The spiralling Syrian conflict was made even grimmer by last week's events—Syria's chemical weapons attack that killed at least 85 people on Tuesday and the U.S. missile counterstrike on Thursday— and it has apparently revived an intense Christian theological debate on whether the unfolding events have some Biblical connections.
Evangelical Christian author Joel Rosenberg has pointed to Old Testament scriptures like Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49, linking them to the events happening in Syria, according to Faithwire.
Those scriptures both say that Damascus, Syria's capital, will be "destroyed."
"We're watching Damascus unravel...is that the prelude to the completion of those prophesies?" Rosenberg asked.
Giving further Biblical overtones to the situation in Syria is the involvement of Russia and Iran. In a blog post, Rosenberg claimed way back in June 2012 that Russian President Vladimir Putin was "working hand-in- glove with Iran's government" in support of the Syrian regime.
He then drew on the writings of Hebrew prophet Ezekiel over 2,500 years ago to argue that in the "last days" of history, Russia and Iran would form a military alliance to attack Israel from the north.
"Bible scholars refer to this eschatological conflict, described in Ezekiel 38–39, as the 'War of Gog & Magog. Are these sudden and dramatic moves by Moscow and Tehran...simply coincidental, or [do they] have prophetic implications?" Rosenberg asked, according to CBN News.
Prophecy author Jack Kinsella shared Rosenberg's views that it is possible Syria will look to engage neighbouring countries, such as Israel, Iran or Turkey, in the conflict.
On a commentary for Olive Tree Ministries in June 2012, Kinsella said that if Syria uses chemical or biological weapons in an ethnic cleansing campaign, it would force foreign governments to take military action against Damascus. He predicted that such action would prompt Syria to retaliate with military strikes against its northern neighbor Israel, which could eventually lead to a domino effect, with counter-strikes from Hezbollah, Iran, Turkey and perhaps even Jordan.
However, Hank Hanegraaff, another Christian author known as the "Bible Answer Man," does not believe that current events in Syria are fulfilling biblical prophecies.
Hanegraaff said on his radio talk show sometime in 2013 that some pastors' efforts to link biblical prophecy to the 21st century are irresponsible. He said these pastors and Bible experts are "dragging Christ's name through the mud," according to The Blaze.
He said he could not believe that the people who wrote the Bible were looking into a distant future, stating that they only wrote about prophecy that would unfold in their immediate future, which already happened a long time ago.
Hanegraaff said some theologians are "reading into the scriptures their own eschatological views," and not what the scriptures are all about.
Hanegraaff finds support from Dr. Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame. In a 2013 article for The Daily Beast, she rejected claims that Damascus would play a role in the apocalypse, pointing out that the ancient city has already been conquered repeatedly by various armies.
"Isaiah lived and wrote in the eighth century BCE [BC] and scholars think that the original prophecy referred to the conquest of Damascus by the Assyrians in 732 BCE [BC]," she wrote. "But that's not the only time Damascus has seen conflict."
Moss stated that among the conquerors of Damascus were Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great.