Middle East Christians Grapple with Apocalyptic Pandemic
COVID-19 offers eschatology experts opportunity to refine public understanding of what Revelation teaches.
Imad Shehadeh sensed an apocalyptic felt need.
As chatter increased in the Arab world over the soaring coronavirus death tallies in China and Iran, the president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman began preaching on eschatology in lockdown.
“The coronavirus could qualify as one of the calamities that point to the end times, but could also just be a passing plague,” he said in a widely shared video series posted in March.
“We cannot be dogmatic, but at the very least [these] distresses have resemblance to much more severe events in the future time of tribulation.”
Diligently studying to incorporate aspects of all theological systems, Shehadeh aimed to keep the Cross central within a literal hermeneutic.
“The more we study prophecy,” he said, “the more we can see things in our world that others cannot, like a physician who knows immediately how to treat a wound.”
COVID-19 has left many bleeding.
Shehadeh previously wrote a four-volume commentary on biblical prophecy. It was written in Arabic, he said, to address the gap created by a lack of traditional Catholic and Orthodox focus on eschatology. A gap sometimes mirrored in the older Protestant denominations of the Middle East.
Shehadeh founded JETS in 1991. By contrast, the Near East School of Theology (NEST), the first Protestant seminary in the Middle East, was founded in Beirut in 1932 by pioneering Presbyterian and Congregationalist missionaries.
“Every time there have been wars and pestilences in history, some people have either proclaimed the end or busied themselves with the question of signs,” said George Sabra, president of NEST. “We should not waste time doing the same, but show God’s …
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