A recent survey has shown that nearly one in three Americans believe that Syria's ongoing civil war is part of the Bible's plan for the end times. One in four believe that a possible U.S. attack on Syria could lead to the Battle of Armageddon. And one in five believe the world will end in their lifetime.
Amid an increasing number of stories in the media on the linking of the Syrian crisis to biblical prophecy, Nashville-based LifeWay Research asked three questions about Syria and the end of the world as part of a telephone survey of 1,001 Americans between Sept. 6 and 10.
The survey found that 32 percent of those polled agree with the statement, "I believe the battles in Syria are all part of the prophecies of the Book of Revelation." Forty-nine percent disagree.
The study also found that 26 percent agree with the statement, "I believe that U.S. military intervention in Syria might lead to the Battle of Armageddon that's spoken about in the Book of Revelation." And 18 percent agreed to the statement, "I believe the world will end in my lifetime."
LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer was surprised with the results.
U.S. military actions against Afghanistan and Bosnia didn't get the same reaction, he said, adding that Syria's geographical proximity to Israel and its mention in the Bible could be a reason behind the linking of Syrian conflict to the end times.
Stetzer also said that Bible prophecy is appealing to many Christians not because they want the world to end or want to see airstrikes, which will lead to suffering. But they do want Jesus to return to set things right. "For Christians, the end of the world doesn't mean despair," he said in a LifeWay statement. "The end is really a new beginning."
The study comes days after Joel C. Rosenberg, New York Times bestselling author of books such as The Last Days and Epicenter, and founder of the pro-Israel The Joshua Fund, told The Christian Post that such speculations are legitimate ponderings.
"I think we have to be very careful not to overreach or to sensationalize a terrible situation that's happening to real people right now and to draw a conclusion too quickly," Rosenberg, who often includes end times themes in his books, said. "That being said, the prophecies of Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49 are very important. They speak to the utter destruction and judgment of the city of Damascus at some point in the End Times future."
In Syria, a civil war between President Bashar al-Assad's supporters and rebel forces seeking to overthrow him has taken the lives of more than 100,000 people over the last two years. On Aug. 21, the Syrian regime allegedly used chemical weapons in an attack in a Damascus suburb, killing 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, which led to Obama's proposal to bomb Syria as punishment.
"Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins," reads Isaiah 17:1, which some Christians see coming to pass. Some interpret the last verses of Isaiah 17 as envisioning Armageddon.
The LifeWay study showed that women (36 percent) are more likely than men (28 percent) to link current events in Syria to the Bible.
Those in the South (40 percent) and with household incomes under $25,000 (41 percent) are more likely to believe that Syria's conflict is fulfilment of biblical prophecy. However, those in the Northeast (24 percent) or with incomes over $75,000 (20 percent) are more skeptical, the study said.
Those who attend worship once or twice a month are also more likely to connect Syria's war to the book of Revelation (51 percent agree), as are evangelical, born again, and fundamentalist Christians (58 percent agree), LifeWay said.
Interestingly, younger Americans – those 18 to 29 – (24 percent) are more likely to think the world would end in their lifetime, as opposed to those over 65 (15 percent).
However, Dr. Floyd Elmore, professor of theology at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., told The Christian Post earlier this month that it is not possible to have absolute certainty on a connection. "Since the Lord said 'no man knows the day or the hour when He comes,' I don't really think that anyone can say with absolute certainty that these specific events are going to lead to the End Times Catastrophes," said Elmore.
Elmore also said how events like Syria could be used as "stage props" when showcasing a possible end of days. "'Stage props' that would make a very good End Times scenario, but since we're supposed to be expecting the Lord to come at any time, I think there have been very good stage props in every generation," he noted.
Dr. Charlie Dyer, professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, recently told Chicago Sun-Times that Damascus was destroyed in the 7th and 8th centuries. "Isaiah 17 predicted the destruction of the city, along with the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel…Damascus was captured by Assyrians in 732 BC and the northern kingdom of Israel fell when the capital city of Samarai was captured by the Assyrians in 722 BC."
And 100 years later, the prophet Jeremiah also predicted the fall of Damascus, which had been rebuilt, Dyer added. "His message was fulfilled when the city was captured by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon."