(Photo: Courtesy of First Baptist Dallas)
Pastor Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, has released a new book, Perfect Ending: Why Your Eternal Future Matters Today, that cuts through the misconceptions about end times prophecy, God's judgment, heaven, and why Christians should be actively sharing the Gospel with non-believers.
The following is an edited transcript of Part II of Pastor Jeffress' interview with The Christian Post (click here for Part I), in which he answered questions about politics and pastors in politics, and responds to critics who believe he shouldn't be speaking out against the Obama administration's policies on health care and same-sex marriage.
CP: Thinking about the 2016 presidential election, is there anyone that you would like to see run for the office?
Jeffress: I don't feel qualified to talk about that issue. I'm not going to name names. But what I would say is, I believe that evangelical Christians ought to rally around a candidate who espouses biblical values, specifically the freedom of religion, the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of life. And the reason that our country is in the shape that it is in right now is not because of non-Christians, but it is because of apathetic Christians who have seceded control of this country to godless, immoral infidels.
There are anywhere from 50 to 80 million evangelical Christians in America. Only one-half of those Christians are registered to vote. And of the one-half who are registered to vote, only half of those voted in the last election. And if Christians would understand that we have a biblical mandate to stand up for righteousness and to push back against unrighteousness, we could change the direction of this country over night.
I do not understand what kind of theological system out there would allow Christians to fall asleep at the wheel and to say it's OK for unbelievers to run rampant and cease control of the country.
CP: What is the proper role of a pastor in politics?
Jeffress: I think that pastors, first of all, ought to be involved in politics. The word politics comes from a word that means to govern, to control or to influence. And when a person says that a pastor shouldn't be involved in politics, what he's saying is a pastor should not be involved in trying to influence the culture in which he lives.
Who can say that and actually believe that? Jesus called us to be salt in this world – to be influencers. And for salt to influence meat it has to penetrate the meat. In the same way, I believe, pastors need to encourage their members to vote for righteousness; and to remind them, every time they go into the voting booth, they're either casting a vote for righteousness or unrighteousness.
I don't think that pastors ought to be partisan. I am neither Republican nor Democrat. I am a Christian who is going to vote biblical values, not party values. And I think pastors need to preach about issues and not personalities.
CP: And do you think it's appropriate for pastors to run for a political office?
Jeffress: I think the pastor has to make that individual decision. I think, in my ministry that would be a huge distraction. I think God does call men and women to serve in public office. But I believe the calling of a pastor is a different calling than the calling of someone to serve in government.
I would never say, in a small town if there's an opening on the school board that the pastor should not do that, but I believe the pastor's calling is unique. And so, I think we need to see the calling to run for public office and the pastor as two distinct callings.
CP: So you would not consider running for office?
Jeffress: I am called to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and if it's in God will, I plan to die as the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. I don't need any other assignment.
CP: With the growing movement of conservative Orthodox Christianity, born again Christians, throughout the world in parts of Southeast Asia, China and countries in Africa and Latin America, how does this relate to your book, when talking about the end times?
Jeffress: One question people have is, why am I centered so much on America. The fact is, for this great world dictator to seize control and to usurp people's freedom of speech, worship and commerce, it means that Americans will have had to secede the Constitution and surrender the constitutional rights that they have been given. And so that is why I focus, to some extent, on America's role in prophecy.
Many people have the question, "Why doesn't America appear in the book of Revelation?" And I believe that by the time the world dictator comes that America will cease to be a nation, at least as we know it today. But I believe what is happening around the world is certainly indicative and preparatory for this world dictator and the ultimate return of Christ.
The apostasy that the Bible speaks about will not just be occurring in America, it will be occurring around the world where Christianity, right now, is gaining momentum.
CP: How has your congregation responded to you as you preach on these topics?
Jeffress: Our congregation has been amazing -- what has happened during the time that I have preached these messages from the book. We have had untold numbers of people who've come to faith in Christ, as a result of these messages. Other Christians have rededicated themselves to God's purpose during the short time that we all have left. And I believe God blesses any pastor and any church that talks about the return of Jesus Christ.
Billy Graham has said the second coming of Jesus Christ is the most neglected teaching in the church today. And that is a travesty when you think about the space that the Bible devotes to this subject. I believe the coming of Christ is the best-kept secret in the Church today.
So many churches and messages focus on the here and now, rather than the hereafter. And yet, the fact is, for every one prophesy in the Bible about first coming of Jesus, there are eight about the second-coming of Christ. It is a primary theme of scripture, and it should be a central theme in the church today.
CP: Let's talk about critics and those who might not understand evangelical Christian beliefs about the end times, specifically Huffington Post reporters who are claiming that you are the next Harold Camping. What would you say to those critics?
Jeffress: I tell interviewers all the time that I am not Harold camping reincarnated. Harold Camping did a great disservice to the body of Christ by doing exactly what the Bible prohibits our doing, and that is trying to set a date for Christ's return. He did that, I think, on four separate occasions. And, of course, he got it wrong every time.
Jesus said in Matthew 24 that no one knows the hour or the day of Christ's return, not even the son of God, which is an amazing thought. But I know this for certain: If Jesus doesn't know when He's coming back, I certainly don't know when He's coming back.
We ought to resist, with every ounce of strength we have, any attempt to set the date of Christ's return. The Bible does not tell us the when of Bible prophecy, but it does tell us the what of Bible prophecy.
CP: What should scare people about the Antichrist and his reign; but also, what can you say to reassure them about the second-coming of Jesus Christ?
Jeffress: First of all, what ought to reassure Christians is that, I'm convinced, Christians will not be here to experience the great tribulation under the Antichrist. Now, I realize that's a controversial view, even among Christians, but in the book I share four reasons I'm convinced Christians are not going to be left behind to experience the great tribulation.
I'm not saying that Christians won't go through tribulation. The Church, in every age, has always suffered persecution. But the distinguishing factor of the great tribulation is this will be God pouring out His wrath on mankind. And the Bible promises us in Romans 8:1 that, as believers, there is no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus.
So I, as a Christian, don't have to fear a future retribution of God against the earth. Right now, as Christians, I believe we are to be living our life with the knowledge that either Christ is coming or we're going, but sooner or later we're going to meet him face-to-face and give an account of our lives.
CP: And, one other question about critics and people who might say that your statements are too provocative – specifically about the current Administration – what do you say to those who feel that your comments are going to make things worse, and you as a pastor, shouldn't be speaking out?
Jeffress: It's amazing to me that even Christians don't believe that pastors or Christians ought to be speaking out against ungodliness. Look at the Old Testament prophets like Isiah, Jeremiah and Daniel. Or look at even John the Baptist or even Jesus Himself. They didn't just speak to God's own people. They were willing to confront ungodly policies and ungodly leaders, and say without stuttering to stammering, "Thus Sayeth the Lord."
I believe Christians are called today to speak out against ungodliness and point people to the hope, the only hope we have, and that is faith in Jesus Christ.
CP: Speaking about your ministry at First Baptist Church in Dallas, how would you compare yourself to your most renowned predecessor, W.A. Criswell, in regard to your preaching style and ministry?
Jeffress: I am a child of First Baptist Church, Dallas. I grew up in the church and Dr. Criswell was my pastor for the first 30 years of my life. It's funny, people who've been in our church in a long time say they can close their eyes and hear W.A. Criswell being channeled through me. I don't try to do that, but I can't help doing that, by being influenced by such a great man of God.
Much of what I learned about Bible prophecy I learned after sitting at the feet of Dr. W.A. Criswell. He was the greatest pastor I have ever known, or known of, and to be able to preach in the same place he preached for 50 years is a humbling experience.
CP: And you own a pair of shoes that W.A. Criswell wore when he preached, is that true?
Jeffress: That is true. His widow, Mrs. Criswell, who went to heaven shortly before I came as pastor of First Baptist Dallas, she gave me a pair of his shoes that he used to wear when he preached. And she said, "Robert, you will one day be the pastor of our church, and I want you to have these pair of shoes to preach in."
CP: So do you preach in them or do you keep them in a special location?
Jeffress: I didn't want to scuff them up, so I saved them. But interestingly, we wear exactly the same shoe size. Even though we're the same shoe size, I could never fill his shoes.
CP: Pastor Jeffress, is there anything else that you would like to add?
Jeffress: I want people to understand that the book, Perfect Ending, is not a gloom and doom book. It's a book of hope for Christians. And yes, the short-term forecast for the world is turbulent and cloudy, but the long-term forecast is bright and sunny for those who know Christ.