A majority of evangelical leaders believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth and then reign with his followers for 1,000 years, a new survey shows.
This end times theology is called premillennialism and 65 percent of surveyed evangelical leaders identify with it.
As part of its monthly poll, the National Association of Evangelicals surveyed its board of directors, which include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations, on their eschatological beliefs.
"It’s in our human nature to want to prepare ourselves – physically, emotionally, spiritually – for what might be ahead," said NAE President Leith Anderson.
The poll, released this week, found that 13 percent of those surveyed are amillennialists – believing that the non-literal millennial reign of Christ is happening now as Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father.
Four percent believe Christ's second coming will occur after the 1,000-year period during which the nations will be progressively converted to Christianity. This is postmillennial theology.
Seventeen percent, meanwhile, identify with "other" end times theology.
While most of the evangelical leaders hold to a premilliennial belief – in which the 1,000-year period is one of worldwide peace and righteousness and precedes the end of the world – even within this belief system there are variations.
Premillennialists disagree on the timing of the rapture, whether Christians will rise and join Jesus during or after the tribulation period – which comes before the return of Christ.
Nevertheless, many evangelical leaders agree that focusing on the specifics of the last days can be a distraction from living faithfully in the present, according to the survey.
Roy Taylor, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America, commented, "As far as predicting the approximate time of Christ’s Second Advent is concerned, I have resigned from the Planning Committee and have joined the Welcoming Committee."
Also, given the various views on the end times, Open Bible Churches, an association of evangelical Pentecostal/Charismatic churches, amended its Statement of Faith to give ministers and constituents greater freedom in teaching eschatology.
Open Bible Churches' faith statement on the second coming of Christ simply states: "We believe the second coming of Christ will be personal, visible, and triumphant."