Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I just finished reading Epicenter: Why Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future, another great book by Joel Rosenberg. Instead of trying to explain the point of the book myself, I'll let Rosenberg do it:
My intent with Epicenter is not to persuade anyone of what is coming. Rather it is to explain how I came to write The Last Jihad, The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, and The Copper Scroll and to answer the questions that have flowed from the novels and the prophecies upon which they were based.

Among them:
- Just how serious is the current nuclear crisis with Iran? ...
- Why is Russia selling arms and nuclear technology to Iran, given the seriousness of the present situation? ...
- What is the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the post-Arafat world? ...
- What is the future of Iraq in the post-Saddam world? ...
- Will a resurgent and incresingly radicalized Islamic movement establish the worldwide caliphate, or global empire, of which its leaders dream and for which they pray and fight? ...
(taken from Introduction, p. xvi-xvii)
Following are some excerpts from the book. In the introduction, Rosenberg tells how Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been surprisingly open about his Shiite Muslim apocalyptic theology:
The first public hint of just how central Islamic eschatology would be to Ahmadinejad's foreign policy came during his first address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2005. Admadinejad stunned the audience of world leaders and diplomats by ending his speech with this prayer: "O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the One that will fill this world with justice and peace."

Back in Iran, Admadinejad then stunned a group of Islamic clerics by claiming that during his UN speech he was "surrounded by a light until the end" and that "all of a sudden the atmosphere changed there, and for 27 or 28 minutes all the leaders [in the audience] did not blink. ... I am not exaggerating when I say they did not blink; it's not an exaggeration, because I was looking. They were astonished, as if a hand held them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic Republic."

The following month, Ahmadinejad gave a speech in Tehran in which he further clarified his objectives. "Is it possible for us to witness a world without American and Zionism?" he asked a gathering of terrorist leaders from such groups as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. "You had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved." He then urged Muslims around the world to prepare for the day when "our holy hatred expands" and "strikes like a wave."

Six months later, Admadinejad upped the ante yet again, declaring in a nationally televised address that Iran had successfully enriched uranium and joined the "nuclear club," leading a number of Western intelligence agencies and experts to predict that Iran could have operational nuclear weapons in the next two or three years--just in time for the Bush administration to leave office and, presumably, for the end of the world to begin.
(Introduction, p. x-xi)
Rosenberg writes about the two lenses through which world events are most often viewed - politics and economics - and tells about the third lens of Scripture:
As an evangelical Christian whose family escaped the persecution of the Jews in czarist Russia, I have no doubt there is real evil in our world. Nor do I have any doubt that it is a powerful and pernicious force in history. I am not threatened by it, for I know there is a God and Savior who promises to defeat evil in due time. But until then, I fully expect evil to gather its forces and strike at the good. Thus, I try to anticipate how and where it might strike, and in doing so I find Scripture a useful guide.

At the very least, the Bible helps me understand the mind-set of tyrants like Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs of Iran, to put them in historic context and anticipate their future moves. At times, it even provides me specific "intelligence" of coming events.
(p. 47)
For chapters 5 through 14, Rosenberg says, "I will lay out ten future headlines we will read, the scriptural basis of such predictions, and the latest events and trends that suggest such headlines may be closer than previously thought:" (p. 51)
  • Chapter 5 - Israel Discovers Massive Reserves Of Oil, Gas
  • Chapter 6 - Treaties And Truces Leave Israelis More Secure Than Ever Before
  • Chapter 7 - A Czar Rises In Russia, Raising Fears Of A New Cold War
  • Chapter 8 - Kremlin Joines "Axis Of Evil," Forms Military Alliance With Iran
  • Chapter 9 - Moscow Extends Military Alliance To Include Arab, Islamic World
  • Chapter 10 - Global Tensions Soar As Russia Targets Israel
  • Chapter 11 - New War Erupts In Middle East As Earthquakes, Pandemics Hit Europe, Africa, Asia
  • Chapter 12 - Iraq Emerges From Chaos As Region's Wealthiest Country
  • Chapter 13 - Jews Build Third Temple In Jerusalem
  • Chapter 14 - Muslims Turn To Christ In Record Numbers
Iraqi general Georges Sada, who previously served as chief spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, senior advisor to the Iraqi president, Iraq's top fighter pilot, Iraq's air vice-marshal, and a top military advisor to Saddam Hussein ("a role he did not seek and one that almost cost him his life") and "one of the chief architects of the new Iraqi military", on the violence in Iraq, during a March 30, 2006 interview with Rosenberg:
There is a great, dramatic change if we compare it with the Saddam Hussein regime. Whatever happens now, it will still be much, much better than that. Because now if you have fifty people killed, you have tremendous reaction of newspapers, TV channels. Everybody will speak [about their deaths]. But in the time of Saddam, if he will kill 5,000 people, nobody will know. They will be killed and they will be taken to a mass grave. This will not happen in Iraq anymore. ... We have many newspapers, many radios, many TVs, everybody has got a [satellite] dish, everybody is watching everything, and this was impossible at the time of Saddam."
(p. 180)
Rosenberg tells the conversion story of the man who started "the largest church of born-again believers in the Middle East:"
This extraordinary church ministry began in 1972 when a young Egyptian businessman named Farahat lost an $11,000 watch and was stunned when a garbageman found it and gave it back to him.

"Why didn't you take the watch for yourself?" Frahat asked.

"My Christ told me to be honest until death," replied the man, dressed in filthy rags.

"You are a Christian?" Farahat asked.

The garbageman said he was.

"I didn't know Christ at the time,' Farahat would late tell a reporter, "but I told him that I saw Christ in him. I told the garbage collector, 'Because of what you have done and your great example, I will worship the Christ you are worshiping.'"
(p. 206)
Rosenberg spoke with Morocco's director of Islamic affairs, Dr. Admed Abaddi:
Abaddi, a soft-spoken, gentle-mannered former professor of comparative religion, told me that the king [of Morocco] wants to build bridges of friendship with evangelical Christians in the United States because he knows the "real" America is not Hollywood and the pornography industry but people of faith. "Historically, it has been the Christians who have held America together," Abaddi said. "Anyone who traces the history of America knows that evangelicals are behind it."

The king also wants all Moroccans--and particularly his country's Islamic leaders--to develop more friendly relations with Christians, Abaddi explained. "We need our people to know the real West, to understand that the West ain't no angel, but it ain't no demon either."
(p. 209)
Rosenberg on the growth of Chrisianity in Iraq:
Despite the fact that numerous Iraqi churches have been firebombed and converts from Islam have been attacked and killed, at least fourteen new evangelical churches have opened in Baghdad alone since the war. Other evangelical congregations are forming all around the country, some with as many as 500 to 600 people attending every Sunday. In 2004-2005, more than 160 Iraqi believers began training to become new pastors and lay leaders. Iraqis are also flooding back into the ancient Christian churches.


"The security in Iraq is deteriorating," explained one of the leaders of the Iraqi evangelical movement over breakfast, "but the ministry is increasing comapred to any time in church history. It's not that complicated really, Joel. When human beings are under threat, they look for a strong power to help them--a refuge. Iraqis look around and when they see believers in Jesus enjoying internal peace during a time of such violence and fear, they want Jesus too."
(p. 214)
An interesting consequence of the "anti-Semitic" tag placed on Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ:
Radio and satellite-television evangelism ministries are big factors in getting the gospel to millions of Iranians who would otherwise have no access to the truth. And God is using other creative methods to reach Iranians as well. Back in 2003, for example, then Iranians heard that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was anti-Semitic, they couldn't wait to see it. Neither, apparently, could the mullahs and the government authorities, thinking that anything negative about the Jews had to be good for Muslims. So despite the fact that Islam forbids the visual depiction of Jesus--and teaches that Judas was crucified in Jesus' place, and thus was never resurrected--The Passion actually played in Persia. True, only one theater ran it. But there was a ten-day waiting list for tickets. What's more, tens of thousands of bootlegged copies of The Passion are now circulating throughout Iran, and the official version is actually available in Iranian stores, as it is in most Muslim countries throughout the region.
(p. 219)
Rosenberg explains a story from one of his novels:
In my third novel, The Ezekiel Option, I tell the story of two Christians driving through the mountains of Iran with a carful of Bibles. Suddenly their steering wheel jams and they have to slam on the brakes to keep from driving off the side of the road. When they look up, they see an old man knocking on their window asking if they have the books. "What books?" they ask. "The books Jesus sent me down here to get," the old man replies.

He goes on to explain that Jesus recently came to him in a dream and told him to follow. When he awoke, he found out that everyone in his mountain village had had the same dream. They were all brand-new followers of Jesus, but they did nto know what to do next. Then the old man had another dream in which Jesus told him to go down the mountain and wait by the road for someone to bring books that would explain how to be a Christian. He obeyed, and suddenly two men with a carful of Bibles have come to a stop right in front of him.

This was one of my favorite passages in The Ezekiel Option, but it's not fiction. I didn't make it up. It's true. I got it directly from a dear friend of mine who is the head of a ministry in the Middle East. He personally knows the men involved. I simply asked if I could change their names for use in the novel, and my friend agreed.
(p. 220)
From Rosenberg's conclusion:
This intense focus on the Middle East generally and on the State of Israel specifically will only accelerate in the days and months ahead. Those who view the world through the third lens of Scripture know it. The people living in the Middle East sense it too, though they may not always know why.

If you ever visit Saddam Hussein's main palace in Baghdad, be sure to visit Saddam's throne room and look up, for there you will see a large dome. Painted on this dome are images of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Beside these are paintings of horses attacking Jerusalem. Painted on the walls are Scud missiles pointed at Jerusalem. And at the center of it all is an image of Saddam himself, riding a white horse into the Holy City.

One day not long from now, someone actually will come from the clouds, riding on a white horse, leading his armies into battle in Israel. But his name will not be Saddam Hussein or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or that of any other Middle Eastern dictator or warrior. Rather, Revelation 19 tells us that his name will be Jesus--Messiah and Savior of Jews and Gentiles, the Prince of Peace, the Risen One who loved us and gave his life for us, that we might live a full and abundant life, both now and forever. May you experience his amazing love and forgiveness before that day, for that is his greatest wish, and mine.
(p. 243-244)
From the FAQ section, in response to a question about Jordan:
In April 2004, Jordanian authorities narrowly stopped a terrorist attack in the capital city of Amman meant to decapitate the Jordanian government as well as destroy the U.S. Embassy. An astounding 20 tons of explosives and chemical weapons were discovered. Authorities said that if the poison gas attack had been successful, more than 80,000 people could have been killed and over 160,000 wounded. The Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (who until his death in June 2006 was Al-Qaeda's top man in Iraq) was believed to have been behind the attack.

Iraqi general Georges Sada told me the only place Al-Qaeda could have gotten 20 tons of chemical weapons for that attack was from Syria, which he says now possesses Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Sada explains that Saddam Hussein moved all of his WMD to Syria in the summer of 2002--several months before U.S. and coalition forces invaded--a charge now being followed up by U.S. and British intelligence.
(p. 258)

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