LAST DAYS MADNESS BOOK REPORT
As I continue forward with my Doctoral studies, I have posted another of my book reports below. Enjoy!
I have been an ardent follower of Gary DeMar for over a decade. I credit him the most with my current understanding of Eschatology. As I wrote in the introduction to my book Raptureless:
My parents both graduated from a Pentecostal Bible College in the early 1970s. They attended classes during the era of the Jesus People Movement, the Vietnam War, and the epically bestselling Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. During those turbulent times, my parents met and married. After they had my two older siblings, I was born into their family in 1983. This was an era of much speculation and fear regarding the endtimes, which many believed had already begun. My parents had heard all the confusing and conflicting points of view regarding the endtimes, and instead of becoming obsessed with figuring it all out, they made a choice.
They determined to raise godly children who would raise godly grandchildren. They chose to think long-term and invest in their future and the future of their children. They didn't have all the answers regarding a "perfect theology of the endtimes," but they knew better than to buy into the hype. When their friends quit their jobs, bought boats, and racked up credit card debt "because the end of the world is around the corner and we won't have to pay it back," my parents called this irresponsible and unChristlike behavior.
Growing up, I never knew what my parents really thought about the "end of the world." When I pressed them for an answer, they would say, "We are Pan-Millennial," which was a humorous way of saying that it will all "pan out" in the end! This left me with a lot of questions in my teen years when the Left Behind series became a raging bestseller.
Since I was not force-fed a particular point of view by either my parents or my church while growing up, I had the full ability to think freely. I began to dig into studying the endtimes and very quickly realized that this study was going to be deep, complex, and scary.
It didn't take long for me to become thoroughly confused. At that point, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart. He said to me, "Jonathan, please set aside your study of the endtimes. It is not the right season for you to study this. If you will trust Me, I will guide you to a right understanding in the future, but now is not the time. Wait on Me to give you a green light." So for the next two and half years, I chose to read nothing regarding the endtimes; I didn't watch the Left Behind movies (sorry Kirk Cameron); I didn't even read the Book of Revelation!
One day, as I was browsing a used book sale, I saw a book on the endtimes, and I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, "Buy that book; it is time to begin to reveal the truth to you." It has now been over ten years since that day, and what the Holy Spirit has taught me about the endtimes has been some of the most wonderful revelation that I have received from His Word.
The book that the Holy Spirit had me pick up that day was End-Times Fiction by Gary DeMar. At the time I had never heard of this author, but because the Foreword was by the renowned R.C. Sproul, my heart was set at ease. That little book was the beginning of my journey into Preterist thought. Over the next several years I was an avid listener to Gary DeMar’s podcast, through which my preterist understanding continued to expand. DeMar was my bread and butter for the first five years or so into my journey of understanding. Then I expanded into the likes of David Chilton, Kenneth Gentry, and many others.
With this background, I was quite excited to use Last Days Madness as coursework toward my doctorate. I consider Last Days Madness (LDM) to be DeMar’s seminal work. With 28 Chapters, 5 Appendices, and a total of 442 pages, this work is approximately 2/3rds larger than any other DeMar (eschatology) book I know of.
This is my fifth and final book report for my Doctorate coursework and up to this point I have been able to follow a consistent pattern for dissecting my book reports. Typically I do an Overview, Strengths, Weaknesses, and Conclusions. The issue that I face with LDM is that I honestly did not find even one thing to point out as a weakness! Gary DeMar is an absolutely master of the material he delves into. One of my observations is that DeMar doesn’t address the Book of Revelation as a whole in this book, although he touches on a few portions, such as the battle of Armageddon, he never bites off more than he can chew. By sticking with what he can argue well, he writes what I consider an irrefutable book.
I did not feel that I could write a balanced critical approach to his work because I didn’t observe anything in it as a weakness. Therefore I will take a different tact with this report. I will categorize my subheadings as follows:
- Matthew 24
- Matthew 25/2 Peter 3
- Daniel’s 70 weeks
- Four keys to interpreting Prophecy
- Ezekiel 38/39
Although the Table of contents contains 28 chapters and 5 appendices, the list above is more accurate to the actual topics covered in the book. I will take each of these subheadings and describe in brief Mr. DeMar’s stance.
A final thought. If there is one thing that might be considered a weakness, it is the way that DeMar contrasts his view with the views of popular Dispensationalists. I do not find this to be a weakness, but for those that think “playing nice” is Christlike, they may not approve of the contrasts that DeMar draws. I find his contrasts to be incredibly helpful and informative, therefore I do not consider this a weakness, but some other readers may.
MATTHEW 24 (Chapters 1-14)
The large bulk of LDM is spent on examining Matthew 24 verse-by-verse. Actually half of LDM’s chapters (14 out of 28) are given to this topic. Considering that I have logged an abundance of hours researching the preterist view of Matthew 24, I found that I agreed fully with DeMar and did not find many new or interesting pieces of information. This is not a slight against DeMar whom has done a beautiful job, just for this particular reader I have grown weary of studying Matthew 24. I appreciate especially that DeMar does not divide up Matthew 24 with any Transition Text Theory, but as a reader should, he treats the entire chapter as an answer to a first century contextual question.
Of particular interest was when DeMar quoted from C.S. Lewis. Lewis was honest in seeing that Jesus and the Apostles fully preached, prophesied and believed in Jesus’ first century coming. Either they were wrong or they were right and since Lewis was not a preterist, he didn’t see that Jesus’ did “come” and fulfilled the verses about His “Coming” by bringing destruction to Jerusalem. Therefore he honestly, yet wrongly concludes that Jesus and the Apostles were wrong.
Even C.S. Lewis understood the dilemma present in Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:34, that He would return before that first-century generation passed away. After dealing with critics who maintain that Jesus was just another Palestinian seer, Lewis confronts the more serious objection: “But there is worse to come. ‘Say what you like,’ we shall be told, ‘the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, “this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.” And He was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.” (Page 48)
Later DeMar addressed the desolation of the temple in a fascinating way that I have never considered or heard expounded. The idea of the priest inspecting a house for leprosy in Leviticus is applied to Jesus spiritually inspecting the temple and declaring its destruction because of similar defilement.
The Jews of Jesus’ day had turned the temple into a “house of merchandise” (John 2:16) and a “robbers’ den” (Mat. 21:13). When a priest inspected a house and found it leperous, the house was to be torn down (Lev. 14:33-47). Jesus, as the High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:6), inspected the temple twice, found it leprous, and issued His priestly evaluation: “And Jesus came out from the temple” (Matt. 24:1), as the priest “shall come out from the house” (Lev. 14:38), and declared it “desolate” (Matt. 23:38), as the priest declared a leprous house to be “unclean” (Lev. 14:44). A leprous house could be cleansed in only one way: “He shall therefore tear down the house, its stones, and timbers, and all the plaster of the house, and he shall take them outside the city to an unclean place” (Lev. 14:45). When Jesus’ disciples pointed to the temple buildings after hearing of its desolation, Jesus answered: “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matt. 24:2). (Page 108)
Although these may simply be similarities and not a direct parallel, I found the suggestion quite fascinating.
MATTHEW 25/2 PETER 3 (Chapter 15)
In Chapter 15, DeMar does a beautiful job connecting the “End of the Age” (from Mt 24:3) to the end of the Old Covenant in A.D. 70. He uses Matthew 25 and 2 Peter 3 to arrive at this conclusion especially. I hold the same beliefs and expound them in my book Raptureless. Yet DeMar brought out the following info from John Owen and John Lightfoot, which I found very confirming and interesting.
John Owen (1616-1683) maintained that the “passing of heaven and earth” in 2 Peter 3:5-7 had reference, “not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state” in A.D. 70. John Brown (1784-1858), commenting on Matthew 5:18, follows the same methodology.
“Heaven and earth passing away,” understood literally, is the dissolution of the present system of the universe; and the period when that is to take place, is called the “end of the world.” But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens.”
After surveying how this language is used throughout the Bible and in Jewish literature, John Lightfoot applies the “passing away of heaven and earth” to the “destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state…as if the whole frame of this world were to be dissolved.” (Page 192)
After addressing 2 Peter 3 as being about the removal of the Mosaic Age at length in my book reports regarding Navigating the Book of Revelation by Kenneth Gentry and Victorious Eschatology by Harold Eberle and Martin Trench. I was elated and refreshed to read Gary DeMar’s remarks about this passage. I believe DeMar has hit the nail on the head and drives home one of the major points of the New Testament, the removal of the Old Covenant and its world.
Jesus does not change subjects when He assures the disciples that “heaven and earth will pass away.” Rather, He merely affirms His prior predictions which are recorded in Matthew 24:29-31. Verse 36 is a summary and confirmation statement of these verses. Keep in mind that the central focus of the Olivet Discourse is the desolation of the “house” and “world” of apostate Israel (23:36). The old world of Judaism, represented by the earthly temple, is taken apart stone by stone (24:2). James Jordan writes, “each time God brought judgment on His people during the Old Covenant, there was a sense in which an old heavens and earth was replaced with a new one: New rulers were set up, a new symbolic world model was built (Tabernacle, Temple), and so forth.” The New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant with new leaders, a new priesthood, new sacraments, a new sacrifice, a new tabernacle (John 2:21), and a new temple (John 2:19; 1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:21). In essence, a new heaven and earth.
The darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars, coupled with the shaking of the heavens (24:29), are more descriptive ways of saying that “heaven and earth will pass away” (24:35). In other contexts, when stars fall, they fall to the earth, a sure sign of temporal judgment (Isa. 14:12; Dan. 8:10; Rev. 6:13; 9:1; 12:4). So then, the “passing of heaven and earth” is the passing away of the old covenant world of Judaism led and upheld by those who “crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). (pages 191-192)
RAPTURE (Chapters 16/17)
I have said for years that there is no Biblical evidence of the Rapture seven years before the Final Return of Christ (the return of Christ and the rapture of the saints is the same event). Of course all forms of Preterism would agree with this statement. Yet DeMar approaches the topic brilliantly! Instead of simply showing the evidence to a biased audience, he uses the words of his opponent’s to prove his point. For example, Timothy LaHaye is actually quoted as saying that there is no Biblical evidence of a secret rapture.
For [Tim] LaHaye, anyone who does not believe that the Bible teaches a pre-tribulational rapture is interpreting the Bible “figuratively or as an allegory.” This is a harsh accusation, especially coming from an advocate of a position that was not taught until 1830. Moreover, it seems rather presumptuous to advocate a doctrine the does not have a single verse to support it, something LaHaye and other dispensationalists willingly admit! “One objection to the pre-Tribulation Rapture is that no one passage of Scripture teaches the two aspects of His Second Coming separated by the Tribulation. This is true. But then, no one passage teaches a post-trib or mid-trib Rapture, either.” ~Timothy LaHaye (Page 207)
After Tim LaHaye, Gary DeMar then dissects Hal Lindsey’s worn out argument that the church must be raptured in Rev. 4:1 because the word “church” doesn’t reappear in chapters 4-19 of Revelation. DeMar starts by pointing out that the saints are referred to over 11 times between Rev. 4-19 and then he demolishes the system of Lindsey’s Hermeneutic by applying it to the rest of the New Testament.
Let’s continue by applying what Lindsey’s hermeneutical logic to other passages. The words church and churches appear just once in the Book of Hebrews (12:23) and twice in 2 Corinthians (1:1 and 2:14): “The church is not mentioned as such in Mark, Luke, John, 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, or Jude, and not until chapter 16 of Romans. Unless we are prepared to relegate large chunks of the NT to a limbo of irrelevance to the Church, we cannot make the mention or omission of the term ‘church’ a criterion for determining the application of a passage to saints of the present age.” (Page 218)
Most poignantly, DeMar finishes out the chapter by quoting the renowned Dispensationalist writer Henry Ironside, regarding the total lack of historical evidence of secret rapture teaching throughout church history:
“It is scarcely to be found in a single book or sermon through the period of 1600 years! If any doubt this statement, let them search … the remarks of the so-called Fathers, both pre and post Nicene, the theological treaties of the scholastic divines, Roman Catholic writers of all shades of thought, the literature of the Reformation, the sermons and expositions of the Puritans, and the general theological works of the day. He will find the “mystery” conspicuous by its absence.” (H.A. Ironside) (Page 222)
BEAST/ANTICHRIST (Chapters 18-23)
I have yet to meet a Preterist that doesn’t recognize Nero as the Sea Beast from Revelation 13. It is so painfully obvious from Church history and logic. FW Farrar furnishes a good overview of this predominant view.
“All the earliest Christian writers on the Apocalypse, from Irenaeus down to Victorinus of Pettau and Commodian in the fourth, and Andreas in the fifth, and St. Beatus in the eighth century, connect Nero, or some Roman Emperor, with the Apocalyptic Beast.” (FW Farrar) (Page 258)
Yet the Futurists and Historicists continue to fabricate The Beast out of anything and anyone. There are no foundational moorings to keep their interpretations at bay. With no respect for the time-texts that frame the Book of Revelation as happening, “quickly” “soon” or “near”, they run amuck with Beasts and Antichrists everywhere. The logic is about as solid as the following excerpt:
Literary scholar Kathryn Lindskoog sent the following to her friends via the Internet to show how almost anyone or anything can be made to read 666.
Given: Barney is a cute purple dinosaur
Prove: Barney is really the Antichrist in disguise
- Start with the given: CUTE PURPLE DINOSAUR
- Change all the U’s to V’s (which is proper Latin anyway): CVTE PVRPLE DINOSAVR
- Extract all Roman Numerals in the phrase: CVVLDIV
- Convert these into Arabic values: 100 5 50 500 1 5
- Add the numbers together: 666
Although Jack Van Impe and others will continue to readjust their horribly failed predictions year after year, there are moments in history where the Futurist’s theology can actually seem reasonable. For example during World War II, I could understand the appeal of seeing Hitler and Mussolini as the Beast or Antichrist. And many did take that view exactly.
A booklet published in 1940 identified Mussolini as the Antichrist. The author stated that he fulfilled forty-nine prophecies of the Antichrist. “Many will recall widespread preaching during the World War II era that Mussolini of Hitler was the Antichrist. Since the slogan VV IL DUCE was widely used by Mussolini, and because the Roman numeral value of the slogan/title is 666, many were sure of positive identification.”
There will continue to be individuals that are like Nero in their beastly behavior, but by respecting the time-texts of Revelation, we know that this original prophecy was completed.
ARMAGEDDON (Chapter 24)
The effect of Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth, which sold over 35 million copies, is unbelievably far reaching. So far in fact that DeMar was able to gather several stunning quotes from Former President Ronald Reagan. In particular Reagan commented on Armageddon, as this would have been connecting with the fears of the Cold War Era.
Speculation over Armageddon theology was a topic of discussion during the presidency of Ronald Reagan: “I sometimes believe we’re heading very fast for Armageddon,” Reagan told Jerry Falwell in 1981. The political left shuddered when they read about Reagan’s “Armageddon theology,” thinking he might believe himself to be God’s instrument to make prophecy come true by unleashing a military attack against the “evil empire” of the former Soviet Union. According to today’s prophecy pundits, there will be, there must be, a “Battle of Armageddon” culminating in the near-destruction of Israel and the rest of the human race. Former President Reagan made it clear that he was familiar with the popular books on the subject, as the following quotes demonstrate.
- In 1981 Reagan discussed Armageddon with Senator Howell Heflin and said, “Russia is going to get involved in it.”
- In the December 6, 1983, issue of People magazine, Reagan said, “Theologians have been studying the ancient prophecies – what would portend the coming of Armageddon – and have said that never, in the time between the prophecies up until now, has there ever been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming together. There have been times in the past when people thought the end of the world was coming, but never anything like this.
- In October 1983, Reagan told Tom Dine of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee: “You know, I turn back to your ancient prophecies in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if we’re the generation that’s going to see that come about. I don’t know if you’ve noted any of those prophecies lately, but believe me, they certainly describe the times we’re going through.”
- This may be the generation that sees Armageddon.
In his second debate with Walter Mondale, however, Reagan gave a rather vague response when Marvin Kalb asked about Armageddon. “Reagan acknowledged a ‘philosophical’ interest in Armageddon, and noted that ‘a number of theologians’ believed ‘the prophecies are coming together that portend that.’” Talk of Armageddon cooled as East-West relations thawed. Any change in the political status of Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab nations could renew talk about the rapture and Armageddon.
Gary DeMar does not spend a lot of time explaining the battle of Armageddon. He spends his time in this chapter on how the Futurist has manipulated one small passage of scripture into a massive end of the world apocalyptic battle. Yet near the end of the chapter, he demonstrates that he simply believes that Armageddon is just another picture/symbol of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The following quote I found quite convincing and helpful.
A study of the context of Rome’s battle with Israel indicates that the plain of Megiddo was in view as was the city of Jerusalem. This only reinforces an A.D. 70 fulfillment. “Josephus tells us that when Titus left Egypt with orders from his father [Vespasian] to subdue the Jews that he returned ‘to Caesarea, having taken a resolution to gather all his other forces together at that place.’ Bear in mind that Caesarea was within sight of Mt. Carmel, the mountain of Megiddo, and that those armed forces coming from the northern regions must pass through Megiddo before reaching the appointed place of gathering. Titus stayed in the regions around Caesarea until most of the forces from the north arrived, and then moved on to Jerusalem for the ‘battle of the great day of God Almighty.’” (Page 319)
DANIEL’S 70 WEEKS (Chapter 25)
There remains, however, a hermeneutical anomaly called dispensationalism that takes the seventieth week (representing seven years) of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27, separates it from the other sixty-nine weeks, and projects it far into the future. Just before the resumption of the seventieth week, the rapture of the church supposedly occurs. Following this, the antichrist is revealed, and near the end of the seven-year period, the battle of Armageddon takes places.
According to this way of interpreting Scripture, between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel’s prophecy there exists a period of time called the “church age,” now nearly two thousand years in duration, more than five times longer than the span of the original prophecy. (Page 323)
As with the majority of Preterist authors, DeMar unravels the 70 weeks of Daniel as completed when Peter goes to the Gentiles three years after Jesus’ Ascension. I find this to be the keystone of the Pre-tribulation system of dispensationalism. Once their seven-year period is taken away, then there is no time period for the Antichrist to rule within, no time for a Great Tribulation, and thus there is nothing to escape by rapture! The whole dispensational system collapses once the seven-year time period of Daniel 9:24-27 is interpreted properly.
FOUR KEYS TO INTERPRETING PROPHECY (Chapters 26/27)
Gary DeMar typically does not gives formulas or steps, as they can lead to errors in interpretation. That is why I found this section to be quite surprising. Yet he is very thoughtful and careful to give these guidelines a broad base. I believe that the following four “keys” would help anyone avoid the major errors of dispensationalism and help one approach the Bible much more respectfully.
The first key is to recognize that prophetic themes are most often set within established time frames. Failure to pay attention to a time frame can lead a person to assume that his generation is the generation experiencing the fulfillment when, in fact, the fulfillment is in the past. (Pages 342-344)
The second prophetic key is to recognize that as far as history records; little is unique about our era when it comes to calamities like plagues, earthquakes, and wars. This means that their contemporary manifestation does not necessarily carry any prophetic importance. In terms of a given time frame, the fulfillment of such prophecies is more than likely past. (Pages 344-354)
The third key is to determine historical context. Before an interpreter assumes a future fulfillment – if the time text is clear – he should search events within the given time frame for possible fulfillment. (Pages 355-372
The fourth prophetic key is to distinguish fulfillment from application. There is much in Scripture that is fulfilled, but principles remain that can be applied to any era. (Pages 372-374)
As you will notice by the page numbers indicated above, DeMar took adequate time explaining and demonstrating the proper use and understanding of these four keys. This section was extremely practical, I wish that these would become standard keys in the hands of all Bible Students. Perhaps American Vision (Gary DeMar’s Ministry) should consider publishing these and other useful tools as a separate booklet?
EZEKIEL 38/39 (Chapter 28)
If I had read chapter 28 as a Futurist, I would likely find it unconvincing. It is hard to put myself in someone else’s shoes, especially since I came to this chapter already convinced of DeMar presupposition. That presupposition being that Ezekiel 38/39 was fulfilled by the events recorded in Esther 9. The argumentation of this chapter was somewhat thin, yet because I had already read his subsequent book on the topic, I was pre-convinced.
In his book, “The End of the World is Not in Your Future,” DeMar examines Ezekiel 38/39 in great detail. Having read that title already, I was aware of the many fanciful interpretations there have been to Ezekiel’s prophecy. One that sticks out in my memory was that many used to believe that Napoleon was connected to the fulfillment of the Gog and Magog prophecy. Ultimately, I do believe DeMar’s interpretation of Ezekiel 38/39 being fulfilled in the book of Esther and found the following quote to be an excellent summary.
The slaughter of Israel’s enemies in Ezekiel 39 fits with the number of deaths listed in Esther 9:16 (75,000). In Esther 9:5 we read that “the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying.” Ezekiel 38:5-6 tells us that Israel’s enemies come from “Persia, Ethiopia [lit., Cush], and …from the remote parts of the north…,” All within the boundaries of the Persian Empire of Esther’s day. From Esther we learn that the Persian Empire “extended from India to Ethiopia [lit., Cush], 127 provinces…” in all (Esther 8:9). “In other words, the explicit idea that the Jews were attacked by people from all the provinces of Persia is in both passages.” The Parallels are unmistakable. (Page 369)
The American Christian Pop-Culture has dictated through Television, Radio, Books and bookstores that Futurism and Pre-Trib Dispensationalism is the correct and normal way to understand Eschatology. Last Days Madness lights the dynamite at the foundations of this faulty system and shows the utter foolishness of the system by the words of the movement’s leaders. This book should be required reading for all American Christians. Futurist’s should read this simply to understand that there are other options of interpretation, also so they can see what their leaders really are preaching.
Perhaps all Americans, not simply Christians should read this, so as to see that there are Christians that don’t buy into Left Behind theology. To paraphrase what C.S. Lewis said, Matthew 24:34 is the most embarrassing verse in the Bible, at least for the Futurist that is true. And it is unfortunate that non-Christians see us either following a Jesus that got His prophecy wrong or else doing theological gymnastics to make the texts say things they don’t imply (i.e. near means far, quickly means slowly, soon means two millennia or more).
Another strength I have always appreciated about Gary DeMar’s Podcasts and writings is that he doesn’t stray into side-issues that would divide his audience.
Two examples would be Calvinism and Cessationism (the ceasing of the Spiritual Gifts 1 Cor. 12).
As noted in my book report on The Days of Vengeance, David Chilton had a few angry diatribes about Calvinism being right and Armenianism being “Poppycock.” Whether one agrees or not, it would easily offend some of his audience un-necessarily. DeMar has always been careful not to take a strong stand in either direction which would push away some of his readers.
Then regarding the Cessation of the Spiritual Gifts, I have never heard or read anything from Gary DeMar that indicates his stance regarding this area; whereas Kenneth Gentry has been quite vocal by writing a whole book against the modern use of the spiritual gift of Prophecy. As a Charismatic myself, DeMar has made eschatology easier to ingest by not narrowing his audience to Calvinistic/Cessationist Presbyterians.
Gary DeMar has had a huge impact in my thinking. I greatly appreciate his work and the writing of the momentous accomplishment that is Last Days Madness.