A RESPONSE TO DAVID REAGAN ‘S “In Defense of the Pre–Tribulation Rapture” AND AN APPEAL TO MY TRADITIONAL PRE-TRIBULATIONAL BRETHREN
By James Jacob Prasch
Jan 8 2016
Dr. David Reagan is an avowed annihilationist, a false teacher who rejects eternal hell and denies what the Scriptures clearly teach:—namely, that for those who worship the Antichrist and take the Mark of the Beast, the “smoke of their torment” in hell shall go up εἰς αἰῶνας αἰώνων “for ever and ever” (Revelation 14: 9-11). In his thinking, no such place as eternal hell exists.
Though a proven and documented annihilationist, David Reagan is also an avowed pretribulationist who has attacked non-pretrib believers. I myself, (Jacob Prasch) and others are described by Mr. Reagan as representing ourselves in the following manner:
“sarcastic, mocking, vilifying pit bulls who make Tommy Ice look tame in comparison.”
He does not however, address any of the facts I state regarding his apparent hero,—cult-leader J. N. Darby, founder of the ‘Exclusive’ or ‘Closed’ Brethren cult. The ‘Open’ Brethren leaders who knew Darby, (such as: George Muller, B. W. Newton, Dr. Samuel Tregelles, and James Grant) all denounced him as a despot who maligned scripture; and he was similarly regarded by Charles Spurgeon, D. L. Moody and other major Evangelical luminaries of the time who knew him;—many of whom were themselves pretribulational dispensationalists. My citation of these irrefutable facts is ignored by annihilationist David Reagan, and dismissed as “character assassination” by “pit bulls”.
David Reagan likewise ignores that modern Brethren historical scholars and authors such as E. H. Broadbent (author of The Pilgrim Church, to which Dave Hunt provided the foreword) and Dr. Harold Rowdon, (academic author of The Origins of The Brethren) have portrayed Darby in a manner altogether consistent with those contemporaries who opposed him. Unable to counter such evidence, and apparently unable to debate the issues; he takes instead the ad hominem approach of vitriol and personal attack. David Reagan also ignores the fact that my Intra-Seal views, and the Pre-Wrath views of Joel Richardson are not Post-Tribulational,—for we do not hold to the erroneous belief that the ‘Great Tribulation’ constitutes the full 70th week of Daniel chapter nine. We, for instance believe,—just as he professes to believe,—that the rapture and resurrection precede the actual Second Coming of Christ to establish the Millennial kingdom. His misrepresentation is conspicuously dishonest.
My own disapproval of Darby is not because of his Pretribulationalism, but because he established a cult after he had turned against the outstanding Brethren co-founders, and in a thoroughly outrageous manner, excommunicated those leaders not submitting to his despotic reign and insane hermeneutics. Those leaders whom he put under a ban, ranged from George Mueller and B. W. Newton, to Hudson Taylor James Grant and Samuel Tregelles,—most of these men were Premillennial themselves. I also disapprove of Darby because of the published testimony of Charles Spurgeon and D. L. Moody and others.David Reagan likewise ignores that modern Brethren historical scholars and authors such as E. H. Broadbent (author of The Pilgrim Church, to which Dave Hunt provided the foreword) and Dr. Harold Rowdon, (academic author of The Origins of The Brethren) have portrayed Darby in a manner altogether consistent with those contemporaries who opposed him. Unable to counter such evidence, and apparently unable to debate the issues; he takes instead the ad hominem approach of vitriol and personal attack. David Reagan also ignores the fact that my Intra-Seal views, and the Pre-Wrath views of Joel Richardson are not Post-Tribulational,—for we do not hold to the erroneous belief that the ‘Great Tribulation’ constitutes the full 70th week of Daniel chapter nine. We, for instance believe,—just as he professes to believe,—that the rapture and resurrection precede the actual Second Coming of Christ to establish the Millennial kingdom. His misrepresentation is conspicuously dishonest.
Moreover, I disapprove of Darby because he was a demonstrable heretic with a neo-Marcionite hermeneutic, whose errors and heresies included the claim that the Epistle of James, most of the Sermon on the Mount, and nearly all of the Olivet Discourse, (along with other portions of the New Testament) are only for unbelieving Israel and not for the Church!
I disapprove of Darby because he directly inspired the false doctrines of E. W. Bullinger, (whose errors were soundly refuted by the legendary Harry Ironside) and of C. I. Schofield (a non-theologian who was imprisoned for fraud and embezzlement; proven guilty in a court of law and criminally convicted, and who swindled and defrauded his own wife’s family). To hold up men such as these as “heroes of the faith” is, to be perfectly frank, sick. To hold up these men as champions requires a disconnection from documented reality.
The Open Brethren are mostly good, but Darby’s ‘Closed Brethren’ are bad. Originally founded on the sin of part spirit, and a destroyer of families and marriages;—”Closed” or “Plymouth” Brethrenism, also has an ugly history of financial corruption.
I dislike J. N. Darby as a nefarious figure for the same exact reasons that Charles Spurgeon, George Mueller, Samuel Tregelles, and D. L. Moody disliked him. My distaste for Darby has nothing to do with his Pretribulationism. I stand with the Open Brethren, not with John Darby who unjustly kicked them out. This is not sarcasm, as David Reagan insidiously claims in his vitriolic remarks, but a mere honest citation of unchallenged facts.
David Reagan also disregards the fact that the film Left Behind or Led Astray (of which I was not involved in the production and only appear in for a total of no more than seven minutes) was directed at challenging the ‘Left Behind’ thesis of Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, a thesis that is now a profiteering industry replete with video games and Grade B Hollywood films which employ secular actors and contain wild and fanciful theories that are out of all harmony with traditional Pretribulationism.
Such fanciful nonsense, would include Tim LaHaye’s & Thomas Ice’s stated position that the Great Apostasy in 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2 is not a great End Times falling away from the Faith, but is rather the Rapture itself! This claim; based neither or context or co-text, is a pseudo-exegetical folly that was never believed by traditional pretribulational brethren, and now another notion being propagated by Tim La Haye is that the Rapture will trigger a great revival; this stands in diametric contrast to the traditional pretribulational plea not to miss the Rapture; ‘I wish we had all been ready’. At their pretribulational conference, the key pretribulational debater Dr. Mark Hitchcock, admitted that if 2 Thessalonians meant what Thomas Ice and Tim L Haye are now teaching, the term would have been ‘Harpazo’ not ‘Apostasia’. The fact is, that pretribulationists are now a very divided camp,—divided against each other. Thomas Ice has attacked David Reagan as having an “inconsistent eschatology”. The David Reagans and Thomas Ices of the Pretrib cadre are not simply attacking non-pretribulationists now, but they are actively turning on each other. They are truly a ‘house divided’ and losing ground quickly to alternate positions.
Why anyone in their right mind would go to the lengths that this annihilationist does to defend something, when he admits “there is no declarative statement in scripture on the timing of the rapture”, is baffling enough in itself, but hardly peculiar to him alone. From Dr. John Walvoord, former President of Dallas Seminary, to John MacArthur to David Reagan:—Pretribulationists are compelled to admit that they treat as a de facto fundamental of the faith something that is not even found stated in God’s Word.
Unlike most pretribulationists however, David Reagan admits that others, including the hyper-charismatic Irvingites, had “secret rapture” and other Pretribulational notions, and that Darby had indeed dialogued with such people. Most Pretribulational advocates attempt to sweep these things under the rug and downplay their influence on Darby; something which David Reagan does not appear to do. According to the quintessential Brethren academic Dr. Harold Rowdon however, Darby did not formally embrace his pretribulational stance until a much later point.
David Reagan’s diatribe is predicated on conventional rhetoric and rank ignorance of Scripture and Greek. The terms for “wrath” (ὀργή) and “tribulation” (θλῖψις) are not the same thing and are certainly not synonyms as he pretends. They are used exegetically to mean different things; but to David Reagan, this does not register, neither does the reality that imminency is not doctrinally dependent on the timing of the Rapture,—because the Lord can come at any time for any one of us, and thus we are exhorted to live godly lives. The doctrine of imminency is for all believers at all times, not simply those in the Last Days. His definition would have resulted in licentiousness in earlier ages. That Jesus can come at any time for any of us; this is true imminency. He is not coming for all of us corporately however, until the Antichrist is identified by the faithful Church. David Reagan’s convoluted attempt at exegesis fails to determine that the ‘Day of The Lord’ is the day of God’s wrath as triggered by the removal of the true Church. He takes an index of Pretribulational presuppositions built on nothing more than opinion and reductio ad absurdum argumentation to stake his case. His argument is devoid of solid doctrinal substance.
We have warned repeatedly that: David Reagan’s annihilationism; Thomas Ice’s contention that the Great Apostasy is the Rapture and not a great falling away; and John Mac Arthur’s position (supported by other Pretribulationists such as Phil Johnson, Jimmy De Young, and Brannon House) that it will be possible to take the Mark of the Beast, worship the Antichrist and yet still be saved,—are doctrines of demons that are dangerous and false.
So too is the public saga of Tim LaHaye’s partnership with self confessed antichrist and cult-leader Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed “return of Christ incarnate”, and his alleged ‘Holy Spirit’ wife. When Moon was finally convicted of fraud and sent to Federal Prison, LaHaye attempted to organize 300 Evangelical leaders to volunteer to go to prison in solidarity with this literal antichrist! The Pretrib camp, including many of its most visible leaders, have journeyed into serious doctrinal, theological and spiritual error:—in some cases to the perilous point of of open apostasy. The Pretrib annihilationist David Reagan is very sadly among them.
Surely, many Pretribulationists realize that John MacArthur, Brannon House, Jimmy De Young, Tim LaHaye, Thomas Ice, and David Reagan have departed from traditional Premillennialism and would not subscribe to their deviations such as annihilationism, or embrace such antichrists as Sun Myung Moon, or preach that salvation is possible after accepting the Mark of the Beast and joining in worship of the Antichrist. Surely, they do not believe the Great Falling Away to be the Rapture. Surely, many would not endorse the shameful and cowardly silence of Liberty University Professor Ed Hindson, when Jerry Falwell called Sun Myung Moon “an unsung hero” while hugging him on stage and accepting over $2 million from a man who, in his ‘Divine Principle,’ declared that Jesus failed in his mission so now he, Moon, is Christ returned, to prevail where Jesus failed. This apostasy is not traditional Pretribulationism, and sincere Christ-loving Pretribulationalists will separate from such heretics who compromise with evil and deception.
To our more traditional Pretribulational Brethren such as Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Tony Pearce, Jack Hibbs, Dr. Mark Hitchcock and so many other good and godly men of God whom we love, respect, and embrace in Jesus, our plea is what it always has been. Myself, non-Pretrib advocates such as David Pawson, Bob Mitchell, Ray Comfort, Ken Hovind, the late Dr. Walter Martin, Al Dager, Marvin Rosenthal, John Haller, Joe Schimmel, Doug Krueger, and so many others like us, are not men ‘who do not love Jesus Christ’ and who teach “terrible heresy” as the malicious slander of Paul Wilkinson falsely asserted. We are your brothers in Christ, fellow staunch premillennialists, and Rapture believers, but who merely place its timing at a point other than the one you do.
We seriously need to discuss this vital timing issue in the spirit of Christian fellowship and not divide. As I constantly reiterate,—’we need to tackle the issue and not each other’. We need round table discussions, academic symposiums, and scholarly forums. We need constructive dialogue and honest debate, that seeks with joint prayer the illumination of God’s Spirit to understand the Return of Jesus and not engage in a mere quest to advance our own interests or opinions. We should not be dividing over this. We should be uniting to defend the doctrine of the Rapture from those who are now aggressively denying it; we should be coming together to learn from each other and to hear from Jesus.
This division and hostility is not of God. There are reasonable and sincere Pretribulationists who have not climbed into into bed with an antichrist like Sun Myung Moon in the manner that Tim LaHaye has; or who have not said it is possible to accept the Mark of the Beast and be saved as John MacArthur has; or who have not condemned all non-Pretribulationists as men ‘who do not love Jesus’ as Paul Wilkinson has; who do not teach the Great Apostasy is the Rapture as Thomas Ice does; and who are not annihilationists who deny eternal conscious damnation as David Reagan does. To Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Mark Hitchcock, Tony Pearce, Jack Hibbs and so many other traditional Pretribulational leaders:—our doors and our hearts are open. I am absolutely positive that God wants discussion, not division but Satan wants division, not discussion.
My appeal for unity of the Spirit in this situation; that has become so divisive over the mere, yet important, timing issue is genuine. Ultimately, it does not matter where John Darby obtained his views; his Pretribulationism was not the main reason that other Premillenialists such as Charles Spurgeon and George Mueller, and even other pretribulationists publicly warned against him; like them, it is his legacy as a heretic and cult-leader I disapprove of. The issue and urgency now is for traditional Pretribulation leaders (who do not subscribe to the deviant theology and praxis of David Reagan, Thomas Ice, Tim LaHaye, and John MacArthur, all of whom have radically departed from traditional Pretribulational beliefs) and those with Post-Tribulational, Intra-Seal, and Pre-Wrath positions to join together as premillennial Rapture believers, and seek to Jesus to correctly guide us by his Spirit in comprehending the prophetic theology surrounding His soon coming Return. We all have much to learn from Him, and from each other through Him. We could all use a dose of Christian humility and we could all benefit from coming together to seek Jesus to show us all the truth. It is a foolish man indeed who does not admit that there is so often as much to learn from those other believers with whom we differ, as from those with whom we agree.
To this very day Darby’s Closed Brethren remain the proverbial prisoners of history, still arguing over Darby’s excommunication of the Open Brethren like George Muller and B. W. Newton. We ought not be prisoners of such history but instead exegetically focus solely on what the Word of God teaches concerning the Rapture and the Return of Jesus. The history of Darby is irrelevant and only clouds the real and increasingly vital issues. Let us forget Darby.
Not all Pretribulationists have embarked on the road to false doctrine as David Reagan and John MacArthur have done. Not all of them have joined forces with an actual antichrist as Tim LaHaye has so tragically done. And being a non-Pretribulationist like Ray Comfort, David Pawson, or myself, does not mean we do not love Jesus Christ or propagate “terrible heresy” as Paul Wilkinson charges. It is time for a meeting of the sane. In Acts 15 the issues that first council confronted were as divisive and theologically complex as almost any issue, with rival opinions -but not rival factions (such as Judaizers etc.). They sought The Lord and were given the right course of action by the Holy Spirit. God placed the Apostolic record of Acts 15 in His Word for a reason, and in large part that reason is to provide a guideline for us. Let us ignore the factions ,and assemble as brethren, seeking the Lord’s Wisdom, not our own. It is the only scriptural way to resolve this. If there was ever a time to remove heretical factions as per 1 Corinthians 11 it is indeed now. But co-equally, if there was ever a time for unity of the Spirit among non-heretics it is now.
With much love in Jesus,