The 2009 Pre-Trib Study Group Conference
Dr. Thomas Ice
The 2009 Pre-Trib Study Group Conference was an excellent experience. Our eighteenth annual meeting took place at the Sheraton Grand Hotel near the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. The highlight for many was the banquet that featured Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel’s presentation on his passionate belief in the pre-trib rapture. During the banquet, the Pre-Trib Research Center presented the John F. Walvoord Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in prophetic studies to Tim LaHaye, John Whitcomb, and Chuck Smith. Here is an overview of what took place at the conference.
Dr. Tim LaHaye opened the conference by welcoming our packed house to the conference. Dr. Barry Horner[i], author of Future Israel, a native of Australia, spoke on his reflections of responses to his book. I can say that Future Israel is the best overall book that presents and defends our view of the biblical teaching on this subject. Horner also provides a historical and contemporary perspective, as he interacts with the many perspectives of replacement theology. It was enlightening to hear responses since the release of the book a couple of years ago.
The next presentation was given by Dr. Robert Dean, [ii] pastor of West Houston Bible Church on how to approach the chronology of the Book of Revelation. Most of us believe that Revelation 4—20 is chronological and not cyclical, but do not always agree among ourselves on their sequence. Dean provided what I believe to be one of the best papers on this topic. Anyone teaching the book of Revelation will want to consult his work.
Monday afternoon’s papers started with Charles Clough,[iii] retired Army Scientist working on Atmospheric Effects on weaponry at the US Army Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, a Dallas Theological Seminary graduate with an excellent paper on “Interpreting Texts on End-Time Geophysical Catastrophes.” As a meteorologist, Clough started by noting that he does not believe in manmade global warming. He noted there is no real science behind the theory. He argued in his paper that since past geophysical catastrophes like the flood and the exodus were historical and supernatural, then similar language about the future will be the same. Thus, early geophysical catastrophes should be our pattern for interpreting similarly stated future events, instead of the current trend to see these descriptions as some form of non-historical metaphorical language.
Dr Timothy Demy,[iv] Associate Professor of Military Ethics U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I., presented a paper on Nineteenth-Century Christian Zionism. The presentation was derived from his M.A. thesis at Cambridge University. Demy’s paper focused on a number of the influences during the 1800s within Evangelical Christianity in Great Britain and the United States, demonstrating the great influence that non-Jewish Christians had on the eventual foundation of the modern state of Israel.
Our Monday evening banquet was a wonderful time for all of the 500 people attending. Music for the evening was provided by Pastor Gary Cowan from Calvary Chapel East in Albuquerque, N.M. Pastor Gary founded the group, "Phoenix Sonshine" in the 1970s. Dr. Thomas Ice served as the master of ceremonies.
A highlight was the bestowment of the Walvoord award upon Tim LaHaye, John Whitcomb, and Chuck Smith. The award read as follows: “In recognition of a lifetime of faithfulness to God by engaging in the study, proclamation and defense of His prophetic word.” Since the award had never been given before, it appears that all three were very surprised. It was a moving experience to realize that those three men were all over 80 and have served the Lord their entire adult lives. Each man is still excitingly looking for the Lord’s return at any moment.
Pastor Chuck shared with us why he believes the Bible teaches that the rapture will occur before the tribulation. It was quite a moving message. Smith presented many of the usual arguments from the biblical text, but also added some typological parallels from throughout the Bible. We all left looking up.
Tuesday morning began with rousing devotional message from Dr. David Hocking. He challenged us with a message about having biblical attitudes. It was entitled: “David: A Man After God’s Own Heart.” Hocking presented seven things about David and closed by asking us if we were a man after God’s own heart.
The first presenter of the day was Dr. John Whitcomb, [v] who along with the late Dr. Henry Morris, wrote the famous book The Genesis Flood that is credited with reviving the Creationist movement in 1961, presented a paper on “The Judgment Throne (Bema) of Christ.” Whitcomb dealt with the fact that every church age believer or member of the Body of Christ, though saved totally and only by faith in God’s gracious work on the cross, “we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10). He developed this important, but under taught truth found in the New Testament Epistles. Whitcomb concluded with the following:
Thus, God intends the bema confrontation to motivate each and every believer—not just church leaders—to serve Him in spirit and in truth. It is not designed to be a horrible threat that produces depression and fear, but, rather, an encouragement to love and serve and obey Him from the heart. In this light, may we, as Christians, be more concerned than ever before about our testimony for the Savior who loves us with infinite love, and paid the ultimate price for our redemption and future glorification.
Dr. H. Wayne House[vi] was the second presenter on Tuesday morning and his paper was entitled, “The Understanding of the Church Fathers Regarding the Olivet Discourse and the Fall of Jerusalem.” The purpose of this paper was to demonstrate the absence from the early church of a preterist view of Christ’s return in Matthew 24. Instead, House noted that they took this passage as a clear reference to Christ’s future return. He concluded: “An examination of the patristic literature from the late first century of the Christian era through the eighth century reveals that this sampling of the words of the Fathers demonstrates that what is known as Preterism held virtually no sway in the eschatological perspectives taught by the Church Fathers.”
The third presentation of the day was by Dr. Mike Vlach,[vii] Assistant Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary in California, who delivered a paper on “The Kingdom Program in Matthew’s Gospel.” Vlach’s goal was to determine whether the kingdom in Matthew, which is the most kingdom oriented of the gospels, is to be a spiritual or literal kingdom. He concluded that the kingdom spoken of throughout Matthew is to be a future literal one on planet earth. Vlach said, “The kingdom can have spiritual requirements and characteristics and yet still be physical in nature including social, political, economic, and agricultural elements. The idea of a primarily spiritual kingdom smacks of Platonism and should be rejected.”
The last presentation for Tuesday was by Dr. Mark Hitchcock,[viii] who spoke on the issue of 2012 and the end of the world. Hitchcock noted that the idea that the world will end in 2012 is a purely pagan notion and has nothing to do with biblical prophecy. This view is based upon an interpretation that since the Mayan calendar ends with the year 2012, that is must mean the end of the world will come some time in December. This can be an important issue for Christians since some are confusing biblical prophecy with this theory. Hitchcock’s book should be obtained by anyone dealing with these issues so that its pagan sources will be identified and its lack of a biblical basis can be established. His book is an excellent tool to give to friends who may be attracted to this notion. Hitchcock makes a clear gospel presentation in his book.
We then had our traditional Tuesday evening session dealing with current events and Bible prophecy. This time included some excellent information about what is going on in this world as we are moving toward the time of the tribulation at a dizzying pace. The four presenters were Dr. Jimmy DeYoung of Prophecy Today Ministry (www.jimmydeyoung.gospelcom.net/pp), Dr. Chuck Missler of Koinonia House Ministries (www.khouse.org), Dr. David Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries (www.lamblion.com) and Bill Koenig, a White House correspondent and head of World Watch International news agency (www.watch.org). These men provided their take on various aspects of geo-political trends, especially those impacting Israel. This year the focus was primarily on the amazing free-fall of our nation into socialism, or more accurately fascism since it refers to when the private sector owns things, but the government controls the economy. The other major concern relates to relates to when will Israel likely have to bomb Iran and the fall-out from that event.
The final two presentations of the conference took place on Wednesday morning. Dr. Randall Price,[ix] gave a presentation entitled, “What Jesus Didn’t Do: The Unfinished Business of the Messiah.” The final paper was delivered by Dr. Paul Wilkinson, a British scholar from England who spoke about the transatlantic history of Britain’s “Prophetic Witness Movement.” Wilkinson closed with a song titled “Can You See?” and dedicated to Tim LaHaye. The recording was written by his pastor in Manchester, England and preformed by his church’s congregation. It was a fitting end to the conference.
Also, one can purchase a MP3 audio CD or DVD videos of the entire conference at our Pre-Trib website. Next year’s conference is scheduled for the Dallas/Fort Worth area, December 6–8, 2010, unless the rapture occurs first. Maranatha!
[iv] Dr. Demy’s paper is at http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/marching-to-zion-social-and-political-foundations-of-nineteenth-century-christian-zionism.
[viii] Dr. Hitchcock’s website: www.edmondfaithbible.com. Hitchcock did not have a paper, but has written a book on the subject, from which his presentation was derived. It is 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World (Harvest House Publishers, 2009).