How We Got
Many bad doctrines and teachings in Christianity today add up to a
massive deception. Just as there has been a “dumbing down” in general
knowledge of history, geography, political science and other subjects
with huge numbers of high school graduates unable to read, write or do
basic math, so Christians are no longer literate in the Bible and the
basics of the faith. They have become accustomed to the watered
down “seeker friendly” Christianity which is afraid to offend or get
too technical. Repeat a little ditty chorus thirty times rather
than slog away through a boring hymn such as Martin Luther’s “A Mighty
Fortress is Our God” or “Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.”
When it comes to eschatology (study of the “end times”), Christians
eyes roll back as their minds boggle over the mixed messages and
varying opinions. They are not likely to hear much about it in
their churches anyway. It is just too negative and may drive
people away. Christians are taught so many conflicting things
they no longer know what to believe. Here are a few examples of
All prophecy has been fulfilled. There is no millennial kingdom.
God is through with the Jews. The “Church” has inherited all of
After the rapture, God is through with the “Church” and turns back to
Prophecy doesn’t matter to Christians because they escape the
Tribulation by the rapture!
The United States has no role in prophecy. It will either be destroyed
or fall into decay. It just has to get out of the way so the “play”
can continue with the proper players on the prophetic stage.
The antichrist will be an evil, “new age” despot from Europe or the
Middle East, so anti-Christian that he will be easy to recognize.
The church needs to take dominion over the earth one institution and
country at a time (and preferably through that new chosen nation,
America, the last bulwark of fundamental Christian faith in the
So many have said that they were living in the “end”. We could go on
for hundreds of years more. There is no way to know when it will
come, so why worry?
If you hear anything at all, you get these conflicting opinions.
It is very interesting that in the typical church in America, you hear
very little about prophecy. There was a prophecy conference here in
Sacramento with Tim LaHaye and a few other notables, but all they had
to say was “not to worry since we will rapture soon and leave the
problems behind for others to solve”. When it comes to hearing a
serious sermon on last days prophecy from the pulpit from the average
American church, you don’t hear much at all except talk of escapism or
dominionism. The subject is just way too controversial for any pastor
to want to tackle so they just stick with the “here and now” issues of
salvation, having a good family life, being responsible in society and
with your money, etc. Don’t talk to anyone about possibly suffering
and losing life, limb and possessions.
Yet, if you talk to today’s pastors they complain that their people
have no vision – that they are just caught up in hearth and home,
soccer and dance, sports, TV, SUVs and survival. They are
preoccupied with keeping their marriage together, the kids from flying
out of control and holding on to their jobs. They criticize the
church, the pastor, the other members, the programs. Why?
They are living at the most critical time in history and have no
Conflicting Schools of Thought
There are several major schools of thought on prophecy today and they
are all leading the average Christian down the wrong path. These can
be roughly classified by their position on the millennium (referring
to the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ after His return). The
degree of doctrinal error and deception
held by each of these groups may be measured by their position on
three things: the millennium, the rapture and Israel. The terms
discussed below are extremely important. Why? A person will live his
life according to his idea of what he thinks is going to happen. If we
think we will either rapture or just sort of slip into the kingdom,
why be too concerned? If we consider the possibility of passing
through the worst tribulation the world has ever seen, we may more
carefully reevaluate our lives and where we are going.
The a-millennialists believe there won’t be a
millennium. They believe the world will just keep on going.
Historically, the liberal, less “evangelical” churches such as the
more liberal Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, etc., who
are advocates of social justice and social gospel, take this position
– pretty much defined historically by the World Council of Churches.
The net result of this position is that they believe Christians are
here to improve the world and extend their influence politically,
socially and culturally in order to keep evil from prevailing. We will
see later that these churches can make an easy alliance with the
dominionists – those seeking to literally bring the kingdom of
God to the earth! Another related group, called the “preterists”
believe that we have been in the “end times” for the past two thousand
years and all prophecy has been fulfilled.
The post-millennialists believe we are currently
living in the tribulation period and that Christ can’t return until
the church unites and becomes more “Christ-like”. This is the
traditional position of the Roman Catholic Church that is endeavoring
to unite the church under its authority. Recently the Vineyards and
Word of God movement (which was always 60 percent Catholic) and many
other charismatic churches and ministries, as well as the Anglican and
Lutherans, have been making their way back into the Catholic
Both of these first two groups also tend to be supporters of
Covenant Theology, which believes that the Jews have forfeited
their place and all of their promises to the “Church” because they
were unfaithful to God. They have been replaced by the Church (known
as “replacement theology”). This is in spite of Romans 11
that warns the Church to not be so jealous and haughty because we
were grafted into the tree and that God still has a covenant with
His people and in the end they will recognize Jesus as their
As far as these two groups are concerned, there is no rapture. The
Church doesn’t ever go anywhere but is absolutely essential in its role
of turning the world around and establishing dominion over the earth.
Once the church has done its job, Christ can finally return to rule.
In the past century and a half, the more fundamental Protestants
belonged to the pre-millennialist school of thought. They
believe Jesus Christ will return at the end of a seven year period of
persecution that has become known as the “tribulation” and
establish his thousand year rein.
Within the pre-millennial fold, there are different positions
depending on the timing of the rapture which has three possible
positions: Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation and the Post Tribulation
Most pre-millennialists believe in “dispensationalism”.
Again, a big word but an important concept. Historic Roman
Catholicism and the state churches of the Reformation (Covenant,
Lutheran, Anglican, etc.) believed basically that the Jews lost their
inheritance to the church. A reaction to that doctrine,
especially after the special revelation of the pre-tribulation
rapture, was that the church dispensation ends with the rapture and
God turns his attention back to the Jews. They went so far
as to say that none of the promises of the future refer to the Church
since the Church is gone.
Both extremes confuse the issue of the end times and prophecy.
One takes Israel out of the picture and the other the church! We
believe that the clear teaching of the Bible is that God has two
peoples – the Jews, his physical people and the saints of the church,
those born of the Spirit. Romans 11 says:
say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am
an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God
has not cast away His people whom He foreknew…
if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will
their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 For if the firstfruit
is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the
branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and
you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with
them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,
18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast,
remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be
grafted in." 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken
off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For
if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you
consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell,
severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.
Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they
do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to
graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive
tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into
a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural
branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? 25 For I do not
desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest
you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has
happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
26 And so all Israel will be saved
So what are we to infer from these Scriptures? We (the church
and Israel) are in this together. We were grafted in and God
isn’t done with either people. If you read the book of
Revelation carefully, you will find the “church” in every chapter, but
no more than in Chapter 11 where it talks about the two witnesses
which are the “two olive trees and the two lampstands.” Verse 17
above clearly refers to Israel as the “two olive trees” and the church
is referred to in Revelation 2 and 3 as the “lampstands.”
Clearly, these are the two corporate witnesses. In Chapter 7, it
speaks of the first group of 144,000 coming from every tribe of Israel
and chapter 14 speaks of another 144,000 (verses 1-5) “who have His
name written on their foreheads…who have been purchased from the
earth…from among men.” Both peoples stand and boldly witness
throughout Revelation. You can’t say God is done with one group
and moves on to another.
starts when you make one wrong assumption and then build upon it.
That is exactly what happened with the doctrine of the pre-tribulation
rapture which began in the 1840’s and was popularized by John Nelson
Darby. If the church is taken up to heaven in a secret rapture,
they had to twist and turn the Scripture to fill the void left by the
church being gone. Although the doctrine restored Israel’s
prophetic importance, it led to a massive distortion of the
visions of Zechariah 4 of the seven lampstands and the two olive
trees clearly mirror the two witnesses of Revelation 11. Those
who have the church completely out of the way by the time the
tribulation begins have a very basic problem. Saints are still
on the earth during the Tribulation, including every chapter of the
Book of Revelation.
One of the tenets of the pre-tribulation rapture position is that the
church can’t suffer the judgments of God (they misunderstand the
difference between the wrath of Satan and the Judgment of
God as well as the timing of it all) so it has to be removed.
I’m not going to go into the details of the pre-tribulation rapture
right now but am going to point out one major inconsistency.
Proponents often site II Thessalonians 2:8 saying that the rapture
occurs because the Holy Spirit (the “restrainer” is removed which
means Christians have to go as well). This doctrine calls for
two Second Comings – a secret rapture where the Lord comes “for” the
church and, seven years later when Jesus returns “with” the church.
There is no straight forward Scriptural justification for this
position – conjecture at best and twisting the Word at worst. If
you look at the chronologies in Luke 21 or Matthew 24, it is clear
that the return of Jesus and the church being caught up coincide.
I Thess. 4:14-17 leaves no doubt:
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also
that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For
this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive,
that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede
them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend
from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with
the trump of God: and the dead in ‘Christ shall rise first; then
we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught
in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever
be with the Lord.”
I am a very curious person and read all of Tim LaHaye’s “Left
Behind” series, which although just a piece of fiction, LaHaye and
Jenkins both believe follows their interpretation of Scripture.
Immediately after the “rapture”, new Christians are born and by the
mid point of the Tribulation, he estimates there are more than a
billion new believers, which the pre-tribbers call “tribulation
saints.” If the Holy Spirit has been removed from the earth, how
could this be? How could they be “born again” if the Holy Spirit
isn’t there? And further, aren’t “tribulation saints” also the church
– part of the body of Christ? And if so, how could the Lord
allow them to suffer? What makes them any different than you or
I – except timing? To say that the church is not mentioned after
Revelation 3 is disingenuous at best. The “saints” are mentioned
a dozen times in the book of Revelation. In Chapter 13:7, the
antichrist makes war with the saints and overcomes them.
God has never spared the church from Tribulation or the wrath of
persecution. Marvin Rosenthal makes a clear case in his book
titled “The Pre-Wrath Rapture.” The vials of the wrath of
God occur in the 75 days following the return of Jesus and the
rapture. But even more compelling is the matter of the two
witnesses which clearly describe two corporate entities which make up
God’s people’s – the Church (the golden lampstands) and the two olive
trees, Israel. Who else is going to take the witness stand
against the world that rejected Christ and chose the antichrist?
What is God’s glory, but His people “who overcome him because of
the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony and they loved
not their lives unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)
Dispensationalism doesn’t work because you can’t take the church out
of the Old Testament prophecies any more than you can out of
Revelations. The doctrine of a secret pre-tribulation rapture
made it imperative to so convolute Scriptures that an entire end times
theology has been mistakenly built around it. The “a” and
“post”-millenialists rightly reject this view although they tend
to go overboard and reject Israel as well. The fact of the
matter is you need both God’s spiritual and His physical people to
culminate the battle of the ages “To the intent that now unto the
principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the
church the manifold wisdom of God. (Ephesians 3:10)
God isn’t through with the Church or Israel. Both are critical
players in the final act.
The Testimony of Jesus
The book of Revelation is the testimony of Jesus Christ. Let’s
look at the verses:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ... And He sent and signified it by His
angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of
God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that
he saw. (1:1-2)
for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ (1:9)
I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the
word of God and for the testimony which they held. (6:9)
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will
prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days…When they finish
their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless
pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of
their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war
with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and
have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (12:7)
"See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your
brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the
testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (19:7)
Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their
witness to Jesus and for the word of God, (20:4)
The Greek root for the words “testimony” and “witness” is “marturia”
– in other words, the word MARTYR! The testimony of the last
days church is a group of people who will stand boldly, even to giving
up their lives – martyrdom! And you will notice that in Chapter
11, the beast comes out of the bottomless pit and makes war against
the “two witnesses” (the two olive trees and the two lampstands) – the
two corporate people of God. The souls of those slain for their
testimony (marturia) – those beheaded for their witness
So what about deception? Do you expect to escape via the rapture
or be a martyr – a saint who doesn’t love their life even unto death!
There will be no easy escape. This is no less than that asked of
saints down through the ages.
Please see Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. We will have a lot
more to say about the testimony of the church in later works.
Does Prophecy Really Matter?
These are the major views of the “last days” held by Christians today.
I would challenge you to search the Scriptures. Some would say
that none of this really matters, but the fact is that it really does.
Your view of the “last days” will determine what you do. If you think
the church is supposed to take dominion over the world, you will work
toward that end. If the antichrist appears to be a wonderful Christian
out to save the world, even Christians will be deceived and sucked in.
If you think you are going to rapture and leave all the suffering of
the Tribulation behind, you aren’t going to worry about preparing for
it. Why bother? If you believe there will be no tribulation or
millennium, you will just go on with your life “business as usual.”
Matthew 24 tells us that “the coming of the Son of Man will be as in
the days of Noah.” (verse 37) No one had ever seen a flood before.
They had no need for boats so when Noah said that God was going to
judge the earth by a flood, they just laughed. What is the tribulation
about? The final judgment of the earth! Very few will pay any
attention. They will just get caught up in events until it is too
late. Only Noah and his family survived. The question is what is
the ark today? (more on that later)
I used to believe like many of you that these issues don’t really
matter. I used to call myself a “pan-tribber” – everything would “pan”
out. The point is, only one of these positions is the “truth”
as consistently revealed in the Bible, and the other is a false
teaching and part of the deception. This is no small issue, because
your answer will determine what you do or don’t do. If the doctrine
is false, it is also misleading and a part of the great deception.
Think about it. Just as surely as hundreds of prophecies were
literally fulfilled to the letter when Jesus came the first time, the
same will happen when He returns. This could be extremely important if
we just happen to be the generation that is alive when He comes. Will
we go through the Great Tribulation? What will it be like? Should we
do anything to prepare? How will we recognize the signs? What will the
deception be like? What should we look for? How will it affect our
family and friends?
If we are really going to enter into that tribulation period, and we
hold to the first two scenarios above, we are ripe for deception. We
are either not expecting tribulation, or we are confident we will
rapture, so we won’t really understand what is happening. The
antichrist will not be some easy to recognize evil person. He will
look, sound and act like a wonderful Christian man. The name is a
misnomer. “Antichrist” really means “Christ impersonator or
substitute.” So liberal Christians hoping to make the world a better
place will fall right in line behind their new leader. The pre-trib
rapture folks won’t have a clue as to what is happening because they
aren’t expecting to be here at all, so it will be very difficult to
recognize the deception.
Why the Discrepancy?
How did all of these different theories arise? The Bible is not that
hard a book. It is meant to be read and understood by the common man.
You don’t need a doctorate or read a dozen commentaries for it to make
sense. You need an open heart and mind and a living human spirit. If
you approach the Bible with a closed or made up mind, you will seek to
justify the position you already have. That is what many have
done – reinforced what they already believe. The question of the
rapture illustrates the point. A straightforward reading of any of the
associated Scriptures (Matthew 24, II Thessalonians 2, etc.) indicates
that the rapture occurs simultaneously with the return of Jesus Christ
in the clouds. You have to read all kinds of things into the Bible to
come up with any other conclusion. But that is what they do. They hear
a teaching, get an idea and seek to justify it and build upon it.
Over the centuries, sincere theologians and Bible Scholars honestly
wrestled with passages relating to “end times” prophesy. They did
their best to interpret the passages, but the problem was they were
interpreting them in the light of their culture and their point in
time and history. Imagine someone interpreting Scripture in the 16th
Century when Spain dominated the world. What would their conclusion
be? Or France under Napoleon or Germany under Hitler – many thought
both to be the antichrist. In the 18th and 19th
centuries, the sun never set on the British Empire. What was America -
a fledgling colony across the ocean? What was Israel at the end of the
19th century? The hope of a few Jews, but most were just
scattered around the world, having been scattered by wars and the
inquisition. These theologians did their best interpreting prophecy,
but how else were they to do it if not based on their own
historical/political context? The problem comes when their
interpretation is passed on down through the years.
Obviously, if you are interpreting “end times” prophecy in the light
of 19th Century Europe, or any other time for that matter,
it is not going to be accurate. It is interesting that in the last
book of Daniel, probably the most relevant Old Testament prophetic
book, he says basically the same thing twice, “Go your way, Daniel
for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end of time.”
(Daniel 12:9) In other words, we are told that the prophecy is not
only sealed but “concealed” until the end and in the “end” it clearly
states that the prophetic meaning will be revealed. In “Intelligence”
circles, this principle is called “need to know.” No matter
what a person’s security clearance, classified information is only
revealed on a “need to know” basis. If you have a “need to know” and
the security clearance, the information will be revealed to you. You
may be the President of the United States but if you don’t have the
“need to know”, it will remain secret. These verses tell us that
the prophetic scripture will be revealed in the end times when we have
a need to know and understand what was written.
The closer we get to the “end”, the more the Lord will reveal the true
meaning of about one fourth of the entire Bible which deals with “end
times” prophecy. The problem is we have baggage - pre-conceived ideas
that have been passed down from generation to generation in Bible
Schools and Seminaries. It is easy to understand how miss- teachings
could come about, but the problem is, these teachings take on a life
of their own. They are validated because that “is what we have been
taught.” Eventually, that “miss-teaching” can become a false
doctrine. Only the person with the nimble mind and open heart
will escape the resulting deception. This isn’t to necessarily blame
anyone, especially those who are dead and gone, because they probably
did the best they could with the information they had. But if the
next generation accepts their interpretation, it just adds to the
Some blame should be laid on present day teachers who refuse to see
the truth and think outside their narrow little box. If we are in the
“last days”, these issues are no longer “academic”. God wants to
reveal the truth about what is going to happen so people can prepare
and know what to expect. There is a lot at stake. Think about it. The
two extremes on the rapture question are: 1) we escape before the
Tribulation or 2) there is no rapture because we have to take dominion
over the earth. Does it matter? If they are wrong, those promoting
them are false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, leading the flock
astray, deceiving the brethren. And, as I said before, people will act
according to what they believe. The first group won’t do much of
anything and the second, e.g. American Christians will work toward
world hegemony for America, Christ and the Church. Do you see how
either position can lead someone down the path of deception? To say
the most powerful economic, political and military force the world has
ever seen is either irrelevant because it isn’t mentioned in prophecy
or that it is God’s chosen nation to bring the kingdom to earth are
both wrong and lead to serious consequences. The first is refusing to
see the elephant taking up half the painting and the second is to turn
prophecy upside down and work right into the hands of the antichrist.
Before we leave this subject of timing, I want to remind you that
whether intentionally or not, most pastors will push variations of
these two agendas. Why? Maybe that is what they have been taught and
they are just passing it on to you. Or maybe, Laodicean pastors are
just giving “Laodicean” (lukewarm) messages. Laodicea means “rule by
the laity”. In other words, if they don’t give the laity what they
want, they will be voted out and lose their job.
The church is backwards. Instead of having a laity demanding the
clergy take care of them. The “laity”, the people themselves are
gifts to the church and every person has a gift and should use it. We
do not need a class of “professional full-time Christians”. What does
that make the rest of us “unprofessional” part-time Christians? We
each need to know Him and know His word. We are all responsible to God
alone. But a word of warning, if you listen to false teachers, you
will fall into deception. “A little leaven leavens the whole loaf,
speaking of the teachings of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:6-12) If you
eat junk food, your body will become a sickly junk food body. If you
listen to spiritual junk, your spirit and mind will be tainted. There
is no way around it. I don’t understand how any Christian could watch
TBN or listen to Christian radio all day and not be nauseated by the
hype and false teachings!
False teachings, apostate teachings, misguided, out dated teachings
all add to the deception that is rampant in the Body of Christ today.
Unless you take a fresh look at the Bible yourself, you are at great
risk. If you just go along with today’s Christian leaders, you
are likely to be led down the path of deception. The stakes are
high. This is not a game.