The 2016 Pre-Trib Study Group Conference

Dr. Thomas Ice

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#1—Mill Sac

 

      The 2016 Pre-Trib Study Group Conference entitled “Still Looking for the Blessed Hope” was our 25th annual conference, was one of the most important events we have ever held.  Our meeting took place at the Sheraton Grand Hotel near the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.  This year’s banquet speaker was Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, California pastor Jack Hibbs.  We had good attendance at the conference and many experienced a splendid time of fellowship while learning a great deal.  Here is an overview of what took place at the conference.

 

Monday’s Presentations

      Dr. Thomas Ice opened the conference by welcoming all to the conference and, as usual, had the attendees introduce themselves, their ministry and where they were from.  Our opening speaker was Dr. J. B. Hixson[1] of Not By Works Ministries and his presentation entitled “One Minute after the Rapture.”  Hixson provided an overview of possible events leading up to the rapture, then described the global event and speculated on its possible worldwide impact.  He completed the presentation by providing an a summary of key events that will take place during the seven-year tribulation leading up to Christ and the raptured church’s return to planet earth which will initiate the millennial kingdom of Jesus.  The talk was concluded with a time of question and answer.

      Monday morning’s second presentation was delivered by Dr. David Mappes,[2] Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Bible Exposition at the Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA.  His paper entitled “A Biblical and Theological Discussion of Traditional Dispensational Premillennialism” was an attempt to deal with the academic drift away from dispensationalism.  Mappes contends the shift away from dispensationalism in the academy is not the result of the inability of dispensationalism to accurately understand the biblical text and to harmonize it into a self-consistent theology.  Instead, it is due to the shift away from the consistent use of literal interpretation, also known as the grammatical-historical hermeneutic, caused by a shift to postmodern thought.  As a result of a general generational shift in one’s worldview by evangelicals who are about 40 and under, it results in a revised hermeneutic, exegesis, theology, and application.  Traditionalists need to point out this shift when interacting with those impacted by such a mindset.

      The first Monday afternoon paper was presented by Dr. Gary Gromacki,[3] Professor of Bible and Homiletics, also at Baptist Bible Seminary.  His paper was entitled “The Times of the Gentiles.”  The Bible teaches the times of the Gentiles is the time-period from 586 b.c., when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, until the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation.  The teaching of this time-period in the book of Daniel notes that there will be a series of Gentile kingdoms dominating the world until the destruction of those kingdoms and their legacies at the second coming of the Messiah—Jesus.  At the return of Jesus, in contrast to the shifting nature of various Gentile empires, He will set up a global kingdom that will last for a thousand years in history and for all eternity beyond history.  The times of the Gentiles includes the end of Israel’s history leading up to the first coming of Christ, His rejection by the nation, the entire current church age, the seven-year tribulation followed by His second advent.

      Monday’s final presentation was delivered by Soeren Kern,[4] a professional geopolitical analyst for more than 20 years.  Throughout his career, Soren has held positions in foreign policy think tanks in Europe and the United States.  His presentation was entitled, “An Update on Islam and the European Union.”  Kern did not paint a pretty picture about what is going on in Europe because of the influx of Islamic refugees for the last couple of years.  In spite of the fact that most Europeans do not like the policies of their leaders who are being led by the heavy-handed dictums imposed upon members of the European Union.  National sovereignty is being overruled by the EU which is why Great Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016.  It remains to be seen if Britain is actually able to separate from the EU or will they never be allowed to leave?  The Muslims are wreaking great havoc upon Europe by refusing to assimilate into their culture and by creating Islamic enclaves which adopt Sharia law.  Europe is being swamped by great chaos that has historically set the stage for a dictator who will bring order out of chaos.

 

The Banquet

      The Monday evening banquet was special time for this year’s conference as we celebrated 25 years of our conference and commemorated the life of our founder, Tim LaHaye, who went home to be with the Lord at age 90 on July 25, 2016.  Ice served as the master of ceremonies as we recognized some past members who have gone to be with the Lord.  In addition to LaHaye, Charles Ryrie also died just short of age 91, as well as Pastor Andrew Robinson (65) from England.  Ed Hindson eulogized LaHaye and a member of the Texas state House of Representatives presented Beverly LaHaye a Texas flag in appreciation of Tim’s impactful life for Christ.  Music was provided by Ben Blakey and Sam DeLoye of Compass Bible Church[5] in Aliso Viejo, CA.  Dr. Stan Toussaint was given the Walvoord Award for his lifetime of faithfulness in teaching God’s Prophetic Word for about fifty years at Dallas Theological Seminary.

      Pastor Jack Hibbs[6] of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, CA was our keynote speaker for the evening.  He spoke on “The Pulpit and Why the Rapture Must be Found in It.”  Pastor Jack gave ten reasons why the pre-trib rapture should be taught by all those who believe the Bible is the true Word of God.  Most of us were greatly surprised when toward the end of Hibbs’ presentation, without any warning, a very loud trumpet sounded.  This was included to demonstrate that without warning the rapture could occur when suddenly every believer alive at that moment will be taken instantly to heaven, along with all believers throughout the history of the church who will be resurrected so that we will all be taken to the Father’s House—Heaven.  What a great encouragement and reminder that after 25 years we are still waiting for His Son from heaven.

 

Tuesday’s Presentations

      Tuesday morning began with an excellent devotional message from Dr. Mark Bailey,[7] the president and teaches Biblical Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.  He spoke on some comparisons of Christ’s first coming as a baby in Bethlehem with that of His yet future second coming.  Bailey pointed out the significance of some Old Testament prophecies fulfilled at Jesus’ first advent and the fact that His second advent will also literally fulfill many Old Testament prophesies.

      The first presenter on Tuesday morning was Dr. Abner Chou,[8] of the Master’s University and Seminary where he is Dean of the Seminary in Sun Valley, CA, where he is Professor of Biblical Studies.  He is the first presenter in 25 years to give two lectures at our annual conference.  His first presentation was entitled: “The Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic: Its Defense and the Demand for Premillennialism.”  Some in the academic evangelical world contend that the literal method of interpretation is just an abstract form of idealism that conservative interpreters bring to the text and that the Bible itself does not support such a hermeneutic.  Chou demonstrated that the Bible itself does in fact support a single approach to interpreting itself—the literal approach.  He demonstrated the biblical use of the grammatical-historical hermeneutic by looking at how the Bible interprets Scripture itself.  For example, Genesis 3:15 is quoted about seven or eight times throughout the rest of Scripture.  Every time it is referenced in later passages it always renders a literal meaning of the text.  This approach can be multiplied dozens of times with the biblical use of the Bible.  This shows that the Bible itself intends the literal method of interpretation.  When consistently applied, the literal hermeneutic results in premillennial theology.

      Dr. Chou’s next presentation was entitled “A Hermeneutical Evaluation of the Christocentric Hermeneutic.”  The Christocentric approach fundamentally desires to present every text in its relation with the person and work of Christ,”[9] observes Chou.  This is a view gaining popularity among American Evangelicals, who are moving away from a more consistent grammatical-historical approach to including this theological dictum as a part of the interpretative process.  The Christocentric hermeneutic attempts to support their approach from Luke 24:25–27, where Christ admonishes His traveling companions “beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”  The Christocentric approach misapplies the admonition of Jesus as if He said every sentence in the Bible speaks of the Messiah.  Instead, Christ is explaining that all the Messianic passages in the Old Testament refer to Him, since He is the Messiah of the Old Testament.  Chou concluded his paper by saying: “If we are Christ-centered, then we will study the future climax of His glory in the way He demands. That will thereby bring the most glory to Him for we will have honored Him not just in the lectern but in the study and proclaimed His glory not just from the part of Scripture but the whole. That is a truly Christ-centered hermeneutic.”[10]

      Tuesday afternoon began with Dr. Michael Rydelnik[11] the Professor of Jewish Studies at the Moody Bible Institute speaking on “The Messianic Hope: Are There Messianic Passages in the Old Testament?”[12]  Rydelnik, a Jewish believer in Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, became a convert at age 14 because Jesus was demonstrated to him to have fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies relating to His first advent.  Yet, he has been amazed since graduate school that so many evangelical Hebrew scholars believe the Old Testament prophecies supporting the Messiahship of Jesus are non-existent in their original contexts in the Old Testament.  Rydelnik disagrees and strongly believes that there are many dozens of Old Testament Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Tanakh.  He provides a rebuttal to this trend of unbelief rampant within the so-called “evangelical” Old Testament community.  If one does not believe the prophecies concerning the first advent then they certainly will not take literally passages relating to His second coming.

      Our final Tuesday speaker was Dr. David Farnell[13] who is Professor of New Testament Greek at the Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA.  He spoke on “Evangelical Challenges to Orthodox Inerrancy: The Danger        FROM WITHIN.”[14]  Tuesday was a day in which the speakers were combating many of the trends of liberal unbelief making their way into evangelicalism and deteriorating belief in the literal interpretation of prophecy.  Farnell’s presentation exposed many examples of the expanding role of critical influence gaining with “evangelical” New Testament studies.  This was an eye-opening lecture, since I was surprised at some of the individuals at supposedly evangelical schools who are now advocates of what we used to call liberalism.  Farnell countered with the consistent literal interpretation of Scripture as he critiqued dozens of examples.  This kind of “scholarship” is injurious to anyone interested in Bible prophecy.

      Thomas Ice and Paul Wilkinson,[15] a British scholar from the Manchester, England area presented a critique of a DVD video that attacks the pre-trib rapture entitled “Left Behind or Led Astray?”  Ice invited the makers of the video to come and debate the false historical claims put forth in the four hour, twenty minute DVD.  They did not want to come and debate the historical issues put forth in the video; therefore, Wilkinson and I provided a critique.  This video critique is now available on YouTube at the following web address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLWMOdLlSiI&t=24s.  Wilkinson and Ice showed clips from the video and provided critique and commentary on their statements about the history of pretribulationism.  We corrected many of the misrepresentations found in the video that slandered pretribulationists like J. N. Darby.

 

Wednesday’s Presentations

      On Wednesday morning, Dr. Jason Whitlock[16] of Atlanta, GA presented a paper based upon his PhD dissertation from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC entitled “The Coming of the Lord.”  He dealt with the broad subject of the Lord’s Return and how it impacts the two stages of His Coming—the Rapture and the Second Coming.  Whitlock, as did the other speakers took questions and answers at the end of his talk.

      The final speaker at the conference was Bill Koenig, a White House correspondent and head of World Watch International news agency (www.watch.org).  Koenig, as usual, provided an insightful update on what is going on in Washington and Israel, as he reviewed the year of event after event that took place in 2016 that are setting the stage for a post rapture world.  His focus, as would be expected, was upon the November election and what we can expect from President Donald J. Trump during the next four years.

 

Conclusion

      One can purchase a MP3 audio CD or DVD videos of the entire conference at the following web address: https://timlahaye.com/collections/pre-trib-research.  Next year’s conference is scheduled for the Dallas/Fort Worth area at the same Sheraton hotel near the DFW airport, December 4–6, 2017, unless the rapture occurs first.  Next year will be our twenty-sixth annual conference.  We expect this to be an eventful conference.  Why don’t you start making plans now to join us?  Maranatha!

ENDNOTES

 



[1] Hixson’s website: http://www.notbyworks.org.  Hixson’s and the rest of the papers from the conference, of those who produced papers, are found at the following web address: http://www.pre-trib.org/conference/paper.

[2] Mappes’ website: https://www.clarkssummitu.edu/faculty-david-mappes-ph-d/.

[3] Gromacki’s website:  https://www.clarkssummitu.edu/faculty-gary-gromacki-d-min-ph-d/.

[4] Kern’s writings can be found at the following: http://soerenkern.com.

[5] Compass Bible Church website: http://www.compasschurch.org.

[6] Hibb’s website: http://www.calvarycch.org.

[7] Bailey’s website: http://www.dts.edu.

[8] Chou’s website: https://www.masters.edu/academics/undergraduate/biblicalstudies/faculty/.

[9] Abner Chou, “A Hermeneutical Evaluation of the Christocentric Hermeneutic,” a paper presented at The Pre-Trib Study Group Conference, (Irving, TX, Dec. 6, 2016), p. 2.

[10] Chou, “Christocentric Hermeneutic,” p. 22.

[11] Rydelnik’s website: http://www.michaelrydelnik.org.

[12] See his book where he discusses this issue: Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010).

[13] Farnell’s website: https://www.tms.edu/bio/fdavidfarnell/.

[14] Farnell has edited a large book on this topic as follows: Norman L. Geisler & F. David Farnell, editors, The Jesus Quest: The Danger from Within (Maitland, FL: Xulon Press, 2014).

[15] Wilkinson does not have a website.

[16] Whitlock does not have a website.