A study conducted by LifeWay Research and sponsored by Charisma House Book Group found that most Protestant senior pastors believe Jesus will return in a second coming. However, the viewpoints on the end-times theology continues to be debated among those pastors, according to this study conducted on 1,000 pastors.
The study broadly focused on three parts of the end times, including the rapture, the Antichrist, and premillennialism, and found differences in opinion based on level of education, age, and denomination.
For example, regarding the rapture, the study found that 60 percent Lutherans, 48 percent Methodists, 49 Presbyterian/Reformed pastors, 6 percent Baptist, and less than 1 percent Pentecostal pastors claim the rapture isn’t literal.
Pastors' perspectives on the rapture also differed depending on level of education and age, the study found. Preachers with a master’s degree or a doctorate were more likely to say the rapture isn’t literal as opposed to those with a bachelor’s degree or no degree. Furthermore, pastors who are below the age of 45 were more likely to believe in a pre tribulation rapture, in contrast to pastors who are above 45.
In terms of the Antichrist, almost 50 percent said an Antichrist in the form of a figure will emerge in the future. The other half say that Antichrist is only a personification of vile or the very few say the Antichrist has already dwelled amongst us.
However, again, differences emerged across denominations, as 75 percent Baptists and 83 percent Pentecostals strongly believe there will be a future Antichrist in a human form. 29 percent Lutherans, 28 percent Methodists and 31 percent Presbyterian/Reformed preachers think Antichrist comes as a characterization of evil.
In addition, education influenced pastors' takes on the Antichrist. Two-thirds who have a lower degree or no degree believe in a physical Antichrist figure, and one-third of those who have obtained a higher degree believe in a spiritual spirit of Antichrist.
Almost half of the pastors predict that Christ will return to rule as king for 1,000 years in the future, also known as premillennialism. The other half disagree and hold onto amillennialism, the belief that Christ will come back to reign for 1,000 years in the future.
Baptists and Pentecostals were more likely to agree with premillennialism; Lutherans, Presbyterian/Reformed pastors, and Methodists were more likely to favor amillennialism; and Methodists were more likely to align with postmillennialism. Premillennialism was also more likely to be favored by those with a bachelor's degree or no degree, while amillennialism was more favored among those with a master's degree.