April 1976 · Vol. 5 No. 2 · pp. 36–38 

Book Review

Armageddon: Oil and the Middle East Crisis; What the Bible Says About the Future of the Middle East and the End of Western Civilization

John F. Walvoord and John E. Walvoord. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1974.

Reviewed by Ben C. Ollenburger

This is not a book about eschatology. John F. Walvoord (President of Dallas Theological Seminary) and his son, John E. Walvoord, have combined to write a book “intended to answer normal questions about the future.” It is of course expected that anyone who gains such knowledge “will be attracted to Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord.” Armageddon is thus an apologetic work cast in the form of an apocalypse.

As should be expected, the Walvoords adopt a dispensational “method.” The word “method” is used advisedly because the assumptions which permit their futuristic panorama to be drawn from apparently innocent biblical texts are never clarified—or even mentioned. We are simply assured that their interpretations will be followed by “anyone who is searching for answers,” because they (the interpretations) have been stated by “serious students of prophecy.” It is never admitted that there may be other interpretations of any texts, nor is it admitted that the Walvoords’ interpretation of certain texts would be considered extremely odd by other “serious students” of the Bible.

The subtitle of Armageddon is “Oil and the Middle East Crisis.” It is the event of the oil crisis which provides the basis for the book. The thesis is that the power gained by the Arabs through the control of oil has shifted power in the world to the Mid-East and away from Russia and the U.S. Because of their newly acquired power, the Arabs will be able to force Israel into a peace agreement which will be to the benefit of the Arabs. The peace agreement will succeed only if one powerful, charismatic individual (not Kissinger) emerges as the commonly accepted leader and is able to shape one central government. He would also have to mold the competing religious factions into a unified body. We have then the Antichrist, the one world government and the world religion, all of which “the Bible predicts.”

Of course, Arabs being what they are, the world leader will turn on the naively trusting Jews after three and a half years and persecute them mercilessly, claiming divinity for himself. At the conclusion of seven full years Russia will no longer be able to tolerate being out of power and will launch an attack (with the assistance of 200,000,000 Chinese troops, plus the rest of the world) on Megiddo—Armageddon. Since Megiddo could not contain all these {37} armies we are assured that they will be deployed in strategic locations around that valley.

These hundreds of millions of troops will wage a tremendous battle—but it is only a ploy. Antichrist has caused the war so that all those troops will be present to unite against a more significant foe. At the pitch of battle, and with a deafening clash of symbols, the armies of the world will engage Christ’s army in a fight to the death. As Christ begins his descent from heaven (it will be a slow descent, taking place during several revolutions of the earth so that all the earth will see him) the armies will stop fighting each other and will unite against Christ and his host. Christ will win.

The Walvoords are adamant against “calendarizing.” They will only say that 1) nothing is left to be fulfilled prior to the church’s rapture; 2) the establishment of Israel as a state in 1948 could be the “first stage” of the Armageddon calendar; 3) the oil crisis is the second stage in that same calendar; 4) Christ will undoubtedly come very soon, probably in this generation.

I suppose the only way to justify a review of this book is to talk about interpretation. There is one fundamental principle which guides all interpretation for the Walvoords: all Scripture is to be correlated with the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Bible has one unique function: it predicts the future—very meticulously. This is the hermeneutical umbrella under which every morsel of Scripture stands. Thus even such inoffensive texts as Psalm 2, 24, 72 and 96 are squeezed without mercy until they can be strained through Daniel and Revelation into the great “sequence of events.” Subsidiary to Daniel and Revelation as key texts are Matthew 24-25 and Mark 13. The function of the Bible is to give us knowledge, upon which we will “prepare” for the Lord’s coming. What “prepare” means we are not told. It is enough to know.

I do not know how to critique the hermeneutics of this neognosticism except to say that the Bible does not say that. Nowhere within the Bible is the second coming of Christ identified as the key to understanding Scripture, or as the most significant part of the Bible’s message. The Walvoords completely ignore the life of Jesus and the significance of his words, “follow me.” Not one line of this book is concerned with how one should live in the light of Jesus’ coming. We are given only such vagaries as “prepare,” “trust.” Any “key” to understanding him and his words begins out of bounds.

The glasses given to the Walvoords, through which they can read the stones, reveal that Matthew 25:31-46 refers to the judgment of Gentile nations on the basis of how they have treated the Jews. They reveal that Ezekiel was speaking of Russia in chapters 38-39; that Isaiah 2:3 refers to the millennium; that Revelation 13 refers to the antichrist and his Palestinian kingdom.

The assumptions which the Walvoords bring to their reading of Scripture are easily detected: the Scriptures present a blueprint of the future. This blueprint shows that Russia will be judged for her atheism, while the U.S. is rewarded for favoring the Jews. (Despite the influences of the radicals in the sixties, Watergate in the seventies, and “liberalism,” America is morally commendable.) The Arabs will be punished for usurping land which was promised to the Jews. American liberals (political? economic? religious?) will be proven wrong.

In conclusion, Armageddon is not a biblical book; nor is it a book about eschatology. It is a book which tries to forecast the future based on guesses {38} into political events, hoping to show us when and how “eternity begins” (sic!).

The book concludes with a four-step conversion plan entitled, “How to have a Happy and Meaningful Life.”

Ben C. Ollenburger
Instructor in Religious Studies and Philosophy
Tabor College, Kansas