The Unresolved Problems with Joel Richardsonâs Theory
by J. Jacob Prasch
Note: This review is based on the electronic version of Joel Richardson’s book published on his website “Joel’s Trumpet”.
The Internet has been abuzz with varying views and reviews of Joel Richardsonâs book promoted by World Net Daily titled, The Islamic Antichrist. The book offers interesting comment and some insightful observations but seeks to challenge and reverse the popular teaching of Babylon the Great being related to either Roman Catholicism or a revived Roman Empire, but instead belonging to the Islamic world.
In Joel Richardsonâs thesis, Gog and Magog are neither nations nor individuals arriving from Russia but represent the Antichrist (Gog) and the Islamic world following him. The author identifies him with the Mahdi, the Islamic messiah cum Antichrist (not to be confused with the Islamic doctrine of the Dajjal, the one-eyed Antichrist whom they associate with the ancient Egyptian sun god and with Jesus), and not as Islam understands Him (which is that Jesus was a mere prophet inferior to Mohammed and not God).
Joel Richardsonâs arguments are that Rome never conquered Babylon, that Russia is not specifically identified as the âuttermost parts of the Northâ, that the Gog and Magog conflict and the battle of Armageddon are one and the same, and that Israel will turn to their God and the Lordâs Name will no longer be profaned with the destruction of Gog. Hence, since the Antichrist will cause the Name of God to be profaned and Gogâs destruction ends this, Gog must be the Antichrist cum Mahdi.
Let us be clear that biblically Islam is certainly an Antichrist religion and Mohammed was a type of Antichrist/ false prophet. By the scriptural definition of 1 John, Islam denies the Father and Son relationship and is categorically Antichrist. Moreover, Islamic decapitation and Shariâa law plainly meet the descriptions of the ordeal many will experience when the Antichrist will brutalize those refusing to take his mark and so forth.
Islam has demonstrated a capacity to deceive on two fronts â a political and economic front and a religious front. And it has been able to mobilize global forces and governments against Israel and the Jews. And both have been aimed, no less, at deceiving saved Christians. This deception however has spread from the political realm and into the church with pseudo-Evangelical figures such as Rick Warren, Tony Campolo, Robert Schuller, and above all Emergent church guru Brian McLaren (who celebrates Ramadan). There is no doubt these trends are of prophetic significance and are helping pave the way for the Antichrist and false prophet. Even in an age of apostasy and spiritual degeneration within the church, it is still a fairly distant stretch however to believe that a purely Islamic figure can mislead Christians into accepting him as a returned Christ.
The problem with Joel Richardsonâs approach is that he is playing baseball instead of billiards. His eye is one ball and he is ignoring all of the other balls which are no less important.
Joel Richardsonâs first problem is that he all but ignores a fundamental principle of biblical exegesis: the Old Testament is interpreted in light of the New Testament of Christ. The New Testament focus (and indeed the only mention) of Gog and Magog is the post-millennia unleashing of Satan followed by Gog and Magog where they are identified with the nations of the earth. It makes no mention of the Antichrist or individuals. Joel Richardson ignores this, violating a foundational tenet of hermeneutics.
This issue presents another consideration which Joel Richardson likewise ignores. Given the fact that by common consensus there are two battles of Gog and Magog, and Ezekiel 38-39 points to two future events, there is every possibility of a predictive double reference so that there is a partial fulfillment in one instance and a total fulfillment in the second. The precedents for this in biblical prophecy, especially eschatology, are multiple. Isaiah 9:6 predicts both the birth of Christ (First Coming) and the government being on His shoulders (Second Coming) in one breath. In the Olivet Discourse Jesus speaks of the 70 A.D. events first predicted in Daniel 9 and then in the same discourse jumps ahead to end time events. The Ezekiel 38-39 prediction that defilement and infidelity will cease will have an obvious and definite fulfillment in the New Testament Gog and Magog. Joel Richardsonâs thesis, at least as he presents it, fails because his exegesis fails.
Another problem for Mr. Richardson is that in examining these prophecies in light of the New Testament, is that the New Testament in a spiritual sense identifies Rome with Babylon (1 Peter 5: 13, Revelation 17: 9, 18). The early Christians certainly identified Rome with its Pantheon as the custodian of the false religion s having their ontogeny in ancient Babylon. While we would never use Patristic tradition as a basis of any doctrine or doctrinal interpretation (and we hold a rank disapproval of the post-Nicean fathers theologically), the church fathers do constitute an important historical source to understand the mindset of the early church. Jeromeâs De Viris Illustribus, and Augustineâs City of God reveal how earlier sources viewed Rome as another Babylon. Moreover that the fourth beast of Danielâs vision, which conquered the Grecian conquerors of the Persians who conquered Babylon, is incontestable along with the fact that the typological descriptions of Daniel and Revelation are the same.
Mr. Richardsonâs contentions further fail to add up due to considerations of geography. As an example, with the possible and debatable exception of Libya (Put), no Arab countries are even listed in the nations among those involved in the Gog and Magog war in Ezekiel 38-39. His assertion that Russia is not specifically named in Scripture must be co-equally applied to the absence of Arab Moslem nations regarding Gog and Magog. The Armageddon conflict, however, speaks specifically of the nations surrounding Israel and Jerusalem in Zechariah 12. His case, at least as he proposes it, just does not fit and fails to add up. This is to say nothing of the omission of a comprehensive theological argument to reconcile or explain how to resolve the 7 month clean up of the battlefield unless one takes the license to extend the task into the Millennium when in fact the bulk of Scripture, especially in Ezekiel, rather indicate that the biosphere itself will undergo a divinely reconstructed restoration to a pre-Adamic state without participation of human agency.
An additional consideration is that major areas of Arab Moslem Jordan will escape the domain of Antichrist (Daniel 11:41). Moreover, one would be hard pressed to picture Saudi Arabia, the seat of Islam located directly to Israelâs South and an Islamic world mainly to Israelâs South, East, and West (apart from Turkey and half-Moslem Lebanon) as being âthe uttermost parts of the Northâ. It just doesnât work.
A final problem with Joel Richardsonâs scenario is that it avoids addressing central theological facts Scripture asserts regarding Arab Islamic nations. To begin with there are the curses found in the book of Genesis of Ishmaelâs seed being divided and Esauâs sword drawn against his brother.
Arab tribes fought each other in pre-Islamic Arabia for centuries. Mohammed believed that by means of monotheism he could bring about a pan-Islamic and pan-Arab unity called âummahâ. It failed and continues to fail to this day. Since the 8th Century Battle of Carballah, Sunni and Shia Moslems have hated each other all the way to the Sunni-Shia and Arab-Kurdish war in Iraq to this day. There is no âummahâ. Indeed, this is a reason why Islam must murder Christians and Jews; without a common enemy they will always kill each other. If Mohammed , Abu Bakir, and Ali could not unite Islam neither will the Mahdi; the union will fail and break down as usual just as the Fatah-based Palestinian Authority and Hamas massacred each other in Gaza, as Iran and Iraq killed 1.5 million of each other, as Sadam Hussein raped Kuwait, and as King Hussein of Jordan exterminated 18,000 of Yassir Arafatâs followers in Black September of 1970.
The curse of Genesis prevents Islamic unity from developing a united empire over-running the West. Islam needed Christianized Britain and America to liberate Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia from Sadam Hussein just as they still need the West to protect them from their Persian Moslem brothers in contemporary Iran. Indeed, the greatest Islamic Empire was strategically dominated by Ottoman Turks who subjugated the Arab Moslems as serfs and slaves just as Black African Moslems are enslaved by Arab militias today. This is the true face of Islam â a colossal ideological and religious failure, just as it has always been and always shall be.
It is additionally true that the Book of Daniel indicates that the Antichrist is coming in the character of Antiochus Epiphanes, recapitulating the exploits that brought him to power. When the Kings of the North (Western powers) fought the Kings of the South (nations which are today Islamic), the Kings of the South lost and will lose again.
Joel Richardson simply avoids dealing with these issues. Ignoring an issue will not make it go away. He also does not explain how Jesusâ prediction that the Antichrist will come in his own name and whom unsaved Jews will believe (John 5: 43). How will Jews be deceived by an Islamic messiah? The issue of John 5:43 must be examined carefully.
All in all Joel Richardson, while raising some valid points that warrant consideration, constructs a weak case deficient hermeneutically, geographically, and historically. His exegesis is not solid and there are simply far too many questions he does not even address let alone answer.
We do not maintain, however, that there is no merit to the alarm that Joel Richardson, and similarly Brother Walid Shoebat, are attempting to sound. Islam is most certainly an Antichrist religion, but so is any religion that places another in the place of Christ. Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Sun Yung Moonâs Unification Church and a host of cults are Antichrist and the World Council of Churches dominated by theological liberalism is controlled by an Antichrist spirit. As Moslemâs await Mahdi and Jews a Messiah, so too Buddhists await the 5th Buddha and New Agers await Matriyeh. Could it not be that the Antichrist will be diabolically empowered to cover all bases, of being satanically animated to represent all things to all people?
There is, however, one saving grace in the proposal of Joel Richardson which appears to echo the emphasis of Walid Shoebat. The book of Acts and the Epistles mainly trace the growth of Christianity and the expansion of the Gospel message to the Greco-Roman world in the direction of Europe climaxing in Rome. From it the source of Western civilization springs politically just as it springs from Macedonia and Athens culturally. This is the biblical record of the New Testament.
However, the Gospel, although having its spiritual origins in eternity, was in historical and theological terms born not in the West but in the East out of Old Testament Pre-Talmudic Judaism during The Second Temple Period. The strength of Joel Richardson and of my dear friend Walid Shoebat is that they seek to redress an imbalance which fails to view eschatology (and biblical dogma generally) from an Eastern as well as Western perspective.
It is a further truth that the dangerous threatening and Antichrist nature of Islam must not be understated as it too often has been. Here too we are also indebted to Joel Richardson. He is drawing attention to an evil paving the way for the Antichrist more than any other religious trend with the exception of the ecumenical/ Inter-Faith deception. While much of Joel Richardsonâs arguments are implausible and predicted on theologically abject suppositions drawn from faulty exegesis, we must at the same time acknowledge that there is a beneficial dimension to attributing the demonic disease of radical Islam and the need not to limit our perception of Scripture, by reading it through a Hellenistic cultural prism.
Nonetheless, Joel Richardsonâs proposition is, in my estimation, fundamentally flawed. If his position is credible, his book categorically fails to package and present this position and to furnish a comprehensive apologetic for it. The source deficiency in Joel Richardsonâs book is bad exegesis, which bequeaths the rest of his case a shallow and wobbly, if not hollow, foundation.