Here comes the “Rapture” and “Great Tribulation”…again
Forward by Pete Coker
Well, here we go again! The ‘end of the world as we know it’ is back in the news…again. The wild-eyed end times prophecy preachers are ginning-up the Armageddon machine once more in hopes that this is really “the big one.” When rumblings of conflicts in the middle-east or Israel appear in the news, the ‘last days smelling-salts’ are brought-out to awaken the faithful to the soon coming of the apocalypse. Sermons depicting the soon coming horrors abound. Reminders that true believers will escape in a “secret rapture” just prior to Satan’s puppet-man, the Antichrist, will assume the role of world-dictator and ardent enemy of Israel. A plethora of books affirming that this really is (possibly) “the big final showdown” will likely pop-up in bookstores everywhere (good for the economy too). Because, of course, things have never been so bad in the history of the world (at least to those who don’t know any better).
Greg Laurie, who is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California and also its satellite church, Harvest Orange County in Irvine, California recently said in a sermon on “Israel, Iran, ISIS, and Bible Prophecy,” that Christians are now living in the “last days.” (By the way, Laurie has repeatedly been saying this for over forty-years). Laurie explained that: “[As] the forces of antichrist emerge, I believe that America will fade from the scene.” Because as he explained, “We (America) are not found in the (Biblical) End Times scenario.” (from ChristianPost.com). Greg Laurie (who is otherwise a fine pastor) learned from and is affiliated with (the late) Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, a hugely successful church and ministry organization that is headquartered in Santa Ana, CA.
As Dr. Gary DeMar with AmericanVision.org has noted regarding Chuck Smith’s teaching of eschatology: “Chuck Smith wrote in his 1976 book The Soon to be Revealed Antichrist that “we are living in the last generation which began with the rebirth of Israel in 1948 (see Matt. 24:32–34).” But, says DeMar, “you will search in vain in these three verses for any mention of “the rebirth of Israel.” DeMar says Smith repeated the claim in his 1978 book End Times, saying: “If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus taught us that the ‘generation’ which sees the ‘budding of the fig tree,’ the birth of the nation of Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return. I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981.”
But DeMar in interpreting “this generation” in Matthew 24 says “the generation that Jesus had in mind was the generation of His day. Each time “this generation” is used by Jesus it always refers to the generation of His day (the first generation not the last). There are no exceptions.(e.g., Matt.11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 23:36;Mark 8:12, 38; Luke 7:31; 11:29–32, 50–51; 17:25).
So, Jesus was referring to the first generation not a future generation. Further, Jesus often referenced end times as the end of the Old Testament system and the final destruction of the Jewish Temple which would signify the official end and death of that system. In addition, Jesus also referred to His coming again as the future coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. So, one must properly interpret the language He uses to the correct event He is actually referring to.
Well, it has been over sixty-five (65) years since 1948 and no Rapture, no Antichrist, no Great Tribulation, no big plans for a rebuilt Jewish Temple, and no return of Christ in Glory! It has been over forty-five (45) years since Chuck Smith (Hal Lindsey and many others) predicted that the Rapture would occur by 1981; and 1981 is well over thirty years ago. Still, no real hint that the claims made by these so-called authorities on biblical prophecy are going to happen any time soon.
It seems they have been barking up this prophecy tree long past its expiration date, yet, they keep persisting it is “any time now.” Does it not seem that the predictions by pre-millenialists and lack of fulfillment have imploded on them? How long are they going to persist in keeping this dog and pony show going? Don’t they ever question their own prophetic failings? Are they never embarrassed that every decade or so they have to change or alter the prophetic narrative? It is certainly not God’s Word that has failed — it is the Pre-millennial/Dispensational interpretation that is seriously in question.
Reviewing Some Prophecy History from Gary DeMar
Prophetic speculation has a dismal track record. For centuries prophecy writers have predicted the near end of all things. The 20th century alone brought out the speculators in droves. Two world wars, Adolf Hitler, genocide, the rise of Communism, and the development of nuclear weapons led many prominent doomsayers to argue that the end was near. The Bible passages that were used to make these predictions are the same ones being used today, only the names, events, and dates have changed. These prophetic speculators are counting on the short-term memories of their receptive audiences or their general ignorance of how failed date setting has (culturally) infected and immobilized the church.
I think about what Paul [wrote to the] Philippians 2000 years ago. They were living in a very decadent culture, even more so than ours, an anti-Christian culture. Yet he told them to rejoice in that time, realizing that in that dark and perverse generation, they could be children of light, holding out the word of light. And I believe that should be our response as Christians as well. Instead of hunkering down and buying gold and waiting for the end to come, we ought to see that we have an unprecedented opportunity to share the gospel in these dark times.
There are tens of thousands of churches in America and tens of millions of Christians. Jesus told His very few disciples that they were to “make disciples of the nations,” and they did.
[End times] Prophecy writers today are like the Energizer Bunny. They keep going, and going, and going with their prophecy tales that lead millions of Christians astray and consequently give cover to a pagan worldview with no moral, cultural, or legal competition.
Here’s some historical perspective that might help with all this talk about prophetic inevitability. Many people thought the same thing in the 15th century. Read the opening paragraph to the Prologue of Samuel Eliot Morison’s biography on Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea (1942):
At the end of the year 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science, and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune [devoid of significance] and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through the study of the pagan past. Islam was now expanding at the expense of Christendom. . . . The Ottoman Turks, after snuffing out all that remained of the Byzantine Empire, had overrun most of Greece, Albania and Serbia; presently they would be hammering at the gates of Vienna.(2)
Plug in the current year where 1492 appears in Morison’s quotation, and his description reads like today’s headlines. The world changed in a day when Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and in a quarter century when Martin Luther posted a parchment on a chapel door in 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany. A revival and reformation ensued, the New World was opened, and Western Civilization advanced.
Jacques Barzun, author of numerous books that trace the history of ideas and culture — his Dawn to Decadence is one of his best (2000) — offers an assessment similar to that of Morison’s of how the future is discounted by the perception that the present is bankrupt, near collapse, and hopelessly lost:
“Sooner or later, the sophisticated person who reads or hears that Western civilization is in decline reminds himself that to the living ‘the times’ always seem bad. In most eras voices cry out against the visible decadence; for every generation — and especially for the aging — the world is going to the dogs. In 1493 — note the date — a learned German named [Hartmann] Schedel [1440–1514] compiled and published with comments the Nuremberg Chronicle. It announced that the sixth of the seven ages was drawing to a close and it supplied several blank pages at the end of the book to record anything of importance that might occur in what was left of history. What was left, hiding around the corner, was the opening up of the New World and a few side effects of that inconsequential event. A glance at history, by showing that life continues and new energies may arise, is bound to inspire skepticism about the recurrent belief in decline.”(3)
Tom Sine offers a startling example of the effect “prophetic inevitability” can have on some people:
“‘Do you realize if we start feeding hungry people things won’t get worse, and if things don’t get worse, Jesus won’t come?’ interrupted a coed during a Futures Inter-term I recently conducted at a northwest Christian college. Her tone of voice and her serious expression revealed she was utterly sincere. And unfortunately I have discovered the coed’s question doesn’t reflect an isolated viewpoint. Rather, it betrays a widespread misunderstanding of biblical eschatology . . . that seems to permeate much contemporary Christian consciousness. I believe this misunderstanding of God’s intentions for the human future is seriously undermining the effectiveness of the people of God in carrying out his mission in a world of need. . . . The response of the (student) . . . reflects what I call the Great Escape View of the future. So much of the popular prophetic literature has focused our attention morbidly on the dire, the dreadful, and the destruction of all that is.”(4)
Josef Tson, a Romanian Baptist pastor imprisoned for his faith under the communist regime, stated the following in a Wheaton College Commencement address:
“Let me illustrate the importance of understanding the times from my own experience. The communist disaster fell on my country [of Romania] when I was a teenager. For many years after that, my life was a battle for intellectual and spiritual survival under Marxist indoctrination and totalitarian and Christian terror. I struggled to understand the nature of that calamity, and the Lord gave me that understanding. In the forties, I wrote papers on the nature of the failure of communism. One of them, published under the title The Christian Manifesto landed me in six months of house arrest with harsh interrogations by the secret police. But for me the crucial moment came in 1977, when a friend of mine challenged me to set up an organization that would openly expose communism.
“Here is what I told him: ‘Communism is an experiment that has failed. It wasn’t able to fulfill any of its many promises and nobody believes in it any more. Because of this, it will one day collapse on its own. Now, why should I fight something that is finished? I believe that our task is a different one. When communism collapses, somebody has to be there to rebuild society! I believe our job as Christian teachers is to train leaders so that they will be ready and capable to rebuild our society on a Christian basis.’
“To my surprise, here is what my friend said to me: ‘Josef, you are wrong. Communism will triumph all over the world, because this is the movement of the Antichrist. And when the communists take over in the United States, they will have no restraining force left. They will then kill all the Christians. We have only one job to do: to alert the world and make ready to die.’
A few years later my friend was forced to leave Romania. He came to the U.S. and settled down. Then I was forced into exile, and I moved to the U.S. as well. Since then, my friend has not done anything for Romania. He simply waited for the final triumph of communism and the annihilation of Christianity.
On the other hand, when I came here in 1981, I started a training program for Christian leaders in Romania. We translated Christian textbooks and smuggled them into Romania. With our partners in the organization, The Biblical Education by Extension (BEE), we trained about 1200 people all over Romania. Today, those people who were trained in that underground operation are the leaders in churches, in evangelical denominations, and in key Christian ministries.
Those who claim that “America’s collapse is inevitable” inadvertently make the cultural changes commanded in the Great Commission nearly irrelevant. Why bother working to change the political landscape to lessen the power of government if America’s end is inevitable? Could America’s demise be just around the corner because tens of millions of Christians have been told that (1) politics is not the business of Christians, (2) the antichrist is going to be a political figure, (3) the Bible does not apply to the so-called kingdom of man, and (4) the “rapture” is near? Why bother building Christian schools and developing curriculum with a solid biblical worldview if the end is near? Why bother studying law, starting a business, or developing alternative energy sources if the end is near? Pick any cultural endeavor and ask similar questions. You see, the way you look to the future determines your planning and your actions. It is the way you understand the times that determines what you are going to do.”(5)
- So is his publisher. Worthy Publishing is also publishing Charles Colson’s book The Sky is Not Falling: Living Fearlessly in these Turbulent Times.(↩)
- Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus(Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co., 1942), 3.(↩)
- Jacques Barzun, “Toward the Twenty-First Century,” The Culture We Deserve(Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989), 161.(↩)
- Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy: You Can Make a Difference in Tomorrow’s Troubled World(Waco, TX: Word, 1981), 69.(↩)
- Josef Tson, “The Cornerstone at the Crossroads,” Wheaton Alumni(August/September 1991).(↩)
See Gary DeMar’s original article here: http://americanvision.org/5117/false-prophecy-teachers-are-in-the-news-again/