Prophecy is a difficult subject. I certainly don't pretend to have all of the answers—but I do believe we should diligently seek to understand as much as we can of what God has spoken through His prophets and through His Son (who had much to say about apostasy, His second coming, the Great Tribulation, etc.) Some argue that because there is so much disagreement over prophecy and it is such a confusing subject, we should therefore forget it. Yet the Book of Revelation offers a special blessing to those who study, understand and obey what it teaches (Rev:1:3).
In a recent Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) newsletter, its director says, "You know, Hal Lindsey [pretrib Rapture] may be right—and you know, Bishop Earl Paulk [no Rapture—Christ returns to rule the nations after Christians have taken over the world in His name] may be right." He goes on to argue that it doesn't matter who is right; i.e., Rapture or no Rapture is not worth discussing. Yet Hal Lindsey, who says a great deal about the Rapture and prophecy because he considers it extremely important, has been one of the most popular guests on TBN (the viewers also apparently consider this topic important) and has often hosted programs. It seems odd that so much valuable TV time would be allocated to a subject that is considered a waste of time to discuss.
It is even more confusing that the Holy Spirit would devote so much of the Bible (about 30 percent) to prophecy if it doesn't matter what view one takes. Unfortunately, the desire to avoid disagreement over prophecy affects other areas as well. Some write disparagingly of those who try "to get their doctrine across instead of doing what Jesus asked us to do—'Feed my sheep'—'Love your neighbor''—Go into all the world.'" Are we supposed to leave 30 percent of the Bible out of the message we take "into all the world?" Can we feed His sheep without doctrine? And what kind of "love" would allow one's neighbor to be deceived by false teaching?
We can all sympathize with a desire to avoid contention over doctrine. I do not relish controversy. My inclination would be to retire from the battle. But we have been told to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints—and a vital part of that faith involves the promise of His return. TBN gives us a shocking lesson in what happens when one takes a neutral position in this battle and begins to minimize the importance of sound doctrine.
The TBN newsletter is titled "A Falling Away First" and references 2 Thessalonians:2:3. The Greek word there is apostasia ("apostasy" in English) which means "a falling away from the truth." Having declared that it matters not how we interpret prophecy, and that doctrine is not worth discussing, apostasy is then defined as a decrease in giving to ministries such as TBN! After telling us, in effect, that it doesn't matter whether TBN broadcasts false doctrine, in the next breath we are asked to support the ministry, false doctrine or not. And he warns us that if we are giving less to TBN now than we once were, we have fallen into apostasy and as a result could come under the "strong delusion" that God will send upon those "who believed not the truth."
How can one both demean those who contend for sound doctrine and in the next breath express a concern about truth and warn of delusion and Satan's lies? Crouch does a good job of concisely explaining some of the New Age lies, and specifically identifies the lie that "All is God and God is all." Yet this very lie was the central message in the major article in the Summer 1986 issue of Robert Schuller's Possibilities magazine (p 8). That same article also had John Marks Templeton declaring that "The Christ Spirit dwells in every human being whether the person knows it or not" (p 12).
This is the worst heresy possible, the very lie Paul Crouch warns against that will damn a soul for eternity. And it is only one example among many that could be given of Schuller's promotion of New Age teachings and teachers. Yet as we mentioned last month, Paul and Jan recently spent considerable time on TBN absolving Robert Schuller of promoting any false doctrine. And those who would take issue with false doctrine are banned by the Crouches from their TBN network. I do not enjoy controversy, but I do believe the issues are serious and deserve public notice and discussion.
While I disagree on many points with Gary North, I appreciate the fact that he takes the issues seriously enough to debate them publicly. In his latest newsletter, North ridicules those who see a special fulfillment of prophecy in the return of Israel to her land in 1948. He boasts that 1988 will come and go without the Rapture and this fact will seal the doom of dispensationalism because the Rapture and Great Tribulation will not have happened within the predicted 40-year generation period since the birth of modern Israel.
I, for one, never put such an interpretation upon Christ's statement, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Mat:24:34). Jesus often referred to the Jews of His day as a "wicked, adulterous, disobedient, unbelieving," etc. generation. I always assumed that to be the generation that would not pass away; i.e., that Israel would remain in unbelief and rebellion against God until Christ returns visibly in power to rescue her (Zec 12). She is certainly still in that condition today. There are, however, other possible interpretations of the "generation" to which Christ referred.
North's Reconstructionist Dominion Press has just published a book by Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart titled The Reduction of Christianity: Dave Hunt's Theology of Cultural Surrender. It is presumably an "answer" to what little was said about kingdom/dominion and reconstruction in Seduction and Beyond Seduction. I have scarcely addressed these issues yet, but plan to do so, God willing, in my next book.
Gary North and Gary DeMar plan a visit out here to debate with me, hopefully in a large church or two as well as on radio and television, if time is made available. Unlike Crouch, North and DeMar consider prophecy worth discussing. In my opinion, the Rapture will be one of the most hotly contested issues in the immediate future. It would be helpful if the church (and the world) could see such issues discussed openly and frankly on Christian TV and radio. I think that would be in the interest of truth, sound doctrine and the edification of the body of Christ—but whether it happens or not is in the hands of those few individuals who dictate what will be presented over Christian media.
I also hope and pray that, like North and DeMar, others, including some of the leading Christian psychologists, will also be willing to come forth and enter into public discussion of the issues raised by some of their teachings. They have been repeatedly challenged to do this, but so far have not been willing. Your prayers and actions to help bring this about will be much appreciated. TBC