Whether it is Nostradamus or the Book of Revelation, prophecy attracks attention. People are curious about the future, and they enjoy speculating about what event fulfills which prophecy. Dispensationalists are no exception. Because of their emphasis on the future for the nation of Israel and the cataclysmic events of the Tribulation period, dispensationalists draw much attention when discussing end time events.
When addressing the question of prophecy from a dispensational perspective, Bob Shelton’s short book, God’s Prophetic Blueprint is one of the better. It is written on the popular level with a conversional tone. Although it is not a textbook on end times, it touches on all of the major topics and passages.
This focus on end-time events tempts dispensationalists to look at modern events in world history as fulfillment of prophecies in the Bible. Shelton discourages this approach during his discussion of the Rapture from 1 Corinthians 15. First, the Rapture of the church is the next event on the prophetic timeline. This is the reason that we say that the Rapture is imminent—it may happen at any moment. Secondly, the Rapture is not signaled by an event. Instead, believers will hear a sound. The Bible calls it a trumpet, a shout, and a loud voice. On account of these two principles, then, dispensationalists need not be concerned about events in the news thinking that they point to the nearness of the Rapture. If those events were necessary or were fulfillment of biblical prophecy, the Rapture would not be imminent.
Unfortunately, after Shelton expresses this opinion so well, he detracts from it by quoting from news papers and world leaders in order to demonstrate the nearness of the Rapture. For example, he states that “One of the most significant prophetical developments of our day has been the return of the Jews from all over the world to the land of Israel… . I grant you they are returning, for the most part, in unbelief. That is, they are not aware of the truths of Ezekiel 37 and 38, nor are they willing to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah” (50). So, the reader is left with the question, “Is the return of the Jews a fulfillment of prophecy or not?”
Some would argue that the Jews have to be in the land in order for the Antichrist to make a covenant with them. That is true in so far as it goes. The problem is that the Jews can return to the land at any time. If they were overthrown by the Palestinians today, it changes nothing. In fact, it makes more sense that the Jews would not be in the land at the time of the Rapture. According to Ezekiel 37, the Lord will bring the people of Israel into the land and make a “covenant of peace” with them. If the Antichrist wanted to deceive the unbelieving Jews that he was the Messiah, what better way to do it. We know from Daniel 9 that he will make a covenant with them. Either way, part of the Jews being in part of the land is nowhere prophecied in Scripture, and therefore, it is not a fulfillment of prophecy. Moreover, it cannot honestly be called a prophetic development.
In conclusion, I enjoy very much the clear layout of Bible prophecy as Shelton describes it in this book. It saddens me, however, that he makes the same mistake that many dispensationalists do, that is, interpreting the Scripture according to current events. Other than that one point, the book is worth reading and worth owning.