The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Thank God for Schizophrenic Christians

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The following ad copy appeared in World magazine for Joel C. Rosenberg’s new book Implosion:

Is America an Empire in Decline or a Nation Poised for a Historic Renaissance?

This ad copy startled me. I’ve read most of Rosenberg’s books and debated him on the meaning of Ezekiel 38 and 39. (He wasn’t up for a second debate.) He’s a dispensationalist. Dispensationalists don’t believe in a Renaissance.

Had Rosenberg abandoned his dispensational views like so many other dispensationalists have, even some high-profile dispensationalists that I am not at liberty to name? No. He’s a prophecy writer who’s halting between two opinions. He’s schizophrenic similar to Brannon Howse who decries America’s problems, claims to teach Christian worldview, and then tells the kids that come to his weekend conferences that the rapture’s around the corner (see here, here, and here).

If Rosenberg wants to work for an American Renaissance, I’ll be glad to work with him. But what’s his strategy? Where are the specifics? What’s the timetable? How long will it take? How does he keep people focused on an American Renaissance when he’s telling them “Jesus Christ is Coming Back Soon, and Time is Running Out” (225). The operative word is “soon.” If it’s all going to happen “soon,” and a Renaissance takes time, who’s going to put in the effort?

As I was paging through Implosion, I came across a familiar critique of Hal Lindsey’s early prophecy work. As I read what Rosenberg had written, it sounded familiar, like I had written it! Rosenberg was criticizing Hal Lindsey on his 1948–1988 prophetic timetable by arguing that he “repeatedly overreached in his analysis.” Here’s how Rosenberg explains it:

“For example, Lindsey wrote that since Israel was reborn in 1948 and since a generation — in his view — was forty years, the rapture would likely take place by 1988. He began by citing Matthew 24:34, where Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.’ Lindsey asked, ‘What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs — chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so.’” (109)

Good for Rosenberg. He’s doing an internal critique of his own system and is finding it wanting. Lindsey’s not the only prophecy writer who held the 1948­–1988 interpretation of Matthew 24:34. Chuck Smith was even more specific than Lindsey. Rosenberg’s analysis of Lindsey’s view is devastating and welcomed. But does it go far enough and solve the inherent cultural problem built into the dispensational system that the world must get worse and worse before Jesus returns in the ‘rapture’? Why polish brass on a sinking ship or rearrange the deck chairs on the Costa Concordia.

His critical three-page analysis of Lindsey has not stopped Rosenberg from declaring “in recent decades we have seen so many other signs of the last days come true, [that] we can be additionally certain that we are living in the last days.” (111–112) So what Rosenberg takes away from dispensationalism with one hand in critiquing Lindsey’s methodology, he gives back with the other, claiming that it’s a “certainty” that “we are living in the last days.”

Now back to the subtitle to Implosion: Can America Recover from Its Economic and Spiritual Challenges in Time? The answer, given Rosenberg’s own claim that we are living in the last days, the answer has to be no! Turning the nation around will take time. It could take generations. And even if America does turn around, according to Rosenberg and his dispensational fellow travelers, a time will inevitably come when nothing can stop the rise of antichrist and all his attendant atrocities, including the slaughter of millions of Jews.

Rosenberg has another problem as a dispensationalist. He claims that for decades we’ve seen many signs of the last days coming true. Since the “rapture” is an any-moment event (as dispensationalists have always taught), then there can’t be any signs that precede it. If there are signs that are necessary for the rapture to take place, and certain signs are of recent origin, that means the rapture couldn’t have taken place 1500, 1000, or 500 years ago.

It also means that if Israel becoming a nation again is a necessary sign before the “rapture” can take place, then when Israel was not a nation (any time after A.D. 70 and before May 14, 1948), then the rapture could never have been imminent during that nearly 1900-year period.

Some will claim that Israel becoming a nation again “sets the stage” for the rapture and the tribulation period. The same point holds true. If any prophetic event is necessary to “set the stage” for the “rapture” and the tribulation period, then when the stage was not set (when Israel was not in the process of becoming a nation), the “rapture” could not have happened.

Dispensationalism teaches that there can’t be the fulfillment of any prophecies related to the “rapture” during the so-called Church Age. According to dispensationalism, the “Church Age” is a parenthesis. The prophetic clock for Israel stopped nearly two millennia ago. Nothing prophetic can take place in the “Church Age.” Don’t believe me? Here’s what dispensationalists themselves have written on the subject:

John MacArthur: “[The rapture] could happen at any moment. It is a signless, imminent event, it is the next thing, no signs necessary.” [1]

Paul Feinberg: “[T]here is no mention of any signs or events that precede the Rapture of the church in any of the Rapture passages. The point seems to be that the believer prior to this event is to look, not for some sign, but the Lord from heaven.” [2]

Todd Strandberg and Terry James, authors of Rapture Ready: “The Bible gives no specific signs that will precede the Rapture. It will be unannounced. Instantaneous. World-stunning.” [3]

Wendell G. Johnston: “[T]the coming of Christ for the Church is imminent, that is, it could be at any time. There are no events given to us in the Word of God that must be fulfilled before Christ can come back for His Church. In other words, it is the next prophetic event, as far as Scripture is concerned.” [4]

John R. Rice: “[T]he custom has grown up among a lot of premillennial Christians of looking for Christ’s return because we have had the first or second world war, or of looking for Christ’s return because Zionists and infidel Jews have established the modern nation Israel in Palestine. Some are moved more by newspaper accounts than by the plain command of the Lord Jesus.” [5]

Rice argues that signs preceding the “rapture” are contrary to the dispensational “doctrine of the imminency of Christ’s return.” He tells his readers to “note carefully that this doctrine of the imminency of Christ’s return contradicts the doctrine that Jesus could not come until a certain set time in a program and that He must come after a number of specified signs are fulfilled,” [6] including Israel becoming a nation again.

Earl D. Radmacher: “Equally as unjustified as date-setting for Christ’s return are the numerous sermons attempting to find fulfillment of prophecy in this age. Typical of them is a popular author, conference speaker, and television personality who has stated his belief that the ‘paramount prophetic sign’ is that Israel had to be a nation again in the land of its forefathers. This condition was fulfilled, he claims, on May 14, 1948. [7] This pronouncement is simply representative of hundreds, perhaps, thousands, of others who, although eager in their anticipation of Christ’s coming, distort the Scripture and cause terrible confusion for God’s people.” [8]

Paige Patterson: “The present state of Israel is not the final form. The present state of Israel will be lost eventually, and Israel will be run out of the land again, only to return when they accept the Messiah as Savior.” [9]

Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes that some believe that there will be “one more forced exile from the land in the middle of the Great Tribulation, the one spoken of in Matthew 24:15–28 and Revelation 12:6–14. After the second coming, Israel will experience her final restoration. For some, this would be called the fourth, while for others it would be the completion of the third.” [10].

In his chapter “Will America Experience a Third Great Awakening,” Rosenberg writes:

“For me, the central question of our time for Americans is this: Will God in his grace and mercy decide to allow the American people to experience a Third Great Awakening?

“If so, may this spiritual renaissance begin immediately, for we are desperate for help. If not, then I believe our days are numbered and a terrible implosion is coming. There is no more middle ground, in my view. It is one or the other.” (287).

What do you think people who are focused on the Rosenberg’s earlier prediction that “Jesus Christ is Coming Back Soon, and Time is Running Out”? They’ll say, “Joel, you just told us ‘Jesus is coming soon and time is running out.’ Why should we put time and energy into something that you claim is headed for an ‘implosion’ that will happen ‘soon’?”

Rosenberg writes that “there are an estimated 340,000 church congregations in the United States.” Of course, they are not all Bible believing. But there are certainly more Christians in the United States than homosexuals, and yet homosexuals don’t seem to have trouble implementing their agenda. It only takes a faithful remnant. Rosenberg continues:

"Imagine how rapidly America would change if all of these 340,000 congregations were healthy, strong, brightly shining lighthouses, as God intended.

"What if they were all faithfully teaching the Word of God book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse so the people of God would know the whole counsel of God?" (291)

Of course, this would be great. But Rosenberg would want the pastors of these churches to teach his brand of end-time prophecy that keeps telling them that they’re living in the last days and a thing called the ‘rapture’ is near. Schizophrenia reigns!

If Rosenberg can get them to be double-minded, that’s OK with me. They’ll get tired of it after a time and abandon dispensationalism.

While traveling around our neighborhood, I came across the following church signs — a kind of “eschatological spirit of the age”:

“Make the Rapture a Family Affair”

“Look Up, Pray Up, We’re Going Up”

Fortunately the churches were small.

There’s some good information in Implosion, but it’s obscured and nullified by Rosenberg’s end-time worldview. If he had left the prophetic material out, it would have been a good book.

  1. John MacArthur, “The Final Generation of the Future Judgment, commentary on Luke 21:29–33 (GC 42-264).[]
  2. Paul D. Feinberg, “The Case for the Pretribulation Rapture Position,” The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-Tribulational?, ed. Ben Chapman (Grand Rapids, MI: Academic Books, 1984), 80.[]
  3. Todd Strandberg and Terry James, Are You Rapture Ready?: Signs, Prophecies, Warnings, Threats, and Suspicions that the Endtime is Now (New York: Dutton, 2003), xiii–xiv.[]
  4. Wendell G. Johnston, “When Can the Church Expect the Lord’s Return?,” Jesus the King is Coming (ed. Charles Lee Feinberg (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 37.[]
  5. John R. Rice, We Can Have Revival Now (Wheaton, IL: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1950), 43.[]
  6. Rice, We Can Have Revival Now, 45.[]
  7. “The one event which many Bible students in the past overlooked was this paramount prophetic sign: Israel had to be a nation again in the land of its forefathers.” (Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970], 43).[]
  8. Earl D. Radmacher, “The Imminent Return of the Lord,” Issues in Dispensationalism, eds. Wesley R. Willis and John R. Master (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 248.[]
  9. Stated on Dallas, Texas, radio program KCBI in a debate with me on May 15, 1991.[]
  10. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, [1989] 2001), 418[]

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