In Gary DeMar’s second chapter of “10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed”; “The Myth that the Modern State of Israel Is a Sign that the Rapture is Near” he presents some interesting arguments. Most of his arguments are logical, some of which I addressed in The Spirit of Prophecy, but I can’t agree with his conclusions. It does not necessarily follow that if some Dispensational teachings are in error, then everything they have found is incorrect.
The first section is an examination of inconsistencies in Dispensational teaching on the imminence of the rapture. The rapture is said to be the next prophetic event, and always imminent, yet other prophecies keep on being fulfilled during our day. Dispensationalists teach that there can not be any fulfilment of any biblical prophecy before the rapture of the Church, and then they fill their books with modern fulfilments of prophecy.
“This is because, according to dispensationalists, the Church had its beginning at Pentecost. At that point, the prophetic clock as it relates to Israel stopped (the end of Daniel’s 69th week: 483 years). It will not start again until the “rapture” (the start of the 70th week) which they argue is still a future event (Jesus coming for His Church) that is different from the Second Coming (Jesus coming with His Church). Again, following the dispensational hermeneutic, the so-called Church Age has no prophetic history in the Old Testament. This means that no Old Testament prophecy can find any fulfillment from the time of Pentecost when the Church Age had its start and the “rapture” when the Church Age is said to end. ” (Gary DeMar, 10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed, page 25)
What I find disappointing is that DeMar, while he mentions Daniels 70 week prophecy in both the first and second chapter, does not address this prophecy in either, leaving the reader hanging. Since I haven’t read the rest of the book yet, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope he will address it later. The Old Testament is full of prophecies about both Israel and the Church, which would be fulfilled during the church age, so why didn’t he show us some to prove his point?
His quote from John MacArthur is typical of many Dispensationalists;
“It could happen at any moment. It is a signless, imminent event, it is the next thing, no signs necessary … [There are] signs before the Second Coming, [but there are] no signs before the Rapture. We live in the light that at any moment in any fraction of a moment, trumps sounds [sic], the angel calls and we go. This is the next event in God’s plan. It’s only for those who know and love Christ. We’re here to serve you and help you.” (Gary DeMar, page 27, Quoting from John MacArthur, “The Final Generation of the Future Judgment,” commentary on Luke 21:29–33 (GC 42-264): http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/42-264.htm
It is unnecessary to quote any of the other Dispensationalists he references. This teaching is pretty much universal among Dispensational churches. DeMar sums it up this way; “You’re going to read a lot of prophecy writers who claim this as the fundamental doctrine of their prophetic system. Without it, there would be no modern-day prophecy movement. ” (DeMar, page 27) Again, he is making the claim that “disproving the imminent rapture teaching, would disprove everything Dispensationalists have found in the Scriptures”. I disagree; every teaching must stand or fall based on Scriptural support, and not based on whether it is an essential part of any system.
If parts of a system have biblical support and other parts do not, then we need to revamp the system. If some elements of Dispensationalism have biblical support, and others do not, then remove the unbiblical parts, and see what is left. This is a principle that does not appear to have occurred to DeMar.
As DeMar says on page 28, the imminent pre-Tribulation rapture “is the logical extension of the belief in an unforeseen parenthesis that the Old Testament prophets knew nothing about.” The key here is the phrase “that the Old Testament prophets knew nothing about”. As I showed in my last instalment, the section of Hosea from 5:15 to 6:2, very clearly implies that the Church age would be about two thousand years, and would end with the Tribulation: “their affliction”.
Many details of the Church age were embedded in the Old Testament by the Old Testament prophets. The prophets themselves may not have understood everything they wrote about, but the Holy Spirit surely did!
The Dispensational idea that the Old Testament prophets knew nothing about the Church age is obviously incorrect, but this does not mean that, by default, DeMar is correct.
There is a true biblical doctrine of imminence, and I believe that someone has confused the doctrine of the return of Christ with the doctrine of imminence. Here is the doctrine of imminence as expressed by the Lord Jesus Himself;
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Luke 12:16-21
The biblical doctrine of imminence is the truth that you, and I, could find ourselves in the presence of God today, before the end of the day, and thus should live our life in that light. The subject of this story lost his life the day he was planning for his retirement. In the same way, this day is not guaranteed to us, so live today as if you might meed God tonight!
Some Dispensationalist confused this principle with the statement about the Lord’s return;
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Matthew 25:13
Just because no human has any idea of the day, and hour, of the Lord’s return, does not mean that this is an event that is not part of a schedule; it has a definite appointment in time. The following is about the End Times, about the restoration of Israel, and the Tribulation, and the rapture.
And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. Acts 1:7
Jesus told us that there is a definite time-frame for the events of the end times. If it has not happened until now, it was not planned until now, and could not have happened before now. Thus an imminent rapture for the entire Church age is not possible.
Most of the second chapter, until page 41, is spent reciting contradictions made by Dispensationalists, and then he makes the claim that this is all about money. That “The prophecy books that sell hundreds of thousands, even millions of copies are those that (1) tell readers that the rapture could occur at any moment, (2) that there are no signs preceding it, and then (3) go on to list numerous signs that they claim are being fulfilled before our very eyes. ” (DeMar, page 41)
What he is saying is true, a lot of money has been made on prophecy books, but it does not help us get to the truth of the Scriptural teachings on the End Times. The next couple of pages are an attack on the hypocrisy of those who say there are no signs of the rapture, and then say “but there are signs”.
At this point I am somewhat disappointed in this chapter; he hasn’t told me anything that I didn’t already know. If you are going to expose a bible-teacher’s self-contradictions, the best way to do it is to show what the Scriptures really say.
The Fig Tree
On page 44 DeMar switches to the parable of the fig tree from Matthew 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
DeMar tells us what people are saying about this parable; That the fig tree is Israel, and that this must be a reference to the re-establishment of Israel in 1948. Again, I can’t argue with everything he says, but I must note that DeMar points out that Israel is sometimes compared to other trees;
“Sometimes Israel is compared to a fig tree (Judges 9:10–11), a vine (Hosea 9:10; Judges 9:12–13), an olive tree (Judges 9:8–9), and the cedars of Lebanon (Judges 9:15)”. (DeMar, page 44)
DeMar then quotes a couple of authors, including John F. Walvoord, who say that the fig tree is never a reference to Israel in the Scriptures, but he doesn’t actually search the Scriptures themselves to see if this is true;
6 For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. 7 He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.Joel 1:6-7
So here, in an End Times prophecy, the land of Israel, God’s land, is definitely referred to as a vine and a fig tree. So much for the pronouncements of his “experts”!
He goes on to say that this prophecy can’t be about Israel because Luke’s version of the prophecy refers to the Fig tree “and ALL THE TREES”
29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Luke 21:29-32
Given the above statement from DeMar himself that Israel is compared to multiple different trees, then the statement “Behold the fig tree, and all the trees” could actually still be a reference to Israel. Though DeMar has proven that other trees could at times represent Israel, he has not proven that the fig tree can not be Israel. I would have to say, however, that “all the trees” could be a reference to “all of Israel”, and not merely to the southern tribes of Judah. All of Israel has not yet returned to the land.
It is entirely possible that Jesus was referring to the final return of all the tribes of Israel. If that is the case then we might still have some time to go. Not only are there millions of Jews living in North and South America, there are millions of the other tribes of Israel living in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, China, Burma, as well as all over the world, really.
I expect that the two major End Times wars of Psalm 83, and Ezekiel 38-39, will cause the last remnants of Israel to return. Some of them have converted to Islam, and they will not return to the God of their fathers until the God of the Qur’an is proven powerless. I think the generation that Jesus is referring to is the generation that returns at this time. Man has a tendency to rush God, but He has His own schedule.
The events we see today in the Middle East are preparing the stage for the Psalm 83 war. The return of that generation could be very close indeed!
The reason, I believe, that Jesus is saying the End Time events are related to one generation, is because 144,000 of them are going to be His chosen missionary army, to go back into all the world. If they returned to Israel for very long, they would learn Hebrew, and forget the languages of their captivity. God’s job for that army is to send them back to the nations they were from, with the gospel. They wouldn’t blend-in if they were unilingual Hebrew speakers, which would happen if they spent too much time in Israel.
This is why I believe the generation Jesus is speaking of is the last remnants of the Hebrew diaspora, and their return to Israel.
Unbelieving or Believing Israel?
DeMar only spends one page on the question of whether Israel will return in a state of belief or unbelief, and he only uses one passage to back up his claim;
1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. Deuteronomy 30:1-3
I admit that it is hard to explain this passage, at first glance it appears that Israel will come to a state of belief while in captivity, and then return to the land.
Remember that all of Scripture is written by the same Author, and He cannot contradict Himself. Therefore we have to harmonize all of Scripture’s teaching on a particular subject, and not take portions alone, or out of context.
Deuteronomy 30:1-3 appears to be a general statement; a general account of a general time-frame, but Zechariah gives a more detailed account of the same event;
7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. 8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. 9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.Zechariah 13:8
Who is the man that is the “fellow” of the Lord of Hosts? It would have to be the Jews, the people He came to, and was born, and lived among! The fire referred to here is not the ancient dispersion, but the Tribulation period! Being “cut-off” is self explanatory, these are the Jews who will fight the Antichrist in their own strength, with carnal weapons like guns and rockets. The one third who call upon the Lord will be saved.
You shouldn’t quote Deuteronomy 30:1-3, in a prophetic context, without quoting Zechariah 13:7-9 with it. They are companion passages. It is the same when the bible says “all Israel shall be saved”. It clearly does not mean every Hebrew who has ever lived, nor does it mean every Hebrew of a particular generation, it means every Hebrew who survives the fire of the Tribulation period. 100% of the survivors will be saved, and they will be the highest number, and percentage, of Hebrews ever saved in the history of the world!
While Gary DeMar does indeed speak some truth in Chapter 2 of “10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed”, I would have to give him a failing grade, for neglecting some very relevant Scriptures!