The results of a new and timely survey of one thousand evangelical pastors’ positions on eschatology (doctrine of end times) are just in time for the Passover/Easter season! The astonishing results reveal there is 97 percent agreement across all denominations, age, and gender groupings that Jesus is physically going to return—in the same way He rose from the dead (Acts 1:10–11) and ascended to the right hand of the Father.
It is fitting, therefore, that LifeWay released this remarkable Survey during these difficult days, when the hope of His resurrection and soon return is of great comfort to every follower of Jesus, especially during the pandemic of 2020.
The release of the Survey at this time is appropriate not only because of its proximity to Easter but also because the Jewish community is now observing the Passover season, celebrating the redemption from bondage in Egypt.
One of the most dramatic moments in the observance of Passover (celebrated virtually by most families this year) is the recitation of the ten plagues. Jewish people remember that God brought plagues upon others in mysterious harmony with His will and love for all people. He used plagues to move both the Egyptians and the Israelites to action. Plagues always bring terrible circumstances, but God still uses them for His divine purposes.
We are not suggesting that COVID-19 is a plague directly imposed by God, similar to what the Book of Exodus describes in chapters 7–12. There have been many instances of epidemics throughout human history. Although the coronavirus is particularly vicious, we should not assume the spread of the virus is the direct result of God’s judgment. Our knowledge is limited to Scripture, and of course, the Bible does not speak about the coronavirus, nor, for that matter, the Black Plague or Spanish Flu.
On the other hand, we cannot deny that God has used plagues as judgments in the past and will do so in the future. COVID-19 has awakened us to the possibility that plagues, along with other signs, will pave the way for future judgment at the coming of the Messiah, which Evangelicals believe will be His second coming.
One day, hopefully, we will look back and see the good our heavenly Father accomplished through this epidemiological trial. We pray that somehow blessings will come through the pain and suffering we are enduring (Romans 8:28) and that the lessons we learn in the darkness will be remembered in the light. Hopefully, we will acquire a more profound knowledge about God and ourselves from this horrific plague and pray the Lord will continue to shape our character, reorder our priorities, and draw us closer to Him.
The Survey indicates that the majority of evangelical pastors see plagues, in general, as one sign of the beginning of birth pangs in preparation for the return of Jesus. Undoubtedly, this pandemic has captured our attention and made the reality of end-times events more real and accessible to each one of us.
Either way, it is a very timely survey. We hope it will intrigue you and help give you a better perspective on what some of our leaders believe is ahead. After all, the real value of eschatology is not necessarily knowing what will happen in the future but learning how to live today with tomorrow in mind.
Dr. Mitch Glaser
President, Chosen People Ministries
The Survey Results
Aaron Earls of LifeWay Research writes in a recently distributed press release:
“According to Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, the idea of birth pains is not unique to the New Testament or Evangelicals, as he said ultra-Orthodox Jews also believe these types of signs are indicators of the Messiah’s coming.”
“The term used in rabbinic literature, ‘birth pangs of Mashiach,’ is used in the Olivet Discourse,” Glaser adds. “The current pandemic is viewed in this way by many religious Jewish people who share heightened Messianic expectation with Evangelicals.”
The above comments are drawn from the press release written by Aaron Earls of LifeWay Research and recently released summarizing the findings of a survey of one thousand evangelical pastors completed earlier this year, 2020.
Earls adds, “The Bible has several lists of potential signs of Jesus’ return, like the Olivet Discourse passages of Matthew 24–25, Mark 13, Luke 21, and some include concepts of global sicknesses.” He goes on to quote Luke-Acts expert, Dr. Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary and Chosen People Ministries board member, who gives critical perspective to the relationship between the predicted birth pangs of the Messiah and how Christians might view the current pandemic,
“Numerous biblical texts speak of disturbances in the creation that disorient and trouble people,” said Bock. “These disturbances have quite a range with earthquakes and wars being the most common. However, Jesus mentions plagues or pestilence explicitly in Luke 21.”
The Survey, which was designed to provide an objective picture of the ways in which American evangelical pastors view eschatology, was completed before the outbreak of the pandemic in the United States.
According to Scott McConnell, executive director LifeWay Research:
“While Christians prepare to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, many pastors believe they see signs His return may be close.” “These sentiments were expressed in January before the prospect of a global pandemic became known.”
LifeWay Research asked pastors if they considered Jesus’ warnings to include certain current events.
At least three out of four pastors agree Jesus was referring to current events (today) including the rise of false prophets and false teachings (83 percent), the love of many believers growing cold (81 percent), traditional morals becoming less accepted (79 percent), wars and national conflicts (78 percent), earthquakes and other natural disasters (76 percent), and people abandoning their Christian faith (75 percent).
Clear majorities also see famines (70 percent) and global antisemitism (63 percent) as signs of Jesus’ return.
Only a little more than one out of ten pastors (11 percent) say they do not consider any of these to be part of the birth pains to which Jesus was referring.
“For too long, many pastors have shied away from teaching on birth pains and events leading up to the second coming,” said best-selling author Joel Rosenberg, “but the current pandemic demonstrates the need for solid, non-sensational preaching done in a biblical manner.” 
Earls reports, “Almost nine in ten pastors see at least some current events matching those Jesus said would occur shortly before He returns to Earth, according to a new survey focused on Christian eschatology, or the study of end times.” Ninety-seven percent say they believe Jesus Christ will literally and personally return to Earth again. “There are details of Christ’s return and His reign that scholars disagree on,” said McConnell. “However, the vast majority of pastors believe certain current events correspond with prophecies Jesus Himself gave about things that would occur right before He returns.”
Signs Regarding Israel and the Jewish People
Earls mentions the following survey results related to Israel, the Jewish people, and the end times:
- Pastors are also likely to see several events related to Israel and the Jewish people as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and signs of the end times.
- Seven out of ten evangelical and Black Protestant pastors (70 percent) say the modern rebirth of the state of Israel and the regathering of millions of Jewish people were fulfillments of prophecies in the Bible.
- Similar numbers (69 percent) say those events show Christ’s return is closer.
- Around two in five pastors (39 percent) agree that the establishment of the United States embassy in Jerusalem is a sign of the end times.
- Many (62 percent) believe another temple will be built in Jerusalem in accordance with the prophecy in Ezekiel 40–48.
- Many make end times connections to Israel and specifically Jerusalem, in part, because 73 percent believe that Christ will return and reign in Jerusalem in fulfillment of God’s promises to David.
- More than half of pastors (57 percent) believe the Bible teaches that one day most or all Jewish people alive will believe in Jesus. (Romans 11:25-29)
- Close to three out of five (59 percent) say Jesus will return when the Jewish people accept Jesus.
- Nearly all pastors (98 percent) believe sharing the gospel with Jewish people is important. Those who believe Jewish evangelism is vital give a variety of reasons why.
- Close to 99 percent say it is important to share the gospel with all people groups.
- More than four in five (82 percent) believe Jewish people are special in God’s sight. The same percentage points to God’s promise to preserve a faithful remnant of Jewish people.
- Around two-thirds of pastors (67 percent) say sharing the gospel with Jewish people is important because the Apostle Paul’s pattern was to evangelize Jewish people first. More than a quarter (28 percent) say Jewish evangelism will speed up the return of Christ.
“I was glad to see that 98 percent of evangelical pastors believe Jewish evangelism is important and that many believe there is a connection between the second coming of Jesus and the national salvation of Israel in the last days.”
Dr. Bock’s conclusion is important to understand, as the Survey was not designed to fuel imaginative speculation among date-setters or even those who argue that the pandemic is the beginning of the end.
“Whether Jesus’ return is near or far, Christians believe these disturbances represent the groaning of creation, reminders of our mortality, our need for God, and the accountability we have to Him for life, both now and forever,” said Bock.
End times plagues are clearly on the list mentioned by Jesus as one of the beginnings of birth pangs that eventually lead to His second coming. And the message is evident that those who follow the Lord Jesus as Messiah must always be ready for His coming and those who do not yet believe, Jew or Gentile, need to heed the signs of the times and recognize that the Bible is truly the only reliable predictor of future events.
The full Survey results are available by clicking on www.chosenpeopleministries.com/eschatologysurvey or by going to https://lifewayresearch.com.