Addressing the NRB Convention.
(Tucson, Arizona) — Last month, I addressed the closing dinner of the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville. Last night, I addressed a conference of pastors and ministry leaders here in Tucson. The message here was nearly the same as at NRB. People have been asking me to share my notes because of the urgency of the subjects I discussed. So I am posting them here tonight.
The following is the formal message I prepared for the NRB Convention. While I did not deliver the speech verbatim, you will get the essential points I made that night.
WHEN YOU SEE A SWORD COMING:Three Existential Threats Facing America
- Joel C. Rosenberg
- Address to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention
- Nashville, Tennessee
- February 26, 2015
My text tonight is Ezekiel chapter 33, verses one through nine. It is a famous passage — one that you all know — about the role of the “Watchman on the Wall.” I believe it is deeply relevant to our times.
33 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’
7 “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. 9 But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.
More than 2,500 years ago, the Lord spoke these words to the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel.
- A man of God
- Born in Israel
- Exiled and living in Iraq
- Amidst grave dangers rising
What was Ezekiel commanded to do? The text is clear.
- Listen to God
- Watch for threats
- Warn the people, come what may
This was a divine calling – an enormous responsibility. And God was clear. Some would listen to Ezekiel’s warnings. Some would not. Ezekiel was not going to be held responsible for the decision others made to obey the Lord or not. He would be held responsible for obeying the Lord, teaching people the Word of God and warning the people when God told him to speak. Fortunately, Ezekiel was faithful to the task.
As followers of Jesus Christ — and as pastors and ministry leaders and religious broadcasters — each of you are, in our modern times, also watchmen on the walls. In many ways, you have the same calling. The same responsibility.
- To listen to the Word of God, found in the Bible
- To speak the Word of God — to tell people the bad news and the good news according to the Scriptures
- To warn people of threats that are rising
- To speak the truth in love, come what may
God warned Ezekiel — as He warns us today — that if He speaks and we don’t share His Word with others, we will be held to account. What’s more, if we see threats rising, and we do not warn people, we will be held to account.
Tonight, as I look out America, I see three existential threats.
- Threat #1 — What if America is not simply in a season of decline but heading towards collapse, towards implosion?
- Threat #2 — What if America is not simply at rising risk of attack by Radical Islam but heading towards the risk of annihilation by Apocalyptic Islam?
- Threat #3 — What if America is not simply entering a season of strained relations with Israel but heading towards total abandonment of the Jewish State?
Let’s take those one by one.
Threat #1 — What if America is not simply in a season of decline but heading towards collapse, towards implosion?
In 2012, I wrote a non-fiction book called, Implosion: Can America Recover From Her Economic & Spiritual Challenges in Time? I commend it to your attention because every passing day I believe the analysis is proving to be true and its message is becoming more urgent. The nation – and the Church – must know how much danger we are in. If we are silent, or if we soften it around the edges, we will be held to account before the Lord.
In the State of the Union address in January, the President covered a range of issues and challenges that we face, but this was his central case. “No challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” (SOTU, January 20, 2015)
I respectfully disagree. There is a long list of reasons America faces implosion, but I can sum it up in one number: 58 million.
Since 1973, Americans have aborted 58 million babies. Think about that — 58 million. It is a staggering number. And if something doesn’t happen soon to change course, in less than two years we will hit 60 million.
If this happens, we as Americans will have murdered ten times more human beings than the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis.
We know the judgment of God that fell upon Nazi Germany. What do we think is going to happen to a nation that exterminates ten times more people than the Nazis?
The judgment of Almighty God is coming. There is no way out. The souls of 58 million babies are crying out for justice – and they will get it.But for this to happen we need to be pleading with God to have mercy on us. We need to be calling people to prayer, fasting and above all repentance.
I’m grateful for pastors like Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Bible teachers like Anne Graham Lotz who are calling the Church to precisely this. May their tribe increase.
As watchmen, are you warning America of the coming implosion? Are you calling the Church and nation to prayer and fasting and repentance? Is there more that you can do? Let us be found faithful, for I believe our time is running out.
RADICAL ISLAM AND APOCALYPTIC ISLAM
Threat #2 — What if America is not simply at rising risk of attack by Radical Islam but heading towards the risk of annihilation by Apocalyptic Islam?
There are two core themes in my books, both novels and non-fiction:
- To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blind-sided by it.
- Evil, unchecked, is the prelude to genocide.
On December 7, 1941, we were blindsided by an evil we did not understand.
It happened again on September 11, 2001.
The 9/11 Commission Report stated that the attacks perpetrated by al Qaeda were “not a failure of intelligence but a failure of imagination.” Despite all of the data that was pouring in, our leaders in Washington simply never imagined that such an attack were possible.
Fourteen years later, we have a President who refuses to define “Radical Islam” as the source of the threat we face in the Middle East and North Africa.
- Running in 2008, said Iran was a small country and did not pose a serious threat to us
- January 2014: said ISIS was a “jayvee” squad, not a serious threat
- August 28, 2014: “We don’t have a strategy yet” to defeat ISIS.
- January 20, 2015: didn’t mention Islam or Islamism or AQI in his SOTU address
My friends, we cannot defeat an enemy we refuse to define.
The threat of Radical Islam is a very serious threat to us and our allies.
Consider the words of Jordan’s King Abdullah, not only a Muslim but a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
- we are in a “Third World War”
- “This is a war inside Islam. So we [Muslims] have to own up to it. We have to take the lead. And we have to start fighting back.”
- “This is a Muslim problem. We need to take ownership of this. We need to stand up and say what is right and what is wrong.” (interview on CBS 60 Minutes, December 5, 2014)
The King and his senior advisors get it. They aren’t Radicals, but Reformers. And they are actively engaged in fighting the Radicals militarily, diplomatically, politically, financially, and even theologically.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi also gets it. He, too, is a Muslim – and he, too, is engaging the fight on multiple fronts.
Consider his speech on January 1, 2015 at Al Azhar University in Cairo:
- “Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants…so that they themselves may win? Impossible.”
- “We are in need of a religious revolution. You imams are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting for your next move.”
The President insists that we are not at war with Islam. Obviously. The vast majority of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are not a danger. But research shows that 7% to 10% of Muslims worldwide do support violent jihad. That’s upwards of 150 million people. If it were a single country — the Islamic Republic of Radicalstan — it would the world’s 9th largest, just ahead of Russia (146 million).
But the threat we face is not simply from Radical Islam. Indeed, it not even primarily from Radical Islam at this hour.
The most serious threat we face in the Middle East and North Africa is what I call “Apocalyptic Islam.”
This is a term each of needs to become familiar with and begin to teach others.
For the first time in all of human history, we have not just one but two nation states who rulers are driven not by political ideology — or even mere religious theology — but by apocalyptic End Times eschatology.
- The Islamic Republic of Iran today is ruled by an apocalyptic, genocidal death cult.
- So is the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
- The former are Shia. The latter are Sunni.
- Both believe the End of days has come.
- Both believe their messiah – known as the “Mahdi” — is coming at any moment.
- Both are trying to hasten the coming of the Mahdi.
- Yet each has entirely different strategies.
- ISIS wants to build a caliphate.
- Iran wants to build The Bomb.
- ISIS is committing genocide now.
- Iran is preparing to commit genocide later.
In the near term, ISIS is more dangerous. Why? Because ISIS is on a jihadist rampage right now. Robbing. Killing. Destroying. Enslaving. Raping. Torturing. Beheading. As Americans, we dare not turn a blind eye to this threat. If we don’t defeat the jihadists over there, they are coming here. We must act, and act now.
That said, as Christians we have different responsibilities. The government’s job is to defeat and destroy our enemies. Our job as Christians is to love our enemies, and all those who are living under their reign of terror.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we must not be blind to the enormous suffering inside the Muslim world, nor deaf to their cries for help, nor dull to the tyranny we face. Christ commands us to love them, to serve them, to bless them, to tell them the good news that they may have life. We must act, and act now.
Longer term, Iran is the most dangerous, especially if the President approves this nuclear deal that is emerging. Why? Because the apocalyptic leaders of Iran are biding their time to build a nuclear arsenal capable of killing millions of people in a matter of minutes.
Far too few people in the West truly understand the nature and threat of Radical Islam, much less that of Apocalyptic Islam. Indeed, many dismiss these concerns all together. But it is empirical fact that a deep and widespread belief exists within the Islamic world that we are living in the End of Days.
According to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, “in most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, more than half or more of Muslims believe they will love to see the return of the Mahdi.” That’s more than 750 million Muslims.
- Egypt — 40% of Muslims believe the return of the Mahdi is imminent.
- Jordan — 41%
- Palestinians — 46%
- Iraq — 72%
What’s more, the report found that an enormous number of Muslims believe that Jesus is coming back to earth (to serve under the Mahdi.)
- Jordan — 29% of Muslims believe Jesus is coming back to earth
- Egypt — 39%
- Palestinians — 46%
- Iraq — 64%
Apocalyptic Islamic eschatology is a photographic negative of Biblical eschatology. The leaders of Iran and ISIS believe the way to hasten the coming of the messiah to kill as many people as possible. The followers of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, believe the way to hasten the coming of the messiah is to save as many people as possible. (Matthew 24:14)
Which brings me back to you — the watchmen on the wall.
- Are you warning the nation of the “coming sword” – the threat of both Radical Islam and Apocalyptic Islam — and explaining to people their similarities and their differences?
- Are you urging the Church to fulfill the Great Commission by preaching the gospel and making disciples of all nations, including Muslim nations?
Let us not simply tell the bad news. Let us tell the good news. And there is much good news. Since 1979, more Muslims have come to faith on Christ and renounced Islam than in the last 14 centuries of Islam combined.
So now is not the time to cower in fear. Now is the time to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit — with courage and conviction — because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.”
Which brings me finally to Threat #3 — What if America is not simply entering a season of strained relations with Israel, but we are heading towards total American abandonment of the Jewish State?
- Genesis 12:1-3 — God says He will bless those who bless Israel and the Jewish people, and curse those who curse them.
- Joel 3:2 — God warns the nations that He will judge all who divide the Land of Israel.
- Ezekiel 38-39 — God warns that a group of nations will attack Israel in the “last days” but no nation will come to Israel’s defense.
- Revelation 16 — God warns that all nations in the End of Days will attack Israel.
The Bible teaches us that all nations will turn against Israel in the last days — and all nations will face judgment for it — but woe into us if it happens on our watch.
Have we come to that fateful moment? It is not yet clear. Still, we are watching the President:
- negotiate an incredibly dangerous deal with Iran
- refuse to share the details of this detail with Israel, America’s most faithful and trusted ally in the region
- refuse to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister when he came to address a Joint Session of Congress on matters of existential importance to both of our nations.
- send the VP and Secretary of State out of country to avoid seeing the Prime Minister
- send his political strategists and operatives to defeat the Prime Minister and his party in Israel’s elections (March 17th)
This is the most dangerous moment in the history of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
What do the next two years hold?
I’m not sure. But this much I know: on top of all America’s national challenges and sins, we dare not also abandon or turn against Israel and the Jewish people. If we do, we will seal our fate with God.
Which brings me back to you — the watchmen on the walls.
Are you warning the nation and the Church of the dangerous road the President has us on vis-à-vis Israel?
Are you mobilizing Christians to love and bless and pray for and stand with Israel and the Jewish people in this critical hour?
I am afraid I cannot tell you whether God will grant America a Third Great Awakening and/or raise up a King like Josiah (see 2 Chronicles 34-35) and thus forestall the coming judgment.
I cannot tell you whether the American government will do its job to protect us and our allies from Radical and Apocalyptic Islam before it’s too late.
Or whether the Church will do her job in fulfilling the Great Commission and standing with our persecuted brothers and sisters in the epicenter.
Or whether America and the Church will stand with Israel and bless her and the Jewish people.
All I can tell you is that you and I have been called to be watchmen on the walls.
Our job is to:
- Listen to and study and know the Word of God
- Teach the Word of God
- Watch for threats
- Warn the people, come what may
We are not going to be held responsible if people do not listen to us or to the Word of God. We will be held to account if we fail to speak and act when the Lord commands us to do so.
Much is hanging in the balance. May you and I be found faithful to the task.