Joel C. Rosenberg: Posing The Questions
He’s strategized for Rush Limbaugh, Steve Forbes and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s spoken at the White House and the International Spy Museum. More than a million copies of his books are in print.
Yet when he began writing his first novel, The Last Jihad, best-selling author Joel Rosenberg never had taken a class on writing. He barely even had time to read novels during his 10 years in Washington, D.C., as a communications strategist. Now his sixth novel, The Twelfth Imam, is hot off the press and reads like it’s ripped straight from tomorrow’s headlines.
“When I wrote my nonfiction books, part of the story I was tracking was the end times theology held by the current leaders of Iran,” Rosenberg says. “They believe the Islamic Messiah, known as the Twelfth Imam, is going to come at any moment and bring about the end of the world. They are supposed to help accelerate the end of the world by destroying Israel and the United States in the process. I asked myself, ‘What if an Islamic messiah does come to earth?’ Jesus said that false messiahs would come, so what would that look like?”
Rosenberg’s main character in the novel, David Shirazi, is sent into Tehran to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Then the prophesied Twelfth Imam appears performing signs, miracles, and healings. Iran prepares to strike Israel, and Shirazi has to save his country and the world.
It’s no accident Joel’s novels resemble current events, but it’s important to him to remain biblically accurate while still telling a compelling story. “I think about that a lot,” Rosenberg says. “It doesn’t come naturally. People can say, ‘Just make it up. It doesn’t really matter.’ But it matters to me, because the premise [in all my books] is: What if the actual Bible prophecies come true? I don’t want to cobble together what seems fun from the Bible and make a commercial story out of it. That’s not what I’m trying to do.”
Yet in the first pages of Rosenberg’s novel The Last Jihad he described a terrorist attack on a major U.S. city using a hijacked airliner. This intrigued the national media—Rosenberg wrote the novel nine months before Sept. 11—and he was catapulted onto more than 160 radio and TV shows.
Eventually he caught the eye of Tyndale House. “Everyone on pub committee went crazy over his writing,” says Ron Beers, Tyndale’s senior vice president and group publisher. “Joel is not only an extremely talented writer, but he has an uncanny ability to write fiction that seems to coincide perfectly with events occurring in the season the book launches.”
Rosenberg is quick to point out he doesn’t claim to be a a prophet. “I’m writing about things God already has said in His scriptures will happen in the future, and I’m trying to imagine from my limited vantage point how we might get there.”
hopes to encourage
people to ask the
questions of all:
“What if we’re
getting closer to the
coming of Jesus?
How do I live my
life differently be-
cause of that? That is
my main goal—not to
persuade people that something’s going to
happen in a certain order, but to ask people: ‘Given what we’re seeing, how should
we live differently’?” FF