In 1974, at the height of the energy crisis and soon after the Yom Kippur War between Israel and the Arabs was over, John Walvoord published his New York Times bestseller, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis. Then, every time a major crisis erupts in the Middle East, he rewrites his book to suit the current situation: in 1991, before the Gulf War; and in 2007,Â Armageddon, Oil and Terror, after the 9-11 terror attacks and the War in Iraq.
Walvoord and most evangelical theologians believe that the next prophetic event will be a secret Rapture when all Christians will be taken up to heaven, and that Christ will then return to earth from heaven seven years later with all these believers. At his return, the people of the earth will defy him in a war called Armageddon, but Christ will destroy all of them and throw them all, together with Satan and his evil angels, into a lake of fire. He will then reign as King from a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem for one thousand years. But after he reigns for 1,000 years, a multitude of sinful people–called Gog and Magog–will again rebel against him. These too will be destroyed by God, and finally–finally–sin will be destroyed forever.
A different twist to this doomsday scenario is being popularized by another dispensationalist, Joel Rosenberg, in another bestseller entitled Epicenter. I first heard of Epicenter when he spoke at a prophecy conference in the Philippines about a month ago. Rosenberg connects the Gog and Magog war in Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20:8-9 to an invasion of Israel by an alliance of Russia, Iran and the Arabs.
Several misinterpretations are apparent in Rosenberg’s view. First, except for Persia, the kingdoms listed in Ezekiel are unidentifiable today. All of his identifications of Meshech, Tubal, Put, Gomer and Beth-togarmah (Ezek 38:1-6) are nothing but wild speculations. Second, Ezekiel’s axis of evil come from “the uttermost parts of the north” (Ezek 38:6) as opposed to the invaders in Revelation who march from “the four corners of the earth.” Third, while Ezekiel’s invaders from the north attack only Israel, Revelation’s hordes attack “the camp of the saints and the beloved city.” Who are these saints, except Christians? And what is the beloved city except the church–“the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” who are made up of ” the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” and “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb 12:22-23)?
This means that Ezekiel 38-39 is a prophecy of the Assyrian invasion of Israel in the 8th century B. C., and this invasion is typological–a foreshadow–of the great persecution of Christians by unbelievers throughout this present age until Christ returns.
Isn’t that kind of interpretation “spiritualizing” instead of literal? But “spiritualizing” is exactly what John and all the other New Testament writers do with Old Testament prophecies about Christ. Revelation 20:8-9 is just one example. Everywhere, the New Testament “spiritualizes” Old Testament Israel as fulfilled in Christ and the church, the true Temple and the true Israel of God.
The following articles present Biblical prophecy based on Scripture interpreting Scripture, not Scripture interpreted by CNN: