End Times Controversy

Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice serve as general editors of a new book, entitled End Times Controversy. This book of 460+ pages presents itself as the definitive refutation of Covenant Eschatology, or as they call it, Preterism. The book contains 17 chapters by different authors.

This article cannot be a true book review, due to the size of Controversy. However, I do want to make just a few observations, some practical and some theological.

First, I have to say I am thrilled about the publishing of this book. The very fact that Lahaye and Ice feel, they know, that the preterist movement is growing so rapidly, becoming such a threat to dispensationalism, that they felt the necessity for a book refuting this movement is proof that they are on the run and the Truth is making serious inroads. This is thrilling indeed. It has not been too long ago that the Truth of Christ’s coming in A. D. 70 was being virtually ignored. And many continue to do so, but ignoring the issue will not refute it, and it will not make it go away. On TBN, Thomas Ice spoke of the need for this book months ago. He said if you had told him 15 years ago that preterism would be growing so fast he would have thought it ridiculous. Now, however, he has to join hands with Tim LaHaye to produce a massive tome in an attempt to refute the doctrine. That is progress!

Second, for anyone willing to think critically and logically, the book itself serves as a great demonstration of the weakness of dispensationalism, and the desperation of the authors. There are so many glaring logical fallacies, so many distortions of facts, so many perversions of Scripture that it would take a work of equal size to enumerate them.

For brevity sake, I want to illustrate what I mean with just a few examples of the contradictions and problems found in Controversy.

In his attempt to refute the time statements of the Bible, Thomas Ice addresses Jesus’ statement to Caiaphas in Matthew 26:64: "I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." Now, a forthright, literal reading of the text, indicates that Jesus was coming in the lifetime of the Sanhedrin. However, Ice insist that "Matthew 26:64 is better explained as an event that will literally take place. The Sanhedrin will see Christ’s glorious return, even if is a few thousand years after their time, just as all men of all ages will see this event." (Controversy, 187) So, the Sanhedrin will see the Second Coming, only they will have to be raised from the dead to witness it.

There are manifold problems with Ice’s explanation. If he were to allow the text to stand as it reads, predictive of an event in the lifetime of first century people, his entire paradigm would suffer in many ways.

First, the language of imminence would be objective. It would mean that you could not elasticize the time statements that indicate the nearness of the parousia in the New Testament. Thus, to admit that Jesus was speaking of an event in the lifetime of the Sanhedrin would be devastating to the millennial paradigm. So, what does Ice do? He says that this passage is not speaking of any event in the first century, but refers to the Second Coming of Christ. He even claims, "It is very likely that hardly any of the Sanhedrin would have lived another 40 years to see a coming in the sense that the preterists describe." (Controversy, 187)

So, Ice says that Jesus was not speaking of the Sanhedrin as a body seeing the coming of Christ in judgment of Israel. Of course, this is simply a denial. It is not proof. To suggest that the Sanhedrin understood Jesus to be predicting his coming 2000 years in the future, in a literal bodily coming out of the heavens is contrary to the entire history of the use of the coming of the Lord language. And guess what, Thomas Ice even admits this kind of language is used in the Old Testament. More on this momentarily. See my book Who Is This Babylon? for a full discussion of this issue. The fact is that it is distinctly possible that several of that august body lived to see the fall of Jerusalem.

Second, to admit that Jesus was predicting his judgment coming in A.D. 70 means that one would have to admit the metaphoric use of the coming of the Lord predictions.

Dispensationalists can hardly allow this however, for to admit that God caused His inspired writers to use metaphoric language to describe the coming of the Lord would be devastating to their cause. This is where one of the inherent contradictions in the dispensational paradigm comes in. Let’s take a closer look.

It must be seen that Ice cannot apply Matthew 26:64 to the Second Coming, and be consistent with his doctrine of the resurrection. The dispensational doctrine of the resurrection is complex and convoluted. For brevity, it is important to note that the wicked are not raised at the Second Coming of Christ. The wicked are not raised until the end of the millennium. The problem is, the "glorious return" of Jesus Christ does not take place at the end of the millennium. So, the question is, since the wicked – and I think just about anyone would agree that the Sanhedrin qualifies as wicked – are not raised until the end of the millennium, and since the "glorious return" of Christ does not take place at the end of the millennium, just exactly how is it that the Sanhedrin would witness that event? In the millennial scheme of things, they are in the graves when the Lord comes. This is a huge problem for the millennial view, and, to my knowledge, no one seems to have noticed.

Another problem found in Controversy deals with the Great Commission. Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world, for a witness to the nations, then comes the end." (Matthew 24:14). In my book, Into All the World, Then Comes the End, I demonstrate that the rest of the New Testament states that the Great Commission was fulfilled in the first century. As a matter of fact, every single word used by Jesus to command or to predict the preaching of the gospel into all the world is used by Paul to say it had been preached into all the world. Paul uses the identical words, with the identical cases, with this exception, whereas Jesus used them in the future tense, Paul used them in the past tense. There could not be a more powerful demonstration of the fulfillment of prophecy than this, and yet, Controversy simply denies what Paul had to say.

Jesus said the gospel would be preached into all the world, and uses the word kosmos. Paul said the gospel "has come to you (the Colossians, DKP), just as it has in all the world " (kosmos, Colossians 1:5f). Ice says that all this means is, "The gospel has come, or been introduced to the Colossian believers, just as it has come, or been introduced, in all the world. So this is not a statement about whether the gospel has been preached to a certain area per se; rather, it is a statement about the arrival of the gospel as a global message."

This is nothing less than sophistry of the worst sort. It is a smoke-screen.

Had the gospel actually been preached to the Colossians? Had the Colossians accepted the gospel in faith? Had the acceptance of the gospel actually brought forth fruit in the lives of the Colossians? It is ridiculous to say that the gospel had just been introduced into the Colossian community, but not actually preached to them. It is farcical to suggest that the Colossians had not actually heard the gospel. And, the point is that the Colossians had heard, received and obeyed the gospel in the same way that the gospel had been preached, received and obeyed, producing fruit, "in all the world." Paul says that the gospel was present and producing among the Colossians in the same way that it had become present and produced in all the world. If the gospel had not been preached in all the world, then the Colossian
s had not heard the gospel. The Colossians had heard in the same manner that the world had heard. Unless one is willing to argue that the Colossians did not actually hear the gospel, or is willing to argue that the Colossians did not actually obey the gospel, then, since the gospel had been preached in all the world in the same manner as it had in all the world, the Ice’s contention is falsified.

In his discussion of the language of the Day of the Lord in Matthew 24:29-31, Ice says, "I do not see a textual basis either in the Old Testament on in Matthew 24. There are no Biblical passages that establish the preterists’ use of these figures." (Controversy, 189) Of course, Ice insists that the language of these verses has to be fulfilled literally, and is strongly opposed to the idea that it is metaphoric language describing God’s actions in history. He goes so far to say that he sees no justification for the preterist claims that this language is always used metaphorically. The problem is that Ice has, as usual, contradicted himself.

In his written debate with Kenneth Gentry, it was demonstrated that in the Old Testament God very often used metaphoric language to describe the judgment of nations as the Day of the Lord. Gentry listed many different passages that prove this. Amazingly, Ice said this, "I do not have a problem with Gentry’s understanding of these passages as they are used in the Old Testament." So, in his debate with Gentry, Ice was forced to admit that God’s used metaphoric language to describe the Day of the Lord and God’s actions in history. However, when not "under the gun" he says that he sees no justification for saying that language is metaphoric. This is inconsistency personified.

One final issue. In Controversy, (167) Ice says that "it is wrong" to say that the events foretold in Matthew 24:4-14 are "prophetically significant in our own day." In fact, on pages 168f, he says that there were no false Christs in the first century. In one of my radio debates with him, Ice emphatically denied that any false Christ appeared in the first century. There are two issues here.

First, Ice says it is wrong to say that any of the signs of Matthew 24:4-14 are being fulfilled today. He says these signs will not appear until after the rapture, and during the Tribulation period. However, in the book he co-authored with Tim LaHaye, we find this:

"What are the signs of the end? The first sign Jesus pointed to was war. Not just any war, of which the world has seen over 15,000 to date, but a special war started by two nations and joined by many other nations on either side until all the world is involved. It was to be the greatest war in human history. That occurred with World War I in 1914-1918, Since then there have been a parade of ‘signs’, the most significant one being the recognition of Israel as a nation in 1948. Many other signs have occurred in fulfillment of Matthew 24:8: ‘These are the beginning of sorrows.’"

So, in one book by Ice and LaHaye it is wrong to say that Matthew 24:4-14 is being fulfilled in our day, and in another book, by the same authors, they say that there has been a parade of signs have occurred in fulfillment of Matthew 24:4-14. Which book do we believe? Which author do we believe?

Second, what about the false Christ’s? Well, in Controversy, Ice says no false Christ’s appeared in the first century. In his debate with Gentry, however, Ice commented on Matthew 24:4f: "I will not deal with items such as false Christ’s, wars, famine, and so on, for there were certainly events of this kind in the first century." (Tribulation, 133). So, the same author says there were no false Christs, and then says there were certainly false Christs.

The examples we have listed here are just the smallest of the problems. End Times Controversy is rife with internal contradictions, and with contradictions with the other writings of the men who produced the book. While Controversy seeks to refute Covenant Eschatology, what it does in truth is to provide more glaring examples of the convoluted and contradictory nature of dispensationalism. The book proves that Covenant Eschatology is making an impact and that dispensationalism is losing serious ground. The thoughtful reader of that book will come away convinced even more of the slippery and treacherous ground on which that doctrine stands.