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Wednesday
Sep042013

The Prophecy Pundits Are Back!

With the increasing possibility of US military action against Syria and the Assad regime, it should come as no surprise that the prophecy pundits have been hard at work.

Since the ancient city of Damascus figures prominently in the news, the pundits run to their concordances and find those biblical texts where the city is mentioned.  Given their view that many of the prophecies in the Old Testament have yet to be fulfilled (and were not fulfilled in the history of Israel, or with the coming of Jesus Christ) they go to great lengths and demonstrate even greater ingenuity, I might add, to explain how the Bible's mention of Damascus (Isaiah17) must be a reference to the current (and latest) political crisis in the region.

One pundit writes (Damascus, Syria and Isaiah 17),

One of most intriguing Bible prophecies in the end times has to do with Isaiah 17. The prophecies in Isaiah 17 point to the end times destruction of Damascus, Syria. The Bible states that the destruction of Damascus will be so great that the city will be nothing but a "ruinous heap" after the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy. This is noteworthy because presently the city is recognized as the world's longest constantly inhabited city. The utter destruction of Damascus will be an event that only the sovereign Lord could have predicted, yet he warns in Isaiah 17 that Damascus does have a date with destiny in the near prophetic future.

He goes on to say,

Another thing to note about Damascus is that it is also "home" to many of the world's leading terrorist masterminds. With such groups as Hamas and Hezbollah among others making their home in Damascus, it is easy to see that if a wide ranging conflict broke out between Israel and these terrorist groups that Isaiah 17 could easily be destroyed. Syria has made many recent "defense pacts" with the terrorists as well as Lebanon where the groups also operate. Syria has threatened to "get involved" in the next round of fighting.

Sounds plausible at first hearing, right?  But there is a major problem with the pundit's interpretation.  The critical biblical text (Isaiah 17, specifically verse 1) is not speaking of the end times.  Rather, this is an oracle of YHWH spoken against the ancient city of Damascus (Aram) through the prophet Isaiah.  The people of Israel (in open disobedience to the covenant they had made with YHWH) had made an alliance with Aram, seeking a pagan nation's help against the dreaded Assyrians.  God, however, commanded that his people be faithful to their covenant with him, and look for their deliverance as coming through the righteous branch (a future son of David and a royal messiah).  The Damascus of Isaiah's day was in fact destroyed in 732 B. C. (during the time of Isaiah) by the Assyrians.  The prophecy has already been fulfilled.

No doubt, these prophecy pundits mean well.  But their modus operandi of finding some mention in the Bible of any contemporary place or region in the Middle East currently in conflict (and in the news), and then turning that passage into an "end-times" prophecy, is to distort the plain teaching of God's word.

If the crisis with Syria escalates, I'm sure there will be more of this to come.  Hey, we don't have Saddam Hussein to kick around any more.  Bashar-Al-Assad will do just fine, until this crisis passes, and a new ominous Arab political leader comes on the scene to take his place.

Reader Comments (9)

Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!!!!
September 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJosh
R.C. Sproul's book, The Last Days According to Jesus will but a lot of this silliness to rest?

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/last_days_according_to_jesus/
September 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSlow Poke
Anyone know who first came up with this modern interpretation? It seems to be firm dogma among the pop dispensationalists now.
September 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter"lee n. field"
This kind of interpretation of Isaiah 17 (in the manner of the end times pundits) is exactly the reason that I get nervous about small group Bible studies, either public (e.g., Q-Place) or within a congregation unless they are tethered to a pastor. The famous question, "what does this verse mean to you" invites all sorts of Biblicism and if members of a group have been paying attention to these pundits and regurgitate their interpretations it can lead innocent people in unwanted directions.
September 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge
Pastor Kim,

This is why we appreciate your diligent work in teaching us why it's so important for us to understand Eschatology - because it drives our Theology.

As we brace for even more silliness than previously seen, it's a great comfort to trust in God's unchangeable Word and Promise.

Selah
September 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
Amen, Good word Kim.
September 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterroger o.
All that being said this stuff is far more entertaining than the real news reports
September 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpb
The prophecy pundits are back with a vengeance! Especially when the lead article on the "mainstream" media like USATODAY'S website is about the very misinterpretation you speak of. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/08/some-see-biblical-visions-of-doom-in-syria-trouble/2780827/
September 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark
Same book - new cover.
September 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermatt

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