This week, we have looked at two of Israel’s chief rivals: Hamas and Hezbollah. Each has ambitions to push Israel into the sea and they are relentless. But another terrorist group has captured the attention of the world, so we will swing our focus to Iraq and Syria where ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is wreaking havoc. Recently, ISIS has also targeted Israel directly due to presence in the Gaza Strip. Is it possible that ISIS is a precursor to what might be seen in the tribulation?
Where did ISIS come from?
Remember a guy named Osama bin Laden and the terrorist group al-Qaeda? Well, a spinoff cell called al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) operated under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a man known for beheading and other brutal torture. He was killed in an American airstrike in 2006 and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took the reins of AQI.
Weakened in Iraq, AQI moved operations to Syria and regained power during the early days of the current Syrian conflict. Amidst growing influence, al-Baghdadi changed the name to ISIS in 2013, indicating their ambition to expand their power throughout the Middle East.
ISIS is cut from the same radical Islamic jihadist cloth as al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups who wish to establish a worldwide caliphate and impose sharia law. Currently, there is growing power struggle between al-Baghdadi and his al-Qaeda counterpart (Ayman al-Zawahiri), each wanting to be seen as the supreme leader of radical Islam.
Who is ISIS?
ISIS is the most organized and wealthiest jihadist group ever. The group has hijacked power plants, oil refineries and banks to fund their terrorist activity. They are believed to be worth billions and are the best equipped and best trained terror organization in the world. Unlike most other terror groups, ISIS functions much like a government with a military rather than simply a militant group. They are Sunni Muslims, adamantly opposed to the Shi’ite factions gaining power in Iran and parts of Iraq.
ISIS is very “social media savvy,” using electronic means to recruit globally and to strike fear in people worldwide. Ideologically, Sunnis who are frustrated with Shia leadership and oppression in Iraq and Syria are hot targets for ISIS recruiting. However, American CIA is aware of over 15,000 foreign fighters who have been trained by ISIS, then sent back home to serve the purposes of ISIS on foreign soil. Some are even living in American cities today.
What are the objectives of ISIS?
Plain and simple…ISIS has already declared a caliphate (an Islamic state, led by a successor of Mohammad who represents Allah), and they are working to expand their territory beyond Iraq and Syria to the greater Middle East, and eventually, the world. They are well-organized and have intentions of establishing their own kingdom under sharia law.
It is no secret that chemical weapons and possibly other weapons of mass destruction are still present in Syria and Iraq. In the hands of brutal jihadists who think nothing of torturing and killing people, those weapons could be devastating.
But friends, despite the capabilities of ISIS or the next major terror group, our God is still in control! Read Psalm 37:9-10. Ultimately, what will be the fate of evildoers?
Though they are not mentioned in the Bible, ISIS is a precursor of what the rule of antichrist will be like during the tribulation. Revelation 20 gives us a glimpse into the millennium, when Satan is bound and cast into the abyss. Read Revelation 20:4. John saw the souls of tribulation believers come to life, but how had they been killed, and why?
As disgusting as it sounds, beheading will be in vogue during the tribulation. It seems that ISIS is making it vogue today. So vogue, that hundreds of thousands of people have watched the videos of ISIS militants cutting off heads. The world is becoming desensitized to extreme violence that will be rampant in the tribulation!
Do you remember the Columbine school shootings in 1999? The nation was stunned and appalled, and vows were made that it would never happen again. Fast forward a few years and the number of school and public mass shootings has sky rocketed and some hardly make the news. We have become desensitized, and to make matters worse, perpetrators are now seen as less responsible because of supposed mental illnesses. Friends, it is sheer evil, and the pervasive excuse that somehow perpetrators are not responsible for their actions has penetrated society.
So, it is with ISIS and radical Islam. The more we become desensitized to the atrocities, the more deceived society is to the threat of evil. No, ISIS is not mentioned in the Bible. However, in reference to the tribulation, I’ve heard the evil of ISIS described as “the ingredient being added to the pot to make that dish ready.” (Amir Tsarfati with Jack Hibbs, April 27, 2015) ISIS gives us a glimpse of how bad things will be during the tribulation.
Indeed, as we read the news today, terror seems to be sweeping across the Middle East and even into European and American society. But let’s end the week on the high note of God’s promise. Read John 14:1-3.
Our Beloved Savior is preparing a place for us, and will take His followers out of this world before the tribulation occurs. Let’s be not troubled, but rejoice in that fact, and let’s pray that the Prince of Peace will bring His peace to those in the Middle East.
Nice work this week! Be diligent to hang in there, as next week’s cruise will take us to other unknown waters. We’ll take a brief look at Muslims, Islam, and the Qur’an, with the objective of understanding who they are, how we should view them, and what Islam teaches. I look forward to seeing you on board next week!