A couple weeks ago I wrote an article titled “The Crisis In Egypt, The Future And Bible Prophecy.” I have also written an article titled, “Iran, Iraq And The Future In Bible Prophecy.” But I would now like to expand to the entire Muslim world, given the massive unrest that is going on as we speak.
The crisis in Egypt isn’t over; it has merely reached a new phase with the departure of Mubarak. The largest and most powerful nation in the Arab world is now being ruled by a military council; who knows for certain what will happen next? Only our Lord God, who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10). And to a much lesser extent, the Bible exegete who rightly divides God’s prophetic Word of truth. And no one else.
Let me say at the outset that there is a great deal of disagreement in the area of Bible prophecy and eschatology (the study of “last things”). I represent a very solid viewpoint in Protestant theology who embrace premillennialism (which holds that Jesus Christ will return to prior to establishing a literal 1,000 year millennium on earth per Revelation 20:1-7) and dispensationalism (the two basic tenants of which are that God has dealt with humanity progressively in an unfolding manner in history and that Israel is distinct from the Church). On a dispensationalist view, God began with Israel and He shall faithfully keep all of His promises to Israel and end with Israel. Dispensationalists read passages such as Romans 11:16-24 and recognize that God did not kill the olive tree of Israel or plant an entirely different tree; rather, He grafted Gentile Christian believers into the olive tree of the hope of Israel which He had planted in Abraham centuries before. On a dispensationalist perspective, the purpose of the Millennium reign of Christ on earth will be to fulfill every promise that God ever made to Israel that Israel was not ready to receive: God will one day expand Israel to the boundaries that He promised Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21); one day all the nations trulywill one day go up to Jerusalem to worship Messiah on the forever throne of King David (see Zechariah 14:9, 16; see also 2 Samuel 7:9-16 and Psalm 89:29-37); the wolf will one day really lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6), etc.
The dispensationalist will excitedly assure you that God’s promises are not like a human politician’s promises, in which some skilled lawerly linguist reinterprets the promises and explains that said promises were fulfilled, however unliterally was their fulfillment. Rather, when God makes a promise, He will ultimately fulfill that promise LITERALLY in His sovereign timing. It is God’s nature to fullfil His Word.
And all of this beautfiful fulfillment of God’s Word concerning Israel – according to the dispensationalist – will begin to happen when all Israel finally “will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son” (Zechariah 12:10). Israel is “the apple of God’s eye” (Zechariah 2:8). Nations harm Israel at their peril. And God will not ultimately forsake “His people” or “His land” of Israel.
There are other views toward eschatology. The most dominant view in the Protestant world at one time was Postmillennialism. It holds that the millennium is a metaphor, and that Christ’s millennial kingdom is even now being extended over all the earth by the preaching of the gospel. And that when most of the world is converted to Christ, Christ will return to His kingdom. It largely went out after World War I; World War II pretty much killed this view off as the optimism of humans ushering in the kingdom of heaven for God proved to be unattainable.
Then there is the more substantial view of Amillenialism – which is the view of the Catholic church as well as a number of Protestant mainline denominations. It holds that there is no literal future millennium (a means no). It teaches that although Satan is currently bound, the kingdom of evil will continue to increase in parallel along with Christ’s kingdom. But when Jesus Christ returns, the end of the world will occur and there will be a general resurrection and a general judgment of all human beings.
We don’t see early evidence of amillennialist thought until Augustine described the view in the early 5th century. I would argue that the key reason that Augustine set out the highly allegorical and metaphorical interpretation system of amillenialism was due to the apparent absence of national Israel. Israel had been wiped out by Rome in AD 70, in fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:2. With no Israel, any system based on taking Bible prophecy literally fell apart. Prophecy was something to be explained away, rather than revelled in as proof of a God who truly knows the end from the beginning.
It didn’t have to be that way. One just had to believe the Bible and to truly trust in the God whose Word the Bible is.
There is another key difference between premillennialism and its amillennialist and postmillennialist rivals: literalism. Premillennialists want to take their Bible literally. Oswald T. Allis, an amillennialist champion of covenant theology and a vigorous opponent of dispensationalism, said on page 17 of his book Prophecy and the Church:
“One of the most marked features of premillennialism in all its forms is the emphasis which it places on the literal interpretation of Scripture. It is the insistent claims of its advocates that only when interpreted literally is the Bible interpreted truly; and they denounce as “spiritualizers” or “allegorizers” those who do not interpret the Bible with the same degree of literalness as they do. None have made this charge more pointedly than the dispensationalists.”
And, while amillennialists have been quite willing to do a great deal of “denouncing” of their own, I agree with Allis’ point: premillennialists and dispensationalists DO seek to literally interpret their Bibles, in marked contrast to his own amillennialist and Covenant viewpoint. There are passages that speak of the arm of the Lord, or refer to God as a great bird protectively keeping His people under His wing. The biblical literalist knows that God doesn’t have arms or wings or feathers because many other passages tell us that God is Spirit and doesn’t have a physical body apart from Christ who assumed a human image in the incarnation. So we rightly understand passages describing God’s strong arm or God’s wings as metaphors. But there is no place in Scripture that tells us not to understand the 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom as a literal kingdom or a literal thousand years. We read the Bible literally unless context demands that we read it otherwise.
On the other hand, every single mainline liberal denomination that has evacuated historic orthodox Christianity has been one that has interpreted their Bibles using the allegorical approach of amillennialism and postmillennialism. And I will include the nation of Germany that first became the most atheistic nation in Europe and then became the hosts of Nazism’s attempt to destroy the Jews and their influence upon “Judeo-Christianity” and the Christendom that Judeo-Christianity created. An illustration of this phenomenon was revealed in a Pew Poll in which respondents were asked the pluralist question, “Do many religions lead to God and eternal life?” 70% of all surveyed said “yes.” Amazingly, amillennialist Catholics (79%) and amillennialist Mainline churches (83%) were the most likely of ALL respondents to abandon the orthodox Christian confession that only Jesus Christ gives eternal life. And while their are many strong and staunch Christians who embrace amillennialist theology, once you embrace a hermeneutic approach that encourages highly allegorical interpretations of Scripture, you open the door wide to abandoning the doctrine of the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement and the bodily Resurrection. All of these abandonments of genuine and orthodox Christianity have been done by the opponents of dispensationalism. Whereas a literal interpretation of the Bible guarantees against such radical departures from the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
Dispensationalists also believe in the doctrine of the rapture of the saints prior to the divine judgment of the Tribulation.
What is the Tribulation? It is described in the book of Revelation, beginning in chapter 6 and continuing through chapter 18. It is a seven-year period of time that culminates the “Seventy Sevens” of prophecy given to Daniel (Daniel chapter 9). It is a period during which God will give sinful mankind it’s chance to govern itself apart from God. It is a period of divine judgment as God pours down divine wrath upon wicked humanity. Interestingly the church is never mentioned even a single time after the words “come up here” in chapter 4. Prior to that the word “church” was all over the place. Where did all the Christians go? What we see instead are Jews who become Christians after the rapture of the Christian church, and 144,000 Jewish Christians divinely sealed from each of the Twelve literal tribes of Israel (Revelation 7) evangelizing the whole world even as an insanely evil global dicator known as “the beast” or “Antichrist” reigns under the possession of the devil himself.
What is the Rapture? Well, those words “come up here” (Revelation 4:1) sum it up pretty well.
The word “rapture” (to seize or snatch) was translated from the Greek word “Harpazo” in 1 Thess 4:16. “Harpazo” has the same meaning as the Latin word “rapturo” in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate written in AD 385. We can consider the writings of early Christian exegetes such as Ephaim the Syrian, who wrote about AD 373 in a book entitled, “Antichrist and the End of the World”:
”We ought to understand thoroughly, therefore my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hungers and plagues, violent movement of nations and sins, which have been predicted by the Lord.
Let us prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ so that He may draw us from the confusion which overwhelms the world. Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming of the Lord is nigh. Believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand. Believe me because it is the very last time. Because all Saints and the elect of the Lord are gathered together before the Tribulation which is about to come and are taken to the Lord in order that they may not see at any time the confusion that overwhelms the world because of our sins.”
That’s just one particularly clear example from the Church Fathers. Papias – companion of Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John – believed in the literal earthly pre-millennial doctrine. As did Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Methodius, Commodianus, and Lactanitus, Apollinaris of Laodicea, Melito of Sardis, Jerome, Gennadius, Hippolytus of Rome, Nepos, Ambrose of Milan, as well as others. Pre-millenialism was in fact the dominant view of the church for the first few centuries. It is the oldest eschatological view.
Contrary to a very oft pubilicized misconception, Charles Nelson Darby did not “invent” dispensationalism. Dispensatioanlism had already been around LONG before Darby came onto the scene. But Darby did systemize and popularize dispensational eschatology more than had been the case previously. And it has since exploded to become the dominant view of the Protestant church, in terms of numbers of adherents. This is hardly a point against dispensationalism, as we are frequently told: we knew that as the last days approached, knowledge would be greatly increased (Daniel 12:4). And in fact as we see more and more things that the Bible described that are being fulfilled right in front of our eyes, that understanding shall certainly continue to be increased. It seems quite unremarkable to me that as we get closer and closer to the last days, we would understand more and more about the last days and about biblical eschatology.
One of the things that Charles Nelson Darby and those who came before him did was literally predict that there would HAVE to be a state of Israel in order for prophecy as they understood it to be fulfilled. He implicitly taught that if his system for understanding Scripture was correct, there would be a powerful nation of Israel at a time when there was no evidence whatsoever that such a nation would arise literally from the bones and the ashes (see Ezekiel 37 and see here). And, as God’s workings with man so often come about, it was because of his faith and the faith of early dispensationalists that Israel DID reassemble from the bones. It was the early Christian “Zionists” who believed in the regathering of national Israel who largely funded the purchase of the land of Israel for the future establishment of a nation. Prior to Darby and the dispensationalists, Israel had been an empty desert wasteland populated only by a few nomads; because of the biblical Zionists the land flowed with water in yet another literal fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
Darby and the dispensationalists also predicted that Russia – at the time a backwater and hardly a major international power – would become mighty as the land of Gog and Magog in the ultimate north (see Ezekiel 38).
Now allow me to get closer to our present day and refer to another “Darby” who correctly predicted events to come according to an understanding of dispensationalist eschatology: a Messianic Jew named Joel Rosenberg. Allow me to quote from my aforementioned article “Iran, Iraq And The Future In Bible Prophecy“:
A Wikipedia article on Joel Rosenberg probably provides the most concise summary (accessed June 23, 2009):
Rosenberg’s novels have attracted those interested in Bible Prophecy, due to several of his fictional elements of his books that would occur after his writing of books. Nine months before the September 11th attacks, Rosenberg wrote a novel with a kamikaze plane attack on an American city. Five months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he wrote a novel about war with Saddam Hussein, the death of Yasser Arafat eight months before it occurred, a story with Russia, Iran, and Libya forming a military alliance against Israel occurring the date of publishing, the rebuilding of the city of Babylon, Iran vowing to have Israel “wiped off the face of the map forever” five months before Iranian President Ahmadinejad said the same, and the discovery of huge amounts of oil and natural gas in Israel (which happened in January 2009). The U.S. News & World Report have referred to him as a “Modern Nostradamus,” although Rosenberg tries to play down those proclamations, stating that “I am not a clairvoyant, a psychic, or a ‘Modern Nostradamus,’ as some have suggested.” He gives the credit for his accurate predictions to studying Biblical prophecy and applying to the modern world.
Why did Rosenberg predict that there would be a “kamikaze plane attack on an American city” by Islamic terrorists? Because he accurately understood the evil at the heart of Islam.
Why did Rosenberg predict a war between Saddam Hussein and the United States resulting in the overthrow of Saddam and his brutal regime? That’s where it gets interesting.
Joel Rosenberg had done a thorough study of the Book of Ezekiel and of the Bible (as a couple of overlapping articles summarize – Article 1; – Article 2). He learned that one day, according to the Bible, a massive army under the leadership of Russia and many of its former republics (Magog) and Iran (Persia) and consisting of many countries that are today Islamic [e.g. “Cush” (modern-day Sudan and Ethiopia); “Put” (modern-day Libya); “Gomer” (modern-day Turkey); “Beth-togarmah” (modern-day Armenia); and many peoples “along the mountains of Israel” (modern-day Lebanon and possibly Syria)] would form an “exceedingly great army” that would one day attack Israel.
What Rosenberg noted was the absence of two countries: Egypt and Babylon (i.e. Iraq). Egypt had been a perennial enemy of Israel until 1973, when Egypt alone in all the Arab/Muslim world forged a historic peace treaty with the state of Israel. That left Iraq. Rosenberg asked himself, “How could a nation like Iraq, under the leadership of someone like Saddam Hussein, NOT participate in this mega-colossal-last-days attack on Israel?
Rosenberg concluded that Saddam Hussein WOULDN’T refrain from such an attack. And that meant that Saddam Hussein would have to go.
And so, NINE MONTHS before the 9/11 attack, Rosenberg in his “fiction” created a scenario in which terrorists flew a plane in a kamikaze attack, and the United States took out the Iraqi regime and replaced it with a stable Western-friendly government.
And because the Bible is the true Word of an all-knowing God who knows the end from the beginning as revealed through His prophets, the scenario laid out by Joel Rosenberg turned out to be eerily true. It wasn’t a “lucky guess”; it was based upon the God who had revealed the last days to an inspired prophet named Ezekiel some 2,600 years ago.
Thus we have Iraq, its tyrant who had filled mass graves with the bodies of at least 400,000 of his own people, overthrown and a stable democracy growing in his place. And we have Iran, a country strongly allied with Russia; a country bent on acquiring nuclear weapons; a country that has announced its intent on the destruction of Israel; a country under the leadership of men who in all likelihood believe in establishing a future by an act of violent apocalypse. Two countries on two very different paths. And both paths known to God 2,600 years ago.
It is not my primary purpose to attack other Christian viewpoints, but rather to argue that the predictive power of Bible prophecy viewed through the lens of dispensationalist theology has been nothing short of remarkable. And to argue that when the Bible is given a chance via literal interpretation, it shines brightly as the true Word of the Living God.
One day, the early dispensationalists taught, Israel would be regathered as a powerful nation. It happened literally, not metaphorically or allegorically. One day in the far north a nation would grow to prominence such that it could lead an international invasion against that nation Israel. It happend as Russia became a superpower. It happend literally, not metaphorically or allegorically. The nations that would be led by Russia would include the nation of Persia (modern Iran) in a strategic alliance and and a host of nations that would have some powerful commonly-held ideological rationale to launch an all-out attack against Israel. That has happened quite literally. And today Russia, Iran and modern Islamic states have both a common alliance and a common hostility to national Israel. Just as the Bible literally taught would happen in the last days.
There was a period during which naysayers ridiculed dispensationalist interpretations of prophecy, because many dispensationalist Bible scholars talked in terms of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s/early 1990s. But the same Gog and Magog in the north is back in international power, and the new Russia is more involved with its Islamic alliance than ever. Literally. Just as the Bible taught all along. A good presentation of just how powerful this very literal last days alliance is can be read in Joel Rosenberg’s book Epicenter. He supports this powerful endtimes alliance with documentation galore.
Joel Rosenberg described a world in which two powerful Muslim nations – Egypt and Iraq – would somehow NOT join the last days alliance. I describe that further in my article “The Crisis In Egypt, The Future And Bible Prophecy.”
Right now Egypt is being controlled by the military. And that is the best state of affairs for Israel, given that the military is the most pro-Western element in all of Egypt. I don’t profess to have any idea what kind of government Egypt will ultimately end up with; I merely state that Egypt will ultimately- and frankly amazingly (along with modern Babylon Iraq) – NOT participate in the war of Gog and Magog described in Ezekiel 38 and 39, in which a Russian-and-Iranian-led host of Islamic states attack Israel in the coming last days.
But what about the many other Islamic nations that are likewise experiencing great unrest with all of these “days of rage” erupting in first one Muslim nation and then another?
Here’s a map detailing the spread of protests currently erupting all over the Arab world:
What about THESE countries? Is democracy afoot throughout the Islamic world, which has never had democracy in its entire history?
People should stop and think: is it a mere coincidence that the Muslim world has been a world of tyrant kings and dictatorial regimes, while democracy spread throughout Christendom and as a direct result of Judeo-Christian principles? Or is there something fundamentally and profoundly wrong with Islam as both a religion and as a political system?
We have the recent example of the Palestinian Authority, which had democratic elections only for the people to enthusiastically vote for the terrorist organization Hamas. Secular humanists and liberal religionists have denounced this as an embrace of religion which makes democracy impossible. But that is clearly not what our American founding fathers who created the first lasting democracy in human history believed. Rather, our founding fathers argued that true religion and the morality which true religion fosters are ESSENTIAL for a democracy and a people capable of self-government.
I think now of the Andrew McCarthy book The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. (and see the descriptions of this book here and here). And I would submit that on the one hand we have the Islamic threat of radical jihadism, and we have the Western threat of serving as the useful idiots of radical jihadism. It was liberals and liberalism which gave us the multiculturalism that leaders of the most powerful European countries (Germany, the UK and France) are now vehemently denouncing as having fomented the spread of radical Islam. And as an example of this we have breathless mainstream media liberals describing the Egyptian people as a nation of freedom-loving secularists when the truth is very different. According to a Pew survey:
“At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion. Majorities of Muslims in Jordan and Nigeria also favor these harsh punishments.”
Which is to say that rather than being a theory, it is a fact that secular humanist liberals have done more to spread radical Islamist jihadism than anyone short of the radical Islamist jihadists themselves. And it is in fact those who embrace a literalist view of the Bible who have most strongly decried this moral stupidity for years.
God knew these days would come thousands of years ago. He knew that the Middle East – for centuries a forgotten backwater – would become central in the last days due to the discovery of and need for oil. God knew that Israel would be once again established as a nation literally coming to life from dry bones (Ezekiel 37). God knew that ancient Persia and modern day Iran would once again come to dominate the Middle East in the last days. God knew that Russia would rise to become a great bear in the last days. God knew that something would unite virtually all of the nations surrounding Israel to join in an attack against the tiny nation that God founded through Abraham. And God knew that these nations would come together in one massive force against that nation Israel as described inEzekiel 38-39. Because God knows the end from the beginning.
Even as I write Libya’s Gaddafi is calling upon Palestinians to revolt against Israel. Already the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been saying the treaty with Israel is over and calling for preparations for a war on Israel. And this isn’t a bunch of allegories; it is quite literal, indeed.
As you read your newspaper and watch your news, does this all-out war described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 seem farfetched? Or does this insane attack against Israel seem to be the far and away the most likely outcome as history unfolds just as God described through His prophets? The only thing that should seem farfetched is the conclusion of this battle, as God supernaturnaturally comes to Israel’s aid and destroys this massive army that would seek to destroy His people. But is such a demonstration of divine power really so incredible for a God who knows the end from the beginning, and revealed that knowledge in His Word?
And I would argue that an explosion of democracy in the Islamic world – which the very same liberals who cheer it now vehemently denounced when Bush was advocating it – may well backfore horrendously just as it did in the Palestinian Authority. It may well be the agent that binds the Islamic world together into the coalition led by Russia and Iran that will one day come streaming toward Israel in the rapidly approaching last days. Once any of these radical jihadist groups such as the ayatollahs in Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian Authority – and outfits like the Taliban or the Muslim Brotherhood – gain powere through a popular vote, they become impossible to vote out. Because they are fundamentally anti-democratic; in fact they despise democracy and everything it stands for. And once they get power, they will never let it go.
Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers Party never had more than 37% of the vote in Germany. But once in, he and the Nazis totally seized power. The same thing happened with the communists in Russia and everywhere else that communism has spread. And it has happened again and again with Islamofascists like the Ayatollahs and secular Islamic dictators such as Saddam Hussein alike.
As I consider the popular Islamic people’s uprisings in light of passages such as Ezekiel 38-39 and Psalm 83 (e.g., “They say, ‘Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!'” – Psalm 83:4), I believe that this move in the Islamic world will not end well for most of the nations experiencing these “days of rage.”
What the Bible predicted would happen as the Word of a God who knows the end from the beginning will happen. And it will happen very literally indeed.
As Iran gets the nuclear bomb – and Iran WILL get the nuclear bomb, thanks to Western liberals and American Democrats (see my articles here and here) – it will become emboldened in a way that will make its previous insolence to the global community seem like nothing. They will feel impervious, and they will most certainly join Russia in an attack upon Israel as leaders of a pan-Islamic international force. And this coming world war against Israel will be no allegory and it will be no metaphor; it will be terrifyingly literal.
But you don’t have to be afraid. Because the God who told us that these days would come is sovereign over the world.
I pray every single day, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” which is what Maranatha means.
As one who stands quite guilty indeed of being a biblical literalist, I believe that the Lord will rapture His people before the coming Tribulation which will test and judge the whole world and ultimately bring about the national restoration of Israel to its Messiah. I believe that this rapture will “snatch” every single genuine Christian as the Lord comes for His people and meets them in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Jesus went to prepare a place for us; and we will soon be with Him in His beautiful and glorious presence before we return with Him as He comes to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19).
I believe that the rapture will even catch those Christians who don’t believe in the rapture. Even as I believe that as one who loves the Lord’s coming, I will be awarded a special crown in heaven.
Jesus said that in the last days before His return to earth as King of kings, the times would become so fearful and so terrifying that men’s hearts would fail them for fear (Luke 21:25-26. KJV). But Jesus said to His own, “Do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
You don’t have to be afraid if you have Christ in your heart. Especially if you also have the prayers for His soon coming on your lips.
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