Can Christians walk and chew gum at the same time?
The question came to mind when listening to Bradlee Dean's scathing attack upon Christians like myself, who believe that we are living in the end-time generation and who believe it's important to proclaim that message to the world ("Confronting the 'end-timers'").
Dean certainly doesn't mince words. He describes us as being in an "unregenerate state," says we are preaching a message of "fear" and accuses us of serving "another Jesus."
Let's begin with Dean's claim that ETs ("end-timers" – his term for us, which he uses in a purely pejorative manner) are preaching a false Jesus and offering a message that is blatantly unbiblical.
In the 24th chapter of Matthew's gospel, Jesus' disciples came to Him on the Mount of Olives and asked Him, "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
Needless to say, this was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to tell them: "That is not something I want you or anyone in the church age to be concerned with, nor do I want you even thinking about it. Therefore, I'm not going to answer your questions on this subject – and you certainly won't find anything in Scripture about it, in either the Old or New Covenants (Testaments)."
Instead, Jesus began giving them sign after sign after sign – beginning in verse 4, then continuing on as he discussed the end of the age and His Second Coming right through to the conclusion of the next chapter, Matthew 25.
And this is just one portion of Scripture. Truth is, the Word of God is positively filled with end-time prophecy and other teachings related to Christ's return – so much so that if you were to rip it all out of the Bible (the whole book of Revelation, Matthew 24 and 25, Luke 21, Old Testament chapters like Ezekiel 38 and on and on), you would be left with a highly edited, far skimpier Bible to study.
Indeed, there is so much contained throughout the Old and New Covenants on this subject that an entire field of study, eschatology, is devoted exclusively to it. And, by the way, the full title of Revelation is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ," since the true Christ (the Jesus of Scripture) is the one who gave it to the Apostle John on Patmos, and He is the One who is being revealed throughout.
Yet Dean asserts, quite unbelievably: "When I read the Word of God, I see nowhere – and I said nowhere – where we are promised defeat, except in our disobedience to God."
Dean blasts ETs as fear mongers offering a message of hopelessness, and he mixes apples and oranges by citing numerous verses that have absolutely nothing to do with the Bible's massive amount of end-time prophecy nor those who teach about it. Unless, of course, Dean's "true Christ" blundered by putting all that in there for us.
Well, when I read the Word of God I find the Jesus of Scripture warning His followers in Matthew 24 about wars and rumors of wars, devastating earthquakes in diverse places, plagues, famines, lawlessness run amok, and in Luke 21 of fearful signs "in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (verses 25, 26).
And don't even get me started with the judgments contained throughout the book of Revelation. Nevertheless, unlike any other book in the Bible, believers are promised a special blessing for reading, and heeding, this one.
Yes, the end-time message is a fearful and frightening one to be sure – but only to unbelievers.
For believers, it is a message of hope and joy unspeakable. Indeed, that it is why the Rapture is called "the blessed hope" (Titus 2:13). Dean points out that the word "Rapture" is not found anywhere in Scripture – but neither is the word "Trinity," although the truth of the triune God is found all through Scripture.
The word "Rapture" is taken from one passage that describes the event – 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, which tells us that believers who are alive at this time will be "caught up together" – snatched away suddenly, taken by force, raptured. Whatever word or term you want to use, there it is.
Then, look at what God says next about this teaching to believers of the church age: "Therefore comfort one another with these words" (see also 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11).
And, yes, just as with any subject found in Scripture, there are a handful of false teachers and date-setters. However, the vast majority of ETs are quite explicit in teaching that no one but God knows when the Rapture will occur, although Jesus did say that true believers should be able to recognize the general time as it approached (Matthew 24:33).
In the meantime, most ETs are obeying the scriptural command to occupy until Christ returns (Luke 19:13). We are not gathering together on a mountaintop somewhere awaiting the "big event."
Truth be told, end-time teaching is one of the most powerful motivating factors there is for godly living and making your life count in this world for Christ – since, if you truly believe that the Rapture is imminent, that it could happen at any time, you are far more likely to live each day as if it could be your last and you were about to stand face-to-face with the Lord.
Yet Dean says ETs do not want to obey God or serve Him faithfully in this life. So I guess those like Pastor John MacArthur, Pastor Greg Laurie (who writes a weekly column for WND), the late Dave Hunt and so many other godly men who have focused time teaching on this subject are all in an "unregenerate state" and should be rebuked for preaching "another Jesus."
But from my perspective, it simply means that Jesus, once again, missed a great opportunity in Matthew 24 to say: "You are called only to obey the law. After all, you can't walk and chew gum at the same time."