EXEGETICAL EXHORTATIONS FOR CALVARY CHAPEL BIBLE COLLEGE STUDENTS, ALUMNI, FACULTY AND CALVARY CHAPEL PASTORS
BY: MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN
My main purpose in joining “facebook.com” was to try and find some of my old friends and instructors from Calvary Chapel Bible College and see what the Lord has been doing in their lives since school. I also wanted them to get a copy of a book that I have been privileged to be a co-author of entitled, HOUSE DIVIDED: Bridging the Gap In Reformed Eschatology. This book will be available soon. In the body of this article/open letter, I wanted to briefly go over my theological journey since Calvary Chapel Bible College and then give you an exhortation to “continue in doctrine” that I have given two of my friends recently from my Calvary Chapel days – Pastor David Reese and Pastor and mentor Richard Goswiller.
MY THEOLOGICAL JOURNEY SINCE GRADUATING BIBLE COLLEGE IN 1988
After graduating Calvary Chapel Bible College in 1988, me and another graduate–David Reese attended the Calvary Chapel School of Ministry when it first opened up at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, CA. Dave was a 5 point Calvinist at the time and I was a 4 point “Calvinist” (“confused Arminian” as Sproul would say). We soon realized that the CCSM was too much of a repeat of the training we had received at Bible College and in most areas was not at the same level. We also began realizing that our Calvinistic beliefs and leanings may not be a perfect fit within the Calvary Chapel denomination and decided to drop out of the CCSM for these two reasons asking the Lord to guide us. Dave would end up attending Pastor Danny Bond’s church (a more Calvinistic Calvary Chapel church in southern CA), and I tried to get plugged into the youth ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and see what doors the Lord would open or close there. For a time I would also commute to Pastor Danny Bond’s church because I got more out of his sermons than Chuck Smith’s.
When I began working with the Jr. High ministry I was asked to preach of which I did. However, I began to realize at this point that I should probably meet with Pastor Smith and ask him if I could preach my conscience (being a 4 point Calvinist) in any messages I delivered. I will never forget his response to this day, “Mike being a 4 point Calvinist doesn’t make any sense. If you hold to the other 4 points of Calvinism, you have to embrace limited atonement.” He then leaned back and said, “I think the Lord may be directing you to another church where you will fit in better doctrinally.” This was shortly followed with Pastor Smith firing Richard Goswiller as the director of CCBC for his Calvinist leanings. Smith would also then purge the library of any Calvinist books. Both of these reactions completely floored me. All I had ever known was Calvary Chapel. Where would I go – I was scared. Within a year from this, I began to attend Pastor John MacArthur’s church–Grace Community and attended The Master’s College where I majored in theology for a year and a half. It wasn’t a perfect “fit” because MacArthur believed that the gifts had ceased and as long as we were still in the “last days” (Acts 2), the Great Commission (Mark 16:15f./Mt.28:18-20) hadn’t been fulfilled, and the “face to face” second coming hadn’t occurred (1 Cor. 13:8-12/Rev. 22:4), I was forced to believe that the sign gifts had not ceased. And during my stay there, none of MacArthur’s books or what the professors taught on the subject, were ever exegetically convincing to me on those texts. It would be later when I studied into the Preterist view that all my questions regarding tongues and the sign gifts would be answered.
I reasoned that at least “I fit in” with being a 4 point “Calvinist.” However, with Rich being fired and me being banished from my home church, I began having some emotional doubts that perhaps I had gone “too far” in being a 4 point Calvinist. It seemed to cause just too many problems for me and others – I thought to myself. I wanted to go back to my home church and “go with the flow” and be “comfortable.” Maybe I had just been too “prideful” and “logical” and just didn’t love Jesus like Chuck Smith because I held to total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and the perseverance and preservation of the saints—I thought to myself. I remember going to my favorite prayer place on a dirt trail just past my dorm. My heart had become “overwhelmed” and I fell to my knees and asked the Lord if I had gone “too far” in my Calvinistic convictions. This was followed with me going to work (I worked at the book store at Grace Community) and a man laid down a book entitled, The Five Points of Calvinism and he just stared at me wanting me to respond. Of which I did (all the while remembering my prayer and cries to the Lord) , “I’m not so sure about that “limited atonement” – it may be logical but I’m not so sure it’s Biblical.” This guy began pointing out that indeed it was Biblical and invited me to a home Bible study where they were going through some videos of R.C. Sproul’s teachings on the doctrines of grace. To make a long story short, I ended up reading the Appendix C and D of A.W. Pink’s book The Sovereignty of God on John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2 and became exegetically convinced of limited atonement. The Lord had answered my prayer in the direct opposite direction I thought He would. He had answered in reality, “Mike it’s not that you have gone too far, it’s that you haven’t gone far enough in what I have accomplished for My Body-the Church.” God had much more to teach me in what He had accomplished for His Body and Bride.
But here I was feeling as if I didn’t “fit in” again. At the time MacArthur didn’t believe in limited atonement (in spite of me now badgering him to read Pink and Gary Long’s material, Definite Atonement on the subject) and I thought I just wouldn’t fit in here and eventually would just get the boot again.
Summer break came and I went to Post Falls, ID to stay with some friends. While there I again prayed a lot about “continuing in doctrine” and where I might “fit in.” I would then shortly meet a Reformed/Sovereign Grace Baptist (who had graduated from The Master’s College) who introduced me to the writings of Kenneth Gentry and the Partial Preterist view of Bible prophecy. I thought Gentry’s exegesis of the time texts in the N.T. was solid. This began an in-depth study of Reformed eschatology (Amillennialism and Postmillennial Partial Preterism) as a whole, and I began reading virtually every book on Reformed eschatology that I could get a hold of. Upon going back to The Master’s College, I had even more questions for John MacArthur and my professors—which they of course loved – lol.
I would also meet with David Chilton during one of my breaks and when I stated that I thought Matthew 24-25 was not addressing two comings of Jesus but only one and that it must have all happened in AD 70, he smiled and told me to read J. Stuart Russell’s book, The Parousia. Of course I ordered the book and leaped for joy in my dorm room—having finally read someone that agreed with what I was seeing in my studies. I would then invite Dr. Bahnsen to The Master’s College to lecture on theonomy and apologetics. We also had an informal private debate/discussion addressing his inconsistent “preterist” hermeneutics. I would eventually follow this up with an Open Letter To Dr. Greg Bahnsen published in Kingdom Counsel.
To make another long story short, I eventually ended up moving to Sacramento, CA and attending a Reformed Baptist church. After a year of attending this church, I noticed that they (and the movement as a whole) had some serious cult-like issues with Pastor authority. And they were too “spiritual” and “humble” to actually study the Word of God with me concerning the time texts of the N.T. I had experienced this false piety and false view of spirituality in Calvary Chapel when I desired to study the doctrines of grace with Pastors and laymen (“oh just luuuve Jesus man and don’t study that dry doctrine and theology stuff) – so I sure wasn’t going to fall for it again with this group. Have you ever noticed the more you press someone’s conscience with the Word of God that this either causes them to be humble and accessible or it hardens it to the point where they become more “spiritual” than you or simply lash out at you?
While in Sacramento I would also introduce the Preterist view to a Pastor and worship leader (Ward Fenley) who just recently got the boot from a Calvary Chapel in the area for teaching the doctrines of grace. Within six months of studying the view, Ward was convinced.
For the last 11 years or so, I have been living in Cherokee, NC not really “fitting in” with the Sovereign Grace church I attend although I do enjoy most of the preaching. I continue to wait on the Lord in regards to my church situation and if the Lord would have me marry again someday (Lord willing soon).
But all of this was just to give you a little idea of my theological journey once I graduated Calvary Chapel Bible College and serves as an “intro” to introducing former students of CCBC to the Preterist view of Bible prophecy.
EXHORTATIONS TO FRIEND AND PASTOR DAVID REESE AND PASTOR
AND FORMER MENTOR RICHARD GOSWILLER
Of course I wanted to send a copy of my book to some of my friends from my Calvary Chapel days, so I began trying to find some of them online. I found my friend David Reese and Richard Goswiller whom I hadn’t been in contact with for many years. I will not divulge their private emails but will only paste in my responses and add just a little to my original responses. Providentially David had just finished up teaching on the Olivet Discourse in Luke 21 http://reformedvoice.com/source_detail.asp?sourceid=springsreformed
Since I introduced Dave to the Partial Preterist view and also the Biblical Preterist view before he decided to attend seminary (and I never heard from him since), I was curious as to what path my old friend had taken morally and exegetically in Luke 21. Had he been faithful to the text and was preaching “expositorily” through the Bible as his web site advertised, or was he just trying to “fit in” with the Westminster Confession of Faith, which was also advertised on the site? He told me via email that he had taken a vow before godly men as a Pastor. I was and am curious if this was more of a vow to the creeds and a small branch of the Presbyterian church than it is to feed the sheep through expository preaching.
I called him up and he was cold and distant. When I asked him how he approached Luke 21 he was even more cold and distant and said that he preached on Luke’s “prophetic perspective.” This is usually code to mean he didn’t preach the text exegetically (multiple or partial fulfillments etc.). He would follow up with a very cold and brief email claiming I just wanted to proselytize Preterism and he didn’t have time to study Luke 21 with me. This was odd, Dave and I had studied the Olivet Discourse before, so how was it that now he didn’t have time to study a text that he had just finished preaching on?!? He told me that I needed to have an “open mind” to what he had taught. Why couldn’t he share with me Luke’s “prophetic perspectives” via email or the phone? I told Dave that I have dial-up so I couldn’t listen to his sermon so I was hoping he could email me what he was teaching. I followed up his email by again asking just simple exegetical questions as these:
“My exegetical questions were pretty straightforward (that you completely avoided) and here are some more that you should at least address with an “open mind” or more importantly with an open Bible.
1) Were the disciples “confused” in associating the temple’s destruction with the end of the age (Mt. 24:3)? What exegetical evidence can you provide for me (us) that this is/was the case in this passage? The disciples clearly stated they understood Jesus’ teaching on the end of the then old-covenant “this age” (Mt. 13:40-51). Even Peter Leithart agrees with us that the context here indicates the end of the old-covenant age,
“Jesus has now come with His winnowing fork, and before the end of the age, the wheat and tares will be separated. The end of the age thus refers not to the final judgment but to the close of “this generation.” Peter J. Leithart, THE PROMISE OF HIS APPEARING AN EXPOSITION OF SECOND PETER, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004) 95.
Everywhere in the gospel of Matthew when the disciples don’t understand something Jesus or Matthew clearly indicates it. The Jews clearly identified “this age” as the old-covenant age and the “age about to come” as the new-covenant age. Matthew has already identified the judgment and harvest to be something that was about to take place (Matthew 3:2-12). The burden of proof is upon you (and whoever else might take this position) to prove that Matthew and Jesus identified “this age” as the end of the new-covenant age or the planet earth. Biblical exegesis does not support the creedal position of these texts.
2) Since the destruction of the temple is the “context,” (and the previous context Matthew 21-23), it is only natural that “the end of the age” here is the end of the old-covenant age and not the end of the Christian or new-covenant age which is described in Scripture as having no end. The context once again makes the burden of proof upon you to identify the end of the age here to mean the planet earth. Gary DeMar has correctly stated,
“The Old Covenant order would end with the destruction of Jerusalem. This would be the “sign” of the “end of the age,” the end of the Old Covenant, and the consummation of the New Covenant.” Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness OBSESSION OF THE MODERN CHURCH, (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1999), 55 (emphasis added).
“Now all these things happened to them as examples (or “types” DARBY), and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1Cor.10:11). The NLT reads, “…They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.” The GNT has the right idea as well, “…For we live at a time when the end is about to come.” John Lightfoot understood this to be the end of the old-covenant age as he did the disciples question in the Olivet Discourse,
“In which sense circumcision, the Passover, and the other Mosaic rites, are said to be, for an age. So the disciples, Matt. 24:3, inquire of Christ, concerning the end of the age; and he answereth concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.” “…Thus, therefore, the apostle speaks in this place: ‘These things which were transacted in the beginning of the Jewish ages are written for an example to you, upon whom the ends of those ages are come. And the beginning is like to the end, and the end to the beginning. Both was forty years, both consisted of temptations and unbelief, and both ending in the destruction of unbelievers: that in the destruction of those that perished in the wilderness; this in the destruction of those that believed not in the destruction of the city and nation.’”
Again, the Apostle Paul taught that it was his first century generation that would witness the fulfillment of all the previous old-covenant “ages.” Jesus and Paul’s audience understood the phrase “this age” to be a reference to the old-covenant age and the “age to come” to be a reference to the Messianic or new-covenant age. The first century Jew also understood that within the umbrella of the Mosaic old-covenant “this age” (singular) there were various ages (plural) within her history such as the ages or covenants made to Abraham and David. They understood that when the old-covenant age would pass away, is when all of Israel’s “ages”–contained in the law and the prophets, would be fulfilled. Conveniently, there is no exegesis of this passage or a discussion of the historical context and setting of “this age” being the old-covenant age and the “age about to come” as the new-covenant from our opponents in WSTTB and I was wondering if you have any of this historical information to your congregation?
3) If you agree that the abomination of desolation in Luke 21 was fulfilled by A.D. 70 (which you used to), then you must also concede that the seventy weeks of Daniel have been fulfilled as well. The “end” to the 70 weeks climaxes with the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:24-27). This same motif is recapitulated in Daniel 12 and the entire complex of eschatological events (the tribulation, etc…AND the resurrection – “all these things”) of Daniel 12:1-7 is identified as when the power of the holy people is completely destroyed. Dave, who are the “holy people” here and when (covenantally) was their power taken away from them? Jesus clearly identifies not just the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy here, but all O.T. prophecy to be fulfilled in His “this generation” (Luke 21:22-32). You completely ignored the passages I cited and asked for your understanding of in regard to Luke 21:22. Dave, Peter very clearly identifies the fulfillment of all the O.T. prophets concerning the inheritance of the kingdom and second coming to be an event to occur for his “at hand” immediate audience (1 Peter 1:4-12; 4:5-7, 17). Was Peter not inspired here? Should I accept His understanding of Luke 21:22 or your “prophetic perspective”? Sorry brother I cast my lot with Peter and his vow to feed the sheep and Jesus’ promise to lead him into all truth concerning “things to come.” I sincerely pray that you will desire to keep your vow to feed the sheep and not just to teach the Westminster Confession of Faith which clearly states can error–and indeed has.
4) I asked you if you are a Partial Preterist or Amillennialist. Why did you avoid that question as well? Where does Jesus say that some of these things (minus His return which is grammatically tied to all of the signs) will occur in His “this generation”? Does he not say “all of these things”? Where does John in Revelation 1-22 say that only “some” of “the things” contained in the prophecy would be shortly fulfilled? Is your “prophetic perspectives” giving you such liberties to change the clear meanings of our Lord’s words here?
5) Dave what of Matthew 16:27-28? Do you futurize this passage as well even though Jesus clearly locks the two verses together with “verily I say unto you…”?
6) The list goes on (Luke 17:20-37), but it’s easier to be cold and distant and simply make false accusations to an old friend than to answer these kind of questions isn’t it Dave?
7) Again to follow-up on point #3 above. You spoke of “prophetic perspectives” which is usually code for people trying to teach that Jesus was teaching partial, multiple, or double fulfillments along with the rest of the N.T. authors regarding AD 70. However, this is not exegetical Dave. Jesus very clearly says that ALL O.T. prophecy would be fulfilled with His return in their “this generation” (Luke 21:22-32). The N.T. authors support this (1 Peter 1:4-12; 4:5-7, 17; 1 Cor. 10:11; Rev. 1:1; 10:6-7; 22:10-12, 20). The N.T. is the development of the fulfillment of all the O.T. prophecies concerning the last things – not the further development of more multiple fulfillments and types. There is NO exegetical ground to claim Jesus in Luke 21 or any other author of the N.T. was teaching that AD 70 was a type of another coming of Jesus at the end of time.
The N.T. is the fulfillment of O.T. prophecy concerning the Lord’s return, the judgment and resurrection. Paul clearly stated that he taught no other things than those which were predicted in the law and the prophets. He taught these as “the hope of Israel” and that they were “about to” be fulfilled. You have gone beyond what is written and have not been faithful to the Word of God or your congregation.
· Rich didn’t have time to study these things with me – because he had more important things to do like preach the gospel to his church.
· Rich simply said that he holds to the “historic churches” view on eschatology.
· Because Rich prayed about preaching through Revelation after studying Genesis and the covenants, he felt that what he had taught was true and that I may not be as humble as him in my studies of Revelation. Very “spiritual” and “Reformed Baptist” of him.
· Because Rich was so much more spiritual than I was, he assured me he would be praying for me to adopt the “humble” attitude he had and which I merely “professed.”
· I have not listened to Riches sermons on Revelation but he told me that he was preaching about the “victory” of the Church through the gospel and seemed Amillennial/Idealist to me and thus most likely spiritualized away the time texts.
So this was my response to my friend and former teacher Richard Goswiller: http://www.licministries.com/index.htm
Thanks for writing back (I think?).
The Book of Revelation: You sound Amillennial/idealist. The problem here is that you ignore the inspired time texts. If one does not understand the “shortly” of the first verse of Revelation the rest of the book will be misinterpreted. You always said, “balance” and that the truth is usually somewhere in the “middle.” So it is here: a) The Amillennial position (Kistemaker and Beale) is accurate in that Revelation is laid out in a recapitulated style–only one coming of Christ and judgment, but portrayed differently throughout the book. b) The reformed “historic church” of partial preterisism’s position also has elements of truth (Gentry, Chilton, Mathison, DeMar) in that the time texts are referring to an AD 70 fulfillment of Christ’s return and judgment. Both of these form the Biblical Preterist position – which is a direct result of the propositions of the “historic church” as laid out in “a” and “b” above.
And there is more “victory” for the Church when Pastor’s preach what Christ has done for her (in the inspired time frame He sets), rather than continue preaching “hope deferred” which only makes the church “sick” (Proverbs 13:12). It very much is a “daunting task.” There isn’t anything “humble” about claiming God’s ”near” and “at hand” judgments are really ”far off” (Ezk. 12:23-28). If you didn’t connect the time texts in Revelation with Jesus’ “this generation” “some of you standing here…” time frame of fulfillment, then please be open to the idea that they may not have been as “expositorily” sound sermons as you might think? If you spiritualized away the over 100 imminent time texts in just the N.T. alone and funneled them all through ONE text 2 Peter 3:8, then remember what you taught us in hermeneutics – “One passage should never override several very clear ones.”
Humility: Maybe instead of assuming I am prideful, maybe you are and don’t want to listen? I’m not sure what you mean by this, “I have prayed that the Lord would give you understanding and a humility of heart that would adorn the gospel you profess.”
Yup I just “profess” the gospel while you men live it. I am prideful and you are humble. Because you have preached through Revelation and prayed about it, I must have undergone my studies in Revelation without any prayer at all. Definitely sounds “Reformed Baptist” to me. Brother been there done that–see it a mile away. Very similar to the “spiritual” Calvary Chapel Pastors – “Don’t study that “theology” stuff, just be humble and luuuuv Jesus.” They are so loving and humble and Calvinists are so dry and unspiritual. You just throw a little Reformed twist in there and try and create a difference between the “gospel” and preterism or eschatology to make it sound a little more spiritual.
The Gospel: The Scripture nowhere makes this distinction Rich between soteriology (the gospel) and eschatology. It’s all (from Genesis to Revelation) about overcoming “the death” that came through Adam. And last I checked the day he ate he died spiritually. Rich I’m not interested in “Preterism” but I am interested in proclaiming “Gospel Eschatology” which is Christ centered (2 Cor. 1:20) something your ministry wants to emphasize.
But hey, you go on doing that important spiritual stuff, and I’ll continue in my heretical pride all the while just professing Christianity. Nothing like looking up old “friends” who actually once professed to care about revival and talked about hermeneutics and “expository preaching” but apparently aren’t as interested as they once “professed.” I don’t see a lot of “expository preaching” coming from you, Dave, and Bill in these areas. I’m being honest, not prideful.
Time: I am a single father raising 3 children practically on my own. Please don’t talk to me about not having “time” to study the climax of redemption – as if it’s not the gospel. Rich I know better–pawn these points off on someone they will work with. Be “comfortable” and “fit in” Rich.
Covenants: Rich please tell me at what point was Israel’s covenant promises fulfilled: a) the cross, or b) at the “in a very little while” and “soon” coming of Christ in AD 70 (Heb. 8:13; 10:37). Your Amillennialism is not Biblical or exegetical.
It was sad to see two of my friends from Calvary Chapel reject the truth so as to be comfortable in the “ministry.” I am confident that if these men truly love Christ, the Lord will stir them up out of their compromise and complacency. Richard talked about revival so much in Bible college and that a necessary element to it was sound doctrine and expository preaching. Revival has been taking place but Rich is just “too busy” for it!
To all of my brethren from Calvary Chapel Bible College, (especially those of you that are now Reformed), please read the articles off of my web site and be Bereans. That is all I am asking of you. I would like to recommend that you read some partial preterist books from say Gary DeMar or R.C. Sproul, but these are in reality “confused futurists” not real preterists, just as a 4 point “Calvinist” isn’t really a Calvinist according to Sproul and myself.
There are times in our lives where God isn’t calling us to “fit in,” He is calling us to leadership and to pave the way for others like Luther did. God will be with you just do not turn to the right or the left and never fear the faces of men but rather continue to “praise His Word” in your wanderings (Jer. 1; Josh. 1; Ps. 56).
For those of you Calvary Chapel Bible College students and faculty, Calvary Chapel School of Ministry students and faculty, or Calvary Chapel Pastor’s, who may still be following the misguided prophetic views of Chuck Smith and thus the Calvary Chapel main “distinctive” (Newspaper eschatology), I will paste some material out of another article of mine where I go over Chuck Smith and Jon Courson’s exegetical and manipulative error’s:
The “Our generation will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return” “schemes” of — Hal Lindsey, Grant Jeffry, Chuck Smith, Jon Courson, etc.
1) “Our generation will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return” “scheme.”
Hal Lindsey popularized the idea that Christ had promised to return in our generation in His book The Late Great Planet Earth,
“The most important sign in Matthew has to be the restoration of the Jews to the land in the rebirth of Israel. Even the figure of speech ‘fig tree’ has been a historic symbol of national Israel. When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May 1948 the ‘fig tree’ put forth its first leaves. Jesus said that this would indicate that He was ‘at the door,’ ready to return. Then He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place’ (Matthew 24:34, NASB). What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs—chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so.”
One of my former Pastors as a new believer (Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel), followed Lindsey’s prophetic calculations, and wrote that he believed our generation will
“…be the generation that sees the Lord’s return. I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).”
Smith has a history of this kind of sensationalistic manipulation,
“In Chuck Smith’s Revelation commentary Dateline Earth he informed his readers in 1989 that “the rapture is at hand.” Earlier he wrote, “Very soon there are going to be some strange and terrible things happening on this planet of ours.” These “very soon” happenings are based on his reading of Revelation. He reinforces this claim when he argues emphatically, “Jesus is coming back, and He’s coming back soon.” In his book The Final Curtain, he writes, “It is later than you think. It is time to wake up from your lethargy and realize that the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
For “prophecy teachers” like Chuck Smith and Hal Lindsey, the rapture or second coming is only really imminent for our generation whom allegedly witnessed the “super sign” of the Jews returning to their land in 1948 as allegedly being the fulfillment of O.T. prophecy. When Smith says Jesus is coming “soon” he means it literally, but somehow when the N.T. authors claim this, we shouldn’t interpret these time texts so literally! In 1997, Lindsey wanted to keep a good thing going for his book sales so once again he started claiming that through his prayers, the Holy Spirit was giving him special insights into the Book of Revelation in order “to crack the Apocalypse Code.” Apparently, these were insights only recently given to the Church through him of course. Lindsey claims God had not given previous generations the insights he had been given that related to the issue of imminence because the time of fulfillment was only now drawing near for us.
Jon Courson is another very influencial Calvary Chapel Pastor who instead of exposing Lindsey’s and Smith’s false predictions, decided he wanted to get into the prophetic game too and see if he could salvage the system. He admits, “1981 came. So did 1982, ’83, ’84, ’85, and ’86. And then something began to happen. A whole bunch of radical Christians began to cool off, saying, “Maybe we’re here for a while after all. Maybe we shouldn’t be so committed to this kingdom thing.” Oh, they didn’t say it in those exact words, but that’s what they were thinking. And a dulling of expectancy swept over our generation.” Courson decided Jesus’ “this generation” prediction was actually a period of 51 years and not 40, so 1999 became the new target date, “Thus, scripturally, there is validity for a Biblical generation to be 51.4 years.” (ibid., p. 179).
2) “God’s week of human history is rapidly coming to completion” “scheme.”
Grant Jeffrey another self acclaimed “prophecy expert” writes, “We could look for the beginning of the seventh day (the Millennium—a thousand years of peace, Revelation 20:2-6) to commence in the fall of the year 2000 on the fifteenth of Tishri, the first day of the Geast of Tabernacles—exactly two thousand years from Christ’s birth.” 
Chuck Smith jumped on this prophetic band wagon as well in the pulpit and indirectly in his commentary on Revelation where he completely avoids the time texts in the beginning of Revelation and finally at Revelation 22:6-7, gives a one sentence comment, “…the Bible says, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). So, it’s been a couple of days—almost!”
This view teaches that a day = a 1,000 years and thus the following prophetic equation emerges: 4,000 years (earths alleged age) + 2,000 years (since the time of Christ) = the earths age nearing 6,000. Therefore, many prophecy pundints speculated and continue to speculate that sometime around A.D. 2000 Christ would or still will return and propel the earth into a literal sabbath rest. This rest is allegedly accomplished with Christ’s return and He establishes his reign in literal Jerusalem for another literal 1,000 years (Rev. 20). One would think Chuck had learned his lesson, but he even went on to write a forward to Jon Courson’s Application Commentary where Courson continues the tradition of Lindsey and Smith and not only predicts the year 1999 as Christ’s return, but also adds the day=1,000 years calculation as well. Here are some selective quotes, “When is the seven thousandth year? When will Christ return? Thus, the calculation is complete:
Adam is created
The coming of Jesus Christ
Israel goes through hard times
Israel revived during millennium
I am not alone in this interpretation.” “God’s week of human history is rapidly coming to completion. The return of Christ is nigh. I believe you who are in your teens and early twenties are very possibly the last generation. Set your heart on things above. Live for heaven. Seek first the kingdom, and you will be happy presently, rewarded eternally, and grateful constantly. You who are older, continue setting an example for us who are younger. Continue to make the Lord top priority in your life. We’re looking to you in a very real sense. Please keep the fire hot. Fellow baby boomers, we need to realize that Jesus Christ is coming soon. We don’t have time to play around. We don’t have time to chase worldly pursuits any longer. We need to return to ministry and service, worship and prayer, Bible study and street witnessing. Whatever it was you used to do when you were fired up about Jesus in the ’70s, do it again. Maranatha!”
In Smith’s foreword to Courson’s work, he likens these kind of statements to being “Holy Spirit led” teachings. He actually parallels Jon Courson’s teaching methods with the sound teaching methods of Nehemiah who’s instruction, “brought great conviction upon the people and a genuine turning to God. The ultimate result was that the people went their way rejoicing because they understood the words that were declared unto them.” And writes, “I am convinced that you also will go your way rejoicing after reading the insights that the Holy Spirit has given to Jon on the scriptures.”
But Christians don’t go away “rejoicing” after listening to these false “Holy Spirit led” prophets, they go away in total disillusionment and their faith “dulled” and on ice—as admitted by Courson himself! Instead of repenting, these “prophecy experts” just reformulate their prophetic calculations and continue to stretch out the meaning of “this generation” just like the last days cults of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is the main “distinctive” of the “growth” and “success” of these cults, and is the same and main “distinctive” to the “growth” of the Calvary Chapel movement – selah.
3) “We are living in the last days and age of church history (the church of Philadelphia) “scheme.”
Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith continue their quest of trying to predict that Christ is coming sometime soon in our lifetime by speculating on the seven churches in Revelation, “The “seven churches” symbolically speak of completeness. I believe that in these messages we have a picture of the complete church history.” (Smith, Revelation, pp. 24-25, emphasis added). It is interesting that Smith insists on a “literal” dispensational hermeneutic and normally rejects a “spiritual interpretation,” stating, “When you spiritualize the scriptures you remove any authority or teaching from them, because every man is free to interpret the spiritual allegory as he desires.” (ibid., pp. 10-11). I guess its okay to spiritualize these seven literal first century churches to mean they represent church history – when you want to continue selling the idea that we are living in the final generation and living in the final age of church history which allegedly will see Christ’s return! Let’s briefly examine Smith’s “scheme” which is Hal Lindsey’s as well. What follows is a combination of Smith and Lindsey’s position taken from Smith’s commentary on Revelation and Lindsey’s book There’s a New World Coming: An In-Depth Analysis of the Book of Revelation, p. 38:
1) Ephesus – Is “symbolic” of “…the early church, the apostolic church that existed up until the time of the death of John (c.99 A.D.).” (ibid., p.32, emphasis added). Lindsey sees this as the apostolic church.
2) Smyrna – Is “symbolic” of the church in the “second to fourth centuries” and allegedly follows the church of Ephesus historically (ibid., p.32). Lindsey sees this as the church persecuted by the Roman emperors.
3) Pergamos – Is “symbolic” of the church “the development of the church-state system under Constantine in 316 A.D. It was the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church.” (ibid., p.38). Lindsey sees this as the church during 312-590 A.D.
4) Thyatira – Is “symbolic” apparently of “part of the church” that “will be going through the Great Tribulation.” (ibid., p.39). Lindsey sees this the church during 590-1517 A.D.
5) Sardis - Is “symbolic” of the Protestant church which didn’t reform enough (ibid. p. 41). Lindsey sees this as the church during 1517-1750 A.D.
6) Philadelphia – Is “symbolic” of “…God’s faithful church in the last days. God help us that we would be the church of Philadelphia.” (ibid., p.42). Apparently this church escapes the coming tribulation. Lindsey sees this as the church during 1750-1925 A.D. .
7) Laodicia – Is “symbolic” of “…the apostate church of the last days.” (ibid., p.44). Lindsey sees this as the church of 1900 A.D. until the tribulation.
Pastor Chuck Smith is convinced that his futuristic interpretation of the Book of Revelation is superior to others because, “You don’t have to start twisting things to make them fit here and there, and changing them to fit some scheme.” (ibid., p.11, emphasis added). Sounds to us that Smith’s interpretation of Revelation isn’t so “literal” and in fact he has no problem spiritualizing texts when it fits his “twisted scheme” to convince our generation that it will see the rapture of the church. Others who have popularized this sensationalistic and arbitrary approach to the Book of Revelation would be Scofield in his “study Bible” claiming the 7 churches are “prophetic, as disclosing seven phases of the spiritual history of the church from, say, 96 to the end.” Of course, the adherents of this view do not always agree. Since time and history moves on, it becomes necessary for the proponents of this view to make up new divisions of the seven ages, thus the disagreements will continue. Isn’t it amazing how these people are all too often unable to think of themselves as living at any other time than during the climax of history?
It’s not Smith noticing that there were other churches to whom John could have written to or that 7 represents the number for completion that I object to. Indeed others such as Ammillennialists and Postmillennialists have claimed these seven churches spiritually represent the entire church age, or even the old testament history of Israel leading up to A.D. 70 (Chilton, Vengeance, pp. 86-89). It’s Smith’s and Lindsey’s charismatic and dispensational arrogance which postulates their Spirit filled ability to interpret the Book of Revelation literally and applying its time of fulfillment has come upon our generation which is exegetically troubling. For example Lindsey writes,
“The Spirit of God gave me a special insight, not only into how John described what he actually experienced, but also into how this whole phenomenon encoded the prophecies so that they could be fully understood only when their fulfillment drew near.”
However, the icing on the cake is when their predictions don’t come true and there is no genuine humility and repentance but simply a heading back to the drawing board in hopes of generating another prophetic scenario that applies to Christ’s imminent coming in our generation. This continues to be the main Calvary Chapel “distinctive” that has caused the growth of Smith’s “Jesus movement” – newspaper eschatology! It is usually claimed that the Churches contemporary worship, openness to the Holy Spirit, and sound Bible teaching are the main “distinctives” of the growth of Calvary Chapel. However, it does not matter how much one teaches from the Bible if one’s theology is distorted! And when one seeks to confront Smith and others within Calvary Chapel in love on the doctrines of grace or eschatology, they cannot be challenged because their movement is “spirit led” while other churches emphasize “dry doctrine” and “theology” and quench the Holy Spirit. Yet we needto persist in holding these men accountable for their “Spirit filled” Bible teachings. The “Spirits movement” and sensationalistic and prophetic speculations of fulfillment for our contemporary generation are again, key elements of the growth of the Last Days cults! Having grown up in this church for years and studied to be a Pastor within this system, I can honestly say this is the main distinctive of the growth of Calvary Chapel’s across the United States. This is not to say there aren’t some good elements of the movement, but they are few and far in-between.
In Christ (2 Cor. 1:20),
P.S. My faithful friends David Green and Ed Hassertt (and co-authors) are here on facebook.com. Please feel free to fellowship and ask questions to them and me anytime. We are never too busy to discuss the Word of God and are ready in season and out to answer anyone who asks about the hope and salvation that has been realized within us.
- I recently joined the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa Facebook discussion group. I posted a discussion entitled “Chuck Smith and Jon Courson on Matthew 24:34 and the Jesus Movement.” In the post I quoted Smith and Courson predicting the dates of 1981 and 1999 as I did in this article. I also asked if they publicly apologized for their date setting. I also asked why they are interpreting “generation” (gk-genea) in a way it is never used in the NT. In another post I asked the group if someone could show me where in the gospels (or the rest of the NT) that Jesus offered a literal/national/millennial kingdom to Israel to be set up in Jerusalem, BUT it got “postponed.”
Response: My posts were taken off the next day. So I wrote Carl Westerlund (the director of the Calvary Chapel School of Ministry),
Did you take my discussion post off of the CC group concerning Chuck’s prediction in 1981 and Courson’s in 1999? Where is the accountablity and Berean spirit in that church–has anything changed in this area? Why can’t I ask – why they have interpreted “this generation” in a way that the NT never uses the word? If you didn’t, could you please find out who did so I could get an explanation? Thanks
His answer was a classic Calvary Chapel response–to anyone questioning the doctrine of Calvary Chapel (especially their eschatology):
I don’t think this is the appropriate forum for someone who is argumentative and wants to pick a fight.I Tim 3:3 rejects one who is “quarrelsome” for spiritual leadership. I would say your attitude would fall under the rebuke of Tit. 1:9. “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.”
Carl, per the CC discussion group: 1) The discussion list was open to all. 2) Scripture posts and questions were welcome. 3) I wasn’t seeking to “pick a fight” but ask if there has been any kind of accountablity for Smith & Courson on their date setting, & false interpretations ofMt. 24:34. 4) I’m not a Judaizer wanting to debate the law (do you teach hermeneutics?). 5) This is CLASSIC CC – when you can’t answer a question even a Scriptural question at that, just become more “spiritual” than the other person. 6) You are not “prepared in season or out” and refuse to “give an answer.” 7) You have not “continued in doctrine” and if this is how you handle questions about your beliefs, its difficult to see how you are qualified to instruct anyone in the Word of God especially those aspiring to the ministry – who seek to be “prepared.”
In Christ (2 Cor. 1:20),
I had mentioned that my cults instructor at Calvary Chapel Bible College taught us that there were certain signs of a cult – 1) denying salvation by grace through faith and promoting a works based relationship with God (he taught this was a denial of the security of the believer), 2) “Holy Spirit led” teachings that don’t come true and contradict the Bible (especially false predictions ofMt. 24:34 – like the Mormons and JW’s do and keep stretching out “this generation” to be 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 years…), and 3) the group is not open for rebuke or correction with the Word of God and attacks anyone who seeks to do so. I think all of these are “fair.” I cannot help but think or conclude (according to a CC Bible College instructor), that Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, is functioning as a cult on these three levels.
In Christ (2 Cor. 1:20),
MikeLindsey, Smith and Courson have made millions for their “ministries” and Smith has even aquired and erected a “School of Apologetics” out of a castle and yet he can’t produce even one CC “apologist” to defend his and Courson’s false interpretive “scheme” of Matthew 24:34! WOW! I guess all that money he got from manipulating Christians and making false predictions that we are the last days “generation” that will see Christ return isn’t a very prophEtable venture after all and obviously one that cannot be DEFENDED. Does he still pay his employees poverty level wages while buying castles for a school of apologists that can’t even defend his eschatological views?!? – selah. Where is your $ making giant (interpretation of Matthew 24:34/newspaper eschatology) and I will lop his head off! There is no “forum” for your “apologists” because a thousand of them flee at the sight of just one righteous man who knows the Scriptures.
1) A denial of salvation by grace – He taught us that all of the cults believed that Christians could lose their salvation. He equated this belief with a denial of salvation by grace through faith alone – thus this system of thought was considered a works based religion.
a) Calvary Chapel and Chuck Smith specifically has claimed that man has “free will” and that Christians can and do lose eternal life.
2) “Holy Spirit led” teachings that contradict the Scriptures –
a) Clearly men like Lindsey and Smith have taught that the gift of prophecy is for the church today and that their teachings in the area of eschatology are “led” by the Spirit. I specificly remember being in “after glow” services where someone would speak in “tongues” “interpret” or “prophesy” something to the effect, “take courage my flock, I am coming quickly…”
If anti-preterists want to put us on the level of Mormonism and being a “cult,” then it more than “fair” to throw this in their lap to meditate upon – selah. The time for preterists to be constantly be playing defense is over! When I played basketball, my philosophy was “the best defense is a great offense.” I’m not sure my coach agreed :), but I always made sure that I scored 8-20 points more than the man that was guarding me.
Those that continue to be deceptive in portraying us as not being well versed in the Scriptures or a “cult” need to “put up or shut up” as they say. If they won’t, I’ll just keep raining down three pointers on their heads with the Word of God and answering these foolish “arguments” according to their own folly lest they be wise in their own eyes.