The Debate is Joined — Albeit Calm and Not Contentious
Joel Richardson, best-selling author of Mideast Beast and the Islamic Antichrist, did me the honor of spending considerable time critiquing a brief portion my latest book, MISTAKEN IDENTITY: THE CASE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC ANTICHRIST.
Of course, my book is a criticism of Joel’s popular theory about the nature of the Antichrist — that he will be Islamic, will be based in Turkey, and will be a combined personage of Gog, Antichrist, and the Mahdi of Islamic prophecy. The “next great war” in the Middle East, according to Joel (and to his former colleague and co-author, Walid Shoebat) will be the war of Gog/Magog. But his unique twist (which Walid also propounds), is that this war is not just the next great war, it is the LAST great war, being one and the same as the War of Armageddon. Additionally, Joel and Walid argue that the prophecies of the end times are regional in nature, just focused on a confederation of Islamic nations led by Turkey, coming against Israel.
Joel’s critique begins at the 12 minute mark of his most recent TV/YouTube video, Joel’s Trumpet. Here’s the link: JOEL’S Trumpet May 12, 2016. Note that Joel never talks about the core criticisms I offer in Parts 2 and 3 of the book. Part 1 of the book, by the way was complimenting both Joel and Walid on the quality of the work that he has done in developing and presenting his point of view. I want to keep the tone respectful and focused on the issues, not the person and how they have presented their arguments for (and in my case) against the theory of the Islamic Antichrist.
Joel begins by mentioning that we had recently become acquainted doing a series of TV/Radio shows hosted by Larry Spargimino for Southwest Radio Church. We had a “fireside chat” as opposed to a “full on” debate. We did three shows, collectively the running time will be about 70 minutes and this will be mastered as a DVD to be sold by Southwest Radio Church and later, Joel and myself in our respective ministries during conferences. Stay tuned for notice about the availability of these DVDs.
Joel’s critique in yesterday’s show zeroes in, unfortunately, on just the final element of my book, a chart I did to organize and summarize the research and extensive articles posted by Tim Osterholm (see http://www.soundchristian.com). This chart was Appendix 2 of the book. I make no claim to having reviewed Tim’s research or corroborating the work he has done. I have read a number of sources dealing with the topic of “the Gog/Magog War”, notably John Walvoord, Grant Jeffrey, Hal Lindsey, and much more recently Douglas Berner (The Silence is Broken) and a bit from Ken Johnson (Ancient Post-flood History). The core of my book Mistaken Identity was not touched on. That’s disappointing. Of course, Joel has done some deep studying on the tribal names of Ezekiel 38-39, namely Magog, Meschech, Tubal, Gomer, Beth-Togarmah, and other North African nations such as Libya, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Joel has done very extensive research on ancient writers that discussed who these tribes might have been and where they lived before and perhaps during Ezekiel’s time. This is a strong suit for Joel and not an area I had spent that much time researching, certainly nothing like Joel had done Joel did several years ago. If one is trying to win a debate, Joel picked an area that I was not emphasizing and pointed out specific items he believed were not correctly researched by Osterholm and reiterated by me in the chart I did on Osterholm’s research (in an attempt to simplify the research Osterholm assembled). That’s too bad. Here is the chart from Appendix 2 (click to download this PDF), if you would like to review it while listening to Joel. It should pop right up on your screen.
How Important is the Study on the Tribal Names of Ezekiel 38?
In my book (I hope you obtain copy soon as I believe the topic is one of the most important today in Bible prophecy — its available on Kindle for $7.25 and on iBook and Nook for a similar price), you will notice that I reference Osterholm before and after the tabular chart I created based essentially on Tim’s research. I also cite all of his sources for additional study, many of them available digitally for download, to make it plain that I am relying upon his research and not attempting to validate it. Now I have studied the subject from a number of other books (not relying solely on Osterholm) over the years. (The recent volumes on the topic I studied while preparing to write my last two books, were Berner’s The Silence is Broken and Johnson’s Ancient Post-flood History plus Ron Rhodes’ book Northern Storm Rising). There is a good degree of consistency among these authors and confirmation with the main tenets of Osterholm’s contentions. That doesn’t mean that any of the views are 100% correct. But they are credible and these men are capable researchers and writers as well.
I was also disappointed that Joel made this assertion: that to teach on the subject, one has to do the original research to the same level he did his. I don’t agree. The problem with this point is that even if you read all the original sources to form your own opinions by doing primary research on these mostly ancient historical sources, you will still form opinions that may be at odds with others who have done the same amount of study. Additionally, devoting that much time makes sense depending upon who your audience is and how much bearing that particular issue has in light of all other arguments you are setting forth. I would stipulate that Richardson has done some fine research and formed his opinions in a scholarly way. However, from my vantage point this issue is not the highest priority or most conclusive in understanding Ezekiel’s prophecy. It may even distract us from the “more easily discerned” matters, such as the vast amount of prophetic exegesis completed by very gifted authors and scholars on specific passages relevant to the topic. In many cases, there is considerable consensus from scores of scholars concurring on the meaning of vital prophetic passages.
Right after the chart in my book (Appendix 2, the PDF link offered above) which Richardson unfavorably critiqued in detail, I pointed out that there are over 30 referenced sources Osterholm supplied. I especially noted the modern scholars supporting Osterholm’s conclusions in Mistaken Identity and in my earlier book, The Next Great War in the Middle East specifically within the chapter on “The Sons of Japheth”. And whether Osterholm presented his research fairly or skewed based upon his premises which I share (and which would certainly be different than Richardson’s), the difficulty remains that bonafide scholars devoted to this work will nonetheless disagree on what constitutes “proof positive” regarding most any source; that is, whether it is or isn’t valid. Search long enough and you can find a proof text from a scholar to support your particular point of view. Richardson challenged me to study the original sources and demonstrate that Osterholm’s conclusions (which I cited) are in fact solid and well-supported. I will decline taking up the challenge at this time. Why? It is a red herring. Even if Joel is right, the main arguments I set forth about the validity of the Islamic Antichrist theory deserve more attention first. While the meticulous research on the “tribal names” and their locations at the time of Ezekiel remains important, it is not mandatory before moving on to other matters that count more in establishing the veracity of the Islamic Antichrist thesis. In the grand scheme of the debate, I am convinced the subject of who the various tribes were and where they settled in the millennia after the flood comprises a lesser factor simply because we cannot really know what Ezekiel knew about the geography of the world 550 years before Christ, as well as where and how rapidly the tribes (or nations) after the Flood of Noah dispersed around the globe. I would proffer that the only thing more challenging than reading a person’s mind is reading someone’s mind from 2,500 years ago. It is a worthy matter to fathom, but it has a high degree of unknowability.
We can be sure that the sons of Japheth, Ham, and Shem, and their descendants which became “heads of tribes” as listed in Ezekiel 38 dispersed throughout the world, and did so extensively, since it was almost 2,000 years from the time of the Flood (circa 2350 B.C) until the time of Ezekiel (570 to 550 B.C). As I point out in the book, be mindful that is about 100 years, the world’s population has grown from a bit more than one billion to over seven billion. That’s how fast humans multiply. In “green fields” with no opposition, humanity spend quickly and replenished the earth as God directed.
There remain some aspects of what Joel emphasizes that comprise a “considered” and well-studied opinion; nonetheless, these opinions no matter how well considered could and likely would be challenged by other well-studied scholars. His research is first-class and commendable — it far exceeds mine on this particular subject, but by no means is it decisive on whether Turkey will in fact be the power base for the Antichrist and whether or not the Turkish President will comprise the person of Antichrist when Jesus Christ returns to this earth to defeat the Antichrist and begin His millennial Kingdom.
Where Do My Arguments Focus?
To clarify, my primary research and my corresponding arguments address three major areas: first, the geopolitical realities of today’s Middle Eastern situation; that is the role played by the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern states, analyzing what is likely to happen in the months and years ahead (geopolitically speaking). Secondly, analysis of major biblical prophetic passages related to the prophecies of Daniel (chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 11) and Jeremiah (mostly chapters 47, 50-51). Other passages related to Zechariah 12-14 and Isaiah, 13, 17, and 18 are also touched on. Thirdly, and importantly, I contend there is a much better and more scriptural and historical alternative to the Islamic Antichrist. I argue it has a much broader level of support among evangelical scholars today. And I outline this in reasonable detail in my opening to Part 2 of Mistaken Identity. I call this alternative “the Anglo-American Luciferian Theory” (ALT). It is based upon considerable research over the past decade by myself, J.R. Church, Gary Stearman, Tom Horn, and a host of others. This alternative theory builds partially on the conventional view of the “Roman Antichrist” of Lindsey, Walvoord, Jeffrey, and LaHaye; but even more so on the works of numerous authors and scholars who studied and emphasized America’s role in the last days (the voices in the wilderness who put America at the center of Antichrist’s powerbase and saw in America the likely “final Babylon” — that incarnation of Babylon right before Jesus returns). These authors include the late Dr. Stanley Montieth, R. A. Coombs, Dr.Frank Logsdon, Edward Tracey, Patric Heron; and several contemporaries: my friends and colleagues Doug Krieger and Dene McGriff (my co-authors of The Final Babylon), friend John Price who wrote the foreword to THE NEXT GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST, and to a slightly lesser extent friends Paul McGuire and Troy Anderson, in their recent book, The Babylon Code. Tom Horn’s excellent best-seller, Apollyon Rising: 2012, likewise takes a very strong stand on the role of America as catalyst for the arrival of Antichrist, and the luciferian “religion” of the Antichrist. These two constitute distinct theories which can’t both be true. While the Antichrist might have a Islamic background (President Obama has such a background), but his appreciation of or origination within an Islamic heritage does not mean that he intends to force Islam upon the world. The Antichrist will however, force everyone to accept the Mark of the Beast and will deny that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Finally, I should also mention are at least a half dozen other authors writing in the last few years that likewise point to America’s role in establishing the powerbase of the Antichrist as well the likelihood that America (and not Saudi Arabia) is either the daughter of Babylon (cryptically discussed in the Old Testament prophets and the Psalms) and/or Mystery Babylon. I think of Alan Bonck whose book, The Daughter of Babylon, is particularly well done. I am in the process of reviewing about four others at this time. In essence, the argument that opposes the Islamic Antichrist Theory suggests that we must look to the Western World where satanic power is very sophisticated; and while hidden it exists in dramatic intensity behind closed doors at the highest levels, supported by vast sums of wealth, the most powerful military weapons in the world, and political hegemony that dominates the globe. The same cannot be said about the Middle East even though Islamic fundamentalism comprises the Spirit of Antichrist (denying the Father and the Son, 1 John 2:22), and Islamic jihadis are a dangerous aspect of living most anywhere within a 1,500 mile radius of the Holy Land. Clearly, Europe is already at grave risk not just because of recent immigrants coming north from the Middle East to escape the fighting there. The jihadis leading attacks in Paris and Belgium during the past six months were led by radical Wahhabis settling in Muslim communities long before.
Rather, to identify the most likely source of Antichrist and his colleagues, we should take into account the “Ten Kings” arising from millennia-old Illuminist bloodlines; as well as candidates for Antichrist arising from among the most prominent and highly admired persons in world geopolitics. We should consider how any of these persons might come into totalitarian power to control governments around the world, how such persons might be connected to masonic and satanic rituals that experts familiar with these dark secret societies contend empower such persons (setting them on the course to the apocalypto — revealing — of the son of perdition), and lastly, exposing his links to secret societies among the elite and especially embedded within the Vatican. As my friends that have gone on before me (Church, Montieth, Heron) and my contemporary writers and exegetes argue, it is primarily in America and England where the world economy and world politics are centered, where the royal families of the world have been dominating for millennia, and where the most dominant militaries reside that will most likely win the wars of the last days — until Jesus comes that is. These are the most likely suspects for the seed of Satan.
Additionally, we must keeping mind that Turkey has the tenth ranked military in the world. But the U.S. and Russia are far more powerful in virtually every category. And most importantly, Turkey does not have unfettered access to nuclear weapons. Hence, Russia is the player to be reckoned with in the War of Gog/Magog (in my view), not Turkey. Russia has a strong relationship with Iran, the Shia in Iraq, Assad in Syria, and other Shia. We must also recall that Hezbollah in Lebanon is a de facto government there and is also Shia. While it was once called “the Fertile Crescent”, it is today known as the “Shit Crescent”. It is Russia that supplies the technology and military support for these regimes. It is Russia that has filled the power vacuum left by the United States. Seeing Turkey leading Iran or Saudi Arabia — two perennial rivals — against Israel doesn’t square with facts on the ground. It is not likely the Sunni-Shi’ite controversy will be overcome in the name of attacking “the little Satan”, Israel. Such an ill-fated alliance has happened before in prior Middle East wars in 1948, 1967, and 1973; but Israel ultimately has won every conflict because the Muslim World in the Middle East cannot come together among themselves and present a powerful united front.
The Specific Arguments in Mistaken Identity: The Case Against the Islamic Antichrist
But specifically, the arguments I make against the Islamic Antichrist theory consist of the following biblically-based points:
- IAT presents a scenario that excludes key scriptures and geopolitical realities. As
such, it fails as the best scenario to fit “all the facts”.
- Rome destroyed the city and the sanctuary (Daniel 9:26-27), whether natives from
the area of Syria were conscripts or not.
- Old Testament references to “the Assyrian” as the enemy of Israel are unlikely
designating a Syrian or Muslim Antichrist.
- IAT incorrectly argues that the final (beast) empire has only a regional, not global
span of control.
- Saudi Arabia (and Mecca) should not be regarded as Mystery Babylon. The biblical basis for Saudi Arabia (Isaiah 21) is especially weak.
- Turkey is not the powerbase of the Antichrist. Ancient Assyria was a prototype for the Kingdom of Antichrist, but so was Babylon, and so was the Seleucid Dynasty of Antiochus Epiphanes IV.
- Meschech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah – may be identified by Atlases as Ancient Names for Today’s Turkey, but that depends on what period of history you cite.
- The Muslim Mahdi, the Dajjāl, and the Antichrist are confused.
- The War of Gog and Magog is not the same as Armageddon; Gog and Antichrist are not one and the same person.
- The Jews would never accept a Muslim as their Messiah.
I challenge the theory of the Islamic Antichrist based upon my view that the Antichrist will essentially be a Luciferian (possessed by Satan, but a Western intellectual and geopolitical leader) whereas the Islamic Antichrist will be a leader at the head of the government in Turkey. Walid Shoebat has been insistent for years that the current president of Turkey, Recep Tayyiip Erdogan is the antichrist. Joel is non-committal on Erdogan as the Antichrist. (Surprisingly, Avi Lipkin a good friend of evangelicals promotes the same view that Turkey will be the base of Antichrist, and Erdogan is a dangerous man to watch.)
I also challenge the view of the Islamic Antichrist based on the following specific geopolitical matters, some I’ve already brought up earlier:
- Russia is smack dab in the middle of the fray. Don’t expect them to sit out in the affairs of the region and play no part in what is happening in the Middle East now. They will continue to protect Syria and protect their military interests in the region.
- Shi’ites are dominating the northern Middle East. Turkey is Sunni. It isn’t that likely they will overcome the Sunni/Shia rivalry and form a compelling alliance threatening Israel.
- The United States is operating in a ‘back-peddling’ mode. But the U.S. won’t sit this one out either. The U.S. would still come to Israel’s aid UNLESS the U.S. is taken out of the way by some form of military attack brought about by terrorism utilizing weapons of mass destruction across many cities in the U.S. or by a first strike launched by Moscow.
- Turkey has been more foe than friend to the U.S. But it still remains a part of NATO. It would be incredibly risky for Turkey to drop NATO and “go it alone”. The relationship is challenging, but it still is important to the U.S. and to Europe. There is no immediate signal that Turkey is leaving or will be expelled from NATO.
- The U.S. has backed off its covert strategy to force a regime change in Damascus. This likely means that Russia will continue to operate without much challenge from anyone in Syria. ISIS has been beaten back by dramatic Russian intervention and does not constitute as serious a threat as it did just four months ago.
- Israel enjoys not being at the center of hostilities, but this is only temporary. Iran and Israel are great enemies. Turkey has been getting closer to Israel and there seems to be sincere effort to work together, despite the fact that Turkey hates Syria and Syria hates Israel. Israel wants the Syrian situation to be chaotic to keep Assad focused on fighting ISIS, not bothering Israel. And Israel would prefer to “keep the devil they know” in Assad than risk a new devil coming into power, especially ISIS. For now, Assad looks like the preferred choice.
- Russia is likely to use Syria to build up its presence in the region. Don’t be fooled by the so-called pull-back of Russian military resources in the region. That is a fabricated PR move by Putin. Even while many fixed wing aircraft have been returned to Russia, forward deployment of heavy military equipment continues according to Israel newspaper Arutz Sheva.
- Turkey could attempt to block Russia’s military build-up in Syria, but won’t. Turkey cannot sustain a land war against Russia and Russia can’t invade Turkey. But Russia has nuclear weapons readily at its disposal. Turkey does not independently control Nuclear weapons — it gets its stash through NATO. Turkey can attempt to block Russian shipping through the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul. But to do so would bring about a massive attack by Moscow. Crimea has also been a source of dispute with Turkey siding with the West against Moscow. But for now, Russia’s success in stopping ISIS in Syria has likely earned it relief from some sanctions and from renewed threats by the U.S. and the C.I.A. to meddle in Ukrainian affairs, especially in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
- Oil continues to be the elephant in the room. No one can afford to let oil stop flowing in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia as well as ISIS depends on it. Iraq depends on it. And so does Iran. They all base their economies of the export of fossil fuels. ON the other side of the transaction, the Western World depends on oil and natural gas. The issue of energy still remains the major factor that keeps the West involved in the region and how the nations of the region can continue paying their bills and keeping their people from revolting against autocratic control. Ironically, Oil is not the economic basis of Turkey’s economy and yet Turkey has the largest GDP in the region.
Just study the following map. It tells a huge story about what makes the Middle East tick.
Just How Popular is the Islamic Antichrist Theory?
However, the other famous Joel, Joel Rosenberg – not Richardson – also emphasizes just how dangerous is this man Erdogan. While I do not know if Rosenberg supports Richardson’s view that the Antichrist will be Islamic and specifically headquartered in Ankara, I suspect he does. Says Rosenberg in his blog just yesterday:
As I noted on this blog on Tuesday, whoever emerges as the next American President will inherit enormous challenges in the Middle East.
The Iran and ISIS threats are certainly chief among them. But there are more.
Keep your eyes on Turkey, for example — it’s rapidly emerging as anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israel Islamist dictatorship.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the predominately Muslim Turkey emerged as a moderate, peaceful, even friendly democracy. Indeed, as I wrote about in my 2009 non-fiction book, Inside The Revolution, in many ways Turkey emerged in the mid- to late-20th century as a model for the “Reformers,” those Muslims eager to show the world they were not violent extremists but eager to build a modern, safe country characterized by economic growth and even pluralism.
Turkey was welcomed into NATO. It became a faithfully ally of the U.S. and the West against the Evil Empire of the Soviet Union. It became a beautiful tourist destination for millions of Europeans, and even tens of thousands of Israelis.
But all that began changing when Recep Tayyip Erdogan emerged as Turkey’s President in August of 2014, after serving 13 years as the Turkish Prime Minister.
Erdogan (pronounced “Air-do-wan”) is no Reformer. He’s an Islamic Radical. Driven perhaps by visions of restoring Turkey to the power and glory of the Ottoman Empire at its peak, Erdogan is aggressively fashioning himself into a brutal dictator. He’s cracking down on Internet freedom. He’s seizing churches. He’s seizing media outlets that speak out against him. He’s using the crisis in Syria not to go after ISIS — as he claims — but to bomb the Kurds who are at war with ISIS.
What’s more, after drawing Turkey close to Russia and Iran, he has now run afoul of Russia’s own rising Czar, Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin leader is apparently furious at Ergdogan for meddling in Syria, a key Russian client state. 
Rosenberg also notes two articles on the rivalry between Turkey and Russia (which is historic and has continued literally for centuries). The articles cited:
- The Sultan and the Tsar: Will the imperial ambitions of Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan spark a new World War? (UK Daily Mail)
- Putin encircles Turkey in massive troop buildup (Washington Times)
Turkey bears watching. Richardson is certainly right to point out that Turkey could be a sleeping giant. George Friedman the noted political scientist and expert on geopolitics especially in Eurasia argues that Turkey will continue to grow in its influence over the next three to four decades. He argues that Russia may diminish in power because of its inability to build a sustainable economy despite its vast mineral wealth. He suggests Putin may not be able to keep other leaders in the Kremlin on his side amidst the economic challenges faced by Russia. Time will tell. However, for the next ten years, don’t expect Turkey to replace Russia as the biggest threat to coordinate an attack on Israel and, if my educated speculation is correct, comprises the biggest threat to the United States to take it out of the equation, disabling Israel’s primary protector against Muslim adversaries in the region.
The “long and short of it” is that the Islamic Antichrist Theory is a strong theory based upon some very hard facts; namely, that Islam has been growing rapidly over the past few decades. The theory takes a fresh look at what had become a tired scenario in the Middle East which suffered from old views developed by prophecy experts during the Cold War. Shoebat and Richardson have challenged an old paradigm that needed to be challenged in light of the post-Cold War world and the rapid growth of Islam and the increased threat its most radical sects pose.
Lastly, ISIS has been an enormous development since the Arab Spring in 2011, the U.S. departure from Iraq in 2011-2012, and the actual announcement of ISIS and its successful campaigns in Eastern Syria and Western Iraq that almost toppled Bashar al’Assad. These circumstances reinvigorated the Russian involvement in the Middle East, strengthening Vladimir Putin domestically (nothing strengthens a President’s popularity like a foreign conflict — as long as his people believe in the reason why it was put into motion). Additionally, Turkey has become a much stronger player in the region. And the U.S,. by switching its emphasis from Israel and Saudi Arabia to Iran, has created a tenuous “balance of power” almost by accident, angering our former Sunni allies and making Iran into “strange bedfellows” for the U.S. The current administration has mostly turned its back on Israel. Nevertheless, America’s “military-industrial complex” continues supplying crucial weapons to support Israel. The cold hard fact is that the President doesn’t control everything that happens in the U.S. government.
The jumbled America foreign policy of Barack Obama nevertheless has created an advantage for the U.S. in the short run. Costs for military aid to the area have been reduced. The U.S. is no longer embroiled in massive ground troop campaigns. And we have managed to get Russia to do some heavy lifting in the region’s most insidious war against ISIS. However, the price we will pay, long term, for this ad hoc approach to Middle East policy, is not promising. We should expect greater instability in the region with potentially larger and more far-reaching conflicts, stronger Russian incursion into the region influencing more of what happens in the Middle East, and the potential for major contests between Sunni and Shia, including a possible reemergence of ISIS despite huge setbacks in the past two months.
Finally, if Richardson winds up being right after all, Turkey will become a caliphate that threatens Israel. This threat will only be serious, however, if the United States becomes unable or completely unwilling to defend Israel. This possible outcome suggests, as I have proposed elsewhere, that we must remain vigilant in the days ahead and increase our ability to fend off ballistic missile attacks or “suit case” nukes set off in major American cities by terrorists who have infiltrated our country through its porous borders. In my opinion, this is the real threat America faces over the next two to three years, and why the theory of the Islamic Antichrist is a case of (unintentional) misdirection. It obscures the potential destruction of our nation, as it cushions Americans against confronting this harsh reality.