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The Great Premillennial HOAX
The Blueprint for the Gospel?
The Great Premillennial
by Don Matzat
In 1970, Hal Lindsey came out with his monstrous best-selling book (15 million sold), "The Late Great Planet Earth." Since then, much of Evangelical Christianity has been obsessed with the signs of the times.
From 1971 until 1986, I was an active, visible participant in the Lutheran Charismatic Movement. Since the movement was highly influenced by Pentecostal thinking, in addition to adopting the theology of the Holy Spirit, many Lutheran Charismatics also adopted the eschatology of Pentecostals. I guess you might say, "We got the Holy Spirit, feathers and all." I adopted and also taught the Premillennial view of the end times. In fact, given the circumstances in the world, there was little doubt in my mind that this was the accurate understanding of Biblical prophecy.
May 13, 1981
The evening of May 13, 1981, was the regular meeting of the Ladies' Guild of Bethel Lutheran Church in Howard City, Mich. As pastor of the congregation, I attended the meeting and presented a topic for discussion.
May 13, 1981, was a very special evening for prophecy buffs. It could very well have been the last night that Christians would spend upon this earth. For if everything being said by the modern-day experts in Biblical prophecy was true, May 14 was the day of "the Rapture."
As the pastor, I felt it was my responsibility to share the why and wherefore of this momentous event with these women. Being good, traditional, Lutheran laypeople, they knew very little, if anything, about Biblical prophecy. It was my task to warn them of the event that might transpire within the next 24 hours.
By sharing this story with you, I hope to impart the essence of Premillennial thinking.
The Generation of the Fig Tree
The Biblical scenario I presented to these unsuspecting women, proving that the rapture would take place the next day, began with an interpretation of Matt. 24:32-34. Jesus said:
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
What generation was Jesus talking about? Many scholars believed that it was the generation of the people that Jesus was addressing and that the events He was predicting were not the end of the world, but rather the destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, within 40 years, Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed.
While that is all well and good, there was another way of looking at these words of Jesus - a way that caused these predictions to become very real in the here and now.
From the notes in my Scofield Bible, I knew there would be a future restoration of Israel in the land. In Ez. 34:13, the prophet predicted that God would gather the Jews from the nations and bring them into their own land. Writing his notes in 1908, Scofield stated that this referred to a future restoration of the nation of Israel, or, as some perceived it, the budding of the fig tree. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was referred to as a fig tree. In Matt. 21:19, Jesus cursed the fig tree because it had no fruit. This was perceived as a rejection of Israel.
Well, on May 14, 1948, the fig tree budded. Israel became a nation as a result of a United Nations declaration. This date was vital to all Biblical prophecy experts. Israel was in the land. The countdown to the end had begun. We were indeed the generation of the fig tree. It was this generation that would see the end of all things. Since a generation was 40 years, the end would be in 1988.
Those who taught this view also taught, from Scripture, that before the end of all things, there would be a tribulation period of seven years according to the prophecies of Daniel. Rev. 7:14 speaks of the Great Tribulation. During those seven years, the anti-Christ would arise. He would be a political figure and, according to Dan. 7:24-25, he would be given authority by ten kings. Since the European Common market was forming and nearly ten nations had already come together, the time of the anti-Christ was soon upon us.
Other signs of the rise of the anti-Christ were obvious. Given the fact that scanning devices were beginning to become evident in grocery stores, could the "mark of the beast" be far behind? We would soon be in the position of having to make a choice when the government brands us with a mark on the right hand or forehead, without which we would not be able to buy or sell, according to Revelation 13.
In addition, Ezekiel 38 and 39 warned about the invasion of Israel by "Gog and Magog." According to the notes in my Scofield Bible, this referred to a time when Israel was in the land and Russia, advancing from the north, would invade them. The politics at that time allowed for this to be a very real possibility. The book of Ezekiel stated that God will destroy the Russian army and the buzzards would eat their flesh. A tract was being circulated that claimed the buzzards were laying twice as many eggs in Israel in order to have enough troops to eat the Russians. (I often wondered how they knew this.)
In 1967, the armies of Israel had captured the old city of Jerusalem, including temple mount. According to Ezekiel 40ff., the millennial temple was to be built. Everything was in order. An interesting rumor circulated that the stones for the temple were already carved out of Bedford, Ind., limestone and were hidden in caves. Other rumors stated that the Ark of the Covenant had been discovered under the temple site and that plans to rebuild were underway.
It was happening!
In 1978, I led my first trip to the land of Israel. There were four groups of Lutheran Charismatics taking the trip. I led one of the groups. The purpose of the trip was to attend a "Prophecy Conference" in Jerusalem, led by Derek Prince. Since so much of my thinking had been influenced by the popular Premillennial prophetic notions of the day, it was an exciting trip. Things were happening in the land. The people were restored. God seemed to be on their side as they went to battle against the enemies who surrounded them.
Prince spoke on the subject of parallel restorations, comparing the events in Israel with the events marking the growth of the Charismatic Movement. In 1948, when Israel became a nation, both the Billy Graham crusades and the Latter Rain Movement (early roots of the Charismatic Movement) started. In 1967, when Israel took the old city of Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Roman Catholics at Notre Dame. In 1971, the Yom Kippur war broke out in Israel while the Holy Spirit moved mightily on the different denominations. For one participating in these events, these connections were obvious.
What was happening at the Dead Sea was very interesting. Zechariah 14 spoke of the return of the Messiah to the Mount of Olives, causing a great earthquake that would split the mount in two. Living water would flow from temple mount.
This stream of living water coming out of temple mount would flow to the Dead Sea and, according to Ezekiel (47:8ff):
This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds - like the fish of the Great Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh they will be left for salt.
Well, parts of this prophecy were already in place. The Dead Sea had been divided due to the lack of water flowing down from the Sea of Galilee. The fresh water from the Galilee was being pumped into the desert so that the "desert was blooming," as Is. 35:1-2 stated.
This lack of water to the Dead Sea divided the sea. As Ezekiel predicted, a portion would be left for salt after the rest of the Sea had been sweetened with the living water pouring out of temple mount. We even took a dip in the Dead Sea at En Gedi, rejoicing that one day this would be sweet water after Jesus returned. In fact, our guide, who catered to end-of-the-world-minded Christians, showed us fish ponds near the northern-most part of the Dead Sea which, according to his explanation, were being prepared for the time when the Dead Sea would be sweetened.
Back to May 13, 1981
A very important ingredient in the Premillennial scenario was "the rapture." Christians would not pass through the great seven-year tribulation. They would be taken out or snatched away and be with the Lord. In Matt. 24:38-41, Jesus spoke of one being taken and one being left. Also, 1 Thess. 4:17 "clearly" spoke of the Rapture:
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
The Rapture of the church was imminent. Hal Lindsey had stated that it was the next event in the prophetic scenario. I had a bumper sticker that read, "In case of rapture, this car will self-destruct." My favorite song was "The King Is Coming." According to the Premillennial scenario, the end of all things would be in 1988, or 40 years after Israel occupied in the land and the "fig tree blossoms." If you deduct seven years for the Tribulation, this means that on May 14, 1981, the rapture of the Church would take place. Therefore, this was a very exciting evening to be alive!
I shared every detail with the women of the Bethel Lutheran Church Ladies' Guild. After my presentation, one little elderly woman said, "Reverend, why are you scaring us?"
Well, May 14, 1988, came and went, and nothing happened. In fact, 1988 came and went and nothing happened. Since that time, the Soviet Union has disbanded. The European Common Market now includes far more than ten members and Israel is giving land back to the Palestinians. When the events did not pan out, some prophecy "experts" redated the blooming of the fig tree to 1967, when Israel occupied the old city of Jerusalem. This would put the time of the end in the year 2007 and the "rapture" in the year 2000. The Y2K scare also fueled the notion that this would be the start of the tribulation. Again, it didn't happen.
Having bought into this Premillennial way of thinking and living with great expectations that came to absolutely nothing brought me to the conclusion that this theology is the greatest hoax ever visited upon unsuspecting Christians. The hoax lives on. Despite of unfulfilled predictions, the thinking persists.
The Roots of the System
I embraced the Premillennial Dispensational way of thinking because it appeared to be the most reasonable explanation of the events that were occurring. It is the primary end-time position taught within much of modern Evangelical Christianity, even though all the predictions that have arisen as a result of this view have come to naught. What is the source of this teaching? How did it arise?
In 1832, Edward Irving (1792-1834) established the Catholic Apostolic Church and taught the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Irving believed there had to be a reestablishment of the 12 apostles before Jesus would return. He appointed these 12 apostles. Of course, one by one, they eventually died and Jesus never returned. John Nelson Darby, who founded the Plymouth Brethren in 1847 in England and Ireland, spearheaded the dispensational interpretation of the Bible. He was widely influenced by Edward Irving. Darby taught that Biblical history is divided into seven "dispensations" or periods of time. The final dispensation would be the 1000-year millennial reign of Christ on earth. An important key to understanding Dispensationalism is the notion that God will reestablish an earthly kingdom with the nation of Israel. For this reason, the events in Israel are of vital importance for the Premillennial Dispensationalist. Before the coming of Jesus, the temple would be rebuilt and the sacrificial system reinstated.
Because this kingdom was offered and then refused by the Jews, it would be offered again in the future. By crucifying Jesus, the Jews rejected the kingdom, but God did not reject Israel. As an after-thought or a parenthesis, Christ then went on to establish the church because Gentiles now believed what the Jews rejected. This is the "Church Age" spoken of by Dispensationalists and it must end before God can re-establish His primary work with the Jews. The church age ends with the rapture. Darby's Dispensational ideas caught on like wildfire in America, and were widely spread by the Scofield Reference Bible. Scofield, a layman, having studied Biblical prophecy for 30 years, added notes to the text of Scripture promoting Darby¹s Dispensational theology. Many Christians today regard Scofield's notes as being equally inspired as the Bible itself.
Apparently, however, neither Darby nor Scofield originated the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture. Darby was inspired by a woman named Margaret MacDonald who reported a revelation given to her by God during a healing service in Port Glasgow, Scotland, in 1830. MacDonald reported that in her vision, there was a two-stage process to the Second Coming of Christ. The first stage, the rapture, removed the church from this world. Christians would be caught up before the great tribulation and be taken to heaven. After the tribulation, Jesus would return to earth and establish His millennial kingdom. These ideas were embraced by Darby, promoted by Scofield and developed more fully in many of the Bible schools like Moody, Fuller and especially Dallas Theological Seminary during the 20th century in the United States. Many of the more fanatical proponents of the premillennial view are graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary.
This theological system is replete with errors.
1. The present-day nation of Israel is no more involved in God's plans for the future than is France, England, Germany, the United States, etc. The teaching of the New Testament is very clear - Jesus fulfilled everything pertaining to Israel and formed the New Israel, His church. It is an abomination to claim that the church is merely a parenthesis or an afterthought in the divine scheme of redemption. In fact, the Bible clearly states that the plans of God and the wisdom of God will be revealed in His church (Eph. 3:8-11).
2. Much of the "tribulation prophecy" in the Old Testament prophets, the Olivet discourses of our Lord Jesus, and the Book of Revelation was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. When Jesus said in Matt. 24:32-34 that "this generation will not pass away," He was not referring to some future generation that would see the political nation of Israel established by the United Nations. He was referring to the generation alive at the time He spoke the words. His words were fulfilled. In 70 A.D. Jerusalem was utterly destroyed. In fact, there is a view of Biblical prophecy called Preterism. Those who hold the view claim that all futuristic prophecy was fulfilled in the First Century.
3. The teaching of two "second comings" of Jesus is not Biblical. As the Apostles' Creed simply states, "From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead." On the mount of Ascension the angels told the disciples that He would come again in the same way they saw Him depart into heaven. Nowhere does the Bible teach two "second comings." The language of 1 Thess. 4:17 does not allow for the "rapture" teaching. The phrase "to meet the Lord" literally means "to meet for the purpose of welcoming back." The Greek phrase "to meet" ( eis apanthsin) is only used on four occasions in the New Testament. In each case it means to go out to meet for the purpose of welcoming. (See, for example, Acts 28:15.)
Premillennial Dispensationalism is a deceptive teaching. Those who promote these views and fill the minds of God's people with this nonsense are perpetrating a hoax.
Jesus is coming again. This is our glorious hope. Jesus told us to be about the business of preaching and teaching His Gospel and not speculate about His second coming. Those who believe in Jesus and trust His blood and righteousness for their salvation are prepared for His coming. "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"
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