Israel and Armageddon: Facts vs. Fiction
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- Date: Sun, 07 Aug 2005 15:49:08 GMT
Israel and Armageddon: Facts vs. Fiction
For more enlightening information, read End -Time Delusions- by Steve
Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages is now launched. It is Book
11 of the New York Times best-selling Left Behind series. Unleashed on
April 8, 2003 in the wake of a 5 million dollar ad campaign,
Armageddon is now being read across the U.S. by Christians and
"secular searchers" alike looking for answers in the midst of an
America now at "War Against Terror." Leftbehind.com, in it's
description of Armageddon's basic story line, portrays a final remnant
of scattered believers as being "drawn inexorably toward the Middle
East, as are all the armies of the world, when history hones in on the
battle of the ages."
Although couched in well-written fiction, Armageddon echoes the
non-fiction theology of a small group of evangelical Bible teachers
which is now eagerly being read by millions. The scene: History's last
battlefield in the Middle East. Final contestants: The Powers of Earth
vs. the Jews. Nature of conflict: Military. Epicenter: A small valley
northwest of Jerusalem where "all the armies of the world" will
converge for "the battle of the ages."
Supposedly - at least according to books like Armageddon, radio
programs like Irvin Baxter Jr.'s Politics and Religion, TV networks
like Pat Robertson's CBN and Paul Crouch's TBN, and high-budget
apocalyptic films like The Omega Code - the Bible's final prophecies
will swirl around modern Israel and the blood-stained city of
Jerusalem. During history's last moments - again, supposedly - the
Almighty will finally pulverize Israel's invading enemies and defend
His chosen people, the Jews. This end-of-the-age scenario is now being
taught in Christian circles all over planet Earth.
The belief that God will ultimately defend Middle East Jews at
Armageddon is so strongly embedded within the 21st century evangelical
psyche that it has spilled over into politics and even influences U.S.
foreign policy toward the Jewish State (1). The United States not only
supports Israel as a democracy - which it should - but countless U.S.
citizens, including prophecy-minded, politically active Christians in
Washington D.C., believe strongly that if we support Israel, God will
support us. From California to New York, on radio and TV, the line is
often heard, "He who blesses Israel will be blessed, and He who curses
Israel will be cursed," although this oft-repeated phrase is really a
misinterpretation of Genesis 12:3 which contains one sentence spoken
to Abraham alone, not to the Israeli nation.
Personally, I am Jewish and love Jewish people. I also believe in
Jesus Christ as my Messiah and Savior. As any Christian should, I long
to see God's blessing come upon both Jews and Arabs alike. The purpose
of this article is not to condemn U.S. support for Israel or to try
and solve a seemingly unsolvable Middle East mess, rather, it's
assignment is to take a second look at what the New Testament -
especially the book of Revelation - really says about Israel,
Jerusalem and Armageddon. Is Left Behind's blockbuster 11th book,
Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages, correct in its core
assumption that God will defend modern Jerusalem during Earth's last
war? Is the current "God-Is-Behind-Israel" theology of so many
evangelical Christians really right? Or could there be "something
wrong with this picture"? Let's find out.
First of all - and this truth has seismic implications - the New
Testament actually describes two Israels, not just one. Paul wrote,
"They are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Romans 9:6). What does
this shocking text mean? Look closely. Those "of Israel" refer to
people belonging to the literal Jewish nation. But just because people
are "of Israel," or Jewish, doesn't necessarily mean they are truly
To clarify, Paul said there is an "Israel according to the flesh" (1
Corinthians 10:18) and an "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:14-16) centered
in Jesus Christ. For simplicity's sake, I'll call the first group,
Israel one, and the second group, Israel Two. Israel one is composed
of "Israelites ? according to the flesh" (Romans 9:3,4) which refer to
literal Jews who can trace their blood line back to Abraham, but who
do not as of yet believe in Jesus Christ as their Messiah.
Quite pointedly, Paul wrote, "They which are the children of the
flesh, these are not the children of God" (Romans 9:8). Thus Israel
one, although it has a wonderful religious heritage, is made up
largely of people who spiritually "are not the children of God." In
the New Testament sense, "the children of God," applies only to those
who have received Jesus Christ as Lord (see John 1:12). "The Israel of
God" (Galatians 6:16), or Israel Two, refers to a composite group made
up of both Jews and non-Jews who believe in the Crucified one, have
died to self and been born-again (see verses 14,15). This group is
called "the Israel of God" because it is God-centered, being made up
of people who have a genuine experience with the Lord. Sadly, the
majority of Middle East Israelis today don't fit this description
(although Jesus is working among them and many are coming to a full
faith in Him).
Writing to non-Jews, or Gentiles, Paul wrote, "And if you belong to
Christ, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the
promise" (Galatians 3:28,29). Don't miss this, for it's of
mega-importance. This passage teaches that a Gentile, if he "belongs
to Christ," is mystically injected into "Abraham's seed," which
according to Isaiah 41:8, is "Israel." In Galatians 6, Paul summarized
his doctrine by saying that anyone, circumcised or uncircumcised, who
becomes a "new creature" through faith in Jesus, is now part of "the
Israel of God" (verses 14-16). They belong to Israel Two.
Here's the explosive question: Which group - Israel one or Israel Two
- is Heaven's focus in the book of Revelation? Is it "Israel after the
flesh," that is, modern Israel, with its present capital of Jerusalem?
Millions of Bible prophecy- believing, conservative, politically
active Christians think so. Left Behind's 11th book, Armageddon, says
so. But what does Revelation really teach? The answer will not be
discovered casually, but through a deep study of God's Word.
When we open Revelation's mysterious pages, we discover predictions
about mount Zion (14:1), the twelve tribes of Israel (7:4-8),
Jerusalem (21:10), the temple (11:19), Sodom and Egypt (11:8), Babylon
(17:5), the Euphrates river (16:12), and Armageddon (16:16). Thus
Revelation uses the terminology and geography of the Middle East in
But wait a minute. once again, here's the mega-question: Does God want
these prophecies to be applied to those literal places in the Middle
East and to "Israel after the flesh" centered in modern Jerusalem
(Israel one)? Or might He rather intend for a spiritual application of
these prophecies to "the Israel of God" centered in Jesus Christ
(Israel Two), that is, to a spiritual Israel made up only of
born-again Jews and Gentiles scattered around the world? Most
theologians apply Revelation to Israel one and to literal Middle East
locations, but is this right?
Let's start at the beginning of Revelation. The Bible's last book is
ultimately, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1). Jesus
Christ is the Source, the Center, the Interpreter. In chapter one,
John was "in the Spirit"- don't forget this - when he saw Jesus
walking "in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" (verses
10-13). The idea of "seven golden candlesticks" takes our minds back
to the seven-branched candlestick inside the Jewish temple before it
was destroyed in 70 A.D. by Roman armies. Yet in Revelation, "the
seven golden candlesticks" are clearly symbolic.
What do they represent? Explaining "the mystery," the Interpreter
declared, "the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven
churches" (Revelation 1:20). Thus, in Revelation's very first chapter
- I'm going to call this "Exhibit A" for it reveals a truth I wish to
develop - Jesus Christ took something extremely Jewish and used it
symbolically to represent His Church. As we shall see, this is the key
interpretive principle to understanding the entire book.
Enter Exhibit B. In Revelation 2, in a dictated letter to "the church
in Thyatira" (verse 18), Jesus reproved His people for allowing "that
woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce
my servants?" (verse 20). Jezebel was a wicked woman in Old Testament
days who entered Israel and caused problems. Was Jesus saying
"Jezebel" had been reincarnated, or resurrected, or was literally
teaching deception within Thyatira? Obviously not. A little reflection
reveals that He used the word, "Jezebel," as a symbol of an evil
movement that was affecting His Church. As with the seven golden
candlesticks, God's Messiah took something from Jewish history and
applied it to His Church, "the Israel of God."
Enter Exhibit C. In Revelation 3, the Heavenly Interpreter dictated
another letter to "the church in Philadelphia" (verse 7) in which He
said a Christian could become "a pillar in the temple of My God," and
have a place "in the city of My God, which is New Jerusalem" (verse
12). Don't miss the significance of this. Not only did Jesus again use
Jewish imagery - the temple - and apply it symbolically to His Church,
but He also identified another city, "the New Jerusalem," as God's
real city. And this city will not be a remodeled earthly Jerusalem
with it's bullet holes covered and the blood of suicide bombers
scrubbed away. This one "comes down out of heaven" (ibid.).
Remember, in Revelation's first chapter, John was "in the Spirit"
(1:10) when he received his vision. In fact, throughout Revelation he
was "in the Spirit" seeing different things (4:2; 17:3; 21:10). When
one is "in the Spirit," he sees through Holy Spirit eyes instead of
with flesh-vision eyes. Remember also, Paul described two Israels, one
"after the flesh," and the other "in Christ." Again, the question is,
Which Israel is the focus of "the Revelation of Jesus Christ"? When
God's final prophetic masterpiece of the Apocalypse talks about
"Israel" (7:4), "mount Zion" (14:1), "Jerusalem," (21:10), "the
temple" (11:19), "Sodom and Egypt" (11:8), "Babylon" (17:5),
"Euphrates" (16:12), and "Armageddon" (16:16), do these refer to
literal, earthly, war-torn, fleshy places not too far from Iraq, south
of Baghdad, west of Jordan, east of Tel-Aviv and north of Yasser
Enter Exhibit D. The fact is, every specific reference to "Jerusalem"
in God's last book concerns a "New Jerusalem" (3:12; 21:2,10) which
sits on a heavenly "great and high mountain [Mount Zion]" (21:10;
14:1), that houses "the temple of God ? in heaven" (11:19; 15:5;
16:1,17) and is the final home a victorious "Israel" (7:4) which
"follows the Lamb wherever He goes" (14:4,1). The enemy of God's "New
Jerusalem" is a "great city" called "Mystery Babylon" (14:8; 17:5;
18:2) which "sits on [the] many waters" (17:1) of the "great river
Euphrates" (16:12) until God's wrath finally demolishes it at
"Armageddon" (16:16,19). What's happening here? A little reflection -
combined with Holy Spirit enlightenment - shows that Revelation is
ingeniously using the terminology and landscape of the Middle East in
a unique, heavenly and spiritual sense.
Let's look closer at "the great river Euphrates." The Bible says, "And
the sixth angel poured out his vial on the great river Euphrates; and
it's water was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might
be prepared" (Revelation 16:12). Those who interpret Revelation's
Middle East terminology literally - such as in Left Behind's 11th
book, Armageddon - usually apply this passage to Asian kings marching
across a dry riverbed to shoot bullets at Jews at Armageddon. one
well-known American radio preacher suggests a Turkish dam might be the
means of drying up the river (2). Is this really what Revelation 16:12
In order to understand this incredible prophecy, we must first study
some Bible history about ancient Israel and literal Babylon. In 605
B.C., "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon" came "to Jerusalem, and
besieged it" (Daniel 1:1). Jerusalem was conquered and Judah was taken
captive for 70 years (Daniel 9:2). After 70 years, an amazing set of
circumstances occurred. The Euphrates was dried up, Babylon was
conquered from the east and God's people were delivered. This history
forms the background for a true understanding of Revelation 16:12.
Ancient Babylon sat on the Euphrates (Jeremiah 51:63, 64). A wall
surrounded the city. The Euphrates ran through Babylon, entering and
exiting through two spiked gates whose bars reached down into the
riverbed. When these twin gates were shut and all other entrances were
closed, Babylon was virtually impregnable.
In 538 B.C., on the night of ancient Babylon's fall, her king and
subjects were drunk with wine (see Daniel 5). So were the guards, and
they forgot to fully close the double doors. Over 100 years earlier,
God had predicted concerning Babylon and the Euphrates, "I will dry up
your rivers" (Isaiah 44:27). The Lord also spoke about "Cyrus," the
man who conquered Babylon, saying, "I will?open before him the two
leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut" (Isaiah 45:1). Moreover
God called Cyrus "my shepherd" and "his anointed" (Isaiah 44:28;
45:1). Thus Cyrus was a type of Jesus Christ. And he came "from the
east" (Isaiah 46:11)!
Housed in the British Museum in London lies the famous Cyrus Cylinder
which describes how Cyrus, a general of Darius, conquered Babylon.
Cyrus and his army dug trenches upstream alongside the river Euphrates
which diverted the flowing water. The river gradually went down as it
ran through Babylon. No one noticed. That night, at the height of
Belshazzar's drunken party (see Daniel 5), the water became low enough
for Cyrus and his men to stealthily slip under the double doors, which
had been left open. Quickly they overran the doomed city, killing the
king (Daniel 5:30), and conquering Babylon. Then Cyrus issued his
famous decree to let Israel go (Ezra 1). The Jews were free.
Ingeniously, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" makes use of the dusty
history of this ancient event and then applies it with stunning,
apocalyptic force to another "Babylon," another "Israel," another
"Euphrates," and another deliverance from "the east."
In the Old Testament, the battle was clearly between the literal
nation of Israel and literal Babylon (Daniel 1). In Revelation, we
also find a struggle between "Israel" and "Babylon" (7:4; 14:1,8). As
you well know, the majority of prophecy teachers apply this, at least
the "Israel" part of it, to literal Jews on the west bank. But let's
be consistent. What about "Babylon"? Does this apply to a rebuilt city
south of Baghdad? Some say yes. The evidence suggests otherwise.
In Revelation 17, a shiny angel beckoned to John: "Come here; I will
show you the judgment of the great whore that sits upon many waters"
(verse 1). "So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness:
and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of
blasphemy ? having a golden cup in her hand" (verses 3, 4). "And upon
her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE
MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" (Revelation 17:1, 3,
4, 5). John was "in the Spirit" (verse 3) when he received this
prophecy. So we must be "in the Spirit" to interpret it correctly. The
woman's name is "Mystery Babylon." The word, "Mystery" is significant.
In Revelation 1, the true Interpreter, Jesus Christ, used the same
word as He applied the Jewish imagery of "seven golden candlesticks"
to His Church. In Revelation 17, the same word is applied to the enemy
of His Church, to "Mystery Babylon." And this greater "Babylon" has no
application to the ancient city whose sun-cracked bricks are now
whitening south of Baghdad.
In Old Testament days, literal Babylon sat on the literal river
Euphrates. In "the Revelation of Jesus Christ," "Mystery Babylon" also
"sits on many waters" (17:1), yet these waters don't refer to the
literal murky Euphrates now trickling through modern Iraq. I'll prove
it from one primary text. And this text is so explosively significant,
it's like detonating a spiritual nuclear warhead against error. John's
angel interpreter explained, "The waters which you saw, where the
whore sits, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues"
(Revelation 17:15, italics added).
According the angel interpreter, the "many waters" of Revelation's
Euphrates represent "people" all over Planet Earth who now support
"Mystery Babylon." They are "drunk with the wine of her fornication"
(17:2). "Wine" is obviously symbolic, as is "her fornication." The
"wine" stands for Babylon's false doctrines, while "her fornication"
applies to her unlawful union with "the kings of the earth" (17:2).
"Mystery Babylon" is also "a woman" (17:3). A woman in prophecy
represents a church. God likens His people to a "wife" that "has made
herself ready" for "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (19:7,9). The
Babylonian woman has also "fallen" (14:8). This must mean that
"Mystery Babylon" in Revelation represents a globally supported church
that has "fallen" away from her true lover, Jesus Christ, and from
Bible truth. Yet God still has people inside of Babylon, whom He
calls, "My people." Before the last act of history's drama, He calls
them to "come out" (18:4). Why? Because the river Euphrates is
destined to run dry.
"The sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates;
and the water thereof was dried up" (Revelation 16:12, italics added).
Left Behind's Armageddon and countless other theologians apply this
drying up of Euphrates to a literal drying so Asian armies can shoot
bullets at the Jews at Armageddon. But what does the Bible say dries
up the river? Turkey? No. The Word says, "the sixth angel poured out
his vial upon the great river Euphrates." This "vial" is one of the
seven "vials of the wrath of God" (16:1). Thus, it is the wrath of
God, not Turkey, that dries up the Euphrates! What does it mean? Brace
yourself. If the "waters" represent "people," and if the vial of wrath
falls on the water, then this means God's wrath will finally be poured
upon people who steadfastly continue supporting Mystery Babylon.
When Heaven's judgments fall on the swirling waters of
Babylon-supporting people, reality will be inescapable. They will
realize they've been misled. Then they will "hate the whore, and shall
make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her
with fire." Revelation 17:16. Thus their misplaced support for a false
system will vanish. This is how Babylon's water will dry up, preparing
the way for "the kings of the east" (16:12).
In Old Testament days, Cyrus came from "the east" to conquer Babylon
(Isaiah 44:26-28; 46:11). The word, "east," means "sun rising," and
the name, "Cyrus," means, "sun." Cyrus came not to attack the Jews,
but as their Deliverer, and again, Cyrus was a type of Jesus Christ,
the "Sun of righteousness" (Malachi 4:2). In Revelation, God's angels
come from the east (7:2), and Jesus Himself said, "As the lightning
comes out of the east, and shines even to the west; so shall also the
coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:27, italics added). Therefore
just as Cyrus came from the east to deliver literal Israel from the
clutches of literal Babylon, even so will King Jesus descend from the
eastern skies with "the armies which were in heaven" (19:14) to
conquer spiritual Babylon and to deliver "the Israel of God" (Israel
Two) at Armageddon!
What about "Armageddon"? Surprisingly, this exact word is used only
once in the Bible, in Revelation 16:16. The Word says, "And he
gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue,
Armageddon." Honestly, there is no literal "place" anywhere on Earth
bearing this exact name. It's true, there is a valley north of
Jerusalem which was called "Megiddo" (Judges 5:19) in Bible days. It
was a place where the armies of Israel often met foreign enemies in
bloody battles. Because "Megiddo," sounds like, "Armageddon," millions
assume this same place will be the location of a final showdown
against the Jews. But is this right?
"Armageddon" represents the apex, the climax, the final battle in
Revelation. Will it be a military battle in the Middle East? Let's be
consistent. Throughout Revelation we've seen Middle East terms like
the "seven golden candlesticks," (1:20), "Jezebel" (2:20), "Mount
Zion," (14:1), "Jerusalem," (3:12), "the temple" (11:19), "Sodom and
Egypt" (11:8), "Euphrates" (16:12) and "Babylon" (17:5) used in a
Christ-centered, heavenly, spiritual sense. When it comes to
"Armageddon," which is a term depicting the grand finale in the
greatest apocalyptic book ever written, does it make sense for God's
last book to suddenly shift gears away from its thematic focus by
pinpointing a literal, local, high tech, Middle East-based
conflagration involving Russians, Chinese, Syrians, and literal Jews?
We don't have to guess. The answer is in the context surrounding
Revelation 16:16. While it is outside the scope of this article to
discuss the fascinating details, here are the main points:
1) The battle involves "the kings of the earth and of the whole world"
(16:14), which could not possibly fit inside the valley of Megiddo.
2) Revelation's focus is "the temple of heaven" (16:17), not a
supposedly soon-to-be-rebuilt Jewish temple on earth.
3) The affects of Armageddon are global, far beyond the Middle East
4) The primary system identified as being destroyed at Armageddon is
spiritual "Babylon" (16:19), not Russia, China, or Syria.
In essence, "Armageddon" depicts the final battle between King Jesus
and His heavenly armies (19:11-19) against the worldwide forces of
Satan referred to in the Apocalypse as "Mystery Babylon." At the
Second Coming, the devil loses, and his global kingdom comes crashing
down. Jesus doesn't need to nuke His foes, but only to use His "sharp
two-edged sword" (1:16; 19:15) - which represents His Word of truth
(Ephesians 6:17). When Christ descends from the east, He will deliver
"Israel" from the clutches of "Babylon." But which Israel will He
deliver? According to the thematic genius of the entire book of
Revelation, it must be "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16) centered
in Jesus Christ whose home and dwelling place is the "New Jerusalem"
In conclusion, the Middle East remains a powder keg, our U.S. struggle
against Muslim radicals like Osama bin Laden continues, and there's no
earthly in sight. In the midst of such a "Red Alert" environment,
millions of America's politically active Christians believe God
Himself is not only behind modern Israel, but that He will finally
annihilate the enemies of the Jewish State at Armageddon. Left
Behind's Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages proclaims this
forcefully. Yet, as we have clearly seen, this doctrine is contrary to
the New Testament. Beyond this, the teaching is actually harmful
because it adds gasoline to an already raging Arab fire. An America at
"War Against Terror" doesn't need this!
A careful study of "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" proves that
Christianity's massive "God-Is-Behind-Modern-Israel" theology is just
not true. Not that God doesn't love Modern Israel, the Israeli people,
and Jewish people. But as we have seen, Revelation's focus is not on
"Israel after the flesh" (Israel one), but on "the Israel of God"
(Israel Two) composed of both Jews and non-Jews (including Arabs)
centered in Jesus Christ. If there was ever a time we needed not only
to "walk in the Spirit," but to interpret prophecy according to the
Spirit, it's now.
Real peace can be found in only one place, and it's available to Jews,
Muslim Palestinians, and Christians alike. It's found at the foot of
the cross, in the heart of a Man who loves and died for the entire
world. Let's surrender our lives to Him, so we can be part of His
Israel of God.
(1) See Prophecy and Politics: The Secret Alliance Between Israel and
the US Christian Right, by Grace Halsell. Lawrence Hill & Co., (1989).
Deliberate Deception: Facing the Facts about the US-Israeli
Relationship, by Paul Findley, Lawrence Hill & Co., (1989). Israelis &
Palestinians: What Went Wrong?, by Amos Elon. The New York Review of
Books, Dec. 19, 2002 issue.
(2) Irvin Baxter Jr.'s, Endtime Magazine, Jan./Feb. 1998, p. 2.
For more information on this topic, read Steve Wohlberg's small book,
Exploding the Israel Deception, his larger book, End Time Delusions,
or purchase his audio/video series, Israel in Prophecy.
Call toll free: 1.866.862.6334.
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