Dispensational Distortions – They Said What?

11Jan12

After several years of managing the music department at a local Christian Bookstore in my community I garnered a reputation for knowledge of the product and sales ability. The largest Christian Bookstore in the area, and possibly one of the most famous Christian Bookstores in the country, Maranatha Village, had just lost their manager and called me to see if I might be interested in a position at their store.

 Maranatha Village was a very unique store for it’s time. It was closely associated with the original Calvary Chapel Church Pastored by Chuck Smith. In fact, the building was the original facility for Calvary Chapel and was made famous by Jesus Music pioneers, Love Song, in their song “Little Country Church.”

The Village was unique in that music was a central feature of the store at a time when most of the competition had very small music selections usually hidden on the back wall of their stores. But Maranatha Village birthed both CCM Magazine and a local Christian radio station. The Editor and Publisher of CCM Magazine was a manager of the store at one time along with the man I replaced who went on to start a Christian Rock music label called Frontline Records with former Calvary Chapel Pastor, Jimmy Kempner.

Maranatha Village dedicated a large section of the store to Christian Music and I was going to be their new Music Manager. As time went on and I gained the trust of the owners I was given more responsibility including the ability to make decision about the books that were carried in the store.

Early in 1988 a salesman came into the store and asked to see the owner or manager. The owner was unavailable so decided to speak with him. The gentlemen spoke with a passion I had never witnessed by a salesman regarding a product and soon went on to explain that he asking us to carry a small little booklet detailing the soon coming Rapture of the Church. My excitement rose as I was always excited to read new material to reinforce my own presupposition that the Rapture was just a round the corner.

I decided with little hesitation to carry this booklet. In fact I ordered a ton. Literally. The first order came on a wooden skid with several large boxes that had to be fork lifted into the stores product room. We placed the boxes filled with this booklet at every register and at the front door in a large display not to be missed.

This little booklet became a phenomenon. It sold and sold and sold. The first ton went in what seemed like a week and we kept ordering more and more and more. It made local headlines and national news. National television magazine programs ran stories about this little booklet and the furor it was causing throughout the evangelical community.

But all in one day it stopped. Silence. Not a single sale ever again! Scores of boxes went unopened. The phenomenon died!

 

The booklet was “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988

 

GETTING IT WRONG

Before entering into a discussion of the Dispensational, Left Behind eschatological view it would be profitable to understand and state that we must do so with measured grace and humble understanding. And in doing so we must examine the history of prophetic prognostication and note that it is not a modern fallacy within a particular view.

We will spend quite some time and pages discussing the hermeneutics, doctrines, history and implications of the Dispensational view, but before doing so we must discuss the implications of false prognostications that have damaged the reputation of both the Church and the word of God throughout history. This constant stain on the church must be addressed in hopes of seeing that this danger can be, and must be, avoided for the sake of the Church and the Gospel.

But why should this be such a big deal?

Though discussed briefly in the first chapter entitled, “Why Eschatology,” it is important to understand exactly what God thinks about His name and the value He attaches to His name. When He presented Himself before Moses in the burning bush He called Himself “I Am.” This was to show that God needs to appeal to no other authority; there is no higher name by which a man can swear the truthfulness of something. His name is sacred and His name must never be taken in vain!

By that the Scriptures mean that it is vain and prohibited for someone to attach the name of the Lord to something that is untrue. His word is His word and swears by no other name. When God speaks something it is true not only because of the truthfulness of what is being said, but also true based on the one who is speaking. He does not and cannot lie. His nature does not allow for Him to lie.

When He says that something will happen and also determines when it will happen, man must not look to find a way to circumvent and change (clarify?) His word. This is true even if we don’t understand how it is possible. He is jealous for his name the reputation His name provides and signifies that His word cannot be changed to fit our presupposed thoughts and ideas.

This is very important as it relates to how His people express their views on His word. To tread upon it lightly and make false presumptions and prognostications related to His word is a grave and dangerous activity.

One should cringe every time he hears a televangelist spout the phrase “Thus saith the Lord!” NO ONE should ever take lightly the concept of speaking for the Lord. He never lies! He is never wrong! This truth should immediately be lead to wonder why God would have false prophets executed.

Deut 18: 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.

Why?

Because His name is never to be drug through the mud.

There is not to ever be a hint that God speaks incorrectly or a falsehood. When the prophet makes a false claim of something happening and claims to be speaking for God he has taken the Lord’s name in vain. It’s not a matter of, “oops, got that one wrong!” It is a grave sin and an act worthy of death. The Lord’s name and reputation is not to be taken lightly.

It should be noted from the outset that Dispensationalist are not alone in their false prognostications (the Jehovah’s Witnesses have missed more than a handful of proposed dates for the return of Christ) but no group has gone on for so long getting it wrong over and over again with little or no repercussions or consequences. The next book by the same false prophetic prognosticators sells as well as the previous despite the continued failed prophesies.

This is as much an indictment of the lack of Biblical literacy within the Church as it is an indictment against the prophetic gurus themselves. A unfortunate common practice within Christian publishing circles is for popular prophetic books to be re-edited every few years to update the names and dates and change the missed predictions. One example is Dallas Theological Seminary’s Jon Walvoord and his book “Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis: What the Bible Says About the Future of the Middle East and the End of Western Civilization” has been edited, re-released and even renamed on several occasions. It appears anytime there is new information or a new skirmish developing in the Middle East this book from the 1970’s is reintroduced to an unknowing public as new and current.

Hal Lindsey’s, “Late Great Planet Earth” has been edited hundreds of times and re-released to match the current economic or political crisis. Even the aforementioned “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988” by Edgar C. Whisenant was reworked the following year under the title “Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989.” Two later works by Mr. Whisenant predicted the Rapture in 1993 and 1994. On a side note some 5 million copies of the initial title were sold!

WILL WE EVER LEARN?

Listed below are just a handful of false predictions leaders of the Left Behind movement have made just within the last few decades. This is not meant to be an indictment against any particular individuals, but rather to serve as a warning to the whole body of Christ that the name of the Lord is at stake and we must cherish his trustworthy name with our own words.

The list should also by no means be considered complete. In fact the list below just barely scratches the surface of false claims made in the name of Christ. For further study one should consider obtaining a copy of Francis X Gumerlock’s wonderful work entitled “The Day and the Hour.” In this wonderful work Mr. Gumerlock traces the false predictions that have plagued the church from the first century until the present time. Much of what is presented below can be found in his book along with much, much more.

  • Pat Robertson said the Antichrist was born in 1954 and that his audience should expect him to gain political dominance in the very near future. This was said several decades ago.
  • In 1964 God was said to have told Morris Cerullo that the last great move of the Holy Spirit before “the end” was his ministry.
  • Herbert W. Armstrong predicted a major drought would kill 1/3 of the United States population in 1975
  • William Branham predicted that the World Council of Churches would take over all Churches in 1977
  • Hal Lindsey predicted that A United States of Europe would form with its own central government and is in control of its own military and political structures during the 1980’s.
  • Benny Hinn predicted the following events in 1989
  • A short man will appear within a few years who will rule the world as the Antichrist .
  • The East Coast of America was to be badly damaged by earthquakes in the next ten years.
  • Fidel Castrowas to die within ten years.
    • America’s first female President will be appointed in the next few years, though unfortunately she ends up destroying the nation.
  • Charles Taylor predicted the Second Coming on September 6th, 1975
  • Jack Van Impe suggested the Great Tribulation would begin in 1976
  • Pat Robertson so believed the Second Coming would take place in 1979 that he planned on sending a film crew to Jerusalem to film it!
  • Salem Kirban wrote the bestseller, Satan’s Mark, proclaiming the Mark of the Beast (666) was here!
  • Southwest Radio Church radio program called Qadhafi the Antichrist
  • Noah Hutchings claimed that Pope John Paul was the Beast after he survived an assassination attempt
  • Colin Deal, in his book, Christ Return by 1988: 101 Reasons Why, predicted the Rapture in 1988
  • Charles Dyer claimed in 1989 that Saddam Hussein’s re-creation of the famed hanging Gardens of Babylon was a sign of the “Rise of Babylon” and of the end.
  • Benny Hinn proclaimed that his listeners would not need to buy funeral plots because the Rapture was so near
  • Harold Camping, in his book 1994, predicted a Rapture in 1994
  • Chuck Missler called Gorbachev Gog in 1995
  • John Hagee believed the assassination of Israeli PM Rabin signaled The End!
  • The Tabernacle of Praise in Colorado Springs said the end would come in 1995
  • Jack van Impe had a video entitled, 1999? Global March to Israel
  • Peter Popoff said the return of Christ would come before the year 2000
  • Jim Searcy predicted that Jesus would return in October of 2000 to defeat the Antichrist who is Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.

Again the list above only scratches the surface of false predictions and is used just to serve as a warning that false predictions must be dealt with seriously. Some predictions are more detailed and are listed below. Just note the use of words like “maybe,” “possibly” and “might” as hedges against the very great probability that the prediction would not be realized.

Now let us consider the initial prognostication of the following quotes from leading Left Behind theologians and the level of expectation and assuredness of their words when initially spoken.

“What you are starting to read probably is my final issue of Bible Prophecy News, for Bible prophecy fulfillments indicate that Jesus Christ our Lord will most likely return for us at the rapture of the Church before the Fall 1992 issue can be printed.” – Charles R. Taylor

It is well past the Fall of 1992 and Mr. Taylor did not repent of this, one of over a dozen, false predictions regarding the return of Christ.

“I predict the absolute fullness of man’s operation on planet Earth by the year 2000 A.D.” – Lester Sumrall

Mr. Sumrall seemed to receive very little criticism of course since his prediction would not be proven false until 4 years after his death.

“Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong, and I say that unequivocally.  There is no way Biblically that I can be wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town.” – Edgar Whisenant (88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988)

The above arrogant declaration should send shivers down the spine of students of the Bible. To declare that ones view was so correct that the only way it could be wrong was because the Word of God was wrong is truly blasphemous.

“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. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981)…”  Chuck Smith – Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

The above prediction should have been questionable enough as it was, but the impact of such a belief is what this author is so concerned about both in this chapter and in the initial chapter of this book. Note how this view impacted the worldview and actions of the prognosticator. I have underlined for emphasis those areas of concern.

 …I could be wrong, but its a deep conviction in my heart, and all my plans are predicated upon that belief… Chuck Smith – Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

“When Sept 6, 1994 arrives, no one else can become saved, the end has come Harold Camping

Mr. Camping’s book, “1994” sold millions of copies, and, as a result, millions were mislead.

Finally let us look at some quotes from leading Left Behind proponents who seem to sell the most books and determine whether the popularity of these authors is deserved when compared against their track record.

 

HE SAID WHAT?

Below are comments made by famous and leading Dispensational prognosticators and how they defended their false predictions and or ignored them completely. These false predictions and ideas have dire consequences yet the response from the evangelical community has been limited and weak!

 

Hal Lindsey

“The current build-up of Russian ships in the Mediterranean serves as another significant sign of the possible nearness of Armageddon” (The Late Great Planet Earth, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970, p. 145-146)


“When the Russians invade the Middle East with amphibious and mechanized land forces, they will make a ‘blitzkreig’ type of offensive through the area.”

But when the two predictions detailed above failed to materialize Lindsey later responded

But world domination — as Ezekiel makes clearwas never in the script for Russia! (italics in original, Cited in Pate and Haines, p. 138)

When discussing the term “this generation” from the Olivet Discourse Mr. Lindsey in two separate books written nearly 20 years apart stated the following.

“What generation?  Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs — chief among them the rebirth of Israel.  A generation in the Bible is something like forty years.  If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place.  Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so.” (The Late Great Planet Earth, p. 54)

“Jesus said “this generation shall not pass, till all these things come to pass.” What generation ? The generation that would see all these signs. We are that generation! I believe you cannot miss it. We’re that generation, and I believe we’re rapidly moving toward the coming of Christ.” (Apocalypse Planet Earth videotape, 1990, HLM)

But now note below Mr. Lindsey’s apparent back tracking on the original declarations and the use of key words to help him hedge his bets and avoid being labeled a false prophet.

”I also said that ‘if’ a generation was forty years and ‘if’ the generation of the ‘fig tree’ (Matthew 24:32-34) started with the foundation of the state of Israel, then Jesus ‘might come back by 1988.’ But I put a lot of ifs and maybes in because I knew that no one could be absolutely certain.”

Actually there is only one “if” in the two quotes above and the second quote not only does not contain an “if” it actually makes very firm declaration that “We are that generation.”

Mr. Lindsey is not alone in both the area of false predictions but also in the slippery and unconvincing use of “hedge” words to avoid the false prediction label. Grant Jefferey not only joins Mr. Lindsey in these areas of concern but adds a very questionable doctrinal addendum to the Dispensational model as will be seen below. Others have believed and taught what is presented below but Mr. Jeffrey may be the most blatant at declaring the hypothesis.


Grant Jefferey

 “Israel could have accepted (Jesus) as Messiah and He would have ushered in the millennial Kingdom. Somehow, Jesus would have been crucified at some later pointto fulfill the prophecy and provide salvation of all those who repent of their sins.“ (Apocalypse, p. 33,34)

Here we have the Dispensational concept of the Church being a Plan B and that the original plan was for the Jews to embrace Jesus as Messiah and immediately He would have set up His Davidic Kingdom. This novel concept is foreign to Scripture and to Church history until the previous century.

“the year A.D. 2000 is a probable termination date for the ‘last days’” (Armageddon, p. 193)

 Probable?

I guess that is the qualifier that keeps the prediction from being seen as a false prophecy. But does the casual reader note the “probably” or will the reader focus on the AD 2000 termination expectation that he declares?

 

Jack Van Impe

Very popular prophetic prognosticator Jack Van Impe has made a lifetime career in prophetic postulation including the claim that the Tribulation was to begin on several different occasions including the year 2001 as noted below.

“By the year 2001, there will be global chaos. (It will) usher in international chaos such as we’ve never seen in our history.. drought, war, malaria, and hunger afflicting entire populations throughout the [African] continent…” (“On the Edge of Eternity”)

Not to be outdone by Benny Hinn in the outrageous remarks department Mr. Van Impe also has tried to make the claim that he has discovered the true meaning behind the mysterious and ominous number six hundred and sixty-six as seen below.

“The number “6” in Roman numerals is made up of the letters, “VI”. The ancient Greek number “6” was taken from the sixth letter of their alphabet, the letter “sigma” which looks like the English letter “S.” Returning  to the Babylonian  empire and their sexagesimal system of numbers, I considered that the possibility that their letter “A’ equaled 6.  Thus,  from the three great world empires of history, I found that the composition of the number “666” spells the word VISA (11:59 and Counting, pp.106,107) Jack Van Impe

Despite the plain teaching in the book of Revelation that the number 666 is the number of a man (Revelation 13:18), Mr. Van Impe postulates that the number is, in fact, related to use of the famous credit card.

Now consider what happens if one disagrees with how most Dispensationalist view Israel and the impact ones eschatological view has on ones eternal destiny…

“Is it important to be right on the Israel question? When you consider that being wrong brings you under the curse of God and headed for eternal, everlasting fire with the devil and his angels . . . it’s important! Israel is not a ‘take it or leave it’ subject. It is a life and death matter . . . eternal life!” John Hagee

John Hagee is the Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas and a leading proponent of Dispensational eschatology and a leading defender and supporter of Israel. He would be labeled in many circles a Zionist, which will be covered in a later chapter. Not only is your eternal destiny at stake with your choice of an eschatological view, Mr. Hagee also proposes that idea that Christians should not use their precious time proselytizing the Jewish friends.

In fact, trying to convert Jews is a waste of time. They (already) have a faith structure.’ Everyone else, whether Buddhist or Baha’i, needs to believe in Jesus, but not Jews. Jews already have a covenant with God that has never been replaced by Christianity” John Hagee

As a result of this distinct view of the Church and Israel Mr. Hagee’s own ministry has created a program by which the soon return of Christ can be sped up by donating to help send displaced Jews back to the Holy Land. Since the restoration of Israel is the key to the Dispensational prophetic timeline, the restoration of as many Jews to Jerusalem is vital!

Through John Hagee Ministries, Christians are joining forces with the Jewish people to rescue Jews from all around the world who wish to relocate to Israel. John Hagee Ministries – Exodus II

Pastor Hagee is not alone, though as the ministry mentioned below can attest.

Through their generous donations to Wings, The Fellowship’s friends have brought hundreds of thousands of Jews to the Holy Land. By funding this “second exodus” of Jews from oppression to freedom, Fellowship donors are showing their compassion and concern for the Jewish people. Eagles Wings Ministry Website

On a side note, I do find utterly ironic the concept of sending money to an organization to help Jews immigrate to Israel since the foundational belief of these organizations is that very soon nearly 1/2 to 2/3 of those living in Jerusalem will be slaughtered during the soon coming Tribulational holocaust!

SO WHAT?

This is just a small handful of examples. Many resources are available to discover even more detailed information including the aforementioned book by Mr. Gumerlock. Many of these ideas and more will be dealt with in greater detail in later chapters, but for now the goal is to make clear that ideas and words have consequences.

This ultimately leads to a discussion of the fall out of these false prognostications. Why is it really a big deal? Along with the previously mentioned concern of taking the Lord’s name in vain there is something else worthy of our consideration.

Why should the outside would which is predisposed to not believe the claims of the Gospel found in the word of God to begin with ever trust the Bible when its proponents and “experts” are so consistently wrong about they teach regarding it’s prophetic passages? The pagan can and possibly should disregard the other truth statements regarding salvation, faith and good works contained within Holy Writ if, as presented to the masses, it is so severely mistaken when it comes to Biblical prophecy.

The word of God is at stake!

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2 Responses to “Dispensational Distortions – They Said What?”

  1. 1 Captain Kevin

    “The word of God is at stake!”

    While the word of the Lord shall not return void, it is obvious that more than a few preacher/prophets interpretations certainly do. Perhaps your use of the term distortions is a bit mild

  2. 2 William R. Olague

    I was born again in 1969, and while living in Las Vegas, Costa Mesa was like the promised land. Calvary Church..Maranatha Village..etc. Of course we all knew the rapture was going to take place at any moment as we all delved into new knowledge we never heard about. It is such a human characteristic to figure try and figure everything out as exact as we can. However, I always noticed that much of the word was very simplistic, and just common sense. I wouldn’t worry so much about the dates as I would the need that is so great in this world for salvation at this point. There wasn’t really much going on back then compared to now that pointed to the fact we have almost no time left. These truths will bring the fields to harvest point, and we have to be here to work these last fields. As far as the rapture goes? We’ll get there when we get there. I’m too busy, and not in a big rush.


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