New research has suggested that 39 per cent of US adults believe “we are living in the end times”.
The Pew Research Center survey, however, displayed that Christians aren’t unified in their beliefs on the topic.
Forty-seven percent of Christians believe the end is near and 49 per cent don’t. The study revealed a greater percentage of Protestants than Catholics tend to believe we are in the end times.
Meanwhile, 29 percent of people from non-Christian religions say we are living in the end times. And those without university degrees and those on a low-income also tend to believe the end is near.
The research was party of a wider survey about faith and the environment, partly to determine if people’s views on religion are related to their view on the environment.
When asked if they believe in the second coming of Jesus, more than half of US adults (55 per cent) said they do, with 75 per cent of Christians agreeing. One in ten respondents believe Jesus will return to Earth in their lifetime.
Rev Dr Ian Paul, a biblical scholar who’s written a commentary on the book of Revelation, told Premier he’s not surprised by the results, but believes the topic needs to be engaged with more.
He said when people refer to signs of end times being wars and rumours of wars, and cosmic signs of the sun being darkened, which is referenced in the first half of Matthew 24, they are slightly misguided.
“Most Christians read that as talking about the end of history when Jesus is going to come back. But Jesus is really clear that that is not what he's talking about. Because after talking about all these things, he says very clearly in Matthew 24:34… ‘this generation’, in other words, the people standing in front of him will not pass away until all these things have happened. He’s really clear that what he's talking about there is about the things that are going to happen in the lifetime of his disciples.”
Dr Paul, who also wrote a booklet on the end times, emphasised that no one will know when Jesus will return.
“If you read through Matthew 24 and 25, where Matthew gathers together Jesus's teaching about the end times, Jesus repeatedly says you will not know there will be no signs, all you need to do is to live as a faithful disciple,” he said.
“He tells the story of the ten women with the lamps, the five foolish and the five wise and that the whole point is, you will not know, there will be no warning, there'll be no signs. He says, I'm going to come back like a thief in the night.
“So the whole point about Jesus teaching is there going to be no signs.”
Dr Paul said the research highlights people’s awareness for history.
“People say, ‘Oh, look at the terrible times we're living in, it's the end times things are getting really bad’. Well, in Europe in the 14th century, the Black Death killed half the population. Now, I think that's a pretty bad time. And I really don't think the times we're living in are as bad as that.”
Dr Paul also believes that “humanity has always had a bit of an apocalyptic feel about it” but urged Christians to view the end times in a positive way.
“So if we do feel we're in a time of crisis, there's a good way to respond. And I think it's not to say, ‘look at the times isn't a terrible’.
“If Jesus is about to come back soon, we don't know. Isn't this the time to say, let's sort our lives out. Let's go back to what Jesus calls us to. Let's live as faithful disciples, building community, giving people hope, and testifying to the grace that we found in him.”
Listen to Premier’s full interview with Rev Dr Ian Paul here: