Mainstream Christian end times theology, subscribed to by many respected evangelical leaders, is wrong, said the president of the group behind the National Prophecy Conference.
At the opening session of the prophecy conference, held in Ridgecrest, N.C. earlier this month, Gary DeMar of American Vision laid out point after point why the popular dispensational premillennialism view is not supported by the Bible. He even called out by name several prominent evangelical leaders, who adhere to this school of thought, that have made wrong predictions.
“When I point this out to people, some people are irate,” said DeMar. “‘I can’t believe that you are critiquing these men of God.’”
DeMar began his session titled, “Why is Eschatology Important?” by talking about Harold Camping’s failed May 21 Rapture prediction. But the head of American Vision stressed that while Camping has “lost all credibility” and is “relegated to the dustbin of prophetic history,” there are many modern-day prophecy theorists that continue to give wrong predictions without being reprimanded.
These modern-day prophecy theorists subscribe to dispensational premillennialism, which is the most popular prophecy system, he said. The dispensational view basically teaches that the nation of Israel is distinct from the Christian Church and that God has yet to fulfill his promise to Israel. And the premillennialism part teaches that Jesus Christ will return before the Tribulation and that Christians will be raptured up to heaven before the seven year worldwide Tribulation.
What is important to understand about this school of thought is that its adherents believe God has stopped Israel’s prophetic clock since Pentecost and has been dealing with the Church. At an undetermined time in the future, however, the prophetic clock will start again for Israel.
“Supposedly, this position teaches that God can’t deal with the Church and Israel at the same time,” remarked DeMar. “I’ve never understood that position.”
He further commented, “I find it rather humorous … how an everlasting covenant has a gap and a parenthesis for 2,000 years when Israel is not even dealt with by God.”
The end times theology is based on Prophet Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27, which mentions the 70th week. Daniel was reading from Prophet Jeremiah earlier in Chapter 9, where Jeremiah says the length of captivity is 70 years. But those who subscribe to dispensational premillennialism believe there is a “parenthesis,” or pause, between the 69th and 70th weeks that has lasted nearly 2,000 years.
So the prophetic clock for Israel has paused at the 69th week while God focuses on the Church for a length of time. During the church age, according to the dispensationalist view, the Church supersedes Israel.
“It’s my contention that the 70 years of Jeremiah and captivity is our Rosetta Stone to determine how the 70 weeks works out,” contended DeMar. “There is no gap in the 70 years of captivity; there is no gap between the 69 and 70 weeks.”
When the 70th week arrives, the Rapture takes place and then the seven years of Tribulation begins.
But a big problem DeMar sees with this system of thought, besides the pause in Israel’s prophetic clock that he finds no biblical support for, is that he doesn’t know when the covenant to Israel in the Old Testament will be fulfilled. If the prophetic clock starts again for Israel at the 70th week and that is also the beginning of the Tribulation, then when will Israel live in a secure land as promised?
“So God has waited 2,000 years and this is what we’ve waited for. For Israel to finally go back to the land and fulfill the promises and yet two out of every three Jews will be killed,” said DeMar.
“So if you know this, why aren’t you telling Jews to get out of Israel? Why are you telling them to go to Israel?”
He stressed that during the period when the Church supersedes Israel, no prophecy can be fulfilled.
“You can’t make this system work. You can’t put gaps where none are actually specified, and that is exactly what they do all the way throughout this, especially in Daniel 9,” he criticized. “They find all sorts of things in Daniel 9:24-27. They find the antichrist there. They find the covenant with the Jews. They find him breaking the covenant. They find all of these things, rebuilding the temple and so forth. I’m sorry but none of that is in there.”
DeMar continued, “There is no verse in the New Testament that says anything about a rebuilt temple. Revelation 20 doesn’t say that Jesus will reign over the earth during that 1,000 years. It really doesn’t describe a millennium. Read it. It just doesn’t say all those things. Where are all these fulfillments? Where are all the verses for these things. And this is the problem that this particular system has.”
The American Vision president, who earned his master of divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary, also rejects the popular notion of using the reestablishment of the nation of Israel as being a “sure sign” that the world is in the last days.
“If so many people have gotten it wrong, why has it become something of a standard of prophetic orthodoxy?” he challenged. “What’s happening today is people aren’t making these types of arguments anymore because it is in fact very embarrassing to them.”
He named several well-known end-times date setters, including “Left Behind” author Tim LaHaye and senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif., Chuck Smith.
LaHaye in the first edition of his 1972 book, The Beginning of the End, contended that the key date related to Israel’s new national status is Nov. 2, 1917, on which day the Balfour Declaration was signed. The British government in the Balfour Declaration states that it favors establishing a nation for the Jewish people in Palestine. So LaHaye had said the prophetic clock for Israel starts again in 1917 during World War I, pointed out DeMar.
Then in the 1991 edition of The Beginning of the End, LaHaye “changed the date without telling his readers” by setting the year at 1948 – the year Israel declared independence from British mandate for Palestine.
“But no one says anything about Tim LaHaye in making predictions like that,” stressed DeMar.
Then there is highly respected Pastor Smith, who wrote in his 1978 book End Times: “If I understand scripture correctly … I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation … I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981.”
How he derived that number is the year 1948 + 40 years = 1988. The number 40 is the average years for a generation. Then minus the seven years of Tribulation from 1988, and that gives 1981 as the Rapture date.
DeMar claims he has a recording of Smith telling his congregation gathered at Calvary Chapel on Dec. 31, 1979, that the Rapture would take place before the end of 1981.
“They’ve said some things here that are obviously wrong,” said the American Vision president. “No matter how much you try to forge, cook, or trim evidence, these guys are wrong.”
“So to be critical of Harold Camping is one thing, but these guys are still here, still writing books, and still telling people we are living in the last days. They have a very, very poor track record,” he charged.
American Vision, based in Powder Springs, Ga., is an organization with the mission to restore America to its biblical foundation and to provide resources for Christian families and individuals to live a biblically based worldview.