This post is PART 1 to the 1st of the following 3 questions put forward by Rhodes:
1. Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment?
2. Is America in Bible Prophecy?
3. Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur?
I’m Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy
Debate 3: Ron Rhodes asks, “What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times?”
(My response is also to Rhodes’ teachings found in his other dispensationalist literature.)
When it comes to signs, Rhodes has created his own dispensationalist double-talk. On the one hand he encourages the discernment of the signs of our times, which he says ‘Jesus desires us to do’, sadly misappropriating Jesus’ words in Matt 16:1-3 and Luke 21:29-33. (This I’ll let slide as Rhodes has bigger problems). Then, on the other hand he says that no signs precede the rapture and that they have to do with the Second Coming of Christ. This is obviously illogical, because how can one discern the signs of our times when none precede the rapture?
His explanation around this is that what is seen as signs of our times are not signs, but are the shadows of the signs, or the stage being set for the signs that are only to appear after the rapture. Of course we are told nowhere in the Bible to look for shadows of signs or for the stage setting for signs and so he fosters Christians busying themselves with unauthorized speculation around supposed shadows. If, however, he says that the shadows are not speculation, then they must be signs. However, if they’re signs, he then refutes his own theology that doesn’t expect to see signs before the rapture.
Rhodes says ‘a sign of the times is a prophetic event that points to the end times’. Here he hijacks terminology used by Jesus in relation to His visitation (see Matt 16:3) and redefines it in relation to the “end-times”. So, he is clearly off to a bad start.
In the manner that he approaches some signs, Rhodes appears to, at times, go against his own ‘qualification’ that no signs precede the rapture. Related to these “end-time” signs, Rhodes goes on to say, ‘Scripture specifies quite a few signs (for example, see Matthew 24-25, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Timothy 4:3-4)’.
Now, before we consider these, it should be noted that signs in the Bible, whether seen or prophesied, are related to a context in space and time and are very clear evidences that point to an associated reality in the same or a later space and time context. Therefore, signs are clearly seen in their contexts and they are clear about what they are pointing to, which is in huge contrast to speculating around signs, let alone around shadows of signs.
Now, whether he considers them to be signs or shadows of signs, let’s first consider whether any clear evidence exists of these signs having already occurred. If they have, it will save a lot of time speculating about shadows of signs and we will have been kept from false end-time narratives.
To Which Generation Do These Prophecies Belong?
Within Matthew 24-25 Jesus says, “…when you see all these things, you know that he/it is near, at the very gates.” In context, Jesus immediately goes on to say, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Some futurists say that because “this generation” is in relation to “all these things”, i.e. the prophecies in Matthew 24, they cannot see how it is possible to ascribe this to the “generation” of the apostles. They suggest that Jesus is referring to an end-time “generation” in which “all these things” must take place. But is this true?
Note that the context has Jesus talking to his disciples and so when he says “when you see all these things, you know…” the pronoun “you” clearly indicates that his message was specifically for the disciples. This is immediately corroborated by Jesus saying to them “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” If Jesus meant otherwise, then “they” and “that generation” would have been used.
The Escalation of Apostasy
Rhodes fosters the typical futurist hype around terms like ‘latter times’ found in 1Timothy 4:1-2. But, does this refer to our days and beyond? When Paul writes, ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…’, the context is that he is instructing Timothy and the church on how they should behave in the household of God. He is therefore not dropping some random future “end times” prophecy, but he is instead writing to keep Timothy and the church from going astray at a time already considered ‘the latter times’.
Similarly, Rhodes misinterprets ‘for the time will come’ in 2 Tim 4:3-4. Here Paul says, ‘For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.’ Context shows that he was referring to a time on their doorstep rather than some distant future. In fact, in Acts 20:29-30, Paul refers to this imminent falling away when he addresses the elders from this very church that Timothy was leading. He says, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
Misinterpretation of the events prophesied and of their timing has a knock-on effect on many other Scriptures. Exasperating this is the blind bias that gets formed around these beliefs. The result is that many passages are simply squeezed and accepted in mistaken contexts without alarm or question. The end result is a theology and eschatology based on dubious inferences from Scripture, insertions of ideas into Scripture and rhetoric full of holes to explain it all.
Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:
- Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
- Toppling Dispensationalism
- Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
- The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
- The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
- The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
- The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
- The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
- The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?
- When Will The Rapture Occur?
- Taking Issue with Futurism – Interpreting Revelation Part 1
- Daniel’s Seventieth Week and the Book of Revelation – Interpreting Revelation Part 2
- Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
- Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
- Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
- Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
- Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
- The Millennium
- Prophetic Events and Their Timing