The False Prophet’s Crown
Vol: 21 Issue: 8 Wednesday, March 8, 2017
One of the questions that seems to come up the most often about Bible prophecy is the question, ‘How long is a generation?’ Generally, the question is in relation to the Lord’s promise that ‘this generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled’.
By ‘all these things’ Jesus is referring to the events He forecast in response to the question posed by His disciples, “what will be the sign of Thy coming and the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)
The “end of the world” doesn’t actually refer to the end of the world — Christians aren’t waiting for the end of the world (kosmos); the Greek word used here is aion which means, “age” or “epoch” and it refers to either the end of both the age of human government at the Second Coming or the end of the Age of Grace at the Rapture.
How can it refer to both? There are two groups being addressed here.
The first group are His disciples, all Jews, living in the Land of Promise during the Second Temple Period during the first half of the 1st century.
That the Lord is addressing them is confirmed by both historical fact and the message contents. Historically speaking, at the time of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Temple, from which vantage point the Second Temple can be clearly seen.
The Lord makes reference to the Prophet Daniel, the abomination of desolation, and warns against fleeing persecution on the Sabbath Day, all elements of Judaism, and the gathering of the elect from the four winds just before His Triumphant return.
Some interpreters conclude the gathering of the elect from the four winds is a reference to the Rapture, but 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 says the Church is snatched (harpazo) from the earth, not the four winds.
Instead, this is a reference to His Return at His Second coming, when He returns with “ten thousands of His saints” (Jude 1:14) — the already-Raptured elect.
So the first group to whom the Lord is speaking is of the group that sat at His feet — the Jews of Israel.
The second group to whom the Lord is speaking did not yet exist — the redeemed of the Church from Pentecost until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Jesus tells them to watch for signs: the parable of the fig tree (Israel’s restoration) etc., but says this event will be so secret that even He doesn’t know the day or the hour, admonishing them to “watch.”
“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:40-42)
This doesn’t mean every other person on earth will be Raptured. It simply says that where two are in a field, one will be taken and the other left behind.
Note the circumstances and how they differ from Matthew 24:31.
In the former, the elect are gathered from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. The elect are in heaven during this gathering. In the latter, the elect are snatched from the earth, where they are working in the fields, or the mills, or whatever.
Just prior to the gathering of the heavenly elect, the ‘tribes’ of earth will see the Son of Man coming on clouds of heaven with power and great glory. It is a most public return.
Those snatched from the earth are instructed to watch, for they don’t know the hour in which the Lord will come for them. It warns of a secret return. Since things that are different are not the same, these are clearly different events.
But both are in harmony with the Bible’s teaching. Matthew 24:30 harmonizes with Jude 1:14 and Zechariah 12:10, whereas Matthew 24:40-42 is in harmony with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, 1st Corinthians 15:51-53 and Revelation 4:1.
One is the snatching up of believers at an unknown time, the second refers to the very public, very visible return of those believers, with the Lord at His Second coming.
To the first group, the Jews of Israel, He says:
“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:27)
To the elect of the Church Age, He says:
“So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:34)
Some interpreters argue that in this passage, “generation” refers to the Jewish race, and that the promise is that the Jews will continue to exist until His return, rather than referring to the generation that is alive at the time of Israel’s rebirth.
There is some merit to this argument in that the word translated ‘generation’ is genea which can refer to either an age, a nation or a period of time. However, when Jesus was referring to ethnic nations, as in “nation shall rise against nation” He used the very specific word, ethnos, which refers to a race of people, or a tribe.
If His intent was to say that the Jews would continue to exist until His return, He would have used the word that refers to the Jewish race, rather than a word that refers to a generational period, which returns us to our original question.
How long is a generation?
I was reading Jim Fletcher’s very generous review of Hal Lindsey’s keynote address at the Future Congress 2 in Dallas, followed up by typical reader comments at the bottom attacking Hal Lindsey for allegedly setting the date for the Rapture in his book, The Late, Great Planet Earth.
He did not, but that never stops people from making that accusation. As a famous guy once noted, “a lie can go around the earth twice before the truth can get its boots on.”
However, in the 1980’s, Countdown to Armageddon, Hal referred to the generation that will see the Lord’s return and offered an opinion.
Using the Bible’s definition of a generation as the forty-year period during which the disobedient Israelites were forced to wander in the desert, (Numbers 14:33-34) Hal said he believed (in the 1970’s) that,
“if we are to understand the events which have been predicted, and, I believe, will occur in the 1980’s”.
Is that date-setting? The Bible says no man will know the day or the hour. But it also says, that:
“So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” (Matthew 24:33)
“So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. (Mark 13:29)
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
“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)
If believing that the Lord’s return is near enough to happen in the next ten years is date-setting, then I’ve been guilty of it for decades. I believed the Lord could have returned in the 1980’s. I believe the Lord could have returned in the 1990’s.
I really thought He would return in the first decade of the 21st century. And I am expecting His return during this decade.
I was wrong in every decade, but does it make me a false prophet? First, it would seem necessary that I lay claim to the title of “prophet of God” and secondarily, it seems necessary that I make a declarative statement regarding what will happen, rather than sharing what I believe from Scripture.
Hal’s 1970’s declaration amounts to saying, I believe it is near, even at the doors. Nowhere does Hal suggest a day, an hour, or even a year.
I believe to this day it is near, even at the doors, and that “this generation” shall not pass until all these things (including the Rapture and His triumphant return at His Second Coming) are fulfilled. Am I date-setting?
How long IS a Biblical generation? In 1948, it would be accurate to say a generation is the period between generations — say, 20 years. It would have been reasonable in 1948 to guess that the Second Coming could come sometime around 1968.
Is it date-setting to guess “within 20 years”?
It would have been equally accurate to use, as Hal did in the 1970’s, the Biblical definition in Numbers 14, which defined that generation as forty years.
But forty years from 1948 came and went without the Lord’s return. Is it “date-setting” to guess “within forty years”?
Psalms 90:10 sets the length of a generation as follows:
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Threescore and ten. Does that mean a generation is seventy years? Could be. Seventy years from 1948 is 2018. Could the Lord return on or before 2018?
Well? Could He? The answer is, “OF COURSE He could!” The doctrine of Immanancy says He could return at any moment.
What about fourscore years? That brings us to 2028. Could the Lord return by 2028? So is it date-setting to say that, based on that definition, I believe the Lord could return in the 2020’s?
In Genesis 6:3 the Lord decreed the beginning of the end of the pre-Flood life expectancy, which was at that time almost 1,000 years.
“And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3)
Based on that definition, the Lord could tarry until the year 2068. Is it date-setting for me to say that I believe the Lord will return by 2068? Would it be fair to designate me a false prophet if the Lord does NOT return by 2068?
I am dogmatic in my belief that the Lord will return during the generational lifespan of those who witnessed Israel’s rebirth in 1948, but I base that on my interpretation of Scripture, which is not infallible.
I claim no special revelation from God, anymore than Hal Lindsey did in the late 1970’s.
Interpretation is not prophecy. It is an educated guess based on decades of research and prayerful study. Only a fool would equate an educated guess with prophecy.
Hal Lindsey was absolutely correct in the 1970’s when he said the Lord could return before the end of the 1980’s. I am absolutely correct when I say the Lord could return by 2018. Or 2028. Or 2068.
I am absolutely correct, according to the Bible, when I say the Lord could return before you finish reading this paragraph. In fact, I won’t be wrong until you do.
What makes someone a false prophet? False prophecy.
What does the Bible say about those who would attempt to divide believers by bringing false accusations?
“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Guess what! I believe the Lord will return before 2068! I could be wrong, but that is what I believe.
I’m no more a false prophet than Hal Lindsey was in 1979. Or than Hal Lindsey is right now. To say otherwise is to bear false witness in an effort to sow discord among brethren.
And we already know where God stands on that issue. So go ahead. Call Hal a false prophet. Or call me one. Then explain to me how you know that — without being a false prophet yourself.
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)
The Bible promises a special crown for those watchmen on the wall looking for His return. I guess we would have to call that one the False Prophet’s Crown?
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