The Profits of Doom
The doomsday prophets of pop Christianity have spotted yet again another opportunity to exploit the gullibility of a certain segment of the Christian population by preaching, writing, and blogging on the international crisis in Syria.
If you’re at all familiar with how this generally works, then you’ll already know what they’re saying—events in Syria will lead to the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
I grew up with this kind of newspaper exegesis. Every headline, every war, especially every reported trouble in the Middle East, was connected to this or that prophecy of Scripture, no matter how tenuous. If one of the biblical seers predicted future catastrophe, and in doing so mentioned a particular region or city associated with the Holy Land, the doomsday prophets never fail to see that some one or other contemporary event is that which was foreseen in the Bible.
The objectively verifiable problem with this method of interpreting the Scriptures is that it has never been right and is always wrong in its predictions. Whether uncovering the identity of the Anti-Christ (Kissinger’s name adds up to 666 via gematria) or the imminency of the rapture (the Left Behind books) or setting the date for Christ’s return, these self-appointed prophets never fail to misunderstand biblical texts.
Taking Harold Camping as the most recent, well-known example of this phenomenon, he has three times predicted the return of Christ. He laid out his “biblical” case in his book 1994?, followed shortly after by Are You Ready?: Much More Evidence that 1994 Could be the End of the World. When 2011 rolled around, Camping was still here making new predictions about the apocalypse happening in May, and when May came and went, in October of that year. The third time was a charm; Harold Camping has officially retired from prophecy.
And yet, others remain undeterred. Why? It has to do with the profits of doom. There’s money to be made. Biblical prophecy is an industry that pays well. Our Lord told us that the poor are always with us; so are the conspiracy buffs and end-time junkies.
A saner though less exciting and lucrative approach to biblical prophecy is to recognize that the majority of the Bible’s predictions have been already fulfilled. The things foreseen are in our past, not our future. America will not be fulfilling ancient oracles should it lob missiles into Syria. It will simply be making another poor decision with the potential for some very serious consequences.
With all of this said, I should add that there is, of course, that grand and ultimate event still future to us, the final return of Jesus Christ. But what precisely the circumstances are leading up to that history-punctuating moment, no one can know, most certainly not the prophets of doom.