ISIS or ISIL has Christians not just in Iraq and Syria, but even in America worried. With their propaganda spreading on social media, they are growing and becoming a significant political and terror force. But what does Bible prophecy say? Does ISIS play a big role in the end times? Is this one of the signs of the end? Find out how ISIS speculation distracts believers from the real threat.
ISIS/ISIL: the New Islamic Threat
Imagine your area is invaded by a rogue Islamist military group. They manage to defeat your local law enforcement force and barbarically behead the leaders in your local government.
They then announce their new Islamic government enforcing sharia law. This leaves you and the other members of the community with a choice:
Convert to Islam or face the sword. (Unless you have the money to pay the jizyah poll tax under the "dhimma" contract. And you must pay it in gold.)
That's exactly what ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has done through vast swaths of northern Iraq and Syria. Their plans are to establish an Islamic caliphate, or state, across the region. Led by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, "the next Osama Bin Lauden," this Al-Qaida splinter group has been growing rapidly. Thousands of Christians have fled Iraq and Syria as it advances.
Thanks to the release of their videos of the beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, most Christians in America are well aware of them, too. Some Americans fear that the porous borders with Mexico will allow ISIS cell groups to strike the US like Al-Qaeda did. One report suggests that US power grid is vulnerable to such a terrorist attack, something ISIS has done in Yemen already.
Is ISIS In Bible Prophecy?
Christians have more worries than local ISIS terror attacks. Some have in mind what Bible prophecy says about end time events in the Middle East. Could ISIS play a role? Could their sudden influence be a sign that the prophesied Middle East war is nigh? And the end after that?
Seeing how ISIS has treated Christians, others wonder something even bigger. Will ISIS or other extremist Muslim groups become the main forces persecuting the Christian church in the last times?
Let's consult the Bible on these theories.
The Persecution of the Saints?
When prophecy-savvy Christians hear of a Christian-hating group executing using decapitation or beheadings, it is hard not to think of end time prophecy:
Revelation 20:4 (ESV) — Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Indeed the end time saints are going to be hunted down and beheaded for not worshiping the Beast. The beheading does remind one of radical Islam.
But the verse above shows, it's the Beast or Antichrist who is responsible for beheading the martyrs.
Then how about the idea that the Antichrist comes out of Islam, the fastest growing religion in the world? Perhaps a extremist group like ISIS will give rise to him? The Antichrist beheads. Muslims behead. So it's a lock, right?
However, the use of decapitation is just one detail about the Antichrist, and it is not even really a personal or identifying characteristic. Anyone can choose to use decapitation. It's just an old, cheap, low-tech method of execution.
Further, there are many other details about the Antichrist that one should check before accepting a Muslim Antichrist theory. The hard truth is that not one of them plainly points to a connection between the Antichrist and Islam.
On the contrary, when you look at the prophetic characteristics of the Antichrist and receive what they plainly say, they point away from Islam.
Antichrist's Homeland - Not a Muslim Country
For example, we already have good indication where the Antichrist rises from thanks to Revelation and Daniel.
There is literal evidence that the False Prophet will be the last pope of Rome. About this "second beast" the Antichrist chapter of Revelation says:
Revelation 13:11 (ESV) — Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.
For the False Prophet to be coming to Israel from "the earth" fits a pope as the Vatican in Italy is reachable by land from Israel.
Contrast this to what it says about the Antichrist (first beast of Revelation 13):
Revelation 13:1 (ESV) — And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.
The Antichrist comes from "the sea." What does that mean? In some contexts the sea represents "peoples" but not this one where we have a contrast with another beast out of "the earth." Obviously both leaders come out of "peoples" thus the sea is not redundantly saying that (something that is not helpful anyway). Sea and earth are communicating something else here, and their literal meaning makes perfect sense: a helpful clue at geography.
This literally points to an island nation such as Iceland, Australia, or Great Britain.
Which is it? Daniel also gives a detail on the Antichrist homeland in relation to Israel:
Daniel 8:9 (ESV) — Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land
If the Antichrist goes southeast to reach Israel in relation to Israel, he must come from the northwest. Antiochus Epiphanes IV, the type of the Antichrist who also stopped the sacrifices at the Temple (Dan 8:11) fulfilled this characteristic. He came from Greece which is due northwest of Israel. We can reasonably expect his antitype, the Antichrist, to come from the same direction before he arrives in Israel to also stop the sacrifices that will be going again in the Third Temple.
Great Britain and Iceland are the only island nations that one finds along the northwest direction from Israel. Neither are Muslim and Iceland only has a population of 300,000 people and very little political power. Great Britain, on the other hand, has tremendous historical political and financial power. One of the leading Antichrist candidates happens to come from there, Prince Charles.
Now, whether the Antichrist comes from Great Britain is not the point here. The point is that of all the directions that the Antichrist comes to Israel from, he comes from the nearly the only direction pointing to non-Muslim lands. None of the directions where Israel is surrounded by Muslim nations and jihadists like ISIS.
There are other reasons why we should not expect the Antichrist to be Muslim. See my article on the Antichrist Myths for more details.
"Wars and Rumors of Wars"
The place where I do see Islam described in end time Bible prophecy is found elsewhere. Take a look at where Revelation 6 and Matthew 24 parallel each other:
Revelation 6:4 (ESV) — And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.
Matthew 24:6 (ESV) — And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
The red horseman is a literal evil spirit that went out into the earth spreading a certain kind of influence. The remaining of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" spirits did the same. All four have already ridden and shaped the development of history. Just as Jesus said, you'll hear of wars and rumors of wars but the end is not yet. It's already happened before the end time we are now in. Increased wars were predicted by these prophecies and it came to pass through Islam, Communism and other satanic ideologies.
So you can see that Islam does have a major role in prophecy. Think of how peaceful the world would be without Islam (and Communism). If every nation on earth were Christian democratic republics like America, how many wars would we have?
But Islam's role ends when the Antichrist arises, just like all religions and ideologies roles will, including Communism. They must because with the help of the last pope, the Antichrist convinces the world that he is God (2Th 2:4) (not Christ). The religion will not be worship of Allah, but worship of the Antichrist himself as God on earth. The government will not be communism either but obviously a religious dictatorship or (twisted) theocracy.
ISIS: Middle East War Soon?
Given that Islam is in prophecy as taking peace from the earth, what about the big Middle East war where Damascus ceases to be a city? Could that be near now that ISIS is stirring up trouble and changing the balance of power and political map there?
Again, the answer is no. It's no for the same reason that Al-Qaeda or any terror campaigns for decades has ever brought the fall of Damascus. Yet another terrorist organization is not going bring the regional war that results in the end of Damascus (and many other Arab capitals).
It's going to take national armies going at Israel, together. A coalition. Something that has not happened now for over 40 years after it happened three times in the 25 years from 1948 to 1973. Why did the Arabs stop attacking Israel together?
Because of the new threat that appeared in 1973, the last time they attacked, a threat they have yet to have developed an answer for.
It is common knowledge that Golda Meir ordered Israeli forces to load nuclear bombs on their fighter jets while it looked like they were losing the Yom Kippur war in October of 1973. Israel was ready to "push the button" of the Samson Option. The Arabs would lose their way of life for even coming close to defeating and occupying Israel.
The Arabs have not formed a coalition to overrun tiny Israel ever since. They know it would be sure national suicide...until they have an answer for the nuclear deterrent Israel has.
Not Soon: Try the 2020s
That is why the Muslims nations (like Iran) are working on nuclear weapons programs. We're not talking about a suitcase nuke or a single bomb which if they fail or get intercepted does not get the job done. We're talking about a nuclear arsenal they can deliver reliably to counter Israel's nuclear arsenal. By the way, Israel's arsenal can be delivered by diesel submarine, Jericho missile and F-16 fighter plane. Not an easy nuclear threat to develop an answer to, is it?
For that reason this will yet take many years more. It will probably not not happen this decade, but could in the 2020s.
And even after they have a nuclear answer to Israel, the Arabs may have to wait for the advantageous window to strike. (The day they attacked in 1973's Yom Kippur war was not only the Jewish fast day of Yom Kippur, but it also fell on a Sabbath rest day while the Islamic fast period of Ramadan coincided as well. A nice unique window of attack.) The Isaiah 17/ Psalm 83 war is not going to be fulfilled any day now or even soon.
ISIS and the future prominent jihadist organizations will continue to behead people and make headlines and scare Christians into thinking the end is near. However, people have been thinking that for decades and we're still waiting.
Why? Because Islam's place in prophecy is limited and about to end before the end even comes. When the Arab nations converge on Israel (only to lose) and the Antichrist comes from the sea to the northwest and replaces all governments and religions with his own, Islam will have run its course—and its role as the current go-to bogeyman for prophecy theorists.