WHAT IT TAKES TO HAVE A BEST SELLER
The bestselling books on eschatology sell well primarily because they are ultra-sensational, not because they are, at their core, thoroughly Biblical. Fearsome images of destruction, fantastic predictions about doom, little-known facts about ancient giants, exposing the diabolical and paranormal, along with controversial stories peppered with speculation about extraterrestrials and UFOs, dominate the eschatology genre today. Not that these subjects are off-base. Nor are they necessarily wrong-headed. I would be the first to admit, I have written a number of those books myself and often recommend them. Nevertheless, does eschatology demand we focus only on stupendous if not supernatural subjects? Reviewing the most successful titles today certainly suggests this is so.
However, in this book, The Revealing, author Gary L. Huffman (with a little help from me along the way) takes a very different tact in exploring what we affirm is the most important topic in Bible prophecy; that is, what believers can expect when Christ comes for them in the clouds and how we prepare ourselves for this transition to the next life.
As you will see, the principal author of this book proclaims that there is, basically, a third work of grace as “holiness” groups might term it. But there is no real need to affix any label. For the essential issue is connecting the various meanings of the Feast of Tabernacles (aka Booths or Succoth) to the process of sanctification – culminating in our glorification. Consequently, we will study many Old Testament passages and unite them with New Testament truths that explain their meaning. However, the process works both ways. We will show how we can derive great value in grasping the meaning of Old Testament symbols and “types”, allowing them to disclose us as to what the deeper biblical teaching actually is.
More specifically, the author will answer questions like, “What will we be like after the Rapture happens? What will “the raptured” be doing next? Will we just rest, retire, refresh relationships with friends and family, and merely repeat song after song singing of God’s lovingkindness and grace?” I certainly want to engage in those things. However, will we be left out of the battle taking place on planet Earth? Or will the newly glorified saints discover instead that we are stepping up our efforts to reach unbelievers? Joining with the two witnesses, will we also display signs and wonders to convict and convince a dying world that God earnestly desires those that don’t know Him to become His children? This book argues that is exactly what we will be doing. And the case will be made that this is what the Bible teaches.
Those of us who believe that the Rapture of the Church happens some time before His visible return at the Second Coming will find the most unique assertion of this book fascinating. In other words, those who believe the Rapture precedes the visible Second Coming by some allotted period of time will be particularly blessed by the revealing of this truth. Therefore, Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, and Pre-Wrath Rapture adherents can more easily adopt the “Huffman Hypothesis” without altering their perspective on the Rapture. The “time gap” between the Rapture (at which time the Church is snatched up to be with Jesus) could be as much as ten years or as little as 30 days (as my friend and former co-author Douglas Krieger espouses). No matter. The unusual interpretation around which this book is based can be incorporated into any of these views.
On the other hand, Post-Tribulation Rapture believers will reject the premise of our particular proposal for how the Church is involved during the Great Tribulation. Despite disagreeing with our supposition about what happens after the Rapture, the good news is that these brothers and sisters can nevertheless benefit from all other subjects taken up in this work, which is about 95% of the material readers will find here. This is so since the majority of our subject matter deals with sanctification and glorification, perhaps the most under-studied, misunderstood, and nearly abandoned doctrines of our day especially for those committed to the study of prophetic themes.
OUR PRIMARY ASSUMPTIONS
Right up front, I wish to present other key presuppositions of the book, besides the distinction between the Rapture and the Visible Second Coming I’ve already disclosed.
First, the typology of the Old Testament is crucial to the conclusions drawn in this book. Explicit passages on Huffman’s view of the role of the Church during the tribulation period are few, but the typology is plentiful. As the reader will discover, the many scholars we reference also support his conclusions, although at your first encounter you may be stunned.
Secondly, both Gary and I affirm that salvation involves spirit, soul, and body. Our deliverance by the power of God is through regeneration of the spirit, sanctification of the soul, and glorification of our body. But what we usually miss is how sanctification connects to glorification. As I asserted at the outset, there is great interest in fossils of giant humanoids, in the burgeoning appearance of flying saucers, in the frightful cases involving the paranormal, and in the many proofs of the Christian worldview. Think of the Shroud of Turin. Or archeological finds that verify challenged geographical facts and historical dating of the Bible. While these intriguing matters attract our attention, think how little we concern ourselves with developing holiness in this life and exploring the nature of our life after this one. In other words, little interest exists in how we become holy – and whether we should even bother with it, since God is loving and forgiving anyway! We have little grasp of how deepening holiness now translates into glorification at the resurrection or the aforementioned event we all call The Rapture. Does this seem smart?
In dramatic contrast, 100 years ago, sanctification was serious business and on the heart of most American Christians. A breakoff denomination from Methodism, the Nazarene Church, taught its members the “Second Blessing.” While Pentecostals connected a “second work of grace” known as the Baptism of the Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues. (the first work of grace was justification), the Nazarenes taught “total sanctification.” In essence, their teaching was this: if you worked hard enough at being holy, one day God would eradicate your sin nature and you would BE completely holy from that point forward. My loving grandmother (my father’s mom) was indeed a saint, but she could also be ridden by guilt if she did something she considered a sin. That usually amounted to little more than watching the famous CBS TV Western, Gunsmoke, which ran from 1955 to 1975, the longest running action series ever in the United States. This was one of her guilty pleasures, featuring Miss Kittie’s infamous saloon, The Long Branch. Should she be watching a TV show where many of the scenes took place in a saloon (and brothel!) My grandmother Minnie’s concern for living a sinless life, in my view, went just a bit too far and became an unhealthy obsession as she fretted over vices and entertainment, like playing cards and dancing. (At least she played “Old Maid” with me – it was great fun.)
John Lithgow’s strict preacher character in the movie, Footloose (1984) exuded the “holiness hang-up” – kids shouldn’t go footloose! Of course, Kevin Bacon demonstrated otherwise. Kid’s “got to go footloose!” Despite Hollywood’s derision of such “holy convictions,” we still must ask ourselves in the twenty-first century, “Doesn’t the LORD call us to live holy lives?” The answer should be obvious to readers. But how do we obtain it?
Literature about the processes of sanctification and glorification is scarce. What does exist, with only one or two exceptions, was published at least 20 years ago. There are no popular books on these subjects nowadays, because the subject isn’t popular by all counts even among enthusiastic prophecy buffs. And yet, one would think the incredible prophetic prospect of sharing the glory of God would be a captivating topic for all earnest believers and especially those who hold prophecy out as one of their favorite subjects to study. We acknowledge a supernatural worldview and we believe that God is active in our everyday world. But the most supernatural event of all, our resurrection or rapture culminating in a new, glorious body free from sickness and sin, isn’t a “hot topic.”
Indeed, the wondrous promise of partaking in the divine nature remains easily overridden by topics that focus on apologetics or simply titillate the imagination. It is incumbent upon us to realize that defenses for the faith do NOT really target unbelievers. Proofs for the Bible are popular because they strengthen the faith of the already faithful. What this says about us isn’t very hard to pin down. Simply stated, we would rather entertain topics that encourage our faith instead of hearing a sermon or reading a book dedicated to the process of “growing in holiness.” We would much prefer to be “wowed” by an astonishing discovery on the Nephilim more than learning what the future life of believers will be like. Why is this so? One is hard to swallow (it demands the elimination of sin in our lives), while the other is incredulous (“We partake of the divine nature – are you serious?”). Both doctrines challenge our mindset and lifestyle. They require we reset our priorities. Our routines ought to require spiritual workouts and finding ways to spike our interest in future glory.
Going one step further: there are three baptisms, water, the Spirit, and fire (Matthew 3:11). Christians, even the more spiritual among us, avoid the baptism of fire like the plague. But Huffman insists we face the fiery furnace. Concerning the baptism of fire, his instruction constitutes an inspired and hopeful perspective acquired through his many years of personally living out the life of Christ. His words encourage us while still adhering to the uncompromising plain talk of scripture. The Word always yields the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) which develops in the life of the believer as a result of the Spirit’s work and through “the crucifixion of the flesh” (overcoming the power of sin in the flesh). “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:6, KJV)
PUTTING FIRST THINGS FIRST
Regardless of the topics chosen by most Christian writers and teachers, we believe it is obvious that subjects which occupy first place in the teachings of the Apostles should be priority for us as students of the Word. Biblical prophecy, for those that study eschatology, stands out as one of those teachings. However, learning about “what is the hope of His calling” and “the glory of the inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18) is a positive, wonderful promise of Bible prophecy that deserves greater emphasis – even though it seldom finds its way into sermons, serious bible studies, or best-selling books. I find this lapse especially disconcerting. It has caused me to rethink my writing subject matter. And I believe students of eschatology must balance what they read and study.
One such priority that must be underscored to make our way to our “future state,” consists of the essentials of salvation. Here typology helps. Huffman explains that the pattern God has established through His “Tabernacle in the Wilderness” reinforces the stages of salvation. The Tabernacle confirms and illustrates justification, sanctification, and finally, glorification. When finally considered, we realize how all three stages combine into one seamless package. We see this plainly in one paragraph from the book that also highlights the insights in store for the reader:
Sanctification blossoms through internalizing the Word of God, taking it into our hearts and feeding upon it daily. We grow progressively as we “absorb” the knowledge of God’s Word, and actively practice its teachings. And it is the Spirit that is the catalyzing agent, taking God’s Word and applying it to our “hearts and minds.” We develop in what was once called, “the Deeper Life” through the dual action of the Living Word and the Divine Spirit. Obedience to the Word and the Spirit is the “warp and woof” of how we grow in our faith, experience the life of Christ living in and through us, conquer sin, begin our progression toward holiness, and carry out our mission as Christians. Furthermore, as it relates to the subject of this book, this process constitutes the doorway through which we must pass to ultimately obtain glory. “The Revealing” commences in our earthly life NOW, and will be completed to the fullness of the measure of Christ, at the Day of Christ. However, and this is vital, if we do not commence the process of sanctification now, we have reason to doubt we will see our salvation completed later. Our salvation is not made sure unless we progress into the inner sections of the Tabernacle.
This book’s goal might be summarized in this one verse, “(That) the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling and what (are) the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18).
I would be amiss if I didn’t point out that the claims made in this book demand strong scriptural support. Happily, I can boast that seldom has a book paid more attention to providing biblical evidence of what it teaches. You will benefit greatly by working through the many scriptures provided here, topic by topic, a good portion of which the reader may not have understood before now. Because of the plentiful presentation of scripture in the pages ahead, we offer this book hoping it becomes a useful resource to “recharge your batteries” and “realign you wheels.”
IT’S ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE, AFTER ALL
Almost all religions speak of an afterlife. Perhaps the exception would be those teachings that advocate reincarnation, a continuous process of jumping from one imperfect life to another in pursuit of purification – someday – but only if you perform enough good works to earn it. But for most other religions, the afterlife is viewed as a destination. This is where the teaching of the Bible is so different from all other religions. In effect, Christianity comprises the opposite of reincarnation. To be more specific, Karma means “getting what you deserve” while the gift of glory, what God promises those that trust in Him, “is getting what you don’t.” “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) Our “next life” unlike the teaching of other religions, centers on a perfected corporeal nature – a tangible, powerful, almost “superhero” body. And that body is no longer subjected to corruption. That leads me to ask the question, “How much more would we look forward to the next life if we were promised living in a body like Superman?” Guess what? The promise of the Christian’s future life is nearly that – without the Kryptonite. And It’s even better than looking forward to the company of 72 virgins, that Islamic extremists like to contemplate. [Has anyone ever noticed how sexist that view of the afterlife is?] In Christianity, men and women – there is no distinction – will be glorified at our resurrection or the Rapture.
Marx said that religion is the opiate of the people. Some critics describe the Christian faith as “Pie in the sky, by and by.” Other have slammed believers by saying, that we are “so heavenly minded, we are no earthly good.” Well, we are here to say it’s high time we get ourselves focused on the promise of the glory of God to be imparted to us. Our translation comes closer. Our transition to the next life may be only weeks or months away. We must make the most of our time for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). And as the Psalmists says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 KJV)
DIVING INTO THE DEEP WATER
In addition to providing a readable narrative from cover to cover, the book employs a technique called a “Deep Dive” invented in my very first book, seven years ago (Are We Living in the Last Days?) Huffman employs it to appeal to authorities, highly regarded scholars (and a few from a writer like me), with evangelical backgrounds committed to the infallibility and inspiration of the Bible. What they teach adds significant depth to the book’s thesis.
In some cases, the reader may feel the guidance provided hovers a bit “over their heads.” I would request that the reader recognize that those who pick up this volume have varied backgrounds and differing levels of teaching under their belts. For those more studied, the Deep Dives don’t hold back in supplying solid scholarship. Ultimately, we hope that everyone will gather at least a measure of value from them. In contrast, for those readers who are more skeptical, we hope that having a cadre of other teachers sharing their understanding on these topics helps to confirm our own.
Most of the points made in this book, readers will find easy to accept. But some points Huffman makes will no doubt challenge readers to “search the scriptures to see if these things be so.” (see Acts 17:11) Additionally, I should indicate Huffman attempts to differentiate between what is speculation and what we believe the Bible presents without much (if any) debate. Nevertheless, the arguments are developed carefully and thoroughly to avoid as many anticipated counter-arguments and possible challenges as possible. And I should also note, there are many heresies based on “the manifest presence of God” so we must carefully watch our steps.
Now, I should explain my involvement in this effort. First, I contribute as an editor and to a much lesser extent, a co-author, offering some clarification along the way. Gary and I have met many times and exchanged too many emails to mention. We took these opportunities to discuss the more controversial issues I confronted when reading his manuscript. It wasn’t always easy for Gary to convince me he was right about what he had written. We accomplished this meeting of the minds through a number of long distance phone calls over Skype (Gary lives in Montana and I in Oklahoma). And also, we did have the pleasure of meeting once face to face at my daughter’s apartment in Seattle when I was visiting and Gary was driving back to Montana from a vacation just completed in Washington State. Consequently, while I’d like to share only in the accolades this book might garner, I deserve more than equal blame for any mistakes and errors contained herein. This owes to my performing the work of a contributing author, its editor and its publisher.
On that count, to those that have followed Faith Happens, this book is the first officially published by me under the new corporate title, FAITH HAPPENS BOOKS LLC. I hope many others will follow under this banner. I certainly have no lack of ideas myself and hope to work with other authors who have great ideas to share as well as demonstrating the work ethic of a Gary Huffman.
If you appreciate what we have presented here, do share with your friends, and show your gratitude by offering up a sacrifice of writing a short review on one of the various on-line services where book reviews are encouraged. It’s a big help. It might even be rewarded by our Heavenly Father for blessing us with your important contribution to spread the word!