By JASON REYNOLDS
Tennessee Christian News
I’ve recently read a book that does a fantastic job of making sense of why things are so mucked up in the Middle East and provides the scoop on the origins of ISIS. It’s one of the most informative books I’ve read in some time on any topic.
Charles Dyer and Mark Tobey are the authors of “The ISIS Crisis.” The book is published by Moody Publishers.
Listeners of Moody Radio (91.7 FM in Middle Tennessee) may recognize Dyer as the host of “The Land and the Book” radio program on Israel and the Bible. He is also a licensed tour guide in Israel. He served as provost of Moody Bible Institute for 10 years. Tobey is a pastor and freelance writer.
I had the opportunity to speak with Dyer about ISIS, the Middle East and how Christians should respond to this latest threat.
The Christian response
One thing that Western Christians should understand is that we cannot afford to bury our heads in the proverbial sand, Dyer said.
“The region is important to God,” he said. “If something is important to God, it should be important to God’s people. We live in a global world. There was a time when America could have isolationism. That’s no longer possible. The events in the Middle East are impacting us and will impact us even more.”
Pray for ISIS members?
Dyer urges Christians to pray for government leaders to promote peace. The Book of Romans says God gives government the authority to hold evil in check.
“What our government is doing, going after the (ISIS) leadership and funding is the right thing to do,” he said. “We should do that and protect the minority groups.”
Christians must go against the culture and show the love of Christ, even to the leadership of ISIS by praying for their souls since they are being deceived by Satan.
Dyer spoke of how his co-author Tobey likes to tell people that Christians are adopting the fear of the world. “ISIS sounds like an unstoppable force. People are getting afraid to go to the mall. But God said the world would have tribulations, have no fear. Perfect love drives out fear. He will walk with us. It’s time to remind Christians we have a God who can take care of us. When the rest of the world is gripped with fear, we can offer hope and a peace that passes understanding. It’s not a time for Christians to shrink back, it’s time to display the light and trust the rest of the world so desperately needs.”
The gospel can overcome the tragedy in the Middle East, Dyer said. One of the greatest Christian revivals in history has been happening there for 30 years as upwards of 1 million or more in Iran have come to faith in Christ.
“We should pray for believers, for God to make them bold and show the love of Christ.”
Christians in the West can do their part as well by engaging with their Muslim neighbors.
“They need the Savior as well.”
Would you die for Christ?
Western Christians have become so self-satisfied, Dyer said, “We almost feel like we don’t need God. When we feel we might face persecution, we might shrink back. Christians in the Middle East have faced persecution for centuries. They can teach us what it means to stand for Christ. It’s only when our lives are on the line when we know if what we said is true,” that we would die for Christ.
Christians should trust in God’s sovereign control of the world and His perfect justice.
“God is the only perfect, righteous Judge of all the earth,” Dyer and Tobey write. “He knows everyone’s motives and actions, and He will ultimately give each person what he or she deserves. This includes ultimate justice for members of ISIS. “ISIS isn’t the real enemy,” they emphasize. “But driven by the real enemy’s power, this group has the darkest and most evil intentions. Furthermore, ISIS represents a collection of lost individuals who have been deluded into believing a lie. Satan’s power of delusion, coupled with humanity’s own corrupt nature, makes everyone capable of committing the worst atrocities imaginable.”
How did we get here?
But how did ISIS come into being? “The ISIS Crisis” does a superb job of condensing millenia of history into a short read that is well-organized and concise.
To understand the Middle East, you have to go back to World War I and especially the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Dyer said. The West’s attempts to carve up the Middle East in a way that was beneficial to them started the ball of terroristic trouble rolling. Dyer quoted a well known saying, “The War to End All Wars … And a Peace to End all Peace.”
Even after the great scattering (or, Diaspora), the Jews had never entirely left the Promised Land. The Jews had long called for a restoration of the Promised Land, and Great Britain gave official recognition to their pleas in World War I by promising a Jewish presence in Palestine in order to gain political advantage. However, according to “The ISIS Crisis,” England made the promise in bad faith — they had promised the Arabs to set up an independent Arab state throughout most of the Middle East.
Middle East mess
“The ISIS Crisis” tells how later 20th century issues created the modern Middle Eastern mess — the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of the mujahideen, Iran, and the centuries-old rift between sects of Islam, Sunni and Shia, which makes the fight between the Hatfields and the McCoys look like something out of the comic pages.
The book makes the point that Jewish settlements are not the cause of the Jewish-Muslim problems. Muhammad began the tradition of Muslims attacking Jews when he expelled or killed Jews living in Medina and enslaved their wives and children and took their property. The book briefly highlights some of the hate-filled things Muhammad wrote about Jews, and the incendiary beliefs about Jews and Christians in the Hadith, or oral traditions.
“The ISIS Crisis” goes into detail on the Shia-Sunni split that is driving the crisis in Syria and feeding the growth of ISIS. It also details an overlooked issue behind conflict in the Middle East — water. The Middle East is experiencing a five-year-long drought. Israel is the only nation with enough water because they built desalination plants. Turkey has built 22 dams and choked off water to other nations, forcing their people off farms and into cities. Then, of course, oil is a factor in creating unrest. All of these factors have helped fuel the growth of ISIS, Dyer said.
“The next fight will be over water, not oil or religion,” he said.
The End Times
And what does God’s Word reveal about how ISIS fits in the prophetic final timeline?
“The best answer seems to be that it doesn’t,” the authors say. “ISIS might not survive, but later a far more powerful, and deadly, coalition will eclipse it. The prophet Ezekiel describes a time when that coalition will launch an attack against Israel. Another army will someday surge across the Middle East. They won’t be carrying the black flags of ISIS, but their intent will be just as evil and destructive.”
I spoke with Dyer about his views of the antichrist. He doesn’t buy into what some believe about the antichrist coming from Islam.
“But ISIS taught us how quickly the world can evolve,” he said. The Book of Revelation mentions beheadings. We see how quickly nations can rise up into warfare. That’s in Revelation. We are getting a preview of coming attractions and how brutal it can become. God says that’s what The End Times will be like.”
Dyer cautioned against setting a date for The End Times, something that Jesus warned His disciples against. “God doesn’t set dates,” he said.
Dyer did, however, point to the moral and economic decay in America and the rest of the world, and how it compares to The End Times in the Bible.
“It sure looks like short of God coming in and bring this to a halt, we’re heading that way rather quickly,” he said. The Bible describes The End Times as sooner rather than later. The only break is God has His people in the world. One day, He will remove that Salt and Light and the world will go very rapidly into the times described in Revelation.”