Predicting the End Without Predicting the End

Review of John Hagee, Can America Survive?

(Also, regarding Harold Camping, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye)

(Free to disseminate: Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.)

(click here to get the free pdf file of the whole article if you want to send it to someone.)

There are various ways Christians have to predict the end of the world.  First, there is the absolute nut, Harold Camping, who says May 21st, 2011 will be the end of the world with judgments, especially earthquakes.  I’m not sure how many times he has predicted and been wrong (more than once), but May 21st is just three days from now.  He is an embarrassment to all Christians.  We rightly distance ourselves from him.  Even the end time guru and popular writer of the Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye, rejects Camping’s nonsense.  He says:

Is Harold Camping Right This Time?  [He has the] well advertised claim that Jesus Christ will come to rapture believers on May 21, 2011―this is not only wrong but dangerous.  [He] also claims that God will destroy this world on October 21, 2011―this is not only bizarre but 100% wrong!

Our Lord Jesus Himself said of the time when He will return to rapture His church to Heaven “. . . that no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36).  These words were preceded with verse 35, when He also said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (from:

http://www.leftbehind.com/05_news/is_harold_camping_right_this_time.asp).

Yet, LaHaye also predicts the end.  On the same web page just given, LaHaye has this advertizement: Three Signs of the End, by himself and his popular co-writer Jerry Jenkins.  LaHaye goes on to say: “In our book Are We Living in the End Times? we list many of the signs of the times apparent in our generation. We believe that while no one knows the day or the hour when Christ will return, we have more reason to believe He could come in our lifetime than any generation before us.”

In one sense, every generation could say that it has “more reason to believe He could come in our lifetime than any generation” because we’re one generation closer to His return.  But LaHaye is doing what I call predicting the end without predicting the end.  He and Jenkins hype things up, talk about all the so-called prophecies about the end, sell millions of books, and then make a disclaimer, once in a while.  The only difference between Camping and LaHaye when it comes to prophecy is that LaHaye is not as specific on the date of His return―Camping says it will be in three days, May 21, 2011, and LaHaye says in our lifetimes.  Both are date setters.

Prior to both Camping and LaHaye is Hal Lindsey who wrote Late Great Planet Earth.  In his last chapter of the book, “Polishing the Crystal Ball,” he quoted Daniel 12:9 and interpreted it to mean that prophecy would be shut up until the “last days”.  There is now a great interest in prophecy, which means we’re in the last days.  So how do we know we’re in the last days? Because there is a lot of interest in prophecy.  How do we know there won’t be more interest in another generation, say in another 1,000 years when people hype another millennium?  Given their understanding of Daniel 12:9―which I don’t―one can only say the interest in prophecy in our generation is the greatest of all generations if we know in advance the posture of all generations.  Moreover, it strikes me as a circular to say, “Hyped interest in prophecy indicates the last days, and in the last days there will be hyped interest in prophecy.”  They become the cause of one another: last days because of hyped interest in prophecy, and hyped interest in prophecy because we’re in the last days.

But what does “last days” means, or its equivalent.  It is interesting to me that few of the doomsdayers have checked the Bible’s usage regarding the term “last days” or its equivalent to see what it means.  Here are most of the places where these terms are used and what they mean in context:

  • Gen. 49:1―Jacob was describing the events that would happen in the lives of his sons and in the history of the tribes of Israel in the Old Testament
  • Num. 24:14―a prediction of the first coming with the star out of Jacob and the scepter from Israel
  • Deut. 4:30―judgments of the exiles of Israel to Assyria and Judah to Babylon (need more study on this one)
  • Isa. 2:2―In light of Isaiah 11:4 that echoes this passage and also 2:4, it would seem that this is the Messianic age, between the two comings
  • Jer. 23:20; 30:24; 48:47; 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Daniel 2:28―(this last verse is clearly not the absolute end as Daniel says the prophecy applies to the king and also the four world empires, the fifth being Christ and His kingdom at His incarnation; Daniel 10:14 may be the same thing); Micah 4:1 is most likely the Messianic age also, for in the imagery of Scripture “mountain of the Lord” often refers to God’s people, the church, to the Lord and His place of refuge (Isa. 2:3; Deut. 1:41; 5:22; Ps. 48:1; 11:9; Isa 25:6; 30:29; 65:11; 66:20; Jer. 26:18; 21:23; Ez. 20:40; Micah 4:2).  At least we are seeing how the Bible uses these terms, not just using our imaginations and the newspaper
  • Acts 2:17 Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 on Pentecost “in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”  This was fulfilled as he spoke, and the rest of the quote indicates that “last days” was applied to the Messianic age, between the two comings.  Likewise with 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2 (especially here: “God has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:20 (“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” obviously meaning the current age); 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18 (by the many anti-christis already in the world, we know that it IS, present tense, right now, the last hour)

John Hagee’s Book: Can America Survive?

Instead of interpreting the Bible from within, by seeing how terms are used in the Bible, Hagee and others interpret the Bible from without: they read into it today’s news, and they have an active imagination in doing so.  Anytime anything happens in the Mid-East, one of these writers produces a new book about the terminal generation, such as John Hagee’s recent book, Can American Survive―10 Prophetic Signs That We Are the Terminal Generation.  The subtitle on the book cover is 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are the Terminal Generation, but only one chapter mentions them. The rest of the book is fluff, irrelevant.  Later, I will do a longer review of this book and also of his In Defense of Israel, a most horrendous book in its view of salvation, but for now here is Hagee’s introduction to his 10 signs of the end (chapter 9 in his book):

“In this chapter, we will look at ten prophetic signs that clearly indicate that we are the terminal generation and that we are well on our way on the road to Armageddon.  If you listen closely, you can hear the hoof beats of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, racing toward the battle” (Can American Survive, chapter 9, p. 182).

Here are his ten signs that our kids will never live to give us grandkids:

  1. Oil―He quotes Ezekiel 38:4 where God says to invading armies that He would put “hooks into your jaws,” and Hagee says Ezekiel “is referring to oil.”  That’s all the exegesis you’re going to get!  A bare assertion that “hooks” is oil. If there was ever a case of theology in search of a text, this is it.  There is no competent Hebrew scholar that would say “hooks” is oil. The Hebrew (HaHîm) just means something literal, as a physical device in an animal, or something non-literal that controls another.  Of course, Hagee does not mean “hooks” is literally oil but that oil is the hook in some nations’ mouths.  But there is nothing in the context to connect this with the 21st century or with oil.  I’m sorry, but his bare assertion is not enough.  He engages in all kinds of newspaper gymnastics to show who controls the oil, wanting us to read that back into Ezekiel. We would have to identify “Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” of verse two with nations in the middle east, which cannot be done and is too involved for this short review.
  2. Knowledge explosion―Hagee quotes Daniel 12:4 where Daniel is told to “shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”  The end of what time?  The absolute end of time just prior to the Second Coming (as Hagee assumes) or the end of an age, as in the Old Testament age, the Old Covenant ending and the New Covenant beginning?  Moreover, we have the same circular fallacy as mentioned above.  There is now an alleged increase knowledge, which means we’re in the last days.  So how do we know we’re in the last days? Because there is an alleged increase knowledge.  How do we know there won’t be more knowledge in another generation, say in another 1,000 years when people hype another millennium?  Also, what kind of knowledge did Daniel have in view?  Was it our information age, was it about God through more insights into Holy Scripture, or what?
  3. Massive radiation blast―Hagee quotes Zechariah 14:12-15 about “their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets” and concludes that this is a nuclear bomb of some kind, but Zechariah says this is a “plague.”  I know of no place in Old Testament Hebrew where plague means bomb; it always refers to some kind of disease or plague.  Hagee is engaging in allegory, or something.  This is a belief in search of a text, reading into Zechariah from our 21st century culture.  Of course, that is not to say it will not happen.  If the apocalyptic leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has his way, he’ll do it.
  4. Rebirth of Israel―Does it not occur to anyone that we are in the second generation since Israel became a nation again in 1948?  I thought the Second Coming was to occur by 1988, one generation from their renewal in the Middle East.  When I was a dispensationalists, I was taught that one generation was 40 years.  Thus 40 + 1948 = 1988, the year of the Second Coming.  One man, Edgar Whisenant wrote 88 Reasons for the Rapture in 88, then corrected himself for 89 reasons for the rapture in 89, and was wrong, of course, both times.  Moreover, as Dr. John Walvoord said to the student body in chapel when I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, “Men, do not say this is the fulfillment of prophecy for Israel to be back in the land.  We don’t know.  They may be taken out of the land only to return 1,000 years later.”  For people to say this is a fulfillment of prophecy is to assume that can see all the way to Second Coming, that we will not have a repeat.  Also, as I’ll document in the next version of my book, Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow (will be the seventh printing and fourth edition), there is no such prophecy for Israel to go back to the land.  Every prophecy the end time fanatics give from the Old Testament is a prophecy that has already fulfilled with the return under Ezra and Nehemiah from the dispersion.  Then I also ask the question, who is Israel?  The twelve tribes are gone so how would we recognize them?  There has been 2,000 years of inter-marrying.  We have no genealogical roles of the tribes.  Here is what one current professor at one prominent dispensational seminary has said about the definition of Israel, and it is significant since he believes in a future for “Israel” in the land:

There are these “Israels” in the Bible and one extra:

1. Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel.

2. Jacob’s biological descendents.

3. Jacob’s biological descendents who share(d) his faith.

4. The nation constituted by Jacob’s descendents.

5. The nation constituted by Jacob’s descendents and others not biologically descended from Jacob.

6. Those within the nation that shared the faith of Jacob.

7. Jesus

8. The land between the rivers inhabited by the seed of Abraham eschatologically.

9. [This one is not in the Bible] The secular, political, anti-Christian state in the Middle East today.

I reject number 8 because I see the land as now the whole world, but the others seem legitimate to me.  The point is how do we determine who Israel is?  But the man who gave this list is an honest scholar who believes in a future of “Israel” in the land, and recognizes that we have a problem in the definition.  Hagee seems to assume that anyone who claims to be a Jew is legitimate.  But is that a blood claim?  If so, where are the twelve tribes and the genealogies?  If it includes faith, then anyone can make a legitimate claim to be a Jew, so what’s the point?

5. Exodus II―The Russian Jews return to Israel.  Hagee quotes Jeremiah 23:7-8 about the tribes of Israel and Judah returning from the “north,” but that has been fulfilled under Nehemiah and the Bible never mentions Russia; that is read into the text.  The nations to the north where the Lord drove them were Babylon, Assyria, and such, and they came back under Nehemiah.

6. Jerusalem no longer under Gentile rule―According to Hagee, the Gentiles had control of Jerusalem from A.D. 70 to the Six Day War of 1967, and that this fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy that it would be “trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).  (If that is true, by the way, President Obama just announced that Israel should give that up.)   Assuming this has anything to do with today, it is difficult to say we have seen the fulfillment of the verse.  As noted above, it may come around again in 1,000 years; we just don’t know what the end will look like.  It appears the Gentiles still have a lot of control over Jerusalem, especially with the masque on the dome of the rock, the traditional temple site, and many in Jerusalem being Muslims.

7. Worldwide Television―This would be funny if it were not so ridiculous.  He quotes Revelation 11:9: “Then thosefrom the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days” and concludes that the whole world, “at the same time,” “at one time,” will be able to see the two witnesses. But it does not say “at the same time.”  John the Apostle says they will see the dead bodies for three and a half days, not “at the same time.”  John says “those” from peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see them, which is a Greek expression that means “some” will see them, not all.  Even if we supply the word “those,” as most translations do, still the idea is not “all.”  The Greek preposition ek followed by the genitive means “some,” not “all.”  This is definitely a belief in search of a text, and highly imaginative.

8. Days of deception―Hagee quotes Matthew 24:4 that deception is going to come on the terminal generation.  Of course, we have had heretics since the Apostles and the early church as witness the New Testament and the early fathers.  Once again he goes to our culture to find secular humanism, neopaganism, ignoring debt, and mocking the Bible as fulfillments.  I can add to the list of heresies, not the least of which is the word-faith one that says the Son of God gave up His divine powers while on earth and only functioned as a man.  (There went the Trinity, incarnation by deicide, and condemned at the Council of Ephesus, AD 431.)  I’m not saying Hagee is word-faith (or that he’s not), but others are saying he is.  These heresies have been around in some form for hundreds of years, and some for thousands.

9. Famines, pestilences, and earthquakes―Hagee took this from Matthew 24:7 where Jesus said: “there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places,” but that has been fulfilled in A.D. 70 and before.  Of course, it is true in every age, and he interprets “pestilence” to mean an “incurable disease,” which is not a necessary meaning in Greek or English.  Once again, he goes to culture to interpret the text and mentions AIDS, cancer, and other incurable diseases, none of which has anything necessarily to do with Matthew 24:7.

10. As in the days of Noah―This connection is even more tenuous than the others, if possible.  Jesus said that in the days of Noah, they “did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:39).  So?  He feels the pungency of “they did not know” so his comment about Jesus saying no one would know “the day nor the hour” is this: “This is a statement of a twenty-four hour period,” apparently meaning we might not know the exact hour of the day, but other than that, we can know, which is just so much twisting of Scripture.  The standard Greek lexicon (BDAG) defines “hour” and “day” as an “undefined period of time” in this passage, not to be taken literally.

The next chapter is titled “What’s Going to Happen Next?”, which, of course, is the rapture.  Surprise!  We get out of all the judgments by being taken away seven years before they occur.  This is a theology of pessimism to the extreme, on the one hand, and of escapism, on the other hand.  Is it any wonder that people buy these books when they are being told they will escape?  There is nothing but doom awaiting the world, but we Christians get out of it.  Actually, I agree with some of his events that he said may happen, such as financial ruin, nuclear bomb, EMP (electromatic magnetic pulse), and so forth, but we don’t get out of them.  Christians all over the world have suffered terribly in the last 100 years, so why should Christians in the USA be delivered?  That is arrogance exponential.  We Christians in the USA have no theology of suffering; He shall teach us.  Recently I heard Jim Daly, new head of Focus on the Family since James Dobson retired, on Huckabee say that he had visited pastors in China.  As he was leaving to embark on an airplane, they said something like, “We’ll be praying for you.”  Daly asked: “What will you pray for?”  They responded, “For your persecution.  You have it too soft in the USA.”  They are right.  And with the word-faith movement telling USA Christians that they can make their own providence by speaking good words into the air, we are ripe for judgment.  I strongly agree with Hagee’s (and the others) that judgment is coming, but the implication they are saying is that it is not already here.  Indeed, judgment is already here if we have eyes to see.  Read my book that details the judgments and solutions we have in the USA regarding the Triune God and judgment in the West, and His moral law, NOT Ten Suggestions, and another one I wrote on the word-faith movement, Man as God: The Word of Faith Movement.

Is it any wonder that we Christians have been impotent in bringing God’s morality to bear when we believe there is no use in it?  The devil wins by disobedience to God’s law, and we lose by obedience.  What is wrong with that picture?  Of course, true obedience to God’s law is only a product of faith in Messiah, for “faith without works is dead.”  No one can be perfectly obedient to God’s commandments, but if we confess our sins, trusting in the death and resurrection of Messiah, we shall be forgiven, and the obedience that follows from that will change the culture.

At each point, Hagee looks for something different or unique or wrong in our culture, and then looks for a text in the Bible that will support this thing.  At all points he has a theology in search of a text, reading the culture back into the Bible, embarrassing all Christians with his predicting the end without predicting the exact end.  (Is too much to say that if he predicted the exact end as Camping has done, the book selling would be up once the date came and went?  Better to keep the readers hanging on for one more book with a few more clues.)

Hagee begins his book with the story of the Titanic with all the doomsday emphasis he can muster, not because he says that was in prophecy, but because it lends credence to his book with its doomsday predictions.  It makes the rest of the prophecies in the book seem real if you prepare for possible sensationalism with actual sensationalism.  I will also point out that Hagee is extremely caustic toward anyone who disagrees with him, especially Christians.  The bitterness he accuses Christians of having toward Jews is not as bad as the vitriolic spirit he has towards early Christians, Martin Luther, and modern Christians who do not take his view.  He is not able to say anything civil about us, but I get the impression he had just as soon see us miss the so-called rapture.  He has so emotionally charged his following that I doubt that any could seriously entertain what has been the Church’s view for 2,000 years.  He has already poisoned the wells by quoting (out of context) early fathers who were not pro Jewish and castigated them, and has done the same with modern scholars.  Anyone who denies his view is engaging in “replacement theology” while he engages in dual covenants and two ways of salvation, as I’ll demonstrate next time.  We are written off as of the devil―period.  I will explore this more in the larger reviews of his In Defense of Israel, which he had to rewrite because it was heretical on Jesus as Messiah, basically saying Moses was the Messiah of the Jews and Jesus the Messiah of the Gentiles.  But that is for next time.

It is a commentary on American culture where the rapture generation exists and virtually nowhere else in the world, that such nonsense could be so popular.  As John Hannah, the head of the church history department at Dallas Theological Seminary, has recently stated about dispensationalism, it is primarily a USA phenomenon (John Hannah, An Uncommon Union, p. 20).  In my limited travels, and in talking to others outside the USA, especially those in seminaries and church leadership positions (Germany, England, Australia, Canada, etc), I’m told that the rapture doctrine all but disappears once outside the USA.  That is rather ironic sense it began with Darby in England in the mid 1800s, but now is basically dead there; indeed, Christianity is dead there.  Our version of evangelical Christianity here is barely recognizable.  From the mid 1800s on back, the rapture doctrine completely disappears from church history, not a whiff.  Even today, if we take all of Christianity, Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestant, there is only a small number of evangelicals, and those residing in the USA, who hold it, but they are very vocal and think you do not believe the Bible if you don’t believe their way.

It is a commentary on our Christian culture that so many people would buy into predicting the end without predicting the end.  How gullible can we be?  How can Christian people think that Hagee’s connections from the culture to the Bible are really exegesis (lifting out of the text its meaning) and not eisegesis (reading into the text)?  He makes bare assertions without proof.  It seems clear that he has no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew and yet claims to be a Bible scholar.  Lord have mercy on him to show him a better way.

There may be an anti-Christ at the end whom the Lord may slay with the breath of His mouth (2 Thess. 2:8), or perhaps my reading of that could be improved.  John speaks of a coming anti-Christ and that many are anti-Christs are already in the world (1 John 2:18).  But the one who denies the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of the Son of God who remained and functioned as God on earth, is both the anti-Christ and the spirit of anti-Christ (1 John 4:1-3), not in the future, but now.

What is wrong with this picture?  One can sell millions of books about the anti-Christ (Camping, Lindsey, LaHaye, Hagee), but one cannot give away books on the person of Christ.  I hope to write a book on the person of Christ, but from what others have said (such as R. C. Sproul who also wrote one on Christ), it will not sell.  What is wrong with those Christians who prefer to have their curiosities tickled about the “end times,” who want to know who the anti-Christ is, and what will happen at the end, but do not want to hear about the glories of Christ?  This is a sick church.

I haven’t said anything about supporting Israel in the Mid-East, but I will in the larger review of Hagee’s works and in my work on dispensationalism that I hope to have out again.  Only I’ll say this much.  I’m in favor of supporting Israel politically because they are a great ally to the USA in the Mid-East, but religiously they are still Christ-haters, denying that Jesus is the Messiah, persecuting Christians there, which puts them outside the Christian faith and thus non-Christians.  We owe them a huge debt of love for giving us the Gospel and the Old Testament, and we must give them the Gospel as we would Muslims.  There is only one faith, the Christian faith, and there are several Christian heresies: Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and perhaps some others.  All these have copied Christianity to some extent (Judaism has reacted and changed its Old Testament understanding since Christ came) but changed its essence.  We are indebted to all, but especially to the Jews to whom Christ first came, if we can determine who a Jew is; otherwise, we just give everyone the Gospel.

I believe in the infallibility of Holy Scripture, but not in the infallibility of so-called modern day prophets or their predictions.  I believe in the Nicene Creed, that talks about the Second Coming, the same Creed that goes back to Nicaea (325) and Chalcedon (451), the same one Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants all believe.  It gives us the Holy Trinity, creation, Incarnation, resurrection, Ascension, the Church, and the Second Coming, without defining the details of that coming.  If the “Jews” are taken out of the land again, it would not in the least affect my theology or my belief in the infallibility of the Bible.  I cannot delve into what the Church and the Bible has historically said about these things here, but I will later.  So what do I think about the Second Coming?  I’ll be safe and infallible: Jesus will return.  That is safe, and because our Lord said it, it is infallible.  Also, another infallible statement: I don’t know when He’ll come, which is what He said (Mark 13:32), but I’d better be ready.  So had you.  AMEN.

(click here to get the free pdf file of the whole article if you want to send it to someone.)

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