The war between Israel and Hezbollah is causing premillennial Christians to proclaim that the second coming of Christ is at hand. In an excellent article published in Salon.com, “Apocalyse Soon,” Jason Boyett describes how some evangelical Christians view the conflict in Lebanon.
Christians who accept a premillennial and dispensentional approach to interpreting biblical prophecies see the current conflict as the precursor of the Apocalypse. Boyett wrote:
That's why Israel's current conflict with Lebanon has set apocalyptic alarms buzzing across the United States. Newsweek, in its Aug. 7 “Beliefwatch” column, asks whether this could be “the end.” Chuck Raasch, writing in USA Today, worries about “glimpses of the apocalypse” in the headlines. On July 27, “Good Morning, America” even brought in “Left Behind” coauthors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins to comment on the prophetic nature of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.
Readers who are interested in understanding how some Evangelicals view the conflict in Lebanon will greatly benefit from reading this article.
In his article, Boyett gives a brief history of dispensationalism. He wrote:
The history of dispensational premillennialism is nearly as complex as the book of Revelation itself, and that's saying something. A second and third century form of Christian eschatology designated “historical premillennialism” read Revelation as a message that Jesus would soon return to earth to save the early church from its Roman persecutors. It fell out of favor, though, when the persecution stopped in the fourth century, when Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of Rome. Premillennialism made a comeback in the 19th century, thanks to an Irish Anglican named John Nelson Darby. It was Darby, a tireless traveling preacher, who popularized a theory known as “dispensationalism.” He believed God's historical dealings with humankind fell into different epochs, or “dispensations,” within which God offered a different avenue to salvation. (God dealt differently with Adam and Eve than he did with humankind after the flood, and God's relationship with the church today is different from his Old Testament relationship with Israel.) Darby concluded that humankind will enter a new dispensation at the end of time, and that in those final days, Israel -- which fell out of God's favor upon rejecting Jesus as the messiah -- will regain its position as God's elect.
Darby didn't just introduce the primacy of Israel's role in the end times. He also called attention to an event known as the Rapture. The concept of the Rapture doesn't appear at all in the Revelation timeline. It originates in 1 Thessalonians, a New Testament book in which the apostle Paul describes those believers who are still alive at the time being “caught up together in the clouds” when trumpets sound. The true church, Darby believed, would be removed from the earth prior to a period of warfare and judgment called the tribulation. The most bizarre events of Revelation -- horsemen of the apocalypse, locust assassins, rivers turning to blood, stars falling from the sky -- are said to refer to this seven-year doomsday period, also referenced in the Old Testament book of Daniel
Boyett has written a very good article. I cannot comment on the many points he raises in his article. I encourage you to read his article by clicking here. However, I want to say two things about the article.
First, Christians cannot say with certainty whether the current crisis in Lebanon is the dawn of the Apocalypse. Since the days of Paul, the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and the persecution of the church at the end of the first century, Christians have proclaimed the second coming of Christ. The truth is that no one knows the time for the second coming of Christ.
Second, one must be very careful with the dispensational interpretation of biblical prophecies. As I have shown in my two posts on Daniel 9:24-25, Darbyism is based on a wrong interpretation of the seventy weeks of Daniel.
It is true that events similar to the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah may precede the second coming of Christ, but no one can say with certainty that the current crisis is the event that will precipitate the coming of the apocalypse.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Armageddon , Hezbollah, Dispensationalism