far away from the truth because it’s pretty precarious right now.” [. . .]
[After the warning about setting specific dates:] Still, he warned against ignoring the reality of the rapture and the End Times, urging Christians to embrace the truth and live with a sense of readiness. He stressed that ignoring the End Times robs Christians of the right to share its truth with others.
“You can ignore it all you want to, it’s going to happen anyway,” he said. “If you do what I do, you meet a lot of people who think that because they don’t believe it, that makes it untrue. Well, it doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not, it’s true anyway, and you better wake up to it. Because if you don’t, one day, you’re going to experience it. … You can ignore it if you want to, but it’s you do it at your own peril.” [. . .]
“We shouldn’t say, ‘Oh, I think Christ is coming next week. I better hurry up and get ready.’ We’re supposed to live our lives always ready, always waiting, always watching, always working because Jesus Christ is coming back.”
See? Jesus super-hard. Always be expecting the Endtimes to start Any Day Now™. That’s it.
And this advice has not changed at all in almost ten years at Christian Post
2009: Jack Hibbs advises, “Jesus said ‘watch and be ready.'”
2011: Jim Dixon advises, “To people who fear the end times, Dixon said the only way to overcome that anxiety is for them to give their lives to Christ.” Kenton Beshore, in a book mentioned briefly in another 2011 article, doesn’t offer specific advice beyond always remembering that Yahweh is always in control no matter how scary world events may seem.
2012: Kenton Beshore thinks Christians need to drill down on evangelizing Jews in the near future. After all, 144,000 Jews will convert during the Tribulation and will, in turn, convert “billions and billions” of people to Christianity. Until then, Christians can keep an eye on the signs listed in Revelation, all of which he thoughtfully explains in his paid speaking engagements and books.
2018: Russell Moore suggests remembering that any day can turn out to be Judgment Day.
2019: An extremely ego-stung narcissist, Howard Green, complains about Unraptured, a book that exposes what a total invention Endtimes theology is. At the end, he suggests that Christians should “evangelize, disciple, and care for the least of these in Jesus’ name.” I reckon that counts as preparation.
2020: Mark Hitchcock advises Christians to “take comfort” in the “signs” of the imminent Endtimes. Author Jeff Kinley, who recently published a book about the Antichrist, next advises the tribe to “Go out there and be the light of Jesus Christ to the world.”
2023: Stephen Strang, of course, advises Christians to “keep our eyes on Christ and live according to His Holy Spirit.” Also, to always be recruitin’. David Jeremiah suggests Christians “remain rooted in Scripture and not drift away from the truth” and in another post, “to be ‘ready’ for the return of Christ.”
None of that actually looked really concrete, did it?
Why Endtimes advice is always so terribad
Evangelicals have always loved to feel terrified, but it’s got to be a kind of terror they can defeat. (They’ve also loved to feel titillated, but the stories have to end the right way or they’re unhappy. That’s why so many Satanic Panic testimonies involved very off-limits sexcapades.)
Endtimes terror is about the best kind of terror evangelicals can get for the money. The end of the world is coming Any Day Now™! But don’t worry! The bestest, truest Christians will escape all the persecution it entails! They’ll whoosh up into Heaven to be with Jesus for all that unpleasantness! They’ll be Jesus’ special pretty princesses, protected and coddled while a tortured planet heaves and shudders beneath their golden party castle. And then, they’ll rule everything with Jesus cuz he likes them sooooo much.
It’s a purely narcissistic view of things. But evangelicals rarely think twice about the billions of people who’ll suffer during all of this. They didn’t convert, so who cares about them?
And telling evangelicals that all they must do to get all those rewards and protections is to Jesus super hard is genius in its way. Nobody knows what Jesus requires in terms of correct Jesusing, nor how much of it must be done to qualify for his prize. So anyone can imagine their own Jesusing as the standard there.
Since nothing about this entire Endtimes schtick is objectively true or real, too, the sky’s the limit in assigning current news stories and figures to its symbolism. As long as they’re careful not to name dates or bet the farm on specific famous people or events, Endtimes hucksters can do whatever they want.
Unfortunately, that same lack of objective truth in Endtimes theology means that there really isn’t a way for Christians to prepare for this future-that-won’t-really-happen. None of these hucksters can suggest anything concrete that Christians should do. Even their signs are vague to the point of uselessness. It’s all just “Oooh, this guy might be ‘the little horn’ mentioned in this verse!” and “Oooh, this natural disaster might be one of the signs talked about in that verse!” And every few years, those change identities anyway.
But Rapture anxiety in particular will keep those hucksters fed
I mentioned anxiety a moment ago. Before we go, I want to reiterate that Rapture hucksters deliberately feed into that anxiety with their products and interviews. Christian Post also stokes anxiety with their nonstop articles about the Endtimes.
They do it because it works. It’s worked for decades now. Even after Harold Camping’s failure, it still works with some modifications. As it turns out, hucksters don’t need to set particular dates to make their audiences feel that delicious frisson of fear they crave.
Even the lack of any objective standard of Jesusing works in their favor here. Thanks to that lack, there’s a lovely shifting goalpost that gets completely under the skin of the most anxious evangelicals. They’ll never, ever be positive that they’re safe. And that’ll drive them to greater and greater shows of piety and fervor. That’ll draw in more people just like them, since like calls to like, and that’ll be lots more people being anxious and responding to that anxiety.
(I’m pretty sure that anxiety is 90% of what gets Ray Comfort out of bed every day.)
How FOMO keeps Endtimes fantasy-peddlers in business
This anxiety plays on FOMO: the fear of missing out. It also plucks quite determinedly at anxious people’s tendency to fear unknown dangers just as much as known ones. Evangelicals don’t know how to stop fearing unknown dangers. From childhood or the moment of conversion, they’re taught to fear unknown dangers exactly like this. Anxious people’s minds are very adept at leaping into these huge, convoluted fantasy scenarios of extremely dire fates even without any clear way to get there from the current day.
(Endtimes prophets’ constant invocation of the so-called “One World Government” (OWG) is a case in point. Any time they talk about the rise of OWG, it turns out that it’s absolutely impossible under the rules of whatever real-world group they think will birth it. There’s absolutely no way, for example, for the United Nations to become the OWG.)
Remember that awful scene in A Thief in the Night where that little girl thinks her family was Raptured without her, and she just screams and screams? That’s what I’m talking about. That scene traumatized many thousands of young evangelicals decades ago. It presented this horrifying scenario and told evangelical kids that it could totally happen to them one day—if they didn’t get with the program.
They don’t know when it will happen, just that it will one day. Probably. Maybe. Possibly within their lifetimes. Who knows? Just Jesus super hard so you don’t have to worry about it! What does Jesusing super hard look like? Oh, you know, just Jesus super hard. What’s so difficult about this?
I truly wish that these irresponsible hucksters could face real accountability for the damage they cause in evangelicals’ lives. But they won’t, not ever. They’re too much a fixture in far-right evangelicalism for anyone to rein them in now.
Instead, we can point and laugh at them for their ever-increasing paranoia about settling too solidly on any one particular specific detail. This has been one shift in Endtimes hucksterism that I welcome with open arms, because nothing else speaks more effectively to how blitheringly fake this entire grifting scam really is.
How you can support Roll to Disbelieve
Thanks for reading, and thanks for being part of our community!
And now, here are some ways you can support my work:
- Patreon, of course, for as little as $2 a month! I now write Patreon posts twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with patrons getting early access 3 days ahead of time.
- Paypal, for direct one-time gifts. To do this, go to paypal.com, then go to the personal tab and say you want to send money, then enter firstname.lastname@example.org (that’s an underscore between the words) as the recipient. It won’t show me your personal information, only whatever email you input.
- My Amazon affiliate link, for folks who shop at Amazon. Just follow the link, then do your shopping as normal within that same browser window. This link adds nothing to your Amazon bill, but it does send me a little commission for whatever you spend there.
- And as always, sharing the links to my work and talking about it!
Thank you so much for being a part of Roll to Disbelieve!