The Apocalypse Code/Hank Hanegraaff/Thomas Nelson/Nashville/2007/300pp/Finished 5/5/7/Rating: 7
Radio’s “The Bible Answerman”, Hank Hanegraaff, has written a very good and compelling theological argument exposing the “Left Behind” mindset of Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, John Hagee and company as the silliness that it actually is. While I very much recommend this book to anyone interested in its arguments, there are others I would recommend first, and there are a couple of critical remarks I will make about this one.
First, it does a fantastic job of dismantling popular dispensationalism, and it does a great job of positing the Antichrist, the Tribulation and all those nasty things into the first century where they belong, but it doesn’t finish the task by offering a replacement eschatology for dispensationalism. In other words, it demolishes the pillars that hold up popular end-times teaching, and the house crumbles, but what Hanegraaff leaves is not a new edifice, but a pile of dispensational rubble. Maybe he has a follow-up book that will build the new eschatology for people.
The book also offers great insights into the error of seeing modern secular Israel as the central focus of biblical prophecy. In one chilling paragraph, Hanegraaf exposes the ultimate foolishness of John Hagee:
“It is truly tragic that Zionist leaders such as John Hagee place far more emphasis on returning Jewish pilgrims to the land than in turning Jewish people to the Lord. Says Hagee, ‘Let us put an end to this Christian chatter that “all the Jews are lost” and can’t be in the will of God until they convert to Christianity!’ Incredibly, Hagee takes the onus off the Jewish community and places it squarely on the Jewish Christ: ‘If Jesus refused by his words or actions to claim to be the Messiah to the Jews,’ asks Hagee, ‘then HOW CAN THE JEWS BE BLAMED FOR REJECTING WHAT WAS NEVER OFFERED?’ Indeed, according to Hagee, ‘the [Jewish] people wanted him [Jesus] to be their Messiah, but he absolutely refused….The Jews were not rejecting Jesus as Messiah, it was Jesus who was refusing to be the Messiah to the Jews'” (p. 180, with footnotes).
I was astonished that Hagee (or any other dispensationalist) would actually take matters that far!
Secondly, I was expecting a “popular level” book and I got something a bit deeper. While this is not a theological tome on the level of something written by Von Balthasar, it is certainly deeper and more complex than I expected. I’m not complaining about that – I enjoyed it very much. But at the same time I think it might be a bit too technical for the average reader.
All in all the book is very good. It shines brightest at exposing the silliness of LaHaye and fellows, not at offering an eschatology of hope to replace the dismantled eschatology of fear. While I recommend the book, the two that I would recommend above it are both by David Chilton: The Great Tribulation and (what for me was literally a life-changing book when I first read it back in 1985) Paradise Restored.