Release Date:  June 5, 2007
Rating:  Unrated
Genre:  Christian Educational/Documentary
Run Time: 58 min. with 120+ minutes of special feature interviews
Director:  Daniel Lukso
Narrators: Joel C. Rosenberg and Skip Heitzig

“We were blindsided by 9/11,” says best-selling novelist Joel C. Rosenberg.  “The question is: Are we going to be blindsided by events that are coming?”  Thus hypothesizes Epicenter, a one-hour DVD which promotes Rosenberg’s non-fiction book by the same name, which links current events with ancient Bible prophecy.

With Epicenter, Rosenberg elaborates on his end-times theology, which is currently popular among Dispensationalists like Tim LaHaye (Left Behind series) and Hal Lindsay (The Late Great Planet Earth).  His DVD unfolds to the tune of a creepy, doom-and-gloom musical score.  And just in case that doesn’t scare you, director Daniel Lukso throws in some heavy-handed lighting to match.  Interviews with LaHaye and Skip Heitzig, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Albuquerque, for example, are done in full sunlight.  Footage of Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist, on the other hand, is framed in near darkness (despite the fact that he is named).

Rosenberg bases his beliefs (and the plots of his books) on Ezekiel 38-39, which describe an apocalyptic battle between Israel and “Magog and Gog.”  Like LaHaye and Lindsay, Rosenberg believes that Russia and Iran are the nations being described by Ezekiel, and that they are currently bringing this prophecy to fruition by plotting to destroy Israel.  The DVD also gives a snapshot of Israel’s modern history from the Holocaust and the rebirth of the Israeli nation to the Six Day War of 1967, citing them as “evidence” of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, along with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent vow to “wipe Israel off the map.”

Ahmadinejad, Rosenberg claims, is a former member of a Shiite Muslim sect who believes that he is called to lead the coming of the long-prophesied Islamic “Twelfth Imam.”  This Islamic eschatology, or end-times theology, promises a final Jihad which will annihilate Israel and usher the radical Muslims into world domination.  In Islam, Rosenberg further explains, there are really only two types of people: true followers of Allah—who are committed to Jihad—and infidels.

“Islam is not just a religion or a faith.  It’s a way of life,” says an Iranian pastor.  “And even though some claim that it is a religion of peace, it has not brought peace.  It has not brought peace to its nations, its people, or to its families.”  Muhammad, he says, initially claimed to be the prophet that Moses had predicted would come after him, and who would be greater than him.  The Jews rejected that, so Mohammad turned against them, thus creating an eternity of animosity between them and the Jews.

Most terrorists, the DVD goes on to say, believe that the end of the world is coming very quickly—perhaps in the next two or three years even.  And not only Israel but also the United States, who are seen by them as “Satans,” are at the crosshairs of this coming war.  Muslims believes that they are to give infidels a warning that they will die.  If they do not head that warning, then they will hasten that end by launching an apocalyptic war—the war of Gog and Magog, say these “end-times prophets.”

In 2001, Rosenberg left politics to write his first novel, which opened with a kamikaze terrorist flight attacking the U.S.  Months later, 9/11 sent Rosenberg’s book, The Last Jihad to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List.  His second novel, The Last Days, portrayed the death of Yasser Arafat, 13 months before it occurred, prompting U.S. News and World Report to dub Rosenberg “a modern Nostradamus.”

The author’s DVD makes some very important points about the dangers of radical Muslim theology.  The bonus footage includes exclusive interviews with people like Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli prime minister, and Natan Sharansky, former Israeli deputy prime minister.  And if ever there was a doubt about the Islamic terrorist’s commitment to destroy both the U.S. and Israel, Rosenberg makes a sound case.  It also describes the exciting work that the Holy Spirit is doing in Iran, where at least a million people have become believers—up from just 500 in 1979.

Rosenberg’s theology, however, leaves something to be desired.  Instead of interviewing academic theologians, for example, he substitutes extensive footage of pastors and author LaHaye.  Gary DeMar, who represents one strand of covenant theologians, is a radio host and author (End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology, 2001) who often debates Rosenberg about the biblical teaching that informs his books.  DeMar calls it “newspaper exegesis,” explaining that instead of using Scripture to interpret Scripture, which is a basic premise of sound exegesis, doomsday prophets like Rosenberg instead interpret the headlines of the day (especially the reigning world power) as the “Magog” of Ezekiel 38.  It is not the first time that this has been done, says DeMar, who cites the following historical examples:

4th Century:  Goths
5th Century:  Goths and Moors
7th Century:  Huns
8th Century:  Islamic Empire
10th Century:  Hungarians
11th Century:  Turkish speaking tribes
14th Century:  Tartans and Mongols
16th Century:  Muhammadism
16th Century:  10 dispersed tribes of Israel
16th Century:  Turks and Saracens
17th Century:  Native Americans
17th Century:  Pope and Spain

Is it therefore any wonder that people are once again interpreting Ezekiel in the light of current events?  Rosenberg, who conceded DeMar’s point during their radio debate, believes that this century is different, however.  He sees the rebirth of Israel and the coming rebuilding of the temple as the true fulfillment of Ezekiel 36, which will precede the events of Ezekiel 38.  DeMar and other mainstream evangelicals, however (especially those of the Reformed persuasion), believe that the events of Ezekiel 36 have already came to fruition after the Exile, when the Jews returned to Israel after an absence of 400 years to rebuild their temple.

This debate has been galvanizing Christians for decades, and it will no doubt continue.  Whether Jesus returns now or in the future, and what form the apocalyptic battle described by Ezekiel will take, remains to be seen.  God’s Kingdom—and by extension, our faith—both have an “already not yet” nature which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways.  And Jesus himself said that no one can know the day or the hour of his return—"not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son" (Mark 13:32). 

So instead of obsessing about the future, which Matthew warns against, perhaps we can all just focus on walking with Jesus, day by day, and extending his Kingdom here on earth.  Because that, as my grandmother used to say, is a full-time job.

AUDIENCE:  Mature teens and adults

DVD Extras: 

Interviews with:

  • Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli prime minister
  • Natan Sharansky, former Israeli deputy prime minister
  • Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series
  • Chuck Smith, senior pastor, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa
  • Greg Laurie, senior pastor, Harvest Christian Fellowship
  • Joel C. Rosenberg, author and founder of the Joshua Fund
  • Leading Iranian dissidents”

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None
  • Language/Profanity:  None
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  None
  • Violence:  Menacing music and ominous voiceover narrative throughout documentary about the threat of United States being annihilated by terrorists, war, world events, etc.; newsreel footage of radical Islamic rallies, flag burnings, tanks, men waving uzis, and street skirmishes in which soldiers fight one another.