The nation's new president isn't the much-feared Antichrist of the book of Revelation. And America will not figure as a superpower in the end-of-the world toss-up.
Those are the opinions of Pastor Mark Hitchcock, author of about 20 books on the end times. His most recent bears the ominous title The Late Great United States, What Bible Prophecy Reveals about America's Last Days.
Hitchcock made his pronouncement during an interview in St. Petersburg, where hundreds gathered from 35 states and several countries for the 2009 International Prophecy Conference that featured among its speakers Tim LaHaye of the megaselling Left Behind series.
Times are ripe for apocalyptic prognostications. Dire economic news, wars in the Middle East and shifting weather patterns help fuel a thriving field of pundits, books, lectures, movies and Web sites addressing Bible prophecy.
Pointing to today's headlines, some preachers say Old and New Testament passages about wars and rumors of wars, famines and tribulations are being fulfilled at every turn. The scenarios are believed to presage the Rapture, when God's people will be snatched off the face of the Earth, saved before the world is seduced by the Antichrist. In the end, an apocalyptic conflict will be waged between good and evil in the Battle of Armageddon, and Jesus Christ will return victorious.
Hitchcock, 49, a former lawyer, spoke at the St. Petersburg prophecy conference, held early this month at Gateway Christian Center. He said his latest book answers a question often asked at his lectures.
"Every conference I've ever been to, people ask, 'Where is America in Bible prophecy? Are we mentioned?' I didn't write it for this current crisis, but the current crisis has heightened the interest in it,'' he said.
The Edmond, Okla., pastor, whose books include Could the Rapture Happen Today? and Iran: The Coming Crisis, said America will not be the world's superpower during the end times.
"Which means,'' he said, "something must happen to us.''
That, said Hitchcock, could be anything from "a nuclear 9/11'' to an economic collapse to the expected Rapture that could swoop 30 million believers into heaven.
Daunting as they may sound, Bible prophecies of calamity, death and destruction — much of it rooted in the variously interpreted book of Revelation — are not meant to scare people, Hitchcock said.
"We don't want to be obsessed with it. We want to instruct people about the future, to tell them that God is in control,'' he said, adding that he doesn't advocate doomsday survival tactics or a bunker mentality.
"To me, it's comforting to know that God has a plan.''
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.