Four of the eleven
chapters can be accessed by clicking their titles below:
School of Interpretation
Prophetic Jigsaw Puzzle
Function of the Advent Signs
Lindsey’s Prophetic Jigsaw Puzzle: Five Predictions that Failed!
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
I. THE RAPTURE
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.
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.
II. TRIBULATION EVENTS
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.
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.
The Rise of a Roman Antichrist
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.
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 Battle of Armageddon
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 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
NOTES ON CHAPTER III
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
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,
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
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.