Am I the only one who is seriously getting worried that the world might end, like real soon? I remember back in Sunday school they said that there would be fires and floods and famine and false leaders and then Jesus would come back, plus some other stuff I can’t remember, except for the Whore of Babylon.
Well, maybe it’s time to remember, or at least find out more. Luckily, it turns out that there’s a whole science devoted to the end of the world. It’s called eschatology. Half the religions, the ones like Buddhism and Hinduism, believe that things go in cycles. A span of time passes, then ends, then regenerates itself. The so-called Abrahamic religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—are much more dramatic. Our end of the world scenarios call for epic battles, strange creatures appearing from the sky and rivers of blood.
The other day, as I was stopped for a red light and brooding about whether red tide could qualify as a river of blood, I saw a sign from God. Literally. It was on the billboard at the entrance to a church right near my house called the Tabernacle. It was announcing an “End Times” conference, to run over a series of days.
Now first, I should say that I live in the religious quarter of Sarasota—University Parkway. The wonderful old churches downtown are great, but University Parkway is definitely where the action is. Within walking distance of my house, we have—in addition to the usual Methodist, Baptist, Catholic and Lutheran congregations—the aforementioned Tabernacle, a large “nondenominational/evangelical” church, then a Greek Orthodox church, then a church for the local LGBTQ community, then the Quaker Meeting House, and finally a mosque.
The event was taking place in the main church, a large brand-new space where they were still installing the carpet. The audience seemed to be the congregation itself. I was half expecting a gathering of shaggy-haired survivalists and conspiracy theorists but no—these were a few hundred good people supporting their church. And they all brought their Bibles.
We started with some good old-fashioned hymn singing, and I must say, when those evangelicals worship Jesus, they worship Jesus. They stand straight up, arms stretching out, palms up to catch God’s grace. Or they clap along. Or move their hands and bodies with the music. One of the older gentlemen reminded me of Victor DeRenzi conducting Nabucco.
They even had a little orchestra on stage, and lyrics were projected out on the various video screens that backed the stage. The hymns all praised Jesus, positioning him as the answer to any life problem. One hymn promised that he would lead you to “perfect peace and rest,” and that’s when I was ready to sign on. That’s exactly what I was looking for—perfect peace and rest from all this anxiety.
Then Dr. Gary Frazier came out. He was going to deliver the whole six-day program with a series of sermons and studies each night. He is from Dallas and is a well-known expert on the Christian dogma concerning End Times and the author of many books, including Divorcing God and Hell is Real, and has been to Israel 180 times. I would guess him to be in his 60s. He has a pleasant, almost charismatic quality to him, and a fabulous head of hair, like so many successful preachers do.
He led us through what to expect. First will come the Rapture, in which all the worthy Christians on earth will disappear and be transported to heaven, “butt naked” as Dr. Frazier put it, leaving their clothes behind in heaps on the floor. Thirty million people will disappear. As Dr. Frazier put it, “A lot of chicken places will go out of business.”
And not just chicken places. Chaos will ensue, and we will enter the seven-year-long Tribulation during which everything will go wrong. The anti-Christ will appear. He will create a one world government. You get a mark that means you have sworn loyalty to him. It’s a tattoo or possibly a microchip that you must have in order to buy and sell things. (By the way, he is not Donald Trump, I don’t care what my liberal friends say. They do not understand Scripture. The timeline is way off and the real anti-Christ will be from the European Union.)
Then will come three wars: the Russian-led Islamic invasion of Israel, Armageddon, and then Satan’s Final Battle. God will win the battle and Christ will reign on earth for 1,000 years. After that it is my understanding that eternal heaven begins.
Dr. Frazier had a great attitude toward the end of the world. He wasn’t worried at all. He was actually looking forward to it. So, I was discovering, are many religious people. Take the Muslims, for example. Dr. Frazier explained that there are two kinds: The ones who just want a better life. This is 90 percent of them. The other 10 percent have been radicalized. They want to kill us. “I get in trouble saying that, but I have this thing about telling the truth,” Frazier said.
Dr. Frazier believes that Western culture is being replaced by Islam. “Europe had no idea what it was getting into,” he said. “By 2025 most European babies will be Muslims.”
And, oh, those babies. Even now, they’re being taught to be terrorists, he insisted.
“Oh, dear,” I’m thinking. “I guess nobody told him that there’s a mosque pretty much right around the corner.”
At any rate, the followers of Jesus are going to win. This in spite of the perversion being forced on us. Walmart, Frazier declared, is selling homosexual dating videos. “We lost our eldest daughter,” he told the congregation. She was recruited to lesbianism by her softball coach. “And I mean recruited,” he emphasized.
My heart sank again. I guess nobody told him about the gay church right around the other corner.
They have a nice coffee bar in the lobby and they were selling Dr. Frazier’s books as I left. The Tabernacle’s minister greeted me with a friendly handshake. I certainly had an interesting time at the conference. The Biblical prophecies had been presented lucidly and in great detail. I just wish they had been a little more polite when it comes to the neighbors.
But Dr. Frazier said it best. “Don’t argue with people about End Times,” he cautioned. “Be loving and kind as you walk away from them.”
Words to live by.