I don’t understand the thinking behind such atrocities. I am not alone. Major General Michael K. Nagata, U.S. commander of special operations for the Middle East, while speaking of ISIS and its philosophy recently said, “we have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.” Most of us in this country have a tendency to lump together all the groups of jihadi terrorists. However, these groups are quite different. In particular, it turns out that ISIS and Al Qaeda have very different theologies, philosophies and goals. They actually do not like each other very much. If we fail to perceive what ISIS is actually trying to do we will forever completely misunderstand their actions and their motives and will be unable to counter them.
In their end times vision the armies of “Rome,” most likely military forces from the West possibly including the United States, will mass to meet the armies of Islam on the plains of Dabiq in northern Syria. The armies of Rome will be defeated leading to a period of great conquest for Islam. At some point a person from eastern Iran called Dajjal will show up and begin defeating the armies of Islam. Dajjal will defeat them until they are only a small force surrounded in Jerusalem. It is at that point according to this vision when the second most important prophet in the Koran shows up. That’s right, Jesus appears, kills Dajjal and leads the armies of Islam to conquer the whole world.
Wait, they believe Jesus is going to come back at the crucial moment and lead Islam to conquer the world? That’s right. Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? Can you say Armageddon? The armies of the world come to do battle in Israel and Jesus returns to conquer. That sounds very similar to what the Bible tells us is going to happen. How interesting that ISIS eschatology should so closely parallel biblical eschatology, at least according to some interpretations. But what does this mean for current events? ISIS is mostly focused on gaining and consolidating territory right now, but a part of its strategy appears to be to keep up terror attacks with the goal of provoking the western powers into a military response. Their goal is to draw western militaries into a ground war! They want a war. They believe this will lead to the final apocalypse, which will end with Islam ruling the entire world.
If that is indeed what they are pursuing it presents western leaders with a dilemma. What do they do? They could oblige and send troops in to defeat ISIS. A military defeat would put an end to ISIS and its claims to be the prophesied caliphate forever. But no one is anxious to join in yet another war in the Middle East, particularly given that this would likely be a very bloody one. But can leaders stand by and do little as appalling terrorist attacks are perpetrated on innocent civilians with increasing frequency and ferocity?
I personally do not want to see us get involved in another war, especially given that our military is as weak and exhausted as it has been in decades due to years of deployments and combat operations, seriously reduced budgets that have decimated both equipment and personnel, and poor leadership. On the other hand, clearly something must be done to stop ISIS. I am glad it is not up to me to figure out what that something is.
For me I have two thoughts. First, I need to pray. I need to pray for our leaders and pray for peace to somehow break out in this world. The second thing that occurs to me is to marvel at how closely ISIS’ end times vision parallels what many believe to be the biblical picture of the end times, only with some huge distortions. I think this Satan’s counterfeit at work. But isn’t it interesting that God might in fact use that counterfeit to eventually lead to the actual outcome he prophesied long ago? These are interesting times. But one thing they confirm to me is that our real hope is not in leaders or in military force, it is in our Lord Jesus Christ. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.