Our Blessed Hope –
As our world becomes increasingly secular a growing number of Christians are looking at the claims of the Bible with growing skepticism. Chief among those claims is the promise of Christs return and His gathering of believers to Him. Paul in his epistle to Titus described this future event as the “bessed hope”. Today this hope is most often referred to as the rapture.
In this their latest book, Can We Still Believe in the Rapture?, prophecy teachers Ed Hindson and Mark Hitchcock take on the rapture skeptics as they explore one of the Bible’s most beloved and controversial eschatological subjects.
The book explores two main aspects of the rapture. First they provide a spirited Biblical defense of the rapture or catching away of believers. After providing a reasonable Biblical foundation for the rapture, Hindson and Hitchcock then explore the timing of the rapture. Among Christian’s this aspect of the subject is often the most controversial and frankly complex. As to the timing of the Rapture the authors give an overview of the following positions:
• The Pretribulation Rapture View
• Midtribulation Rapture View
• Posttribulation Rapture View
• Partial Rapture View
• Prewrath Rapture View
Of these Mr. Hindson and Mr. Hitchcock spend most of their time looking at the pre-tribulation and the post-tribulation view of the rapture. I must say I thought the authors could have done a more thorough exploring the pre-wrath position, as the Biblical arguments for this position are gaining credibility of late.
Though I do believe the case for the rapture is Biblically solid and the authors do a good job of laying out that information, I admit that personally I have not yet been able (to my satisfaction) wrap my mind around all the complexities and varying opinions regarding the subject of its timing.
To me the best part of this book was the author’s warnings about the dangers of making assumptions about Bible prophecy. Ironically these warnings are at the root of my personal doubts about the pre-tribulational rapture view that Mr. Hindson and Mr. Hitchcock hold so strongly.
First let me share with you some of their excellent observations regarding assumptions and their troublesome offspring – speculations.
“Thus, the great temptation for those who attempt to interpret prophecy is to move from the biblical facts to their own assumptions and speculations.” – (p. 33)
“Here is a key principle to keep in mind at all times: Be sure to distinguish the facts of prophecy from the interpretive assumptions you draw and the speculations you make.” (p. 33).
“Our interpretive assumptions need to be based upon a proper exegesis of Scripture. If our interpretive assumptions are correct, they will lead to valid conclusions, but if not, they may lead to ridiculous speculations.” – (p. 35)
These are calculated guesses based upon interpretive assumptions. In many cases, there may be no clear factual basis for these. They are simply educated (or uneducated) guesses.” – (p. 35).
“The issue at stake is not whether we can win an argument, but whether we can properly interpret biblical prophecy. In our attempts to do so, we must all clearly distinguish between the biblical facts, our interpretive assumptions, and our personal speculations—which exist in all the prophetic views.” – (Hitchcock, Mark. Can We Still Believe in the Rapture? (p. 36). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.)
Unfortunately Mr. Hindson and Mr. Hitchcock appear to have failed to follow their own advice regarding the pre-tribulation view of the rapture. Consider the following foundational statement regarding pretribulationism:
“Pretribulationism teaches that the rapture of the church will occur before the commencement of the seven-year tribulation period, also known as the seventieth week of Daniel.” (Hitchcock, Mark. Can We Still Believe in the Rapture? (p. 66). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition. )
According to this statement pretribulationism is related to the prophecy found in Daniel chapter 9 which is most commonly called Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.
What Mr. Hindson and Mr. Hitchcock don’t tell you about their view of Daniel 9 is that is built upon an incredibly important set of chronological assumptions about the 2nd temple era. These assumptions, then required certain speculations which they cannot support with a reasonable rendering of the Biblical record.
You see, the prophecy of Daniel 9 begins with a “commandment to restore and build Jerusalem” (Dan. 9:25). (This is a Biblical fact.) This commandment both Mr. Hindson and Mr. Hitchcock believe was given to Ezra or Nehemiah during the reign of a Persian king named “Artaxerxes” Longimanus. (This is an assumption because the Bible does not plainly state the identity of the Persian “Artaxerxes”.)
Troublingly, neither Mr. Hindson nor Mr. Hitchcock (as far as I’m aware) have ever provided a reasonable Biblical (chronological) explanation why they believe Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries of Artaxerxes Longimanus. This is especially troubling because the Bibles own chronology does not support such a contemporaneous relationship.
In fact in order to believe Mr. Hindson’s and Mr. Hitchcock’s chronology about Ezra and Nehemiah you have to believe that Ezra was at his youngest a quarter century older than Moses when the events describe in the book of Nehemiah took place. (his father died in the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar) The same unreasonable age applies to the priests and Levites who came up with Joshua and Zerubbabel in the first year of Cyrus (536 BC) and who Mr. Hindson and Mr. Hitchcock would have us believe were still alive in the 20th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus (445 BC). This also would require Eliashib the high priests to be somewhere between 80-120 years old when he help his brethren rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.
The Biblical chronology on the other hand if taken at face value in its most reasonable and natural reading would have these men in their prime of life during the reign of Persian “Artaxerxes” known as Darius ‘the great’.
What’s especially difficult to understand is that Mr. Hindson in his recent book Charting the Bible Chronologically makes a strong case for the Exponential Decay Curves which posits that after the flood mankind’s natural lifespan decreased to roughly 70-80 years by the time of King David nearly five centuries before the era of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Yet, even with this observation, Mr. Hindson’s assumptions regarding Ezra, Nehemiah, and the 2nd temple era require him to propose that the men of that era were nearly twice that age. An age that even with today’s incredible medical advancements is not attainable. It’s just not a reasonable or justifiable assumption.
If then Mr. Hindson and Mr. Hitchcock’s position on the starting point of Daniel 9 is established upon an unreasonable and unproven assumption then by their own rules, their view of Daniel’s 70 Weeks is in large part speculative. To the extent then that their pre-tribulationalism is dependent on Daniel 9, by their own admission their position must be considered speculative.
I want to make clear that I believe both Mr. Hindson and Mr. Hitchcock are fine Biblical scholars. I just believe they have unwittingly made a well-meaning assumption that they have probably never taken the time to verify for themselves. My hope is that in some future writings they will give this subject the Berean’s stewardship it rightly deserves.
In closing my respectful criticisms notwithstanding, I think that Mr. Hindson and Mr. Hitchcock indeed have made a solid Biblical case for the doctrine of the Rapture. Their view of the timing of the rapture on the other hand is based in part upon a wide ranging assumption (and related speculations) and this demands a Bereans skepticism. In closing I leave you with their sobering reminder:
“Our interpretive assumptions need to be based upon a proper exegesis of Scripture. If our interpretive assumptions are correct, they will lead to valid conclusions, but if not, they may lead to ridiculous speculations.” – (Hitchcock, Mark. Can We Still Believe in the Rapture? (p. 35). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.)
Author: Ed Hindson & Mark Hitchcock
Book Title: – Can We Still Believe in the Rapture?
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Book Reviewed by: William Struse
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