Bible expert Steve Wohlberg comments on Left Behind's 11th book, Armageddon: Cosmic Battle of the Ages
Has Sept. 11 and the Iraq war increased people’s interest in biblical prophecies?
Steve: Definitely. Time magazine reports, "Since Sept. 11" people "have begun asking questions about what the Bible has to say about how the world ends" (Time Magazine, July 1, 2002. p. 42). The Iraq war has also increased interest in Middle East events and biblical prophecies.
Is “Armageddon” really coming?
Steve: Yes. The Bible says, "And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon." Revelation 16:16.
What do you think about the best-selling Left Behind series, and especially about it’s 11th book called, Armageddon: Cosmic Battle of the Ages?
Steve: The theology of this book says Armageddon will be a literal, bloody, military conflict between the nations of Earth against the Jews. Supposedly, God will crush the invading enemies of Israel and defend Jerusalem during Earth's final battle. This view is so widespread, few question it.
Will Armageddon be a bloody Middle East battle against the Jews?
Steve: Although this is the common view, this is really not the true teaching of the book of Revelation. In order to understand God's last book, this principle must be realized: Revelation uses the terminology of the Middle East but not in reference to those literal Middle East places. Let me explain: Revelation speaks of "Sodom" (11:8), "Egypt" (11:8), "Israel" (7:4), "Mount Zion" (14:1), "Jerusalem" (21:10), "the temple" (11:19), "Euphrates" (16:12), "Babylon" (17:5), and a final battle called "Armageddon" (16:16). Yet when the book is carefully studied "in the Spirit" (1:10, 4:2, 17:3, 21:10), it becomes clear that God is really referring to a "spiritual" Sodom (11:8), the "New Jerusalem" (3:12, 21:2,10), a heavenly Mount Zion (14:1, 21:10), a mystical, spiritual, global "Babylon" (17:5, 18:23) which sits upon the "many waters" (17:1) of a spiritual river Euphrates (17:15) which represents the people who support the deceptions of Babylon. God's true people are His spiritual Israel who "come out" of spiritual Babylon (18:4), keep all the Ten commandments (14:12) which are now in the "ark" inside the "temple of God" in heaven (11:19).
Armageddon is "the battle of God Almighty" (16:14) when God Himself defeats the global forces of Satan and spiritual Babylon (16:14,19) and then delivers His spiritual Israel. Making Armageddon a literal military conflict against Jews in the Middle East misses the entire message of Revelation. Ultimately, it's God vs. Evil, not Nations vs. Jews.
What does the New Testament really say about “Israel"?
Steve: Paul taught there is an "Israel after the flesh" (1 Corinthians 10:18) and an "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16) centered in Jesus Christ. The Israel of God is God's spiritual Israel, being composed of both Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ. All true believers are part of "the seed of Abraham" (Galatians 3:29). The book of Revelation's focus is on the Israel of God whose home is the New Jerusalem. The error of Left Behind theology is it assumes Revelation's focus is the "Israel of the flesh" (national Israel). This is a mistake.
Is the popular Christian idea that “God Will Defend Israel at Armageddon” good or bad for an America at “War Against Terror”?
Steve:Though popular, it's harmful. The U.S. should support Israel as a democracy but shouldn't be biased against Palestinians simply because God is supposedly "on Israel's side." All unfairness toward Palestinians, especially "in the name of God," only inflames Muslim hatred against the west. America doesn't need this!
How do you feel about the main theme of the Left Behind books: the idea that a silent rapture will take place as Christians are caught up into heaven, while at the same time, everyone else is "left behind" to face the 7 years of tribulation? Does this match up with the Bible?
Steve:No, it doesn't. There is no hint in the New Testament of a "silent" or "secret" return of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus Himself warns against those who teach a "secret" coming (see Matthew 24:26). The main verses used to support a secret rapture actually teach a loud, visible, triumphant Second Coming of Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Jesus comes with "a shout ...voice ... the trumpet of God." In 1 Corinthians 15:52, He returns with "the trump of God." Jesus said, "As the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be." Matthew 24:27.
As far as the "7 years of Tribulation," surprisingly, this is a myth without any true biblical support. The main verse used to support this theory is Daniel 9:27 which talks about someone who would "confirm the covenant with many for one week, and in the midst of the week he will cause the sacrifice to cease." Modern scholars often apply this to a future Antichrist who will make a covenant with the Jews during a final "one week", or seven year (a day representing a year) period of tribulation, although the text doesn't say this. Historically, most scholars understood the "He" of Daniel 9:27 to refer to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ confirmed the covenant (see Romans 15:8). After 3 1/2 years of ministry, He "caused the sacrifice to cease" by His death on the cross (See Matthew 27:51). The text fits perfectly with the work of Jesus Christ (compare also with Matthew 26:28) and says nothing about an Antichrist or a "seven year period of tribulation."
Are there any dangers in believing the scenario laid out in the Left Behind series?
Yes. Definitely. Those who believe Left Behind think they will disappear in a rapture before the Beast comes and the Mark is enforced. "I'll be gone before the trouble starts!" they think. Others think, "If I miss the rapture then I'll know the Bible is true. Then I can become a believer during the tribulation." This is the infamous "second chance" idea. Both ideas are false and promote spiritual laziness. We WILL be here to face the Beast and the Mark, and we must prepare NOW to face Earth's final crisis in the strength of God. Christians must prepare for the Second Coming and not think they will disappear before the trouble starts. True Christians alone will stand on that great day (see Ephesians 6:11-13).
What advice do you have for us?
Steve:Study your Bible carefully, don't follow Left Behind theology blindly, and put on the spiritual "whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:13) to be ready for Armageddon.
Do you have a web site, and how can people get a copy your book, Exploding the Israel Deception?
Steve:Yes. My web site is www.truthleftbehind.com. There people will find lots of information about all my books, plus lots of articles about Jesus Christ and Bible prophecy, separating "fact from fiction." Exploding the Israel Deception can be ordered by calling this toll free number: 1.866.862.6334
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