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Are End-Times Detractors Heading for Hell
By Joel Miller
For those looking for the kickoff of Armageddon in Israel, you might look to my e-mail inbox instead. After last week's column discounting the imminent eruption of the end times in Israel, a massive salvo of heat-speaking missives exploded across my computer.
While I did get a pile of supportive letters, I also got many that were rude, dismissive and condescending – most of which I probably deserved. When writing to criticize other Christians, I try to dull my edge and not disparage them overly so. The worst thing, in fact, I said about Tim LaHaye was that he used the newspaper to interpret Scripture. While meant as a humored jab, I ought to be able to take my own medicine.
Off the top, Carl F. Rollins questioned whether or not I actually owned a Bible and asked, if I do, whether it were "in some forgotten shelf collecting dust," more than hinting at his disapproval. He did call me "Bright Boy" and "smart," but, given the context, I don't think those labels were very laudatory.
What really blew me away, however, were the people who immediately assumed that I was bucking for employment at Satan Inc.
Rather than challenge my thesis with any sort of countervailing evidence, one John D. Larson assumed my column was proof that this was the end.
"If any of those who call themselves Christians should need any more proof of the coming events foretold in biblical prophecy," he said, "all they have to do is to look around at the proliferation of articles, such as Joel Miller's, to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that those events are in fact going to take place shortly."
Thus, rebutting LaHaye and Hal Lindsey's view of the end suddenly becomes proof they're right. How's that for an unassailable argument – if you disagree, you're of the devil. After all, says Larson, "The enemy, Satan, is not called a deceiver for nothing."
Even if I am not actually on perdition's payroll, my salvation was more than once called into question.
"I find your comments ? sad," said Dennis. "Your study of the Bible is without faith. I shall pray for you tonight and in coming nights that God with work in your life and you will come to know Him as your savior."
Joyce Moore suggested that, most likely, the reason I "do not understand God's Word" is that I'm not born again.
Most of this sort were more presumptuous than mean. "I'm only concerned that one day, should you keep your same mentality, you will be left behind," wrote Jill Cook, who said she'd keep me in prayer – for which I thank her.
But before I purchase any asbestos swimming trunks for a dip in the Lake of Fire, note that the roster of sins in I Corinthians 6 that bar the transgressor from heaven does not include disagreeing with Tim LaHaye. Views on the end times are nowhere found as vital to salvation in the Scriptures.
In fact, as evidenced by the historic creeds of the faith, the only eschatological criteria for belief is that a Christian must hold that Christ is coming back and that He will judge the living and the dead – both of which I believe and confess.
Apparently ignorant of this fact, however, some adherents of Apocalypse Now eschatology make it seem as if the Scriptures actually command Christians to repent, be baptized, and hold fast to the confession of "Left Behind." To deviate from such teachings is grave indeed and apparently leads said adherents to assume the worst.
Larson hinted that Satan had deceived me into thinking "that biblical prophecy is not going to take place. ?" He went on to say that "biblical prophecy has never been wrong and has always come to pass exactly as the Bible predicts."
What he and others seem to miss is that I don't disbelieve God's Word. I just disbelieve LaHaye and Lindsey's interpretation of it – two very different things. The Bible isn't wrong in what it predicts. But people often are.
In 1976, David Wilkerson published "Racing Toward Judgment." In 1981, Lindsey published "The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon." In 1983, Billy Graham published "Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." Are we to believe that the end times are a tortoise race, the '80s are three decades long and the Four Horsemen are on a leisurely trot? Not according to the authors.
All these books argued the imminence of the end times; all were wrong.
It would be nice if fellow Christians would not presume faithlessness – or even consignment to Satan – on the part of those with whom they disagree, especially when the prophecy pundits they defend have been proven wrong time and again.
Throughout church history, great Christian leaders, thinkers, expositors and commentators have held radically divergent views from LaHaye and Lindsey.
John Gill, for instance, did not agree that the "prince" in Daniel 9 was any sort of future Antichrist as LaHaye and Lindsey both espouse. Gill IDs him as Roman emperor Vespasian whose general Titus sacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70, just as Christ prophesied 40 years earlier in the Olivet Discourse. Gill notes that even contemporary Jewish expositors agreed with that view.
In his book, "The Last Days According to Jesus," R.C. Sproul lists a handful of prominent Christians whose eschatology is divergent from the ones today littering bookstore shelves (if they were published a year or so ago) or discount bargain bins (if they were published more than five years ago):
Sproul himself, author of classics like the "Holiness of God," is in radical disagreement with the LaHaye school of end times. He even wrote the foreword to Gary DeMar's "End Times Fiction," and his own study is a bombshell of a book on the subject.
Are we to think these giants of the faith are all either currently cooking in, or en route to, hell because their eschatology isn't LaHayesque? Before we make such a hideous judgment perhaps we should accept that Christians may reasonably disagree on the end times without heaping damnation on themselves or their fellows.
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