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Preterism and the Eclipse of Pre-millennialism
By Dr. Larry Spargimino
Pre-millennialism has been the major eschatological position in America for over a century. Many, though not all, pre-millennialists are dispensational in their understanding of Scripture. Dispensationalism and pre-millennialism complement each other and are able to explain both the unity and diversity of Scripture, and provide a sound basis for understanding God's promises to Israel. This is something that cannot be done with other approaches to Scripture and certainly says much in their favor.
Various developments on the world scene have done much to create an interest in prophecy. For many, the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948 was a confirmation of Bible prophecy. Added to that were a series of disasters- Bhopal, Chernobyl, AIDS, earthquakes, global warming, and others-that have created an "apocalyptic fever." Radical and far-reaching social changes such as the growing acceptance of the gay lifestyle, radical feminism, radical environmentalism, school shootings, and genetic experimentation, have all worked together to create the impression that "something momentous is going to happen soon." When life proceeds as usual and there is a general feeling of peace and safety, there is not much interest in biblical prophecy But when the very foundations of a society are shaken and the bizarre becomes the norm, "millennial madness" spreads like a plague.
The Changing Spiritual Climate
In recent years, however, dispensational pre-millennialism has been losing followers. Opposing views-some of them having been around a long time but overshadowed by dispensational pre-millennialismare appearing on the scene and gaining increasing numbers of adherents. Several factors can be offered to explain this phenomenon.
Some, for example, would point out that the events of the twentieth century seem to have mocked the pre-millennial understanding of history. Not only did Y2K not pan out as anticipated by many, but some believe that many events in the last half of the twentieth century have discredited a pre-millennial understanding of current events.
For a while current events seemed to bear out the pre-millennial view. But not everything went their way. There were obvious disconfirmations-especially Mussolini's fate. Instead of being a type of the Antichrist, he died a humiliating death, and the Roman Empire never revived. And Adolph Hitler's invasion of Russia in June 1941 shattered the prophetic expectation of a great northern confederation of Germany and Russia. How did pre-millennialism handle these apparent setbacks? Some were confused, others were dumbfounded. But for the most part there seemed to be just one big awkward silence.'
Before we proceed, a few comments are in order. Yes, Y2K did not turn out to be a disaster. This is often used against prophetic teachers who taught that it could very well be a disaster. However, debunkers act as if the pre-millennial community actually created the idea of a Y2K disaster. That is patently false. The U.S. government along with a variety of organizations and utility companies were advocating taking appropriate measures. Consistent with this, millions of, dollars were spent on preparedness. Those in prophetic ministries were simply reporting what was being stated on the media and from many other non-Christian sources.
And what about Kyle's statement about Mussolini's ignoble death and the revived Roman Empire failing to materialize? Yes, at the end of the Second World War, Europe was in ruins. But it is not that way today. No one who teaches that there will be a revived Roman Empire need apologize for that view. Both Scripture and current events amply testify to its reality. In the closing years of the twentieth century events transpired in Europe that can only be explained in terms of prophecy. The European Union, the European Common Market, the euro-dollar, the vicious attack by NATO upon Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999, and the growing economic power of Europe that now possibly exceeds that of the United States are all harbingers of prophetic fulfillment.
And yes, Germany invaded Russia in June of 1941 as Kyle points out, but more than half a century later we know that the "expectation of a great northern confederation" is still in keeping with prophecy and being confirmed by current events. Russia has been through much turmoil and we have all heard the rosy reports that "communism is dead." Recent developments, however, show that Russia and a great northern confederation cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
Another complaint against pre-millennialism is that it often takes a negative view of society and culture. And that is true. Dispensational pre-millennialists have a deep-seated distrust of the world system. We believe that this distrust is what is taught in Scripture. However, some writers use this to demonize dispensational pre-millennialism. Richard Kyle explains when he writes:
Many dispensationalists are fundamentalists who tend to regard the world system and even culture in general as demonic. Thus they identify a variety of elements in the global order as forces of the Antichrist. Frequently targeted are Roman Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, the global economic system, modern technology, Jews, socialism, Communism, the New Age Movement, Islam, environmentalism, the Common Market, the Soviet Union, feminism, peace organizations, and rock music.'
Critics of pre-millennialism who engage in such criticisms need to consider the categories "targeted" in the above quote. What about Roman Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, and the global economic system? Are these really the friends of biblical Christianity? Are we really to be demonized because we find that socialism, the New Age movement, Islam, environmentalism, peace organizations like the United Nations, and many other groups are more interested in destroying the testimony of Christ than preserving it?
Yes, I must agree with Kyle that "many dispensationalists are fundamentalists who tend to regard the world system and even culture in general as demonic." Yes, we even have problems with Halloween, Pokemon, Harry Potter, rock music, miniskirts, and crossdressing. But are we to be regarded as "the bad guys" because we recognize that Satan is "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4)? Did not the apostle Paul write that Christians are to be "casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5)? Are we to be faulted if we take seriously the many scriptural indicators that we are currently in a war of ideas, and that these ideas are all issues of critical concern because of what is at stake?
The Hunger for a Different Emphasis
Through much of prophetic teaching, multitudes have been mentally prepared to expect some kind of a dreadful apocalypse to shortly occur. A cloud of doom and gloom has cast its shadow.
While this kind of thinking is usually perpetrated by religious groups, even non-Christians and radical secularists were speaking of "doomsday." Carl Sagan, for example, wrote that "we may have only a few decades until Doomsday."' "Religion no longer has a corner on eschatology," writes Kyle. Though not traditionally given to treating end-time scenarios, secular scientists began to speak of "The Secular Apocalypse." Science "has given us a depersonalized end: there will be no redemption, no survivors and no paradise. Scientists warn us that forces are at work that can literally blow us out of existence."
Futurists are often blamed with creating doom and gloom, but it is not just the prophecy preachers and conference speakers who are fanning the flames. Even Caspar Weinberger, when he was the U.S. Secretary of Defense, declared that this might be the last generation. In one interview President Reagan looked at recent events and stated that they put him in mind of Armageddon. Reagan said:
You know, I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon and I find myself wondering if we're the generation that is going to see that come about. .. believe me, they certainly describe the times we're going through.
It is in this midst of this growing pessimism, created by both the religious and secular thinkers, that Kingdom Now preachers shine as bright lights offering hope and meaning. Preterism, with its belief that the Tribulation is past, offers the hope that because of the "cultural mandate" to infiltrate society, Christians can have a positive impact on society. Rather than finding fault with so much of society, as dispensationalists are charged with doing, covenant theologians seek to transform it "all for the glory of God." This appeals to many in the Christian community who consider themselves born again believers, but who claim that they are cut out of a different mold than their fundamentalist brethren.
Will Mankind Survive?
In the early, turbulent years of the twentieth century, pre-millennialism seemed to have the answers that people were looking for Interest in prophecy usually soars during times of turmoil and confusion. The industrialization of society and the urbanization of America opened the door to mass immigration as many were needed in factories and shipyards. Many of these immigrants were of a different faith than those who had been raised in rural American Protestant churches. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and those of other faiths came to America's shores. Growing tension with minorities brought division and conflict in many areas. While the country was seeking to face these issues, World War I and the Great Depression produced more upheavals, followed by World War II.
The advent of weapons of mass destruction in general, and the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in particular, led prophecy teachers to see this as setting the stage for the literal fulfillment of many prophetic passages that speak of destruction by fire (2 Pet. 3:10), and a war of such unprecedented destruction that "their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet" (Zech 14:12). Yet, the same science that produced these weapons that could create the kinds of catastrophes described in Bible prophecy is also the science that made the God of the Bible look unnecessary.
Man was beginning to look like the creator and master of his own destiny. Rationalism, higher criticism, and evolutionary theory challenged the authority of Scripture and led many to believe that science had disproved Scripture. For an interest in prophecy to thrive, the calamities affecting mankind must defy explanation. But modern science was becoming increasingly more adept at giving a scientific reason for the problems mankind was facing. While premillennialism seemed to correctly interpret what was happening, and also allowed for Christ's immediate return without of necessity establishing a timetable, its emphasis on apostasy, tribulation, and the utter inability of human endeavor to establish any Utopia on earth was producing a growing disenchantment in many Christian circles. Health-and-wealth teachers who name it and claim it, along with covenant theologians and Christian reconstructionists who were teaching about the "cultural mandate," seemed to offer a positive alternative. The Moral Majority and similar conservative groups were staging mass rallies and seemed to be able to tie in to large numbers of supporters. These "victories" had inflamed the aspirations of many who began preaching "you can make a difference." Pre-millennial beliefs seemed to be out of step with all of this exuberance and was viewed as putting too much emphasis on the return of Jesus Christ. Teaching that there can be no Kingdom victory until the King physically comes to establish His Kingdom seemed to encourage a defeatist attitude. Why wait for the King when we can produce a kingdom right now?
Moreover, many pre-millennialists are pre-tribulational. They believe that the Church will be removed from the earth prior to the Great Tribulation. Pre-tribulationism has many enemies. "Rapture escapism" is criticized by reconstructionists. Moreover, pre-tribulationists also draw fire from those in the Christian Identity movement. The Identity movement, with its emphasis on active involvement in society to bring about change and preparedness for the coming world conflict, regards the pre-trib Rapture as a cowardly notion. Identity maintains that instead of looking forward to being taken away from the conflicts of the Tribulation, Christians "must participate in the final apocalyptic struggle between good and evil."
The Association of Pre-millennialism with Extremism
In a book that is highly critical of pre-millennialism, author Richard Abanes associates pre-millennialism with various extreme groups. Abanes concludes that there is some kind of a connection between date-setting and pre- millennialism, and writes: "Most of these doomsday deadlines have been set by persons subscribing to a view known as pre-millennialism, which is currently the most popular Christian eschatology. . . ."
He never supports this statement with the results of a survey. And just what does he mean by the statement? Does he mean that there is something about pre-millennialism itself that causes pre-millennialists to naturally believe that date-setting is a valid approach to end-time events? If he does, is Abanes willing to admit that the pre-millennialists who have set dates have only done so because they are inconsistent pre-millennialists and that they are date- setting not because of their pre-millennialism, but in spite of it?
The blanket charge that pre-millennialists are date-setters is surely overworked, but in order to make his point Abanes picks a notorious date- setter, the retired NASA engineer Edgar C. Whisenant, to totally discredit biblical prophecy and pre-millennialism.
In 1988 Whisenant came into the evangelical spotlight with two books: 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988 and On Borrowed Time. Whisenant engaged in some dogmatic date-setting, something that led scoffers to multiply like rabbits. Whisenant postulated that somewhere around September 11, 1988-the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah-the Lord was going to Rapture His Church. Calculating dates is always precarious, especially when using Jewish festivals and applying them to eschatological issues affecting the Church instead of Israel. Significantly, but not mentioned by Abanes, this is something that consistent dispensationalists recognize as being a violation of basic dispensational principles. At any rate, Whisenant was dead wrong, but he was not willing to admit it, and Abanes picks up on this:
Nothing cataclysmic happened on Rosh Hashanah 1988. This, however, did not deter Whisenant in the least. Immediately after the scheduled time of Christ's return the Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported that the Arkansas prophet had revised his prediction saying that the Rapture could possibly occur by 10:55 A.M. Wednesday [September 15]. As September drew to a close, Whisenant still had not lost confidence. He revised his date again; this time to October 3. Even when that date passed, Whisenant remained undaunted: "The evidence is all over the place that it is going to be in a few weeks anyway," he told Christianity Today.
I agree with Abanes on this one. Date-setting is idiotic. However, there is nothing intrinsic with pre-millennialism that requires datesetting. True, many date-setters are pre-millennial. But it is also true that many Americans are murderers.
Abanes is also against those who engage in "date-suggesting." What does he mean by this term? "Date-suggesting," writes Abanes, is something which is done "by attaching predictions to open-ended qualifiers such as 'near,; 'close to,"just beyond, "not long after, ''possibly by,' or 'very soon. "'I Date-suggesters suggest a date in order to avoid the condemnation of Deuteronomy 18:21. Abanes believes that date-suggesters are really date-setters at heart, but who want to leave an easy out just in case they are wrong. He particularly doesn't approve of prophecy teachers who write with a question mark and ask: "Could this possibly be what the Bible is referring to when it says. . . ?" Evidently, Abanes falls under his own condemnation. He has included a big question mark in the very title of his book-End-Time Visions: The Road To Armageddon?
While neither Jesus nor the prophets and apostles ever set dates, they did speak of signs, and they did speak of the nearness of the Lord's return. Abanes and other preterists may not like to speak of the Lord's coming as being "soon," but the Bible uses language that tells us that it is "soon." Our Lord said that He would come at "such an hour as ye think not" (Matt. 24:44), which means "it may be later than you think." Jesus also said, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Matt. 24:42). Our Lord is warning His audience to be on the alert because His return may be shockingly soon.
Whatever view Abanes takes, he has serious doubts about the sanity of individuals who are interested in prophecy. It is as if the baser side of man leads to an interest in prophecy. In fact, Abanes states that "humanity's preoccupation with doomsday" is "a timeless obsession."
I checked the word "obsession" in the dictionary. Webster's New World Dictionary, second edition, defines it as:
Obsession-1. Orig,, the act of an evil spirit in possessing or ruling a person. 2. a) the fact or state of being obsessed with an idea, de- sire, emotion, etc. b) such a persistent idea, desire, emotion, etc., esp. one that cannot be got rid of by reasoning.
Evidently, if Abanes is using the word according to the dictionary definition, all who are interested in Bible prophecy are suffering from some uncontrollable passion that cannot be dealt with on a reasonable basis. An interest in prophecy is, according to Richard Abanes, some kind of a demonic fatal attraction that we need to repent of-and quickly!
In what is an extremely predictable approach, Richard Abanes associates the teachers of Bible prophecy with various heretics in the early Church, and sees an interest in prophecy as a purely social phenomena sparked by hard times.
During the worst of Roman persecutions against Jesus' followers (c. 156-172), a number of other troubles affected not only Christians, but the entire Roman Empire. In the year 166, "havoc was wrought by plague, flood, famine, and barbarian invasion from beyond the Danube frontier." The chaos and violence gave birth to a "new variety of Christian life and activity" known as Montanism. This social phenomenon was the first of many doomsday movements to emerge from within Christianity."
Abanes goes on to describe Montanism. which, he believes, was "the first example of an earnest and well-meaning, but gloomy and fanatical hyper- Christianity." The devotees of Montanism "eschewed marital relations, fasted frequently ... and ate dried foods only." They were strict separatists who "forbade ornamental clothing for women, required virgins to be veiled, saw art as incompatible with Christian soberness" and had several other "hyper- Christian distinctions." On the basis of conclusions such as this, a young Christian will all too readily conclude that prophecy is something for strict separatists who want their virgins to wear veils.
One of the marks of this prophetical dementia is, according to Abanes, a preoccupation with the signs of the times. That Jesus spoke about the different phases in the development of figs and said, "So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand" (Luke 21:31), doesn't seem to phase Abanes. "End-time visionaries," he writes, "are thoroughly convinced that our era is experiencing natural disasters, man-made catastrophes, social/political unrest, and devastating diseases in record numbers and severity,"" but throughout his book he disputes that anything bad is happening with any greater frequency or severity than before.
He applies this to earthquakes and says, "The apparent rise of earthquakes over the last several years is due to nothing more than the use of technologically advanced seismographs." He quotes Charles F Richter, the inventor of the Richter scale, who "explained that modern seismographs can record minor quakes that previously would have gone unnoticed.""
So things are only apparently worse-no doubt, modern instruments are more sensitive than less sophisticated instruments, but a 9.0 earthquake does not require a sensitive instrument to record its effects. Simple instruments will do just as well, and toppled bridges will give ample testimony to the quake's severity. Of course, one thing that Abanes doesn't mention is that an earthquake with its epicenter under a nuclear reactor or chemical dump might have some very unusual collateral effects, the likes of which have never been experienced before.
It is simply not true, however, that all seismologists would agree that there is no increase in frequency or intensity of earthquakes. The U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center" has published a chart indicating the number of earthquakes worldwide for 1987 through 1999. In the period 1987 to 1992 there was only one earthquake in the 8.0-9.9 category, but in the years 1993 to 1999 there were nine earthquakes in the 8.0-9.9 category surely a substantial increase. In the period 1987 to 1992 there were 11.8 earthquakes in the 7.0-7.9 category, but in the years 1993 to 1999 there were 19.5. Again, this was a substantial increase. The averages of the total number of earthquakes in all categories are revealing. In the years 1987 to 1992 there was an average of 15,210 earthquakes for all magnitudes, but in the years 1993 to 1999 the average was much higher-20,559. Assuming that the instruments in 1987 were capable of accurately recording earthquakes, the fact that there has been a substantial increase must not be ignored.
Abanes goes on to refer to the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 4000 B.C.) which bears some striking similarities to Noah's Flood as recorded in the Hebrew scriptures. Abanes observes that "this same story, including most of the aforementioned elements, can be found in the religious tradition of numerous cultures.... Most of these civilizations also preached about a future doomsday."
I must confess that I am hard-pressed to really understand the point of that statement. Does he mean to associate pre-millennialists with writers of a Babylonian epic? He says "most of these civilizations also preached about a future doomsday." But so did Jesus preach about a future doomsday. Should He be likewise associated with the writers of a Babylonian epic, too?
Abanes's vendetta is not just against pre-tribulationists, but also against those whom he labels "historic pre-millennialists." He observes that these differ from pre-tribulationists in that they believe that Christians will not be rescued from the Tribulation, and that there is no pre-tribulational Rapture. But, says Abanes, such a view has led "some people to form survivalist sects and retreat to isolated regions of America with large quantities of food and weapons." It seems like pre-millennial dispensationalists just can't get anything right. They get connected with too many evil associations. But is guilt by association a valid approach to truth?
The following humorous analysis appears in a book on the Bible and health." The author, Michael Jacobson, uses this material to show how, if a problem is misstated and the data is wrongly interpreted, the investigator will end up with the wrong conclusions. Jacobson tells that a headline in a local newspaper read: "Smell of Baked Bread May Be Hazard to Health." He received a humorous analysis of the report on his e-mail. The anonymous writer states:
I was horrified. When are we going to do something about breadinduced global warming? Sure, we attack tobacco companies, but when is the government going to go after Big Bread? Well, I've done a little research, and what I've discovered should make anyone think twice....
-More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users.
At the hands of these scholars who are writing about prophecy, pre- millennialism receives the same harsh treatment as bread does in the preceding humorous presentation. But just as bread should not be outlawed on the basis of such reasoning, neither should pre-millennialism be criticized in the cavalier manner with which Abanes treats it.
Pre-millennialism and Conspiracy Theories
Gregory Camp, in his book Selling Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Endtimes Paranoia, comes down hard on pre-millennialism because it creates a sense of urgency leading to a high level of lunacy, which, according to Camp, is not true of other eschatological positions. I quote him on this lest I be charged with misrepresenting the views of an author:
One may well disagree with the post-millennial or a-millennial positions from a theological point of view, but it is difficult to deny the many (and embarrassing) pronouncements that Christians have made concerning the coming of Jesus. Those holding to post-millennial or a-millennial beliefs, whether one agrees with them or not, have not engendered the lunacy and anticipation common to the pre-millennial view concerning the return of Jesus. Indeed, there is little sense of urgency in either of these views.
Camp's words, though not written to support pre-millennialism, actually do that. By his own admission he claims that post-millennial and a-millennial beliefs do not have the "sense of urgency" that the pre-mil view does. Did Jesus teach that we should not have a sense of urgency regarding last things?
Of course, it is not just the conservative pre-millennial preachers who talk of a conspiracy. As Jones points out, "According to the modern myth of feminism, there exists an oppressive, pervasive partriarchal conspiracy which demands vigilance, indeed radical suspicion." Once again, I must emphasize that there is nothing intrinsic to pre-millennialism that makes it more conspiracy-theory prone than other views dealing with other topics. Anyone who passionately holds to a particular position or view may find some conspiracies against that cherished view. Moreover, even those who write against conspiracy theorists do blame the government for some of our problems.
Richard Abanes, for example, is certainly not on our side, yet he writes: "Making the current situation even worse has been the government's refusal to ease justifiable fears and frustrations of patriots. In fact, on more than one occasion federal behavior has only increased tensions." He explains by referring to the 1992 incident involving Randy Weaver and also "the government's botched raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas." "These events," writes Abanes, "and a host of other government mishandlings have served to inflame an already smoldering anger in the hearts of many Americans who are sick and tired of being abused by big government."
Pre-millennialists are therefore not the only ones who are concerned about the growing government bureaucracy. "On this point," writes Abanes, "the patriots are not alone. An April 1995 Gallup Poll found that thirty-nine percent of Americans think the federal government 'poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans."' Abanes asks,
Why are flagrant attacks on constitutionally protected rights continuing to occur with alarming regularity? Why does it seem that law enforcement personnel are rarely punished for their "mistakes"? Much of the American public has had its fill of the standard answers given by officials-e.g., poor intelligence reports, bad planning, improper judgment and neglect of duty.
Abanes makes some significant statements here and asks some pressing questions. But why is it that when pre-millennialists make these statements and ask these questions that, somehow, they are showing an unreasonable paranoia? The fear of a multi-jurisdictional task force (MJTF) leading to an eventual national police force is not reasonable. Abanes writes, "There is no MJTF There are, however, a number of ways local police and federal authorities work together" He observes that in a few cases local officers may be federalized, "but this is a far cry from having a national police force," argues Abanes. "Policy analyst Craig Hulet notes that for many years various law enforcement agencies have been joining forces in order to overcome jurisdictional impairments. These joint efforts, however, belie nothing sinister."
But have there really been no changes in law enforcement procedures and practices that should give us cause for alarm?
Some of my readers who were raised in the city can remember when the friendly "cop on the beat" walked down the street twirling his nightstick and whistling some bright and happy tune. Those who were raised in rural areas remember how the local sheriff would help grandpa dig his truck out of a snow bank, and then get invited to a big farm breakfast. Those days are long gone. Many have come to regard law enforcement officers with disdain, and perhaps with good reason. The National Review26 featured a report by David Kopel entitled "Smash- up Policing: When Law Enforcement Goes Military. " Using as a springboard the commando raid that snatched Elian Gonzalez from his uncle's home, Kopel details the growing trend to take the SWAT-team approach to local law enforcement. He reports that at present as many as twenty percent of U.S. police departments in municipalities with a population over fifty thousand have put their own paramilitary units into local enforcement work:
When law enforcement agencies create SWAT teams, they often assure the public that the squads will be used for hostage rescue and similar activities. Fortunately, there are not enough actual hostage takings to keep the SWAT teams busy; as a result the paramilitary units have a tendency to look for other tasks, ones in which there is no need for their special violent skills.
The SWAT-team approach was developed in the sixties to meet the need created by the growing drug problem. Future police chief Daryl Gates created the first Special Weapons and Tactics team. Initially, according to Kopel, Gates wanted it to be called the "Special Weapons Attack Team," but changed the name for public relations purposes.
There are various U.S. military organizations that are willing to train and equip law enforcement agencies for paramilitary work. The Navy SEALS, the Army's Delta Force, and other elite government attack troops provide extensive free training to police tactical teams. However, as Kopel states, Military training-which stresses absolute obedience and swift annihilation of the target-is not appropriate for good police behavior, which, after all, requires capturing suspected criminals (not killing them), minimizing the use of force, and acting with a scrupulous regard for the Constitution.
This militarization of the police may explain the recent rash of police actions, such as in New York City, where a single unarmed man was cut down in a hail of bullets.
Recent changes in law enforcement planning and strategies need to be regarded as a menace to the general population. Under the United States Constitution, law enforcement personnel serve as 41 peace officers." Under the new approach they function as "war officers."
Analysts like Abanes wish to ignore this. It's too troubling. Even the U.N., according to Abanes, has been demonized. It is not a real threat, he argues, and gives several reasons to back up his contention. These reasons reveal a fundamental misunderstanding and are instructive.
"First," says Abanes, "the U.N's ineptitude since its creation has been well documented. U.N. operations are still hampered by poor planning, incompetent forces and politics." As proof of this Abanes quotes a Marine Corps sergeant who wrote a letter to Soldier of Fortune stating that "the United Nations is a nutless bureaucracy.""
The second reason Abanes advances to show that the U.N. really poses no threat to freedom and liberty is that "the U.N. is constantly on the brink of insolvency and chronically facing delays and logistical restraints." Abanes puts the blame on the United States: "This hindrance is due largely to America's failure to pay its portion of the world organization's operating costs."28
The third reason Abanes ridicules the notion that the U.N. poses any threat to freedom is that "although it is true that the U.N. had increased its level of influence over U.S. foreign policy, it is not true that the U.N. has any control over domestic policy." Abanes scoffs at the patriot movement because it turns "a deaf ear to such explanations', convinced that the U.N is presently setting up a strike force in this country." Conspiracy theorists erroneously believe that "at some point in the near future, the president will declare martial law in response to a trumped up national emergency."
Abanes' three reasons are totally invalid. While it is true, as he argues in points one and two, that the U.N. is often inept and facing financial insolvency, what happens if the U.N. cleans up its act and gets more money for its financial coffers? His reasoning is about as logical as those who said that the German National Socialist Party posed no threat to Europe and America in the thirties because it had neither the money nor the organizational structures to do any real harm. The day quickly came when all of that changed.
Abanes' third point is even more ludicrous. Only the uninitiated in current events and development of the new world order could say that the U.N. has control over foreign policy in the U.S. but not over domestic policy. The day has long gone when one can separate foreign policy from domestic policy. NAFTA, GATT, and WTO have repercussions both at home and abroad. Billions of dollars of American money have been invested overseas. A financial collapse in the Orient could have some drastic effects on the American economy.
Last Days Scoffers
The critics of pre-millennial teaching claim that pre-millennialists are alarmists and paint a gloomy picture of current events. Our critics scoff at the magnitude of world problems, the potential severity of future wars, and the prophetic significance of modern technology.
As if anticipating this, Peter writes about the end times and tells his readers that there is something of primary importance that he wants to share: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. -2 Peter 3:3-4
The nature of their scoffing was that they denied the possibility of Divine intervention in the affairs of men. This contention was based on their observation that "all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."
There are scoffers in the present hour and many of them come from within the ranks of the Christian community. They discount the significance of the unique nature of current events and like to say that "things have always been this way."
In his book End-Time Visions, Richard Abanes totally discounts the destructive potential of modern warfare and the precarious position of the human race at the present hour. He quotes the book The Wages of War, 1816- 1965 to make his point:
Is war on the increase, as many scholars as well as laymen of our generation have been inclined to believe? The answer would seem to be a very unambiguous negative. Whether we look at the number of wars, or their severity or magnitude, there is no significant trend upward or down over the past 150 years.
But is it true that "there is no significant trend upward ... in the number of wars, or their severity or magnitude"? In an Associated Press report entitled "World got more dangerous in 1997 with rise in conflicts," Andy Messing Jr., executive director of the National Defense Council Foundation, an organization which tallies hostilities worldwide, stated: "We're not in a world of peace. We're in a world of conflict."
In recent years there has been widespread nuclear proliferation. Small countries, such as North Korea and Pakistan, have developed missiles that could reach Alaska, and even the continental United States. Rogue nations now possess the technology to make nuclear weapons, and to deliver them to targets in the U.S. Added to that is the fact that though many undeveloped nations do not possess the technology to make a nuclear warhead and to deliver that warhead, they can nevertheless make bio-weapons, the effects of which would also lead to the deaths of millions. Toxins can be sprayed from small aircraft and have an appeal to terrorist nations because such weapons have a delayed action. A lag period, or incubation period-sometimes several hours or even several days-must elapse between the time the victim is exposed to the infectious agent and the actual time symptoms begin to show themselves. This means that the perpetrators have ample time to escape and even, perhaps, to avoid detection. We live in a dangerous world, one that is far more dangerous than ever before.
Abanes persists in his line of reasoning when he takes Tim LaHaye to task for claiming that the twentieth century has seen more people killed "than all the wars of history put together." Abanes writes, "Contrary to what LaHaye and other end-time prophets may declare, the last one hundred years of warfare represent nothing more than the tail end of humanity's long and bloody history.""
On May 12, 1951, newspapers around the world reported the following: "The explosive equivalent of several million tons of TNT was released here today on the tiny atoll of Eniwetok as scientists of the Atomic Energy Commission detonated the world's first thermonuclear device-the H-bomb." The report went on to state that while most of the technical details of the bomb's design are secret, "scientists have long known of the tremendous energy that could be released if the nuclei of heavy hydrogen, deuterinum, could be made to combine." This is the way the sun makes its heat. "But to make the nuclei react, temperatures of several million degrees would be required. The only way of achieving such heat on earth," the report stated, "is by nuclear fission, using an atomic bomb of the kind dropped on Hiroshima as a trigger for the fusion bomb.""
Despite what debunkers and scoffers say, we have now progressed to the point where the bomb that was used to take out a city and snuff out seventy thousand lives in 1945 in one instant, is now simply the "trigger" for a much larger bomb.
Another news report-this one dated January 21, 1954-was headlined with these words: "U.S. launches Nautilus, first atomic sub." The report indicated that "because its high-speed turbine engines are powered by an atomic reactor that needs no air, the submarine is expected to be able to circumnavigate the globe without having to surface." Just a few years later, on May 10, 1960, the news reported: "Sub Triton circles globe under water." In just eighty-four days the Triton covered 41,500 miles. The report related the military significance of this event: "The feat also raises the nuclear stakes: missile-carrying Polaris subs will soon roam the seas."
We would all hope and pray that these weapons would never be used in conflict, but even apart from an actual conflict there is the distinct possibility of an accidental exchange. The London Times of July 13, 1998, reported: "Russian Nukes: Five Minutes to Nuclear War." The article told of the sad state of the Russian early warning system and how a "false alarm" had almost triggered a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia. The Russians had picked up a Norwegian weather research rocket which they thought was an approaching American Trident ballistic missile. As the burners of the Black Brent rocket fell to earth, the Russian military command mistook them for warheads homing in on Russian targets.
Pre-millennialists do not have to create doomsday scenarios. They already exist. Denials of the critical nature of our present situation will not make the danger go away.
Once again I must affirm that pre-millennialism is really the only approach to the Scriptures that can give an adequate explanation of what is happening today It is unfortunate that so many Christians are turning to approaches to Scripture that create more problems than they answer. Preterism has no explanation for current events other than that they are the general outworkings of Divine providence and must support its contention by pretending that "all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation."
What do YOU think ?
From what I have read, Dr. Larry Spargimino has his work cut out for him. There was almost no Scripture used to defend his position, and absolutely no exegesis of any text. Granted, this is only one chapter. It may be covered elsewhere in the book. The only way I will know is to purchase and read it.
The author says, "Dispensationalism and pre-millennialism complement each other and are able to explain both the unity and diversity of Scripture, and provide a sound basis for understanding God's promises to Israel. This is something that cannot be done with other approaches to Scripture and certainly says much in their favor." Where is his proof? He states this as if it is a given. Such bold proclamations must be defended.
Dr. Spargimino also seems to focus a lot on current events. The proliferation of nuclear weapons, the frequency of earthquakes, etc. It's interesting he spends so much time trying to justify his beliefs from the media and other sources. What about the Bible? What does it say? Again, almost no references were made to God's Word.
The author speaks of Jesus agreeing with the points he has made, but again, no relevant texts are cited. Now I'm not denying that Jesus spoke of a sense of urgency or coming conflict. But to whom was he speaking to? Audience relevance is terribly important. Jesus was speaking to those in His generation, and said these things would happen in that generation (Matthew 24:34). So who is Dr. Larry Spargimino to say otherwise? So far, I am not convinced.
Pesonally I believe that pre-millennialism is right, not the futuristic pre-millennialism that is portrayed in this article but preteristic pre-millennialism. This was J.S. Russell's position, that the AD 70 Second Coming began the millennium. See my article "Premillennial Preterism" on the partial preterist section of this website under Duncan McKenzie.
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