Question: Could you take time to review the enclosed newsletter? It’s published by a group called CURE (Christians United for Reformation, headed by Michael Horton and praised by leaders such as Richard Halverson, R. C. Sproul, J. I. Packer, and James Boice) who are trying to bring back “Reformed Theology.” They claim they are not Reconstructionists, but hold to many similar doctrines, such as Calvinism, rejection of the Rapture, denial that Israel any longer has any prophetic significance, the claim that we are already in the Millennium, Christ is now reigning “spiritually” but will not reign physically on earth over Israel restored to her land, that Satan is presently bound, etc. Could you review and clarify their teachings and expose their errors?
Response: Most of the questions you ask I’ve dealt with in previous books (see especially Whatever Happened to Heaven? and Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist), but I will respond briefly.
Much Calvinism is biblical, but some is not. We agree that God is sovereign and could righteously send us all to hell. His word clearly declares, however, that God loves all mankind (Jn:3:16, etc.), wants all to be saved and none to perish (1 Tm 2:4; 2 Pt 3:9, etc.), provided for everyone’s salvation in His Son (Jn:3:17; 1 Tm 2:6; 1 Jn:2:2, 4:14, etc.), and those who perish do so because they reject the salvation He freely provided and did all He could to persuade them to receive. Many of my friends are five-point Calvinists. I think they are terribly wrong in teaching that God doesn’t desire all mankind to be saved. It is a libel upon God’s character! However, the gospel they preach is biblical. There are fine Christians on both sides of this issue and therefore we don’t expend much time disputing it.
As for their eschatology, those holding the Reformed view pick the verses that seem to support it and ignore those that don’t. Only by reconciling all of Scripture can we arrive at the truth. For example, they say that the establishment of Israel again in 1948 has no significance. Instead, God’s promise to bring Israel back to her land was fulfilled in her return from Babylon and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple that took place 500 years before Christ. They ignore the many verses which promise a final restoration after which Israel will never again disobey or dishonor God or be removed from her land (Israel was cast out and scattered again in A.D. 70 and remains in rebellion and unbelief to this day). God repeatedly states that Jerusalem “shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever” (Jer:31:40; Is 60:14-22; Ezek:34:11-31, 36:8-38; 39:29; Am 9:14-15, etc.) and that His people “shall not sorrow any more at all” (Jer:31:12) nor dishonor Him ever again (Ezek:37:23; 39:7), all of Israel shall know and serve God from that day forth (Ezek:39:22, 28; Zec 12-14, etc.)—obviously yet to be fulfilled.
Likewise, one must ignore or spiritualize away hundreds of verses in order to hold the Reformed view that the Olivet discourse and the Book of Revelation (up to 20:11) were fulfilled in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. Clearly Matthew:24:21-22 wasn’t fulfilled (far greater tribulation has befallen both Jews and Christians in our day than at A.D. 70, nor was there danger then that all flesh would be wiped out); Christ did not visibly return to earth in the sight of all mankind (Rv 1:7; Mt 24:30) causing Israel to repent and believe in Him (Zec:12:10-13:6); the angels didn’t literally gather the elect (Israel) from the four winds to their land (Mt 24:31); one-fourth of earth’s population wasn’t wiped out (Rv 6:8); a third of the trees and all green grass wasn’t burned up, a third of the oceans didn’t turn to blood causing a third of all life therein to die (Rv 8:7-10); the two witnesses didn’t preach for 1,260 days in Jerusalem, die at the hand of Antichrist, then resurrect three and one-half days later and ascend to heaven (Rv 11:2-12); Antichrist didn’t arise and control all buying and selling, be worshiped by all the earth and make war with the saints and overcome them (Rv 13:4-17), etc., etc.
There are scores of similar specific prophecies which cannot be spiritualized away and which clearly have not yet been fulfilled. I deal with these prophecies and give a thorough treatment of the Rapture and Second Coming from a strictly biblical basis in my new book How Close Are We? which has just come off the press.