A survey of American pastors belonging to various Protestant denominations has found a diverse array of opinions on how the End Times will unfold.
In recently released data by LifeWay Research sponsored by Charisma House Book Group, details about how Jesus will return are uniform among Protestant pastors. The major areas of disagreement center on the nature of the rapture, including when and how literal it will be, the nature of the Antichrist, and the nature and timing of Christ's thousand-year reign.
"One in 4 pastors say the rapture is not literal. Almost 1 in 5 thinks the rapture happens after the tribulation (18 percent)," wrote Bob Smietana for LifeWay.
"A few believe the rapture already happened (1 percent) or that it will occur during the tribulation (4 percent) or before the wrath of God is poured out on the Earth (4 percent). Others don't agree with any of these views (8 percent) or aren't sure what will happen (4 percent)."
Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, told The Christian Post that the survey, which was conducted amongst 1,000 senior pastors via telephone in January, was the first of its kind.
"The popularity of some end times movies and books have given the impression that some views have been popular, but we now have a snapshot of what pastors actually believe," said McConnell.
"There really hasn't been a good previous source of information on how many church leaders held each view, so it is hard to tell how the trajectory has changed."
McConnell also told CP that one "would think there would be more agreement among Protestant pastors on some of these details."
"Yet there are enough passages in Scripture that contain just a piece of the picture that scholars disagree on how the pieces will come together," continued McConnell.
"As pastors and believers look to the future, they are honestly looking for different things. Some are looking toward the rapture, others are looking at the current reign of Christ in believers' lives, and others only look at the symbolism from these prophesies."
The topic of surveying Protestant pastors on their views on the End Times came in response to a soon-to-be-released book by Billy Hallowell, faith editor at the online publication The Blaze.
Titled The Armageddon Code: One Journalist's Quest for End-Times Answers, the book is slated for released next week.
Other findings in the LifeWay Research survey include 1 in 4 pastors believing the rapture will not be literal, 43 percent of evangelicals believing in the "pretribulation rapture," and 12 percent of respondents not believing that the Antichrist will be a physical person.