While I have some formal ministerial training and experience, it is not my intention on this blog to hold myself out as some sort of theological expert or biblical scholar. The thoughts I proffer here are many times not well thought out, in that I haven’t taken the time to follow them out to their ultimate conclusions. There are plenty of well-known bible prophecy sites and ministries out there who will give you all the predigested thought you can swallow. Don’t get me wrong–that isn’t a bad thing; I read several prophecy related sites because, why reinvent the wheel? No, the goal here is to get you (and me) to think outside the prophetical box–to see how and if current events align with biblical prophecies, even if only partially.
The stories coming daily out of the Levant and north Africa are troubling. What we are seeing in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Libya are nothing less than wholesale persecution of the Christian church. Granted, Boko Haram has been persecuting the Christian church in Nigeria for some time, but there is something different in the air with ISIS. It is a regional and growing threat. It started in Iraq and Syria, and has spread into Egypt and Libya. Now, Italy is calling for help because the threat is at their shores. ISIS is a cancer, and an aggressive one at that.
It started with beheadings of a few people, and not Christians. Along comes ISIS, and now we have immolations and beheadings–the immolation of a Jordanian pilot (a Muslim, no doubt), and the mass beheading of 21 Coptic Christians. And most recently, in the just captured village of al-Baghdadi, the murder of 150 members of the al-Obaid tribe, including the live immolation of 45 policemen. The others were beheaded.
“And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4 (KJV)
Thirty or forty years ago, prophecy teachers conflated the above scripture with Revelation 6:9, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained,” and came up with horrific visions of masses of people herded to guillotines for refusing to worship the Antichrist and take the “Mark of the Beast” in their hands or foreheads. Over the years, I have seen conspiracy sites warning that thousands of guillotines were being imported into the United States, presumably for this purpose. I even heard an evangelist relate one such tale in my home church when I was a teenager. Of course, it was at least a third or fourth hand story.
Over the past decade, I have come to regard such a scenario as highly unlikely. Few westerners in the 1970s and 1980s regarded Islam as the monster–the beast–it has revealed itself to be in the 21st century. It seemed far more likely that the European Economic Community (now European Union) would rise to be the revived Roman (or Holy Roman) Empire. Anecdotal hysteria revolved around rumors of a supposed supercomputer in Brussels named “the Beast” that could track everybody on earth. These interpretations–these fears–seem almost cartoonish now. There have been few imperial fizzles greater than the European Union, which now teeters on the brink of economic disaster. A supercomputer in Brussels is laughable, now that we all are well-plotted and monitored via the internet, satellite, smartphones, RFID cards, and a global electronic banking system that is almost a living thing in itself.
From where comes the danger? Right now, the rising specter of Islam seems a good candidate. As some food for thought, I submit to you the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as interpreted by Irvin Baxter of Endtime Ministries. You don’t have to accept this (or anything) out of hand, but it never hurts to learn other viewpoints, to consider other possibilities:
The White Horse–Catholicism, founded AD 325 at the First Council of Nicaea (or if you’re a good Catholic, AD 33 with Jesus’s giving of the keys of the Kingdom to Peter).
The Red Horse–Communism, founded circa 1848 with the publication of the Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto.
The Black Horse–Capitalism, founded circa 1776 with the publication of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
The Pale Horse–Islam, founded AD 622 by Muhammad. This one needs a little expansion. Several years ago, the best explanation Reverend Baxter had for this horse was the unparalleled death and destruction in the 20th century. In the original Greek, the word rendered “pale” is χλωρός (chloros), which is the word for “green” as in chlorophyll, but it can also be interpreted as the color of a dead body. So it was interpreted as a “death-colored” or “pale” horse. Of course, we have since learned that green is also the color of Islam.
Islam fits the pattern of the previous three horses each being major philosophical or religious systems. Reverend Baxter now teaches that Islam is the Fourth Horseman. His willingness to admit that a previous interpretation was incorrect is one of the reasons I respect Irvin Baxter; he honestly seeks to understand prophecy.
So, while we shouldn’t dismiss out of hand certain interpretations of prophecy that don’t jibe with our preferred understanding, we also shouldn’t indiscriminately marry ourselves to other interpretations, simply because they do.