It has been decades since I last read a book on biblical end times prophesy. In that case it was Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth, which sold millions of copies back in the early 1970s.
Russia Rising, from Mark Hitchcock is the latest in what I guess can be described as genre non-fiction. I think it is good to read stuff like this every so often, but so much of the contents depend on a certain interpretation of the Bible. If you accept the initial premise (and this was true of Lindsey also) then everything that follows makes logical sense. However, if that interpretation in incorrect, the whole volume falls like a house of cards.
There are some built-in weaknesses with this work, the first being something that is also one of its strengths. Russia Rising does not look at all the Scripture passages about the end times, but instead concentrates solely on two Old Testament chapters, Ezekiel 38 and 39 and what they have to say in relation to modern day Russia. There are references to other Bible passages and, but you have to know what is being referenced for it to make sense. Terms like “Rapture” and “Tribulation” really should be explained, but I guess most of the people who will read this book know what is meant.
Is Russia (and Vladimir Putin) the greatest threat to world peace today? Can present-day Russian aggression worldwide be seen in The Bible, and does that really suggest that we may indeed be living in the last days?
Hitchcock backs up his premise with lots of quotes. It looked to me though like a lot of the “authorities” being quoted are popular Bible preachers. I will concede that you can be both a preacher and an authority, but the two are not necessarily related. As a sometime scholar of religion myself (with a degree to prove it), I am a little skeptical of people with an agenda who are not known as academics. I have seen too many “end times” interpretations that just were not accurate, and obviously so to anyone who had done scholarly research. Is it possible Russia is indeed the northern country mentioned in Ezekiel? Yes. Would I bet on it? No.
This book appear to me to be news driven, with a lot of the world affairs analysis being straight from popular media. As a more or less retired journalist, I have a lot of respect for the media. But I understand the difference between journalism and scholarship. If you want to know what happened today, journalism is important. But tight deadlines limit the effectiveness of any analysis. What do political scientists think of the relationship between Putin and his Middle Eastern client states? I know what is in the news, but journalists are generalists – I wat to know what the experts think. I don’t think Hitchcock has gone deep enough. I have a degree in political science, I worked in politics, specializing in foreign affairs for eight years and I think Hitchcock has missed a lot.
Hitchcock does point out that any end times speculation needs to be rooted in relationship. It isn’t about wars and rumours of wars, but about the return of Jesus Christ and what that means for us as individuals and our relationship with God.
When The Late Great Planet Earth came out, it made complete sense to me. I accepted Lindsey’s argument whole-heartedly. I started to read other books on the end times and the return of Christ, figuring it could come literally any day (and I still believe that is a possibility).
There was one book that I found in my church library which had a profound effect on me, though 45 years later I can’t remember the title or author. Most of the arguments were similar to Lindsey’s (or Hitchcock’s for that matter), so it affirmed what I had already read. That book too made complete sense in its analysis of world events and the predictors of the imminent return of Christ.
The author though went out on a bit of a limb. He said that though we could not know the day or hour of Christ’s return, it was, given the signs, certain we could expect to see that event happen before the turn of the century. The book was published in 1892. I was reading it 80 years later.
Russia Rising is coming out September 5th. It is a quick easy read if you like exploring eschatology, and provides some Biblical concepts that are worth considering in light of today‘s news. Take it as journalism and not scholarship, and you will enjoy it.
“Book has been provided courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.”