Nov 10, 2008

Run, Forrest, Run!

By Jim Fletcher

“Run, Forrest, Run!”

The exhortation, from the lips of Jenny, Forrest Gump’s best friend and true love, has become part of the American lexicon. Robin Wright Penn and Tom Hanks starred in the 1994 smash hit film, “Forrest Gump” and when Jenny urges Forrest to run away from a group of bullies chasing him down a tree-shaded lane, audiences everywhere identified with him. All the more because Forrest learns through running that by staying true to himself, he can go places he’d never before thought possible. In the end, we find that the “retarded guy” is not so dumb, after all.

Bible believers are like that today, particularly those who believe in predictive prophecy. More specifically, those who see in Israel the capstone of world history, are marginalized.

The majority makes fun of us for “checking our brains at the door” and not “thinking carefully” before leaping into believing that the Bible means what it says. But to paraphrase the disciple, “Where else would we go?”

I am astounded by the sheer numbers of people who reject the Bible, when all the evidence is for it. To assuage their own uneasiness over the unknown future, they occupy their time by dissing Bible prophecy students and teachers. Even Christian thinker and scholar Mark Noll, in his scandalous 1994 book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, virtually mocks dispensationalists. He is but one Christian leader today who (at best) downplays the predictive prophecy found in the Bible.

Over a decade ago at the annual Christian Bookseller’s Convention, a man approached me (in my “previous life” as a book editor) and implored me to publish his look at prophecy. It turned out to be my first encounter with a preterist. It took me awhile to wrap my mind around his basic premise: prophecy has already been fulfilled — Matthew 24, the Revelation, all of it. Using twisted logic, he urged me to consider that “liberals” were using our “weak” arguments in favor of prophecy to mislead many. He felt that if only prophecy teachers would abandon their outlandish projections, it would open the door for multitudes to follow the Lord.

Problem was, his rejection of prophecy made him a spiritual kindred spirit with the very liberals he claimed to fret about. Liberal Christians the world over reject Bible prophecy. To them, Christian Zionists and dispensationalists are the Forrest Gumps of the world: simple-minded, incapable of the kind of deep thought that leads to enlightenment.

Yet, in my simple-mindedness, I can hold a Bible open to, say, Isaiah 61 (or dozens and dozens and dozens more such passages) and stand in modern Judea and Samaria and see the direct, dynamic, delicious fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Indeed, the waste places have been rebuilt, and ancient Shiloh sits underneath modern Shiloh, and on and on.

One can drive north from Jerusalem and see the “greening” of Israel: mile after mile, the grasses and trees thicken, and we can see with our own eyes that God has brought back not only the people, but also the land, just as He promised!

One can sit and listen to Arab conversations in Arab hotels in the holy city and realize through snippets and euphemism that the confederation described in Psalm 83 is taking shape, right now. The Arabs do not like the Jews and the Jewish state, and they are intent on wiping them out.

One can drive to the south, to the resorts like Eilat, and see Israeli ingenuity in making the desert an oasis and see with his or her own eyes that the preserved Jew has come back and “resurrected” the land itself, just as prophesied in Scripture.

My friends, American seminaries that were bastions of Bible-believing thought are now teaching Replacement Theology. Thousands of young people being trained for the ministry are sitting under professors who marginalize Israel. They do not want to be labeled “Forrest Gumps.” They want to be thought of as smart, sophisticated academics and pastors.

No doubt teachers like J. Vernon McGhee, David Lewis, and Dave Breese would turn over in their graves, as they say. But they would not be surprised. I had the privilege of walking up and down in the Land with Dr. Lewis and it was a deeply moving experience. For men like this, the Jewish people are precious. The tragedy in our day is that numbers of teachers like them are decreasing, as the numbers of Replacement professors is swelling.

The great Bible teachers of yesteryear knew that apostasy was coming. They taught it but grieved over it. Their chief proof that the Bible is true was of course Israel. Sadly, they have been “replaced” by men who do not believe the Bible. Extraordinary!

All the more remarkable that, as we said, prophecy is so clear. In Hosea 3:4,5, for example, we read:

“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.”

A million days have passed since Hosea’s prophecy. Israel indeed suffered many days without a king, without the Temple. And now they have returned for a final time, in these “latter days.”

Why is this hard for people to grasp? Could it be that the human mind does not want to believe it? I think this is a distinct possibility, for it would logically follow that the God who could predict events far into the future would also have the authority to tell us how to live. And that many of us can’t abide.

Simple-minded we might be; I don’t claim to be able to generate the brainpower of a scholar like Mark Noll. But I am running that race that Paul talked about, and running as hard as I can to the finish. As I race past prophecy after prophecy after prophecy being fulfilled in my lifetime, I see a Jew up ahead at the finish line. And I don’t care if the world thinks I’m stupid.

Run, Forrest, Run!