(Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abdullah)
While some have speculated about the possibility that the ongoing Syrian civil war may be connected to the End Times, many theologians are skeptical.
Dr. Floyd Elmore, professor of theology at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., told The Christian Post that no one could 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 talked about 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.
"So these could be very good stage props, but we just don't know if this will be the last scenario or not…Apparently people have just looked into the concordance and found wherever the word 'Damascus' occurs…"
As the civil war in Syria continues and international tensions are mounting as to the United States' possible response, some have pointed to possible biblical prophecy regarding the current event. Jan Markell, founder and director of Minnesota-based Olive Tree Ministries, told OneNewsNow about the connections she could see between reports of a gas attack and Old Testament scripture. "If one Israeli dies from chemicals coming from Syria, Israel is going to take the issue into her own hands," said Markell. "She would do some real destruction to the city of Damascus. Israel will send a huge message to the rest of the Islamic world [that] this is what happens when you mess with us."
Markell and others have specifically pointed to Isaiah 17, which states in the first verse that "Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap."
Dr. Robert Mulholland, who is a recently retired professor of New Testament of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., told The Christian Post that he did not believe there was a connection.
"The same was predicted during both the first and the second Iraq conflicts (to say nothing of the various conflicts between Israel and its neighbors)," said Mulholland. "Of course, Israel's long and complex relationship with Damascus throughout the OT (Old Testament) period provides great grist for the speculation mills."
Mulholland also noted the context of Isaiah 17, which was in regards to historical events in the Ancient Near East. "In this case, Isaiah was predicting the demise of Damascus at the hands of Assyria in the eighth century [Before Christ]," said Mulholland. "If one wanted to try to make the case for Isaiah 17 predicting the end times, then Iran (the present day successor to Assyria) would be responsible for Damascus' demise and not its primary ally."
Meanwhile, Dr. John Scott Redd, Jr., associate professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., pointed out the fundamental problem of applying Isaiah 17 to the modern Syrian conflict. "I believe that such an interpretation as that articulated in the article commits the exegetical error of uprooting the text from its historical setting," said Redd, who is also president of RTS. "I understand the prophet Isaiah here as calling for repentance in the face of mounting Assyrian aggression. All of Isaiah 7-38 is given in the context of the Assyrian expansion and the Lord's use of the empire to judge his enemies and the unfaithful in Judah."
Redd added that while he believed the Isaiah passage has "meaning for us today," this significance is "not in a direct prophecy-fulfillment sort of way."
"Rather, we see here a picture of God's presence in the world and his hand in national affairs. Just as Isaiah preached, we too should repent and turn to God in faith (and call for repentance in the world)," said Redd.
"I believe this message is crucial for the church both in the West and around the world."