The Apocalypse Code

By Hank Hanegraaff
Nashville : Thomas Nelson (2007). xxvii + 300 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Greg Harris
18.2 (Fall 2007) : 254-257

The Apocalypse Codeis Hank Hanegraaff’s reaction to what he and others would consider fanciful interpretations of the Book of Revelation by Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. Though many premillennialists would not necessarily hold many of the same interpretations on selected passages, Hanegraaff seems to lump all premillennialists together through “guilt by association.” He specifically targets Tim LaHaye since he considers him to be “the standard-bearer for Lindsey’s brand of eschatology” (xviii). Yet the absence of Robert Thomas’ two-volume work on the book of Revelation in his rather extensive bibliography of books (295-99) and articles used (300) is significant. One would hope that at least one sentence within Thomas’ first volume, Revelation 1–7 (524 pages), or the second, Revelation 8–22 (690 pages), might contribute in some way to Hanegraaff’s argument. In addition, Hanegraaff has no references to the works of MacArthur, Ryrie, and Pentecost on eschatology. Hanegraaff takes two authors and any speculation they may bring to the text to imply that anyone who holds a premillennial understanding of the Book of Revelation must reach that conclusion by the same hermeneutical means.

Using an acronym “LIGHTS,” which begins with “L” for a “literal understanding” of the text, Hanegraaff presents his methodology as the proper means “to interpret the Bible for all its worth . . . “ (xxvii). Though this sounds very similar to a premillennial understanding of the text, the outworking or application o f his hermeneutics causes the interpretational paths to diverge.

For instance, the “T” section of his acronym “LIGHTS” is chapter six, “Typology Principle: The Golden Key” (161-203). Perhaps a better subheading would be “The Hermeneutical ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card.” In reality, what Hanegraaff does in the name of typology is employ an allegorized hermeneutic whenever a text does not support his preterist theology. Allegorizing of different texts basically undermines a great deal of what he argues for in a literal approach to the text (his “L” section in the LIGHTS acronym). If the “L” (literal principle) and the “T” (typology principle) stand at odds with each other, how can one discern which is dominant?

Most Bible-believing scholars readily accept types as a legitimate component of hermeneutics and recognize that wide debate exists regarding the number and breadth of what is and what is not a type. However, Hanegraaff’s use of typology inserts his theology and supports it with what he calls typology. For instance, in writing about the paramount importance of types, he writes, almost by fiat pronouncement and with no support, “Persons, places, events, or things in redemptive history serve as types of Christ or spiritual realities pertaining to Christ. Palestine is typological of paradise” (9). Hanegraaff refers to the land of Israel as “Palestine,” a term God never used for the land; the name “Palestine” came from Philistia (Exod 15:14; 14:29, 31; Joel 3:4). Hanegraaff has shown his bias, already denouncing what he considers to be racial discrimination against Arabs (xx-xxiii) and the modern “explosive debate over real estate” in the Middle East (xxiii-xxvii). He presents his conclusion, which presumably will be in the “H” (historical principle) section. “Ultimately, we must decide whether the land is the focus of the Lord or the Lord the locus of the land” (xxvii). Yet God is the one who repeatedly refers to the land, His covenant promises, and Jerusalem throughout the Word. Just one example of this hermeneutical divide is Zech 14:1-4:

Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished, and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

Obviously, this is important since it describes the return of the Lord to earth. Does Zech 14:1-4 refer to literal Jerusalem where “His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,” or is it some sort of life lesson for Christians to decipher? Would Hanegraaff place this under the “L” (literal) section, “H” (historical), or “T” (typological)?

This is important because he ends his introduction saying,

In the pages that follow, you will answer these and a host of other questions by internalizing and applying the principles of a methodology called Exegetical Eschatology. . . . In the process you will not only be equipped to interpret the Bible for all it’s worth but you may well discover that you hold the key to the problem of terrorism in one hand and the fuse of Armageddon in the other (xxvii).

Repeatedly throughout the book, Hanegraaff uses typology to allego rizes prophetic texts that do not suit his preterist preunderstanding.

Hanegraaff cites the need for Scripture to be interpreted by Scripture as the last element in his LIGHTS acronym:

Finally, the S in LIGHTS represents the principle of scriptural synergy. Simply stated, this means that the whole of Scripture is greater than the sum of its individual passages. You cannot comprehend the Bible as a whole without comprehending its individual parts, and you cannot comprehend its individual parts without comprehending the Bible as a whole. Individual passages of Scripture are synergistic rather than deflective with respect to the whole of Scripture.

Scriptural synergy demands that individual Bible passages may never be interpreted in such a way as to conflict with the whole of Scripture. Nor may we assign arbitrary meanings to words or phrases that have their referent in biblical history. The biblical interpreter must keep in mind that all Scripture, though communicated through various human instruments, has one single Author. And that Author does not contradict himself, nor does he confuse his servants (9-10).

Such reasoning is sound and many premillennial scholars would wholeheartedly agree with the principle. Accordingly, since Hanegraaff claims to base his teaching from within the text, to use his own words, individual passages must be compared in Scripture to see if they harmonize. In other words, his scriptural synergy principle applies just as much to himself as it does to Lindsey, LaHaye, or anyone else.

One of the major positions Hanegraaff holds in interpreting the Book of Revelation is that Nero was the first beast of Revelation 13:1-8, namely, the Antichrist. Hanegraaff mocks LaHaye’s (and others’) rejection that the advent of the Antichrist has occurred in history past and that instead, a future individual with relevance to the Jewish people is divine prophecy that awaits fulfillment. Hanegraaff’s position that Nero is the first beast is full of exegetical problems, only one of which this review has space to cite. When he describes the death of Nero by suicide on June 9, A.D. 68 (148-49), the scriptural synthesis principle is just as true for him as for anyone. Hanegraaff rails against “unbridled speculation, or subjective flights of fancy” (xvii) and encourages the reader concerning his own The Apocalypse Code: “In the pages that follow, you will answer these and a host of other questions by internalizing and applying the principles of a methodology called Exegetical Eschatology. . . . In the process you will not only be equipped to interpret the Bible for all it’s worth but you may well discover that you hold the key to the problem of terrorism in one hand and the fuse of Armageddon in the other” (xxvii). No, actually Jesus’ words in Acts 1:7 offer a better theology of who knows the timing of end-time events: “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.”

To put such principles as Hanegraaff says he employs requires that Jesus Christ returned to earth at the latest on June 8, AD 68—the last full day of Nero’s life—because if Nero is the Antichrist, he must be alive at the Lord’s return. Either Nero meets this biblical requirement, or he must be discarded as a consideration for fulfilling the biblical requirements for the Antichrist. To accept that the death of Nero in anyway remotely matches this Scriptural requirement—plus dozens of other requirements—is contrary to Acts 1:7 and numerous other prophetic passages.