of Bible Answer Man fame has recently delved into the field of eschatology (the
study of last things) with the release of a novel called The Last Disciple,
co-authored with Sigmund Broward.
It appears that Hanegraaff has adopted the preterist position in this
first novel in a series that sees the book of Revelation as having been
fulfilled in the first century.
" Hank is a partial preterist who holds to a view on eschatology that is
similar to the position held by Gary DeMar," 
according to DeMar' s American Vision website. The Last Disciple is being billed as a preterist counterpart to the Left Behind novel series of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. In the past Hanegraaff would not
publicly state his views on eschatology but now is aggressively propagating
them as the true biblical teaching.
Literal Or Spiritual?
On a recent Bible
Answer Man radio broadcast, a caller asked Hanegraaff: " How do you know when to
spiritualize things in the Bible and when to take them literally." Hanegraaff' s reply was as follows:
If the Bible is using a metaphor or a
figure of speech, do you want to take that in a wooden-literal sense? I think not. For example, the word " thousand" is used throughout the
Bible. I don' t know of any, or
at least many places where that word thousand is used in a literal sense. For example, if you look at the Decalogue. Thousand is used but not in a literal sense, when God shows His loving-kindness to thousands
of generations. We' re not to take
that in a wooden-literal sense, but we are to take that in the sense in which
it is intended. God says that He
is a jealous God punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the
third and fourth generation of those who hate me but showing love to a thousand
generations of those who love Me and keep My commands. Now the question is does God only show
love to a thousand generations or does He extend it to a thousand and one
generations? What does a thousand
mean? It means that He extends His
Or it says in Scripture God owns the
cattle on a thousand hills. Do we
say then, " Oh my goodness, I didn' t know that God owns the cattle on a thousand
hills, but the thousand and first hill, I guess He doesn' t own those
cattle." So who owns them? Well, we know what that means. It means that God owns all the cattle.
If the Lord your God has increased
your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky. May the Lord increase you a thousand
times and bless you as He has promised.
We don' t want to take that thousand in a wooden-literal sense. And I think this is the problem. People end up, in fact, ironically of
the most symbolic of all the books of the Bible taking thousand in a woodenly
literal sense. When it is never
used in Scripture in a woodenly literal sense. So you always want to
take something in the sense in which it is intended. And when you don' t, the Bible becomes non-sense.
Hanegraaff says that the word " thousand" is rarely used in
a literal sense throughout the Bible.
I am not sure of which Bible he has studied, because when I looked up
the word " thousand" it was used at least 531 times in the Old and New
Testaments. In the Old Testament
the Hebrew word for a thousand is ' elep and it occurs 497 times.
In the New Testament the Greek words are chilia and chiliades, which occur 34 times. While there are a few examples of a
non-literal use of " thousand," and some instances that could be disputed, it is
safe to say that almost all uses of this word carry a literal value, contra
that his approach to Bible prophecy is " based upon a methodology called
exegetical eschatology."  Hanegraaff explains: " I coined the
phrase ' exegetical eschatology' to underscore the fact that above all else I am
deeply committed to a proper method of biblical interpretation rather than to
any particular model of eschatology."  It is common today to stress method over
outcome, but nevertheless, Hanegraaff does conclude that the Book of Revelation
was primarily fulfilled in the first century of Christianity. Such a view is known as preterism.
contrasts his " exegetical" approach with wooden literalism. He characterizes the Left Behind eschatology as the product of wooden
literalism. Why does Hanegraaff
frame the contrast by using the extreme and pejorative term " wooden
literalism," instead of the more accurate portrayal of " literal' ? Is it because he wants to plant in the
listener' s mind, through dishonesty in labeling, that a literal understanding
of a thousand years in Revelation 20 is somehow an extreme view? Hanegraaff used the occasion of the
call, not to go to Revelation 20 and demonstrate exegetically within the
context why a thousand years is symbolic rather than literal. Instead of demonstrating an exegetical
approach in his answer, as he boasts is his method, he argued from other
biblical texts that " thousand" should be taken symbolically. By not dealing with the context of
Revelation 20, Hanegraaff did not arrive at his view through exegesis. He merely transfers into Revelation 20
an interpretation he had already arrived at without ever examining the text he
had referenced. On this occasion Hanegraaff
failed to live up to his self-proclaimed label of " exegetical eschatology,"
rather he provides an example of " eisegetical eschatology." 
The Cattle On A Thousand Hills
correct to note that Psalm 50:10 means that " God owns all the cattle."  How do we know that " thousand" in Psalm
50:10 is figurative? We know
because the context supports a figurative understanding. In Hebrew poetry it is common to have
two lines juxtaposed to each other.
This is the Psalm 50:10 which says, " For every
beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills." The first line states that God owns all
beasts. The second line gives an
example (cattle) of all the beast of the forest belonging to God. Thus, the context supports in this
instance a figurative use of " thousand."
The next line (Psalm 50:11) continues in the same vein: " I know every
bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine." Does God only know the birds or the
mountains and not those of the valleys?
In this verse the Psalmist goes from the specific to the general. It would make sense from this passage
to conclude that God owns all.
However, this passage is not an example of a figurative use of a
Thousand in the Decalogue
" If you look at the
Decalogue," declares Hanegraaff, " Thousand is used but not in a literal
sense, when God shows His
loving-kindness to thousands of generations." 
(emphasis added) By my count,
" thousand" is used 120 times in the first five books of the Bible in the Hebrew
text. Most of these instances are
literal uses of the word " thousand."
Exodus 20:6 and Deuteronomy 5:10 include the statement noted by
Hanegraaff. First, these two
instances both use the plural " thousands," unlike the singular use in
Revelation 20. A singular
" thousand" is found in Deuteronomy 7:9.
Second, I agree that a figurative meaning is most likely intended in
these passages. " Thousand/s"
appears to be used in these contexts to refer to an indefinite amount. The reason a figurative understanding
is possible in these texts are due to the contextual factors found in these
verses. Third, none of these three
instances use the word " thousand" with a number, such as one thousand, two
thousand, etc. In order to have
relevance to assist us in understanding the thousand years in Revelation 20,
Hanegraaff would need to find examples of the figurative use of years.
Context is King
Outside of the
six occurrences in Revelation 20, the term " a thousand years" is only used
twice (Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8). In
both instances they require a literal used of a thousand years. " The idea of 2 Peter 3:8, which is an
amplification of Psalm 90:4, is that the delay of a (literal) thousand years
may well seem like a (literal) day against the backdrop of eternity," notes
Matthew Waymeyer. Thus, there is no lexical basis,
outside of Revelation 20, that would support a figurative reading of the
thousand years in the Apocalypse, as asserted by Hanegraaff.
In spite of the
semantic range of a word when used in various contexts, a word or term can only
have a single meaning in a given context.
Context limits the possible meaning of a word to a single meaning. This is why any good exegete knows that
a suggested meaning for a word lives or dies on whether it fits the context in
which it appears. For example,
there are dozens of nuances for the word " run." " She has a run in her stocking." " He scored the winning run." " Run to the store."
" There is a run of salmon."
In spite of many possible meanings of the word " run," we do not have a
hard time understanding how the word is used when it appears in a specific
context. The same is true in the
Bible. The context is the deciding
factor for determining how a word is used.
It is interesting
to observe that Hanegraaff went to a couple of the few examples of the
figurative use of " thousand" found in the Bible and argued from those
instances. He never went directly
to instances of a thousand in Revelation 20 and attempted to make his case from
that context, yet, the issue to which he spoke was concerning the meaning of a
thousand years in Revelation 20.
Instead of demonstrating to the caller an example of " exegetical
eschatology," Hanegraaff provides a example of an " exegetical fallacy." This is example of the hermeneutical error
termed by Barr as " illegitimate totality transfer."  While totally ignoring contextual uses,
Hanegraaff seeks to establish his own context for a thousand years. Hanegraaff creates this error by
attempting to establish the meaning of a thousand from its use in other
passages and then illegitimately transfers a foreign meaning into Revelation
20, without support from the immediate context. So much for " exegetical eschatology!"
question that precipitated Hanegraaff' s answer was " How do you know when to
spiritualize things in the Bible and when to take them literally." I believe that Matthew Waymeyer
provides a much better answer to that caller' s question than did Hanegraaff. Waymeyer says: " In order to be
considered symbolic, the language in question must possess (a) some degree of absurdity when taken literally and (b) some degree of clarity when taken symbolically." 
(emphasis original) There is
nothing absurd about taking a thousand years literally in Revelation 20 as was noted
in the contextual uses of passages like Psalm 50:10- 11.
reading of a thousand years in Revelation 20 makes perfect sense. The only reason it may seem strange to
an individual would be because they have a bias, for some reason, against such
Non-premillennialists have just such a bias: if they let the statements
of a thousand years stand, then this passage clearly teaches premillennialism. " With this in mind," concludes
Waymeyer, " it is difficult to imagine why one would consider the ' thousand
years' in Revelation 20 to be symbolic language, for it possesses neither a
degree of absurdity when taken literally, nor a degree of clarity when taken
symbolically."  Maranatha!
Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer, The Last Disciple (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004).
 American Vision homepage, www.americanvision.org,
accessed Sept. 27, 2004.
Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Man (BAM) radio program, Sept. 28, 2004.
 Based upon
searching the computer program Accordance,
Hanegraaff, BAM radio program, Sept. 24, 2004.
BAM, Sept. 24, 2004.
means to lead out the meaning, thus, eisegesis is the opposite and means to
read into a passage a meaning from outside of the text, not intended by the
BAM, Sept. 28, 2004.
BAM, Sept. 28, 2004.
Waymeyer, Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate (The Woodlands, TX: Kress Christian Publications, 2004), p. 100. This recent book is an excellent
overview of the millennial debate and defends the premillennial position. It can be purchased at
James Barr, The
Semantics of Biblical Languages
(London: Oxford University Press,
1961), p. 218.
 Waymeyer, Revelation
20, p. 50.
 Waymeyer, Revelation
20, pp. 51- 52.