Like most students of prophecy I’ve been watching events in Iraq for the last several weeks and wondering what they mean. And like most writers on the subject, I’ve been silent because I haven’t been sure that what’s going on is Biblically relevant. After all, not all current events are foretold in prophecy. Nor do they all fit on a timeline to the 2nd Coming. But after a fair amount of seeking the Lord on this, I think I finally have a glimpse of something worth writing about.
As I said, there’s no end times prophecy into which the current situation neatly fits. The so-called Islamic State (aka ISIL and ISIS) does not currently appear to be some long awaited entity coming to neatly fulfill a popular prophecy, and give us that unmistakably clear sign that we’re not long for the world.
Who Are These People?
Let’s begin with a little background on this group. Although they seemingly came out of nowhere, they had their beginnings during the war in Iraq as part of al Qaida and gained a lot of their current strength and ability fighting against the Syrian army. The USA was actually quite helpful to them in this regard, having funded and equipped them in the hope that they could topple the Assad government without direct American involvement. During this time they’ve grown rapidly to a point where some estimates put their current strength at 80,000 fighters, 50,000 in Syria and 30,000 in Iraq, with thousands of new recruits joining them every month.
Some observers have been wondering if they’re trying to recapture the territory Mohammed originally claimed for Allah. Others say maybe they’re bringing the return of the Ottoman Empire. The Levant, which was originally part of their name (Islamic State In Iraq And The Levant or ISIL), refers to the Eastern Mediterranean and identified their territorial goals as being Iraq plus Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan (see map). But rumors indicate they’re actually looking to become much bigger and have the entire Arabian Peninsula in mind as well. We’ll just call them by their current name, The Islamic State, or IS.
The leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seems to have burst on the scene from relative obscurity and skyrocketed in popularity to a point where his admirers speak of him as the legitimate successor to Osama bin Laden. He has quickly turned thousands of fighters from diverse backgrounds and nationalities, including Western Europe and the US, into a formidable and highly motivated fighting force. Those who have researched his abilities claim he is an educated and accomplished leader with impressive command and control procedures in place that enable fast and efficient communications to and from the battlefield. More than just another terrorist group, the Islamic State is a private army in every sense of the word.
Because of this they’ve been able to roll through cities and towns with remarkable speed. Looting and plundering as they go, they’ve quickly become the wealthiest terrorist organization in the world. They have modern US equipment they stole from the fleeing Iraqi army, and nearly half a billion dollars in hard cash they’ve taken from various banks. They now control seven oil fields which they operate to help sustain themselves. By some accounts they are consistently selling as many as 40,000 barrels of oil on the black market, generating about $2 million in revenue each day. The potential already exists to double this production. These things give them a level of autonomy other groups can only dream about. Current internal reports show them with assets in the $2 billion range.
Like conquerors of the Middle Ages they’re inhumanely cruel. Mass murders of adults and children involving live burials, crucifixions and beheadings have been reported, as have the wholesale rape of captured women and girls, driving people from their homes, and forcing them to convert or die. In an effort to “cleanse” their captured territories they’re wiping out ethnic groups they consider to be beyond conversion or subjugation, whether Christian, pagan, or even Islamic groups with whom they disagree.
In a nutshell they are brutally efficient, brooking no resistance, a law unto themselves, answerable to no one, threatening everyone, primitive and sadistic, evil personified. To say the world is shocked and afraid is an understatement.
What Are People Saying?
To show you why people are afraid, here are some reports I’ve read in the world press just this week that will help us see how easily current events could escalate into a full blown war.
The Islamic State believes Saudi Arabia is vulnerable and if they fall the whole Arabian peninsula could come under IS control. This has become a stated goal of IS strategists. Imagine what that would mean to the world’s oil supplies. The already fragile economies of the world could easily be devastated.
If the Islamic State continues to threaten Lebanon, Hizbollah will have to abandon Syria to protect their homeland. If that happens Syria will fall leaving 50,000 IS fighters on the Jordanian and Israeli borders.
Spanish police just arrested a group of Islamic State recruiters whose goal is to develop a fighting force sufficient to bring Spain under IS control.
The Islamic State already has agreements with Mexican cartels to bring IS operatives into the US. Texas Gov. Rick Perry believes some of them could already be here.
Islamic State engineers are working on an explosive device that can level a whole city at once, and have plans to use it in the US.
Speaking of the Islamic State, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision and will eventually have to be defeated.”
Past and present defense and military leaders are publicly urging the US to form a coalition of nations for the purpose of defeating the Islamic State now, while they can be defeated. They say the longer we wait the more difficult it will be.
What Does This Mean?
Is the Islamic State really leading the world down the path to Armageddon? Some people who don’t know the future are beginning to think that way. So let’s take a quick look at the future we know is coming because the Lord has already revealed it to us. We’ll use Rev. 6 as our guide.
The White Horse (Rev. 6:1-2)
In the Battle of Ezekiel 38, God will so obviously display His power on Israel’s behalf that it will cause them to renew their covenant with Him, build a temple, and reinstate their long abandoned Levitical worship system. They will receive assistance in accomplishing all this from an unlikely source. An emerging world leader who will appear to be a great peace maker (Daniel 8:25), but who will really have conquest on His mind, will confirm a 7 year treaty for Israel that will seem to finally bring peace to the Middle East. Daniel’s missing 70th Week will have begun (Daniel 9:27).
The Red Horse (Rev. 6:3-4)
But it won’t be long before this time of peace will end. Suddenly war will come again, and this time no one will be able to stop it. The time of conquest will have begun, and the goal will be world domination.
The Black Horse (Rev. 6:5-6)
War is expensive. The fragile economies of the world will not be able to absorb the costs. On top of that, war disrupts crop production. Soon the combination of run away inflation and food shortages will mean that for average people it will take all they can earn in a day just to feed themselves.
The Pale Horse (Rev. 6:7-8)
Because there will be no money to maintain them, sanitation and health systems will break down. Combined with starvation this will bring famine and plague over one quarter of the world.
The Martyrs (Rev. 6:9-11)
The conquest of Earth will be for the purpose of enforcing a single religious system on the people and it won’t be Christianity. Many new Christians, having become so after witnessing the rapture of the Church, will be the post-church world’s first martyrs. Their souls will cry out to God for vengeance, but He will counsel patience, for many more must die.
The Blood Moon (Rev. 6:12-17)
Great earthquakes, falling stars, a sun with out light and the Bible’s one and only blood moon will be the signals that the time of God’s wrath has come.
As we look around us we can see most the events I’ve described growing toward fulfillment. After all, how many leaders in our time have come forward with the stated intent of bringing peace to the world? How many warlords have tried to enforce their will on people? How long have various economies hovered on the brink of collapse? How long has there been severe famine in the world and how many diseases have had the potential to achieve pandemic proportions?
And still, the time is not yet. All these are the birth pangs the Lord warned us about (Matt. 24:8), and as they become more frequent and more intense we are to understand that the end is ever closer. Soon, He will decide it’s time. In a flash He will snatch His Church away (1 Cor. 15:51-53), prove to Israel that He’s their Champion (Ezekiel 39:22), and bring a time of judgment upon the rebellious world from which they cannot escape (1 Thes. 5:3). At that time the world will understand that what it’s experiencing now, as bad as it is in some places, is only the beginning.