“Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer are deserted; they will be for flocks, which will lie down, and none will make them afraid. The fortress will disappear from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus; and the remnant of Syria will be like the glory of the children of Israel, declares the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 17:1-3).
I don’t often look for biblical prophecy in the headlines, but I think about it in general terms whenever the United States considers strikes against a Middle Eastern country. The situation in Syria, for instance, has become an international incident, with the United States debating whether to strike. Some Christians see the current situation in Syria potentially pointing to Isaiah 17, which foretells the annihilation of Damascus, the capital city. One camp believes the prophecy was fulfilled in 732 B.C., when the Assyrians conquered Damascus, while others believe the prophecy has yet to be fulfilled.
Joel Rosenberg, a Jewish Christian, author, and former WORLD writer, falls into the latter category. On his blog he wrote that although Damascus has been “attacked, besieged, and conquered” before, it hasn’t “been completely destroyed and left uninhabited”—that is to come. Rosenberg is The New York Times bestselling author of the non-fiction book, Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future. (Israel is the epicenter of the world, Jerusalem is the epicenter of Israel, and the Temple Mount is the epicenter of Jerusalem.)
After reading Epicenter a few years ago, I started on Rosenberg’s novels, beginning with The Ezekiel Option, a religious and political thriller about Russia and Iran becoming an “axis of evil.” His books seem to stay a step ahead of events in the Middle East. For example, 12 years ago today, when radical Islamists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, Rosenberg was working on a novel about Islamists attacking an American city. What’s happening in Syria is a publicist’s dream of a news peg for Rosenberg’s recently published novel, Damascus Countdown (Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), the third in a series about Iran calling for the destruction of Israel and the United States. But the gospel is always in view.
“The believers in Christ [in Damascus] are being horribly persecuted,” Rosenberg wrote on his blog, “but some are still boldly preaching the Gospel and teaching the Word of God. Let’s pray that they reach all of the people of Damascus and Syria before the judgment comes.”
One doesn’t have to buy into Rosenberg’s speculations about biblical prophecy to enjoy his thrillers. Unlike secularists, he knows that religion lies at the heart of the conflict in the Middle East. That will always be the case. Even as we continue to debate biblical prophecy among ourselves, Christians know what secularists don’t understand or choose to ignore: There will never be “peace in the Middle East”—that is, until Christ returns.