I received an interesting email which brings up a topic I’ve been wanting to write on: What do we do when Christians label teaching material we like or find value in as “from a cult” and reject it as “deception” and, maybe, us as heretics, along with it? Does avoiding anything labeled a cult actually work to keep us from “deception” and “heresy?” Who decides which ministries are cults, which teachings are heretical and which are not, anyway? Let’s consider this important and common bogeyman of Christian culture.
I received the following question:
This is an off topic question, but do you feel it’s harmful for a believer to watch such movies as The Shack? Of course, all entertainment that we view should be weighed … but this seems to be the topic of discussion in my neck of the woods. Just like hearing your perspective.
The Shack novel was controversial in Christianity so it’s no surprise that the belated appearance of the movie adaptation has resurrected the same controversy. The Christian concern is that The Shack is “heretical,” containing non-Christian, unbiblical teaching—often in disregard to what the book actually says. The claim is that these are harmful to the believer. This naturally leaves some uncertain or scared to even touch the book. Could it put your salvation in “danger?”
An Interesting Reader Question
I received the following email from a customer of my book. His question brings up a insight I got a while back that I’ve never written on before.
The last few months have really been bothering me! I can’t stop thinking about “forsake it all.” What does forsake it all really mean? I have listen to a gentleman in Australia who has been making YouTube videos, “a voice in the desert.” This guy is really convincing! Have you heard of him? He is teaching to be Jesus’ real disciple, you must forsake it all. Stop working, making money and live in an RV or homeless. I have went as far as I have sold all my retirement and I am getting ready to forsake it all. I still have doubts. Could you shine some light on this?
(Poor guy, I hope “sold all my retirement” is not as bad as it sounds.)
I received the following question from a reader:
Tim, this really has nothing to do with end time but do you consider Paul the first false apostle? Or is it just another fear tactic by the enemy to even consider it?
It’s about time I answered this question with a post since I’ve been answering it for years by email.
After many emails I finally gave my thoughts on the Flat Earth theory. Here’s my article from my main site.
A question came up when I taught on Bible prophecy at a local church recently. I was speaking to the youth group – the teens – and one outspoken goth-styled girl was surprisingly confrontational with me.
I had been giving an overview of what end time events are ahead before the rapture. To avoid leaving them with any unnecessary anxiety, I made it a point to finish the talk by reassuring my young audience that all signs – or the lack of any of the real ones given by Jesus – point to Jesus not coming back any year soon. This meant time for teenagers like them to finish their education, get married and start a family.
In the Q&A session afterwards, this girl tore into me saying, “you can’t say that because no man knows the day or hour. You’re saying you know the day or hour!” It’s an objection I have heard countless times, but never in person nor so boldly. Her demeanor surprised me because this was my first time speaking there and the rest of the church youth were more shy and respectful.
Keeping my cool, I did my best to defuse the situation by smiling and calmly explaining a few points to back up my statement. I shared basic facts from prophecy that made my statement possible without knowing the time Jesus would come exactly–something I indeed do not claim to know.
So, what exactly did I point out to her? Read on to find out and understand what we can know about timing today and why faithful believers won’t stay in the dark about when Jesus is coming forever…
Here we are now past the first of the four 2014-2015 blood moon lunar eclipses that John Hagee and Mark Biltz have been promoting so much. Many wonder if “something” happened like was expected. Some blood moon proponents answer that Ukraine’s invasion and the persecution of the Jews there could be what the blood moons were warning about.
Yet doesn’t something always happen somewhere in the world, without any blood moons to accompany them? More specifically, Jesus predicted “wars and rumors of wars” (Mt 24:6) would continue until his coming. The Old Testament prophets predicted antisemitism for Israel after their exile (Dt 28:37; Jr 24:9; 44:8).
Are we really supposed to believe that the wars and antisemitism which happen all the time on their own are related to eclipses in the sky which also happen naturally on their own. Or that Ukraine would not have been invaded had the 2014-15 tetrad not been there to witness it?
When it’s put that way, doesn’t the tetrad theory seem kind of arbitrary and forced?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to tell you God does not use heavenly signs. He has (Star of Bethlehem) and he can again. However, the biblical pattern of how God communicates warnings to the general public shows God consistently using something less technical and esoteric then lights in the sky.
Walid Shoebat’s Prophecy Teachings
Frequently, visitors to my site ask my opinion of other prophecy teachers, their predictions, interpretations and prophecy theories. This is often a tricky proposition because my answer can easily be perceived as attacking another man or his ministry even though I have no malice for other teachers, whatever they may teach or believe. The way I see it, we’re all sincerely teaching what we know to be true although without a doubt we are all in error on many points. The problem is that we don’t know which points are wrong until later (or we would not be teaching them).
Thus, I have nothing against Walid Shoebat as a person or teacher. I wish him and his ministry well. However, in response to questions about his teachings and claims I would say, the ones I have looked at I have not found to hold up to careful scrutiny including the Berean test (Acts 17:11).
As such, I have been disappointed with his teachings, such as the idea of the Antichrist being Muslim. For one example of the proof he gives for that claim and how it does not stands up to inspection, see this article: http://barthsnotes.com/2009/07/06/is…aim-revisited/
Charity and Terrorism Expert Claims
Regarding his claims to being an ex-terrorist and expert on Islam terrorism, CNN did a investigative report on him and his charity but could not find any evidence to back up the claims:
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04yWUuoU7Lc
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItxpU7ll2SE
In the end, whether CNN’s report is accurate or a smear, for me on prophecy he’s just another teacher who seems to mean well but ends up telling people to watch and wait for the wrong things. Islam’s influence today is scary to many believers, but that does not mean it will have a large end time role. Islam has been taking peace from the earth since inception just as the red horseman spirit was to inspire on the earth (Rev 6:3-4). Beyond that I find no end time role for Islam, including no verse requiring the Antichrist be a muslim.
In conclusion, feel free to listen to Walid Shoebat and to test what he says for yourself. I’m not telling anyone to avoid him as to avoid considering any teaching is a missed opportunity to sharpen your discernment and critical thinking skills. And the same goes for me, too. Check what I say against Scripture and good logic (and do let me know if you find anything you think I missed).
The Prophecy Video Trend
I always enjoy answering emails from readers asking for help discerning prophecy theories. In the last couple of years I’ve been getting more and more requests from readers to take a look at a prophecy teaching on Youtube for them. In the past these videos were almost always the amateurish kind with text flowing on the screen slowly with distracting music. When you combine a shaky typical date-setting premise from the title with a tortuous deliver like that, I found them unbearable to watch.
Lately when I click the link, it turns out out to be a video on the eternalrhythmflow Youtube channel by the prolific pretribber Scottie Clarke. Thankfully, he does not torture you with text. Instead, he narrates various images and charts such as from an astronomy program. Yet, as a pretribber his main focus is continually looking for signs of the rapture or Jesus’ return (seven years later according to pretrib thinking). As these never pan out, he has a reason to keep producing videos with new theories.
Here’s the latest email I’ve received on one of this videos:
I was wondering if you thought about the findings ofÂ Scott Clarke related to his Rev 12 ‘virgin birth’ event that perfectly correspond to astronomical alignments in 2017? Please view his video detailing this at http://youtu.be/v5dyEnZFu0w “A 2017 Virgin Birth In SPACE?!”
Please view it with an open mind (ie ignore his conviction about what this “sign in the heavens” means for the rapture event). Rather, I’m curious what your thought is on how this very rare sign could mean to the sequence of events as detailed in your book? Like, what do you think the virgin birth event sign in the sky in Sept 2017 means? Could it simply say that 2023 is the right timing for our Lords return (and not 2030)? Are there any ‘events’ in your timeline around the 2017 or 2018 time period that could corrsepond to this ‘virgin birth’ sign in the heaven?
Tim,…I’m hoping you recognize how rare this “birth” sign is (ie the gestation period of Jupiter is 41 weeks, the 12 stars crowning her head is rare, etc). The Lord provided this sign to indicate something – if it is not what Mr Clarke suggests, then what could it be?
The Flawed Assumptions
As you can see from the underlined text in the email above, the underlying assumption of this videoÂ is that heavenly signs such as eclipses and conjunctions are something we should be poring over. The more unique and rare these events are, the more significant they are supposed to be, to the point that it is assumed that it must be God’s doing in order to tell us something. Not surprisingly, Scott Clarke is a fan of the four blood moons theory and includes it in the above video. (I debunked that speculation when Mark Biltz came out with it and when John Hagee issued his version of it.)
The problem with these assumptions is that they rely upon taking verses out of context and building doctrines on them. Clarke, like Mark Biltz and John Hagee, uses Genesis 1:14 as his license to look for signs in the sky. But that verse does not say to look in the heavens for signs of the end times. In context it is talking about signs for seasons/festivals, days and years (Gen 1:14 HCSB). In other words, the regular events we set our calendar by.
They also use Joel 2:31 since it mentions a blood moon in the end times. But it also talks about a solar eclipse at the same time. And if you back up a verse, there is more happening than that. Wonders in the heaven and on the earth at the time of that blood moon / solar eclipse (Joel 2:30). This is parallel to the 6th seal (Rev 6:12-19) which gives even more events like a great global earthquake and shooting stars. It all points to a new cosmic object like a comet in close proximity to earth which explains the four trumpet impact disasters that immediately follow in sequence (Rev 8:1-13). Joel does not direct us to look for normal solar and lunar eclipses on the NASA table as a sign of the rapture or anything. It directs us to expect something new in the heavens interfering catastrophically with our very planet and all life on it.
Jesus Already Said What To Look For (!)
What people are missing who try to read prophecy into these naturally-occurring heavenly events is that Jesus already explained what the end time signs were exactly. He said nothing about singular eclipses, or four eclipses, or conjunctions of heavenly bodies.
In the Olivet Discourse and Revelation he described a few events that he called collectively the “beginning of sorrows.” They are unmistakeable events that have not happened, unlike eclipses and conjunctions that happen on a regular basis. In the Parable of the Fig Tree. Jesus said these are the signs of his coming. He also said that until you see these events, his coming is not near (Mt 24:6). To understand what these “beginning of sorrows” are and what causes them, it’s important to understand Wormwood.
What About The Virgin Sign?
Regarding the heavenly sign of the Woman in Revelation 12, it had to do with Jesus (the manchild’s) birth 2000 years ago. It has nothing to do with the end times. You can tell this because this sign happens before the manchild is taken up to heaven, referring to Jesus’ ascension. Likewise it happens before the dragon (Satan) chases the Woman who God helps for 3.5 times, speaking of Satan’s wrath in the Great Tribulation.
In fact, this “Virgin sign” is not even unique. The heavenly arrangement depicted by Rev 12:1 including the crescent moon, the sun, the woman (constellation Virgo) and the twelve star crown (“Berenice’s hair“) happen in the sky on a repeating basis. 2017 is not the first time it has happened and it won’t be the last. As this article explains, it appeared in the sky when Jesus was born, allowing us to pinpoint the exact time of his birth on the Day of Trumpets (not Tabernacles as many Messianics believe).
Unique Signs Sent By God?
However, even if a sign is unique, that does not make it sent by God or is a divine communication. Even unique conjunctions in the heavens are still just the result of the natural movements of the heavenly bodies. There are all manner of unique signs that have happened throughout history. Uniqueness does not make any of them signs from God, even if we can find parts of them described in the Bible in another context.
In the Bible, when a sign is meant to communicate something from God, it is announced by a prophet beforehand. He also gives the meaning at that time, rather than force you to speculate what it means after the fact. This article explains that in the context of another “unique” phenomenon: major natural disasters which prophecy buffs never fail to seize upon and pronounce to be prophetic after they happen.
Finally, when someone shares a discovery of a unique combination of events like this we have to remember the problem of confirmation bias. We all tend to see patterns or significance in disparate events that simply is not there. Our bias of ignoring information and aspects of these patterns that do not match our theory deceives us. When we hear someone else’s “the only way to explain this pattern is God!” theory, it’s hard to see all the things they left out that do not line up with their theory.
But we don’t have to. If we just remember that creating unique events in the heavens or on earthÂ is not how the Bible shows God communicating with humanity, then we can safely ignore all speculation based on such things. The Bible already has specified how God talks to us: through certified, sign-working prophets like Moses and Jesus. What’s more, these prophets have already spoken on what the key events of the end times are. If you want to understand where we are in prophecy and if anything is near, learn and focus on those events, not the latest dazzling speculation on Youtube or anywhere else.
In response to regular questions on the Parable of the Fig Tree and references to the “last generation” I’ve written an article to explain it’s plain meaning.