Postgraduate students

Elizabeth Young BA PGDipArts, MA

Politics of the End-Times: The Second Coming of Jesus in Biblical/Political/Evangelical Interpretation

Pretribulational, premillennial dispensationalists employ specific hermeneutical techniques and make assumptions not merely about the Bible, but also about contemporary politics. This allows them to make seemingly authoritative predictions about the end-times. Their reliance on such hermeneutical principles and political assumptions allows them to use biblical texts to explain what is going on in the contemporary world. They claim that current political events are foretold in the Bible, indicating the imminent return of Jesus to earth, immediately prior to his millennial reign of peace.

This project looks closely at the major works of two of the most influential American end-times oriented, evangelical authors in recent history: Hal Lindsey, the author of The Late Great Planet Earth, and Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series. Lindsey and LaHaye utilise similar hermeneutical assumptions that influence both the way they read the Bible and the way they read the world around them. Both authors claim they are doing nothing more than reading the “plain sense” of the biblical text. But as this project demonstrates, it is possible to situate them in a “lineage of belief,” in which the theology to which they adhere, that of pretribulational, premillennial dispensationalism, can be traced in an unbroken chain of teachers and interpreters stretching back to the “father of dispensationalism,” John Nelson Darby in the nineteenth century.

The widespread dissemination and influence of these two authors’ ideas throughout American evangelical media, as well as the significant influence they have both had on contemporary popular culture is explored. Reference is also made to the impact they have had on voting-age Americans, and the possible impact this could have in the future.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Greg Dawes and Dr James Harding

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme