WAR:  Bible's End-Time Prophecies True?

Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of humankind. The number of the troops of cavalry was two hundred million; I heard their number." Revelation 9:13-16

The Rev. Irvin Baxter, who lives in Richmond, Ind., and works as the pastor of Oak Park Church and the editor of Endtime magazine, told the Associated Press that he's "75 to 80 percent sure" this description from the ninth chapter of the New Testament's Book of Revelation is a description of the pending war in Iraq. He believes this war is the sixth trumpet. He believes it foretells a nuclear holocaust that will kill one-third of the people on Earth. He believes this is the end-time.

Baxter told AP he hopes he's wrong, but he thinks the fifth trumpet mentioned in Revelation-- "...and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft"--may have already been fulfilled when Saddam Hussein set the oil fields ablaze in the first Gulf War.

And he's not the only one who thinks the Bible's prophecies in Revelation are coming true. Are we heading straight into the Apocalypse and God's final judgment? It's a hot topic right now from Sunday morning Bible study groups in church basements to Web chat rooms.

Here are two clues from the Book of Revelation that lead some people to think this is the end-time:

Euphrates River The Euphrates River runs through Iraq, just miles from Baghdad. Not only is it referenced in the ninth chapter quoted above, but also later in Revelation. The bowl contains God's anger: The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. Revelation: 16:12

Destroyer=Saddam They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. Revelation 9:11 If the numbers of this chapter and verse aren't enough to give you the shivers, try this: Both the Hebrew "Abaddon" and the Greek "Apollyon" mean "destroyer," which is also one of the meanings of the name "Saddam."

"Iraq fits like hand in glove," Baxter told Washington Post reporter Bill Broadway.

But not all theologians and biblical scholars agree the end-time is near. One such person is Craig C. Hill, a professor of the New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. and the author of "In God's Time: The Bible and the Future." He told The Post that apocalyptic thinking is a fatalistic worldview that prevents people from enjoying the life they have now. It also makes them become "morally complacent," he said.

It's very difficult to read Revelation literally, filled as it is with symbolism, numerology, and visions that can be interpreted many different ways. Catholic theologian Dr. Paul Thigpen told Greenville (South Carolina) News reporter Deb Richardson-Moore: "In different generations, people will plug in the values. They'll take whatever is going on in their day and make it a one-on-one equivalent with things in the book of Revelation."

The Rev. Elva Martin, pastor of the Word of Truth Assembly of God in Anderson, S.C., says we shouldn't be afraid. God is in control. "People are getting very upset about all of this and wondering if we're going to be blown off the map by Iraq," she told The Greenville News. "I feel like when they see this, they'll come out with a stronger faith in God."

--Cathryn Conroy