Several of you have asked me about my take on Hank Hanegraaff's recent book, The Apocalypse Code (Click here: Amazon.com: The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible REALLY Says About the End Times . . . and Why It Matters). So, here goes.
On the one hand, Hanegraaff does a very good job debunking the popular dispensational end-times scenarios set out by the likes of John Hagee and Tim LaHaye. Hanegraaff exposes the embarrassing problem faced by dispensationalists who claim to interpret the Bible literally, and who cannot make good on that promise. While John (Revelation 1:3; 22:10) tells us that the things recorded in his apocalyptic vision are soon to come to pass, dispensationalists are forced to tell us that "near" and "soon" don't really mean "near" and "soon." Instead, dispensationalists tell us, these things don't come to pass until the end of the age--a rather embarrassing problem given their insistence that they take the Bible (especially prophecy) "literally."
Hanegraaff also does a very good job debunking the Israel-centered hermeneutic of popular dispensational writers. Hanegraaff capably demonstrates that Jesus Christ is the true hermeneutical center of all of Scripture and that many of the things dispensationalists assign to the future and the end of the age (i.e., in the millennium), are already fulfilled in Christ! This includes the land promise of the Abrahamic covenant, the fact that Christ is the true temple, and so on. Hanegraaff also effectively replies to the common dispensational rant that non-dispensationalists are intrinsically anti-Semitic.
In all of these regards, Hanegraaff's book offers an effective rebuttal to dispensational claims. Would that all those who read Lindsey, LaHaye, and Hagee, and think their stuff is gospel, would also read Hanegraaff and consider well the biblical evidence he adduces which undoes the dispensational system.
On the other hand, Hanegraaff's The Apocalypse Code, has several serious weaknesses. I hate to criticize Hank personally, since he was so gracious to me when I was a guest on the Bible Answer Man several years ago. Hank was still working through his position on these matters and gave me two full hours on national radio to make my case. He had read my first book (A Case for Amillennialism) from cover to cover, was thoroughly conversant with all of the key issues and was very nice to my teenage son who went to the studio with me. Dads remember such things and I am grateful.
That being said, here are what I see as the main problems with The Apocalypse Code, and which detract from its overall impact and import.
First, the use of neo-logisms ("I coined the phrase Exegetical Eschatology -- e2", implying that dispensationalists don't do exegesis), the use of mnemonic devices (LIGHTS), and guilt by association arguments (LaHaye is juxtaposed with Bill Maher and Bill Clinton, among others) seriously undercuts the very point that Hanegraaff is trying to make--which is that LaHaye, Hagee, et al., can't be taken seriously. Inventing your own self-designation ("Exegetical Eschatology") requires that you do serious exegesis, not stoop to the sensationalist genre of those whom you are endeavoring to refute.
Refuting sensationalist eschatology with sensationalism might sell books, but this approach seriously detracts from Hanegraaff's overall case. The result is, in my opinion, Hanegraaff's book has a "snotty," condescending and sensationalist tone to it. This would make me reluctant to give The Apocalypse Code to a dispensational friend who was not yet at the point of re-thinking their entire eschatology.
Second, Hanegraaff adopts the partial preterist interpretation of the eschatological language of the New Testament. That's fine by me, since I too believe that the Olivet Discourse is primarily aimed to the disciples and that the events predicted there (with the exception of the Second Advent), are largely fulfilled by the events of A.D. 70. But Hanegraaff's "partial" preterism leads to the usual (and in my estimation, flawed) interpretation of a number of key points.
Preterists of all stripes are forced to argue for a pre-70 A.D. date for the Book of Revelation. I think the internal evidence points strongly for a date much closer to 95 A.D--although the dating of Revelation ultimately does not effect my overall eschatological position, which is Reformed amillennialism. I get the sense from writers like Hanegraaff (and Ken Gentry), that once you make the leap to some form of preterism, you've got to make the case for an early date for Revelation. You now have to "prove" this early date, not objectively examine evidence as to when John might have been given his vision.
Because of this preterist presupposition demanding an early date for the apocalypse, you get all kinds of far-fetched interpretations from Hanegraaff: Babylon (Revelation 17-18) is apostate Israel, not Rome; Nero and the current Roman Caesars fulfill in its entirety the beast motif (Revelation 13); and that the Jerusalem Temple was still standing when John was given his vision (based upon a misinterpretation of Revelation 11:1-3).
It is also highly problematic to argue that Christ returned (in a some form of parousia) with the events of 70 A. D. No doubt, the destruction of the temple marks the end of the Jewish era (not the end of "this age,") and it clearly led to the diaspora and the curse upon apostate Israel being tragically realized as foretold by Jesus in Matthew 23:37-39. But such does not constitute a "coming of Jesus." How many second comings are there? One or two? And isn't one of the criticisms of dispensationalists that they teach a "real coming" at the Rapture which no one sees?
Hanegraaff's The Apocalypse Code has enough weaknesses that I would be hesitant to give it to a dispensationalist who was not at the point of jettisoning their dispensationalism. I would give it (and therefore recommend it) to someone who was widely-read in this field, had thought about these issues for some time, and who understood most of the nuances and differences associated with these issues. The Apocalypse Code might just give that person the final shove they need.
Since this is my blog and I'm therefore entitled to make shameless appeals to those who read it, let me just say that I too have written a book which covers much of the same ground, and which I think is more exegetically based. Reformed amillennialism (i.e., Horton, Vos, Kline, Hoekema, Venema, Johnson, Beale) is not only able to deal with the "time is near" language of the Book of Revelation, it also does not strip the New Testament of those eschatological events which are yet to be fulfilled in the future.
You can find more information about my book, The Man of Sin, here: Click here: Riddleblog - Man of Sin - Uncovering the Truth About Antichrist