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Relations and the Book of Revelation
By Todd Dennis, Curator (Futurist: 1979-1996; Full Preterist: 1996-2006; Idealist: 2006-Forevermore)
Israel and End-Times Fiction
By Joel Miller
Bartenders in the Mideast are famous for their vibrant cocktails, mixing equal parts religious fervor, political ambition and ethnic hatred – along with a dash of gunpowder for that certain something. Best served flaming hot in a broken glass, quaffers and elbow-tippers should ready themselves for the drink's poison. In Palestine, the mickey is the drink.
Christians around the world closely watch the bloody revelry, convinced the brawl is of – hit the deck, incoming - biblical proportions.
We can blame God for this. When He decided to tell His story, He sent the cast and crew to Israel and the surrounding environs. Very little was shot off-location. Hence the grand handle: The Holy Land. Christians look intently at this thin sliver of real estate as the lightning rod of biblical prophecy – the epicenter of God's future rumblings.
The Bible says the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will play host to an encore by Jesus Christ. The creeds of Christendom affirm this fact as crucial to the faith. What's still undecided is the order and significance of the events preceding that coming.
Currently the chic view is that espoused by prophecy pundits like Tim LaHaye and my fellow WND columnist Hal Lindsey.
In their scheme, the events of Revelation and other prophetic books will soon erupt, literally, in Israel, reaching out and engulfing much of the world. Christ will come back only after the imminent unpleasantries are finished.
Hal Lindsey recently wrote that "The Middle East is about to explode into all-out war," which was "predicted thousands of years in advance."
Tim LaHaye's fictional "Left Behind" series, co-written with Jerry Jenkins, kicks off with such a conflagration. Taking their cue from Ezekiel 38-39, LaHaye and Jenkins explain that Russia, allied with various Arab nations, will attack Israel, which they say is their "binding, overriding, passionate, and common hatred. ?"
The views of Lindsey and LaHaye are wildly popular – both have sold multimillions of books. But they do not represent the only approach to applying Scripture to the bloody scraps in the Middle East.
"End Times Fiction," by Gary DeMar, published late last year by Thomas Nelson, is billed as a "biblical consideration of the 'Left Behind' theology." In the book, DeMar takes various portions of "Left Behind" that detail LaHaye's last-days views and compares them with Scripture.
For instance, in the first "LB" novel, "Buck" reads Ezekiel and immediately recognizes it as predictive of the battle in Israel he had witnessed at the start of the story. But how?
"The battle in Ezekiel 38-39 is clearly an ancient one," writes DeMar. "All the soldiers were riding horses (38:4, 15; 39:20). The horse soldiers were 'wielding swords' (38:4), carrying 'bows and arrows, war clubs and spears' (39:3, 9). The weapons were made of wood (39:10), and the abandoned weapons served as fuel for 'seven years' (39:9)."
LaHaye follows what he calls "The Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation"; unless the context clearly militates against it, the reader must opt for the most literal interpretation. But how does this square with LaHaye's interpretation of those references to ancient weapons as "war planes," "intercontinental ballistic missiles" and "nuclear-equipped MiG fighter-bombers"?
"There is nothing in the context that would lead the reader to conclude that horses, war clubs, swords, bows and arrows, and spears mean anything other than horses, war clubs, swords, bows and arrows, and spears," writes DeMar. "And what is the Russian air force after? Gold, silver, cattle, and goods (38:13). In what modern war can anyone remember armies going after cattle?"
LaHaye and Jenkins invent a fictional motive for the attack, a growth-enhancing botanical compound, which is admittedly sexier than cows. But just like the plot device, the interpretation is also contrived.
The details of the battle, DeMar points out, mirror closely those of a battle described in Esther – so closely, in fact, that it appears much more probable that Ezekiel's prophecy has long been fulfilled, in biblical times no less. A better hermeneutic than "The Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation" is "Scripture Interprets Scripture Better than do Newspapers."
What about the "wars and rumors of wars" mentioned by Christ in the Gospels? Surely even if Ezekiel is wrongly applied by LaHaye and others, this one applies to the Israeli situation, right? Wrong.
DeMar points out that Tacitus, chronicling the events at the time of Christ and after in the Roman Empire, "describes the era with phrases such as 'disturbances in Germany,' 'commotions in Africa,' 'commotions in Thrace,' 'insurrections in Gaul,' 'intrigues among the Parthians,' 'the war in Britain,' and 'the war in Armenia.' Wars were fought from one end of the empire to the other in the days of the apostles."
In other words, been there, done that, bought the toga.
The impulse by Christians to look for prophetic clues to events foretold in the Bible by keeping one eye on CNN and the other on sensationalistic books by men like LaHaye and Lindsey reflects a prejudice – however innocent – that none of those events could possibly have happened already. DeMar's "End Times Fiction" makes a powerful case that many of them have.
Date: 25 Feb 2011
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