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A line in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah has led a number of people to believe US military action in Syria will lead to the end of the world.
Isaiah 17:1 reads: "The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap... The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the Lord of hosts."
As President Obama mulls a major air offensive against the Assad regime following the use of chemical weapons, fundamentalists have suggested this prophecy is now coming to pass, with believers interpreting the passage to foretell the Armageddon or the Second Coming of Christ.
The rest of the chapter talks about destruction, lending itself to theories of the apocalypse: "The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind," it says.
Others suggest Syria's destruction marks the return of the Messiah from the lines: "At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel."
Some believe Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled in 732BC when the Assyrians destroyed Damascus, but others are less convinced.
Chris Schang, writing on Rapture Forums, said: "With the terrorist groups that operate out of Damascus building up arms caches on the border of Israel in anticipation of another war in the near future, it may not be long before this prophecy from Isaiah 17 becomes history."
Carl Gallups, pastor and author of The Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith, also said Isaiah's prophecy is coming true.
He told WND: "Many students of the Word of God see a major alignment of ancient prophecies regarding the end times being fulfilled right before our eyes. More importantly, we are the first generation in history to see such dramatic and striking alignments."
However, Jan Markell, founder and program host at Olive Tree Ministries, told the Chicago Sun Times that it is not inevitable that the war in Syria will end in Armageddon: "To say what's happening now [in Syria] is going to lead to that would be pretty reckless but I think it's safe to say what's happening could lead to that," she said.
Floyd Elmore, professor of theology at Southern Evangelical Seminary, North Carolina, also said no one can be certain Isaiah's prophecy is coming to pass, telling the Christian Post: "Since the Lord said 'no man knows the day or the hour when He comes,' I don't really think that anyone can say with absolute certainty that these specific events are going to lead to the End Times Catastrophe."
However, Robert Mulholland, formally of the Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, said he does not think the Armageddon is upon us and that End of Days are regularly related to the Book of Isaiah.
"The same was predicted during both the first and the second Iraq conflicts - to say nothing of the various conflicts between Israel and its neighbours," He told the Post. "Of course, Israel's long and complex relationship with Damascus throughout the Old Testament period provides great grist for the speculation mills.
"If one wanted to try to make the case for Isaiah 17 predicting the end times, then Iran, the present day successor to Assyria, would be responsible for Damascus' demise and not its primary ally."