US Protestant pastors are closely monitoring the recent events in the Middle East, but many don't believe it will influence the return of Christ.
A new study from Lifeway Research reveals that most pastors believe the return of Christ will come about by Christians spreading their faith rather than because of certain geopolitical changes.
Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research said, "While Scripture specifically says we cannot know the day or the hour of Jesus Christ's return, we were interested in pastors' views on whether Christians can play a role in bringing about that return any sooner."
The study shows that one in 8 Protestant pastors agree that Christians can speed up the second coming of Christ by supporting geopolitical changes mentioned in the Bible.
Also, eight in 10 pastors do not believe that their support will alter the timeline of Christ's return.
When conflicts escalated with Syria, a 2013 LifeWay Research study found many Americans were likely to link global warfare with the end of time.
Nearly one in three saw the conflict as part of the Bible's blueprint for the end of time.
"A large majority of pastors do not see biblical prophecies about future changes among nations as a roadmap for advocating specific international engagement," McConnell said.
The most recent study of Protestant pastors shows there is no substantial difference between mainline and evangelical pastors regarding their views about international political affairs expediting the return of Christ.
But there are differences among ethnicities.
The research revealed that 11% of white pastors are less likely to believe that supporting geopolitical events will fast-track Jesus' second coming. Data showed that 20% of African American pastors and 22% of pastors from other ethnicities do believe these events will speed the return of Christ.
Nearly 16% of pastors 65 and older (16%) are more likely to agree compared to 9% of younger pastors, ages 18 to 44.
Higher education decreases the likelihood of a pastor agreeing with geopolitical events speeding up the return of Christ.
Pastors without a college degree are more than twice as likely to agree as those with a bachelor's or master's degree – 22% to 10%.
"The Great Commission was a task Jesus gave his followers to be doing while he is gone," McConnell said. "Four in 10 pastors believe the pace of sharing the message of what Jesus has done will impact the timing of Christ's return. Presumably many of those who disagree would assert exclusively divine control over Christ's return."
Whenever the second coming of Christ does occur, most Protestant pastors believe immorality will be more widespread until Jesus returns.
The survey reveals that 86% of Baptist and 59% of Lutheran pastors believe that immorality will increase until the return of Jesus.
While 84% of Pentecostal and 48% of Methodist pastors agree with this idea.