Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Washington Post, March 3, 2003, with the headline: “Theologians See Biblical Prophesies Fulfilled With War in Iraq—Ever since Jesus said that only God knows the hour or day of the Second Coming, preachers and self-appointed doomsayers have been trying to predict when it will happen and watching the sun rise on another generation. Even those who chastise date setters nearly always say God’s final judgment is coming soon—probably in our lifetime, so get ready.
“In recent weeks, the prophetic interpreters have been citing a new reason they believe the end is coming: the U.S. war with Iraq. Many see evidence of Iraq’s significance in end-times scenarios in key passages of the Apocalyptic Book of Revelation. Chapter 16, which includes the only mention of Armageddon in the Bible, carries a direct reference to the Euphrates River, which runs through modern day Iraq: ‘The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East,’ writes John, possibly the apostle, of a container of God’s anger emptied on the ancient land of Babylon, now Iraq.
“The kings will move their armies through the Euphrates Valley en route to Harmagedo, or Armageddon, in Northern Israel. The Euphrates appears a second time with one of seven angels whose blaring trumpets warn that the final judgment is near: ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates,’ a voice commands the sixth angel of God, whose compliance unleashes agents of death ‘who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year and were released to kill a third of mankind.’
“Then comes the clincher. In chapter 9, verse 11—yes, that’s 9/11—John says the leader of an army of locusts released to fight humankind is named Abaddon in Hebrew, Apollyon in Greek. Both words mean ‘destroyer,’ one of several meanings for the name “Saddam.”
“’Iraq fits like hand in glove,’ Irvin Baxter, founder of EndTime Magazine and pastor of Oak Park church in Richmond, Indiana, said of the role he believes the country will play in world- ending events if U.S.-led forces invade Iraq.
“Baxter, a lifelong student of Old and New Testament prophesies, said ‘Casualties will be tremendous, not only of combatants in Iraq, but of people in neighboring countries hit by retaliatory missiles of mass destruction, and Americans, who fall victim to terrorists armed with portable nuclear weapons. And other countries will take the opportunity to pursue their own interests. China trying to retake Taiwan, or India making an all-out assault on Cashmere, leading to World War III,’ he said. ‘The result,’ Baxter concludes, ‘could be a nuclear holocaust that takes the lives of two billion people, the one-third of mankind stated in Revelation.’”
Tom: Dave, there are some fascinating things in here, and I want to begin by saying where he quotes: “God’s final judgment is coming soon, probably in our lifetime, so get ready”—we would sort of nod our heads to that; we believe we are in the last days, so that’s where we stand. However, as you know, we have a friend, who, during the time of the Gulf War, has laid out this exact scenario and, obviously, it didn’t turn out like that, so you have to worry about things like this, don’t you?
Dave: Tom, it’s not very productive to try to find some correlation between every event that happens out there and biblical prophecy. I think we can take the broader scope, and I believe that there are reasons to believe that—good sound reasons, many reasons—that it could wind up very soon. For example, we have the weapons of mass destruction. Jesus warned, Matthew:24:22: “Except those days be shortened no flesh would survive.” So that’s in place. We have the technology for a man, Revelation 13, to rule the world, control all banking and commerce with a number. And we certainly have ethnic wars all over the place.
Tom: “Wars and rumors of war…”
Dave: Ethnos against ethnos, and we have Israel back in her land, and so forth. And there is the mention of the Euphrates River here, there is no doubt about that, but that’s not what is going to happen in this particular instance, I’m convinced. The Rapture would have to occur first of all, because the Book of Revelation is talking about things after the Rapture, and you could have, instead of the river drying up, you could have them burst that dam up there and wipe out our troops with a wall of water coming down. I’m sure we have secured that dam or are in the process of doing it.
This is not the fulfillment of those scriptures, I don’t believe, but every time some event like this comes along, there are a number of people who are trying to be the ones to see the literal correlation. Now also, Tom, there are signs—when the disciples in Matthew 24, asked Jesus for signs, He didn’t say there aren’t any signs. He gave signs. So we would have to be very careful that we don’t overreact and try to pin these signs on every event that comes up. There will be a fulfillment of these prophecies.
Tom: And some specifics. As you mentioned, the restoration of the Jews to Israel—1947?
Dave: Well, November 29, 1947, the UN Resolution 181 did petition Palestine, and they declared their independence May 14, 1948. So they have been around a long time, and that was an event that…nothing like it in 2,000 years, very significant. But Tom, I think we have to recognize that—well, I certainly believe it very firmly—the Rapture will occur first. Furthermore, the Rapture will occur at a time of a false peace. Jesus said that He would come as it was in the days of Noah, the days of Lot. We’ve talked about that a number of times on the program. They’re buying and selling and building and planting and partying, you know. He said, ‘At such an hour as you think not the Son of man cometh.’ So, Jesus said, ‘You want to know when I am coming. I am coming—if you sat down and looked at conditions of the world around you, you would say, I don’t think He’s coming now…—that’s when I am coming,’ said Jesus, at such a time as that. And I don’t see that as the setting on the stage of history at this moment. And furthermore, Ezekiel 38, it very clearly says that Israel will be in peace, thinking they are in peace, thinking that they will not be attacked by anyone—that is when this attack will come that the Book of Revelation is talking about, and that certainly does not fit today either.