30 Mar 2020

Over Here!

I have to write this week about an issue that’s closely related to Israel. Or rather, Israel is part of it, although for our purposes each week this isn’t strictly about the Jewish State. Yes, I know, there are monumental things going on in Israeli politics, and fascinating things shaping up regarding the Coronavirus and how Israel is dealing with it.

But this week—specifically because of this bizarre place we find ourselves in—I must write about the enormous opportunities there are for personal evangelism in our culture.

And the key element in that sphere that we are missing.

I’ll write a separate piece on this in the next few days hopefully for inclusion on the wider RR site, because I am gathering evidence that apologists and other ministries in the U.S. are purposely (or unknowingly) avoiding talking about Bible prophecy and the Jewish people in history.

Sure, one can share Christ without discussing those subjects. One can attempt to “prove” Christianity by citing the historical record on the Resurrection of Christ. Or appeal to philosophical arguments, or point out the remarkable consistency of New Testament manuscripts over time.

But it baffles me that Bible teachers and apologists are avoiding Bible prophecy when encountering fearful people at this moment. Well, not exactly baffles. Maybe irritates is a better word.

We all know that in recent years, Bible prophecy teaching has fallen out of favor. Many reasons for that, but among them is a hatred of Scripture by people who claim to be teachers and ministry leaders.

I mean it. Much of the teaching in seminaries in the last several decades has actually been an attack on the Bible. From sowing doubt about the veracity of the Bible, to claims that some or all of it is myth—false teachers have pushed their agenda.

Having said that, it is fascinating to observe major ministries that go to great lengths to avoid Bible prophecy. I remember more than 20 years ago, I was working for a Christian book publisher and I had occasion to speak to a person with the D. James Kennedy ministry in Florida. I naively recommended some prophecy books and then began talking about the miracle of Israel’s rebirth.

I was rebuffed by the person on the other end of the line, who (sort of) politely dismissed my interest in the subject. I was such a sheltered young chap in those days. I had no idea that so many people have disdain for Bible prophecy.

I also began researching this new field of interest. I discovered for example that people from the Reformed background (Kennedy was Presbyterian) do not go for Dispensationalism. They are cool toward Jews and Israel.

Not to pick on them. Most other denominations are just like that. Individual, celebrity ministry leaders are no better. Take this comment this week on Twitter from Tim Keller:

“Your view about how the world will end affects how you live today.”

You see, the good pastor is dissing those of us who are Dispensational. He is too sophisticated, too intellectual to believe in it. He has been influenced by those who look down on the role of Israel and the Jews in History—massive though that role really is.

What Keller’s quote means specifically is that those of us who long for the Lord’s return are (according to Keller’s thinking) uninterested in this world. We are too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.

Others like Andy Stanley have said similar things. They have contempt for Bible prophecy teaching.

This has long been a club used to attack people like us. I know it to be disingenuous. My late friend and mentor, David Allen Lewis, was Bible prophecy on steroids. His ministry was built around it. He loved Israel and was the greatest Christian Zionist I’ve ever known. He was also intensely interested in this life and this world. He was passionate about improving people’s lives, both physically and spiritually. He was not the kind of person Tim Keller wants you to believe he was.

The truth is, while the world is dying and fearful, those of us who teach Bible prophecy are reduced to standing on the side of the road as people stream by. We shout, “Over here!” so that we can share the Good News with them. Other ministry-minded people ignore eschatology and miss opportunities to answer questions from people who are staggering down a road of fear and who are now very interested in whether God exists or not.

I also this week spent 20 painful minutes watching a self-absorbed video from Russell Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, that Southern Baptist entity that is in reality center-left under Moore’s leadership since 2013.

Moore pulled several books off the shelves of his home office to give us a glimpse into those books about the end-times and which ones he thinks are important.

Among the books Moore recommended were authored by George Eldon Ladd (of Fuller Theological Seminary), Richard John Niehaus, Annie Dillard, Leo Tolstoy, and John Updike.

Between me and you, I think Moore thirsts for approval from “secular” academia. He wants the approval of the world. Now, I don’t mean to imply that Tolstoy for example isn’t a compelling writer. But I do mean that Moore wants to be seen as an intellectual.

Dillard? Updike? They don’t write about eschatology, but Moore does like some of the things they say about death and dying, etc.

But why not recommend Paul? Wasn’t Paul infinitely superior on the subject to modern secularists and pagans?

So Moore and others like him stagger about in the dark, looking for ways to be relevant to modernity. All the while, God’s power and majesty are on full display in His pronouncements about the future.

That’s just one other thing that makes Him without peer in all of history.

People are full of fear right now. Some might say a plague of biblical proportions is upon us. In the meantime, before our collective or individual end comes, let’s comfort others with the knowledge that God knows the end from the beginning, and He has given us methods to discern what we need to know about the end.

It is a great comfort to many of us.

It will be a great comfort to someone that will cross your path soon.

Seize the day!