End Times

The Great Apostasy

by Jackie Alnor

[This is continuation of Part 1: The End Times at TBN]

Bible Prophecy -- Subject to Change

In the early days of TBN, the idea of an immanent Rapture set the tone of TBN eschatology (the study of last things). In fact, Paul and Jan Crouch would get excited any time world events signaled a warning that trouble was escalating in the Holy Land. They would bring on their regular end-times experts. Besides Hal Lindsey, there was Doug Clark, Charles Taylor, Dr. Steuart McBirnie, Chuck Smith and a host of other experts who would analyze current events to see where we were on the Armageddon clock. It was always about one minute to midnight, according to their estimates.

One particularly interesting Praise the Lord program featured Lindsey, Clark, and McBirnie hashing it out over whether the rapture would take place 'pre,' 'mid,' or 'post' Tribulation. It was a friendly discussion, yet Crouch always took the pre-trib position with his friend, Lindsey.

Up until around 1988, just about every Praise-a-Thon focused on the immanent rapture of the Church as an incentive for people to call and get in on the final gathering of souls before it was too late.

"I have asked you this question a hundred times or more," Crouch wrote to his supporters in his January, 1987 newsletter. "WILL YOU GO WITH JAN AND ME another mile? Will you hold our hands up another year? This could be the final one you know. This could be our ' Battle of the Bulge!'" :"(TBN Newsletter Vol. XIV No 1 - January 1987 pg. 2, emphasis in original.)":

In fact, the following year, 1988, Crouch was so confident that Jesus would return during the coming Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah, that TBN altered their regular programming during that Jewish feast on September 11-13, 1988, and played re-runs of prerecorded shows that focused on the rapture.

"But to Christians curious about Bible prophecy, " wrote William Alnor in his book, Soothsayers of the Second Advent, "It was also the target date on which Edgar C. Whisenant, a former NASA engineer, told the world that Christ would rapture the church into heaven."

Whisenant's book, "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988," had made an impression on the Crouches, which could also have contributed to Jan Crouch's subsequent disenchantment with the pre-trib rapture position.

Although Paul Crouch always held onto his belief in the soon return of Jesus, his wife, Jan, appeared to be going in a post-millennial direction. In the early 1990s she began what looked like a boycott of programs that focused on the traditional end times views. Yet, when scandalized Pastor Earl Paulk2 and other anti-rapture guests would show up, Jan would be there and share their enthusiasm.

Any time the subject of "Kingdom Now" doctrine would arise Jan would show her excitement about that view that Jesus would not return until the church has ruled over the earth for a thousand years.

On the other hand, Paul Crouch began expressing what is known as the "latter rain" or "manifest sons of God" doctrine that says that before Jesus returns, there would be a second Pentecost that would result in a final great revival that would herald the Lord's soon return. The Crouch home seemed divided oh the subject of Bible prophecy.

But the possibility of an any day rapture made for good fundraising. In the January, 1990 TBN newsletter, Paul Crouch wrote, "Beloved Partners, our world is changing dramatically. . . When you add all the natural disasters, the shaking of the Church to its very foundation, PLUS the great outpourings of the Spirit at home and abroad -- WE WHO KNOW THE LORD realize that this is IT! The 1990's will be the last GREAT HARVEST of souls. And YOU and YOUR TBN are a vital part of this HARVEST. . . Jan and I depend on YOU to help keep this MIGHTY LIGHTHOUSE ON THE AIR!" :"(TBN Newsletter Vol. XVII, No. 1 - January 1990, pg. 2, emphasis in original.)":

Later that year, during the Fall, 1990 Praise-a-Thon, old time tent revivalist R. W. Schambach confirmed TBN's position that the 1990s was the final decade. "Get ready for the greatest move of God you have ever seen," Schambach thundered in his typical style. "This is the final decade! This is the countdown hour!" :"(Schambach, R. W. - Fall 1990 TBN Praise-a-Thon)":

Benny Hinn also verified Paul Crouch's assertion that the rapture would occur in the 1990s. "Paul, I can say this," said Hinn during the Fall, 1990 Praise-a-Thon, "Are you ready for this? We may have two years before the rapture . . . I'm going to show you scriptures tonight that are going to send goose bumps up and down your spine, up and down your legs and maybe in your brain . . . Can I be blunt with you? I don't know if we have two years left." :"(11/9/90 Fall 1990 Praise-a-Thon)":

Crouch was quick to grasp onto the revelation. "Benny's got me all excited," shouted Crouch. "He's going to open the scripture. Could it be that we only have two years left before the rapture of the church of Jesus Christ? I don't know, but I'm gonna be looking."

By the mid-1990s crying wolf over the immanent rapture was losing its effect on TBN supporters, so they turned to other methods to get the phones to ring. Crouch's exasperation really began to show in 1992 when Hinn's prediction failed. "I told Hal Lindsey the other day," Crouch lamented, "that if Jesus hasn't come by the year 2000, I'm holding he and Dr. McBirnie, all of them, personally responsible for this. It has to happen within the next few years or we misread the whole thing! I mean we gotta go back and reinterpret the whole thing." :"(Spring 1992 Praise-a-Thon)": ‚   (Could this be why Paul Crouch finally cancelled Hal Lindsey’s program under the pretense that Hal was getting too anti-Muslim?)

The disappointments of the delay in the Lord's return have resulted in a new attitude in other TBN regulars as well. Pastor Phil Munsey, a TBN regular host and Praise-a-Thon speaker, expressed this exasperation. "Now some of you are saying, 'Brother Munsey, you're saying that Jesus Christ is not going to come for another generation?' Yes! That's what I'm saying. Somebody say, 'well my God, what if you're wrong?' Well, everybody else has been wrong for a long time. I'm gonna go on the other side." :"(Munsey, Phil on Cornerstone Network Telethon, 10/1/99)":

The apostle Peter prophesied about this change of attitude in the church in the last days. "Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3:3-4).

After the disappointment of 1988, the idea of Jesus coming to establish his Kingdom gave way to TBN establishing the Kingdom for Him, a concept that started out as incentive to make converts but developed into a cry to take over the wealth and power and rulership of the planet. Quoting a verse that prophesied a future time of the millennial rule of Christ after His return, the headline of the March, 1990 TBN Newsletter read: "THE SAINTS SHALL TAKE THE KINGDOM. 'But the saints of the most high shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.' Daniel 7:18 KJV."

Crouch continued, "Sounds like FIGHTING words to me! Praise God, we are finally understanding that IF THIS KINGDOM IS GOING TO BE TAKEN we are going to have to DO IT in Jesus' name." :"(TBN newsletter Vol. XVII, No. 3, March 1990 p. 1, emphasis in original.)":

To this day Paul Crouch seems to drift between the two views. He speaks of taking over the kingdoms of this world even while he's waiting for the King of kings to come back and take over where TBN leaves off. TBN bankrolled a movie about the battle of Armageddon called " Megiddo" produced by the Crouches’ second son Matthew Crouch and his company Gener8Xion Entertainment. The younger Crouch seems to enjoy the prestige of producing Christian 'fiction,' since it seems that is all it is to him.

TBN's first end-times movie, "The Omega Code,"  launched Matthew Crouch into star status in Hollywood. And though both movies presented a contemporary timing of the Great Tribulation, the younger Crouch does not share his father's any day expectancy.

On one Praise-the Lord program hosted by Matthew and his beautiful wife, Laurie, he told guest Kim Clement that he hopes Jesus doesn't come back soon because he has too much to do. Clement, who is Matt's personal prophet, told him that "we have a hundred years left to become that spotless bride."

Matthew also made a similar statement to a reporter for Charisma Magazine. In the August, 1999 issue of Charisma, we read: "Does Matt Crouch believe Jesus' return will happen soon, perhaps at the onset of the next millennium? 'No, I don't, and we are not trying to say that in the movie,' he said. 'I still have too much to do.'" :"(Charisma Magazine, August 1999, "The Omega Code Set for Fall Release,"  pp. 16-17.)":

Also on another Praise-the-Lord program Matthew took aim at prophecy teacher Jack Van Impe for using a fear of prophetic speculation to get people to buy their books and videos. He called this tactic despicable, overlooking the obvious fact that TBN invented the tactic and set an example for others.

Benny Hinn gave Paul Crouch an order supposedly from God not to allow the TBN empire to pass to anyone but one of his sons. Paul Crouch has confirmed over and over again that his sons are his heirs for the network. TBN’s Vice President Paul Crouch Jr. might be the only hope for reforming the network should the baton be passed to him. He is more of a behind-the-scenes guy who is the least flamboyant in his family and by many accounts is closer to promoting sound doctrine. But Matthew, the younger of the Crouches' two sons, is more visible in front of the camera at TBN and once Paul Crouch retires, TBN's eschatology would be in for a major makeover. Matthew is unapologetic about his differences of opinion with his father on this subject.

"I thought of the scripture about the wheat and the tares," Matthew said to Clement. "It's almost like the church, even on TBN, even on Christian television, we're all on the same team trying to win -- It's like there's just a tearing right down the middle of mindsets that you either think it's doom and gloom and we're gonna be raptured out of this stinkin place or we're gonna take it back for the kingdom of God."

"That's where I stand," Clement responded. "Me too," said Matthew. :"(Praise the Lord program on TBN, 6/1/99.)":

The parable of the wheat and the tares in the Bible refers to the separation of the saved from the lost.

"Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field. "He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age." (Matt. 13:36b-40)

For Matthew to compare the two sides as "wheat and tares" puts his own father in with the tares that are to be gathered and cast into hell. If Matthew is so bold to make such statements today, think how it's going to be when he's the one at the helm. If Matthew and his prophet Clement ridicule the idea of the rapture and call it negative and "escapism" today, how will they treat the believers in the rapture camp tomorrow?

Whose Side Are You On?

Since Paul Crouch claims that TBN fulfills Bible prophecy and is God's end times tool to finish His Great Commission, it becomes imperative to examine his claims in obedience to Scripture.

And that is the main objective of this book -- examine TBN's fruit, doctrine, and claims to see if they line up with the sure foundation of the historic Christian faith as revealed in God's Word, the Bible. The Word of God is our only anchor and sure foundation in a time when spiritual fads blow in and out at such a rapid clip as we see today.

Bible teacher John MacArthur put it well:

"First Thessalonians 5:21-22 teaches that it is the responsibility of every Christian to be discerning: " ˜But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.’ The apostle John issues a similar warning when he says, " ˜Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1). According to the New Testament, discernment is not optional for the believer -- it is required." :"(http://www.gty.org/IssuesandAnswers/archive/discern.htm -- Issues & Answers web page)":

For the sake of discussion, we are going to limit ourselves to the two most popular views of what the church should look like just before the return of Christ. Is she a scattered remnant of true believers or a united army of victorious warriors?

The letters to the churches addressed by Jesus in the book of Revelation best describes the visible church at the end of the age. Theologians have long pointed out that the seven churches not only reveal the churches that existed at the end of the first century when the apostle John wrote the book, but that they are a prophetic glimpse of church history from beginning to end.

Listed there are two faithful churches, the persecuted church at Smyrna and the church of Philadelphia that will be kept from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. :"(Revelation 3:10)":

Jesus has a rebuke for four of the other churches that have a few faithful ones within, but as a whole these four churches hold false doctrines. Yet Jesus still counts them as the visible church as they name the name of Christ. The last of the seven is the one that has no redeemable value and is a peek at the last church age that names the name of Christ. For this "church" Jesus has nothing good to say. That is the church of Laodicea.

Bible scholars have noted that with each church age represented by these seven churches, there is an overlap during the time one age fades away and the new one arises, though there are pockets of each of the seven throughout history. So during the time that the Laodicean church comes on the scene, the true church of Philadelphia is losing influence.

The church of Philadelphia is not presented as some great ruling class of powerfully anointed Christians. Rather Jesus says she has "a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name" (Rev. 3:8).

It would seem that the body of believers who escape the Great Tribulation is not a powerful force but one left with a "little strength." They have remained faithful to the Lord by accurately handling the Word of truth. They are not embarrassed to share in Christ's humiliation and suffering and walk humbly with their Lord.

Throughout the gospels Jesus tells his followers that they are "the salt of the earth." Salt is something that gets sprinkled all over, not piled up in a lump. He also compares His followers to lights in the darkness. In this analogy, again the lights must be spread out. And after the Lord ascended into heaven after His resurrection, the book of Acts tells us that His disciples were scattered around.

"Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word" (Acts 8:4).

The Bible is consistent in showing that though true believers are one in Spirit, they are scattered geographically until that great day when He gathers them together.

"And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt 24:31).

The apostle Paul reiterates this view:

"that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth -- in Him" (Eph. 1:10).

The church in the last days is clearly seen in the parable of the ten virgins in the 25th chapter of Matthew's gospel. All ten virgins have lamps but only five of them have oil in their lamps, while the others do not. They needed the oil in order to light their lamps so they could see the arrival of the Bridegroom. The five with the lit lamps were watchful and living in anticipation of the coming of the Bridegroom. The others were careless and obviously not anticipating that the Bridegroom's coming was near.

In biblical symbolism the oil represents the indwelling Holy Spirit. The wise virgins were filled with the Spirit, although they too were given to sleep, much like the apostles when Jesus was about to be betrayed. The ministry of the Holy Spirit would be evident in the lives of the true remnant. He will direct the true church in sound doctrine and truth.

"However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come" (John 16:13)

The virgins without oil in their lamps look like the others outwardly, but are not of the same Spirit. They are foolish and are not watchful and miss out on the wedding feast. Jesus must have had them in mind when He said, "the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness" (Matt. 8:12).

If the five virgins with the oil are the ones that are kept from the hour of testing, as is promised to the church of Philadelphia, then the unwise or foolish virgins that are left behind are summed up in the very last of the seven churches -- the professing Christians who weren't watching and get left behind. They are professors -- not possessors.

This is what Jesus thinks of them: "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' -- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked . . ." (Rev. 3:17)

So this final church is outwardly very wealthy in this world's riches but bankrupt when it comes to inner quality. A closer look at these foolish virgins is seen in the book of the Bible just before the book of Revelation -- Jude.

Jude, the Lord's earthly brother, identified these professing Christians as those we would encounter from within the church. "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation" (Jude 4).

So these people that name the name of Christ would introduce false doctrine, turn grace into an excuse for lewdness, and indulge in sexual immorality. They would be noted for going on feelings, or what Jude compared to animal instincts (vs.10) and revile devils by their own authority. They would be greedy and prophesy falsely for profit like Balaam, serving their own selfish needs.

They also flatter each other to gain advantage and are very boastful of themselves. They walk after their own lusts and are complainers and grumblers. Jude says they defile the flesh, which is a difficult statement to understand, but it could refer to those who abuse their bodies with substance abuse or put other harmful things into their bodies, perhaps even things like silicone and animal collagen. They are also very sensual -- going by the senses -- and they cause division in the body of Christ.

During the time of the Great Tribulation, this church becomes what is referred to in the book of Revelation as the Great Whore. Her characteristics include the power to perform lying signs and wonders; she is drunk with the wine of her fornication, which means spiritual unfaithfulness. She is in bed with the world and conspires with kings and world leaders, who eventually turn on her. Her influence is worldwide and she exports her goods globally. Just before God lowers the boom on her judgment, He commands true believers to come out of her. "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4).

Another name for her is Mystery Babylon, which is a revival of the old mythology that always opposed God's purposes, as she deceived the people with her sorceries. Not only does she have many craftsmen, but she also produces music of all kinds (see Rev. 18:22).

The church in Philadelphia bears the fruit of the Spirit and "have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires," according to the book of Galatians. The fruit in their lives is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23).

Compare that to the list of the works of the flesh, which characterize the church of Laodicea. "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissentions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like" (Gal. 5:19-21).

The Great Apostasy

The change from the church of Philadelphia to the Church of Laodicea is what the Bible refers to as the "great falling away" or the great apostasy.

"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).

Historically, there has always been apostasy in Christendom. Therefore this great and final sign before the beginning of the Great Tribulation has to stand out from all the other heresies and cults of the last 2,000 years. As with the other signs of the times that Jesus gave, like birth pangs, the ultimate fulfillment will be an extreme case compared to the similar signs leading up to it. Jesus said that in this world we will have tribulation and indeed we have, but the Great Tribulation will be a global condition that makes all other crises in history pale by comparison.

Conditions in the world are gearing up for the time that God will pour out His wrath on a Christ-rejecting world. And the apostate church, in bed with the world, is also rising in power and global unity. God will allow them both to prosper and take root until the cup of His indignation is full and ready to be poured out. :"(Revelation 14:10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angelsand in the presence of the Lamb)":

It is not my intention to paint the Crouches and all of TBN programming as apostate, but to sound a warning of the direction I see the network taking away from the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. If they heed the warning, not only sounded by me but by many voices of concerned watchmen in the church, they still have time to repent and make a course correction before they are totally given over to believe a lie and be damned. If they have no love for the truth, the Bible says that is their fate.

"They did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thes. 2:10-12).