Does Bible Prophecy matter anymore? With so many Bible Prophecy teachers making so many wild interpretations of what the Bible supposedly teaches will happen in our near future, who have time and time again been proven wrong, the believer could be forgiven for simply abandoning the Bible as being prophetically credible. But being convinced in the inerrancy of Scripture and aware that much of what is taught in Dispensational churches inadvertantly attempts to undermine the inerrancy of Scripture by its false prophetic interpretations, I set about to study the subject of Bible Prophecy and learn for myself what the Bible really says and predicts.
I remember as a young boy going to church on a Sunday evening and hearing the Bible Prophecy teacher give his end-times-chart-on-the-bedsheet-on-the-wall talk and feeling both excited and scared.”Excited” because it was reassuring to hear how accurate the Bible was in matching prophecy with history. “Scared” because the Bible apparently said that the ‘last days’ were going to be hell-on-earth! I was taught that the USSR was the bear of Ezekiel and also described as Gog and Magog. I was told that the Anti-christ was alive today in America and already plotting his world take-over. I heard that a time of Great Tribulation was coming on the earth to punish Israel for rejecting their Messiah and forming an alliance with the Anti-christ who will eventually rebuild Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. This would all lead to the battle of Armaggeddon where millions of people would be killed in the mother of all battles. But most evangelistically I was told that I could escape this coming doom by committing my life ot Christ and therefore qualify for being “raptured” just before this final seven year period began.
Like my interstate pastor friend, I just thought this was the traditional, orthodox doctrine. I mostly ignored the inconsistencies this understanding presented. I just let the questions mount. Then one day when I was still young, I heard another pastor teaching about end times who seemed to suggest that not only wasn’t this the traditional way of understanding Bible Prophecy, it was also not orthodox! That is, he said that the Bible couldn’t teach this. He called it “Dispensationalism”. Back then, Hal Lindsay was the paperback champion of Dispensationalism while Dr John F. Walvoord (of Dallas Theological Seminary) was the hardback champion. In my boyhood church no-one questioned these Bible authorities. Dozens of Bible Prophecy teachers were spawned by these authors. Each one reiterated the Dispensational interpretation of the Bible and too few of us realised that we weren’t just being told how to interpret Bible prophecy…
Dispensationalism comes in various forms. A “dispensation” is a period of time. An era. In its most extreme form it regards God as having multiple plans of salvation depending on the particular dispensation. These dispensations generally commence with the Dispensation of Innocence and include other Dispensations such as the Dispensations of Works, Law, and Grace. This is contrasted by the orthodox Christian view of regarding God only ever having one means of salvation: the work of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His suffering, death and resurrection. But Dispensationalism is most notably distinguished from orthodox Christianity in the way it regards Israel. Dispensationalism says that God has a distinct plan and salvation for Israel. The roof of Dispensationalism is then supported by the walls of a novel form of end-times teaching. This includes such things as a rapture of the Church, a two-part Tribulation period, the global rule of an Anti-Christ, the reconstruction of a Temple in Jerusalem, the Battle of Armageddon, and then the Return of Christ. Dispensationalist Bible Prophecy teachers have gone to great lengths in their predictions of what the future holds based on their interpretation of the Bible. I have written a separate article on some of these predictions. But there’s a problem. A big problem!
Even preachers who claim to have no view on “End-Times” actually do – and usually make it known even if only subtlely. Thus, there are many great Gospel preachers who have built huge churches but who have a lousy eschatology! Then there are some preachers who have dangerous eschatology (such as John Hagee). When those who have some proficiency in the field of eschatology dare to disagree with any of these mega-church “big guns” about eschatology (even in a constructive manner), it is not surprising (but still disappointing) to be called “heretical” by them. To these pop-preachers, Preterism is merely “over-realised” eschatology. Here’s why it isn’t…
Perhaps these preachers have this view because they have accepted a caricaturisation of Preterism and not a well informed understanding of it. This is understandable from those preachers who are generally not careful in their in the research and tend to be more inspirational than exegetical. But when this criticism comes from one of the most popular preachers in the world (and a mega-church pastor) many Preterists are left bewildered for good reasons.
There are some preachers who deserve to be regarded as among the best in the world. Yet, many of these preachers have a false idea about what “Preterism”. More and more of them have been decrying Preterism and denouncing it as it has grown in its appeal. For example, one popular preacher alluded to Preterism as “over-realised eschatology”. Since this preacher has such a huge following, his ill-informed comments about Preterism were even more disappointing. I wish to respond to his claim that Preterism is “over-realised eschatology”.
The Bible is emphatic that God is the Creator. It’s entire message of redemption is founded upon this truth. If God is not Creator then the Scriptures have no authority at all – let alone credibility. Similarly, if the entire human race is not descended from one man: Adam, then its revelation about man’s fallenness is without basis.
This opening account in the Bible of the Creation Story must be factual for Scripture, or Christianity for that matter, to have any credence. In the USA in the early part of the 20th century this issue became the basis for a court case where a High School Science teacher was charged with teaching something other than this (evolution) in what famously became known as the Scopes’ Monkey Trial. Curiously, Christians were called to defend their position rather than Mr Scopes his, and only one school of thought was presented during that trial – Dispensational Fundamentalism, which claims that the six creation days were consecutive 24 hour periods, and that all of this took place just 6,000 years ago. This court case was made into a Hollywood movie (Inherit The Wind) and presented Christians as bumbling, ignorant, bigotted, empty-heads. Although the movie was riddled with historical inaccuracies, the thrust of the actual ‘Christian’ presentation was not.
Many believers have come to believe in a ‘rapture’ and that it is prophesied in the Bible without realising that it is only a fairly recent idea! When we look at the teaching of some of these Bible-Prophecy preachers it soon becomes apparent that the Bible does not teach a rapture!
As I reflected on my recent 20th pastoral anniversary of Legana Christian Church in 2015, I’ve had cause to reflect on three of my most significant pastoral paradigm shifts. I think I was about 17 years of age when I approached my then pastor, Joseph Bowes, to talk about the growing sense of God’s call on my life to pastor. I had assumed that all young men about that age felt a similar call. Pastor Bowes informed me that this was not the case. It was around this time in the 1980s that I first met Pastor Trevor Chandler who had become an annual visitor to our Geelong church (as he came down from Queensland to Victoria for INTERMIN). But this time (the 1980s) was a bizarre time for Bible Prophecy pundits. It was Trevor Chandler who first sowed the seeds into my soul to investigate rather than blindly accept Dispensational Futurism (which was the predominant view in most Evangelical and Pentecostal churches at the time). And I did.
The Gospel is not a message that warns people of a Secret Rapture! This kind of Rapture has nothing to do with the Gospel! By exposing the modern teaching of a Secret Rapture as a fairly recent invention in pop-theology, it is my hope that Christians disburse from the Rapture bus-stop and get back into the main game of life. Rather than waiting for Jesus to rescue them from this naughty world, believers should strive to be salt and light on Christ’s behalf to a world that would just love to see someone passion and genuine about what they believe in: Jesus Christ, Saviour and Forgiver to all those who are reconciled to God. We know that life will always have its tribulations. The Church will never rule the world and bring in some kind of utopian bliss, but the those in the Church can be better prepared to handle life’s difficulties if they are not waiting for some kind of false hope such as a Secret Rescue Rapture.