It’s been said repeatedly that ideas have consequences. This is no less true of prophetic ideas. What a person believes about the future impacts how he lives in the present and plans for the days and years to come. We often look at present circumstances and see them as the standard to evaluate where we are in the world. Of course, we’re not the first generation to do this (Num. 13–14), but it seems that we’re the first to make it an article of faith. Forty years were wasted wandering in the world because a majority of people believed that it would be their eschatological end to enter the land where there were giants.

Numbers 13 is the key passage on giants in the land of Canaan. When Israel left Egypt and was in the wilderness seeking to enter the Promised Land, Moses sent 12 Israelite spies (one from each tribe) to Canaan. The spies were to scout out the land and assess “whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak” (Numbers 13:18). The spies returned to Moses after 40 days and gave a good report about the land — “It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit” (Numbers 13:27). However, they gave a bad report about the people in the land:

However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan (Numbers 13:28–29).

Caleb, one of the spies, urged Israel to go up and occupy the land, but the other spies (except Joshua) said they were not able because the people there were stronger (Numbers 13:30-31). Then the “bad report” got even worse:

The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them (Numbers 13:32–33). (Source)

Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future

Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future

Ezekiel 38 & 39 are being used by today's prophecy writers as a prophetic blueprint for our time. These same prophecy writers almost never tell their readers that there is a long history of failed predictions based on these two chapters. Finally, there's a book that explains the meaning of these two seemingly mysterious chapters by using the Bible instead of today's newspaper headlines.

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Early in his theological training, Francis Schaeffer’s eschatology was shaped by the Scofield Reference Bible.[1] Os Guinness writes that “dispensational premillennialism … has had unfortunate consequences on the Christian mind,” including reinforcing an already developing “anti-intellectualism” and a “general indifference to serious engagement with culture.”[2] While this description cannot be applied to Schaeffer, there is an underlying premillennial pessimistic stream that runs through Schaeffer’s worldview.

William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, recounts the time in the 1960s he spent studying in L’Abri, Switzerland, under the tutelage of Schaeffer (1912–1984):

I can remember coming down the mountain from L’Abri and expecting the stock market to cave in, a priestly elite to take over American government, and enemies to poison the drinking water. I was almost disappointed when these things did not happen.[3]

Edgar speculates, with good reason, that it was Schaeffer’s “premillenarian eschatology” that negatively affected the way he saw and interpreted world events. One of Schaeffer’s last books, A Christian Manifesto, did not call for cultural transformation but civil disobedience as a stopgap measure to postpone an inevitable societal decline. “The fact remains that Dr. Schaeffer’s manifesto offers no prescriptions for a Christian society…. The same comment applies to all of Dr. Schaeffer’s writings: he does not spell out the Christian alternative. He knows that you ‘can’t fight something with nothing,’ but as a premillennialist, he does not expect to win the fight prior to the visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to earth to establish His millennial kingdom.”[4]

Tom Sine offers a startling example of the effect “prophetic inevitability” can have on some people:

“Do you realize if we start feeding hungry people things won’t get worse, and if things don’t get worse, Jesus won’t come?” interrupted a coed during a Futures Inter-term I recently conducted at a northwest Christian college. Her tone of voice and her serious expression revealed she was utterly sincere. And unfortunately I have discovered the coed’s question doesn’t reflect an isolated viewpoint. Rather, it betrays a widespread misunderstanding of biblical eschatology . . . that seems to permeate much contemporary Christian consciousness. I believe this misunderstanding of God’s intentions for the human future is seriously undermining the effectiveness of the people of God in carrying out his mission in a world of need…. The response of the (student) … reflects what I call the Great Escape View of the future. So much of the popular prophetic literature has focused our attention morbidly on the dire, the dreadful, and the destruction of all that is.[5]

Eschatological ideas have consequences, and many Christians are beginning to understand how those ideas have shaped the cultural landscape. A world always on the precipice of some great and inevitable apocalyptic event is not in need of redemption but only of escape. As one end-time speculator put it, “the world is a sinking Titanic ripe for judgment.”[6] Any attempt at reformation would be futile and contrary to God’s unavoidable and predestined plan for Armageddon.

Josef Ton, a Christian leader from Romania, was challenged in 1977 by a Christian friend to help set up an organization that would expose communism. Pastor Ton’s response was startling given the oppressive regime that dominated his country. He assured his Christian friend that “Communism is an experiment that has failed. It wasn’t able to fulfill any of its promises and nobody believes in it anymore. Because of this, it will one day collapse on its own. Now, why should I fight something that is finished? I believe that our task is a different one. When communism collapses, somebody has to be there to rebuild society! I believe our job as Christian teachers is to train leaders so that they will be ready and capable to rebuild our society on a Christian basis.” Who could conceive of such a future scenario given the seemingly indestructible nature and advance of Communism and the inevitability of apocalyptic doom?

Pastor Ton’s friend challenged him by claiming that “Communism will triumph all over the world, because that is the movement of the Antichrist. And when the communists take over in the United States, they will then kill all the Christians. We have only one job to do: to alert the world and make ready to die.” Eventually, both men were forced to leave Romania. Pastor Ton started a training program for Christian leaders who remained in Romania. His friend, as Pastor Ton tells the story, “has not done anything for Romania. He simply waited for the final triumph of communism and the annihilation of Christianity.” Contrary to his expectations, neither event came to pass.

The Communist regime in Romania fell, and President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were captured, tried, and found guilty of genocide. They were executed on December 25, 1989. The remaining Communists were swept from power in later elections. Pastor Ton trained more than a thousand people all over Romania. Today, these people are the leaders in churches in evangelical denominations and in key Christian ministries. Who could have imagined such a development? Certainly not prophecy writers who had assured us that Communism was the inevitable end-time movement to usher in the antichrist. Pastor Ton understood that eschatology matters: “You see, the way you look to the future determines your planning and your actions. It is the way you understand the times that determines what you are going to do.”

The understanding of our times is being shaped by a particular interpretive methodology that has led to an almost irrevocable distortion of the biblical record on the subject of prophecy.

If this is the Bible’s message, then so be it. But is it? Is there another way to look at Bible prophecy without denying the inerrant and infallible nature of God’s written revelation or distorting Scripture so its prophetic passages are made to fit into an already constructed interpretive system? I believe there is. I hope to make the case that you don’t have to be a biblical scholar to know what God has written to us about this subject. All you have to do is be willing to have your abilities stretched a bit and let the Bible speak for itself. “As Alfred North Whitehead once suggested, assumptions and premises that are crucial to a movement are often deemed to be obvious and in no need of justification. These underlying assumptions are unspoken and undefended because, as Whitehead put it, ‘Such assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them.’”[7]

What’s true in the field of science is equally true in the area of Bible prophecy. Seeing things from a different perspective, with the Bible as your guide, I guarantee that your understanding of God and His Word will be changed forever.

Last Days Madness

Last Days Madness

In this authoritative book, Gary DeMar clears the haze of ‘end-times’ fever, shedding light on the most difficult and studied prophetic passages in the Bible, including Daniel 7:13-14; 9:24-27; Matt. 16:27-28; 24-25; Thess. 2; 2 Peter 3:3-13, and clearly explaining a host of other controversial topics.

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[1]Colin Duriez, Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 42.

[2]Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to do About It (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), 63–65.

[3]William Edgar, “Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square” in J. Budziszewski, Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 174.

[4]Gary North and David Chilton, “Apologetics and Strategy,” in Tactics of Christian Resistance: A Symposium, ed. Gary North (Tyler Texas: Geneva Divinity School, 1983), 127–128. Emphasis in original.

[5]Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy: You Can Make a Difference in Tomorrow’s Troubled World (Waco, TX: Word, 1981), 69.

[6]Jan Markell, “Kingdom Now: We’re Not Returning to Eden.” For a response, see Gary DeMar, “Is the World a Sinking Titantic?,” Biblical Worldview (May 2007), 4–6.

[7]Cornelius G. Hunter, Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007), 7.