While there are differing versions about end-time eschatology, an overall increase in the belief we are living in the end-times shortly before the return of Jesus Christ coincides with the rise of ISIS and their attempt to bring in similar Islamic based prophesies regarding the end.
Many have been lamenting President Obama’s ISIS strategy, saying they do not believe he has a plan to deal with the threat of terrorism, both here and abroad. This theme has played a major role in recent Republican debates as the candidates have all criticized the president for even refusing to use the term Islamic terrorism for fear of offending Muslims. However, many fail to realize the theological implications that motivate many in the Muslim world. This failure prevents our leaders from coming up with an adequate strategy to defeat an enemy motivated by religious fervor.
ISIS, including the governments of Iran and other Muslim counties, believe they are commanded to fight against all non-Muslims, as well as those Muslims they consider apostate, until Jesus comes back to put down the anti-Christ. However, unlike Christians who believe that Jesus will come back to put all nations under his feet, they believe Jesus will submit to Allah.
In the 1970s and 1980s, many Christians believed we were in the end times because of, among other things, Ezekiel 38 and 39, which described a Russian horde coming against Israel. With communism in ascendancy and the Soviet Union at the height of its power, this seemed logical.
Then with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union, many preachers and prophecy teachers began to question their beliefs. However, with the rise of ISIS and Russia’s alliance with Syria and other governments in the Middle East, it now appears those who discounted the passages in Ezekiel because of what their eyes were telling them have now been proven wrong.
With Russia once again rebuilding his military at a faster pace than the United States and its increasing presence supporting Iran and other fundamental Islamic governments, it now appears those who doubted Ezekiel was prophesying about Russia may have been premature in their denials.
A recent survey by the Brookings institute’s Center for Middle East Policy found that nearly 79 percent of those who identify as evangelicals believe that “the unfolding violence across the Middle East is a sign that the end times are near.”
However, what is interesting is the same poll shows that almost the same number is less sure that Jesus will return soon, with 72 percent of Christians and 81 percent of evangelicals saying that they are not sure when Jesus will return.
This seems to mirror a recent trend away from the pre-millennial rapture doctrine that was prevalent during the 70s and 80s. President Ronald Reagan, along with many evangelicals believed that the rapture was imminent.
However, when this did not occur those who subscribed to a mid-tribulation theory began to obtain more of an audience. While the mid-tribulation teaching has been around for decades, it seems to be coming more popular in today’s Christian circles.
Without going into some of the intimate details, the basic idea is that since the first three-and-a-half years of the antichrist’s reign will be a time of relative peace, the body of Christ will be present on earth during that time. It is only when the last half, the time of Jacob’s wrath happens that God’s people will be taken up.
Other Christian scholars argue that we will be here for the entire period known as the “The Tribulation” and that Jesus will not return until the end of this 7 year period – often referred to as the post-tribulational view.
Regardless of which position a person takes, we are seeing many political leaders stating their beliefs that we are in the end times.
Last month, former Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn) said during a radio interview following a recent trip to Israel that she believes Jesus is “coming soon” and “we’re seeing the fulfillment of scripture right in front of her eyes.”
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson has echoed similar sentiments. In an interview with investigative journalist Sheryl Atkisson during a “Frontline” interview, he said he believed that with what was happening with Iran attempting to acquire nuclear weapons and other turmoil in the Middle East that the apocalypse might be just on the horizon.
When asked by Atkisson “Do you think we’re at the end of days,” Carson responded in the affirmative.
“You could guess that we are getting closer to that,” Carson responded, the Hill reported. “You do have people that have a belief system that sees this apocalyptic phenomenon occurring and that they’re a part of it. [They] would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if they could gain possession of them.”
Regardless of which position a Christian may take on the timing of the rapture, we should all be eagerly anticipating his coming. The Bible even promises a special crown for those who watch for His appearing.
What is important is that during these last times we need to more diligent than ever before being about the Master’s work. This is not the time to lay down our swords and rest, rather we need to be fighting as never before so when Jesus returns he will find us faithfully standing for his word and trying to win souls.