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Published: Saturday, 7/22/2006

Mideast conflict studied for links to Bible

Scott Scott

People who seek to align today s headlines with ancient Scriptures have been working overtime lately, monitoring the daily developments in the Middle East.

Words spoken by Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Amos, and Ezekiel are undergoing a new round of scrutiny as Israel battles the Muslim guerrilla group Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon.

How or whether the 10-day-old conflict ties in with Bible prophecy is a matter of debate in Toledo and around the globe.

We re getting comments from around the world, said Todd Strandberg of Omaha, who runs the Web site RaptureReady.com. Most of them are from the United States, but for some reason, Australia is a big one.

Mr. Strandberg, who is in the Air Force, said he works about eight hours a day, seven days a week, compiling information about the End Times the days leading up to Earth s final battle, Armageddon for his Web site, which has been in operation for 20 years, since the era of dial-up online bulletin boards.

I try to be practical with everything. My main goal is not to be spectacular or push the conspiracy thing, Mr. Strandberg said. But God says he is coming back, so sometime he is coming back.

The latest round of fighting in the Middle East is being closely watched for any signs of Syrian involvement a step that some feel will lead to the destruction of its capital city, Damascus, as described by two Bible prophets.

Isaiah 17:1 states: Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap, while Amos 1:3 says, Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof. (King James Version).

Cumulatively, Damascus will be eliminated as a city and there will be nothing there, said the Rev. Tony Scott, pastor of Cathedral of Praise in Monclova. Whether this is the war leading up to it or not, that is what s going to happen eventually.

The Bible says Armageddon will start after Israel is invaded by armies from the north, so any time military conflict strikes the Middle East it is a something to pay attention to, Mr. Scott said.

I think the story is this: This is the region from which the battle of all battles is going to originate in these cities, in these countries. I don t know if this is the war leading up to it or not, but I think it should make people think about it, to realize that the Bible is real.

Al Adams, an author of books on the End Times and host of a weekly television show in Lafayette, La., also believes the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict provides an opportunity to get people to open their Bibles.

My main goal is to create awareness, Mr. Adams said. I m sitting back and watching this, and this really has potential to fulfill a couple of prophecies that have not been done.

Usually, seeing Bible prophecy fulfilled before your eyes is a good chance to show people that the Bible is real and every word in it is the living Word of God.

If Russia gets involved, oh boy, this isn t good, Mr. Adams said, because it could be the start of Armageddon with Russia the gog and magog that the Bible says will invade Israel.

Not all Bible scholars believe that the words of ancient prophets apply to today s citizens.

The Rev. Kenneth Mormon, a Toledo Catholic priest teaching at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Cincinnati, said according to Catholic doctrine, the messages of Isaiah, Amos, and other prophets were intended for the people of their own time.

Usually when we re talking about Bible prophecy, we re talking about apocalyptic works. But the messages are directed to their own contemporaries, Father Mormon said.

When God inspires an author to write for his people, he chooses a form a letter, a parable, a drama, a short story, whatever it is. Apocalyptic writing is a kind of literature. If a prophet uses apocalyptic writing, he phrases the message in terms of a vision, a seer, with the symbolism explained to him by a heavenly messenger, he said.

But although the message was intended for people living thousands of years ago, the Bible is always relevant and modern readers will still get something out of it, only in a different way than the prophet s contemporaries, Father Mormon said.

Gary DeMar, an Atlanta-based author who has written several books on the End Times, also believes that many people are taking the prophets writings out of context.

People who claim to interpret the Bible literally are very selective in terms of what they interpret, Mr. DeMar said in an interview. In Ezekiel 38 and 39, it obviously is about an ancient battle, the people are on horseback, they have shields, the loot they want is cattle, and this really has nothing to do with our time.

Mr. DeMar, author of Last Days Madness, said it doesn t make sense that prophecy watchers are always looking to verses in the Old Testament, while the New Testament is rarely cited.

The New Testament is kind of an update of the Old Testament. It s the new covenant. Yet they have to continue to go back to the Old Testament, he said.

Neil Little, a Toledoan who has programs on WGGN-FM (97.7) in Sandusky, said he is concerned that the networks reporting on the Middle East fighting are not making any references to Bible prophecy.

Nobody is bringing up that this is what was prophesied in Jeremiah and Isaiah that Israel would be bombarded, Mr. Little said. I understand what the geopolitical issues are all about, but I believe the coming of Christ is just around the corner. I preach it. I don t want to scare people, but Christians should know what s going on.

The Rev. Todd Hostetler of Toledo said Christians should always keep an eye on the Middle East situation, but he does not believe the latest conflict is a sign that doomsday is at hand.

In Ezekiel 38:11 and 14, it says Israel is dwelling in safety, Mr. Hostetler said. Israel will have no gates or walls, so they are secure with their neighbors, indicating that in the End Times there will be peace.

Armageddon cannot come until Israel experiences a time of peace, he said.

There s no reason to panic, but the events in the Middle East should stir in us a desire to spread the Gospel. The clock is marching forward. Step by step the Bible is being fulfilled.

Contact David Yonke at dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154

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