"Statements are made so plainly and positively that men have
hardly the moral courage to pause upon them and find
that they are without support."
"Christians will be slaughtered by the millions for their faith in Jesus Christ. You say, 'Wait a minute, during the tribulation? I thought all Christians were going to be raptured and we were going to get out of here and that there weren't going to be any Christians,’... It's true, the Church will be raptured before the final seven years of Earth's history, but during that final seven years, many people will come to faith in Christ but they will pay a terrible price to do so."
His point here is rousing, poignant, gripping, and quite possibly wrong. Without blinking, Jeffress expounds on the rapture as if it were as fundamental to Christian doctrine as the virgin birth or the resurrection. It is not. The Left Behind brand of rapture theology which has been so ragingly popular among American evangelicals is a part of a theological scheme known as dispensationalism, which was largely invented in the 19th-century by an Irish preacher named John Nelson Darby. Many of the most reputable, conservative Bible scholars today don’t buy it.
Few Christian teachers are more deserving of consideration than N.T. Wright, and he thinks the whole idea of a rapture, in the dispensationalist sense, is the result of a confused interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4. See a video of Wright explaining his view here.
The point of all this is not that Robert Jeffress should fall in line and agree with N.T. Wright, but that he should do something that's very foreign to our emotionally-driven, secular culture, and increasingly foreign to evangelical culture. He should think.
Circumspection and prudence should be two of the most fundamental traits in any Christian teacher, but for some, this kind of thoughtfulness is a hindrance. It just doesn’t deliver like stock, short-sighted, theological punch lines.
Even if it were the case that dispensationalism is more accurate than Wright thinks, it’s not certain, and it’s definitely something about which equally wise and sincere Bible scholars disagree. Anyone who holds the weighty responsibility of teaching people Holy Scripture also has a responsibility to acknowledge different views by reputable people on non-essential issues. And learning the difference between essentials and non-essentials is essential.
When we fail to reserve certainty for the points that are truly certain, and pound the pulpit with a confidence disproportionate to our real knowledge, we can quickly be reduced to agenda-pushing ideologues--and the world doesn't need any more of these since there's already such a huge surplus in the news media.