The 2007 Pre-Trib Study Group Conference
Dr. Thomas Ice
The 2007 Pre-Trib Study Group Conference
The2007 Pre-Trib Study Group Conference was possibly the best we have everexperienced. Our sixteenth annual meeting took place atthe Sheraton Grand Hotel near the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Thehighlight for many was the debate between Pre-Trib member Mark Hitchcock andhost of the Bible Answer Man radio program Hank Hanegraaff over the date of thewriting of the Book of Revelation. The theme of the 2007 conference focused onthe Book of Revelation.
At the Study Group Conference, aspeaker has an hour and a half block of time for their presentation. Mostusually speak for about an hour and the remainder of time is for question andanswers among the members. Such a format not only allows for hearing goodinformation, but also for interaction with one's peers on the subject underdiscussion.
Dr.Tim LaHaye opened the conference by welcoming our record attendance of over 400to the conference. The first paper was delivered by Dr.David Larsen, distinguished professor of homiletics at Trinity EvangelicalDivinity School in Deerfield, IL spoke about "A Brief History of theInterpretation of the Book of Revelation."
Mondayafternoon's papers started with Dr. David Hocking ofHope for Today Ministries (www.davidhocking.org) who spoke on "TheRapture in the Book of Revelation." Dr.Hocking focused on Revelation 3:10 and the 24 elders in heaven in Revelation 5.Dr. Robert Dean, jr., pastor of West Houston Bible Church (
It is proposed in light of the attested role of angels as legalwitnesses throughout Scripture and especially in Revelation that their beingaddressed in the letters can be explained. Just as Israel's writing prophetscalled upon angels to witness Israel's covenant violations, John is told tocall upon angelic observers of the seven churches in the evaluation reports. The churches were expected to soberly reflect upon the realization that theirperformance was being reported to the same kind of supernatural beings thatwould eventually execute the coming judgments of God upon heaven and earth.
Tuesdaymorning began with buzz by the crowd from Monday night's debate. The firstpresenter of the day was Dr. Gregory Harris, professorof Bible Exposition at The Master's Seminary in California (
Dr.John Whitcomb, who along with the late Dr. Henry Morris, wrote the famous book TheGenesis Flood that is credited withreviving the Creationist movement in 1961, presented a paper on whether the twowitnesses will minister in the first or second half of the tribulation.
Dr.Robert Congdon presented an excellent paper on "Living in the New Heavenand Earth," which Revelation 21 and 22 reveals. Dr. Congdon summarized what life will be like, as far as we are able to knownow, beyond the Millennium and into the Eternal State, which we often callheaven. Needless to say, we have a great future in store for those of us whoknow Christ as our Savior.
Thelast paper for Tuesday was by Dr. Ron Bigalke anauthor and director of Eternal Ministries (
Thisyear's Conference Banquet was moved to Tuesday evening since the debate washeld Monday evening. We were privileged to hear from our founder of thePre-Trib organization, Dr. Tim LaHaye, who presented an inspirational talkabout God and prophecy. Pre-Trib member, Ray Hildebrand (of "Paul and Paula"fame from the early 60's) provided the special music. We then had our normal Tuesday evening session talking about current events andBible prophecy. We had a trio of Dr. Chuck Missler of Koinonia HouseMinistries (www.khouse.org),Dr. Randal Price of World of the Bible Ministries (
Thefinal two presentations of the conference took place on Wednesday morning. Dr.Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries (www.ariel.org) in San Antonio spoke on"The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Revelation." TheBook of Revelation has more allusions to the Old Testament than any other NewTestament book. Dr. John Niemela, a Greek professor from California closed theconference with an insightful paper on "Revelation 5 and The 24 Elders and theRapture." Dr. Niemela demonstrated how thatpassage supports the pre-trib rapture position from the Greek text.
Anti-pretribulationistHank Hanegraaff was the invited guest of the Pre-Trib Research Center to debatethe date of Revelation, since Mark Hitchcock had recently completed his PhDdissertation on the topic. We had invited preterist Dr. Kenneth Gentry, whohad written his PhD dissertation on this topic about 20 years ago, but hedeclined the invitation. We were pleased that Mr. Hanegraaff accepted ourinvitation.
Thedate of Revelation is important, not for futurists like Dr. Hitchcock, since nomatter when it was written in the first century it is still primarily a futureprophecy. However, for those who believe that significant parts of Revelationwere fulfilled by events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem and theTemple in a.d. 70 by the Romans,then a date of around a.d. 65 or66 is essential in order for their view to even have a possibility of beingcorrect. This past fulfillment view has historically been called preterism. On the other hand, if Revelation was written around a.d. 95, which is the widely held traditional view of thechurch down through history it makes the preterist interpretation impossible. The late date of Revelation is a silver bullet that makes the preterist viewimpossible, since it would not be a prophecy of the future as the text ofRevelation claims.
Dr.Hitchcock began the debate with a 30-minute lecture providing strong argumentsfor the a.d. 95 date. When datinga Biblical book, the evidence is divided into two categories: internal andexternal evidence. Internal evidence relates to reasons that are developedbased upon statements found in the book itself. External evidence consists ofextra-biblical, historical information about when the book was written. Dr.Hitchcock provided a balanced argument of both internal and external evidence. He provided seven internal arguments for the traditional late date and thendemonstrated that for the first 500 years of church history no one held anyother view but the late first century view. Over a dozen witnesses attestedthe late date. It was not until the sixth-century that the first clearevidence for the early date appeared.
Mr.Hanegraaff spent most of his 30-minute opening statement either quoting frommemory the text of Revelation or stating how important it was to studyRevelation. It was only toward the end of his time that he began to evenattempt to make an argument for his view. His basic argument was that ifRevelation had been written in the 90s then the destruction of the Temple wouldhave been referenced, which is an argument from silence.
Dr.Hitchcock, in his rebuttal, noted that John was told by the Lord to write whathe saw in the visions that were about future things. Thus, John would not havehad occasion to write about past events, like the destruction of the Temple. Mr. Hanegraaff did not rebut the arguments made by Dr. Hitchcock.
Frankly,the entire debate was pretty much like that. Dr. Hitchcock would presentevidence and arguments for his view, while Mr. Hanegraaff made very fewarguments and presented little if any evidence for his view. Instead, Mr.Hanegraaff spent much of his time telling us how bad dispensationalism andpretribulationism were, which was not the topic of this debate. Further, healso felt the need to bash Dr. Tim LaHaye, even with him sitting in theaudience. Needless to say, Dr. Hitchcock won the debate by presenting clearreasons for his views, while Mr. Hanegraaff really did nothing to defend hisposition, partly, I am sure, because it is an indefensible view to begin with.
All of the papers can be viewed anddownloaded at the website of the Pre-Trib Research Center (www.pre-trib.org). Also, one can purchase a MP3 audio CD of the entireconference or DVD videos of the Conference and the debate at the Pre-Tribwebsite. Next year's conference is scheduled for the Dallas/Fort Worth area,December 8–10, 2008. Many will want to plan to attend. Maranatha!