On July 31, Paula Zahn Now featured a segment on "whether the crisis in the Middle East is actually a prelude to the end of the world," marking the third time in nine days that CNN has devoted airtime to those claiming that the ongoing Mideast violence signals the coming of the Apocalypse.
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On July 31, CNN's Paula Zahn Now featured a segment on "whether the crisis in the Middle East is actually a prelude to the end of the world," marking the third time in eight days that CNN has devoted airtime to those claiming that the ongoing Mideast violence signals the coming of the Apocalypse. The segment included a report from CNN correspondent Delia Gallagher, which showed video clips of Christian author Joel C. Rosenberg comparing apocalyptic Scripture in the Bible to modern events. Yet even though Gallagher noted during her report that "some Armageddon believers" think recently passed legislation -- such as the Real ID Act -- are "taking the world a step closer to the End Times," neither Gallagher nor Zahn mentioned Rosenberg's assertion on the July 26 edition of CNN's Live From ... that he has "been invited to the White House, [and] Capitol Hill" to explain the current Middle East conflict "through the lens of biblical prophecies."
Throughout the segment, an onscreen graphic of fiery horsemen appeared alongside the words, "Is it the End?" The segment also featured images of biblical drawings interspersed with video of toppled buildings and rubble from what appeared to be the current Middle East conflict.
At the end of the segment, Zahn interviewed Rev. Kevin Bean of St. Bartholomew's Church in New York City, and Rev. Jerry Falwell of Liberty University. Bean warned against identifying specific modern-day events as fulfillment of scriptural prophecies stating: "I think that any correlation that is made with present war making or other political schemes with the events that could lead to a final day and the second coming of Jesus and the separation of the faithful from the rest is an arrogant identification with these present-day events." Zahn responded by challenging Bean's assertion that the apocalyptic interpretation of modern events is "arrogant," stating: "Arrogant, you say, and yet the Bible does talk about one-third of the world being wiped out, a world filled with 10-headed beasts, things coming up out of the ocean." As Media Matters for America has noted, CNN is one of several news outlets that has covered reports on the Apocalypse in the wake of renewed fighting in the Middle East. Zahn aired a segment on the Apocalypse on the July 24 edition of Paula Zahn Now.
From the July 31 edition of CNN's Paula Zahn Now:
ZAHN: Coming up, there is much more ahead on tonight's "Top Story" coverage, including what some believe are the ominous signs of ancient prophecies.
Signposts on the road to Armageddon. War rages in the Middle East, horrific natural disasters. Some people see biblical omens that the end is near.
Now, as our "Top Story" coverage continues, we are going to take you to the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting so far in this conflict. Coming up, an amazing look at what little is left of Bint Jbail.
Plus, why do so many conservative Christians see the events unfolding in the Middle East right now as a prelude to Armageddon and possibly the end of the world?
ZAHN: And we move on to the question of whether the crisis in the Middle East is actually a prelude to the end of the world. Coming up next in our top story coverage, why some evangelical Christians think the end is coming.
And later, allegations of anti-Semitism and drunk driving humble one of Hollywood's biggest power players. Yeah, you know him, Mel Gibson.
ZAHN: Back to our top story coverage now. The bloody fighting in Lebanon and Israel has a lot of American evangelical Christians wondering whether it is a sign foretelling the End Times. To those who aren't evangelical, that may sound a little bit out there, but according to a CNN Harris interactive poll back in 2002, almost 60 percent of Americans think that the end of the world, as predicted in the Bible's Book of Revelation, will happen, and 17 percent believe it will happen during their lifetimes. Now, this belief goes back centuries. Countless times, some Christians interpreted calamities as signs that the world was about to end. Of course, the world went on and on and on. And tonight, faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher is here because the Mideast fighting has many preachers and followers saying that the end is near again. Welcome.
GALLAGHER: I know. I know it sounds a little far-fetched, Paula, but the fact is I've talked to a lot of believers who say the events that we are seeing were talked about in the Bible and do suggest that perhaps the end is imminent. So I've talked to these people and I want to show you a little bit about what they have to say. Let's take a look.
ZAHN: We'll watch with you.
[begin video clip]
GALLAGHER: They say the end of the world is coming.
KEN RAGGIO [North Cities Church member]: As far as I can tell, we are at the very end and we need to prepare ourselves for that, according to the word of God.
GALLAGHER: They see the current conflict in the Middle East, with missiles falling near Megiddo in Israel, the Biblical site of Armageddon, as a sign that the Bible's prophecies of the final days and the return of Jesus are coming true.
CRAIG TREADWELL [pastor, Endtime Ministries]: See, the Bible tells us that a war is coming, which will kill one-third of mankind.
GALLAGHER: And this Pentecostal church in Texas is far from the only hot spot of prophetic rhetoric.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sure, it's gonna be nuclear. You can't kill 2 billion people without going nuclear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You better be watching for him to come. You better be ready.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God is crying out!
GALLAGHER: In recent days, some evangelical broadcasts have been abuzz with talks of the End Times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could get Raptured out of this building before I get through finished preaching. We are that close to the coming of the Son of Man.
GALLAGHER: So are we really on the road to Armageddon? Middle East expert and writer of End Times fiction Joel Rosenberg has few doubts the Rapture is on the way.
ROSENBERG: You have the Rapture, then the rise of the Antichrist, and then a terrible period of seven years of terrible war and famine and plague. This is known as the tribulation. And it's at the end of the tribulation that this massive attack on Israel, known as Armageddon, will happen, and then the second coming of Jesus.
[end video clip]
ZAHN: All right, Delia, we need your help. You just rolled through an awful lot of terms. We went from Rapture to the Antichrist, tribulation. Explain this to us.
GALLAGHER: Right. OK. So we're going to go through each of these terms so that we get them down because we can't talk about this topic until we know what they're talking about. We've put up a couple of graphics so that's going to help the audience follow along for a moment.
ZAHN: It's going to help all of us.
GALLAGHER: Yes. So first of all, with the Rapture. The Rapture is this idea, which by the way is not in the Bible specifically, but it is this period of time when they say Christians are going to be taken up into heaven and waiting there while all of this tribulation goes on on Earth, as it were. They say it can happen at any time, that's why you hear a lot of the preachers saying you better be prepared because you're going to be Raptured at any time when you least expect it. That's the idea of the Rapture.
Then the tribulation is when this period of seven years, they say, it's going to be wars and trials on earth. We are not in it yet, according to them, but you will hear them talking about pre-tribulation and post-tribulation. This is the time when the Antichrist, whoever he or she may be, this figure they say is going to come to power and all of the countries are going to align behind this Antichrist leading to Armageddon, this big war. The term is taken from Mount Megiddo in Israel, it's an actual place in the Bible. And in the Bible it says on this mountain there will be the kings will gather.
From that, they decided there's going to be this huge battle of good and evil, and at that time at Armageddon, the world as we know it, they say, will be destroyed, and they say "as we know it" because there follows a thousand-year period of peace, and that is a period when those Christians who have been Raptured come back down to earth with Jesus, and a thousand-year period of peace follows.
So they say that the world doesn't actually end, that they actually have this wonderful time of peace. Now, you know, the fact is that these periods of Rapture and tribulation and so on are also preceded by signs and they say that some of these signs we are already seeing right now. So let's take a look.
[begin video clip]
ROSENBERG: There's a lot of signs that suggest to us right now that we are living in the last days. Jesus was very clear, you're looking for wars, rumors of wars, revolutions, famines.
GALLAGHER: And those who believe in End Time prophecy also say for more proof that we're in the last days, consider the Real ID Act. It's a post-9-11 law that calls for all Americans to have a federally issued identification card by May of 2008.
But what you may not know is that by signing the legislation, some Armageddon believers say President Bush fulfilled a biblical prophecy, taking the world a step closer to the End Times. They believe that assigning every American an identification number is a fulfillment of Revelation 13, that reads, "And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand or in their foreheads. And that no man might buy or sell, save that he had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
IRVIN BAXTER JR. [pastor, Endtime Ministries]: We believe this is setting up the mechanism, the prophesied mechanism of the mark of the beast that was mentioned in Revelation 13, 2,000 years ago.
GALLAGHER: Followers say if you need more proof that we're headed for the final countdown, just consider some recent natural disasters.
BAXTER: The Bible talks about tsunamis, it talks about the waves in the sea roaring, it talks about a dramatic increase in earthquakes.
TREADWELL: We believe this is a fulfillment of this prophecy that in the last days there will be many earthquakes in many places.
GALLAGHER: While there's no scientific evidence to support a dramatic increase in the number of earthquakes, believers also make accusations of a military alliance they say will play a role in the coming of the End Times.
ROSENBERG: Russia and Iran and their Islamic allies will attack Israel, but Israel will not defend itself using military weapons. God is going to supernaturally intervene. We're talking about fire from heaven, we're talking about a massive earthquake, we're talking about disease spreading. It will involve a supernatural judgment that the whole world will watch on CNN.
[end video clip]
GALLAGHER: And I think it's important to say, Paula, that, you know, not all Christians subscribe to the idea of Rapture or even Armageddon, but as you can see, for many people, it is a source of endless fascination.
ZAHN: And passion as well.
ZAHN: Delia Gallagher, thanks so much. We're going to take a short break and continue now in just a minute or so when I will ask a "Top Story" panel, including the Reverend Jerry Falwell, if they're worried.
ZAHN: Welcome back. Our "Top Story" coverage continues with our look at the question of why so many conservative Christians in the U.S. are taking the fighting in the Mideast as a sign that the end of the world may be near. And joining me now, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who has said the conflict may be a prelude to Armageddon. And the Reverend Kevin Bean of St. Bartholomew's Church here in New York, who says the Book of Revelation is being misread. Glad to have both of you with us tonight.
Reverend Falwell, I'm going to start with you and read something that you recently had on your website where you said, "It is apparent, in light of the rebirth of the state of Israel, that the present day events in the holy land may very well serve as a prelude or forerunner to the future battle of Armageddon and the glorious return of Jesus Christ."
Why do you think this current conflict may be just that, the prelude to the end of the world?
FALWELL: Well, Paula, I believe in the premillenial, pre-tribulational coming of Christ for all of his church, and to summarize that, your first poll, do you believe Jesus coming the second time will be in the future, I would vote yes with the 59 percent and with Billy Graham and most evangelicals.
The second question, you asked, "Do you think he is coming in your lifetime?" I would vote neither yes nor no. I would vote I do not know, because Jesus said, "No man knows the day or the hour." So the bottom line is, I believe that we ought to be living every day as though this is the crowning day. But we should also be planning and working with the next generation in mind, because we do not know.
ZAHN: Reverend Bean. Reverend Falwell, in spite of the certitude of some people we spoke with in Delia Gallagher's piece, said, "We just don't know." Do you think Armageddon is near?
BEAN: I think our responsibility is for here and now, and I think that any correlation that is made with present war making or other political schemes with the events that could lead to a final day and the coming -- second coming of Jesus and the separation of the faithful from the rest is an arrogant identification with these present-day events with --
ZAHN: Arrogant, you say, and yet the Bible does talk about one-third of the world being wiped out, a world filled with 10-headed beasts, things coming up out of the ocean.
BEAN: Yes, you're speaking of very colorful, very mysterious, very horrific, and very obscure language in the apocalyptic genre of biblical literature, Revelation to John being one of those. But there are other parts of the Bible.
And I say arrogant and irresponsible identification of these present-day events because they are our destructive action, and you can't correlate our destructive action with some sort of plan of God, with some sort of plan or will of an all-loving God.
ZAHN: Let's let Reverend Falwell jump in there about the irresponsibility of thinking this way and the arrogance, when in fact man has brought, I think you're saying, a lot of this on himself.
ZAHN: A quick thought, Reverend Falwell?
FALWELL: Well, I think the big difference between Reverend Bean and Dr. Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell and millions of evangelicals is, we believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God, and I suspect Reverend Bean does not, nor does he take the Book of Revelation or the Book of John to be the literal words of God.
We do take that, but I was very clear a moment ago to say that no man knows the day of the hour. I do believe the Lord is coming, I do believe the entire church will be Raptured up, I do believe there will be seven years of tribulation at the end of which will there be a battle of Armageddon, as you just described and probably worse than that, and then there will be a thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth, when our Lord Jesus will come in power and in great glory to rule with his saints.
ZAHN: We've got to leave this in 10 seconds, just a quick rejoinder.
BEAN: Scripture rejects a heaven where anyone is left behind, that's another point that the folks made.
FALWELL: I never found that verse.
BEAN: And I have to say, you're separating Christians and non-Christians, Israeli and Palestinian, Jew and Muslim, and that is not where God is with this.
FALWELL: And that is not theology, either.
ZAHN: Well, Reverends, it's a discussion that could go on for some time. I hate cutting off reverends, but I have to. We have to move on. Love to have both of you back --
FALWELL: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: -- because this is certainly something that has gotten a lot of people in America very worried. I appreciate your time.
Now we continue our "Top Story" coverage, and we move onto a story in Hollywood that is a real shocker. Mel Gibson is checking into rehab after a run-in with police. But what about the allegations of special treatment by the police and charges that he spewed a bunch of anti-Semitic remarks? We'll go in depth next.