The following is a review of my debate with Kent Hovind on the Rapture written by Uri Brito. Uri is the Senior Pastor of Providence Church in Pensacola, Florida. The article first appeared at the Kuyper Commentary website on January 22, 2020.
I and a few dear friends traveled in an intemperate cold evening somewhere in Alabama (I remain unsure) to hear a debate on the nature of the rapture in the Bible. The fellowship in these sorts of things is always more glorious than the thing itself. A great time was had by all.
The debate between Gary DeMar and Kent Hovind combined for me two worlds. Hovind’s world is surrounded by KJV Onlyism, Creationism and a hint of paranoia. Perhaps valid on his part. Demar’s world is surrounded by the Theonomic heritage, Prophetic studies and a pint of a good drink. I unashamedly have been of Gary’s tribe for almost two decades. So, there will be nothing of surprise in my assessment.
Gary and I have known each other since 2004. I met him, Gary North, and others in a Super Worldview Conference in Georgia. Our worlds have come together on several occasions and our mutual friends keep our theological communities aligned. At almost 70, he is just as sharp as when I first met him and his hunger for biblical consistency allows him to speak with integrity and passion.
I want to outline three elements of the debate that made an impression on me. I attended the debate but didn’t bother to take exact notes, so my thoughts serve to summarize rather than to be precise.
The first striking element was the unpreparedness of Gary’s opponent, Kent Hovind. Gary DeMar is and has been a premier voice in the eschatology discussion for more than 30 years. When Hovind said he read over 100 books on eschatology while in prison, either he purposefully avoided reading diverse voices or he strongly overstated his numbers. I can honestly say that no one who is seriously studying eschatology is going to miss Gary DeMar’s name. His sheer amount of publications on this topic at both popular and technical level is superior to virtually any theologian out there. His classic Last Days Madness has gone through nine revisions. On several occasions, Kent said, “He was curious to find out what Gary believed.”
In sum, it is truly disappointing to see someone debate who has not taken any interest in finding out who his opponent is or what is his precise theological trajectory. In this particular point, Gary’s preparedness shined through and I assume that even Kent was aware of it by the end of the debate.
The second striking element was the fallacy of hasty generalizations. Kent rushed to conclusions without considering alternative possibilities. In the discussion on Daniel 9:24-27 ( a crucial point in the debate about the rapture), Hovind assumed Daniel’s prophecy offered a gap between the 69th and 70th week. Further, that such gap could only be fulfilled in the future. This is a common occurrence within pre-millennial presentations. Such generalizations lead the debater to make illicit assumptions without focusing on the logic and wording of the text. Generalizations keep you from questioning your presuppositions; something evident as the evening went by.
On several moments, Gary seized the moment and drew Hovind to his inevitable conclusion. In fact, DeMar’s glorious moment was to require Hovind to look at the life of Jesus as a fulfillment of the 70th week. Kent’s Post-trib, pre-wrath position keeps him centered in a future rebuilt temple, while Daniel’s prophecy calls us to look at Jesus as the One who makes covenant and establishes an everlasting kingdom in his earthly ministry. In short, the generalizations kept Hovind from seeing the text’s clear implications.
Finally, the third striking element was the constant danger of literalism in a discussion about biblical prophecy. It is almost too common, but Kent’s arguments often highlighted words that were strikingly symbolic but he viewed them through the lens of a literalism. In one case, he asked DeMar whether Daniel’s prophecy could really be applied to Jesus because Jesus obviously didn’t bring in “everlasting righteousness” (Dan. 9:24). But a quick perusal through Hebrews clearly illustrates that Daniel’s prophecy is of Jesus–not the anti-christ–bringing a righteousness that endures and is imputed to us in his death, resurrection, and ascension.
At one crucial moment, Hovind inquired of Demar if the sun had literally darkened in Isaiah 13. “There is no historical record of such,” he said. Demar quickly pushed the argument and Hovind conceded that the language is symbolic. Check. Mate.
The end of the matter is that the debate was an awakening moment for those who do not see the Bible in total. The Gospel writers wrote with their Hebraic context surrounding their every inspired jot and tittle. When we disengage or divorce the text, we suffer a thousand deaths (be aware: symbolic language used). What DeMar did on that frigid evening of January 21st, 2020 was to make Hovind’s large YouTube population aware that notions of the rapture have been misinterpreted and reports that preterism is dead are greatly exaggerated.