SPECIAL EDITORIAL FOCUS
"Where is The Promise of His Coming?"
This editor would not class himself as a "Fundamentalist" in the full sense of that term, but aware that others may do so, his interest has been seized by the advance against Bible-believing Christians which is apparently on the march againand this time with added momentum. This appears from a recent article in U.S. News & World Report (Dec. 19, 1994). Considerable space will be taken in this issue discussing the implications of this.
So-called "fundamentalists" who teach that Bible prophecy heralds the second coming of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom of God upon earth are the main focus of attention in the U.S. News article, which reminds readers just how often the dates set for the Lords advent have passed without incident. Apparently some conservative "scholars" have now decided that Biblical prophecies require re-examination, and have been taken too literallyhence the front-page heading: WAITING FOR THE MESSIAH: THE NEW CLASH OVER THE BIBLE'S MILLENIAL PROPHECIES.
Of the 61% of Americans who are reported to believe in the second coming of Christ, it is a group called "premillennialists" that gets most of the spotlight. Premillennialists, we are informed "include most evangelical and fundamentalist Christians".
"A hallmark of premillennialism, and a major target of scholarly criticism, has been its inclination to view current world events as prophetic signs of the end times. No single event in the 20th century has excited apocalyptic fervor as much as the rise of the State of Israel in 1948. When the United Nations created Israel, premillennialists exulted that the final countdown had begun."
"The embodiment of evil in most end-time story lines is the Antichrist, a powerful and charismatic dictator who, some Christians believe, will rule over a re-constituted Roman Empire, enforce a "false peace" and a heretical worldwide religion and ultimately declare himself to be God."
Under an artists depiction of Antichrist the magazine comments: "Many scholars say efforts to identify current world leaders as the Antichrist are misguided and dangerous. History is full of such misreadings". Christians are thus being encouraged not to look too hard for this "Antichrist" figure. Thats interesting!
"Some conservative evangelical scholars are beginning to challenge" these premillennial ideas, continues the article:
"Professors at such bastions of premillennialism as Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and Wheaton College in Wheaton Ill., recently have raised strong objections to the literal interpretation of some apocalyptic texts and to the intense search for signs of the times in current events."
Antichrist in Revelation, says one "scholar," was no doubt "intended to signify Nero". So safely tucked away in past history, who needs to worry about any Antichrist now? Even Antichrist himself could not produce a better disguise than that! We are also instructed that:
"Passages in Ezekiel that premillennialists say predict a future Armageddon probably refer to the invasion of Israel by Scythian hordes in pre-Christian times, according to the scholars. Imaginative doomsday preachers ignore this. Instead...the northern invader of Israel in Ezekiel becomes the Russian Army. This is anachronism".
These newly enlightened "scholars" and "Professors" conclude that, after all, prophecy is "just not an essential part of the Christian faith"a disarming statement if you have not thought through to an answer for it. They believe that it is more important for believers to be involved in "battling social issues."
So how valid is this challenge? How much does prophecy matter?
Not an Essential?
To say that any part of Scripture is "not essential" is, in its effect, a form of reductionism. It is like partial inspiration or the acceptance of only a reduced canonit takes away from Gods word (see Rev. 22:19). There is no ground or authority for such an arrogant and presumptuous statement. The household of God is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph 2:19,20). It was "Jesus Christ himself," this chief cornerstone of the household of faith, who has shown "unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass" in the book of Revelation (see chapter 1:1 and 22:6). Hence, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (19:10).
Let anyone examine the contents page of a Bible how many of the 66 books are concerned with prophecy? At the very least 18. Add to these the prophetic portions of the Gospels, of the Psalms and other sectionsclearly, a very sizable part of Scripture is prophetic.
Now the apostle Paul wrote (2 Tim. 3:16): "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine (i.e. teaching), for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect" or complete, "throughly furnished unto all good works". The apostle is telling us that "All Scripture" is profitable in order to make the man of God completeso on what basis can it be asserted that this is not so, or that 18+ books are not essential to salvation? Is an incomplete faith good enough?
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed" says Peter (2nd Epistle 1:19). He says that we should "be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets" who forewarned of certain things (chap. 3:2) and concludes: "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness" (3:17). So here is at least one reason given as to why prophecy is important to usit acts as a preservative. By forewarning Gods people of future things it helps them to recognize enemies and so avoid being carried away from saving truth and into fatal error. In the absence of an understanding of prophecy Antichrist cannot be identified or the beasts mark recognized. In these situations prophecy is essential. It is essential for salvation (See Rev. 14:9-11). Other reasons for the importance of prophecy could also be given. The statement that prophecy is not essential to salvation is made for a reasonand that reason is to dissuade Christians from any serious study of it. We will return to this matter later.
A Sustained Campaign
The campaign against so-called fundamentalists has been carried on over several years now as is evidenced by periodic newspaper reports (some of which are shown in the collage above). It is a widespread campaignthe cuttings depicted are all taken from different newspapersThe Sunday Times, Guardian Weekly, Sunday Telegraph and a Southam Canadian paper. These articles clearly show that warning the public against Bible believing Christians has become a mission for the media.
According to press articles fundamentalism is a "menace" and is an "abuse" of the Christian faith. The Sunday Telegraph (July 10, 1994) is one that pours scorn on fundamentalist views. Asking "Is There Life After the End of the World?" The paper says: "An integral part of the final days scenario among American fundamentalists is that there has to be a last conflict between Russia and Israel, with the European Community on the side of Satan" and adds, "American believers regard the E.C. as the seat of Antichrist." The article reminds its readers of the several past occasions when the date predicted for the end of the world cameand passed bywithout any noticeable calamity.
In a book entitled Millennium Prophecies by Stephen Skinner (pub. Carlton Books), several predictions concerning the year 2000 are reviewed, as are several expectations for the end of the world which have long passed their due date. In a section headed "Kingdom of the Cults" Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovahs Witnesses, Mormons and British Israelites (including Armstrongs Plain Truth group) are classed with the followers of David Koresh who perished in a bizarre stand-off with the F.B.I. at Waco, Texas.
In reviewing the various books, magazine articles and newspaper columns that deal with this issue, one is given the distinct impression that those who believe in the literal second coming of Christ and the establishment of a real divine kingdom on earthand who see in current events the signs of the times revealed in Scripturethat such people are in urgent need of psychiatric treatment. This is a well-orchestrated campaign which is aimed at discrediting independent study of the Bible.
Getting Dates Wrong
A spearhead in the argument against fundamentalist views on Bible prophecy and prominent in articles, is the fact that "the end of the world" and the coming of Christ has so often been set for a particular dateand these dates turned out to be non-events. A top favourite with writers is the case of William Miller who concluded that the end would come on October 22 in 1844 and led a large congregation, to a hillside from whence they expected to be taken away. Miller was "carried away" alright, but not in the way he had envisioned! The case is cited by U.S. News, The Sunday Telegraph and Millennium Propheciesand one can see why. It evokes scorn and ridicule upon those who look for Christs coming. A premature expectation or chronological miscalculation is used as a basis for suggesting a Bible students entire work is misguided and off the mark. In some cases this may well be true, but it is not always so.
Let those who wish to make so much of this issue tell us how some Bible students not only foresaw major events from the prophetic word, but managed to calculate the correct date for it as well. Why is it that only the failures are publicizedwhy are successful results kept hidden? The point was made many years ago by H. Grattan Guinness in his book The Approaching End of the Age (P. 475, published in 1880):
"And if such false anticipations are noted, correct ones should in all fairness be remembered also. One of the earliest and most remarkable of these is that of ROBERT FLEMING who in his work on the "Rise and Fall of Rome Papal, " published in the year 1701, anticipated the years 1794 and 1848, as critical years in the downfall of the papacy; he added "yet we are not to imagine that those events will totally destroy the papacy, although they will exceedingly weaken it..."
"The year 1793 was that of the Reign of Terror, and of the temporary suspension of the public profession of Christianity in France, the first of Papal kingdoms; and five years later the Papal government in Italy was overthrown, and the Pope carried captive to Sienna...A very considerable number of expositors agreed, in indicating long before their arrival, the remarkable years A.D. 1866-70, as years of crisis in the downfall of despotic power in Europe..."
And so they were. 1848 saw revolutions in Europe and the years 1866-70 saw the fall of the Popes temporal power. In another book, Light For The Last Days (pub. 1888) Grattan Guinness wrote:
"The year 1917 is consequently doubly indicated as a final crisis date, in which the "seven times" run out, as measured from two opening events, both of which are clearly most critical in connection with Israel, and where dates are both absolutely certain and unquestionable." (Page 222).
1917 saw the Balfour Declaration promise a national home for the Jews in Palestine, and it saw the Turkish power evicted from that Land as a necessary step towards restoration.
Fleming, writing in 1701, saw the Turkish empire as being destroyed "between 1848 and 1900" (a process involving over 50 years) in fact it took up until the close of World War 1, 1917-18 for this process to end. He was not that far wrong! This does not mean that the faithful student is worthy of derision from those who, in their blindness, think that all things continue as they were from the beginning. They do not "continue as they were", especially in regards to the Jewish people who have been returning to their ancient homeland for most of this current century.
John Thomas, in about 1870, recognized these principles. He said:
"I believe...that the period for Israels down-treading is at an end, and that we have entered upon a new series of events that will culminate in the cleansing of the Holy. We are not necessarily to look for some great event that will wind-up the purposes of God in a flash of lightning. One series of events having come to its close, another series has already begun and will continue to develop more and more largely until the Ancient of Days makes his appearance and takes things into his own hands. That this will be the order in which the events of these latter days will develop, we are justified in saying, because it is the order of all Gods past relations with Israel. All His purposes and schemes with them have been gradual in development. God is never in a hurry. He has plenty of time at His disposal. He is not bound to do things according to your speculation or mine as to how long He ought to take. He has fixed the times and seasons."The Book Unsealed.
The apostle Peter (2nd Epistle chapter 3) points us in this direction, teaching us that any apparent delay is not due to slackness, but to Gods incredible mercy. It is sad that leading writers who campaign so vigorously against Bible-believing Christians today cannotor else, will notperceive this.
The Source of the Campaign
Once we realize that most major newspapers, magazines and publishing houses are today either owned by Catholics or have Catholic editorial staff, it is not difficult to trace this smear campaign to Catholic literaturefor this same theme can be found in several Catholic publications. It is the continuation of a long battle waged by Rome over many years against the Protestant position.
The Protestant view of Bible prophecy was for many years restricted to what is termed a continuous-historic interpretation. Identification of the Roman Church with the harlot of Revelation 17, and the Papacy as the Man of Sin (2 Thess 2) and the Antichrist (a view reflected in the preface to the 1611 Authorized Version of the Bible was a main feature. It is a view that can be traced back to small Protestant groups which existed long before the 16th Century Reformationand for obvious reasons was not a favourite idea in Rome itself.
Dismissing the Protestant view as "fantastic", the Jesuit C.C. Martindale suggests a past interpretation, which he says, originated "in Spain in the Sixteenth Century, and the Jesuits themselves were largely responsible for it, especially Alcazar, 1614 and 1619, and Mariana, about the same time." (Antichrist, pub. Catholic Truth Society, 1948). This viewknown as Praeteristis accepted by many Catholics. It is now reflected in the U.S. News article referred to at the beginning of this editorial where a conservative evangelical "scholar" is seen identifying Nero as Antichrist!
In 1966 a booklet entitled Gods News to Man was published by the Roman Catholic Knights of Columbus. It claimed that "The Bible is not everymans Bible; it is the Churchs Bible." Readers of the Bible must learn "that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church, leading it to all truth. Hence, if some passage of Scripture seems to say to you something that is contrary to the teaching of the Church you will know that you have misunderstood it".
"Reading into the Bible curious statements about modern times and political situations that have no relation to salvation is the most fundamental and basic mistake."
Now this is precisely the position being adopted by these "scholars" who are challenging fundamentalist views of prophecy todayas reported in U.S. News. It is an argument that echoes the Catholic thinking quoted above.
Handbook on Fundamentalists
In 1988 a book was published bearing the Imprimatur of the Archbishop of Los Angeles, written by Karl Keating and entitled Catholicism and Fundamentalism"The Attack on Romanism by Bible Christians". This is virtually a handbook for Roman Catholics on Protestant Fundamentalism. Here again, and in the first chapter, we learn that "millennialism...refers to the literal thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (see Rev. 20) and is usually accompanied by a propensity for interpreting scriptural prophecies as referring to present or imminent historical eventsin recent years, the Cold War and the status of Israel." (P. 18). And (inevitably):
"A century ago, millennialism was chiefly known for the frequency with which its proponents gave precise, but unfailingly wrong, dates for the end of the world. Millennialists are more circumspect today."
In this case, William Miller is relegated to a footnote on page 22and again there is no recognition of correct chronological achievements.
In chapter 9 of this book, we come to the basic question of authoritythe inspiration of the Bible or the authority of the Church. There is some logical (though very incomplete) discussion in which "fundamentalists" are examined as to the basis and ground of their belief in the inspiration of the Bible. We then read:
"...without the existence of the Church, we could not tell if the Bible were inspired...The Catholic believes in inspiration because the Church tells him sothat is putting it bluntlyand that same Church has the authority to interpret the inspired text."
At its root, and as seen by Rome, the real problem with fundamentalistsand particularly Millennialistsis their rejection of the authority of the Roman Church. A belief in the inspiration of the Bible which excludes the teaching authority of the Church is a position that Rome cannot tolerate. To her, this is "abuse" of the Christian faithit is a "menace" that must be made war upon. This is why we witness a "clash over the Bibles millennial prophecies," as reported in the U.S. News magazine.
The Challenge of Prophecy
Earlier we saw that prophecy, according to Peter, forewarned believers of spiritual dangers (2 Pet. 3:17). It has another purpose alsoit is a major piece of evidence demonstrating the supernatural authorship of the Bible. There is no need of a Church "authority" to establish this; it is self-evident. Furthermore, the evidence of prophecy is of such a character that no deceiver can mimic its powerand when they try to do so (as in the case of Nostradamus or St. Malachy), examination soon shows that there is no comparison between these pseudo-prophets and the inspired word of God. No Church or mystical seerand no pope eithercan meet the challenge of the God of Truth:
"Produce your cause, saith the Lord: bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them: or declare us things for to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods..."Isaiah 41:21-23
When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to the apostles he said: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come." (John 16:13). In view of its own claim that: "the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church, leading it to all truth,"* the Roman Church ought to be able to show us future things (or at least provide an authoritative interpretation of prophecy) if it really is Christs true ecclesia.
The Roman Church cannot, and does not meet the criteria that is before us however. There is absolutely no more evidence of the Holy Spirit residing in the Roman Church than there is of it residing in the Mormon Church or the Watchtower Organization.
Bible prophecy is a vital building-block of faithas Jesus himself expressed it:
"And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe"John 14:29.
The Revival of Rome
Let us recognize what is happening in todays world. As the knowledge and influence of the Bible decreases in society, so Romes influence increases. As men and women lose faith and confidence in the one, so are they attracted and dazzled by the other.
During recent years we have witnessed the advance of the Roman Church in Britain. The Church of England and the Protestant monarchy is a shambles and has been skillfully out-manoeuvred by Rome. In his book All Roads Lead to Rome, Michael de Semlyen quotes George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury as saying: "it is entirely possible that the Anglican Church could disappear to make way for a united world church."
Michael de Semlyen gives this picture of Britain today:
"During the last two decades, there has been a new emphasis on sacramental worship, with the Mass regularly celebrated at Sunday services, and references to it on TV and in radio plays and documentaries as representative of Christian worship, have become a noticeable feature in our lives. Christmas 1990 offered viewers four televised services, of which three were Masses. Requiem Masses, including prayers for the dead have frequently occupied centre stage at times of national tragedy and disaster. Thus the reinstatement of the Mass in the public mind, and in the life of our nation, is becoming a reality in our day."
Now we are seeing conservative fundamentalist groups in North America being infiltrated by Roman Catholic thinking. This will work within those groups, seminaries and colleges, to move Bible believers away from expectations about Christs coming and towards a greater involvement in social issues and charitable activities. If the new attitudes towards Bible prophecy prevailas they have elsewhere in similar situationsthe process will be greatly accelerated. The children of todays American fundamentalists will be looking to the pope as the moral and spiritual leader of the world. They will be able to join their hearty voices with millions, as they clap and sing "Hes got the whole world in his hands"!
Evangelization 2000 is the name of a campaign which it is planned, will reach its climax on Christmas Day in the year 2000, when the Pope hopes to speak to five billion people in one world-wide satellite broadcast. But there is another idea about the year 2000, and this is expressed below in the words of Thomas Newton, which he wrote in the year 1754.
"Now the power of the pope, as a horn or temporal prince, it hath been shown, was established in the eighth century: and 1260 years from the time will lead us down to about the year of Christ 2000, or about the 6000th year of the world: and there is an old tradition both among Jews and Christians, that at the end of six thousand years the Messiah shall come, and the world shall be renewed, the reign of the wicked one shall cease, and the reign of the saints upon earth shall begin."
What an interesting thought!
* This statement appears in several Catholic works which bear the Imprimatur e.g. God's News to Man (Knights of Columbus) and The Faith of Millions by J.A. O'Brian
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