A Brief History of ISIS
In light of the global attacks of the last few months, most people are somewhat familiar with the group ISIS. The acronym has become synonymous with violence, terror and bloodshed. As they continue to advance their cause in the Middle East and beyond, we need to better understand who they are.
ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and is also known as ISIL or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. By the end of June 2014, ISIS renamed itself the “Islamic State” as it proclaimed the creation of a global caliphate.1 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, their leader since 2010, declared that he was the new caliph and as such, was now ruling all Muslims. To date, the introduction of a new caliphate has been far from welcome by various Muslim countries. ISIS, ISIL and IS are all mostly synonymous.
ISIS was founded in 1999 by the Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Within five years, al-Zarqawi’s new group chose to associate themselves with Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. They are considered to be Islamic extremists, Islamists or Jihadists, closely linked to the concept of Jihad or “struggle.” Various similar groups, such as the Taliban, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah have also made the news for decades, but ISIS appears to be in a league of its own.
By early 2014, Al-Qaeda officially dissociated itself from ISIS, and the new group became a self-sustained entity. Al-Qaeda refused to be held responsible for ISIS’ actions which they deemed to be “too extreme” in some cases.2 ISIS has proven to be a growing force to be reckoned with. They have lived up to their barbaric reputation. They continue to advance in the Middle East, spreading their grip on a terrified, ill-prepared region.
ISIS follows a very extreme form of Islam known as Salafism (in Arabic al salaf al salih means the “pious forefathers”). It promotes violence and bloodshed to establish and maintain qur’anic hegemony through a very strict adherence to the Qur’an and Shari’a law. ISIS adheres to an apocalyptic theology and believes that the Mhadi or “guided one” will soon arrive and redeem Islam. ISIS has declared jihad against all infidels. That includes westerners, Christians and Jews. But it also includes any other “Muslims” who do not pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the new caliph, such as Hamas.
ISIS has taken less than 18 months to establish their barbaric reputation.
While they are still described as a terrorist organization, they are also known as a militia that is well trained in guerrilla warfare. They have shown great organizational skills from a military standpoint. This is unusual for a group of this sort where corruption, chaos and military inadequacy are usually the norm.
Their recent beheadings, rapes and live burnings are done to intimidate and almost paralyze the world into an inability to respond appropriately. Additionally, they are very astute in using the social networks and the internet to spread their propaganda of terror, as well as recruit fighters all over the world.
ISIS represents a brand of Islam that knows no boundaries to its violence. It continues to attract members in various countries around the globe who go to the Middle East to train and then return to their respective countries to attack their own communities. The lack of moral equivalence between a group driven by an ideology worshipping death and a world valuing human life is always going to be a challenge.3
1 A caliphate (Arabic: خِلافة khilāfa) is a form of Islamic government led by a caliph (Arabic: خَليفة khalīfah –– a person considered a political and religious successor to the prophet, Muhammad and a leader of the entire Muslim community. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caliphate
ISIS and the End Times
One of the most shocking aspects of the rise of ISIS, particularly with regard to the horrifying murders it has committed, is the pure, unadulterated hatred that has accompanied these gruesome acts. Where does it come from? The secular media hasn’t a clue. It says, if only ISIS members weren’t so poor; if only they had more jobs. However, if we look deeper, we will soon discover that ISIS views Judaism and Christianity as religious competitors that must be silenced through any and every means possible. Only one worldview can emerge victorious—and according to ISIS, the final chapter of history must end in victory for Muhammad.
The Maze of Islamic Eschatology
Islamic eschatology is difficult to understand and sure to confuse those who have little or no knowledge of religious systems in general and Islam in particular. This is why many are puzzled about the motivations of ISIS. Some members may simply be driven by the desire to inflict harm and pain on others, but most are committed to a certain theology that shapes their present and future.
The recent execution of 21 Coptic Christians can shed some light on ISIS’ motivations. In the video released on Sunday, February 15, 2015 the phrase “They supplicate what they worship and die upon their paganism,” appears on the screen as the men are lowered to their knees. This puzzling assertion holds a clue as to ISIS’ understanding of end-times prophecy and attitude toward Christianity. For ISIS, the presumed Christian veneration of the cross is evidence of the corrupt nature of Christian theology. In fact, Christianity is viewed as a threat to ISIS’ dream of the establishment of the future caliphate (Islamic government) and the authority of the Mahdi (Islamic messiah).
It might come as a surprise, but Jesus is a central figure in the end of days in Islamic theology. However, in their way of thinking, Jesus’ role is to put an end to all religions other than Islam. Of course, this is not the Jesus of the Bible. It is the Jesus of Islamic conception.
Arming Ourselves with the Truth
There are some amazing parallels between Christian, Jewish and Islamic end-time scenarios. All recognize a final confrontation between the forces of evil and the forces of righteousness. Islam and Christianity see a role for an Antichrist-like figure and acknowledge the importance of Jesus.
The differences, however, far outweigh the similarities. A
Jesus who stands for the destruction of Jews and Christians? Unthinkable! A Christ who returns to establish the caliphate of Islam? Not according to the inspired Jewish prophets!
Believers are facing grave challenges today from ISIS. We must first and foremost arm ourselves with the knowledge that our scriptures provide in order to combat falsehood. We must also understand the kind of battle in which we are engaged. As the Apostle Paul writes, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Finally, we must acknowledge that ISIS is not well understood by the West. We must reckon with the motivation that sanctions gruesome killings and a variety of criminal activities all in the name of a religious belief that may be as fervently cherished as that of the most convinced Christian and observant Jew. This is in fact what makes ISIS so dangerous, as they are driven by their theology. And if anyone can understand this—we can!
We must pray for the peace of Jerusalem. If ISIS has its way, it will stop at nothing to either destroy or take over Israel. Neither Isaiah nor Jeremiah ever named ISIS specifically, but they do say enemies would surround Israel, and this is apparently coming true in even more alarming fashion. As the second coming of the Lord looks closer and closer as the predicted future unfolds before our eyes, let us pray, but also prepare our hearts for the difficult times to come by drawing close to the Lord. Let us also do all we can in these days to proclaim the truth that there is salvation in no one other than Jesus the Messiah. This is true for Jewish people and non-Jews, whether they follow Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam.
We worship a Savior who loved us all so much that He died for our sins and rose from the grave, conquering death. We serve an all-powerful God and we should not fear the future. We should look ahead knowing that what was foretold will come to pass. Our responsibility is to be His vessels of mercy and grace to all—to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles—including ISIS!
The Jews of Iraq
Nowadays, there are literally just a handful of Jewish people living in Iraq, too old or poor to contemplate departure. Iraq used to be one of the centers of Judaism, with Jews living side by side with their Iraqi neighbors. Jews in Iraq after the Babylonian Exile created rabbinical academies and compiled the Babylonian Talmud, now a very important guide for Jewish religious life.
The Jews of Yemen
There are around 400 Jews left in small villages in Yemen. They keep to themselves, worshipping and living as Jews. Once a thriving community, most Jewish people immigrated to Israel in about 1950. Those who stayed behind soon faced hardships. Yemeni Jews speak Aramaic for religious services (instead of Hebrew) and have kept their rich heritage. In Israel, the Yemeni Jewish community has added greatly to society.
The Jews of Iran
The Jewish community of present-day Iran (formerly Persia) is one of the oldest in the world, reaching back to the Babylonian Exile. Muslim rule beginning in the seventh century spelled second-class citizenship for Iranian Jews. Today, Iran’s Jewish population is about 8,000 – the second largest in the Mideast. This comes as a surprise to many, given the open enmity that exists between Iran and the State of Israel.
The Jews of Syria
Jewish people had already lived in Syria for over 500 years when the Apostle Paul made his life-changing journey along the Road to Damascus. Before 1948, the Jewish community numbered about 40,000. Today, that number has dwindled to fewer than 100. The establishment of the Jewish State resulted in rioting, murder and the destruction of Jewish synagogues, some as old as 2,500 years. Thereafter, the Jewish community was subjected to harsh restrictions.
Source consulted – Jewish Virtual Library –
The Rise of ISIS and Prophetic Revelation
Shalom from New York City!
We live in dangerous times. The rise of ISIS and the behavior of this movement towards Jews and Christians is sobering. Should the emergence of a group that hates and beheads Christians, inspires global antisemitism, and endorses the destruction of Israel surprise us? Probably not! Yet, we are only slowly coming to realize the extent of their vision and determination to achieve their goals of establishing a modern caliphate across Iraq, Syria and neighboring Arab nations. Clearly, we have seen that they will stop at nothing
Jews and Christians Experience a Common Threat
We will explain quite a bit about the history and purposes of ISIS in this newsletter, but it is important to understand that they are just one expression of a common stream of jihadist Islam that also flows through and determines the ideology and activities of groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
I was heartsick when I viewed the photos of the Egyptian Christians beheaded by ISIS. It is evident that
ISIS holds a particular disdain for Christianity, along with Israel and the Jewish people. But the battle lines have never been clearer, as it is obvious now that a common enemy unites the Jewish people with Christians.
The Future of ISIS According to the Scripture (Zechariah 12:1-10)
No one could have predicted the resurrection of an Islamic empire in the Middle East during these Last Days any more than we could have predicted the re-gathering of the Jewish people to the land promised by God. You must admit, we are living in extraordinary days!
Your Mission to the Jewish People holds to the promises in the Old Testament predicting the continuing return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and the eventual full restoration of the Jewish nation. So let me explain, in light of scriptural revelation, why the shocking current events we see and read about should not take us by surprise.
The Bible envisions this end-times scenario and further assures us that all the promises to Israel, the Jewish people and the Church will literally come to pass one day in the future. The only question that I and others have is, “When does this prophetic future begin?” There is no denying that the scene is set and the table is prepared. We seem to be on the precipice of the return of Jesus and all of the events attached to what I call “the very end of the very end.”
Rightly Reading the Signs of the Times
One of the passages of Scripture that makes this clear to me is found in the writings of the great prophet Zechariah—whose very name means “God remembers.” Written in the days when the Jewish people had begun to return to Israel after the Babylonian exile, chapter 12 describes the return of Israel to the Lord and the return of the Lord to Israel.
I would suggest that you read the entire chapter and do not stop at chapter 12, but continue through chapter 14. You will see that the prophet views a final great war between Israel and her enemies, the repentance of the Jewish people and their turning to Jesus, the return of the Messiah, the conquering of the enemies of Israel and God, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God with Jerusalem as its capital.
As we follow along, we see that in the early verses of chapter 12, enemies are surrounding the Jewish people in Israel. After what seems to be a terrible period of trial and tribulation, they are about to be destroyed. However, God cannot let that happen and promises to destroy those trying to destroy the Jewish people.
It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it…In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord before them. And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (Zech. 12:3, 8-9).
However, the Lord is not simply interested in saving Israel from her enemies, but rather saving Israel from her sins! And instead of a simple military victory, the prophet predicts the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disheveled Jewish remnant perched on the verge of destruction, who then respond to the pouring out of the Spirit of God upon them by turning to the one “who was pierced.”
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn (Zech. 12:10).
A season of national repentance falls upon the Jewish people who then experience what you and I cherish so deeply—the very covering of our sins through the blood of the perfect Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity (Zech. 13:1).
For the sake of space I will leave the reading of the rest of these chapters to you so that you can see what unfolds in that great day when the Jewish people turn to Jesus. The Jewish people will be restored physically, spiritually, and nationally, which will then be used by God to bring the blessing of His Kingdom upon the entire world.
I am not making the bold statement that the rise of ISIS is the fulfillment of prophecy. But the rise of the Islamic nation certainly seems to fit in with the unfolding of God’s plan predicted by the prophets, as well as portions of the New Testament, especially Matthew chapter 24 and certain passages in the book of Revelation. Regardless, we need to be vigilant, prayerful and more committed than ever to the Great Commission to reach the Jewish people, Arabs, and all the peoples of the earth who so desperately need to know the soon-coming Savior.
I hope that you will find this newsletter helpful in understanding ISIS. I believe that we, in the West, are just beginning to fully understand their goals, motivation, theological convictions and the role they play in the world today, as well as in the future plan of God. With all my heart, I believe that we should take note of the signs of the times and be prepared to live for the Lord and to make Him known among the nations. But one thing I will stress: whatever may come about in the times to come, our future is secure for one simple reason—Jesus the Messiah is the ultimate victor!
Thank you so much for your prayers for the salvation of Israel and for your financial support. We could not continue this great work among the Jewish people in the United States, Israel, and across the globe without your help. Your Mission to the Jewish People is doing more than ever before to reach them with the Gospel.
Shalom! European Jewry is in CRISIS! We see it happening everywhere from France, to Denmark, England and Ukraine. I am afraid that soon, many other European countries will also succumb to more overt attacks against Jewish people. The brutal attacks, which seem to be inspired by a fiercely growing Jihadist influence in these countries, are reminiscent of the slow-growing, horrific Nazi antisemitism of the 1930s and 1940s.
Your Mission to the Jewish People MUST sound a warning signal as we need to take action to help those Jewish people that are suffering.
Right now, the Jews of France, a nation with almost 500,000 Jewish people (the third largest Jewish population in the world), are in the greatest danger. Let me share part of a conversation I had with Olivier Melnick, who is on our staff and was born and raised in France. Then I will tell you what we intend to do and how you can help God’s chosen people in the wake of these terrible conditions.
In Raanana, Israel, a woman mourns over the body of her husband who was gunned down in an attack.
- - -
Olivier, your mom had an especially difficult time during the Holocaust. Can you tell us about her experience?
My mother saw her dad taken by the Gestapo in 1942. She immediately was sent to the southwest area of France below the Free Zone. She remained on a farm there until the end of the war, hidden and protected by a family of peasants who recently were named by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Gentiles.” Her father died in Auschwitz.
Did you experience antisemitism growing up in France?
My mother always warned me to not share too much about our Jewish heritage with my friends at school. She feared a return of the Nazis for many years and even forced me to learn German in school instead of Spanish as a second foreign language, just to get by in case they [the Nazis] came back.
In your opinion, what is the root of French antisemitism?
The root of French antisemitism is the root of all antisemitism—and it is Satan. He hates all that God loves, and loves all that God hates. The Jewish people are the “apple of God’s eye” and His chosen people. Satan lives to destroy them. Over the centuries, he has used different people groups to sub-contract his hatred of the Jews. France has a long history of antisemitism: blood libels, Crusades, multiple expulsions, the Dreyfus Affair and the events of World War II.
In January, an anti-terrorism rally in Paris drew people from all over the world.
Can you describe the growth of “modern” antisemitism in France?
Antisemitism became taboo after the Holocaust. There was great hope that the Jewish motto “Never Again” would become a clarion call in France. But today we see a return of this oldest hatred, fanned by the radical Jihadist Muslims living among the five million-plus Muslims in France.
Do you believe French Jews will leave France? Will many move to Israel? Do you have any personal stories you can share which illustrate this?
There is no question in my mind that French Jews are leaving France, a country they have called home for centuries. Last year 7,000 Jews moved to Israel; we might see an additional 10,000 leave in 2015—and the predictions have risen as high as 150,000 in the next five to ten years. The majority of them will go to Israel. This could be massively accelerated if there are more incidents as brutal as those of the past year.
Members of my own family are preparing to make this move in the next year or so. After the terrorist attacks in Paris in early January 2015, they made their decision.
My mother still lives in the same home where the Nazis arrested her father, only 500 yards from the kosher supermarket where the four Jewish people were slaughtered. When I called her and asked her to stay inside while the hostage situation was unfolding, she started crying and asked, “Do you think that they are coming back for us?” My niece lives only 40 yards from the same market and was there, in the market, 15 minutes before the killer went on his rampage.
My 88-year-old mother most likely will stay in Paris, but my nieces have already planned to get out.
What future do you see for French Jews?
The future for French Jews, or even most European Jews, is very bleak if they remain in their respective countries. French Jews have known that Jewish life in France was becoming more and more dangerous since the Ilan Halimi murder in 2006, the Toulouse massacre of 2012, and the near-pogrom at a synagogue in Paris in 2014. The capstone of the recent terror came with the murders at the Super Kosher supermarket last January.
French Jews are frightened—and should be!
What are the French government, media, religious leaders, etc., doing to help Jewish people in France?
The government is paying lip service in saying that they will do everything they can to protect French Jews, but are only placing a few police officers here and there. This cannot and will not solve the problem as long as the government is “soft” on Islamic terror.
My heart bleeds for my people. French Jews need the helping hand of loving believers in the Jewish Messiah. My prayer is that many Christians would seize the opportunity to help Jewish people inside of France and as they move to Israel.
Olivier and his family
- - -
What Can We Do?
I am thankful for Olivier and for his insights. Now, allow me to list a few ways we are planning to help. I hope you will join us in reaching out to the Jews of France with the love of Jesus!
Prayer and Monitoring
The Psalmist tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6). This is critical. I hope you will both pray against future attacks and monitor the news, so that you can pray for the victims of new attacks as they come about. You might even reach out to the Jewish people in your community and let them know you are praying for the safety of the global Jewish people.
A French-Language Israel Online Help Desk
We are creating a French virtual help desk and linking French Jewish immigrants to Messianic believers in Israel who can help them as they immigrate. Our help desk will serve as a lifeline to French Jews who are making this transition to Israel. We will provide advice, helpful hints on where to live, shop, study Hebrew, and much more. We will advertise the help desk on Facebook and social media, so that French Jewish people in France and in Israel will know how to find some of the help they need.
The French Isaiah 53 Explained Book and the Isaiah 53 French-Language Campaign
The French translation of the Isaiah 53 Explained book is now complete and being printed. I would love to give away 10,000-plus books in the next few months—and hopefully many more! We will again advertise online and guide hundreds, if not thousands, of French Jews to our website to hear about the One who loves us and died as an atonement for our sins. There is no doubt that French Jewish people will be looking for spiritual answers to the problems of this world! We hope to provide a loving, biblical and very accessible witness to these dear people—in French!
Urban cafe on rue des Rosiers, a major centre of the Paris Jewish community.
Your Support – Needed Now!
I could not wait to help the French Jewish people until this letter was mailed. We have already been doing as much as we can, but will be able to do more because of your financial support.
I am often asked to be specific about our financial needs. So, I want to let you know what is needed and the impact your gift will have in reaching out to French Jewish people with the love of Jesus.
We know that it takes about $5 to get an Isaiah 53 Explained book into the hands of a Jewish person. This includes the printing, mailing and online advertising costs. Would you consider a gift of $50 to reach ten French Jews, $500 to reach 100, or as the Lord enables you—even more? We believe, based upon our experience in online ministries, that we can send out 10,000 or more if we have the funds available to do so.
We will also need to advertise the help desk. I believe this project will take an additional $35,000 to develop the site and advertise the help we are offering online and through other types of French media as well.
Thank you for taking the time to read this urgent request and for your generosity and prayers for the French Jewish people who are suffering because of the hatred of others!
Ministry News Briefs - March 2015
Jewish Man Finds Messianic Mentor
Staff member Jon Lieberman, representing our Mission at Taylor University’s annual student missions conference in Indiana, met a representative of a medical missions organization there. He asked, “Do you know any one who is Jewish?” She responded that she had met a young, Jewish, professional man at a conference in Ohio. Right away, Jon encouraged her to give him a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained the next time she saw him. The next week, she did just that, and within a week Jon received an email from Marvin* wanting Jon to “mentor him.” During a lengthy phone conversation, Marvin told Jon that he is “excited about starting this spiritual journey.” Jon writes, “I know that I will be investing hours and weeks patiently helping him. But isn’t that what discipleship is all about?”
Friendship Leads to New Life for Jewish Man in Toronto
Anna Bortsova, who serves with the Mission in Toronto, rejoices that Moses,* a Jewish man whom she and her husband, Vladimir, befriended, has become a believer. After having begun attending Chosen People Ministries’ congregation, Moses was greatly moved by congregational leader Ben Volman’s sermon, “The Way, the Truth and the Life.” After the service, the Bortsovs spoke with Moses, who was touched by the clear truth about what Jesus says about Himself. Anna writes, “He could not resist the Holy Spirit and opened his heart. At the age of 70, Moses became a new creature! Praise God with us and pray for Moses’ growth!”
A Tale of Two Shlomos
Chris and Margaret Herud, who serve with Chosen People Ministries’ hospitality ministry in New Zealand, received a call from Shlomo,* a religious Israeli, seeking accommodations for the Sabbath. He also asked if he could bring a travelling companion, another Shlomo,* from the United States—quieter, polite, and a deep thinker. Chris had made some challah bread, a Sabbath tradition, which created quite a positive impression! Although Israeli Shlomo did not participate much in the dinner discussion, Chris was able to give an English version of Isaiah 53 Explained to USA Shlomo. He said he was very touched and that he would read it. Please pray that the seeds that were planted will bear fruit in both Shlomos’ lives.
There Can Be No Doubt
Brooklyn Messianic Congregational Leader, Rich Flashman, had the great privilege of baptizing Shmuel,* the Jewish Israeli soldier who gave his life to Yeshua (Jesus) earlier this year. After Shmuel’s baptism service, Rich took him, his cousin, and Shmuel’s unbelieving brother, Joey,* out for a meal. Over dinner, the Lord opened the door of Joey’s heart as Rich shared the Gospel with him. At one point in the conversation Rich asked, “Have you read Isaiah 53?” Joey replied that he had. Rich then asked, “Who do you think the prophet was speaking about?” Joey said, “There can be no doubt, it’s Jesus.” Please pray the Holy Spirit will press the truth and the incomparable value of the Gospel onto Joey’s heart.
Volunteer Outreach Leads to Gospel Witness to Jewish Man
Neal and Kim Surasky, who lead Chosen People Ministries’ Messianic congregation in northern Virginia, recently led a congregational outreach at a local homeless shelter. There they were blessed to pray with a number of people to rededicate their lives to God. That same day, they also met Joshua,* a Jewish seeker who had recently moved into the area, and was volunteering there. Neal and Kim were able to spend some time with him. After some conversation, Joshua asked Neal to pray for him, gave him his contact information and said that he would like to visit the congregation. Please pray that God will continue to open his heart to the Gospel.
*names have been changed