The End is Nigh?

Is Middle East turmoil a fulfillment of biblical prophecy?

A version of this article ran in Newsweek.

Explosions, plumes of smoke, rising body counts, wars and rumors of wars—for those given to wondering about the Apocalypse, news reports from the Middle East might be evidence that the end is nigh. As tensions rise, so does speculation among many Christians about whether current events are the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Some frequently asked questions:



Some Christians believe that the conflicts in the Middle East are a sign of the end of the world. Why?

Two reasons. First, when Jesus’ disciples asked him for signs of “the end of the age,” he replied in part that there would be “wars and rumors of wars,” and that “[n]ation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (NIV). For evangelical Christians who embrace End Times teaching, major geopolitical conflict is a harbinger of the latter days.



Second, Middle Eastern countries loom large in eschatology (end times thinking) because some Christians believe that the End Times calendar is tied closely to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Select verses in prophetic Bible books such as Ezekiel and Zephaniah are believed to predict a “regathering” of Jews in their homeland that would precede the Last Days. Hal Lindsey, author of the best-selling

The Late Great Planet Earth

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(1970), famously predicted that the end would come within a generation of Israel’s statehood. Last week, the Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote in his column, “It is apparent, in light of the rebirth of the State of Israel, that the present day events in the Holy Land may very well serve as a prelude or forerunner to the future Battle of Armageddon and the glorious return of Jesus Christ.”

 

Does that mean that, for these Christians, the war is good news?

Despite the tragedy, there’s genuine excitement among some people that Jesus’ return might be near. But as Dr. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling apocalyptic

Left Behind

novels, said, “I’m praying that this whole thing will die down and that as many lives as possible will be saved.” Some End Times theorists note if Israel were to be wiped out, it would be a step in the wrong direction, since the establishment of Israel is a precondition for the Second Coming.



What’s so important about Israel?

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