Hal Lindsey’s Prophetic Jigsaw Puzzle
Four of the eleven chapters can be accessed by clicking their titles below: 

Lindsey's School of Interpretation

Lindsey's Prophetic Jigsaw Puzzle

Lindsey's Perplexing Puzzle

The Function of the Advent Signs

Order this book online--click here

Hal Lindsey’s Prophetic Jigsaw Puzzle: Five Predictions that Failed! 

Chapter 3

LINDSEY'S PROPHETIC JIGSAW PUZZLE

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University
 

The jigsaw puzzle of End-time events which Lindsey has so imaginatively constructed, includes the following key pieces:  the establishment of the State of Israel  in 1948, the repossession of ancient Jerusalem in 1967, the Secret Rapture of the Church in 1981, the seven-year countdown Tribulation events, the visible Return of Christ by 1988.  In 1970 Lindsey predicted that since the first two key pieces of the jigsaw had already been placed, the stage was set for “the many adjacent pieces (to) rapidly fall into place.”1
 This chapter aims primarily at familiarizing the reader with the key “adjacent pieces” of the jigsaw puzzle which Lindsey predicted would rapidly fall into place during the decade of the 1980s.  It will be shown in this and the following chapter that at least five of Lindsey’s key predictions have failed to come to pass.
 

I.  THE RAPTURE

 The Secret Rapture of the church is the next key piece of Lindsey’s prophetic jigsaw which should have fallen into place by 1981.  Consequently, as we shall soon see, this event is also the first noteworthy prediction which has failed to come to pass.  Before discussing the time element of the Secret Rapture, it may be helpful to briefly define this dispensational belief for the sake of those readers unfamiliar with it.

 The Secret Snatch.  The Rapture, according to Lindsey and dispensationalists in general, is Christ’s secret and invisible coming partway to the earth to resurrect the sleeping saints and to transform living believers.  Both groups will then be suddenly, secretly, and invisibly snatched away from the earth to meet the descending Lord in the air, and then they will go to heaven with Christ to celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb for seven years.2  At the end of the seven-year period, Christ will return again, this time visibly, gloriously and all the way to the earth, to destroy His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon and to set up His terrestrial millennial reign.
 
Dispensationalists derive the seven-year period from the seventieth week of Daniel 9:27 and from adding together the “forty-two months” and the “1260 days” mentioned in Revelation 11:2, 3.3  The latter addition is totally arbitrary, since the two periods of time mentioned in Revelation 11:2,3 are not consecutive but parallel.  The first refers to the period of persecution by a hostile power and the second to the Christian witness during such a time of persecution.

 Imminent Rapture.  The Secret Rapture, which Lindsey prefers to call “the Great Snatch”4 because it involves the sudden snatching away of millions of people, is viewed by dispensationalists as imminent, because its two main preconditions, namely, the reestablishment of the State of Israel and the repossession of ancient Jerusalem, have already taken place.5  
 
The sense of imminence of the Rapture is expressed even on bumper stickers such as the one that warns:  “IF THE DRIVER DISAPPEARS GRAB THE WHEEL.”  Lindsey has attempted to capture the drama caused by this sudden disappearance in a series of imaginative descriptions such as this:  “There I was, driving down the freeway and all of a sudden the place went crazy . . . cars going in all directions . . . and not one of them had a driver.  I mean it was wild!  I think we’ve got an invasion from outer space!”6

 Noisiest Passage.  The main reasons for rejecting this belief in a secret, invisible Rapture of the church are discussed at length in my book, The Advent Hope for Human Hopelessness.7  In this context it suffices to note that the most notorious description of the Rapture of the Church, which is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:25-17, suggests the very opposite of a secret, invisible Coming of Christ.
 
The text speaks of the Lord descending “from heaven with a cry  of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (v. 16).8  The “cry,” “call,” “trumpet” and the great gathering of living and resurrected saints hardly suggest a secret, invisible and instantaneous event.  On the contrary, this is perhaps the noisiest passage in the Bible, a fact which discredits the notion of a secret Rapture.

 Lindsey’s Date of the Rapture.  Lindsey has the merit not only of having dramatically portrayed the “Great Snatch,” but also of having predicted with considerable clarity its approximate time.  In 1970 he explicitly predicted that Christ’s visible Return would occur “within forty years or so of 1948,” that is, by 1988.9  Since the secret Rapture of the Church, according to Lindsey and most dispensationalists, must take place seven years before Christ’s visible Return, then it should already have taken place by 1981.

n an article entitled “The Eschatology of Hal Lindsey,” published in 1975 in Review and Expositor,  Dale Moody wrote:  “If the ‘Great Snatch,’ as Lindsey repeatedly calls the Rapture, does take place before the Tribulation and by 1981, I will beg forgiveness from Lindsey for doubting his infallibility as we meet in the air.”10
 
Dale Moody needs not worry about begging forgiveness from Lindsey, because as everybody knows, the “Great Snatch” did not take place by 1981.  Instead, it is Hal Lindsey who should beg forgiveness from the millions of people he has misled by this noteworthy mistaken prediction.

First Mistaken Prediction.  One wonders, how many of the millions who have read Lindsey’s books do realize that time has already proved him wrong in his approximate calculation of the time of the Rapture?  This first mistaken prediction should be a matter of grave concern to those who believe that the Rapture marks the beginning of “the seven-year countdown” to Armageddon, during which the major final events are to occur.
 
If Lindsey was wrong in predicting the time of the Rapture, there is reason to believe that he may be equally mistaken in his predictions of the various Tribulation events to occur during the decade of the 1980’s, especially since the latter are dictated by the former.  In fact, we shall soon see that time has already proved Lindsey mistaken on at least four of his seven-year countdown predictions.  The 1980s are truly proving to be not the countdown to Armageddon, but rather the countdown to the fallacy of Lindsey’s prophetic vagaries.

II.  TRIBULATION EVENTS

 The Secret Rapture, which according to Lindsey’s prophetic jigsaw puzzle should already have occurred by 1981, sets the stage for the “seven-year countdown” (Dan 9:27; Rev 12:2-3) to Armageddon and to Christ’s visible Return.

David Webber and Noah Hutchings, two dispensational writers who greatly support Lindsey’s prophetic calendar in their book, Is This the Last Century? (1979), explicitly suggest the possibility “that the Tribulation period will begin in 1981, that Christ will return in 1988” and that the “seven years from 1981 to 1988 will be the Tribulation period.”11  These last seven years of human history are viewed by dispensationalists as the most crucial, because the most incredible events of human history are supposed to take place at this time. 

I shall attempt to summarize briefly below the major events of this “seven-year countdown” as far as I have been able to reconstruct them from Lindsey’s books.
 

The Rise of a Roman Antichrist

 A Roman Dictator, known as the Roman Antichrist, or, as Lindsey prefers to call him, “The Future Fuehrer,”12 is to rise to power immediately after the Rapture, out of the ten-nation confederacy of the European Common Market (Dan 7:23-24; Rev 13).  He will sign a protection treaty with the State of Israel which will enable the Israelis to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple in three and one-half years and to reinstitute its sacrificial services (Dan 9:27; Matt 24:15-16).13
 
This new Temple and its sacrificial services will hardly be inaugurated when the Roman Antichrist will break the covenant with the Jews and will go to the Temple, claiming to be God, disrupting the sacrificial services, and thus accomplishing the abomination of desolation predicted by Daniel (Dan 7:27; cf. Matt 24:15-16).14  This event marks the beginning of the last three and one-half years of the Antichrist’s cruel reign, which, Lindsey writes, “will make the regimes of Hitler, Mao, and Stalin look like Girl Scouts wearing a daisy chain by comparison.”15


Invasion of Israel

 Immediately after the profanation of the Temple by the Roman Antichrist, an Arab-African confederacy headed by Egypt (the King of the South of Daniel 11:40a) will launch an invasion of Israel.16  Russia and her allies (the King of the North of Daniel 11:40b and Ezekiel 38) will counterattack by sweeping over Arab countries as well as the State of Israel through an amphibious and land invasion of the Middle East.
 
The Russian invasion of the Middle East will be of short duration, because Ezekiel (38:18-22; 39:3-5) supposedly predicts that the Roman Antichrist will mobilize a vast army consisting of soldiers from the Roman Confederacy (Common Market countries) and from Red China, which will utterly destroy the Russian army in Israel.17

 

The Battle of Armageddon

The complete annihilation of both the Arab-African armies and the Russian forces will leave only two great powers to fight for world dominion: “the combined forces of the Western civilization under the leadership of the Roman Dictator and the vast hordes of the Orient probably united under the Red Chinese war machine.”18 
 
The two armies of the two remaining world powers will fight against each other in a final, decisive battle for world control, in the place called “Armageddon,” which is located in the plain of Jezreel in lower Galilee between the Mediterranean and the Jordan (Rev 16:13, 14, 16).  At the climactic moment of the Battle of Armageddon, Christ will return with the Church to destroy all the ungodly and to set up the millennial kingdom of God, which He will rule out of Jerusalem.

 
An examination of each piece of Lindsey’s prophetic puzzle in the light of the Scriptures and of recent developments would take us beyond the limited scope of this booklet.  The reader is referred to my larger study The Advent Hope for Human Hopelessness  for an extensive analysis of the dispensational principles of prophetic interpretation.

 
The next two chapters will focus primarily on four specific predictions which, like the one of the Rapture already considered, have failed to come to pass.  It is my fervent hope that this exposè of a sampling of five specific mistaken predictions made by Lindsey will help many honest Bible students to see the danger of using Biblical prophecies for date-setting sensationalism.

 

NOTES ON CHAPTER III

 1. Planet, p. 58.

 2. A comprehensive exposition of the traditional dispensational view of the Rapture is provided by J. F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1957).

 3. For example, Lindsey writes:  “The apostle John counted out seven years for this period when he spoke of the second half being forty-two months (i.e., 3 1/2 years), and the first half being 1260 days (i.e., 3 1/2 x 360 days, which is the Biblical year) (Revelation 11:2, 3)” (Planet,  p. 44).

 4. Hal Lindsey, The Rapture:  Truth or Consequences (Toronto, New York, 1983), p. 24.

 5.  Lindsey expresses this conviction when he writes:  “With the Jewish nation reborn in the land of Palestine, ancient Jerusalem once again under total Jewish control for the first time in 2600 years, and talk of rebuilding the great Temple, the most important prophetic sign of Jesus Christ’s soon coming is before us” (Planet,  p. 57).

 6. Planet, p. 136.

 7. See chapter 11, entitled “Mistaken Signs of the Advent Hope.”  For a most comprehensive and scholarly debate on the issues related to the Rapture, see the symposium ,The Rapture: Pre- , Mid-, or Post-Tribulational? (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984), consisting of challenges and responses prepared by four professors from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School:  Richard R. Reiter, Paul D. Feinberg, Gleason L. Archer, Douglas J. Moo.

 8.  Emphasis supplied.  Since 1950 more and more evangelical scholars have been abandoning the notion of a secret Rapture of the Church before the seven-year tribulation and embracing historic post-tribulationism.  The latter holds that the Church will go through the great tribulation, at the end of which Christ will return visibly and gloriously to resurrect the sleeping saints and to save the living believers.  Much of the credit for the resurgence of post-tribulationism goes to George E. Ladd, New Testament Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.  His respected scholarship, coupled with his commitment to evangelicalism, has caused many to abandon their view of a pre-tribulation secret Rapture.  Some of Ladd’s important books on this subject are:  Crucial Questions About the Kingdom of God  (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1952); The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1956); The Last Things ( Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978).

 9. Planet, p. 54.

 10.  Dale Moody, “The Eschatology of Hal Lindsey,” 
Review and Expositor, 72 (Summer, 1975):  278.


 11. David Webber and Noah Hutchings, Is This the Last Century?  (Nashville, 1979), pp. 49, 50.  Similarly, Lindsey writes, “This seven-year period we have called the ‘countdown’ is a period of unique events.  There is more prophecy concerning this period than any other era the Bible describes” (Planet, p. 44).

12. “The Future Fuehrer” is the very title of the chapter devoted to the Roman Antichirst (Planet, pp. 98-113).

13. Planet,  pp. 56, 110, 151, 152.

14.  Planet,  pp. 56, 152, 153.

15.  Planet,  p. 110

16.  Planet,  pp. 77, 153.
17. Lindsey even supplies two charts to illustrate the Russian invasion of the Middle East and the attack against the Russian army by the Roman Confederacy (Planet, pp. 155, 159).
 
18. Planet, p. 162.


Home | About Author | Books | Order Online | Print Order Form | Scholars comments