Nov 23, 2017

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Review of the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible

Reviewed from a messianic-Jewish perspective.

The Prophecy Study Bible. KJV. Tim LaHaye, Gen. Ed. - with Associate editors Edward Hindson, Thomas, Ice, James Comb. AMG Publishers. 2000.

This impressive Bible fills a market gap among the few other Prophecy Study Bibles in that it meets its goal to be "the most complete Prophecy Study Bible ever published." The editorial team belongs to the "Pre-trib Research Center" in Arlington, TX (founded by Tim LaHaye, ElCajon, CA), a prestigious group of Theologians and Bible teachers of the American evangelical world. They produced over 80 one-page encyclopedia-like articles, 70 less than full-page tables and charts and 20 full-page color inserts. "The theological position of the editorial team is both premillennial and pretribulational. In other words, we confidently believe that the rapture of the Church will precede the tribulation period and the Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth. Beyond this central theological premise, the views of the contributors may vary somewhat from subject to subject."

An analysis of the articles show that less than 10% relate specifically to modern Israel in prophecy. This would seem understandable for a strictly dispensational viewpoint as in this perspective dispersed Israel has no role to play during the Church Age and is only supposed to turn up after the Rapture for her punishment (at least one author indicates that the punishment will be for both unbelieving Jews AND Gentiles). This is borne out in the color inserts, tables and charts. There is a small exception in the chart on Israel and the Church [1262] in form of a graphic hint that the dispersion comes to an end before the Rapture of the Church. In other words, there seems to be an indication that Israel needs to get back into place as a nation before the Rapture will take place. An arrow that is placed after the Rapture is linked to the caption "Regathering of Israel to the Land." This message is somewhat ambiguous as it is not clear if the Regathering is that of believers or non-believers in the Messiah or both. Another insert, Israel's Prophetic History [790] parallels the Church Age with 'The Jews scattered" (Reference Luke 21:24). A third insert, Israel's Two End-Time Gatherings [974] places the "First regathering" precisely parallel to the Rapture ("Before the Tribulation in Unbelief") and the "Second Regathering" precisely parallel with the Second Coming: "Before the Millennium in Belief." Note that TIC sees these two 'Regatherings' as two "Phases of Return" (as does Arnold Fruchtenbaum, see Bibliography, 1989. Fruchtenbaum does not comment on this topic in his three articles: Levitical Offerings and Sacrifices [120], Fulfilled Prophecy and Israel [239], Israel and the Church [1216].

Timothy J. Demy in "Israel in the Millennium" states what is representative of the editors' view, "the present unbelief of the nation of Israel is not permanent, and Israel's future acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Messiah will be fully realized in the Millennium." Cautiously he adds, "The natural regathering of Israel from all over the world occurs after the Regeneration." "The regeneration of Israel occurs during the Tribulation just prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ." [738]. Several of the articles in this Bible edition refer to the tribulation as the time of Israel's punishment (for instance Tim LaHaye, How to Study the Bible, [xiii]). A more balanced wording is presented by Dwight Pentecost who refers to the judgment of both Jews and Gentiles, "Upon the Second Coming, He will assemble living Israel for judgment (Matt. 24:31; 25:1-30) and will judge living Gentiles to determine who will enter the covenanted kingdom." [1065] This is also underlined by David Allan Lewis where he says, "The book of Revelation states that at least fifty percent of earth's population will die during those horrendous seven years of the Tribulation (Rev 6:8; 9:15-1 8). Only Israel is promised survival. Other nations may survive, in reduced capacity, but only Jerusalem has been promised continued existence." ('Israel in Tribulation,' [936])

Variations from a clear-cut dispensational view are found in the articles more specifically on Israel, by one of the editors, Dr. James Combs, and also by three contributors, David A Reagan , Jimmy DeYoung and David Allan Lewis.

Jim Combs (Provost of Louisiana Baptist University and Theological Seminary, Shreveport LA) in his article on 'Israel in two Centuries' perhaps goes farther than any of the articles in this Bible dare to go. Referring to a five stage process in Ezekiel's vision of the 'Dry Bones' (Ezek 37 and Joel 2:28-29) he concludes: "It appears that the restoration of Israel is already in process." [874] (According to pre-trib theory, such restoration belongs to the tribulation period. See Timothy J. Demy above.) One might ask why the messianic-Jewish movement as small as it is today could not be the sign of stage 3 of this process? There is no mention of this movement anywhere in any of the Prophecy Study Bibles available today, as far as we know, except for Dr Combs own hint in his article "Mysteries in the New Testament" where a brief reference is made to the 'Mystery of the Union of Jews and Gentiles in One Body' (Eph. 3:3-4.9), "Unknown to Israel before Christ, the revelation of this truth was given to Paul and is being fulfilled in the Church Age (see Rom 15:25)." [1278] Zola Levitt in his article on "The Seven Feasts of Israel" very briefly seems to suggest that the mystery of this union was at least foreshadowed in Lev 23:15-17 in the 'two wave loaves…of equal weight' of the Passah Feast by which 'God was predicting that the Church would be comprised of two equal parts, Jews and Gentiles.' [143].

David R. Reagan (Lamb and Lion Ministries) in 'The Signs of the Times' sees the Re-establishment of Israel (May 14, 1948) and the Reoccupation of Jerusalem (June 7, 1967) an example of a historic development that is linked to the regathering of the Jews "right before the return of the Messiah (Isa 11:10-12)." He places Israel into the center-stage of world history when he concludes a list of signs, including political signs, that can be observed today, "The signs of Israel are more important than all the rest put together, for the Jews are God's prophetic time clock." (Luke 21:24; [1127]).

Jimmy DeYoung (Shofar Communications, Chatanooga TN) in 'Israel Today,' echoes the same view when he says, "Although the regathering of a people once scattered among the nations of the world is evidence that God is at work in fulfilling His prophetic word, this is only the beginning of a most marvelous story for Israel." In this view we are obviously about to see the end of the drama. "An alignment of nations described in the Bible, who will come against Israel in the Last Days, is placing the actors on the stage in possible preparation for the final act to begin." Referring to the Camp David Accords during the late '70s and Oslo 1993, DeYoung predicts, "The impass in peace negotiations sets the stage for a world personality to come on the scene to enforce these and other agreements." "The aliya of the Jewish people, the alignment of the nations, anticipation for peace, and arrangements for the temple" are the "signposts" on the way to prophetic fulfillment of the second coming of Christ. "Since Christ's return takes place seven years after the Rapture, how close must the Rapture be?" (973)

In conclusion, all of this is to say that as excellent and useful as this Prophecy Bible is, its overall timidity regarding the topic of Israel in Prophecy leaves room for an enlarged edition or a completely new publication of a Prophecy Bible. Maybe it ought to be called 'The Messianic Prophecy Bible for Israel and the Nations' that puts Israel truly back into the Center Stage of Redemption and World History with a soon-coming Messiah to be welcomed by a truly messianic-Jewish-Gentile Church that will continue its life from where it was 'replaced' in the early centuries after the first Pentecost or Shavuot. What is needed for the predominantly Rapture-oriented Church is an eye-opener for its responsibility and relationship toward Israel in order to help Christians to clearly move away from the vestiges of Replacement Theology and even from the temporary Replacement Theology in which Israel is confined to Tribulation and Millennium. It is evident that for a strictly dispensational viewpoint, in spite of its ever repeated reminder to draw a clear distinction between Israel and the Church, there is no place for Israel during the Church Age. Yet at least some of the contributors clearly recognize that there may be a need to assume the existence of a preparatory phase of transition for the players to move on stage. Whether or not such allowance will eventually lead to a revision of the water-tight historic compartmentalization remains to be seen.

One of the contributors to this Study Bible, David Allen Lewis, has expressed the need for this corrective view by implication:

"The Church would do well to rediscover the biblical meaning of Zion. We should rediscover those heroic Christians who have a zeal and compassion for Jerusalem, who battle racism, prejudice, and hatred for the Jews. Above all, let the Word of God convince us of what the Lord has at stake in Israel (Ezek. 36). The holiness of God and the return of the Jews to the land should captivate every believer in Christ. Shades of blindness should be removed from the eyes of the uninformed and the misinformed. "This task of informing others about the tribulations of the nation and people of Israel is not for the fainthearted, the bigot, nor the ignorant. Our purpose is to help serious, thoughtful people get an insight into the major issues of our times. Christians who are lovers of Zion deal with the most serious of problems and the darkest of fears, yet their message is one of hope, both for the present and the future. Will Israel survive in this hostile environment? The answer is yes, but everyone has serious choices before him or her. The Church, the Jewish people, politicians, and the nations of the world are undergoing a litmus test. Under God's watchful eye, performances are evaluated and futures predicated, based not only on the exercise of our faith, but also on our relationship to the Jewish people. The ultimate outcome of these choices is yet to come. The worst of times ever faced by humanity may be near at hand. Called the "time of Jacob's trouble" 2,600 years ago, it can now be labeled the "time of Gentile trouble" as well." (936)

Could it be that the persecutions of Christians in the Sudan, in Malaysia, India, China etc. are indicators that we should not be too sure about our theories? Furthermore, in view of the rising amillennialist opposition to premillenialist theology [see for instance the challenge of Baptist Pastor Dr Hal Brunson's book 'Who is Israel? What is a Jew? Where is Jerusalem? A Biblical Mandate for Prophetic Reform in the New Millennium,' Jonathan Edwards Press, 2001], it will be necessary to deal with amillennialism in more than just one or two apologetic paragraphs (Mal Couch, The Millennial Views [1398] and Tim LaHaye, Views of Christ's Future Kingdom, [1475].) Any treatment of Biblical prophecy today needs to address the issue of Israel in prophecy, for the battle is raging to wipe national Israel from off the map, not only politically but also theologically. It may be necessary to repeat the warning of the prophet Zechariah with regard to the city of Jerusalem as the burdensome stone for all people: "all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the peoples of the earth shall be gathered against it."

Update November 2004 The above review was posted June 6, 2001. It expresses the need for a "Messianic Prophecy Bible for Israel and the nations." It is interesting to note that according to the Domain Name registrar Internic.net a website went on the Internet entitled 'messianicbible.com' on June 25, 2001. Whether this was coincidence or had anything to do with our book review above is irrelevant. We have only discovered this recently. The fact is that the reader may now examine the project of precisely a MESSIANIC PROPHECY BIBLE , a project under The Messianic Bible Society, P.O.B. 700, Tulsa OK 74101-0700.

Update January 2008 http://www.messianicbible.com/