Mike Bickle’s IHOP Eschatology

God called Mike Bickle at a very young age to help “change the face of Christianity in one generation.”  And there is no doubt that the fruit on his life has been tremendous.  First, he was the pastor of the Kansas City Prophets which reintroduced the prophetic to the global church,  then was a major voice introducing the love of God to the body through Passion for Jesus, and then he launched the IHOP movement which has made around the clock prayer a normal thing all over the world.  Most people consider themselves a wild success if they can be a part of launching one movement in a lifetime.

Furthermore, over more than 40 years of ministry, Mike has kept his nose clean, and famously demonstrated charity to another major leader who attacked him at the height of his success.  It’s important to me that what I have to say below be taken in the context of the immense respect I have for Mike Bickle and how the Lord has used his obedience, as well as my dear friends at IHOP, and the debt I owe personally to their pioneering work.

End Time Shift

Around the Mike launched the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC), Mike shifted from intimacy and the prophetic an increasing focus on the end times and started teaching on what he calls “Apostolic Premillennialism.”  Rather than just one of many doctrines, it became the focus of everything they are doing.  Trying to understand this shift is one of the reasons I wrote Cracking the End Time Code  I personally remember attending a OneThing in 2015 where basically every session Mike taught was details about the end.  While Mike had previously been known for the prophetic and especially intimacy with God, now he seemed to focus on eschatology at the expense of everything else.   It felt like Passion for Jesus had been replaced with passion for Revelation.

Apostolic Premillennialism

Without getting into too much detail, premillennialism basically interprets Revelation 20 to mean that Jesus will come at the end of the age and set up an earthly kingdom, which He will rule with the saints for a thousand years (“the millennium”). Before that, the world will get worse and worse and an Antichrist figure will rise.

The version that most American Christians are familiar with is dispensationalism, which teaches that that believers will be raptured before the Great Tribulation.  Mike distinguishes Apostolic Premillennialism from other forms of premillennialism by its greater optimism – instead of saying that Christians will be raptured, and then the world will go to hell in a handbasket, he teaches that Christians will stick around through the end of the Tribulation, and that the Church will shine brighter and brighter even as the world grows darker and darker.

However, Apostolic Premillennialism suffers from the same problems as all premillennial systems.   The first of these is “double vision.”  The idea of a future millennium of physical dominion followed by the devil creates a duplication of history and strange problems:

  • The millennium is a time when believers rule under Christ following His Second Coming, but then there are the other unbelievers… what are they doing, and where did they come from?
  • The devil has been defeated at the Cross, he is defeated again at the Second Coming, and then yet again at the end of the millennium.
  • There are two final judgments: once at the Second Coming and again at the end of the millennium.
  • The premillennial schema, whether Apostolic or not, is a terribly convoluted interpretation of the prophecies of Revelation.   Part of the appeal of premillennialism is its “literal” reading of the thousand years in Revelation 20, but everywhere else in Scripture, “a thousand years” is always a figurative term. Nowhere is “a thousand years” ever used as an expression of concrete, historical time.

Practical Implications

Paradoxically, the over-literal interpretation of Revelation leads to an over-spiritualization of the Christian life, where only the spiritual matters, and the natural is ignored.  Now that I live in Kansas City, I see the fall-out of this kind of viewpoint. People become so focused on ushering in the end times with prayer, fasting, and worship, that they neglect to develop practical skills or a life plan. They become unbalanced and I have seen lives fall apart or struggle because of this imbalance.

Whenever the church attaches “end times” to our mission, things can get a bit heady.  We end up denigrating the seemingly mundane task of building for the future while we focus on the exhilarating Spiritual pursuits.   Further more, we can find ourselves caught in fear-based speculation over current events, as we eagerly look for the eschatological timeline.  This was exactly what happened with Y2K, which IHOP was all-in with, and turned out to be a bust.

This kind of thinking leads us to miss the opportunity to the direction of the larger society around us.   The fact that IHOP has a liquor store on either side of it is to me a visible representation of this mindset.  We can safely assume that in the last 20 years there they have prayed for change, but if they had a more present-oriented view, they would have, like the pastor I know in Florida, changed that little part of town through direct physical action.

Apostolic Premillennialism rightly fuels and emphasizes the importance of prayer and intimacy with God, and fuels this idea with end-time urgency, but you can only live on an end-time high for so long.  We need lifestyles of prayer that can last throughout our lives.    When I was growing up we were told we were the Joshua generation, but now that I’m getting older that seems a little silly.    Premillennialism has encouraged every generation in the last 120 years to think that they are the last and final, super-significant generation. I want to be the Joshua generation, but I’m fine with being the Moses generation too. Or even the Abraham generation. I plan on reforming the church and proclaiming the truth to my death bed teaching my sons to do likewise.

Well-Tread Ground

I helped Daniel Falls publish his book The Life and Legacy of Pat Bickle and a History of the Kansas City Prophets.  In that book, Danny brings to the surface many details not previously known to the wider public.  One of those is that Mike was greatly influenced by reading Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth, when he was younger.  To me, this gives some continuity… Intentionally or not, Mike fused the dire end times scenario of premillennialism that was popular in mainstream Christianity with the with the Latter Rain vision of a glorious end time church that the Prophets Paul Cain and Bob Jones brought.

To me, IHOP’s hard turn towards premillennialism also echoes the turn made by Pentecostalism, when dispensationalism took hold and the power of God waned.   Furthermore, John Alexander Dowie and William Branham’s were two incredibly significant figures in Sprit-filled history who got derailed by premillennial thinking. Believing that they were Elijah’s fore-running the Second Coming. R.A. Torrey was another great giant whose later years were lesser than the first because he embraced premillennialism, or at least so thought John G. Lake.

An Amillennial Alternative

Sam Storms, a prominent pastor and theologian, who was closely connected with Mike in the 90s ultimately parted ways with IHOP in part because he could not be aligned with their eschatology. He has since written an excellent book on the amillennial alternative called Kingdom Come. Like Sam, the end times position I take is amillennialism, or present millennialism.

The millennium is now, and Jesus is currently reigning through us. We are expanding His rule until He returns. Not only does this eschatology fit much better with the symbolic nature of the book of Revelation, but it is also much more optimistic and present-oriented in practice. The application of Revelation is not later, it’s now.

Mike is right that the end times church will be a glorious church, but it can and should be more continuous with the church throughout history than an end time aberration. By realizing that God’s Kingdom is now, and not of this world, but breaking into change this world, we can better participate in how God wants to transform society. Instead of waiting and praying for some future revival, we can be acting to bring God’s nature into every place and institution we touch – politics, law, media, science, and education.

This is not a fantasy—this is what the church has done for the last 2000 years.   We should take a long-view of history knowing that Jesus’ First Coming has already established the beachhead of the Kingdom.  Now our role is to expand it until it becomes “a great mountain that fills the whole earth.”    If you would like to read more about eschatology, and its implications for how we should live today, you may want to read my book Cracking the End Time Code.

14 Comments

  1. End time stuff makes my head hurt! I am not bright enough to grasp it.

    Focus on end times takes away our focus on today and todays mission.

    We are told not to worry about tomorrow Matthew 6:25-35.

  2. Thanks Drum.

    Matthew also devotes and extensive part of that Gospel to Jesus teaching on the end ch24-25. What’s important about the end is what it tells us we should be doing now.

    On the other hand, when some man of God becomes over-focused on it, I think it’s a concern.

  3. Mike Bickle may not have it all figured out and I’m pretty confident he doesn’t but at least he’s speaking out about the importance of understanding the end times and preparing people for it. The reality is most people avoid discussing it all together. They have noproblem attacking otheres who teach it or try to define it but never willing to define it themselves. I’ve heard Bivle teach on the end times many of times. Holy Spirit lives in me and I have the Word of GOD to disern error or at least seek it. Sometimes I see things different than Bickle but many times I agree. The bottome line he is encouraging the Saints to read Joel, Daniel, Matthew, and the book of Revelation for themseves. Jesus said be ready, I applaud a man who is rallying peopel to study this.

  4. This is what Mike Bickle says… (is this a problem)

    Through His Word, God has given us strategic information about the future.

    We learn from the Scripture there is a very severe crisis coming to the earth. In fact, Jesus warns that this crisis will be greater in severity than anything the world has yet experienced. If He were not to shorten this time, no one would be able to endure it.

    In His kindness, God has told us about this crisis beforehand. He has given us detailed information concerning the coming trouble so that we will not be caught off guard. He wants us to be prepared for this tribulation. This will be an hour of great confusion and chaos, and He wants His people to understand what He is doing and why He is doing it.

    The book of Revelation gives us more information about this crisis than any other book in the Bible. Specifically, 4 chapters (Revelation 6; 8-9; 16) tell us about 21 crisis events coming in the future. As the Body of Christ, we are responsible to know and act on this information. This information is more than an interesting riddle; it concerns the personal welfare of our families, friends, and cities. It is an issue of life or death, and so we would be wise to seek to understand it.

  5. Mike, Thanks for your comments. Perhaps you have misunderstood the spirit of my post. I am not interested in tearing Mike Bickle down. I consider him a great leader who I am concerned is moving in an unhealthy direction based on the pattern from history outlined above. Moreover, I do suggest an alternative. It is widely known as amillennialism. See my post here for an outline of the major systems: http://churchrevolution.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/an-eschatology-in-a-nutshell/

    The primary emphasis of the Scripture is what we do /now/. Premillennialism has tended to focus people on potential future disaster for over 150 years. At the meantime the church is advancing dramatically around the world. How do you know that the 21 crisis events didn’t already happen in history, or they are not 21 types of crises that occur throughout the church age? Our focus should be on reaching lost people.

  6. Thanks, great article. just watched several ads for the upcoming onething08 conference, where Mike will be teaching on revelation. I had a sneaking feeling that they are hyping up something that really shouldnt have to be hyped up if it really was the Lord! They talk a lot about that he is going to teach from revelation, but theres not a hint on WHAT he is actually teaching! I could very well be wrong in my suspicion!
    Since im a partial preterist / strongly convinced postmill. my self, im probably more convinced that they are missing the mark this time that you are, hehe! Btw, always loved the kansas guys, specially Cain and Bickle, so theres nothing personal in this.

  7. Gere, Thanks. I just got the email from Mike as well, and it definitely caught my attention. I feel like I want to go just to see what they are going to say. Because although I believe like the eschatological framework is wrong, I think a lot of what they are doing and have been called to do is essential. Therefore, they may have a good revelation, but put into a wrong system.

    You saw that I am more Amil. I was part of a postmil type group for a long time and actually searched the issue out pretty thoroughly, even doing a full research course on it. I cam to the conclusion that Augustine was basically right in his identification of the Millennium as being now, but that theonomy/literal dominion were not what Jesus had in mind for the church. I’m more “optimistic” though than most amil types, and am looking forward to a “spiritually victorous” church.

  8. thinkingriddle, i cant tell you have encourage i am to read your reply. I actually find myself somewhere between postmill and amill myself and have gained so much personal renewal and joy from applying this view compared to when i was a confused “left behind’er” years ago. I do absulotely apply the teaching about us” regning with christ for a thousand years” to us now, but i also hope and believe that the church will move in this more manifested than we do now. I dont honestly know if that makes me amill or postmill!

  9. Geir. Thanks for your compliment. The eschatology terms are confusing to the point that I think they are somewhat unhelpful. You probably saw that I did a post trying to simplify http://churchrevolution.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/an-eschatology-in-a-nutshell/

    Part of the reason that it is tricky to discuss is because the terms encompass a broad array of perspectives. The Postmil “movement” is primarily preterist/dominion/theonomy. However, historic postmil was not preterist or theonomic. Therefore you could be postmil, but very different than the postmil movement (see Jack Davis for an example)

    And the difference between someone like Davis and someone like Riddlebarger (Amil) is not really that large structurally speaking. Therefore to me it’s about focus. Do you put the focus on the victorious church (amil) or on the conquered world (postmil)? Are you ruling and reigning over people (postmil) or over the devil and his forces (amil)? Amil really means “there is no millennium in the sense that both pre and postmil think there will be” (dominion over the world political system). The second major difference is hermeneutics. Amils tend toward idealism – that the prophecy has past (literal/preterist), present (throughout the church age) and future (end of the church age) fulfillments. This is applied to both OT and NT prophecy.

  10. Our focus should be on the unveiling of Jesus Christ to the saints. This will turn the lost to Jesus as we prepare ourselves to be united with him.

    His focus is warranted and should be followed.

  11. Not feeling the hype you are accusing Mike of as I am experiencing the world living with the Corona virus. Much rubbish is being circulated regarding the cause of the virus. The other day I heard a talk given Mike and found the peace of God. Good to be able to listen to a person who has studied the subject for 10 / 20 years. People are having one dream and speaking like they know everything.

    1. Hi Ruth, Thanks for your comment. The trajectory of history is very much in the favor of Jesus and looks very much to me like Isa 9:7. He has significantly changed the world since his coming and will continue to do so. Comparing 2020 with 1348 is quite favorable.

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