End Times Hucksterism
I’ve been working lately on projects related to the latest end times fad, John Hagee’s “blood moons” thesis. So today I’d like to share some observations from my e-zine, in which I discuss Hagee’s past failures. The church at large really needs to learn from its mistakes with end times conspiracy peddlers like Hagee. (I regard Hal Lindsey as another of the same type, so he is used as a comparison within the text also.)
I pick up in the middle of my original article:
Far more disturbing, however, than Hagee’s carelessness with sources is the way he approaches exegesis of the Biblical text with reference to modern times as an interpretative template. Like Lindsey, Hagee did his best to interpret current events in light of a dispensational paradigm.
This is natural, and not to be begrudged, but it is not the disturbing part. Rather, it is that, like Lindsey, we see no sign as we advance thorough Hagee’s work chronologically that he admits that his earlier prognostications were in error.
To explain this, let’s advance chronologically through Hagee’s books that we examined.
The Beginning of the End (Nelson, 1996)
Like Lindsey, Hagee reaches into current “fads of disaster”, such as the ebola virus (88), to interpret Biblical prophecy. But in this book in particular, it was the 1996 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin that is said to have “launched Bible prophecy onto the fast track” (8) because” His blood will now become the bonding force that will drive the nation of Israel and other leaders of the Middle East to new heights of unity to secure a legacy of peace” in Rabin’s memory.
Hagee also predicts that oil will be the main motive for a Russian invasion of Israel, as they attack Israel to appease Islamic nations, who will cede control of some oil in return for the favor.
Other points of note include:
- 37-8: Noting that NATO has 16 members, the Council of Europe 33 members, and the European Union 16 members (as of that date), Hagee explains the fulfillment of the “ten nations” prophecy by suggesting that “any of these groups could consolidate to ten.” Arguably, so could the 50 states of America or the 67 counties of my home state of Florida, but that’s not a very good reason to see any of those as Daniel’s ten horns in the early stages. Hagee is explaining away, not explaining, why these organizations do not fit the dispensational format.
- 98: Seeking to validate the dispensational view with reference to the “earthquakes as birth pains” prophecy of Matthew 24, Hagee notes that the number of quakes recorded has increased. In an endnote [193-4] he concedes that this number has increased because of better detection abilities, and acknowledges the Geological Survey’s findings that earthquake numbers have “stayed relatively constant.” However, Hagee concludes: “Nevertheless, it is true that the Bible predicts that earthquakes will increase in the last days, and the number of earthquakes measured has increased 1.58 times between 1983 and 1992.”
But haven’t even more seismographic stations been installed during that 9 year period? Isn’t Hagee essentially saying, “I know there’s a reason for the increase that does not cohere with the Biblical interpretation I have offered, but they have increased anyway”?
One oddity worth note at 134, as Hagee says: “You might say that 666 was stamped upon the very image of Nebuchadnezzar since the image was 60 cubits high and 6 cubits wide.”
I am no mathematician, but I am still trying to grasp the math on that one!
From Daniel to Doomsday (Nelson, 1999)
Although this book predicts a severe “economic earthquake”  and again appeals to diseases like Ebola  as a sign of the End Times, one the main interpretive templates for future tribulational disaster is – as the date may suggest – the Y2K bug [52ff]. Hagee issues dire warnings of imminent economic chaos, deaths, and so on, thanks to the Y2K bug’s effect on computers.
But the question that came to mind at once – what happened to the assassination of Rabin as a sign that Biblical prophecy was on a fast track to be fulfilled? It is no longer emphasized as such. And so again, what I said of Lindsey in the last issue comes to the fore again:
Lindsey is simply too adept at sticking his moistened finger into the air to detect any sort of event or prediction that MIGHT support his exegesis. Things like Israel’s mineral wealth, the Jupiter Effect, the HAARP project, and global warming (as well as the rejection of it!) have been recruited for Lindsey’s purposes. This does not mean that all of these things are or will necessarily be bogus, but it does show that Lindsey is too ready to uncritically accept claims that he thinks he can use. He is also not particularly good at admitting when his use of these things was in error. It would have been nice if, in books like AC, he had admitted that “the Jupiter Effect” turned out to be a red herring. But while he’s on the spot to show when he is right or looking right, he is far too reticent when it comes to admitting when he was not.
In this respect, I am sorry to say, Hagee is not much different than Lindsey.
Other relevant notes from this book:
- 23: Daniel’s statue’s ten toes of iron and clay are read as a coalition of autocracies and democracies. This should be kept in mind for later.
- 107: Hagee addresses several views on the Rapture. Although works by Sproul and DeMar were already available, the preterist option is not one addressed by Hagee.
- 130: Hagee offers a fictional scenario with Saddam Hussein still in charge of Iraq, and joining forces with Russia to invade Israel.
- 228-9: Hagee finds some significance in that the colors of the demonic breastplates in Rev. 9:17 are, apparently, the same color as Eurodollar, except that red is missing. To resolve that difficulty, Hagee suggests: “Perhaps the Antichrist will add his signature color, red, to the mix, and the horsemen of Revelation 9 will wear the official colors of his new world government.” Again, it appears that Hagee is too eager to detect fulfillments in whatever he can find.
The Battle for Jerusalem (Thomas Nelson, 2000)
I will have little to say about this book, for good reason, as what little I have to say will be enough to speak for itself. In essence, The Battle for Jerusalem contains exactly the same eschatological material as From Daniel to Doomsday (it has material on other subjects as well), with whole pages being verbatim copies of what was it that earlier book – with one major exception:
There is nothing about the Y2K bug as a cause for End Times events. Nor is there any admission of error by Hagee for his prior appeal to the Y2K bug.
In light of this, I cannot but be disappointed in both Hagee and Thomas Nelson publishers. It is quite all right to have been mistaken about things like the Y2K bug (as indeed many were), but it is not acceptable to be mistaken about it in such an important way, and then not own up to one’s earlier mistake — especially with respect to books that sells hundreds of thousands of copies, and are written by someone as prominent as Hagee.
One other point of note concerns earthquakes (112-3). Since the data does not support the conclusion of an actual increase in the number or severity of quakes, Hagee re-interprets the prophect thusly: “…I believe He meant it would quake as it did in the past when God moved in the affairs of men.”
The quakes have thus gone from being literal to figurative. Note that the issue is not that Hagee has adopted one view or the other, but rather, that he does so, without any admission that his views have changed or that he erred in his earlier view.
Financial Armageddon (Front Line, 2008)
By now, it will be easy to guess where Hagee ends up in this newest book: The current financial crisis is the new sign of the End Times upon us, where before Rabin’s assassination and the Y2K bug were not. The publisher, Strang, admits to having rushed this book through production in a mere 6 weeks (vii) – one is tempted to guess, because of the great possibility that the economic situation would change so quickly that the book would become dated. In light of the crisis, it is argued that people will look for global leader to solve financial problems (viii), and no doubt, this will be the Antichrist.
The book reads as an odd mixture of Hal Lindsey and Larry Burkett, as Christians are encouraged to start their own businesses, become self-sufficient, and use alternative energy sources. This is all very sound advice, but it is a bit too dramatized for Hagee to say that he will “reveal God’s secrets for avoiding a personal economic crash” and offer advice from God as a “Master Investment Counselor” (2-3). Hagee also finds a large economic crash forecasted in the Bible in some rather curious places:
- Haggai 1:6 You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes. Of this it is said, it “describes a future economic crash with runaway inflation.”
- James 5:1-5 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. And this, it is said, forecasts an “economic crash that will happen in the last days.”
I think it is clear that the exegesis of these passages owes much more to imagination than to sound, contextual principles of hermeneutics.
- 32: Dead Sea mineral deposits are offered as a reason for Russia to invade Israel. These deposits, we might note, were appealed to by Lindsey in the 1970s as a reason for Russia to invade. It has been 35-40 years, and these mineral deposits are still the subject of prophecy analysis — and still remain unexploited?
- 57: Daniel’s ten toes are now said to be a coalition of democracy and radical Islamic nations representing “ten governments” in the end times. Hagee has altered his stance once again, and without a concession of his prior interpretation.
- 66: The growth of Islam is appealed to as a sign of the End Times. There is no mention of the corollary and more significant growth of Christianity (as noted by Jenkins, per our review of The Next Christendom…)