A few weeks ago I wrote an article with the title “Another Prophetic Nonsense Conference.” It was about an upcoming prophecy conference sponsored by Jan Markell’s Olive Tree Ministries. I pointed out that these types of conferences have been going on for a long time and have done little to help Christians really understand Bible prophecy. In fact, they have done more damage than good.
Without the sensationalism and talk about “signs, signs, everywhere a sign,”1 these conferences would be sparsely attended, kind of like preterist conferences. Who wants to study history when we can speculate about the future by using the Bible!
Obviously upset with me for describing the prophetic content of her conference as “nonsense,” Markell responded to my article with an online article of her own:
“I am troubled by the tone I am seeing among believers today and particularly between ministry leaders. . . . I am seeing a lack of civility between ministries that is stunning as well as character assassination and even slander. . . . I see it crossing a line and becoming mean-spirited growling. Some men and women are caving to the fleshly desire to tear down rather than build up. So when Gary DeMar came out a couple of weeks ago stating publicly that I host ‘a nonsense conference,’ I felt I needed to respond.”
Markell didn’t explain the content of my article which would have clued people into why the conference will be about additional prophetic nonsense. (Keep in mind that dispensationalists teach that there are no signs that one can point to that indicate when the so-called rapture will take place. Thus, a prophecy conference that addresses the “signs of the times” is a contradiction. See the chapter “The Myth that the Modern State of Israel is a Sign that the Rapture is Near” in my book 10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered.)
I received an email from a dispensationalist who I debated a few years back. (It wasn’t Thomas Ice.) He didn’t like it either. He wrote:
To: DeMar, Gary
Subject: disparaging remark
I read this week that you have referred to an upcoming conference hosted by Jan Markell as a “nonsense conference.”
I just wanted to confirm that you either used that phrase or did not.
I told him that I did use the word “nonsense,” and if he reads the article he’ll know why. Markell did not tell her readers why I considered another prophecy conference as “nonsense.”
My article pointed out that prophecy writers for the past 43 years, going back just to Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth that was published in 1970, have been feeding us repeated prophetic nonsense. Lindsey, someone who spoke at Markell’s 2005 conference, predicted that after Israel’s founding in 1948 all would come to an end by 1988. He hedged, but in a 1977 interview he indicated that it was a prediction since he said that if he was wrong he would be a “bum.”
Tim LaHaye made similar claims about the 1948 importance of Israel becoming a nation again as does Markell even though we are 25 years beyond the 40-year generational deadline and, according to the major tenets of dispensationalism, there are no signs that precede the “rapture.” In fact, in a debate I had with Paige Patterson in 1991, he said the following:
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.2
Pointing out these facts and many more like them puts me in the “disparaging” category. Similarly, Markell accuses me of “character assassination and even slander.” I am more than glad to send the evidence to anybody who asks me for it. Actually, everything I’ve written on this topic is public knowledge. The books are in print for anybody to see. It’s not slander and character assassination to point out what people believe by using their own words. If they teach error that makes no biblical sense and history has nullified, then nonsense is the appropriate word.
Since Markell knows the evidence I’ve presented (it’s in the article she did not interact with), I wonder why she doesn’t deal with it in an open and truthful way and inform her readers about what I actually wrote. She can dispute it as well. All she can say is
“I am not sure why we cannot disagree without denigrating the other side. Again, if this is the new standard in apologetics, God help us.”
How can I agree to disagree with prophecy writers who made predictions about when they said the rapture was going to take place and they turned out to be dead wrong? Is there no accountability?
In his book The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon, Lindsey wrote, “The decade of the 1980’s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.” In addition to his questionable interpretive claims, consider these comments from Lindsey (notice the dates):
“What a way to live! With optimism, with anticipation, with excitement. We should be living like persons who don’t expect to be around much longer.”3
“I don’t like clichés but I’ve heard it said, ‘God didn’t send me to clean the fish bowl, he sent me to fish.’ In a way there’s a truth to that.” (“The Great Cosmic Countdown,” Eternity (January 1977), 21.))
Eschatology matters. If you don’t clean the fishbowl, the fish die. When prophecy writers preach and teach that the end is certainly near, why bother rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic if it’s about to sink, an analogy that Markell used in her article “Kingdom Now: We’re Not Returning to Eden”:
“The church is not in the business of taking anything away from Satan but the souls of men. The world is a sinking Titanic ripe for judgment, not Garden of Eden perfection.”
God has judged the world numerous times, and we’re still here. No one’s dismissing the moral decline in certain parts of the world. God could wipe the United States off the map and it wouldn’t mean it was the end. When Elijah claimed before God that he was the only one who had not bowed the knee to Baal, God responded this way:
“Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.” But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL” (Rom 11:3–4; 1 Kings 19:10, 14, 18).
If Satan is in control of the world prior to the return of Jesus, as Markell seems to believe, then is the radio station from which she broadcasts her weekly show controlled by Satan? Jesus took all kinds of things away from Satan (Matt. 12:22–29), and so did the church for nearly two millennia. Are we to believe that all the progress that has been made in so many areas of life has not benefitted people in this life? If we treat the world like a dirty fish bowl or a sinking Titanic, should we be surprised that the fish go belly up?
On December 31, 1979, Chuck Smith told those who had gathered on the last day of that year that the rapture would take place before the end of 1981. He went on to say that because of ozone depletion Revelation 16:8 would be fulfilled during the tribulation period: “And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.” In addition, Halley’s Comet would pass near earth in 1986 and would wreak havoc on those left behind as debris from its million-mile-long tail pummeled the planet.
There’s been a steady stream of this type of prophetic nonsense.
Markell included this in her response article: “In Proverbs 6:16-19, ‘sowing discord among brothers’ is right up there with the offense of murder in the eyes of the Lord.” Obviously this can’t mean pointing out the truth when someone is in error, even if that someone is a Christian. Discernment requires judgment, both positive and negative. Jesus said, “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). He never said don’t ever judge (Matt. 7:1–2). John tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Paul confronted Peter “to his face” (Gal 2:11) because of his theological error.
In other places Paul named some of his theological opponents by name (1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; 4:10, 14). Paul warned Timothy about “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1) that were corrupting the church: “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following” (v. 6). Notice: “in pointing out these things to the brethren.”
Was Paul “sowing discord among brothers” by pointing out errors of people who were in the church? I don’t think so.
I wonder what Markell has to say about comments she made about reconstructionists, advocates of dominion theology (there are different kinds), and preterists in her “Kingdom Now” article:
“One of the fastest-growing false teachings in the church today is called by various names: Kingdom Now, Dominion Theology, Reconstructionism, and the Restoration Movement. It is also known as ‘liberation theology.’”
Markell calls some of what I and others believe “false teachings.” It’s obvious that she is misinformed on the topic since she equates Christian Reconstruction with the leftist ideology “liberation theology.” Anybody who knows anything about Christian Reconstruction knows that it is the polar opposite of “liberation theology” and people like Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo who she lumps in with Reconstructionists. I’ve debated Wallis. The late David Chilton wrote Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators, a comprehensive critique of the social gospel movement as it was being defined at the time by Ron Sider and his book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Gary North’s first published book was Marx’s Religion of Revolution: The Doctrine of Creative Destruction (1968). Markell has not done her homework.
In the same article she attacks preterism, the prophetic view that the majority of New Testament prophetic texts refer to events leading up to an including the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Here’s what she wrote:
This theology is borne out of the Manifest Sons of God movement and Latter Rain movement in about 1948. It also has ties to the positive confession movement. Major points of the theologies teach:
* Prophetic scriptures are denied or fulfilled in 70AD (as is also the belief of Preterism).
Markell is woefully uninformed on the subject of preterism. I responded to her comments about preterism in “Is the World a ‘Sinking Titanic’? so there is no need to repeat its content here. I don’t know if Markell has read it, but it would show her how off she is in understanding preterism.
If she wants to see how well a preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse fares in a debate setting, I would recommend the Reno Symposium that I participated in with Dr. Sam Waldron and Dr. James Hamilton.
Preterism has a long history going back nearly two millennia, something I’ve pointed out in numerous books. All one has to do is go to www.PreteristArchive.com to see how uninformed she is on the subject. Some of the greatest Bible expositors the church has ever produced interpreted passages like the Olivet Discourse in a preterist way. Even dispensationalist Thomas Ice admitted that “[t]here is early preterism in people like Eusebius [A.D. 263–339]. In fact, his work The Proof of the Gospel is full of preterism in relationship to the Olivet Discourse.”4 As Francis X. Gumerlock demonstrates in his book Revelation and the First Century, “those who say such things [about preterism] are misinformed about Christian history.”5
Then there’s an interview that Markell had with David Reagan on her “Understanding the Times” radio program sometime in 2010: “Dominion Theology Heresy, Apostasy, and Signs of the End.” She describes adherents of “Dominion Theology” and “Christian Reconstruction” as involved in “heresy,” “apostasy,” and even “blasphemy.” So much for “disagreeing without denigrating” and “not sowing discord among brothers” and not “disparaging” others.
I thought this comment about the interview that was posted on YouTube was interesting:
“I listened to Jan Markell for many years until I heard Gary DeMar and had access to Dominion theology [publications], and I realized how wrong I was and how I wasted my time listening to her on KKMS radio every Sat morning and going to her conferences here in Minnesota. She is unfair, no more phone calls on Saturdays. I think their system will not stand questions. Hope preterists will bring a conference to Minneapolis, land of [Markell’s] ‘Understanding the Times’ but in the wrong way.”
To wrap up this article, when a prophetic system keeps interpreting the Bible in terms of news headlines that in time show those interpretations to be in error, it is not being denigrating to describe such prophetic claims as “nonsense.” The interpretive system known as dispensationalism, when an internal critique is done, cannot be sustained.
- The title of the song by the “Five-Man Electric Band” is “Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign” and doesn’t have anything to do with prophetic signs, but I thought it worked well to make my point. [↩]
- Stated on Dallas, Texas, radio program KCBI in a debate with me on May 15, 1991. [↩]
- The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 145. [↩]
- Thomas Ice, “Update on Pre-Darby Rapture Statements and Other Issues”: audio tape (December 1995). [↩]
- Francis X. Gumerlock, Revelation and the First Century (Powder Springs, GA: Powder Springs Press, 2012), from the Introduction. [↩]