Hal Lindsey How do we study the Bible? - Rev. W. Pouwelse
February 10, 2013
Taken with permission from Clarion Vol. 24, No, 8-12 (1984)
An increasing uneasiness is becoming manifest among people. First there was a time that mankind pretended to be able to do everything. People put their trust in science, technology and in the ability of man to get everything under control. Even economic development was to be predictable. Recessions, unemployment and inflation would just be tools in the hands of modern economists and politicians. That would bring a great future with prosperity and peace all over the world. People no longer believed in a God who ruled and governed all things. God had been declared dead and human beings took over control. That was the picture of the Brave New World. Alas, it did not work! Lots of things are running out of control. Technology did not bring the expected relief but rather caused a threat to human existence. Economic development is still unpredictable and unemployment is at a record high in spite of all the effort to bring it down internationally. War, terror and violence go on, and there is fighting all over the world. Lasting international peace and harmony among men seem to be farther away than ever.
This development has caused a reaction. An attitude of pessimism and desperation has come over mankind. Many are afraid of the future. They do not know what to expect and where to turn to for help. Some take refuge in astrology and the occult. They all need something in which to put their trust. They all like to have something on which they can depend. They all like some "security."
That is why we can see increasing attention for, and interest in, "religion," whatever it may be. Especially the eastern religions with their transcendent meditation are the centre of attention. A new form of mysticism is arising. Disappointed people, who feel let down by the rationalistic approach, are turning to the supernatural world and way of thinking.
We can see a spin-off effect of this development in some so-called fundamentalist groups and evangelicals in the United States. They say that they take the Bible literally, but they use the Bible to make all kinds of predictions about what will happen in the future. They pretend that they understand every text and that they can tell exactly what is going to happen in politics and in world history in general. They sometimes even go so far as to suggest that they know the date of Christ's return.
There is another development to which we should draw our attention and that is the position of the State of Israel in the Middle East and its future as an independent State. Many people see the existence of the State of Israel as a fulfilment of the prophecy in the Old Testament. There is an "Israel theology," with strong apologists all over the world. They consider the Christian Church to be only an "interim" situation. The Lord's People in the past were the Jewish People and they still are. The Christian Church exists as long as the Jewish People do not accept the Christ, but the time will come that the Lord will re-establish the Throne of David in Jerusalem. The Jewish people will accept the so-called "Jewish Messiah," and then the glorious time will begin in which Christ, seated upon his throne in Jerusalem, will reign over all the nations for a thousand years. That is the doctrine of the millenialists that we hear everywhere today.
Both developments, the increasing interest in mysticism and the growing attention for the future of the State of Israel, are sometimes combined. The Bible is used to satisfy people who like to have security and who are looking for reliable prediction of the future, while at the same time the doctrine of the millennianists is promoted. How strong this development is, and how many people are following this road, becomes clear when we realize that a book like The Late Great Planet Earth has been sold in America by the millions, and that its translations have been sold as number one best-seller all over the world. We will give some attention to this development.
We appreciate that Hal Lindsey tries to take the whole Bible literally. We also appreciate that he places the infallible Word of God over against all kinds of speculations of astrologers and other fortune-tellers. He speaks about "hope for the future, in spite of the way the world looks today." He believes "that a person can be given a secure and yet exciting view of his destiny by making an honest investigation of the tested truth of Bible prophecy." (p. 8)
However, in his explanation and interpretation of what the Word of God says, he appears to be very preoccupied, so much so that he imposes his vision and political point of view upon the Bible, as we will show in what follows.
2. Different types of literature in the Bible
Our starting-point in Bible study is that we believe everything the Bible says, because it is the inspired, infallible Word of God. Still, we have to make a distinction between different types of literature in the Bible. All Scripture is inspired by God, but the Holy Spirit has used different types of writings and different styles. We can divide the Books of the Bible into three basic groups, in the same way as the Old Testament was divided in the past. In the Hebrew Bible the order of the books is not the same as in our translations. A distinction is made between the Historical Books, the Books of the Prophets and the Festive Literature or the Poetic Books. Although the distinction between history, prophecy and poetry is not something that goes along a sharp line, it is important to keep these differences in mind when we study the Bible.
Of course there are historical elements in the Prophetic Books and also in the Poetic Literature. We can find prophecy in the Historical Books and in the Poetic Books. We can find prophecy and historical notations in the Poetic Literature. A sharp division of the different types of literature is impossible, but we have to acknowledge the difference in order to understand the message.
The Historical Books give us in the first place historical facts. We have to read and study these facts in their context and we have to search for the message, for the redemptive historical element in the narration. But it remains historical literature. In history, the Lord reveals Himself to us in His greatness and majesty. He shows the works of His hands. He reveals His righteousness and His mercy through Jesus Christ.
When we study the poetry, we have to consider the special nature of this part of God's revelation to us. In the poetry, figurative speech is used very often. We can find different figures of speech, especially in the so-called "Wisdom Literature" like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. We find the metaphoric language, the simile, the parable, the analogy and the antithesis, to mention only a few. All these figures of speech need special attention.
It is often a very profound way of teaching and it needs careful scrutiny and much study to understand the message. Negligence, with respect to this special character of the revelation in the Poetic Literature, would cause a wrong interpretation or exegesis, or it would make it almost impossible to understand the meaning of that portion of the Word of God.
With respect to the Prophetic Books there are some other points we have to notice. Prophecy means: to speak the Word of God, to repeat His Word, to explain His will and the meaning of His deeds, and to reveal His purpose. Prophecy is sometimes an explanation of the great deeds of the Lord in the past, revealing the meaning of what took place. Sometimes it is a special message of the Lord for His people in the present time, the time in which the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord. Sometimes it is a revelation of what the Lord is going to do in the future. The word "prophecy" nowadays, often refers to the revelation of the Lord with respect to the future. Although that is just one of the three situations mentioned above, we will take the word "prophecy" in the rest of this article in that way, except when otherwise indicated.
As far as the explanation of prophecy is concerned, we have to realize that not everything we read in the Bible can be understood by us, at least not at the present time. After Christ's return, when we live on the new earth, we will understand everything, but for now our knowledge is restricted.
In this respect, the Apostle Paul writes in I Cor. 13:8-10 "as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect, but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away."
He compares our knowledge and understanding with looking in a mirror. Not the type of mirror we have today, but the type they used in his time: a polished piece of metal, hammered as smooth and flat as possible. It always gave a distorted picture. That is why he writes in I Cor. 13:12 "For now we see in a mirror dimly but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood."
Let us keep that in mind. The Word of God is clear, and teaches us everything we have to know. As far as the Law of the Lord is concerned, His commandments and His ordinances, His will for our daily life, the Bible is clear and does not leave us in the dark. We can find, in the Bible, everything that is necessary for us to know in this life, to God's glory and our salvation. (Cf. Art. 2 B.C.) However, the Bible is not given to mankind to satisfy curious people, who like to look into the future and who pretend to know everything about what the Lord is going to do.
The meaning of a prophecy and the way it will be fulfilled is not always clear to us. Even the prophets themselves did not always understand the meaning and the impact of what they were saying. When Daniel received a revelation from the LORD and when he wrote down the words of the prophecy, he asked the angel who spoke to him: "0 my lord, what shall be the issue of these things?" And the answer was "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end." (Dan. 12:9)
3. Multiple fulfilment
When we speak about the fulfilment of a prophecy, and search for the meaning of a prophecy in this respect, we have to keep in mind that a prophecy often has a multiple fulfilment A prophecy can have a first fulfilment in the actual time and circumstances of the prophet, and also a final or ultimate fulfilment in the distant future. Sometimes the first fulfilment in the actual time of the prophet is in itself a sign, a symbol, or a promise with respect to the final fulfilment There can even be a third fulfilment The prophet might not understand the full meaning and impact of his words, and the people, who are witnessing the fulfilment might not be aware of the fact that an even greater and more glorious fulfilment is yet to come. Neglecting this very important principle of exegesis can easily lead us to wrong conclusions and can make people feel that there are contradictions in the Bible. We will give some examples to make clear what we mean.
In Isaiah 7:14 we read: "the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Discussions have been held about the question why in our translation the expression "young woman" is used, while Matthew 1:23, where this text is quoted, speaks about a "virgin." Some even consider that the RSV translation is not reliable for this reason. However, it is clear from the context that the prophet speaks, in the first place, about a lady in his own time, who is expecting a baby and who will express her trust in the Lord in the way she names her baby, in spite of the terrible political situation. In this respect she will be a sign, a token, a symbol and an example for Ahaz, the King of Judah. That the prophet refers to the present political situation in his own time is clear from what we read in the verses 15 and 16: "He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land for whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted." The prophet clearly speaks about the City of Jerusalem, which will be set free. The two kings who are besieging the City will be deserted. This liberation will take place very soon, before the child will be able to choose between good and evil.
It is perfectly clear that the fulfilment of this prophecy took place a few years later. At least the first fulfilment There is also a second fulfilment In Matthew 1:18-22 we read about our Lord Jesus Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. And in verse 22-23 it reads: "All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Immanuel' (which means, God with us)."
The RSV is correct in translating Isaiah 7 "a young woman shall conceive and bear a son" and not "a virgin . . ." The young woman in Isaiah's time was the first fulfilment of the prophecy. She was at the same time a symbol, a sign and a prophecy herself. She was made, by the Lord, a sign of the final fulfilment of God's promises in Jesus Christ. That is why the prophet says to king Ahaz in Isaiah 7:14 "The Lord Himself will give you a sign."
In the book of Isaiah we can find many of these examples of multiple fulfilment In Isaiah 11 we read about the shoot coming forth from the stump of Jesse. It is the prophecy of a son to be born in the Royal palace of the king in Jerusalem. But it is at the same time a prophecy of the great Son of David, Jesus Christ, who will rule and gather His people in righteousness, and who will judge all the nations. It is perfectly clear that Isaiah 11 reached its fulfilment when Jesus was born. But from the verses 6-9 it also becomes clear that there is even a third fulfilment We read there: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of an asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea."
The first part of the prophecy was fulfilled with Christ's first coming to earth. However, the peace and harmony in nature, among the animals and between human beings and animals, has not yet come. The final fulfilment of this prophecy will take place on the day of Christ's return. Then "they shall not hurt of destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea."
And, to mention one more, in Psalm 22 David cries to the Lord in his troubles and his affliction. The question is not whether David speaks about his own misery or about the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. He certainly speaks about his actual situation and his own misery, but he speaks as a prophet and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he reveals the Word of God. In this way Psalm 22 is a prophecy of the suffering of our saviour Jesus Christ on the cross. The same can be said about Isaiah 53 and many other passages.
Prophecy is always like a painting with perspective. You cannot determine the distance between the foreground and the background. It is like someone who walks on a straight road and sees two towers in the distance. It looks as if they are just beside each other. Sometimes they even cover each other and the observer only sees one. However, the closer he comes to the first one, the more he sees the distance. When he passes the first one, he realizes that the second tower is in the next city and that he still has to walk for many hours before he will reach that point.
That is the way in which the prophets in the Old Testament saw the coming of the Messiah. It was one point in the distant future. They did not see any distinction between the first and the second coming of Christ. They were just looking forward to the great day of the Lord.
We know much more than they knew. We have received the revelation in the New Testament. We have heard about the first coming of Christ and we know that He will come back. That is why we can see in Isaiah 11 a prophecy about Christ's first coming and about His glorious return. We have passed the first point and we can look backwards and forwards. However, all this must make us careful as well. We do not understand everything perfectly either. Remember what the apostle says in I Cor. 13 "we see in a mirror dimly."
In Matthew 24 Jesus speaks about the tribulation which is to come. Much of what He says there was fulfilled in the year 70, when the City of Jerusalem was destroyed. But it is also a prophecy of what still is to come at the end of the world-history. The same counts for the book of Revelation. Certain aspects may have found their fulfilment during the destruction of Jerusalem, but it is still a prophecy of what is to come.
Sometimes we can clearly see in our personal life, in the political or economical development, and in world history in general, the fulfilment of a prophecy (or should we not rather say "a" instead of "the" fulfilment of a prophecy?). That can be a great comfort. We know that the Lord is at work. He gathers His Church and prepares everything for the day of judgement, which at the same time shall be the day of the marriage feast of the Lamb.
We have to watch the signs of the times. But we also have to be careful in calling something the final fulfilment of a prophecy. It might be a fulfilment but perhaps an even greater and more glorious (or more severe) fulfilment will come. In the signs of the times we can hear the footsteps of Christ, who is coming, but we cannot determine the exact time of His return. In Matthew 24:36 and 44 Jesus says: "Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only .... Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
We should not pretend to know exactly how and when Jesus Christ will come back, but that is the trap into which people like Hal Lindsey have fallen. We already mentioned Daniel 12:9. Daniel receives a revelation from the Lord, but he does not really understand its meaning. Therefore, he asks the angel who speaks to him: "0 my lord, what shall be the issue of these things?" The angel answers him: "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end." Even Daniel, the prophet himself, is not able and not allowed to understand the meaning of the prophecy. Hal Lindsey is aware of this text. He quotes this text in his book several times. But it does not prevent him from developing all kinds of speculations about "the time of the end." What does he say about this text and what does he do with it? He writes: "God revealed to Daniel that his prophecies would not be clearly understood until the end times, i.e., the times when the events predicted would begin to take shape. The key that would unlock the prophetic book would be the current events that would begin to fit into the predicted patterns" (p. 169-170). He agrees that Daniel did not understand the meaning of his own prophecy. It would be shut up and sealed until the time of the end. But, he says, "Today, Christians who have diligently studied prophecy, trusting the Spirit of God for illumination, have a greater insight into its meaning than ever before. The prophetic word definitely has been 'unsealed' in our generation as God predicted it would be" (p. 170).
His reasoning is that Daniel did not understand the meaning; for him the words of the prophecy were sealed "until the time of the end" and, according to Lindsey, we are living in "the time of the end" so for us it is not shut up and sealed any longer.
In this way he ignores the fact that "the time of the end" is used in the Bible in different ways. It refers to the period of the New Testament as well as to the day of Christ's return. It is impossible to tell exactly when this "time of the end" comes, when it begins, and when it will be completed. He also ignores the fact that most prophecies have more than one meaning and more than one fulfilment They can have a fulfilment in our actual time and circumstances but there can and may be a final fulfilment in the future, a fulfilment in a way we cannot as yet imagine. Therefore he pretends to know all kinds of details about political developments in the near future, especially as far as the State of Israel is concerned. He comes to very speculative and far-reaching conclusions in this respect. It all sounds very impressive and it attracts a lot of attention at a time when people are eager to listen to soothsayers, but he is really transgressing the limitations of our human understanding. He does not take to heart the message of Daniel 12:9, nor the warning of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:36.
Lindsey also presses his "Israel ideas" and his theory about the future of the State of Israel too much into his explanation of the Bible. Everything has to fit in his schedule. That sometimes leads him to very strange and fantastic explanations of certain texts. Apparently he is too preoccupied to be able to give a balanced exegesis of certain texts.
We should not pretend that we understand every text. The best and most careful and humble approach is sometimes the so-called "non-liquet," that means the recognition that the matter is not clear and that we do not know for certain what the meaning is.
5. Passing the test
On page 9ff. of his book Hal Lindsey writes about the question of whether we can trust a prophet. What are his credentials? That is an important point! Many people have presented themselves as prophets while they were no prophets or, even worse, false prophets. Many have come to mislead people with their pretended prophecies. Lindsey writes: "How would people know whether a prophet who claimed to speak God's message was a pure prophet?" (p. 9). In this respect he refers to Deut, 18:21, 22. There we read: "if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?" - when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him."
The main point in Lindsey's reasoning is that, if someone makes a prediction and his word comes true, he has proven to be a real prophet. That is what he calls "passing the test." His reasoning seems to be based upon Scriptural proof. And the conclusion should be that, if Lindsey's predictions come true, he has proven to be a real prophet, sent by the LORD.
However, we have to be careful in this respect. Lindsey uses this text in the wrong way and he lets the text say just the opposite of what it really says. In Deut. 18:22 the LORD does not say that if someone pretends to speak in the name of the LORD, and his word comes true, it is a proof that the LORD has sent him. No, it says just the opposite, "if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him."
This text can be used only as a proof that someone is not a prophet, that the LORD did not send him. But it certainly does not mean that the opposite is true. It is quite well possible that someone's word comes true, and that he still is a false prophet.
If we want to know if someone is a true prophet we have to search whether his message is in accordance with the whole Bible. The fact that a certain prediction comes true is not a proof of his divine mandate. It can very well be that the LORD is testing His people to see whether they pay attention to the whole Bible rather than to someone who comes with speculative statements, irregardless of how convincing they may seem to be. We have to compare Scripture with Scripture to find the real message. In this respect we have to compare Deut. 18:22 with Deut. 13:1-3. There we read: "if a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul."
When we compare both Scripture portions, Deut. 18:21, 22 and Deut.13:1-3, the message can be clear. If someone pretends to speak in the name of the LORD, and his word does not come true, then he has not been sent by the LORD. You should not listen to him. However, if his word comes true, you should not believe everything he says without comparing it with the Word of God. It is quite well possible that the LORD is testing you to see whether you are listening to the whole Word of God. Someone may use his seemingly trustworthy testimony to lead you astray, and make you believe a wrong message, even to make you follow other gods.
That is what we have to keep in mind when we read predictions like Hal Lindsey's. There are impressive predictions about the future of the State of Israel and about the political development in the Middle East. Even if his predictions do come true, it does not prove anything. Decisive is whether his message is in accordance with what the whole Bible tells us.
In "passing the test" it is not enough to have a high score of reliability or accuracy in predicting political developments. We should search the Scriptures and compare Scripture with Scripture to see whether it is according to the whole Word of God.
In the next section we will mention an example of his preoccupied exegesis, which is dominated by his "Israel concept. "
6. The Middle East
To give you an example of the very speculative predictions, to which Hal Lindsey comes, we will pay attention to his so-called exegesis of Daniel 11:40-44. We will see how he tries to make everything fit his concept of Israel. He comes to far-reaching predictions about the political and military development in the Middle East.
In Daniel 11:40-44 we read: "At the time of the end the king of the south shall attack him; but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt; and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall follow in his train. But tidings from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go forth with great fury to exterminate and utterly destroy many."
We have to keep in mind that this is the vision, at the end of which the angel says to Daniel: "the words are shut up and sealed to the end." Even Daniel himself did not understand and was not allowed to know the meaning of this prophecy. However, Hal Lindsey says: (p. 170) "Today, Christians who have diligently studied prophecy, trusting the Spirit of God for illumination, have a greater insight into its meaning than ever before. The prophetic word definitely has been 'unsealed' in our generation as God predicted it would be." He suggests that we have arrived at what is called "the time of the end" and that we are (or rather that he is) able to understand, in every detail, the meaning of these words.
He comes to very strange and remarkable conclusions, which are not always based on solid grounds, and are often simply statements without any ground.
When Daniel 11:40 speaks about "him" in the expression "the king of the south shall attack him," the first question should be: who is referred to in this text as "him." Linguistically it refers back to "the king" mentioned in verse 36. From him it has been said that he "shall do according to his will; he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is determined shall be done."
Some commentators argue that reference is made to the Antichrist, others suggest that a certain king is meant, either an ancient or a future king. Hal Lindsey, however, states without any proof, that reference is made to "Israeli leaders" (p. 142).
Daniel 11:40 says: "At the time of the end the king of the south shall attack him." According to Hal Lindsey the meaning of this text is that the Arab-African Confederacy, headed by Egypt (King of the South), will launch an invasion of Israel (p. 142). That is the first step in the development which brings the fulfilment of this prophecy. The next step is what we read in Daniel 11:40b "but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships." That means, according to Hal Lindsey, an invasion of the Middle East by Russia. They will come from the north. They have already longed to invade the Middle East since the Napoleonic wars, and now they will get their chance (p. 142). They will invade the Middle East with many ships. The current build-up of Russian ships in the Mediterranean serves as a significant sign of the possible nearness of these events, according to Hal Lindsey (p. 146). The invasion will also take place over land, with chariots and horsemen." The chariots" is the mechanized army and the "horsemen" is the cavalry. As far as these "horsemen" are concerned it is clear to Hal Lindsey that this text refers to Russia. He writes: (p. 59) "It is interesting to note that the Cossacks have always loved horses and have been recognized as producing the finest army of cavalry in the world. Today they are reported to have several divisions of cavalry. It is believed by some military men that cavalry will actually be used in the invasion of the Middle East just as Ezekiel and other prophets literally predicted."
The third step is that the Russian army will have to withdraw from the Middle East because they will be alarmed by the news that the armies of the north and the east are mobilized against them. He bases this on verse 44, where we read:
"But the tidings from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go forth with great fury to exterminate and utterly destroy many," That means, according to Hal Lindsey, that the Oriental powers, headed by Red China, will be mobilized (from the east) and that also the Western European Countries will be mobilized (the north). This threat will force the Russian army to withdraw from the Middle East (p. 147)
Many more details are given by Hal Lindsey. He also predicts an attack by the Western Allies in the Middle East to destroy the Russian army. After that a final clash will take place between the Western forces and the army from the east, headed by Red China. This Middle East battle will reach its awful climax in the valley of Meggido, close to the port of Haifa in the northwestern part of Israel. However, when it seems that all life will be destroyed, Christ will return to save men from self-destruction (pp. 151/7).
This is, in a summary, the picture Hal Lindsey gives of the political and military development in the Middle East.
The first thing we have to notice when we consider this theory is that all his speculations about the political and military developments are based upon his preoccupation with the future of the State and the people of Israel. Moreover, it contradicts the warning, given in Daniel 12:9, that these words are shut up and sealed to the time of the end. And above all, Christ Himself has said in Matthew 24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." According to Hal Lindsey's theory Christ's return will not be a surprise, but an event that can be exactly timed by men.
Of course we have to watch the signs of the times. We have to see and to hear the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ in the developments of world history But the Bible also tells us that Christ will return at a time when no one expects it. In I Thess. 5:2 we read: "For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
When people say, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape."
In a world in which people feel insecure and are looking for trustworthy "soothsayers," millions of people listen to such theories. The sales figures of these kinds of books are a clear proof of what people like to hear. Hal Lindsey's book is the "#1 Best-seller of the decade." But we should not let ourselves be deceived by such speculations. Not even if some of these predictions should come true. That would not be a matter of "passing the test," as Hal Lindsey tries to make us believe. We have to see whether it is in accordance with the whole Word of God. It is also possible that "the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. 13:3).
7. The Rapture
We previously quoted the words of the apostle Paul in I Thess. 5:2 where we read! ''That the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them." This is one of the texts on which Hal Lindsey based his theory about the "Rapture." He makes a distinction between the "day of the Lord" which will come like a thief in the night and Christ's bodily return to the earth, which will take place at the dramatic climax of the war in the valley of Meggido. The latter will be an event which can be predicted exactly. He pretends to be able to figure out even the year in which it will happen. It will be known to all believers seven years in advance. The former will be a surprising event which will not even be noticed by the majority of the people on earth. That is what he calls the "Rapture." The word "Rapture" means: to seize or carry away, or, as he puts it, to snatch away. It also means: a state of great delight or ecstasy. Christ will come, at a moment when no one expects it, and carry away from this earth all the true believers. The believers who have died will be raised, and those who are still alive will be changed and taken up into the air, to be with Christ, and to go with Him to heaven. Christ will not return on the earth. He will only come close to the earth, to take to Him, in the air, all the true believers. They will go with Him to heaven with glorified bodies (pp. 126 - 134).
He bases his theory on a number of texts. For instance I Cor. 15:51, 52 where we read: "Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." He also mentions Phil. 3:20, 21. There it says: "But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself. " His most favourite text is I Thess. 4:13-18: "But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who are fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
Hal Lindsey has set up a theory, that first the State of Israel will be restored, the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, the service of the sacrifices will be restored in the temple, and then the last episode of history will begin. An episode, ultimately concentrating on the people of Israel, the State of Israel and the conversion of the Jewish people. The history of salvation began with God's election of the Jewish people as His people. The period of the Christian Church was, and is, a sort of an interim, a period in between. The final aim and purpose of history will be the Jewish people again. The Jewish people, with a restored temple in Jerusalem, a service of sacrifices in the temple, and finally a restored kingdom of David with the Jewish Messiah, Christ Jesus, on the throne in Jerusalem. Christ Jesus will reign from His royal seat in Jerusalem a thousand years before the end of history will arrive.
We will deal later in more detail with this "thousand year" concept. Now we will first give our attention to the so-called "Rapture."
Seven years before Christ's return to the earth, He will come, not on, but very close to the earth to take away, to carry away, all true believers. They will go to heaven. Those who are dead will be raised and those who are still alive will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Hal Lindsey gives a very appealing description of this event, and it shows how captivating his style of writing is. We will quote a few examples from his book, in which "unbelievers," those who will be left on the earth after the "Rapture," are supposed to react when the believers are taken away (pp. 24/5).
"There I was, driving down the freeway and all of a sudden the place went crazy ... cars going in all directions ... and not one of them had a driver. I mean it was wild! I think we've got an invasion from outer space!"
"It was the last quarter of the championship game and the other side was ahead. Our boys had the ball. We made a touchdown and tied it up. The crowd went crazy. Only one minute to go and they fumbled - our quarterback recovered - he was about a yard from the goal when - zap - no more quarterback completely gone, just like that!"
More of these stories are presented. Finally he regales his readers with a story about someone whose wife has been taken up to Christ, but who himself had never been willing to listen to her testimony during her life on earth. He quotes this man as saying: "You really want to know what I think? I think all that talk about the Rapture and going to meet Jesus Christ in the air wasn't crazy after all. I don't know about you, brother, but I'm going to find myself a Bible and read all those verses my wife underlined. I wouldn't listen to her while she was here, and now she's - I don't know where she is."
It is understandable that such a publication catches the attention of many and that this book is sold by the millions, but it does not contain what the Word of God tells us.
His whole theory is based mainly on two presumptions. The first is that the resurrection of all believers and their being taken up to Christ will come unexpectedly, unnoticed and unacknowledged by the unbelievers who will remain on the earth. It will come like a thief in the night. His second presumption is that the final stage of world history will be God's dealing with the Jewish people. The persecution, tribulation, and war all over the world, with a dramatic climax in the valley of Meggido, will trigger a massive conversion of the Jewish people and an acceptance of Christ as the Jewish Messiah.
His biggest mistake is that he tries to "understand'' and to "explain" everything. He does not realize that prophecy always has, and will have, an element of surprise. There might be an actual fulfilment of a prophecy but there always can be, and probably will be, an even greater and more wonderful fulfilment than we could ever have imagined. The apostle Paul speaks more humbly when he writes in I Cor. 13:12: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully even as I have been fully understood.'
According to Hal Lindsey's theory, the whole political and military development mentioned above, the war in the Middle East, the invasion by the Russian army, the war between the Western Allies and the Chinese army, will all take place in the seven years between the "Rapture" and Christ's return. That means that none of the true believers will see it, or be a part of it. All the true believers will be taken up into heaven before this period of tribulation begins.
The way he deals with certain texts in the Bible also becomes clear in the way he has figured out this so-called period of "seven years."
8. Seven years?
We have already mentioned the fact that according to Hal Lindsey all true believers will be taken up into heaven seven years before Christ's return to earth. You may wonder where he got this "seven year" period from. He calls that the "seven year countdown" and writes (p. 32): "Some time in the future there will be a seven-year period climaxed by the visible return of Jesus Christ.
Most prophecies which have not yet been fulfilled concern events which will develop shortly before the beginning of and during this seven-year countdown. The general time of this seven-year period couldn't begin until the Jewish people re-established their nation in their ancient homeland of Palestine."
Lindsey writes further about this period of time (pp. 33/4), "The apostle John counted out seven years for this period when he spoke of the second half being forty-two months (i.e., 31/2 years), and the first half being 1260 days (i.e., 31/2 x 360 days, which is the Biblical year) (Revelation 11:2, 3)."
That is the only "proof" for his "seven year" concept. However, what does the Bible say in Revelation 11:2, 3? After the sixth angel has blown his trumpet, the wrath of God is poured out upon the earth. The great war begins. The true believers will be persecuted until the dead bodies of the two witnesses will lie in the street of the great city which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt. In this context we read in Revelation 11:1-3: ''Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told: 'Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.' "
What does that mean? Without going into detail as far as the exegesis is concerned we can say that, in this text, a picture is given of the ongoing war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The fight against the power of the darkness and the Church of Jesus Christ goes on. Christ gathers and protects His Church throughout the ages in spite of every attack from the enemy. He takes care of His Church. All things are measured and recorded. Nothing escapes His attention.
The court outside the temple is left out. It is given to the nations and they will trample over the holy city. The devil will increase his attack and he will have the opportunity to do his work. He will go just as far as the Lord allows him to go, for as long as the Lord will allow him to do so. After his time is over he will be removed from this earth forever. His time has been spelled out. Forty-two months has been allotted to him. That might seem to be a long period of time, but we have to notice the symbolic language of the book of Revelation. A thousand years is the symbol of a very long and complete period of time. Seven is the symbol of God's perfection. Three-and-a- half year is half the number of seven. It indicates a very restricted time, exactly determined by the Lord and cut off at His time; not a full period of time. The work of the devil is cut short. It is as if the work of the devil and his period of time is cut in half by the Lord.
In verse 2 we read that the court outside the temple is given over to the nations for forty-two months and in verse 3 we read, that the Lord will grant His witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. That means that no matter how serious the attack of the devil might be, the testimony of God's witnesses shall go on during exactly the same period of time. The devil cannot stop them for a moment, not even for a single day. Although they may finally seem to be dead, they shall rise and stand on their feet again. The time given to the devil is counted in months; the time given to the two witnesses is counted in days. That means: the devil will have a limited time (forty-two months) but the Lord takes care of His people from day to day. He does not let them be silent for a single day. The message in this symbolic language gives us great comfort. The Lord will never forget His people, not even for a moment. He takes care of them all the time. From month to month the devil tries to attack the Church, but from day to day the Lord is in control. The period of time in both cases is the same, three and a half years, but the way in which the time is used and counted is completely different.
The same period of time is mentioned in Revelation 12:6. The Church, persecuted by the devil after Christ has been taken up to heaven, is led into the wilderness. The Lord has prepared a place for His people, to nourish them. "And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to His throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days." Here again the time is measured in days. The Lord takes care of His people from day to day. He protects His Church.
Also in Revelation 13:5 we can find this period of time. There we read that "the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months." Again the same symbolic language. The devil has received a time to fight against Christ and His Church, but his time is limited and counted in months.
However, what does Hal Lindsey do with Rev. 11:2, 3? He completely ignores its meaning and the symbolic message. He has developed his own concept about a "seven year countdown," a seven-year period between the so-called ''Rapture" and Christ's return. In one sentence he concludes the whole matter when he writes: "The apostle John counted out seven years for this period when he spoke of the second half being forty-two months (i.e., 31/2 years), and the first half being 1260 days (i.e., 31/2 x 360 days, which is the Biblical year) (Revelation 11:2, 3)" (p. 33/4).
He simply puts the forty-two months and the one thousand two hundred and sixty days together and in this way he comes to his "seven-year" theory. In one single stroke he states that the apostle John has ''counted out seven years.'' And in passing, for convenience sake, he changes the order in which the two periods of time are mentioned, saying that the first mentioned forty-two months are the second half of the seven years and the second mentioned one thousand two hundred and sixty days are the first half of the "seven years."
This is no exegesis but simply imposing one's own opinion on the Bible, Everything concentrates on, and is based upon, a preoccupation, a concept about the supremacy of the people of Israel over all other people. He says that the history of the world and the history of salvation are not the history of the Christian Church, Christ's Church, but the history of the Jewish people.
9. Massive conversion
Another aspect that strikes us while reading Hal Lindsey's book is the constantly repeated notion that in the end there will be a massive conversion of the Jewish people. First their national identity will be restored. That is what he calls the "physical restoration." But after this reestablishment of the Jewish people as a State and an independent Nation, living in their "own" country, there will also be a "spiritual rebirth" (p. 51).
The tribulation, first the attack by the Russian army and later by the Western Allies and the army of Red China "are primarily designed to shock the people into believing in their true Messiah" (p. 38).
All this will happen in the seven-year time lapse between the "Rapture" and Christ's return to the earth. That means: after all the true believers have been taken away from this earth and are with Christ in heaven. One might wonder how there can be such a massive conversion among the Jewish people while there no longer is anyone to tell them the real message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All true believers are taken up with Christ, and what is left are the unbelievers, those who have rejected Jesus Christ and the salvation through Him.
How does Hal Lindsey tally his theory of the "Rapture" with a massive conversion of the people of Israel after all the true believers have been taken away? How does he solve this internal contradiction in his theory? Again an example is given of a very preoccupied and whimsical exegesis.
In Rev. 13:7 we read that the beast "was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them." Hal Lindsey writes: (pp. 99, 100) "It is logical to ask at this point, how is he going to make war with the saints when they are gone from the earth? 'The saints' are the people who are going to believe in Christ during this great conflict. After the Christians are gone, God is going to reveal Himself in a special way to the 144,000 physical, literal Jews who are going to believe with a vengeance that Jesus is the Messiah. They are going to be the 144,000 Jewish Billy Grahams turned loose on this earth - the earth will never know a period of evangelism like this period. These Jewish people are going to make up for lost time. They are going to have the greatest number of converts in all history. Revelation 7:9-14 says they bring so many to Christ that they can't be numbered."
This is a very strange and whimsical exegesis. Without any trace of Biblical proof the writer states that the Lord will reveal Himself in a special way. Where does he get this idea from? Just fantasy! The apostle Paul says in Rom. 10: 14, 15: "How are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?" And in verse 17 he adds: "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ." In Luke 16 Jesus tells the people that if they do not believe the Scripture, they would not believe if they would receive a special revelation either. And in Matthew 12:39 and 16:4 He says to the scribes and Pharisees: "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." However, Hal Lindsey tells us that, after all the true believers have been taken up from the earth to Christ, God will reveal Himself in a special way to the Jewish people. Those who have rejected the Christ will still receive a special treatment, a special sign, a special revelation. Not just the sign of the prophet Jonah, as Jesus has said, but more than that.
All true believers will be taken away from the earth but the Lord will call and reveal Himself in a special way to 144,000 Jewish preachers. They are called "Jewish Billy Grahams." That is his theory, but he does not give any ground whatsoever for this statement.
Time and again we see in his book that at crucial points statements are made without any proof. Sometimes impressive lists of texts are given, with an exegesis which seems to fit together like the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, but when it comes to the most fundamental point of his theory his presumptions are finished with one single stroke of the pen, without any effort to prove his point.
He gives the impression that he does feel the contradiction in his theory that when all true believers are gone there no longer-is anyone to give testimony to the truth, while at the same time a massive conversion starts. However, he solves the problem by a statement based upon pure fantasy. On page 165, dealing with the so-called "millennialism," he makes a strong appeal to take the whole Bible literally but in cases like these he simply makes the Bible fit his Israel concept.
The number 144,000 clearly refers to what is said a few verses further, namely in Rev. 14:1-3. There we read: "Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had His name and His Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been re
deemed from the earth." We have to notice that Rev. 14:1 speaks about the Lamb, that is Jesus Christ, who stood in the midst of the hundred and forty-four thousand on what is called "Mount Zion," but at the same time verse 2 says that the sound of the song came from heaven. In verse 3 we read that they sang the song "before the throne" while verse 4 clearly speaks about the hundred and forty-four thousand" who had been redeemed from the earth." There is no doubt that the Bible speaks in these verses about those who have died and who are with Christ in heaven. The number hundred and forty-four thousand is symbolic for the whole Church, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9).
According to Hal Lindsey this massive conversion will take place "three and a half years prior to Christ's personal, visible return to this earth" (p. 99). That is three and a half years after all the believers have been taken away. He says that the one hundred forty-four thousand are "Jewish preachers" on earth, but the -one hundred forty-four thousand mentioned in Rev. 14:1-3 are the saints in heaven.
It is clear that his whole concept contradicts what the Bible says. The one hundred forty-four thousand before the throne and before the Lamb in heaven cannot be identified with a group of one hundred forty-four thousand Jewish evangelists on earth. This is simply a matter of imposing a preconceived opinion on the Bible.
We have dealt with most aspects of Hal Lindsey's theory. Now we will try to give an overview of his whole concept and his outline of history.
According to him the history of mankind can be divided into a number of essential parts. The first important episode was the history of the Jewish people in the time of the Old Testament. After Christ's first coming into this world and his death and resurrection a new era began, namely, what he calls, the time of the Christian Church.
This period of the Church on earth will come to an end with what he calls the "Rapture." Christ will come down close to, but not on the earth, and He will take with Himself into heaven all true believers. The dead will be raised and those who are still alive will be changed.
After this "Rapture" follows a period of seven years, in which a war will be waged in the Middle East. This war will start with a Russian attack against the Arab-African confederacy. The Russian army will be defeated by the Western Allies and the final battle will take place between the Western Allies and the Eastern army headed by Red China. In these seven years the greatest period of Jewish conversion to their true Messiah will take place (p. 156)." They are going to have the greatest number of converts in all history" (p. 100).
At the end of these seven years Christ will return to the earth to re-establish the Kingdom of David, and He will reign from His Royal throne in Jerusalem for a thousand years.
After these thousand years the present world will be destroyed or renewed and the last judgement will take place.
That is the basic outline of history, given by Mr. Lindsey. He pretends to know with great certainty and accuracy when all these things are going to happen. Christ's return and the beginning of His thousand-year reign will take place around the year 1988. However, something must have been amiss in his calculations, published for the first time in 1970. According to his schedule the "Rapture" should take place seven years prior to 1988 or so, that is, around 1981. Obviously in this respect he did not "pass the test."
How did he come to his prediction that these things would take place around 1988?
In Matthew 24 Jesus tells His disciples about the tribulation which is to come. His disciples will be hated for His name's sake, false prophets will arise and lead many astray, but he who endures to the end will be saved. Jesus warns His disciples not to follow the false prophets, but to stand firm and to look forward to the glorious day of Christ's return on the clouds -of heaven. In this context Jesus says in Matthew 24:32-34: "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place."
You might wonder how someone can deduct from this Scripture passage that Christ will return around the year 1988.
Lindsey's reasoning goes like this:Jesus says in verse 16 "let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." That means that before Christ's return the Jewish people have to live in the land of Palestine, otherwise they cannot flee from Judea to the mountains.
In verse 20 Jesus says "Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath." He writes-. "This indicates that the ancient traditions regarding travel on the Sabbath would be in force again, thus hindering a rapid escape from the predicted invasion" (p. 42).
In verse 32 Jesus speaks about the fig tree. In this respect he writes: "The most important sign in Matthew has to be the restoration of the Jews to the land in the rebirth of Israel. Even the figure of speech 'fig tree' has been a historic symbol of national Israel. When the Jewish people, after nearly 2000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on May 14, 1948, the 'fig tree' put forth its first leaves" (p. 42).
So the conditions for Christ's return are fulfilled. The Jewish State has been re-established and no public transportation on the Sabbath is allowed in the State of Israel.
In verse 34 we read: "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." That seems to refer to those who were listening to Jesus, but Lindsey writes: "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 the Bible prophecy all their life believe that this is so" (p. 42).
The conclusion is obvious. About forty years after the State of Israel "became a nation again on May 14, 1948," that is around 1988, Christ's return to the earth will take place and the period of Christ's thousand-year reign on earth will begin.
Hal Lindsey sees a great difference between God's purpose for the nation of Israel and His purpose for the Christian Church. The history of the Old Testament was the history of God's dealings with the Jewish people. We are now living in the age of the Christian Church (p. 131). However, in the last seven years prior to Christ's return the history of the world will again be the history of God's dealing with the Jewish people, and then, finally, the real victory for the Jewish people will arrive during Christ's thousand-year-reign as the Jewish Messiah. That will be the so-called "millennium."
Lindsey deals in his book extensively with the millennium. Because this theory is so widespread today, and because so many people in all kinds of churches adhere to this theory, it is important to say something about it.
"Millennium" is the Latin word for thousand years. The theory about a thousand-year-reign of Christ, as a King on earth, is called "millennialism" and those who adhere to this theory are called "millennialists."
In Revelation 20 the Bible speaks about a period of a thousand years. Without going into detail with respect to the exegesis of this chapter, we have to notice that the period is described as the time in which the Devil and Satan will be bound (v. 2). It is also a period in which "the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands" will reign with Christ (v. 4).
We believe that in this chapter the Lord gives us revelation about the whole New Testament period. In the symbolic language of the book of Revelation, a thousand years is the full, complete period, set by the Lord for the gathering of His Church. This time of Christ's reign over heaven and earth began when He rose from the dead. Before He ascended into heaven, He proclaimed His Royal dignity and said: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18). This is also the time that the power of the devil was restrained. In Revelation 12 we read that, after Christ's ascension into heaven the devil was thrown down from heaven. In the vv. 10-12 we read: "And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rejoice then, 0 heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, 0 earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!' "
We also read that the dragon pursued the woman who had borne the male child. That means that the devil turned all his power and hatred against the Church on earth, against "those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus" (v. 17). However, his effort appears to be in vain. He will not succeed. The Lord protects His Church (12:14) and even the earth comes to the help of the Church (12:16).
It is clear from the whole context that the thousand years is the period between Christ's ascension into heaven and His return to the earth. It is the fullness of time, a time set by God the Father Himself. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Matthew 24:36).
Hal Lindsey tries to make us believe that these thousand years refer to a period of time which is still to come. A period in which Christ will sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem after He has established His historic kingdom on earth for a thousand years (p. 159).
He often uses many Bible texts and gives remarkable explanations and interpretations of these texts. It all sounds impressive and convincing but it is "tailor-made" for his preconceived view.
In Zechariah 14:1-4 we read: "Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward."
We do not pretend to have a clear explanation of the meaning of this text. It belongs to those revelations which we see in a mirror dimly (I Cor. 13:12) or which are "shut up an sealed to the time of the end" (Dan. 12:9).
Hal Lindsey has his own explanation of this text. He writes: "Jesus' feet will first touch the earth where they left the earth, on the Mount of Olives. The mountain will split in two with a great earth quake the instant that Jesus' foot touches it. The giant crevice which results will run east and west through the center of the mountain. It will go east to the north tip of the Dead Sea and west to the Mediterranean Sea (Zechariah 14). It was reported to me that an oil company doing seismic studies of this area in quest of oil discovered a gigantic fault running east and west precisely through the center of the Mount of Olives. The fault is so severe that it could split at any time. It is awaiting 'the foot.' " (p. 163).
Apparently even the report of an oil company and their seismic studies can be used to "prove" the reliability of his predictions. He even explains how this split in the earth and this crack will be used. It will open a cavern to be used by the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem as a bomb shelter during the thermonuclear blast, which will be the end of the war between the Western Allies and the army of Red China (p 163).
We do not believe that this is the way to use the Bible. On the contrary. This is rather an abusing of the Word of God and a matter of imposing one's own preconceived ideas upon the Bible.
Article 2 of the Belgic Confession tells us clearly that the Lord has revealed Himself to us in His Word "as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to His glory and our salvation." However, the Bible is not given to satisfy the curiosity of people. The Word of God should not be used to make impressive predictions and to produce, in this way, a number one best-seller of the decade."
Article 13 of the Belgic Confession says it right to the point: "as to what He does surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into farther than our capacity will admit of; but with the greatest humility and reverence adore the righteous judgements of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are pupils of Christ, to learn only those things which He had revealed to us in His Word, without transgressing these limits." This humility is badly missing with Hal Lindsey.
Summary and conclusions
1. There is increasing uneasiness among people which makes them receptive to all kinds of soothsaying and seemingly reliable predictions with respect to the future of this world.
2. When we study the Bible we have to be aware of the fact that there are different types of literature. The Historical Books give us, in the first place, information about the Lord's great works in history. The Poetic Literature teaches us, in a very profound way, the wisdom of the Lord and proclaims His glory and majesty. The Prophetic Literature shows us, in a painting with perspective, the great works of the Lord in the past, the present and the future.
3. Many prophecies have a multiple fulfilment. Sometimes they have an actual or first fulfilment at the time of the prophet and a second and more glorious fulfilment in the future. The first fulfilment is quite often in itself a prophecy of what is going to happen in the more distant future. Although we can see in many events of our present time a fulfilment of the prophecy, we should always realize that there might be an even greater and more impressive fulfilment
4. The Word of God is clear and perspicuous. It reveals to us all we have to know for our salvation and to serve the Lord in obedience. However, with respect to the prophecy, our knowledge is imperfect and we see as in a mirror dimly.
5. If someone presents himself as a prophet and his prediction comes true, it is no proof that the Lord has sent him. We always have to search the Scriptures to see whether a theory is in accordance with the whole Word of God. The Lord sometimes puts us to the test to see whether we love Him with our whole heart (Deut. 13:3).
6. Hal Lindsey's exegesis of Daniel 11 is a fantastic and preconceived theory about the political and military development in the Middle East rather than a "literal explanation" of the Bible, as he pretends it to be.
7. His "Rapture" concept is based upon two presumptions. The first one is that Christ's return will be a public matter, to be noticed by everyone, while the taking away of all believers will come like a thief in the night, unnoticed by the unbelievers. The second presumption is that God's final dealing with this world, in the time of the tribulation, will be a matter of the Jewish people only and not a matter of the Christian Church.
8. The theory about a period of seven years between the "Rapture" and Christ's return is based upon a wrong exegesis of Rev. 11: 1 -3, in which he adds together two figures which are actually referring to the same period of time and in which he ignores the fact that the "one hundred and forty-four thousand saints" are "before the throne and before the Lamb" in heaven and not on the earth.
9. The theory about a massive conversion of the Jews in this seven-year period is based upon a wrong exegesis of Rev. 14:1-5, namely, that the one hundred and forty-four thousand, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, are one hundred forty-four thousand Jewish Billy Grahams upon the earth.
10. The prediction that Christ's return will take place around the year 1988 is based upon a very speculative and preconceived interpretation of Matthew 24.
11. His theory about the millennium is a widespread concept, adhered to by many people in different churches. However, it ignores the fact that the book of Revelation speaks in symbolic language and it contradicts with what we read in Matthew 28:18 and Revelation 12.
12. We should not use the Bible as a jigsaw puzzle, in a curious effort to look into God's plans and to make impressive predictions. We rather should be prepared to meet our Lord when He returns "like a thief in the night" when no one expects it. Then we will be able to understand fully, even as we have been understood (I Cor. 13:12).