During a recent speaking tour in the United Kingdom, I was asked a question that frequently arises from secular folks in my audiences, and sometimes even from professing Christians and Jews.

“Why are you evangelicals so eager for the apocalypse to take place?”

Usually the question is followed by a critical modifier such as “You are all so focused on violence and death,” or “Why not work for peace instead of dwell on war and conflict?”

I replied that it is hard not to notice that the world is falling apart. After all, it is usually non-religious scientists and activists, not doomsday Christians, who are warning the global community every day that we are wrecking our planet’s delicate ecological system with polluting automobiles and spreading smokestack industry, massive deforestation and slash burning, overpopulation, etc.

If you add soaring worldwide cancer rates, spiraling viral plagues like AIDS and other diseases, increasingly devastating earthquakes, floods and tidal waves, expanding deserts adding to growing famine, melting icebergs around the north and south poles, burgeoning international terror attacks, gang violence and murder rates, and mushrooming nuclear weapons proliferation – most recently in libertarian lights like Pakistan and North Korea, with radical Shiite Iran apparently also well along the way to owning The Bomb – you have good reason to sleep a little less soundly at night, evangelical Christian or not.

The ancient Hebrew prophets, including Jesus of Nazareth, foretold that the world would be engulfed by unprecedented political, military and ecological upheaval as history raced toward its final chapter. As I told my most recent questioner, this is simply a matter of fact, as any cursory reading of the Old and New Testaments will confirm.

Of course, other world religions duplicate this apocalyptic scenario, especially Islam, even if the details sometimes differ. Popular psychics and mystics like Nostradamus and Jean Dixon have long echoed this rather bleak prognosis of how human history will end.

The Hebrew prophets’ contemporary Israeli cousins are feeling a little apocalyptic themselves these days. For the first time since just before the 1967 Six Day war, a Jewish prime minister has publicly voiced fears that the small state’s continued existence is now in question.

In a statement to his fellow cabinet ministers in early October, Ehud Olmert spoke about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated vow in recent months that the world’s only Jewish-run state would soon be completely obliterated by his theocratic Shiite Muslim country.

“From the point of view of seriousness, this tops the state of Israel’s list,” the prime minister laconically told his government subordinates, adding ominously that “It is potentially an existential threat.” Olmert later reportedly admitted to visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Iranian annihilation pledge “keeps him awake” at night.

Under widespread attack for his controversial management of the inconclusive summer war with rogue Hezbollah militiamen in Lebanon, the embattled Israeli leader confided to his cabinet ministers that he firmly believes that President Bush will take care of the looming Iranian nuclear threat. But opinion polls show few Israelis expect the U.S. president – whose final-stretch popularity ratings are almost as low as Olmert’s already are in his first months in office – will actually bite the radioactive atomic bullet.

This might mean that tiny Israel will end up having to defend the Free World all by itself against Hitler’s Aryan clone; a nightmarish prospect at best.

But at least that would prove to the Israeli public that Dubya is not the Promised Messiah, nor the United States Israel’s Ultimate Protector, as many now firmly believe.

Speaking of Messiah, a recent survey carried out by the Smith Institute for the country’s largest daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, showed that a clear majority of Israelis believe he will come to rescue the country in its darkest hour, as the ancient prophets foretold.

Although the same poll showed that only one-third of the Jewish population bothers to visit a synagogue on a regular basis, a full 71 percent believe that the God of Israel actually exists. On top of that, 57 percent think that the long-expected Messiah will appear one day in Jerusalem. Most added that they are aware of the apocalyptic prophecies that strongly indicate that the day of his arrival may be drawing very near.

In light of this decade’s horrific Palestinian terrorist attrition war that has so far taken the lives of over 1,000 Israelis and the latest Lebanon conflict with Iran’s proxy force that snuffed out another 160 lives and left the northern third of the country reeling from daily rocket bombardments, it is no surprise that 39 percent of the poll respondents testified that they have become closer to their ancestral faith in recent years. Only 9 percent said the decade’s dramatic events have driven them further from God.

Since the Hebrew prophets foretold that Israel’s salvation, not nuclear destruction, is the ultimate outcome of the monstrous upheaval predicted for the end of days, it should not be surprising that the turbulent events of recent years are apparently literally driving many in this special Promised Land to their knees. With medical science now confirming that possessing heartfelt spiritual convictions is healthy for mind and body, and with the prophets also forecasting a golden age of peace under Messiah’s righteous rule, I am quite happy to mention the biblical last days in my international lectures – scary or not.

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