Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Apocalypse Code by Hank Hanegraaff

This is the first in a series of book reviews concerning the end times prophecies of the Bible. For the second post you can go here.

 While glancing down the wall on my face book page a post from a friend caught my eye. He was expounding on the prophecies of the Bible concerning the end times. According to him Biblical prophecy that described Christ’s return to earth and His final judgment on the world had been fulfilled 2000 years ago with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This was my introduction to preterism.

Because I had never heard of this interpretation of Biblical prophecy and yet possess a deep, personal interest in end time prophecy I embarked on my own research of the different positions concerning the prophecies of the return of Jesus Christ in Old Testament books, such as Daniel, Isaiah and the New Testament, specifically Jesus’ own words in the Olivet Discourse and finally in the book of Revelation.

The first thing I did was dig out a book I had bought a year or so ago and had at the bottom of my TBR pile. It is by Hank Hanegraaff, also known as “The Bible Answer Man” to those of us who listen to Christian radio. The book is titled, The Apocalypse Code and is written primarily as a response to the dispensationalist viewpoint of end time scripture.

Because Dispensationalism is probably the most common viewpoint of the contemporary Christian church (Protestant or Catholic) I found this surprising and was interested to learn what Hanegraaff’s own stance was and how he substantiated it as well as how he would refute the Dispensationalist one.

For those who don’t know, Dispensationalism is the viewpoint that the Church will be raptured from the earth in the first phase of Christ’s second coming. This will be followed by a seven-year tribulation under the Antichrist followed by Christ’s second coming in which Christ and his saints will rule a thousand years in peace before the final judgment of the world.

Most of Hanegraaff’s book involves disputing this viewpoint in favor of partial preterism (though he doesn’t explicitly call his viewpoint such).

There are two types of preterism: partial and full or hyper- preterism. Preterists holds to the view that the eschatological events prophesied in Scripture have already taken place. Partial preterists fall safely on the side of Orthodox Christian doctrine because they still believe in the bodily return of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection of the dead, and that the final resolution of sin is still in the future. Full preterists presume ALL prophecy, including the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of Christians, has been fulfilled. Hanegraaff himself clearly labels this latter belief as heretical.

While I don’t feel qualified to dispute or agree with many of the points Hanegraaff makes, I found this book had much to recommend it. Even though too much of his language is inflammatory and reactionary against Hal Lindsey and Timothy LaHaye (author of the Left Behind series) there is still a lot of good exegetical teaching that I valued.

For one, his discourse on how to interpret the Bible (is the passage to be taken literally? Metaphorically? Figuratively? What is the cultural context? Who is the intended audience? Etc.) was clear and methodical and as good a defense in understanding scripture as any I’ve ever read.

While I never considered Christ speaking specifically against the Pharisees and the judgment against the priesthood in his Olivet Discourse, I now understand that He was prophesying the eminent destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that effectively ended the priesthood, tribal identity (since the genealogy records were kept in the temple) and the animal sacrifices.

What I would have liked more on was discussion on the end times yet to come. He hardly mentions it at all and if it weren’t for a passing mention of his belief in Christ’s ultimate return I would have been left wondering where he stood on that doctrine since he asserts the seven year tribulation and the beast refers to the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Nero’s reign.

Anyone interested in different viewpoints of end time prophecy and scripture study would benefit from this book. I am also reading another book that goes step by step through the book of Revelation accompanied by each end time view point: Preterism, Dispensationalism, Historical, and Futuristic. I will review this book when I’ve finished it.

For more information:

Opposing viewpoints:

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