Times of catastrophe and anxiety, like the coronavirus pandemic, have historically led some people to anticipate that the destruction of the world as we know it – the “end times” – is near. This thought often has a religious component based on sacred scriptures. In Christianity, for example, these beliefs include expectations that Jesus will return to Earth after or in the midst of a time of great turmoil.
This Pew Research Center analysis was conducted as part of a larger study that explores the relationship between Americans’ religious beliefs and their views on the environment. End-times questions were asked to help assess whether end-times beliefs were a factor in people’s responses about the environment. The questions analyzed here are from a survey of 10,156 U.S. adults that was conducted April 11-17, 2022. All survey respondents are part of the American Trends Panel (ATP) at the Pew Research Center, a online survey panel that is recruited by random national survey. sampling of residential addresses. In this way, almost all American adults have a chance of being selected. The survey is weighted to be representative of the US adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, party affiliation, education, religious affiliation and other categories. To learn more, consult the ATP methodology.
Here are the questions used for this analysis, as well as the answers, and its methodology.
In the United States, 39% of adults say they believe “we are living in the end times”, while 58% say they believe so not believe we are living in the end times, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Christians are split on this issue, with 47% saying we are living in the end times, including majorities in the historically black (76%) and Evangelical (63%) Protestant traditions. Meanwhile, 49% of Christians say we are not living at the end of time, including 70% Catholics and 65% traditional Protestants who say this. More generally, the share of Protestants who say we are living in the end times is higher than the corresponding share among Catholics (55% versus 27%).
About three in ten or fewer of non-Christian faiths (29%) and those with no religious affiliation (23%) say we are living in the end times. (Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other small non-Christian religious groups are included in the survey and represented in the “other religions” category, but there were not enough respondents in these groups to perform a separate analysis.)
Additionally, Black Americans (68%) are much more likely than Hispanic (41%), White (34%) and Asian Americans (33%) to believe that humanity is living in the end times. And adults in the Southern states (48%) are more likely to say this than those living in the Midwest (37%), Northeast (34%) or West (31%).
Americans without a college degree are more likely than college graduates to believe that humanity is coming to an end, as are lower-income Americans compared to those with higher incomes. And Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leanings to express this belief.
The Pew Research Center asked Americans about the end times as part of a larger survey of religion and the environment, in part to assess whether views about the end times are related to views about the environment .
Opinions on the return of Jesus to Earth
The survey also explored Americans’ views on a fundamental tenet of Christianity: the belief that Jesus will eventually return to Earth, in what is often called the “second coming.”
When asked if Jesus “will ever return to Earth,” more than half of all American adults (55 percent), including three-quarters of Christians, said that would happen. Protestants in the Evangelical (92%) and historically black (86%) traditions are more likely than other Christians to say there will eventually be a second coming of Jesus. About four in ten Americans either don’t believe Jesus will return to Earth (25%) or say they don’t believe in Jesus (16%).
Respondents who said they believed Jesus would return to Earth were also asked about their certainty that this will happen. during their lifetime. One in ten Americans say they believe Jesus’ second coming will definitely or probably happen in their lifetime, 27% are unsure Jesus will return in their lifetime, and 19% say Jesus’ return will definitely or probably happen. not occur during their lifetime.
The proportion of Americans who say they believe Jesus will definitely or probably return in their lifetime is highest among historically black Protestants (22%) and evangelical Protestants (21%), and lowest among Catholics (7%) and traditional Protestants (6%). And the share of black (19%) and Hispanic (14%) Americans who believe Jesus’ second coming is likely to occur in their lifetime is higher than the corresponding share of non-Hispanic white Americans (8%).
That said, across all religious groups, people are more likely to express uncertainty about when Jesus will return than to express a sense that it will happen in their lifetime. For example, about seven in ten evangelicals say they are either not sure Jesus will return in their lifetime (50%) or that Jesus will definitely or probably return. not return during their lifetime (21%). And nearly two-thirds of those in the historically black Protestant tradition say they are unsure when (47%) or that it will likely or definitely be not occur during their lifetime (17%).
Additional Views on End Times Theology
The survey also asked about other beliefs often associated with end-time theology: Will Jesus return after a deterioration world conditions leads to a low point for humanity (a view consistent with a theological belief known as “premillennialism”), or whether Jesus will return after a improvement in conditions lead to a culmination of peace and prosperity (a view consistent with a belief called “post-millennialism”).
Although each of these positions on the specific circumstances of Jesus’ return is held by a minority of American adults, premillennial beliefs are more common than postmillennial beliefs (20% versus 3%). A further third of Americans say that Jesus will return but that “it is impossible to know what will happen before Jesus returns”. And, as mentioned above, about four in ten American adults either don’t believe Jesus will return to Earth or say they don’t believe in Jesus.
Evangelicals are split on questions about the circumstances of Jesus’ return, with 44% taking a premillennial position and 45% saying it’s impossible to know the circumstances that will precede Jesus’ return. Fewer Catholics (15%) and Protestants in historically black (27%) and majority (18%) traditions believe Jesus’ return will be preceded by an overall deterioration. Instead, members of historically black churches (51%), Catholics (44%) and mainstream Protestants (41%) are more likely to say it’s impossible to know what will happen before the return of Jesus.
Note: The following are the questions used for this analysis, together with the answers, and its methodology.
Jeff Diamond is a senior religion writer/editor at the Pew Research Center.