Millions of Christians are fixated on what is going on in Israel today. Ever since Israel became a nation again in 1948, prophecy writers have insisted that this event is a prophetic sign that we are nearing the conclusion of the so-called Church Age. When 1988 came and went (40 years after Israel’s modern founding), a new paradigm had to be found to explain why the rapture had not taken place before the end of 1988, as Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith had predicted, and before the new millennium, as Jerry Falwell and John F. Walvoord had predicted. There was a lull in the prophetic storm when 1988 passed without the promised “rapture” of the church. Dave Hunt, another writer who has made his reputation with prophecy pot-boilers, offered this analysis of the prophecy scene at that time:
During the 1970s, when The Late Great Planet Earth was outselling everything, the rapture was the hot topic. Pastors preached about heaven, and Christians eagerly anticipated being taken up at any moment to meet their Lord in the air. When Christ didn’t return after 40 years since the establishment of a new Israel in 1948 without the fulfillment of prophesied events, disillusionment began to set in.1
Dispensationalist prophecy writers are like evolutionists. When the facts don’t fit the theory, modify the theory. When the fossil record did not conform to the theory of gradual evolutionary change over millions of years, evolutionists like Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge came up with a new evolutionary concoction called Punctuated Equilibrium. Like Gould and Eldredge, British evolutionist Derek was honest enough to admit that there are problems with the fossil record:
It must be significant that nearly all the evolutionary stories I learned as a student . . . have now been debunked . . . . The point emerges that if we examine the fossil record in detail, whether at the level of orders or of species, we find—over and over again—not gradual evolution, but sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another.2
If we examine the prophecy record of dispensationalists, we will see that they continually modify their prophetic theories rather than admit that the basis of their theory is wrong and needs to be abandoned altogether.
The one prophetic fact that remains intact by dispensationalists is Israel’s return to the land. But as I mentioned above, the timing of the starting point of that event seems always to be on the move. Even before 1948, events surrounding World War I were seen as the starting point to begin the calculations for when the “rapture” might be near. This was the position of Henry Morris (see his Defender’s Study Bible page 1045) and Tim LaHaye (who changed from the generation beginning with the “events of World War I” to “the events of 1948”). When that World War I generation began to pass away, 1948 was put forth as the new starting date. Then it moved to 1967 when the forty-year generation idea began to run out again. The use of 1967 took a forty-year generation to 2007. When these end-time dates came and went without incident, the length of a generation was changed, from 40 years, to 70 years, and then even to 100 years. Dispensationalism is no more reliable as a prophetic system than evolution is as a scientific system.
But there are further problems with the prophetic claims of dispensationalists as they relate to Israel’s national status. (I’ll touch on this topic in more detail in the debate I’ll be having with Jim Fletcher on June 19, 2010 at Midway Presbyterian Church in Powder Springs, Georgia.) One of the biggest problems that even some dispensationalists take note of is the spiritual condition of Jews living in Israel since their return. Stanley A. Ellisen, who earned a Th.D. in Bible exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, makes some significant points on this topic:
“It remains to put the divine plumbline to the house of Israel claiming Palestine today. Has she met the biblical conditions for restoration? . . . To put it bluntly, she has no biblical right to the covenant land. She has never recognized the Messiah God sent, let alone mourned over his wounding. Though many in Israel admit to Jesus’ greatness as a Jewish teacher, they adamantly reject him as Messiah. They see him as but one of several prominent pseudo-messiahs.”3
Ellisen’s book includes an endorsement by John F. Walvoord who describes it as “must reading.”
If Israel’s entry into the land (Num. 13–14) and stay in the land were based on faithfulness to the covenant, and exile from the land was based on the rejection of covenant obligations, then how is it possible that the return to the land would not be based on the same standards? The condition for returning to the land was a repentant heart and obedience to God’s commandments (Deut. 30), something that happened after Israel’s return from exile (see Ezra 9). To argue that the spiritual condition of modern-day Jews living in Israel is of little or no consequence and is somehow a fulfillment of Bible prophecy goes against what the Bible teaches. Ellisen continues:
The State of Israel will allow nearly every deviation from Jewish orthodoxy in its policy of toleration and pluralism. Even Jewish atheists are welcomed as citizens—but not believers in Jesus. Though the Law of Return of 1950 granted citizenship to anyone born Jewish, it was amended in 1970 to apply to anyone who is “born of a Jewish mother or has been converted and is not a member of another religion.” On December 25, 1989, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Messianic Jews “do not belong to the Jewish nation and have no right to force themselves on it. Those who believe in Jesus are, in fact, Christians.”
Judged on biblical grounds, the nation today does not pass divine muster. The promise of the land is directly tied to the nation’s response to Messiah. Though her international right to the land can be well defended, her divine right by covenant has only sentiment in its favor.4
As I mentioned above, there are other problems with the claim made by dispensationalists that Israel being in the land is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. I’ll point these out on June 19th when Jim Fletcher and I debate the following question: “Is Modern-Day Israel a Fulfillment of Bible Prophecy?” The first 100 people to attend will get an autographed copy of my new book 10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed (one per household) written specifically for the debate.
(For those who may get angry with what I’ve written, post your comments. Do not send them to American Vision. Before you post a comment, be sure you’ve actually read the article and take note of who I quoted in support of my conclusions. They are all dispensationalists. A lot of people will be surprised to learn what I’ve uncovered in my research for this debate.)
- Back cover copy of Dave Hunt, Whatever Happened to Heaven? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1988). [↩]
- Derek V. Ager, “The Nature of the Fossil Record,” Proceedings of the British Geological Association, vol. 87 (1976), 24, 133. Quoted in G. Thomas Sharp, Rocks, Fossils and Dinosaurs (Noble, OK: Icon Publishing Group, 2010), 81. [↩]
- Stanley A. Ellisen, Who Owns the Land? The Arab-Israel Conflict (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1991), 173–174. [↩]
- Ellisen, Who Owns the Land?, 174. [↩]