For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Tim. 4:3)
Usually this verse is quoted in connection with some New Age or Emerging Church teaching. But I think it can apply to students of prophecy as well. We’re so anxious for the Rapture that we periodically go off half cocked and wind up embarrassing ourselves in front of the nay sayers and scoffers.
This is not a new thing. There was a great Messianic fervor in the time leading up to the Lord’s first coming as well. And even after Israel rejected Him, the expectation of a coming Messiah was still a strong part of Jewish life when Simon bar Kochba led a revolt against the Romans in 135AD. He had been confirmed as the Messiah by a leading rabbi, and actually defeated the notorious Roman 10th Legion before being captured and killed, putting an end to both the revolt and the Nation of Israel.
Another Messianic expectation led to the Crusades and the belief that Jerusalem had to be conquered in the name of the Church so the Lord could return. This was the earliest form of dominion theology and was birthed out of an interpretation of prophecy that was originally meant to placate the Romans. In the Church’s earliest days the Romans had rejected Christianity because the Bible taught that Jesus would return to be King of the World. This was a position that the Roman Emperors occupied, and they were understandably reluctant to step aside. Church theologians convinced them that the Millennium was taking place in Heaven so the Lord wouldn’t be returning for 1000 years. It cleared the way for Roman acceptance of Christianity but led to the belief 700 years later that Jerusalem had to be made a Christian city to facilitate the Lord’s return. Untold thousands, many of them Jews, died because of this incorrect interpretation of Scripture. Many still hold this post-millennial view.
In the time leading up to WW2 many scholars believed Hitler to be the anti-Christ and saw WW2 as the final Battle between good and evil. A small minority of scholars pointed out that since Israel was not in the Land it couldn’t be the End of the Age, but lots of believers thought it was upon us.
In the 1970’s the Jesus movement brought thousands of young people into the Church, and the Messianic fever broke out again. One of the movement’s well known teachers began hinting that the Rapture would take place in 1981, based on the incorrect belief that the 2nd Coming would happen in 1988, and the excitement level rose even higher. When it didn’t happen those who were just along for the ride fell away, and even among true believers the pre-trib Rapture view took a real beating as disillusioned believers looked for a way to justify their now dashed hopes. Many resorted to an allegorical view and stopped taking prophecy literally.
Again in the late 80’s an incorrect view of Matt. 24:34 led to a book outlining 88 reasons why the Rapture had to happen in 1988. It was a best seller but it was wrong, and the 100 thousand plus who had bought the book had their faith needlessly shaken.
Both these last examples were based on the incorrect belief that the Lord had promised to return within the span of one generation after Israel was re-born as a nation. What He really said in effect was that the generation being born when the first of the End Times signs materialized would still be alive at the 2ndComing. Although most agree that the re-birth of Israel was the starting point, it’s the lifetime of those being born then that determines the time span, not the length of a generation. But when the rapture didn’t come in 1988, some of these teachers simply switched their starting point to June, 1967, the reunification of Jerusalem, and added 40 years to that, never realizing that it wasn’t the starting point that was wrong, it was the interpretation of the verse. June 2007 also came and went with out a Rapture.
Today there’s yet another case of Messianic fever upon us, and it has to do with what I call the Blood Moon Scenario. In the year 2015 there will be back to back full lunar eclipses on Passover and Tabernacles. Each will be preceded by a Solar Eclipse, the only such heavenly display in the 21st Century. These tandem eclipses also occurred as Israel was being born in 1948 and as Jerusalem was being captured in 1967.
Some are teaching that this points to a return of the Lord in September of 2015, based again on an incorrect interpretation of Scripture. They’re claiming that Ezekiel 40:1 says that the Lord will return on the 10th day of the first month, and are using Israel’s civil calendar to call that day September 23, 2015, 5 days before the day of the final lunar eclipse, as the day to which Ezekiel was pointing.
I think these teachers are disregarding several facts. To start with, Ezekiel was trained as a priest and always used the religious calendar which begins in the spiring. God Himself ordained this change from a fall New Year to a Spring one in Exodus 12. The first month is March, not September.
The biggest problem might be that although Matt. 24:29 says that a darkened sun and moon will mark the end of the Great Tribulation, the Lord clearly said that believers on Earth at the time will not know the day or hour of the 2ndComing. (Matt. 24:42, 44, 25:13) Once in a century back to back solar and lunar eclipses would seem to dispute those statements. More likely the sun and moon will appear to be darkened because of the smoke and particulates in the air from all the destruction.
And in order for the Lord to return in 2015, Daniel’s 70th Week will have to commence in September of 2008. That means Israel will have to experience a national conversion and place themselves back into the Old Covenant relationship they enjoyed in the Old Testament. (Today only about one in four Israelis admits to being a religious Jew.) Then they’ll have to make an official decision to build a Temple in Israel, knowing that it will most assuredly spark an unprecedented level of outrage among their Moslem neighbors in the Middle East, and in much of the world in general. Then a leader with sufficient clout in the world community will have to come to their rescue and enforce a 7 year contract that permits this.
I think the Temple can actually be built anytime in the first half of Daniel’s 70thWeek. But in order for the 2015 Blood Moon Prophecy to come true we’ll need to see a major shift in Israel’s attitude toward God immediately for the 70thWeek to begin. At this writing, that leaves less than two months for 5 million Israeli Jews to suddenly become religious and agree to put themselves under the Law.
What would it take for that to happen? Something truly miraculous, for sure. I believe Ezekiel 39:22 tells us that God’s victory over Israel’s enemies will accomplish just that. But forget about the false peace and unwalled villages. Can Ezekiel’s battle be mobilized, fought and won in less than 30 days?
In conclusion, I don’t believe these teachers have done their home work, and are causing more harm than good. “Scholarship” like this would never be tolerated in the secular community and those who proposed it would be laughed to scorn. But Christians are so anxious for the Messiah that we’ll accept anything that helps us believe he’s coming soon. And most of us don’t know enough about the Bible to exercise discernment.
Please believe me when I say I believe He’s coming soon too and I hope with all my heart that I’m right. But I’m not going to let that hope cloud my judgment or cause me to ignore what the Bible teaches. Advocates of this hypothesis are very popular right now and they’ve got a lot of people excited. But it’s only because they’re saying what our itching ears want to hear, not because they’re right. Who knows how many will have their faith in the accuracy of God’s word shaken this time?.