Leaving the Rapture Behind

Guest Article by Robert Cruickshank– Are We On TribCon 2????

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TribCon 2: Dispensationalism on High Alert

TribCon 2: Dispensationalism on High Alert

 

Copyright © Robert E. Cruickshank, Jr (December 15, 2023)

Daniel E. Harden (Editor)

All Rights Reserved

 

The DefCon system “was created by the US Armed Forces in the 1950s, during the Cold War.”[1]  It was “designed to provide a clear and concise way of communicating the current level of military readiness to military personnel and government officials.”[2] The DefCon system “consists of five escalating levels of military readiness, with each level denoting a higher degree of preparedness.”[3] The lowest threat level is DefCon 5 while DefCon 1 represents the highest threat level.

Following the DefCon model, Lee W. Brainard has come up with the TribCon system to gauge where we stand in terms of the Tribulation. In a recent podcast with Pastor Tom Hughes, Brainard opens the show with these words: “We’ve been looking at some serious stage setting, some serious intensification over the last few years, like the stage is being set for the Tribulation. And we seem so close to this Tribulation that in my mind we’re in a TribCon 2 rating…TribCon 2 says that we are on the verge of the rapture.”[4]  The description blurb for this episode reads:

“Hey friends! How close are we to the rapture? Very close. Prophetic convergence indicates that we are quickly approaching the day of the catching up of the church. I would rate our proximity to the rapture at TribCon 2, and convergence is intensifying at a rapid pace. When convergence hits TribCon 1, the Lord will turn the launch key, the church will fly to meet the Lord in the sky, and the world will enter into a time of unparalleled tribulation that will sift mankind and bring the present evil world to a close.”[5]

The Misinformed Christian Public

The episode, entitled “Rapture Alert — TribCon 2,” has garnered 77,000 views in less than a month.[6]  If the 700 favorable comments are a snapshot of the larger viewing audience, there are almost 80,000 people who agree with Brainard and Hughes that we’re in TribCon 2 and the rapture is the next big thing in view. Here are a few examples:[7]

“This is the first time I’ve ever believed that the rapture of the faithful church could happen at any time.”

“I’M READY! JESUS IS MY SAVIOR AND I’M READY TO FLY! EVEN SO, LORD JESUS, COME QUICKLY!”

“The stage is set, pieces falling into place. The Lord is connecting the dots. We as believers have the privilege of watching A,B,C being fulfilled.”

“A lifelong Bible believer but not saved until 1978, I have expected the Rapture for most of my life. Born just six months and three days after Israel was born and knowing the significance of that, I have looked for the Rapture either in fear when I wasn’t saved or in excited expectation since being born again. We know we are now at a point where signs are so many and so converged that it must be soon. Things are sure revving up!!”

“How can anyone want to plan for the future in such a sick world?”

The last comment really gets to the heart of the matter and highlights the damage that is being done by the mentality that undergirds Brainard’s “TribCon 2/Rapture Ready” message.  For decades now, so many believers have given no thought to the future, not only in their own lives personally, but also collectively in terms of impacting and influencing the culture. For them, the cultural decline is nothing more than a “sign” to be worked into the TribCon rating system. This being the case, the closer we get to TribCon 1 the better!  Why work to lower the alert level to TribCon 3 or 4 or, even worse yet, TribCon 5?  If we actually started making a difference in the world and taking things to the lowest threat level, we’d just be delaying Jesus’s coming to take us to the heavenly “level.”

 

When TribCon 2 Turned Out to be TribCon 5 

Of course, the prophecy pundits have thought that we’ve been at TribCon 2 for decades now, but we’ve been safely and securely at TribCon 5. Despite the hype, Armageddon hasn’t happened, nor has the much anticipated preshow, i.e., the Rapture. Brainard senses the problem here. He says, “We’re talking about all the stuff that’s going on in the world right now that we see…now this raises a question because we think that we’re close to the Rapture but people were excited about the nearness of the Rapture back in the 70s and 80s, I remember that very, very clearly. What’s the difference this time around?”[8]

Hughes responds by saying that he remembers 1988 and says, “Man, I was so excited. I thought for sure that I was going up by the end of that year, and here I am. I probably thought the same thing in 1989 and 1990…but here we are, what, 30 years later.”[9] This underscores the sadness of all of this. These two men, representing untold numbers of others, have spent the last 30+ years of their lives waiting for something that hasn’t happened. Those are 30 wasted years. If we multiply this by the total number of believers who’ve also wasted the last 30 years of their lives waiting for the Rapture, the cumulative waste of time is innumerable. If that innumerable amount of time and effort was spent actively applying the Bible to every area of life and aspect of society, how different would the world look today?

But of course, we can’t have that because, again, we’d be at TribCon 5. No threat of Tribulation means no Rapture expectation. And the modern Church seems to rely heavily on the idea of stirring excitement among the masses by making them believe that we are living in the most exciting time in Biblical history. This excitement not only fills the pews, but it also fills the pockets of the prophecy pundits. It’s the selling point for the multitude of mass material, videos and books, upon which they rely. The idea that the Rapture is right around the corner stirs the passions of the people, and it’s a pretty good marketing strategy.

But how long can they get away with this misguided approach? How can they explain why they were oh, so close, yet so wrong in the past? How do they compensate for the harm of the previous false alarms?

That Wasn’t TribCon 2, So What Do We Do?

To drown out the cries of wolf in the past, they do the Dispensational dance. While yesterday’s failed predictions abound, they assure us that they’re right this time around.  According to Hughes, as he answers Brainard’s question, the difference between then (the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and the 2010s) and now (2023) is “the convergence of everything that we see taking place.”[10]

Among this “convergence,” Hughes highlights “lawlessness, wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, on down the list, pestilence and so forth.”[11] Hughes continues: “What we see is everything racing toward the culmination of those things right now, in a way that we’ve never seen before. It has exploded over the last several years.”[12] Yet this is the same rhetoric that Dispensationalists like Hal Lindsay used over 30 years ago. Hughes’s list is just Lindsey’s list recycled, and they both misunderstand Jesus’s list in its original context.

The Original TribCon Discourse

The problem is that everything that Hughes lists comes from Jesus’s Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24, Mk. 13, Lk.21). And Jesus couldn’t have been clearer that this convergence of events was to come upon the first-century generation (Matt. 24:34; Mk. 13:30; Lk. 21:32).  When reading through the discourse, notice how many times Jesus uses the second person plural (“you”).  Simple grammar dictates that Jesus is telling his first-century followers what would befall them and their own generation.

Regarding the “culmination of those things” that Hughes specifically mentions and misidentifies, Gary DeMar writes:

“These common ‘things’ (wars, famines, earthquakes) are the beginning of signs leading up to the destruction of the temple that took place before ‘this generation’ passed away (Matt. 24:34).”[13]

“Lawlessness was a major problem in the first century as it is in every era because we are sinners. There were problems with homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-31; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:10), incest (1 Cor. 5:1), prostitution (6:15-16), fornication (5:1, 11; Rev 2:20), kidnapping (1 Tim. 6:10; Rev. 18:13). There was a wave of general unrighteousness (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). Also, see the secular histories of the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero.”[14]

 

Regarding the matter of “wars and rumors of war” (Matt. 24:6), Demar makes the point that this is something that Jesus’s original audience was “about to” hear about:

“’You are about [μελλήσετε] to hear.’ According to several secular histo­ries of the era, wars were common throughout the Roman Empire prior to the destruction of the temple in AD 70. ‘The forty years that inter­vened before the destruction of Jerusalem were full of these in all directions; but we may probably think of the words as referring specially to wars, actual or threatened, that affected the Jews, such, e.g., as those of which we read under Caligula, Claudius, and Nero (Jos. Ant. xx. 1, 6). The title which the historian gave to his second book, The Wars of the Jews, is sufficiently suggestive.’ Rome was an empire of nations held together by forced allegiance to Rome and her god-like emperors.”[15]

 

In short, Jesus was speaking to believers of His own generation regarding things that they were about to begin seeing and hearing. These events would escalate and intensify as the destruction of the city and its temple drew closer. He wasn’t giving 21st century Americans divine news footage in advance.

The True TribCon 2 in the Pages of Scripture

What many don’t realize is that Jesus was not speaking to a general audience even at the time. It is easy to picture Jesus speaking to the crowds, as He is often shown to have done in other passages (e.g., Matt. 4:25; 7:28; 8:1). But the Olivet Discourse was a private discussion between Jesus and His disciples (Matt. 24:3). Even at that, it wasn’t all His disciples to whom the “TribCon details” were given. Mark’s version specifies that it was only James, Peter, John, and Andrew who were on the other end of this conversation.

With that said, it’s no small coincidence that three of the four, who received this information firsthand, were among the few original disciples to write New Testament letters. In keeping with the military motif and DefCon/TribCon theme, these three were given the information needed to monitor the situation.  Accordingly, when the events reached convergence, they let the first-century believers know that they were at TribCon 2, so to speak:

“You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8 ESV).

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7 ESV).

“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore, we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18 ESV).

Apparently, James, Peter, and John saw “the convergence of everything” taking place in their own day and time. Everything was “racing toward the culmination” when they wrote their letters, almost 2000 years ago. Either these three disciples were as wrong as the modern-day prophecy pundits of the 1970s and clear up through to today, or the pundits are wrong – and everything they’re waiting for has already taken place.

We’re Not at TribCon 2, And We Have Things to Do

The fundamental error of the Fundamentalist continues to be interpreting fulfilled prophecy as unfulfilled. The net result is a Church that’s not fulfilling its role in this world. The bad news in the news isn’t a sign that we’re at TribCon 2; it’s a sign that we’re not doing what we’ve been called to do. Unless we get this right, the prophecy pundits will be making videos 30 years from now about how they were wrong 30 years ago, but they’re right now (30 years from now). Rather than an alert system that gauges a tribulation that’s in the past, perhaps world conditions should prompt us to start doing our job at last.

The comments on Brainard’s video could have easily been made in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. By and large, this was the sentiment of believers in each of those decades. As Hughes himself says in the video, “but here we are.”  Indeed, here we are.

The back jacket of Hal Lindsey’s There’s A New World Coming (1973) read: “This book is more up-to-date than tomorrow’s newspaper!”[16] Looking back at the back jacket, this is laughable. Nothing he predicted came to pass. The predictions made by Brainard and Hughes will be just as laughable 30 years from now. If you’re a young believer today, don’t waste the next 30 years of your life replaying the wasted lives of those who’ve gone before.

History wants to repeat itself. Don’t let it. Work to change history instead. Advance the Kingdom. Impact the culture. Make a difference. Don’t live your life waiting for Jesus to beam you up into space, live it trying to make the world a better place. With God’s help, maybe there will be nothing that the prophecy pundits of tomorrow can point to and imagine that they’re in TribCon 2.

________________________________________________________________

[1] From DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1: understanding the DEFCON levels. (aerotime.aero)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Rapture Alert — TribCon 2 (youtube.com) ; 3:00-3:31.

[5] Ibid.

[6] As of 12/13/2023, 5:50AM (ET). The episode aired on Nov 21, 2023.

[7] Taken from the comment thread under the video.

[8] 22:00 – 22:26.

[9] 22:27 – 22:53.

[10] 22:50 -22:54.

[11] 23:15-23:35

[12] 23:36-23:41.

[13] Gary DeMar, Wars and Rumors of War (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2023), p. 194.

[14] DeMar, Ibid., p. 195.

[15] DeMar, Ibid., pp. 193-194.

[16] Cited in: Basham, Cortney S. “Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth and the Rise of Popular Premillennialism in the 1970s” (2012), p. 1.  Hal Lindsey’s <i>The Late, Great Planet Earth</i> and the Rise of Popular Premillennialism in the 1970s (wku.edu)