Many Christians wonder if the rise of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also known as ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and IS (Islamic State), is a sign of the end times. ISIS has attracted a lot of attention due to its brutal tactics in gaining and maintaining control over territory in Iraq and Syria and its terrorism in other parts of the world (most notably the November 2015 Paris and June 2016 Orlando attacks).
ISIS’s murder of Middle Eastern Christians has been particularly heinous. The way ISIS has been beheading Christians (and other victims) reminds many of Revelation 20:4, which predicts the manner of execution the Antichrist will use during the tribulation; “Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God.” And, of course, the fact that ISIS is attempting to establish its Islamic caliphate so close to the borders of Israel is a definite matter of concern.
There is no biblical prophecy that explicitly predicts the rise of ISIS. The Bible prophesies an increase in wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6), and Jesus declared that persecution will be the experience of anyone who seeks to follow Him (John 15:18–20). Further, Second Timothy 3:1–4 could be seen as a fitting description of ISIS in many ways: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
But these passages do not specifically predict ISIS. Rather, they inform us what the end times will be like. As a result, we should not be surprised by the rise of ISIS. The world is going to get worse before the end times, and then the world will get exponentially worse during the end times (see Revelation 6–18).
Is ISIS a definite sign of the end times? No. Is ISIS a possible sign of the end times? Yes. Could the actions of ISIS lead to a greater conflict that fulfills one of the end-times wars prophesied in the Bible? Yes. But, presently, the world is united against ISIS. Does that unity set the stage for a global government, as predicted in Scripture? Could the world’s being united against a great evil like ISIS eventually lead to the rise of the greatest evil the world will ever see, the Antichrist?
Ultimately, we will have to wait and see what role, if any, ISIS plays in the end times. At this time, ISIS is simply proof of what the Bible says about how evil humanity can become without Christ (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10–18).