The Fleecing of Christianity
Chapter 2 - The End Times at TBN
Paul Crouch Sr., president and founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), believes that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return to planet Earth to set up His prophesied 1,000-year Kingdom.[i] Not all professing Christians believe in this doctrine of the millennial reign of Christ. Many spiritualize away clear passages of scripture to come to a different conclusion.
The earth will enjoy a thousand years of peace at that time. One famous reference to this time of peace is inscribed on the United Nations Headquarters building in New York City. It reads: “And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” which is taken from Isaiah 2:4. This passage identifies this time period as “the Day of the Lord,” and adds that “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” What a wonderful promise!
The prophet Isaiah prophesied this as a literal time on earth when all of nature will be in harmony and the Lord Himself will be ruling from His throne in Jerusalem. At that time people will again live to be hundreds of years old and will live side by side with the resurrected saints who are in their resurrected bodies.
But before the return of Christ, there will be a seven-year period of time in which the devil has his last stand in the person of the antichrist. This is known as the “Great Tribulation” or “the time of Jacob’s Trouble.” The Bible gives a lot of details about this time in the Book of Revelation and in the Book of Daniel as well as in the Gospels and Epistles.
Christians need to be aware of Bible prophecies regarding the last days as an inoculation against error at a time when spiritual deception will be at an all-time high.
There are many indicators that we are nearing the time of the end and the imminent return of our Lord. Jesus gave us a prophetic pattern to look for in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. These signs would come in waves like the birth pangs of a woman in labor, stronger and closer together. Here is a list of the beginning of sorrows:
• False christs, i.e.: false anointings
• Wars and rumors of wars
• Pestilence, i.e.: by both disease-causing single-cell pests and insects
• Earthquakes in diverse places
• Proliferation of false prophets and religious deceivers
The coming Tribulation period is a time of God’s judgment upon a Christ-rejecting world. Jesus likened the time to the days of Noah, which was a time when the wickedness of man was great in the earth. He also compared it to the time of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who lived in Sodom, the town God destroyed along with Gomorrah, when He rained down fire and brimstone.
In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, God was able to isolate His judgment on the wicked to those two towns. But in the case of Noah, all the inhabited land was corrupt, so His judgment was universal—worldwide. After the flood, God promised He would never again destroy all flesh by water, but that the next global judgment would be one of fire:
But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Pet. 3:7)
One need only look around to see that the whole earth is ripe for judgment. Evil is not isolated to one locale—it is universal. Therefore God’s judgment will have to be universal because He cannot stamp out evil by destroying one city. But before He can execute judgment, He will rescue those who have the righteousness of Christ by faith, since it is not His will to destroy the good along with the evil.[ii]
When the cup of iniquity of the wrath of God is full, then it will be outpoured. Futurists look at nuclear proliferation to determine the time on the Armageddon clock that usually is seen as a few minutes before midnight. But a better signifier of the nearness of the coming judgment is the increase of evil in the world and the backsliding of the professing church.
Recognizing the signs of the times does not guarantee you’ll escape the coming calamities. That depends entirely on your right standing with God. The prophet Amos warned:
Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light. (Amos 5:18)
Some self-righteous folks are going to be in for a rude awakening on that day. I am convinced that after the rapture occurs, the churches will still be full of people and TBN and other “Christian” networks will not go black.
TBN in Bible Prophecy?
Those in TBN’s inner circle are bold to see themselves in Bible prophecy in dramatic ways. TBN has over 20,000 stations, cable networks, the Internet, and is carried on 70 satellites[iii] that beam its programming around the world. Crouch interprets the angel mentioned in Revelation 14:6 that flies through the midst of heaven as these satellites, even though they also happen to carry X-rated programming as well.
“You know I’ve told you this little story so many times, but I have found a scripture in the Bible that talks about satellites,” Crouch asserted during one of their fund-raisers they call Praise-a-thon. “I promise you! Listen to this! Isaiah 45:8: ‘Drop down ye heavens from above. Let the skies pour down righteousness. Let the earth open. Let them bring forth salvation. I, the Lord have created it.’ That’s satellite, brother! Pure and simple! The heavens are opening and the skies are pouring down righteousness.”[iv]
“I heard Billy Graham say that,” Crouch added. “Billy Graham fully believes that Revelation 14:7—‘I saw another angel flying through mid heaven’—Those satellites fly in mid heaven, not the lower heaven, not the far-out heaven, but that’s exactly where they fly—mid-heaven. One—with the everlasting Gospel, preaching to them that dwell upon the earth, saying with a loud voice, ‘repent for the hour of his judgment has come.’”[v]
Crouch has been promoting this ever since TBN got its first satellite link-up. Since the angel in Revelation is in the singular, it was almost tenable. After all, if the demon locusts in the ninth chapter of the book of Revelation are actually helicopters, as some interpret, then you could take it a step further and interpret the angel to be a satellite. But 70 satellites? That’s a lot harder to fit into the passage.
Crouch interprets another verse as referring to satellites in Revelation 1:7—“And every eye shall see Him—via satellite”—a headline stated in the March 1990 TBN newsletter. So according to Crouch, TBN is the vehicle by which God gathers the final harvest. Therefore, Jesus cannot return until TBN fulfills the Great Commission of sending the Gospel out around the world.
“I believe John saw a satellite,” Jan Crouch joyfully proclaimed. “I’ve heard Billy Graham and Chuck Smith and everybody say that. I mean what else would that be? All of heaven opens up and he saw what he recorded in the book of Revelation for us and all of a sudden he saw us. He saw us in his vision laying there when the world thought he was all alone . . . and there he was having this vision of us carrying the good news via satellite around the whole wide world . . . Is that awesome?”[vi]
Even before TBN got onto a satellite, Crouch read TBN into Bible prophecy. Quoting Acts 2:19, in the July, 1986 TBN newsletter: “And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath.” Crouch wrote, “The FCC had GRANTED EIGHT TV station permits in ONE DAY! This has broken all records at the FCC . . . Surely this must be a part of the SIGNS AND WONDERS IN HEAVEN spoken of by the Prophet Joel,” (emphasis in original).
TBN Encoded in the Bible
TBN’s importance has been attested to by many of the Crouches’ friends and TBN regulars. And in every case Paul and Jan Crouch give hearty approval to the visions and revelations that elevate TBN above the competition.
One claim is that Paul, Jan, and TBN are God’s appointed Noah’s Ark for the last days. According to a guest on the Praise the Lord program that aired in early January, 2001, their names are supposedly encrypted in the Book of Genesis in the passage where Noah loaded the survivors of the flood into the ark.
This revelation was made possible by the Bible code theory, an unorthodox means of interpreting the Bible. This method of soothsaying was made popular by the book, The Bible Code, written by non-Christian author Michael Drosnin. This book has now become a fad in fringe Bible prophecy teaching circles. However, no reputable Bible scholar acknowledges it as a valid way of studying scripture.
Co-hosting the program that evening was Ben Kinchlow, former 700 Club co-host, who told the audience that this latest discovery was proof that God’s word is of supernatural origin. Their guest that night was Paul Crouch’s personal Bible code decoder, Yacov Rambsel, whom Crouch commissioned to write a book that was a love gift for TBN donors. The book is called, The Genesis Factor. “I honestly believe God is revealing it to us in these last days,” said Crouch, “to unseal this book (holds up the Bible) and tell us things that no other generation has ever known.”
According to Rambsel, the clue to how the words in the Bible are to be understood is revealed in the Book of Daniel. “In Daniel, where it says at the time of the end knowledge shall be increased,” explained Crouch, “encoded in that passage right there are the words ‘Bible codes.’”
Rambsel uses what he calls equidistant letter sequences (ELS) to find hidden messages in the Hebrew words of scripture. [It’s reminiscent of the backward masking craze, seeking hidden messages on rock albums by playing the albums backwards.] Various critics have shown that virtually any message can be extracted from the Bible through this method.
Rambsel explains in his book how he found the ministry of TBN encrypted in Genesis 7:13, where Noah is gathering his family and all the animals into the ark. “It’s the ark of refuge,” said Rambsel, “He’s talking about salvation.”
“So what we find in that little passage,” said Crouch, reading from The Genesis Factor, “is as they’re loading everybody on the ark, starting with the third letter in the eighth word and counting forward every fifteenth letter, spells ‘Paul’ . . . adjacent to his name at the same ELS is ‘Jan,’ which is the name of his wife . . . starting with the fourth letter in the third word, counting every twentieth letter spells ‘TBN.’ Adjacent letters in the same ELS spell at least eleven different words that are directly associated with the work of TBN: Paul; Jan; last name Crouch; good news; satellite; film; praise; shall be clothed with faith; information and knowledge.’ It’s all there!”
Crouch was quick to point out that his is not the only name encrypted in the Bible. “We honestly believe, Yacov, don’t we, that everybody’s name is encoded in the Holy Bible?”
“I know this for a fact,” agreed Rambsel. “Absolutely!”
“So this is no special blessing to Jan and me,” Crouch added. “We believe that’s the Book of Life, but there’s another book, the Lamb’s Book of Life. That you have to be born again before you get into that book.”
Perhaps the Crouches and their Bible decoder are picking up these ideas from their friends without realizing it. Back on December 5, 1999, on Benny Hinn’s This Is Your Day telecast, faith healer Oral Roberts told Hinn that Hinn and his ministry are the ark.
“They, as a body, are coming together in climax,” said Roberts, referring to Christians of all persuasions. “For example, your crusades is being borne up to the faith of the body of Christ [sic] and the pressing needs of humanity in the same way that the ark of Noah and his family was born up by the waters that will destroy the world. The great rain and flood that came also was lifting the ark. And when sin came to a climax, righteousness came to a climax in Noah just like it’s coming to pass in your life, in your ministry.”
The potential for evil from this Bible code trend is almost infinite.
Can you imagine the Lord Jesus looking at scripture that way? No
right-thinking believer in Christ would. With God there is “no variation
or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Jesus said, “I spoke openly to the
world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple . . . in secret I
have said nothing” (John 18:20). God never gave man any such method of
Country-gospel singer Betty Jean Robinson has been a TBN mainstay almost from the beginning. She has her own show on TBN called Up On Melody Mountain. She is most famous for her beautiful contemporary Christian song, “He is Jehovah.” Inside her Bible, she keeps tucked away a handwritten account of a vision she received some 20 years ago. It reads: “I saw the whole map of America, and in the center was the presidential seal . . . But the eagle on the seal was looking toward TBN in Southern California. From TBN in Southern California great beams of light began to flood up over America and across the world! Written on those beams of light was: ‘Salvation, Deliverance and Power,’ and then a great beam that said, ‘CANNOT BE STOPPED!’ And then I heard the Spirit say to me, ‘I have let my servant Paul in on the secrets for the final days.’”[vii]
This vision allegedly occurred years before the opening of TBN’s International Production Center (IPC) in Irving, Texas, that was designed after the White House and where their programming is translated into many languages. It is hard to say if this vision inspired the design of that studio or if the studio was a fulfillment of Betty Jean’s vision, which is the TBN interpretation.
But the most lofty claim of TBN’s value in the last days come from the Crouches’ personal prophet, Benny Hinn. One night he made a statement that flabbergasted Paul and Jan, who listened with their heads bowed and their hands raised to heaven.
“Here’s first what I see for TBN,” Hinn began. “You’re going to have people raised from the dead watching this network.”[viii]
“I’m telling you, I see this in the spirit,” Hinn continued. “It’s gonna be so awesome. Jesus, I give you praise for this—that people around the world, maybe not so much in America. People around the world who will lose loved ones will say to the undertakers, “Ahh not yet. I want to take my dead loved one and place him in front of the TV set for 24 hours.”
“Placing them before a television set, waiting for God’s power to come through and touch them. It’s gonna happen time and time, so much it’s gonna spread [sic].”
Hinn’s story kept growing as he spoke that night, testifying that he saw caskets lining up in front of TV sets that had TBN tuned in. He said that loved ones would place the cadavers’ hands on the TV sets and God’s power would pulsate through their TVs into them and raise them back to life.
According to this same vision, little children would receive an impartation of the Holy Spirit simply by placing their hands on their TV sets. God had really big plans for the future of TBN. “TBN will no longer be just a television network,” Hinn said. “It will be an extension of heaven to earth.”
Just then, Hinn claimed to be hearing the voice of God speak and began to relate what he was hearing. “The Lord just said to me these words. I’m hearing myself say them for the first time: ‘TBN will not be only a Christian network. It will be an extension of heaven to the earth.’ An extension. It’ll be like a—like a tube from heaven that the earth can look at and say, ‘I’m looking at heaven. I’m partaking of—of heaven. I’m getting connected to heaven through this TBN tube.’ If I can say it, it will be heaven’s signal to the earth. It will be as though heaven is transmitting and earth is receiving through that set. So if you want to go to heaven, you want to see heaven, you want to taste heaven, turn on that channel, because you will.”
Since TBN insiders interpret Bible prophecy and their own dreams and visions as God’s seal of approval on their work, it is the responsibility of all believers to study Bible prophecy and see if TBN fits into any acceptable scenario of the end times.
How has Bible prophecy been presented by the Crouches and TBN regulars over their thirty-six year history? Is there a consensus among them of the nearness of the return of the Lord and what role TBN plays? These are questions well worth examining to form any conclusions regarding their high-minded claims.
[i] For a good study of bible Prophecy, see J. Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come; A Study in Biblical Eschatology, ©1958 Dunham Publishing - republished by Zondervan, Grand Rapids
[ii] See Abraham’s argument with God in the 18th chapter of Genesis where God said He would not destroy Sodom if He could find ten righteous men therein.
[iv] Paul Crouch, Praise-a-Thon, TBN, Fall 1999, tape on file
[vi] Jan Crouch, Macedonian Call Praise-a-Thon, TBN, 7/22/91, tape on file
[vii] June 2000 TBN Newsletter
[viii] Benny Hinn, interviewed by Paul and Jan Crouch, Praise the Lord, TBN, 10/23/99, tape on file
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