Greg Laurie is a popular evangelist. Periodically he goes off topic and discusses Bible prophecy. A few years ago, another prominent evangelist went off topic and wrote an article on why we are living in the last days and how Bible prophecy is being fulfilled right before our eyes.
I wrote a four-part series of articles critiquing his argument. He and I spoke on the phone about the topic and my point-by-point response. He told me that he was never going to write on the topic because “apparently I don’t know much about the subject.”
Most people who address the topic of Bible prophecy have not studied the subject on their own. They’ve trusted what others have written. Because they frequent churches that hold to a similar end-time belief system, they have no idea that there are well studied exegetical alternatives that don’t have to be revised every ten years or so.
Greg Laurie should sit down and read Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth and The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon. It wouldn’t hurt to read Chuck Smith’s works on prophetic speculation that he wrote in the 1970s and predicted that the so-called “rapture” would take place sometime in the 1980s. Also, he should pick up Louis S. Bauman’s Russian Events in the Light of Bible Prophecy published in 1942. I have shelves full of books like these that I would be glad to lend to Mr. Laurie
Consider this claim from Laurie that appears on his blog:
“When I look at Bible prophecy, one thing that is of great interest to me, and of great concern, is the absence of the United States. It is interesting to note that a number of nations are mentioned in the Bible that will be active in the last days. Libya is mentioned by name. Persia, which became modern Iran and Iraq, is mentioned. Ethiopia is specifically mentioned. Quite possibly China and Russia are mentioned. And certainly Israel is mentioned. But the one nation that is strangely absent is the United States of America.”
The reason America is not mentioned in Bible prophecy is because Bible prophecy is not about us, and not just us but Canada, Central America, South America, Sweden, Norway, Vietnam, Singapore, India, and most of the continent of Africa. Why is it always why America’s not mentioned?
Laurie mentions Persia, Libya, and Ethiopia. There’s also Egypt and Israel. The Old Testament mentions these nations. Nothing is said in the New Testament about Israel becoming a nation again or prophecies about Persia (Iran and Iraq), Ethiopia, or Egypt as part of some end-time alliance with an antichrist. The fulfillment of these nation-state prophecies has already taken place. Under the new covenant, as Gentiles, prophecies were made about their inclusion in the covenant blessings that came to Israel in the first century. They were grafted into an already redeemed body of Jewish believers (Acts 2:1–11; Rom. 11).
If the Old Testament was really describing Iran and Iraq in prophetic terms, it seems that the Bible would have used the Hebrew equivalent of Iran and Iraq. If Russia is mentioned because the Hebrew word rosh sounds like Russia, as many dispensationalists wrongly claim, then why don’t we find equivalent sound-alike words for Iran and Iraq?
What about China? Isaiah 23:1 (Num. 24:24) has a prophecy that mentions “the land of Kittim,” which some prophecy speculators believe is modern-day China. The New American Standard translates Kittim as “Cyprus,” while the King James Version transliterates the Hebrew as “Chittim.”
“In Genesis 10:4 the word is applied to the descendants of Javan, and indicates, therefore, the Greek-Latin races, whose territory extended along the coasts of the Mediterranean, and included its islands. By the side of Kittim are mentioned Elisha, Tarshish, and Dodanim ( = Rodanim of 1 Chronicles 1:7), generally explained respectively as Sicily with Southern Italy, Spain and Rhodes. In its narrower sense Kittim appears simply to have stood for the island of Cyprus — it is mentioned between Bashan ( = Pal) and the isles of Elisha in Ezekiel 27:6, 7, and with this Isaiah 23:1, 12 agree, Kittim occurring in these passages between Tarshish, Tyre and Sidon.
Other prophecy writers appeal to Isaiah 49:12 and the Hebrew word sinim, i.e., the inhabitants of the land of Sin. (The Hebrew suffix im makes a world plural.) Since it’s only used once (hapax legomenon), it’s difficult to determine its definitive meaning. E. J. Young notes in his commentary on Isaiah that “an ancient interpretation would identify it with China, and this, despite alleged difficulties, is a possibility. . . . One cannot, however, be dogmatic.”1.
If the use of sinim in Isaiah 49:12 is a reference to China, it’s an announcement of redemption not a prophecy of destruction: “Behold, these shall come from afar; and behold, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.” There are more Christians in China than in America.
Allan MacRae, a dispensationalist, writes:
“In verse 12 [of Isa. 49] the remarkable extent of the work of the servant is clearly indicated with people coming to his light from the north and from the west and even from the land of Sinim (China). What a marvelous prediction of the extension of the gospel of deliverance from sin through the servant of the Lord to the very ends of the world! How wonderfully it has been fulfilled in these days when groups of believers have come to the Savior from so many sections of the earth, even including this very land of China, which must have seemed in the days of Isaiah to be the utmost fringe of civilization. Truly He has become ‘a light to the Gentiles.’”2
In dispensational prophetic literature, however, China is seen as an end-time enemy, putting together 200 million troops on horseback to invade Israel (Rev. 9:16; 16:13–21)? Even some futurists see this imagery as symbolic.
Why would China mount such a vast army after a third of the earth’s population has just been wiped out by plagues and falling stars to the Earth? It doesn’t make any sense. The world would be in such chaos that the last thing on anyone’s mind would be to round up 200 million horses, soldiers, weapons, saddles, and enough food and water so they could make a nearly impossible trek from China (16:12) to Israel. Do we not remember how the world went on hold after 9–11? It seems obvious from Revelation 9:17 that this is a symbolic army, a demon-inspired army bent on destruction (9:1–11). The comments by Ralph E. Bass, Jr., are helpful:
“[This] is a number designed to terrorize. And indeed, that is its achieved result. As Carrington says, ‘. . . it is the empire of hell.’ There never has been such an army and apparently never will be one. . . . But the number appears to have another meaning than the number of Roman soldiers from that area; it appears to suggest the number of demons that were released on Israel and Jerusalem. Remember the story of the demon possessed man from Garasenes (Luke 8:30)? He was possessed by a legion of demons. A legion was from 5,000 to 6,000 men, and all this in but one man! At 6,000 demons per person, it would only require a little over 33,000 inhabitants of Judah to justify these numbers.”3
Then there’s the horse problem. There aren’t 200 million horses in the entire world today. At most there are about 60 million worldwide. China’s horse population is less than 7.5 million.4 After the worldwide cataclysms described in Revelation 6:12–17 (if they are to be taken literally), there would be even fewer horses, and the horses that were still alive would most likely be used for food.
Laurie mentions Russia. I’m assuming he’s basing his view on Ezekiel 38 and 39. I’ve covered the rosh = Russia argument in my book Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future. There is no internal evidence for the claim that these two chapters are describing modern-day Russia. The reading of Ezekiel 38:2 should be “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (38:2; 39:1) and not the “prince of Rosh” as so many dispensationalists put it. Charles Ryrie, a well know dispensationalist and author of the Ryrie Study Bible and the book Dispensationalism Today (1965), acknowledges that rosh is not a proper name: “The prince of Rosh is better translated as ‘the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.’”
Daniel I. Block translates Ezekiel 38:3, “[Son of Man], set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal.”5 Here is Block’s explanation:
“[Rosh] is therefore best understood as a common noun, appositional to and offering a closer definition of [the Hebrew word] nasi [translated as ‘prince’]. Accordingly, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal, combines Ezekiel’s preferred title for kings with a hierarchical designation, the addition serving to clarify the preceding archaic term.”6
Then there’s the problem with the weapons. They are ancient weapons: bows and arrows, spears, clubs, shields (Ezek. 39:9) and chariots (39:20). The claim is often made that God was revealing modern-day weaponry in terms that Ezekiel and the people of his day could understand. Bows and arrows are really missiles and rocket launchers. Horses are “horse power.” Chariots are tanks.
Dispensationalists say they interpret the Bible literally. They don’t when it comes to Ezekiel 38 and 39. Revelation tells us early that the events described therein are “signified” (Rev. 1:1).
“Much of John’s symbolism derives from the Old Testament Scriptures and from the ecclesiastical context in which he spent his time. Let us note that the Jewish mind of the first century received and presented information by means of pictures, illustrations, and symbols.”7
Notice what these invading northern hordes in Ezekiel are after: silver, gold, cattle, and goods (Ezek. 38:12–13). What did the returning exiles from Babylon bring back with them as they returned to their homeland?: silver, gold, goods, and cattle (Ezra 1:4).
Ezekiel was told that the prophecy would be fulfilled in a time when there would be “unwalled villages” (Ezek. 38:11). Today, Israel is a nation of walls. In the book of Esther, we see that there were Jews who were living in relative peace in “unwalled towns” (9:19, KJV) when Haman conspired against them. The Hebrew word perazah is used in Esther 9:19 and Ezekiel 38:11. It’s unfortunate that the translators of the New American Standard Version translate perazah as “rural towns” in Esther 9:19 instead of “unwalled villages” as they do in Ezekiel 38:11.
There are many more parallels between Ezekiel 38 and 39 and the book of Esther and other parts of the Old Testament.
Laurie needs to stick with what he knows, because he does not know Bible prophecy. I heard he’s a good evangelist. He should stick with it.
- Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), 3:282, 294. A person of Chinese descent made the following comment: “If they really knew China, they would not call China ‘Sino’ or ‘China’; they would call China ‘Han’ or ‘Huaxia’ or ‘Center Empire.’” [↩]
- Allan A MacRae, Studies in Isaiah (Hatfield PA: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1995), 237. See also MacRae’s The Gospel of Isaiah (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977), 109-12. [↩]
- Ralph E. Bass, Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 241. [↩]
- “World horse population estimated at 58 million.” [↩]
- Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25–48 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 432. [↩]
- Block, Ezekiel, 2:435. [↩]
- Simon J. Kistemaker, Revelation: Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2001), 16. [↩]