Whither The Watchers? The Days of Sound Doctrine Past by Dr. Jeffrey Ady
Whither the Watchers?
The Days of Sound Doctrine Past
Dr. Jeffrey Ady
Editor's Note: This article is the result of our correspondence with a loyal A-O Report reader, Dr. Jeffrey Ady. Dr. Ady is an associate pastor with a church in Hawaii. In a recent exchange of ideas, Dr. Ady mentioned the apparent loss of key Bible Prophecy teachers, authors and prophecy ministries as well as America's local churches ignoring or turning attention away from Bible Prophecy. He expressed his concern and support for The Alpha-Omega Report as we experience severe testing via financial distress and a physical move of facilities this summer. We're not out of the woods just yet on finances and are still in critical need of donations and prayer support.
As I considered some of Dr. Ady's observations, I asked Dr. Ady if he would put his thoughts down into an article for The Alpha-Omega Report and share them with the A-O readership. He has graciously consented and below are his thoughts on the world of prophecy and the sad situation taking hold in America's churches today.
Over the past weeks and months I’ve noticed a marked decrease in the volume of information and insight offered by what may be taken as the standards or heavyweights in the prophetic or “watcher” community in the Body of Christ. I must note that by “prophetic” I mean teachers and evangelists whose ministries are known for messages centered on Biblical prophecy concerning the end-times being fulfilled in our day—and making that appeal a major point in bringing people to Christ, and encouraging Christians to stay close to God and living ever more anchored in His inerrant Word.
In comparing notes, Richard and I have observed significant events in [inter]national ministries noted for their global reach in Bible Prophecy teaching and evangelization. A short list of these events reads thus:
1. The passing on of scholars and teachers foundational to the modern Biblical Prophecy Fulfillment Awareness Movement, so termed perhaps first here in this essay: Dr. John Walvoord; Dr. S. Lewis Johnson; Ray Brubaker of God’s News Behind the News; Zola Leavitt; more recently, Grant Jeffrey and J.R. Church. Lesser known, but with research in intriguing areas that have received more attention recently through the work of Tom Horn and associates, was David Flynn, graduating at around age 50.
2. Surviving historical mainstays of the Movement appear to experience difficulty in ministering at peak levels due to age or other circumstances: Hal Lindsey seems to have recycled previous broadcasts in recent months despite putting out excellent and compelling productions over the past two weeks [July 27 and August 3]; Dr. Dwight Pentecost at age 97 is evidently slowing down; Chuck Missler is in his eighties; Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa is in his eighties as well, and is battling lung cancer (though successfully at this stage). Dr. Charles Ryrie at 91 seldom speaks on eschatological matters. The bite of controversy never seems far behind any of them, whether deserved or spurious.
3. There remains a remnant, if you will, of faithful Biblical eschatology teachers, scholars and watchers who keep the Blessed Hope alive and well. I use the term “remnant” purposely with respect to point 4 below. Scholars and teachers such as Dr. Thomas Ice [Executive Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, with over two hundred affiliated members], Dr. Mark Hitchcock of Dallas Theological Seminary and a handful of others maintain a vigorous debate with preterist, Dominion and replacement theologists. The A-O Report is of course just one of several high-quality and well-informed websites that present literal, Scriptural, and up-to-date eschatological analyses of the world’s conformity to Biblical predictions.
Given these observations, I have one suggestion to make and three warnings, each followed by a series of pleas.
My suggestion: We must continue to support the [inter]national eschatological ministries that remain true to the Scriptures even more vigorously as the Spirit directs us to. But—and this is where I see a significant departure from the norm—we must make the most of our local networks and assets to meet both short-term and long-term concerns.
It’s time for the next generation of Biblical prophecy teachers, scholars and evangelists to step up, network, and allow the Lord to develop them and their messages. This “next generation” of Biblical prophecy teachers, scholars and evangelists are younger, and most likely the preponderance of them are local [or at most regional] in scope. We should get to know each other, develop our visions and callings with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and allow the Lord to move us together [or separately] as He desires.
Networks at the local and regional levels must be built, and this process starts with awareness. The old model of Bible Prophecy Conferences, where established ministers present the latest perspectives and younger ministers are socialized into the professional ministerial ranks, may have seen its best days already. This is particularly true of bi-vocational ministers [of which I am a prime example], who are less likely to make trips to these conferences than the national ministers or full-time pastors of well-funded congregations.
As a result, new approaches may be needed. Virtual network building may be a very attractive alternative approach. Materials can be shared; sermons and notes, articles, even videos of presentations can be shared; congregations and ministers at the local and regional levels may discover shared visions of the Blessed Hope and decide on the basis of common convictions, especially as eschatology is connected with evangelism, discipleship, the fight against false teaching, and preparing congregations for more challenging times should the Lord tarry. The focus should be on sound doctrine, i.e., the simple gospel of salvation through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, and the imminent, pre-tribulational rapture of true believers in Christ.
And the temptation to say “I’m the only one in this town who believes this way” is probably not an impulse leading to the truth. Just as Elisha and Paul were told that God had His own solders on hand to help them get the job done, or the fight won, we may be pleasantly surprised to learn, should we follow the Holy Spirit’s lead, that there are those who believe in the Blessed Hope, and are “waiting for His Son from Heaven, Who delivered us from the wrath to come.” We should not be surprised as the Spirit leads us across denominational lines.
Another reason we must make the most of local and regional networks and ministries is the possibility of less than permissive political and societal conditions, should the Lord significantly delay His return for His own. A continuation of the anti-christian trends already well underway in the United States could mean that widespread availability of Christian and eschatological media via the Internet would see meaningful decreases. So local networks and ministries, already developed, could “go low tech”, move into house-church or underground mode, and continue much as the “early church” did. But because so many of our media-driven Christian culture ways keep us at the Internet trough currently, we are not at present ready for such a transition as currently configured.
Now for some Warnings: And Pleas
Warning #1: Deception, General—Discrediting the Inerrant Word
This suggestion made, the relentless onslaught of deception, false teaching and specious argumentation has led many [particularly in North American churches] to fail to look for Christ’s appearing and live accordingly. The historic move toward higher criticism and away from literal interpretation of the Scriptures in American seminaries have produced dramatic turnarounds such as that cited by Paul Smith’s (2012) book New Evangelicalism: The New World Order—in it Smith cites the example of Fuller Theological Seminary’s wholesale rejection of Biblical inerrance—and this trend is a potentially fatal threat to the vitality of the American evangelical movement.
And Fuller Seminarian George Eldon Ladd’s advocacy of dominionism and anti-dispensationalism (Aufett, 2012) have meant that large numbers of congregational leaders have dismissed eschatology as a topic of teaching or discipleship, let alone evangelism, because of the confusion that has been sown by the various viewpoints advocated by many more seminarians, popular Christian authors and “discernment” ministries.
In my own struggles against preterist, dominionist, “pre-wrath” and “tribulational cleansing” doctrinal arguments held by those completely committed to these ideas while claiming to live in daily communion with a loving God, I continue to be amazed at how “mature Christians” hold these erratic views, based on anything but literal interpretation of Biblical passages in context, and not willing to brook the possibility of being convinced by a study of the pertinent Scriptures!
I thank God I was pulled into the Body of Christ in 1976 by the promise of an imminent, pretribulational rapture of the Church. But I doubt very much what is presented by most these days would convince me that God really loves me and provides a better way, a more desirable future in Christ. And this is why I believe so strongly that we must:
♦ Decide once and forever that this Bible we have is INERRANT and VERBALLY INSPIRED by GOD;
♦Take hold of this “Blessed Hope” with both metaphoric hands;
♦Encourage each other in our congregations and networks;
♦Disciple our charges in our churches with this Hope in front-sight focus; and
♦Evangelize in our spheres of influence with the promise of the imminent Rapture and the inerrant Word of God in a world gone mad!
Warning #2: Deception, Specific—Attacks on Imminence—Slander against God
The doctrine of an imminent, pretribulational rapture of the Church is under attack from within the Church at present like never before, and this attack takes two forms: Overt attack and passive ignorance. For as long as I’ve been a believer I’ve seen the arguments back and forth on the issue, and generally stayed out of the way as the years have passed. But as the Age of Grace appears so quickly be drawing to a close, disagreement on the imminence of the great Catching Away of the Church seems to have reached a fever pitch—for those few who are interested in the topic.
A certain intolerance, an inability to have a reasoned discussion on the matter, manifests locally, and it’s telling. Some folks just cannot accept that the Cross is enough to take away all of the sin and imperfections in the churches, and that [so they say] is why the Body of Christ must endure the Tribulation. The argument is made that the Church, with all of its faults, must achieve perfection through suffering; after all, didn’t Jesus learn obedience through His suffering? But if what Jesus did on the Cross isn’t enough to remove all of the sin of everyone in all the whole world, let alone all the true born-again believers in our churches, that’s a message contrary to what the Bible says...and that is a different Gospel. So it’s cursed. Simple as that.
Cooper Adams offers an excellent explanation of this “Pre-Wrath Position” on the Rapture doctrine and details its flaws, even the “tribulational cleansing of the church” idea that really borders on slander against every true believer in Christ, not to mention slander against the character of the Father Himself.
A second overt attack stream I have been aware of is the “Jesus said don’t be concerned about Bible prophecy being fulfilled” argument. Rick Warren’s famous book Purpose-Driven Life (2002) contains an amazing misuse of Jesus’ statement in Acts 1:7: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” I am not the first to make this observation. But Warren writes [p. 285]:
God’s timetable for history’s conclusion is not connected to the completion of our commission...When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly changed the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission to the world. He said, in essence, “The details of My return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I have given to you. Focus on that!”
This is a blatant mischaracterization of Jesus’ approach to prophecy with His disciples, as any serious New Testament reader will agree. Jesus spent much time discussing Old Testament prophecy, the conditions and events to be watched for its fulfillment, and what to do when it happens. He held the Sanhedrin and its acolytes accountable for not watching form, and recognizing, the fulfilled prophecies, the signs of His incarnation. And I’ll venture the claim that the Great Commission is very much connected with the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and will headline my claim with the angelic words from Revelation 19:10: “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Every generation that has seen God’s words manifested before their eyes has been held to strict—and final—account: First: Adam and Eve; second: The generation surrounding Noah; third: The first generation of Israel led out of Egypt; fourth: The generation of Pharisees and Sadducees who witnessed, then murdered, Jesus at His first coming; fifth: this generation, which by now has seen more prophecies fulfilled in the past two years than most of humanity has seen in the past 1800 years.
What is so troubling about these developments is what Paul warned Timothy about concerning these days in which we live [2 Tim. 4:1-8]: The failure of the churches in general to “endure sound doctrine” is not just a telling sign of the times—it’s a fascinating problem and a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, in my opinion.
Never before have I truly considered the meaning of the word enduring in the KJV relative to the 2 Tim. 4 context. Vine’s Expository renders the Greek as ἀνέχω as "to hold up against a thing and so to bear with"—equating sound doctrine, apparently, with trials, or even persecution! What does sound doctrine mean to the Christian? It means the comprehensive mandate to live as a new creation:
1. To live compelled by the love of Christ in all matters;
2. To be transformed by the Spirit in our deepest attitudes and motives into conformity with Christ’s likeness;
3. To render the flesh truly crucified and buried in deed and habit;
4. To see that faith, working through love, is the first principle in all we do; to die to self and live in and for Christ;
5. To know Christ intimately and endure suffering for Him for righteousness’ sake in this world; and
6. To live by faith and not by what we experience through our five physical senses.
7. To be moved by what God says first, and not by circumstances or what man says.
These seven facets [and likely more] describe a Christian who is ready to meet the Lord in the air when He returns as He promised in John 14:1-3, and as Paul described in 1 Cor. 15:51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Thess. 2:7. In fact: a reasonable examination of Paul’s assessment of the believers at Thessalonica [1 Thess. 1:9-10] indicates as much in a more compact, two-facet articulation of the “Rapture-Ready” Christian: “...how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” If I’m not waiting for the Son from Heaven—to deliver me from the wrath to come—perhaps I’ve not fully turned from whatever idols compete for worship that is due to God in my life. And perhaps “that day” may take me by surprise!
Indeed, those wishing to be counted among the blessed Philadelphians in Rev. 3:10 should remember Jesus’ words: “Because you have kept the word [logos] of My patience [hypomonē] (Vines: “patience...lit. an abiding under”), I will keep thee from [ek: “out of, from, by, away from”] the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
So: In taking a cue from Paul’s plea to the Hebrew Christians to put unbelief from their midst and follow their Forerunner, Christ, into the Rest He purchased for them [Hebrews 12]:
Let us drop that sin that “so easily besets us” [unbelief; Heb. 12:1]...
Let us “look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” [12:2]...
Let us endure the “chastening” [12:5-11] of sound doctrine [back to 2 Tim. 4: do you see the connection?]...
Let us make certain that we do not “refuse Him that speaketh” [12:25], [for...much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven” [12:25]...
“Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, [and not wrath], whereby we may serve god with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” [12:28-29].
Warning #3: Passivity and Slumber—Prophesied!
Another attack is currently underway, and it is a result of the previously mentioned attack on the belief in the inerancy of Scripture and the belief in an imminent Rapture. It is warfare on the awareness of the imminence of the pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church—another way to describe this syndrome is passive ignorance, or simply to say that entirely too many Christians are living “asleep” and are therefore not actively, daily anticipating the Lord’s return for His own, and living day-by-day in light of this reality.
Paul’s plea to the Thessalonicans that no man be allowed to deceive them about the Rapture of the Church [2 Thess. 2:3] has fallen on deaf ears for these. Indeed: His warning to watch, stay awake and not sleep [1 Thess. 5:1-11] would well be applied to those who apparently slumber, expecting a physical Theocracy to be installed as Dominionists take over the “Seven Mountains”, or expecting to be martyred or cleansed of their guilt during the Tribulation.
That one could be aware of current unprecedented conditions and events worldwide and not be living daily in expectation that at any moment we could all be suddenly caught away by our Lord is amazing!—yet it is also a fulfillment of prophecy.
Jesus indicated that there was at least the danger of being found “asleep”, a condition in contradistinction to “not watching” for His return for the saints, and actually commanded us to watch and not sleep, points that Richard has made elsewhere in the A-O Report [Matt. 24:42; Mark 13:33, 37; Luke 21:36].
But it’s still amazing to me how sleepy many folks—sincere believers—truly are regarding the nearness of Jesus’ return! And if the subject is brought up, some don’t want to hear about it! It’s truly spectacular. Though we are beseeched by Paul in 1 Thess. 5:6,7 not to “sleep”, or pass through this life drunkenly—not anticipating Jesus’ return—this anticipation, for various reasons, does not seem to be widespread across the Body of Christ.
I would rather be denounced as an escapist—and an extremist—for believing that Jesus is returning for me according to His promise in Jn. 14:1-3 [and have, even by those closest to me] rather than miss out on the “crown of righteousness” promised to those who “love His appearing” [2 Tim. 4:8]!
To every believer who serves the living and true God, and waits for His Son from Heaven, Who rescues us from the wrath to come [1 Thess. 1:10]—I humbly plead:
♦Stand firm and hold your ground in the faith and power of God!
♦Watch global events and behold how quickly the world system is lining up with the Bible’s predictions of how the End Times would play out!
♦Stay close to God!
♦Let yourself become more in love with Jesus than you’ve ever been before!
♦Let grace rule your thoughts, and love rule your motives!
♦Encourage yourself and your dear friends in the Lord, in the light of the Blessed Hope!
♦Keep short accounts with Heaven—turn away from every “idol” that steals your worship away from God!
♦Pray in agreement with John [as in Rev. 22:20]: “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!”
By God’s grace and power I will be right there with you, and we will soon meet in the air, celebrating His great love and faithfulness.
The time of our departure is fast approaching! It is nearer than most even realize!
Jeffrey C. Ady, PhD.
Associate Pastor, Hope Chapel Ala Moana
Honolulu, HI USA