Iran has conducted an atomic weapons test; many are expecting that it's the end of the world as we know it. Muslims believe the Twelfth Imam is finally earthbound. Israel is a target and threatened with possible extinction, are we next? New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg unveils this fictional story in his latest political thriller, The Tehran Initiative. He also shares with us Biblical prophecy and about his non-profit organization, the Joshua Fund.
Do you believe we are living in the end times?
Joel: We’re living in the last days for a number of reasons. Just look at the list of things that Jesus told us to watch in Matthew 24, 21, Mark 13. Wars, rumors of wars, persecution of the believers, hypocrisy within the church, earthquakes, natural disasters, you name it, we’re seeing it happen. The nation of Israel was prophesied to be reborn as a country in the last days in Ezekiel 36 and 37 among other places in scriptures and the fact that Israel has been reborn in our lifetime and Jews are coming back to the Holy Land after centuries of exile is a supersign.
Why did you start writing novels?
Joel: I’m a failed political consultant. I was a senior advisor to a whole range of U.S. and Israeli political leaders, but every campaign I worked for lost. So after 10 years of doing that, I thought maybe I should do something else with my life.
You’ve worked with [Prime Minister of Israel] Benjamin Netanyahu?
Joel: Yes. The men I worked for I have high respect for. I got to see the world from their perspective, whether it was from the perspective of the man who is currently the Prime Minister of Israel or one of the foremost business leaders in the world, Steve Forbes. It gives my novels a sense of realism.
Do you consider yourself a prophet?
Joel: Well I don’t claim to be a Nostradamus or a psychic or a seer. I’m fascinated personally in Bible prophecy, and my experience has been in the Washington political arena. So what I do is I base my novels on the theories of Bible prophecies. I say what if these were to really happen in my lifetime? I’m not saying they will, but I’m saying if they did what would it look like? What would have to happen between where we are right now economically, geopolitically, spiritually. What would have to happen between this point and getting ourselves to the fulfillment of a certain prophecy or series of prophecies? And that’s how I look at writing a political thriller is asking that question. What if this Bible prophecy came true in my lifetime? What would it feel like? What would it look like? What would the American government do? What would the Israeli government do? That has been a compelling exercise. I’m doing a series of war games based on prophecy and people have found them compelling because I think people are also interested in the possibility that these prophecies could come true in our lifetime since others already have.
How concerned are you with Iran and what’s going on with Egypt?
Joel: Well the reason I wrote TheTehran Initiative was because I have a huge concern that Iran is going to acquire nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to fire them at Israel and the United States. And I don’t see the world taking decisive action to stop Iran. My what-if scenario for The Tehran Initiative is: what if the world waits too long and doesn’t take decisive action and Iran does get nuclear weapons and this leads to a horrific, apocalyptic war in the Middle East?What would that look like? In the novel one of the officials in the American administration travels to Israel to warn not to launch a preemptive military strike against Iran. They put an enormous amount of pressure on Israel not to defend herself from the possibility of a second Holocaust. [Recently] President Obama sent the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to warn Israel not to launch a preemptive military strike and thus defend herself from a possible second Holocaust. There has been very little talk about an Israeli preemptive strike. So in other words TheTehran Initiative is fiction, but suddenly it doesn’t seem so far fetched.
Can you tell us about the Joshua Fund?
Joel: In 2006 my wife Lynn and I started the Joshua Fund as a nonprofit organization with two major objectives. The first is to educate and mobilize Christians to understand the threats facing Israel and to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus in real and practical ways. The Joshua Fund focuses on Israel and all the neighbors that immediately touch her: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinians and Egypt. And we also focus to a degree on Iraq. The second thing is to provide actual humanitarian relief to the poor and needy primarily in Israel, but also to the Palestinians so we have a warehouse in Israel.
We have nine food distribution centers that we assist around the nation of Israel. We provide food, clothing, medical supplies and other humanitarian relief aid to those Jews and Arabs who are really struggling financially like Holocaust survivors, the elderly, single moms and orphans. That’s our primary focus. We do it in the name of Jesus, so that people know that Jesus loves them. It’s done unconditionally. There’s no requirement that someone come to faith in Jesus. But that’s what we believe and we want to show the love of Jesus in a real and practical way.
How can our readers get involved?
Joel: The website is JoshuaFund.net and people can learn about what we’re doing. We’ve got videos of my messages. We do podcasts of my radio interviews that I do on a monthly basis with Janet Parchell related to Middle East issues. And we have the ability to give online. We lead tours to Israel and we do conferences, the Epicenter Conference to educate Christians. More than 50,000 Christians in 113 countries watched online as that conference was webcast worldwide. That was exciting to see how God is opening the door for us to communicate God’s love.
A lot of that came out of my writing because from 2002 to 2006 I was going on all these book tours and I was writing books about Bible prophecy. I sensed that people were saying: 'Okay, I believe you. These things could happen. What can we do to help?' It was too difficult at the end of a sermon or a conference to list all the different organizations that one could theoretically give, so we decided to set up a Joshua Fund as sort of a mutual fund. And we would make them, vet them and invest in them and help them advance the team of God in Israel and the other places. And then people could participate and help us help Israel. And that’s what’s happened.
Christians have a lot of fear of the future. Is there any advice that you can give them?
Joel: I encourage Christians to do four things. One, pray, give and go, meaning learn what God’s doing in Israel and the Middle East, understand it both factually as well as scripturally. Secondly pray. Pray knowledgeably, faithfully, consistently for the peace in Jerusalem, for persecuted believers in the region to be stronger and for the gospel to be spread. Give to ministries such as the Joshua Fund that are doing effective work to advance the Kingdom of God in Israel and the Middle East. Go get involved and then go out and tell other people that God is moving. More Jewish people and more Muslim people are coming to faith in Jesus as the Messiah in our world today than in any other time in human history. Rather than living in fear-- we should be living with the excitement that the signs of Jesus’ return are mounting.