Once again it is difficult to believe that another year has come and gone so quickly and we have already launched into 1988. Will this be the year in which Christ will catch His bride away to meet Him in the air and take us to heaven for that great marriage celebration? Only the Lord knows. Nevertheless, that should be our longing and eager anticipation. Are you excited at the prospect? Every Christian ought to be! "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev:22:17,20).
The world, however, has another hope. And with the Reagan/Gorbachev summit, prospects for global peace seem to have brightened. Confidence is also growing that the recent stock market "crash" will have little effect on the economy as a whole, and continued economic growth without renewed inflation seems likely. If we are indeed as near our Lord's return as it appears, then this trend will continue until "Peace and safety" is the happy phrase on everyone's lips and the confident outlook of the world.
Then "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief" (1 Thes:5:2). That fearful day of God's wrath, which comes when the world least expects it (see also Isa:2:12; 13:6,9,13; Joel:1:15; Amos 5; 2 Pt 3:10, etc.) could not begin with the return of Christ to reign over the nations from Jerusalem (i.e., at the end of the Great Tribulation), for God's judgment has already been pouring out upon earth and no one will be saying "Peace and safety" in the middle of Armageddon. The Day of the Lord must therefore start at the beginning of the Tribulation.
And surely if Christ had not raptured His bride and we were still upon earth when Israel is under siege by all the nations of the world and about to be destroyed (Zec:12:9; 14:1-9; Rev:19:19), we would be expecting His return then. Yet Christ warned that He (like the Day of the Lord) would come "as a thief," when (just as in Noah's time) the last thing anyone would expect would be judgment. Even His own would not be expecting Him (except those who watch and pray), for even the "wise" would "slumber" as the Bridegroom tarries (Mat:24:37-44; 25:5, etc.). It would therefore seem that Christ must come to catch away His bride with the same surprise and at the same time of "peace and prosperity" as the sudden dawning of the Day of the Lord.
That secret and surprise "catching away" is known as the Rapture. There is another reason why it cannot happen at the end of the Tribulation. Praise God that we will already be in heaven before He comes visibly in power and glory to rescue Israel. This is quite clear from the fact that the "marriage of the Lamb" (Rev:10:7) takes place just before Christ comes riding on that white horse with the armies of heaven to rescue Israel and establish His millennial kingdom. We will return to earth with our conquering Lord, then reign with Him in our resurrection bodies for 1,000 years while Satan is locked up.
In the days ahead, I expect the Rapture to be increasingly denied as well as any prophetic recognition for national Israel. Kingdom/dominion/restoration/reconstruction is now the fastest growing movement in the church. Please pray for the book on this subject (Whatever Happened to Heaven?) which I will be working on as soon as America: The Sorcerer's New Apprentice is completed.
I think we will also see increasing compromise of the truth, much of it on the part of sincere but deceived Christians who think it is helpful to make the gospel sound as much like worldly wisdom as possible in order to "win the lost." Of course that is not winning them at all, but wreaking havoc with another gospel and another Jesus. It is most confusing when both the truth and the lie are presented by the same persons, depending upon what audience they address.
Robert Schuller offered a classic example of this, in his interview by Paul and Jan Crouch on TBN, December 8, 1987. Paul indicated that he had gotten many letters (perhaps some of them from some of you) protesting his support of Schuller and claiming that Schuller preaches a false gospel. So Paul proceeded to ask Schuller what he believed, in order to remove any doubts of his evangelical orthodoxy. Robert Schuller presented himself as a firm believer in evangelical Christianity. Taking what he said at face value (with the few exceptions commented upon below) anyone listening to him (including myself) would have been convinced of his true evangelical faith. I hope and pray that he was sincere in his clear declaration of the essentials of the gospel.
On the other hand, it was very troubling for me, being aware of facts which were unknown to the average viewer, to watch the program knowing that Robert Schuller was being less than forthright in his responses to some questions. And Paul was either ignorant of the facts or unwilling to pursue his questioning to the point of exposing another side of Robert Schuller (if there is one), which was in fact the stated purpose of the program.
Schuller admitted that he often speaks to groups which would be classified as "New Age." His rationale was that he will go anywhere to spread the truth. That sounded good. Unfortunately, the "truth" he proclaims to New Age audiences is not the same truth which he so convincingly presented on TBN. To the ministers and ministers-in-training he addressed at Unity headquarters near Kansas City, for example, Schuller said nothing they didn't agree with, nothing to let them know that he had any concern for or disagreement with their beliefs (Unity rejects the gospel and advocates yoga, reincarnation, and the whole New Age trip). In fact, he commended them and offered his success techniques to help Unity grow larger! Such action ought to be known and denounced by every Bible-believing Christian! The impression Schuller gave to the TBN viewing audience was not consistent with the facts.
In response to Paul's questions, Schuller stated that his "number one job is to lead people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Again it sounds commendable and the viewers must have been duly impressed. However, at Unity headquarters no attempt was made to correct their false impression of Jesus (who to Unity is not "the way, the truth, the life and the only Savior of sinners" but one of many "way-showers" like Buddha or Krishna) and to present to them the true Jesus Christ. In fact, on another occasion, when a Baptist minister in Warren, MI learned that Schuller was going to dedicate the newly expanded Unity church there and reproved him, Schuller responded that he intended to present the truth and asked for prayer to that end. What Jesus did he present on that occasion? Not the Jesus who died for our sins and rose the third day for our justification. Schuller's motivational talk, that could have been addressed to any secular group and which the Unity congregation loved, presented Jesus as "the greatest possibility thinker of all time!" That "gospel," consistent with Unity beliefs, brought cheers from the congregation. Of course it wouldn't offend anyone, but neither would it save them.
Schuller also declared that while he would go to New Age groups to preach the truth, he would not invite them to speak from his pulpit. Again the actual facts bear little relationship to the impression given the TBN audience, to whom Paul Crouch had promised the truth. The list of New Agers, cultists and occultists who have been guests on the "Hour of Power," passed off as purveyors of truth and encouraged to spread their false beliefs to that vast audience, is far too long to recite here. It ranges from Schuller's friend and colleague (they do seminars together) Gerald Jampolsky (who uses A Course in Miracles, dictated by a demon posing as Jesus—the Course has also been taught at the Crystal Cathedral, according to spokespersons there), to leading Mormon Jack Anderson (encouraged by Schuller to spread his Mormon false doctrine of God on "Hour of Power") and includes numerous shades and varieties in between.
His statement that he never sits "in judgment" or makes "critical negative remarks about others" even if they "attack" him sounded so "positive." Here again, however, those few who may have known the facts realized that Schuller was once more giving the viewers a false impression.
Even in the midst of the sound doctrine which he presented so convincingly, Schuller's basic error came through in his insistence that we must phrase the gospel so that it never offends anyone (Christ himself is called "a rock of offence," and Paul has harsh words for those who would take the offense out of the Cross in order to be popular with the world (Isa:8:14; Rom:9:33; 1 Pt 2:8; Gal:5:11-12; 6:12-14, etc.); and in his heretical declaration that positive thinking and possibility thinking are "nothing more than biblical faith" (of course even atheists subscribe to positive/possibility thinking). Neither Paul nor Jan saw anything wrong with any of this and even nodded their approval when Schuller said, "I preach repentance so positively that most people don't recognize it."
One need not be a theologian, however, to conclude that either there is something basically and seriously wrong with this "positive" approach—or that Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Paul, et al. and Jesus himself had the wrong approach and would have been far more effective if they had not been so "negative."
Convinced of Schuller's evangelical orthodoxy, Paul finally threw up his hands and said, "What can you say!" Then, turning to the camera, he chided his viewers: "Why do you keep sending me those letters [asking about Robert Schuller]!" The interview had been carried off smoothly. TBN had reaffirmed its imprimatur of Robert Schuller, and apparently everyone went home well satisfied that those "negative" maligners out there had been silenced once again.
The danger is that we become weary of pointing out error and retire from the battle for truth. I confess that my natural tendency would be to back off in face of the accusations that I am contentious and splitting hairs. The issues, however, are too important to ignore; and with the eternal destiny of souls hanging in the balance, we must continue to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints as we are urged to do. May the Lord help all of us to stand true to Him and to His Word. TBC