Even after they’ve been goaded by the likes of Glenn Beck to fear the Egyptian revolution, I’m getting the sense that conservative religious folks don’t know quite what to make of the anti-authoritarian revolutions across North Africa.
“Just tell me, is this the kind of thing where missionaries are going to lay dead in the streets of Jerusalem for three days?” a close friend asked me, referring to a sign-of-the-times prophecy popular among LDS people. She smiled, but she was only half-joking.
Witness Pastor John Hagee instruct his followers that the Libyan Revolution “proves the absolutely accuracy of Bible Prophecy: Thousands of years ago the prophet Ezekial told us exactly which nations in the Middle East would join forces to start a major war. What you’re seeing on the television screen is exactly this,” Hagee said, stringing together a series of non sequitur headlines to make a case for . . . a case for . . . . Jesus?
Almost forty years ago, California Christian pastor Hal Lindsey offered a Cold War inflected vision of the endtimes in his bestselling and widely influential The Late Great Planet Earth. Focusing on Ezekial 38 – 39, Lindsey preached that immediately before the millenial return of Jesus Christ, “Gog and Magog,” which he interpreted as Soviet Russia, would lead ”Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya,” and “Gomer and Togarmarh” (interpreted as Turkey and Eastern Europe) in war against Israel.
“Russia will arm and equip a vast confederacy,” Lindsey wrote. “The territory of Northern Africa is becoming solidly pro-Soviet.” But according to Lindsey divine intervention would save Israel, defeat Gog and Magog, and then hasten the battle of Armageddon and the return of Jesus Christ.
Millions upon millions of Christians bought, believed, and absorbed Lindsey’s vision.
Four decades later, facing a vastly different political map—a map once again set in motion by spectacular acts of courage by the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and elsewhere—many former Lindsey fans are scrambling to retool and update their narrative of the endtimes. After all, who today would say that Soviet Russia is really Gog and Magog?