WND: ISIS Offensive May Be a Sign of the Rise of the Anti-Christ

As Iraq slides into chaos, one man claims to have special insight into how things may develop; not because he’s an expert on the Middle East, but because he’s a “prophecy expert”. Over to Joel Richardson at WND, discussing Chapter 8 of the Book of Daniel in a piece entitled “Is prophecy being fulfilled now in Iraq and Iran?”  (emphases added) :

…If the ultimate meaning of the entire vision is eschatological, pertaining to the time of the end, while it may certainly maintain a historical partial fulfillment, it may also very well speak of two forthcoming regional wars… After this time, it appears as though out of the ashes of these wars, in the region stretching from Nineveh (Mosul) to Turkey, we should expect to see the Antichrist arise, starting small but then gaining in power. With Iran already declaring that it will enter the fray in Iraq to respond to the ISIS offensive, the beginning of Daniel’s vision may very well be beginning to unfold right in front of us.

Richardson has made a career out of insisting that the Bible predicts that Muslims will at some point soon come under the spell of the Anti-Christ. His books on the subject are published by WND; one comes with a blurb by Robert Spencer (“A must-read for priests and pastors, students and lay readers everywhere”), and he has also expounded his theories to Glenn Beck. Richardson regularly takes his teachings around churches, and his reach within evangelicalism more broadly was recently demonstrated when Baker Books chose to foreground his endorsement of a memoir by Samaa Habib, a Muslim convert to Christianity.

Chapter 8 of the Book of Daniel, as Richardson acknowledges, appears most obviously to refer to Antiochus IV, the Syrian king who profaned the Jewish Temple in 168BCE. The text was written during this period of persecution, although the author writes pseudonymously as Daniel, a Judean exile in Babylon several centuries previously (a literary convention rather than a fraud).

However, self-proclaimed “prophecy experts” such as Richardson ignore this literary context, and instead insist that the text must indeed have been written ahead of the events it describes via supernatural means. Obscurities and difficulties, therefore, are to be resolved not by referring to the world of the text’s author, but by arbitrarily referring to later religious texts or to whatever newspaper headline happens to fit the interpreter’s interest. It’s a method that has seen Richardson blunder from one farrago of nonsense to another.

In this instance, Richardson focuses on verses 10-12:

It [the symbolic “horn” representing Antiochus] grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper.

Richardson suggests that the apparent cosmic elements in the above mean that something else is intended than just Antiochus:

Now, will anyone claim that Antiochus caused some of the angels (stars) to fall from heaven? I certainly hope not. In fact, the Book of Revelation describes precisely the same event, but there it is Satan the dragon, who causes the angels to fall, and it is something that takes place in the last seven years before the return of Christ.

The Book of Revelation was written in Greek two hundred years later, in a very different political context and representing a very different religious agenda. It therefore does not help us to interpret Daniel’s meaning. It is more sensible to refer to Daniel 12 verse 3, where the people of God are compared to stars. That solves the contrived “problem” with more economy than suggesting that the text is about something else altogether.

But Richardson continues:

Next two angels began explaining the vision of the ram and the goat and the little horn, and Daniel is given some profound information concerning the timing of these things. One angel standing on the banks of the River Ulai (which is in modern day Iran) called to the other angel and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision” (v. 16). So Gabriel came to Daniel and said, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end” (v. 17).

For the author of Daniel – as for Richardson now – “the End” was close. It is a problem for Richardson that history instead actually continued, but it wasn’t so for the text’s author or for the original intended readership.

However, Richardson is astute enough not to bet the farm on his latest prognostication:

Am I saying that this is absolutely how it is going to happen and that “this is that?” Not yet, but I think we can all acknowledge that what is now unfolding in Iraq and Iran makes this all a very real possibility.