The notion that the end of the world will begin with turmoil in the Middle East became popular in the United States with the 1970 publication of The Late Great Planet Earth.1 While little known to the secular public, this view derived from the Book of Revelations, has proceeded to grow stronger among Evangelical Christians in the United States and is the major reason for their often fervent support for Israel.
Updating and expanding on Revelations, a Texan pastor has written a book that has sold 700,000 copies and was called "the publishing phenomenon of 1996" by the executive vice president at Thomas Nelson.5 Hagee sees the murder of Yitzhak Rabin as the event that more than any other confirms that "the Messiah is coming very soon." If the chatty and loosely-written text does not clearly connect these two events, it does offer many predictions about the future course of the world, and they go something like this: An Antichrist will arise somewhere from the lands of the ancient Roman Empire and will offer Israel a seven-year peace treaty. The Jews will take advantage of his protection to rebuild the Temple, which will cause all Muslims to make war on Israel, probably with Russian support. But thanks to God's intercession, this alliance will experience a "sudden, horrible, and complete" defeat by Israel. Then, just midway through the seven years and right after Israel's victory, the Antichrist will turn against Israel and seize the Temple in Jerusalem. Angered, the Jews will assassinate him. But Satan reanimates the Antichrist, and together with the False Prophet and the image of the Beast, they wage a three-and-a-half-year war on God that climaxes on the fields of Armageddon in northern Israel. This battle then precipitates the Second Coming of Jesus, who leads the Lord's forces to victory. This success causes the Jews finally to "understand who He really is . . . and they will be saved." Jesus will rule the world from Jerusalem and the Millennium will begin. Thus do a sizeable number of Americans see seemingly mundane events in the Middle East fitting into a vast and highly complex eschatological scheme.
1 "Keep your eyes on the East. If this is the time that we believe it is, this area will become a constant source of tension for all the world. The fear of another World War will be almost completely centered in the troubles of this area. It will become so severe that only Christ or the Anti-christ can solve it." Hal Lindsey with C.C. Carlson, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 184.