THE BROKEN PROPHECY CLOCK

PMW 2018-046 by Gary North (Remnant Review)

Gentry introductory note: Gary North is always an entertaining and insightful read. And this article needs to be read for both insights and entertainment. It is funny how dispensationalism is addicted to continually predicting the Rapture, the great tribulation, the antichrist, and the gullibility of the Christian book-buying public.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the political creation of the State of Israel.

This fact is crucial for American fundamentalists. This is because most of them believe in something their pastors call “the clock of prophecy.” It started ticking on May 14, 1948, or so they have been told by a generation of pastors and authors. But there is a problem. It was not supposed to keep ticking longer than 70 years — the normal lifespan of one generation.

Before I explain all this, I want you to understand that American fundamentalists are almost all dispensationalists. This is called pre-tribulation dispensationalism, and at least 99% of dispensationalists are pre-tribulation dispensationalists. They believe that Christians will be pulled out of history prior to the horror known as the Great Tribulation, which will come mainly on Jews living in the State of Israel after the Rapture.

American fundamentalism’s 70-year unwavering political support for the State of Israel has been based on the doctrine of the Rapture.


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Debate book on the nature and timing of the great tribulation. Both sides thoroughly cover the evidence they deem necessary, then interact with each other.

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The Rapture is the term that fundamentalists use to describe the supernatural transfer of residency of all living Christians from earth to heaven without death as the gate of passage. This essence of belief can be summarized by a variation of the famous “go directly to jail” card in the board game, Monopoly: “Go directly to heaven. Do not pass death.” Christians would thereby cheat the collectors, mortgage lenders, credit card debt, and even college debt. Above all, their heirs would evade morticians.

The Rapture was to have taken place no later than 2011, according to popular dispensationalism’s interpretation of Bible prophecy. All Christians were to have been pulled out of history into heaven. The Great Tribulation for Jews in Palestine was to have begun then. Jesus and His angels should have returned yesterday to set up a one-world Christian government run by immortal Christians accompanying Jesus.

It didn’t happen. Popular dispensationalism now has a major theological problem to answer. It is also a practical problem. It is also a psychological problem. For the last 70 years, the popular interpretation of Bible prophecy among dispensationalists has been this: the clock of prophecy began ticking again on May 14, 1948. It had 70 years to run. The clock has stopped.

Now what?

The Clock of Prophecy

What is the clock of prophecy? It is a metaphor. The Bible does not speak of such a clock. The idea was invented by dispensational theologians about a century ago. It has to do with the prophecy by Jesus in Matthew Chapter 24 regarding grim things that He described as taking place in Judaea before He returns to judge the world.

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened (Matthew 24:15-22, King James Version).

This, He said, would take place in what He said was “this generation.”


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Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (verses 32-34).

It is obvious that this did not take place literally during the lifetimes of those people who were listening to Him. Beginning in the second century A.D., church theologians explain this seeming delay in terms of a non-literal fulfillment. A common explanation was that it was fulfilled with the Roman army’s destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. I published David Chilton’s cogent little book on this, The Great Tribulation, in 1987. You can download it for free here.

Dispensational theologians say that Bible prophecies must be interpreted literally. Therefore, they reject the church’s ancient interpretation that Jesus’ prophecy referred to the fall of Jerusalem, which did occur in the lifetimes of some of those who heard His words. Dispensational theologians have argued that the prophecy of the Great Tribulation was not meant for those listening to Him. This warning applied to a future generation. It applied to the generation that would be alive when the literal events had to take place. So, they argued that the clock of prophecy stopped ticking sometime before the end of the first century A.D. But because of dispensationalism’s self-proclaimed literalism, the clock would have to start ticking again in order to allow for a literal fulfillment of Jesus’ warning. The generation of Jews alive when the clock starts ticking will be “this generation” of Jews whom Jesus was warning.

After May 14, 1948, a growing number of dispensational preachers and authors began to identify that date as the date when Jesus intended His prophecy to begin to apply literally. They began to use the phrase “the clock of prophecy.” It was said to have begun ticking with the advent of the State of Israel.

Pop Dispensationalism’s warning to Jews in Israel

This interpretation of the clock of prophecy was so common prior to 1988, when the 40 years associated with one generation ran out, that it sold millions of books. Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late, Great Planet Earth (1970) sold over 35 million copies. He and his long-term ghost writer Carole C. Carlson were quite explicit. . . .

To finish reading the article: click

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2 thoughts on “THE BROKEN PROPHECY CLOCK

  1. Shaun Snyder June 9, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    You stated, “It is obvious that this did NOT take place literally during the lifetimes of those people who were listening to Him.” NOT?

  2. Kenneth Gentry June 14, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    He is referring to the dispensational view, not the proper interpretation.

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