Saturday, July 13, 2013


(One’s level of piety, whether devotional or practical, depends much on knowledge being either learned or misconceived. In these analyses we have made mention, occasionally, of books that either help or hinder the grand object of piety. It seems natural, consequently, to supplement the analyses, now and again, with correlating book reports.)


M. R. De Haan, The Second Coming of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1944), 178 pp.

Once every few years I go through my boxes of books and begin to cull. Some books I give away. Others I shred. This one will suffer the more severe form of rejection. Its companion by the same author, The Jew and Palestine in Prophecy, has already been subjected to this latter fate. Just before I began shredding the one I will now review, I thought, ‘Why not show, in a book report, why such a book is so deserving of a violent end?’ This is what I intend to do.

M. R. De Haan used to be the host of Radio Bible Class. The messages contained in The Second Coming of Jesus were first delivered orally via the radio. Mixed in with his obsession about this modern-day trinket called the ‘pre-tribulation rapture’ are doctrinal statements that readers may be blessed by. “Two things can alarm us: the law and death, but the law cannot touch the believer because its penalty has been paid, and death cannot harm us because the sting of death is gone, and that sting is sin” (p. 119.) Personal appeals are occasionally made that the Lord could use to bring sinners to repentance by. “Friend, are you ready for that day? [the second coming of Jesus] Common sense teaches that we are in this world for a little while, and then comes a long, long eternity” (p. 71.) And some parts of his prophecy timetable may prove true. “Before the coming of the Lord the professing Church will fall into worldliness, leave the preaching of the Gospel to turn to politics, moral reform and the preaching of a bloodless gospel” (pp. 175, 176.) It is not to suggest that we are imminently close to the end that I will add: large parts of the professing Church, before the second coming, will be infatuated with books (like De Haan’s) that particularize wildly about the end-times.    

When I first read these books, I enjoyed them and even benefited from them a bit. It had been better for me, in hindsight, to read books by scholars who major on major doctrines instead of those by amateurs who dogmatize on minor topics like ‘The Rapture’—‘The Tribulation’—‘The Antichrist.’ The only reason an old hand like L. Berkhof touches on these minor things (in his title, The Second Coming of Christ) is to refute what so many are being falsely taught by men like De Haan under the head of eschatology. True, John Bunyan wrote a treatise called, Of Antichrist and his Ruin. But the subject was not a main plank of theology for him. Sustained focus on topics like the three mentioned above will stunt your growth. What greater topics may be studied? For starters: Redemption—Regeneration—Justification. Read The History of Redemption by Jonathan Edwards or Christ’s Redemption and Eternal Existence by Thomas Manton, for example. You will discover, then, that there is too much Significant Truth to learn for you to spend time on modern ‘end-times’ mania. Mapping cryptic prophecy in minute detail may be fun. But such work is seldom accurate. And inaccuracies do not lead to edification.  

M. R. De Haan is far from the worst seed in the modern crop of ‘prophecy experts.’ But even he, with ease, can be shown for the careless interpreter that he is. When one gets a sight of the shoddy performance that his writings exhibit and that I am about to show, one ought, if one values one’s understanding, to prepare to do a lot of shredding and a little shopping. I will zone in on three faults in order to discourage books like this one from being read. (1) Such authors (by which I mean, mainly: end-times Fundamentalists) tend to be proud, devious partisans. They have been reared in, or converted to, a shallow system of thought called Dispensationalism. Because they are so indoctrinated into thinking they’re right about everything religious, they brashly repeat the unbiblical hypotheses that they have uncritically received, and they do it, just like their tutors have done before them, in the face of, and against, the revelation of plain truth. Will the second coming of Jesus be an event divided into two appearings? Will there be a secret appearing seven years before the great and last one, as this radio host contends? “Thus it will be at the coming of the Lord. Only those who are tuned to Station ‘BLOOD’ will hear that shout” (p. 30.) Is there a secret ‘shout’ spoken of in Scripture that pertains to the Second Coming? There is not. This is why De Haan employs odd euphemisms instead of words from Scripture to teach the idea. Those who will hear the secret shout must be ‘tuned in’ or on the ‘right wave length,’ he says. There is nothing scriptural for him to quote in order to show that the secret shout is biblical. This is why he speaks like that. Mr. De Haan seems too embarrassed to paraphrase the whole of 1 Thessalonians 4.16 on page 30. He stops at the word ‘shout.’ The verse continues: “with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” Even when De Haan comes to his heading called ‘The Archangel’ on the next page, he avoids this verse that he just alluded to and halfway paraphrased! The archangel shouting is something for De Haan to keep secret in order to convince heedless persons that the shout is a secret shout. With more of the verse before us, let’s turn to John’s version of the same event: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1.7.) The apostles’ verses on the same subject are in perfect harmony. According to Paul’s verse, every ear will hear (who could be deaf to an archangel’s voice and God’s own trumpet?) According to John’s verse, every eye will see (who could remain blind before the glorified Christ revealed?) There is no secret ‘shout’ going on in 1 Thessalonians 4.16. The verse (in perfect harmony with John’s) is about the second coming of Jesus Christ that will be seen by all, heard by all, obvious to all, dreaded by most, and welcomed by some. End-times authors of the Dispensational stamp tend to be proudly partisan, and misleading besides.

(2) Such authors tend to be bungling boobies, and sectarians too. They fall into snares because of their ignorance. Mr. De Haan wants there to be a literal 1000 years of peace on earth with Jesus ruling from Jerusalem. “A thousand years mean a thousand years; a wolf means a wolf; a lion means a lion” (p. 83.) So because Isaiah speaks of a lion eating straw, we must take this literally; and when Revelation speaks of a millennium, we must take that as a literal 1000 years. That is what he means. Now listen, I am not even taking a firm side against these two things coming to pass. I don’t think they will. But it’s not a matter of dogma for me. I want merely to show that end-times authors make blanket statements that are false, and that, because of this, they should not be consulted when seeking instruction on the meaning of the Bible, especially regarding some of the hazier subjects contained in it. Does a lion always mean a lion in Scripture? The ‘Lion of the tribe of Juda’ (Revelation 5.5), is that a literal lion? The ‘roaring lion’ of 1 Peter 5.8, is that a literal lion? “Thou shalt tread upon the lion” (Psalm 91.13), does that speak of a saint treading down a literal lion? These lions are all figurative, not literal. If the word ‘lion’ is not always meant in a literal sense, De Haan affirms that “God doesn’t mean what He says” (p. 83.) Anyone taking the word ‘lion’ or ‘thousand’ figuratively is ‘demonizing’ the Scriptures, apparently. That ‘school of interpretation’ which ‘spiritualizes’ has to do with an ‘evil spirit.’ This is his angled way of saying you mustn’t be a Christian if you interpret figuratively. I’m not stretching the truth when I say this. On page 108 he asserts that those who disagree with him on when the Church was founded ‘are still afflicted with Israel’s blindness.’ What kind of blindness can he be speaking of here but spiritual blindness? Who is spiritually blind except unbelievers? What is De Haan doing by using language like this but inciting hatred between Christian and Christian? What is a sectarian but a person (De Haan) who divides Christians on account of a disagreement on a subordinate, non-essential point like when the Church actually began? Men like De Haan come across so gentle-like and meek—until you stop to consider what they really imply by their putdowns. Unless you hold to a dispensational model of interpretation, you are not a Christian. This is what he intimates. Does De Haan not see the logical deduction of his accusations? If he cannot deduce, then neither should he teach. Let’s turn now to the figure 1000 and see if it’s true that, in Scripture, ‘a thousand years mean a thousand years.’ If the number ‘thousand’ means something figurative sometimes in the Bible, then it is possible, is it not, that it might be intended figuratively in the largely figurative Apocalypse? Job 9.3: “If he will contend with him [God], he cannot answer him one of a thousand”: here a figurative turn including the number 1000 is used to convey the concept ‘never.’ Psalm 50.10: “The cattle on a thousand hills”: here the number is used figuratively to signify ‘everything.’ Psalm 84.10: “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand” is a figure of speech denoting an infinite number of days. Psalm 91.7: “A thousand shall fall at thy side” is not literal, but symbolic speech for spiritual conquest. Psalm 105.8: “He commanded to a thousand generations” is a figurative way of stressing the certainty of God’s covenant promises. Ecclesiastes 7.28: “One man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found” is a figurative way of warning men that immoral women abound. Song of Solomon 4.4: “Thy neck is like a tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers” is a romantic way, a symbolic way, a figurative way (certainly not a literal way) of praising a woman for the beauty of her neck. 1 Samuel 18.7: “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” means that Saul was less valiant than David was. “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past” in Psalm 90.4 is a symbolic way of presenting the eternal perspective of God. A ‘thousand’ does not always mean a ‘thousand’ in the Bible. Must a ‘thousand’ mean a ‘thousand’ in the Apocalypse? True, the number thousand is sometimes approximate or even literal. Example: Isaiah 7.23: “A thousand vines at a thousand silverlings” may denote a particular sum for a particular number of objects. But I have shown enough to prove that we should be on our guard against dogmatism in regard to a literal future 1000 years’ reign with Christ on earth because the number ‘thousand’ is often used in a figurative way in the Bible. If ‘thousand’ or ‘thousands’ is meant in a figurative way so many times in the Bible, then it is possible, and even plausible, that the ‘thousand’ years mentioned in the book of Revelation is to be taken figuratively as well. To insist, as De Haan does, that a lion always means a literal lion and that 1000 years must mean exactly that, betrays a shameful ignorance of Scripture and the science of interpreting it.

(3) Such authors are minor students who major in minor subjects. “First of all, notice that in every passage of the Word where the Tribulation is mentioned it is with regard to Israel” (p. 46.) Whatever ‘the Tribulation’ may be, whether a past event or a future event, there is a more important kind of tribulation that is passed over by prophecy programs and their shallow systems in favor of their cloudy one that is too often speculated about. Unlike ‘the Tribulation,’ this tribulation is one that we should be hoping to find ourselves in right now because unless we are in it, we have cause to doubt the salvation that we profess is ours. “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16.33.) This is the promise of Jesus to his saints. This is the tribulation to be inquiring into. Tribulation should be a visible mark on the life of every Christian. The kingdom of God is entered into through tribulation’s door (Acts 14.22.) We should have ‘companion[s]’ in tribulation’ (Revelation 1.9.) What does ‘the Tribulation’ matter if you have no tribulation by which to prove the authenticity of your profession of faith? Let writers like M. R. De Haan go on, if they are so ordained, writing books about auxiliary matters that they can never be certain of. Christian time and studies ought to be better occupied than with turning over pages and pages of material of dubious merit and pertinence. Do you not see what perusing the writings of end-times authors leads to? You will learn to obsess about subsidiary mysteries too. End-times immersion will make a proud partisan drone out of you. You will learn to interpret like the bungling boobies who write books like the poor one on my lap right now that deserves a shredding. And if you become a writer, you’ll be nothing but a factious hack. Being so stunted, and ignorant of the weightier matters of law and gospel, you may come to think everything of ‘the Tribulation’ you can never be sure about, and nothing about a tribulation that you must find yourself engaged in for a sure entry into God’s everlasting kingdom.

I read this book six years after my conversion, in 2001. It was my custom back then, and it still is, to put question periods in the margin to note that I might disagree on some point or other. In a book so riddled with faults, I am appalled that I can find only four question periods in this whole book. Too often back then, especially while reading Fundamentalist books, I did not question enough. I did not question enough because I had inherited, early on, many biases through my heavy intake of half-baked theology. Books like this one were almost the only Christian ones available at the thrift stores and the Christian stores. This is still the situation today. Dispensationalist writers were helping to grow me in the faith by what was faithful and true in their writings; but in tandem with that, they were making a conceited, superficial bigot out of me. I had been crawling out of this literary ditch by 2001. But it is clear by the many asterisks in the margins of this book, that I was still believing, at that time, many quirky dogmas, like the one about giant offspring resulting from the mating of demons with women (p. 134.) Only by God’s importunate grace did I gradually come into possession of better material for my mind. For many years now (except to dissect for critical purposes) I have been tuning out writers like De Haan with as much resolve as they formerly exercised to tune me in to their deformed, prejudicial system of eschatology. Now that I have shredded this book figuratively, by which I mean critically, I now proceed to shred it literally.           

Content: C (Fails to do justice to the title.)
    Style: C (Flat and quaint.)
    Tone: C (Affected humility.)
Grading Table: A: a keeper: reread it; promote it; share it.
                         B: an average book: let it go.
                         C: read only if you have to.

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