When I began Olive Tree Ministries years ago, I ministered in hundreds of churches, home fellowships, women's groups, and even some men's groups. Every week I would pile my small vehicle with a 12-string guitar, sound and audio-visual equipment, books, and a map, and head toward destinations large and small. My audiences were enthusiastic as I shared messages focusing on Bible prophecy, Israel, Israel in prophecy, Christ in the Passover, Jewish evangelism, and current events.
I could not keep up with the demand. I could have ministered 5-6 times a week. This was more than a decade after Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth. That book opened the eyes of a lot of people and caused them to want more insight. Many thought end-time issues were irrelevant until John Darby in the 1800s. The one-third of the Bible that referenced prophecy was for real and could no longer be ignored. It was for today.
If church pulpits didn't want me to talk about it, then I was invited to classes and retreats sponsored by churches from every denomination.
How Times Have Changed
Today about 90% of these doors have slammed shut. It is not just indifference, it is outright hostility towards topics that a few years ago generated great enthusiasm. Yes, there are small pockets of interest that remain but opportunities continue to shrink.
If I were to still make my living by visiting churches across America tapping into these very same topics, I would be out of business.
How Did This Happen?
I've reported on Pastor Tom Hughes' excellent article before about church indifference to eschatology. He pastors the Calvary Chapel 412 Church in San Jacinto, CA. Tom writes that many pastors refuse to touch the topics of Bible prophecy and Israel because (1) They don't understand it; (2) They fear offending members; (3) They are concerned about scaring people; (4) They fear losing the tithes if they talk about end-time events; (5) They are afraid of being identified with the "loony fringe" such as Harold Camping.
The Cry of the Young: Social Justice!!
As a young person, I loved these topics. Bible prophecy ignited my spiritual life which was slipping into complacency. My trip to Israel at age 30, plus my Jewish heritage, allowed me to have an all-new worldview that was actually Israel-centric because the Bible is Israel-centric!
The Pre-Trib Research Center has an excellent articlewritten by Dr. James Showers on the eroding evangelical support for Israel. He addresses one major area that is problematic: Young people are more troubled by injustice than they are inspired by Bible prophecy. They perceive some injustice and consider the "occupation" of the Palestinian territories. They have bought into the propaganda that Israel is an abuser of the Palestinians. I will list the Pied Pipers who have taught them this in a moment.
He suggests that the old adage that we support Israel "because the Bible tells me so" is over. As a result, there is a trend among younger people to leave the evangelical nest previous young adults occupied to fit into their new postmodern worldview. Postmodern/Emergent leaders only reinforce this as across-the-board they are anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian, pro-Islam.
He accurately states that young adult evangelical events such as the Justice Conference, Empowered 21 and Catalyst have become pulpits for pro-Palestinian groups to come in the name of peace and blame the lack of peace on Israel. The Justice Conference emphasizes Leftist politics and features the likes of Marxist Cornell West. The annual Catalyst event will not have one Israel-friendly or prophecy-oriented representative.
Evangelicals Who Influence
We expect the postmoderns and the religious Left to distort truth, but in the last 20 years, evangelicals have been in the forefront of discouraging believers on these topics. I will now name some names that will cause many to unsubscribe from these emails. I am not attacking these individuals. I am just reporting on what they say.
Popular blogger Tim Challies wrote back on January 31 that there are seven "false teachers" in the church today. One category of false teacher he labels as "the Speculator." He says that, "Today, as in every age, the 'Speculator' obsesses about end-times and somehow his failed predictions dissuade neither himself nor his followers."
Dr. John Piper wrote in 2002 and again in 2014, "Israel has no warrant to a present experience of divine privilege when she is not keeping the covenant with God. Israel has no divine right to be in the land of promise when she is breaking the covenant of promise. For now, the people are at enmity with God in rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ, their Messiah."
Lynne Hybels , wife of Willow Creek's Bill Hybels, has been an outspoken proponent of Palestinian issues and a prominent critic of Israel's wall of partition. This was built some years ago to stop the slaughter of innocent Israelis by the Palestinians. She states, "I believe that the ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and the continuing blockade of Gaza is a violation of human rights; as such, it deeply harms the security, freedom, and dignity of both peoples."
First, she states she is both "pro-Israel and pro-Palestine," but then she suggests there be a one-state solution. She is deceived thinking that the Palestinians want to live in a peaceful co-existence with Israel. Her one-state solution would only be for the Palestinians. Hybels softened her tone after a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial.
Pastor Brian Brodersen, son-in-law of Calvary Chapel's founder Chuck Smith, recently told Calvary Chapel pastors to avoid the "gloom and doom" of eschatology. Calvary Chapel may be the last denomination in the world that has maintained an eternal perspective with an emphasis on end-time issues. Now they are encouraged to dump the topic and cater to younger people.
Pastor Rick Warren writes in his Purpose Driven Life book, "When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. Jesus said in essence, 'The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I have given you. Focus on that.' If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy." (See pages 285-286)
Author and columnist Jim Fletcher reached out to Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He asked him about his views on eschatology and Israel. Moore declined and later blocked Fletcher on Twitter.
I have previously written that the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, states often on his call-in radio program that God's Chosen People are only Christians. He says God is not a land-broker and suggests Israel does not belong to the Jews. Hank says the Rapture is "nonsense" and is forced into the biblical text. His listeners have had a nearly 30-year diatribe of error in these areas. Many have been turned off on these issues for life.
Space does not permit me to quote many other leading evangelicals and evangelical organizations who take negative positions on these topics. World Vision is just one organization that has been anti-Israel for decades. They were recently caught funneling their humanitarian funds to Hamas though they denied it.
Postmoderns and The Religious Left
Jim Fletcher also writes about leftists like Shane Claiborne.Fletcher writes, "Typically pro-Palestinian activists like Shane Claiborne portray Israelis as Nazi-like oppressors of the downtrodden Palestinians. It's all a toxic stew of political and religious claptrap designed to turn more Millennials against the Jewish state."
Every other year the patriarchs of the religious Left such as Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, as well as ardent anti-Israel speakers and writers such as Wheaton's Gary Burgeand the U.K.'s Stephen Sizer, gather at the Christ at the Checkpoint conference for a solemn assembly of Israel-bashing. Lynne Hybels is also a frequent speaker at this pretty shameful event.
Emergent Church leaders are far more interested in yoking with Rome than considering the things to come or looking at Israel-related issues. This is preparing them to receive a counterfeit Christ.
Eschatology and pro-Israel sentiment have always found a home within Dispensationalism. Twentieth Century teachers John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Missler, Mark Hitchcock, Ron Rhodes, Dave Reagan, Thomas Ice , Ed Hindson, and many more, have educated millions.
The rise of Amillennialism, Preterism, Dominion/Kingdom Now Theologies -- and what often comes with them, Replacement Theology -- are crowding out Dispensationalism. Dr. Jim Showers says, "Dispensationalism has become a dirty word in many corners of Christian higher education."
Showers continues, "The next generation of ministry leaders, at best, sees no value in studying future prophecy and, at worst, views it with disfavor or as something to be avoided entirely." He suggests even those who hold to Dispensationalism and a Christian Zionist view of Israel, born out of a literal interpretation of the Bible, are distancing themselves from these topics.
At a time in history when headlines are at best maddening and bleak, the very theologies that make sense of them are declining in favor of theologies that fill pews and offering plates.
This ministry encourages you to tell the inconvenient truth as it concerns our times no matter how unpopular it makes you. God will honor you some day.
But the conclusion here is that the days are gone when
to be an evangelical Christian was nearly synonymous with being pro-Israel and pro-prophecy. It's a new day and not a happy one. Yes, the Bible states that Israel will be on her own someday (Zechariah 12:3), but watching the process unfold remains heartbreaking.
In spite of this, the King is still coming, stage-setting signs are escalating, a trumpet is about to sound, the Church will vanish, and the hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen will be heard in the distance.
Let your voice be heard!