A Commentary by David Virkler
Recent events in ancient Bible lands have brought their geography, history and prophecy into sharp focus. High-profile biblical areas reach from Genesis to Revelation—a span of at least 6,000 years. Some of these lands are obscure to all but avid readers of the Bible and students of sacred history. However, everyone should rise to the challenge of comparing modern places with ancient history.
Most of these countries have key roles in end-time prophecy. A key factor in judging the preeminence of Scripture is its prophetic element. This is a feature found in no other world religion. Islam, with its untold millions of adherents, has no prophecy to speak of.
If the Bible is out of date, it’s because it’s ahead of its time. Cultures have come and gone, but God’s Word stands uncontested in forecasting peoples and events. What we are seeing today in events in the Middle East underscores that. For more information and background on the conflicts in the Middle East, see our other commentaries “Israel: What You Should Know,” “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” and “Iraq and the Bible.”
Arab Country or Muslim Country?
Westerners sometimes lump all Arabs into a Muslim category, but that is not accurate. An Arab is usually defined as one who speaks Arabic and has Arab culture. These people originally came from Arabia, which is usually defined as the Sinai Peninsula and all of Saudi Arabia. Not all Arabs are Muslims, however, and not all Muslims are Arabic. For instance, there are Christian Arabs living in Bethlehem and other cities in Israel. A country may be a Muslim country but not an Arab country. For instance, Iran is not an Arab country, but it is a Muslim country. There are a number of other Muslim countries that are not Arab such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Azerbaijan, southern Russia and Indonesia.
A study of Middle Eastern countries would be incomplete without taking a look at Islam. To consider the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Israel in a strictly geo-political light is inadequate. In the conflicts, the Muslim theology of radical Islam is coming to light. The conflict is indeed a holy—or unholy—war. Perhaps all the commotion will get Islamic theology out in the open.
A follower of Islam is called a Muslim. Islam is basically in conflict with anything—especially any religion—which is not Islam. About 90% of Muslims hold to the perceived finer points of Islam and ignore or spiritualize the parts that suggest or even command forced conversion or violent advance. Behind much of the present disorder are the prophetic views of the Shiites, a sect of Islam. Sadly most of the peaceful Muslims fail to condemn the wrongs being done in the name of Islam.
Islam means “peace” or “subjection,” which would be submission to their god, Allah, as he is called. Allah can be traced to a single pagan god, the moon god Sin, who can be found throughout pagan belief in the Middle East. The moon god evidently was married to the sun goddess and had daughters. He was among many pagan gods worshipped at Mecca. Sin’s title was Al Illah, which was shortened to Allah. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, chose one pagan god among many and announced him to be the greatest. If there is any doubt about the connection, the crescent moon is seen above every mosque and appears on the flags of several Muslim nations.
The name of the moon god found its way into the name Sinai (Sin Ai). Here the contrast between the God of the Bible and the pagan god of Islam is very clear. It was at Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula—the land and place dedicated to the moon god—that the Ten Commandments were given. The first commandment says “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The God of the Bible forbade the worship of the moon, and Israel was forbidden to revere the sun or moon in many passages (Deuteronomy 4:19, 17:3; II Kings 21:3 & 5, 23:5; Jeremiah 8:2; 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5 and others). This proves that Israel did not borrow their concept of God from the pagan moon god worshippers.
Jehovah, or Yahweh as he is sometimes called, is not Allah. Mohammed tried to convince Christians and Jews that the gods were the same when he received his revelations in strange trances, but they knew better. When multiple pagan god worshippers persisted in their polytheism and Christians and Jews refused to do so, Mohammed went on the rampage attacking and killing those who refused. It is still happening today.
In Islam, there is no such thing as separation of church and state. If you examine the flags of Islamic nations, you will find that they mostly prove that they are religious states of Islam. The flags of Turkey, Pakistan and Algeria even have the crescent moon on them. Turkey has become the only republic that I know of in the Middle East even though it still touts Islam on its flag. Turkey is where several first century churches were located including Ephesus, Galatia and Colosse, and where the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3 were located. Paul traversed much of Turkey during his missionary trips. Perhaps the present unique political blessing in Turkey is a result of that.
Bahrain’s flag has red, signifying a sect of Islam, and has five jagged edges for the five pillars of Islam. Sudan’s flag is green and red. Green is a symbolic color of Islam, and red depicts Islamic martyrs. Religion and state are clearly one. The flag of Saudi Arabia, where Islam began, is green with Arabic script across it reading, “There is no God but one (meaning Allah) and Mohammed is His messenger.” That quite clearly makes religion and state one. The Jordanian flag has three colors emblematic of the three Caliphs (successors) of Mohammed. Iraq’s flag has “God is Great” meaning of course, Allah, written in green. Afghanistan’s flag has a mosque on it with the inscription, “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.” Libya’s is all green and means the country is all about Allah and Islam.
On Iran’s flag the inscription, “God is great” appears 11 times on the top green band. In the middle white band is a stylized design saying “Allah” in the form of a tulip. The bottom band of red again has the words, “God is great” written 11 more times. So this national flag tells us 23 times that Iran is Allah’s special country. That says lots about the current struggle in Lebanon.
When Mohammed died in 637 AD, he left no designated successor. One group, who became the Shiites, felt that the successor (called an imam) should be of Mohammed’s family. Another group, who became the Sunnis, felt a successor (called a caliph) should be chosen by some democratic will of the majority. The two groups disagreed, and this led to one group killing the other group’s leader, Mohammed’s cousin/son-in-law Ali. The killing spread, and the continuing slaughter among early Muslims is far too bloody and extensive to recount here.
Out of this great conflict came the two major divisions in Islam. Today, the majority of Muslims (90%) are Sunni. Sunnis believe that leadership must be earned and can be taken away by the people. Al-Qaeda is Sunni. The Shiites are the minority (10%) with most of their numbers in Iraq and Iran. Shiites believe their leaders are sinless and that their authority comes from Allah. The death of Ali and persecution of early Shiites has caused them to highly esteem martyrdom. Zarqawi’s group in Iraq is Shiite as is Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Iran is dominated almost entirely by Shiites under their rabidly violent leader, who believes in the coming of the Islamic Messiah. There were twelve imams with Ali being the first. The twelfth imam went into hiding when just a young boy. This is known as physical occultation—going to a secret place. Later, he disappeared. Shiites believe he went into “spiritual occultation” and that he will return and bring total peace to the world and will be seen by Jews and Christians as a messiah. Sunnis also believe in the Twelfth Imam, but they believe he is yet to be born or is alive but has not yet been revealed.
Iran’s president is striving to create conditions of total world chaos to encourage the Imam Mahdi, as he’s called, to emerge from occultation and take over the world in a perfect Islamic society. Some thought that the Aytollah Homeini, who took over Iran when the Shah was run off, was this Twelfth Imam. He didn’t say he was, but he didn’t say he wasn’t.
Iran and its Shiites are funding Hezbollah through Syria to destroy Israel and, for that matter, the western world and the non-Muslim world. The bloody engagements in the Lebanese conflict were like appetizers for the “Twelvers” as they are called. Iran’s president is trying to strengthen the Shiites of southern Lebanon and gain converts so he can destroy Israel, the west and bring the Twelfth Imam out of occultation. In his mind, he is doing Allah a favor.
The Bible has it right, and Islam has it wrong. Throughout history, counterfeits of the truth abound. Twelve imams is no doubt a numerical counterfeit of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples. There were twelve tribes, and from one—Judah—came Christ through the house of David. There were twelve disciples, but none of them was the Savior.
Christ came as the virgin-born Messiah to die on the cross for our sins. We don’t die for God in order to gain Heaven. Christ died for us to forgive us and guarantee us heaven, free by His forgiving grace.
Christ was buried but clearly came out of the grave and was seen by His disciples. Before going to Heaven, He sent evangelists out with the message of a loving, personal God who is knowable through the single mediator, Jesus Christ.
He is coming back one day to remove the completed Church from this earth. Then total chaos will indeed reign. However, it will not be through Islam’s contrived chaos but because Antichrist breaks a peace covenant during the last half of the seven-year period known as the Great Tribulation. Christ will return in the sky with all the redeemed of heaven and put down a global revolt centering in an attack on Jerusalem. After that begins the great Millennial reign of Christ for 1,000 years of peace.
All this was settled in the Bible, which was completely written by the end of the 1st century. Revelation 22 ends with the admonition that no one is to add to or subtract from this finished revelation. But in 610 AD, Mohammed began receiving “revelations,” which he received over the course of 40 years. They eventually became the Quaran, which is really contradictions of the Bible and not further revelations added to it. Sadly, the Bible had not been translated into Arabic when Mohammed was alive. If it had, he might have read it, and perhaps we’d not be in this present conflict. The Bible is God’s ultimate, final and authoritative word to the world. Read it, study it, believe it and live it.
Lebanon is famous for its mountains, its wine, and, of course, its trees—the cedars of Lebanon. In Bible times, these were cut, shipped south to Joppa and then transported up to Jerusalem to build Solomon’s Temple. The cedars are on the modern Lebanese flag.
Lebanon is mentioned about 65 times in the Bible. The coastal area was one from which the original invading Israelites couldn’t expel the inhabitants (Judges 1:4). The prophet Elijah was sustained by a woman of Zarephath, a city on the coast of Lebanon (I Kings 17:8-24). Jesus mentioned this in the New Testament, where the city is called Sarepta (Luke 4:26). Ancient Zarephath/Sarepta is near the modern city of Sarafand.
Some say that Tyre dates as far back as 3,000 BC. It is mentioned many times in the Bible—at least 74 times in the Old Testament and at least 12 times in the New Testament. Sometimes it is called Tyrus. Many passages mention Tyre and Sidon together. Tyre is mentioned about 39 times and Sidon 13. Jesus spent time in that region. It is where he cast a demon out of the daughter of a Syropheonician woman (Mark 7:24-30).
Present-day Tyre is Lebanon’s third largest city and has approximately 117,000 inhabitants. It is a peninsula city, which is what makes it very different than any other city along the coast. However, it was not always a peninsula. In 1,000 BC, Hirum, King of Tyre, who is mentioned in the Bible (II Samuel 5:11), evidently expanded the mainland city to include two small islands.
By 815 BC, Tyre had become an international trading wonder with colonies around the Mediterranean Sea. Early in the 6th century BC, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege of Tyre for 13 years. It was at that time that mainland residents may have fled to island areas off the coast to avoid being captured.
In 332 BC, Alexander the Great, took the city. He massacred 30,000 and sold others into slavery. In 64 BC, Tyre fell to the Romans, who conquered all of Syria as well. Later, Tyre was under Byzantium Christianity. In 634 AD, Muslim armies conquered it. Then came the Crusaders, the Mamelukes from Egypt, and finally the Ottoman Turks, who ruled until World War I. After World War I, Tyre became part of the new country of Lebanon under the British Mandate.
Ezekiel 26-29 mentions Tyre 13 times. In Ezek. 26:2-7, the city is described as “broken” and “laid waste.” Nations would come up against the city, destroy the walls and break down towers. The dust of the city would be scraped up, and it would be a place for drying nets. Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar would attack the city.
As previously mentioned, about 600 BC, the king of Babylon did just that. The other part of that prophecy remained unfulfilled for 300 years. I imagine people sneered saying God didn’t know what he was talking about. How could Tyre, a fabulous trading metropolis on the coast, be scraped up and cast into the sea?
In 332, Alexander the Great wanted Tyre. By then, it was located on an island, and he was unable to take the city. Alexander scraped up the timbers, dust and stones of old Tyre on the mainland and built a causeway out into the sea moving his battering ram along. He took the city, and the carnage was terrible. The rubble he dumped into the sea eventually became a place where fishermen dried their nets. Tyre fell exactly as Ezekiel prophesied. It may take hundreds of years, but God’s Word will always be fulfilled.
If Tyre stands as a fabulous element of fulfillment, then the Bible is also true about Christ, salvation, heaven, hell, and redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
One of the great passages of Satan’s origin and doom is in Ezekiel 28. Tyre excelled and was the merchandizing wonder of the ancient world trading far and wide. Persia (Iran), Mesech (thought to be Russia), Dedan (probably Saudi Arabia), to name a few, traded with Tyre. Behind all this was the Devil himself, and the sin of Satanic pride was rampant. In fact, Tyre considered itself god-like. Finally, God said that was enough.
But not all that is written about Tyre in the Bible is bad. Going back in history to the time of David and Solomon, there was a king in Tyre named Hiram who had great affection for David (II Sam. 5:11). Hiram sent him the famed cedar trees of Lebanon along with carpenters and masons to build his house. When David died, Hiram continued to aid his son, Solomon.
I Kings 5 describes how Hiram sent cedar and cypress to Solomon for the great new Temple. I Kings 5:9 and II Chronicles 2:16 tell how these huge logs were floated down the shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa and then transported by land to Jerusalem. Later, when the temple was rebuilt by order of Cyrus, King of Persia (modern Iran), they did this again (Ezra 3:7).
I Kings 5:12 shows that there was a peace treaty between Solomon and Hiram. It was the great era of friendship and commerce between the two kingdoms, but it was a strange situation that the King of Tyre was dealing with the King of Jerusalem.
The original land grant given to the Israelites would have included Tyre (Genesis 15:18–21), and a good part of what is now Lebanon was originally given to the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:24). Asher’s tribal land went farther than Tyre up to Sidon. Shouldn’t that have been part of the territory of David’s reign?
The Sidonians were Canaanites, and that general area was known as Phoenicia. The Canaanites included many different people according to Gen. 10:15. These sons of Canaan, who was a grandson of Noah, included the Sidonians, the Hethites and the Jebusites plus others. Their land went from Sidon to Gaza. The Jebusites were in the area of what we now call Jerusalem. The Gaza area became known as Philistia.
When the tribes came into the land under Joshua, they were to totally subdue those peoples. But Judges 2 says that the Israelites could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley. The children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem, and Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco or Zidon or a number of other cities.
The result was that God said that He would not drive out these people and that they would be thorns in their side (Judges 2:1-3). God left those nations in the land because Israel disobeyed (Judges 2:20-23). Several of these areas are specifically listed in Judges 3:1-5, namely, five lords of the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites.
Incomplete obedience to the Lord cost Israel exclusive control of Gaza, which is the area of the Palestinian mess today, and it cost them any control of the area of Lebanon, now a hotbed of terrorism with Hezbollah. It also cost them complete control of Jerusalem. The Muslims have control of the Temple Mount, and the city is tragically divided.
God is teaching us a very important lesson in bringing these cities into the focus of modern war. Incomplete obedience results in incomplete blessing.
The area of Iran is mentioned much in the Bible. In fact, it is the second most mentioned land area in the Bible after Israel.
Iran was in turn ruled by the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, and the Greeks. These successive empires are outlined in Daniel 2 & 7. Until 1935, Iran was called by its Bible name—Persia. The modern name of Iran is derived from the word “aryan”. During World War II, the Persian foreign affairs minister to Germany was influenced by Hitler, who believed in Aryan supremacy. “Aryan” was a word in Persian for “land of the Aryans,” which was actually the race of the Iranians. Because it seemed that Persia could shed itself of British and Russian influences, the name was changed to Iran to signal a new beginning. Germany lost the war, and, because there was long-standing monarchy in place, the Shah, as he was called, ruled with friendly relations with the West.
Very few realize that there is an astounding biblical range of the area of Iran. Iran, or Persia, is mentioned in relation to the rule of the Medes and Persians. The Persian Empire of those years was a sprawling dominion from India to Greece. It was the second of four massive empires forecast by Daniel in Daniel 2 & 7.
Persia is often mentioned in relation to the rule of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus is mentioned in II Chronicles, Ezra, Isaiah and Daniel where Jews taken in the Babylonian captivity were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Darius I is mentioned in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. Darius confirmed Cyrus’ decree and ordered the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The story of Esther takes place under the rule of Xerxes, also called Ahasuerus. Artexerxes I is mentioned in Ezra and Nehemiah. It was Artexerxes who allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city’s wall.
In 614 the Persians came into Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. They would have destroyed the Church of the Nativity but for one thing. On the walls were frescoes—pictures painted on plaster—that showed the Wise Men of the East coming to worship the Christ child. The Bible word for them is “magi,” and some think this is related to a tribal identity and that they were Medes. If so, the Medes were some of the very first worshippers of Christ and perhaps actual converts. When the Persians saw these painting on the walls, they recognized them as coming from their own culture, and they were so awed that they left the church intact.
Recently, Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former Shah of Iran, gave a lengthy interview to Human Events. His father abdicated and fled from Iran when the Aytollah Homeini took over. The Ayatollah, a rabid Islamic fundamentalist, had been agitating for power while living in Paris. He returned to Iran to form what he called an Islamic Republic. (A missionary told me there is no such thing. What passes for a republic turns out to be a combination of church-state domination by Islam.) Shortly after, the Shah’s son began a long effort to sit again on the royal Iranian throne since he feels he is the rightful heir to the Pahlavi monarchy. He believes he will return one day as Shah of Iran in what he calls a parliamentary monarchy.
Put this into the context of Revelation 16:12. “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (emphasis mine). Interestingly, Revelation calls these rulers kings, which is usually associated with an area ruled by a sovereign. When the Bible speaks of a compass direction, it is in relation to Israel, the center of the earth. The Euphrates, across which massive armies eventually march, is mostly east of Israel. Iran is to the east of that. We do not want to jump to conclusions, but it is no stretch to say that those ancient Bible lands are ever becoming a more clear focus of modern fulfillment.
King Darius was described as a special servant of God in Isaiah 44:28. God sometimes uses the worst of men to accomplish His best purposes. In that case, it was the rebuilding of the Temple. The flip side is that Iran and that part of the world is influenced by very strong demonic powers. In Daniel 10, the curtain is drawn aside on this demonic battle. An angelic being, probably Gabriel who had already spoken to Daniel (Dan. 9:21), brings the prophet a message. He declares that he’s been fighting with “the Prince of the Kingdom of Persia” for three weeks. But Michael, the Archangel (Jude 1:9), overcomes this wicked creature, probably a fallen angel and the good angel gets through.
Then, in verse 20 we see the battle resumed. “I must return to fight with the prince of Persia.” Another battle is anticipated, and the good angel says, “And when I have gone forth, the prince of Greece will come” (Daniel 10:21). He adds that his spiritual cohort in the supernatural battle, Michael, will come and help the good angel in that supernatural battle. In the book of Daniel alone we see two good angels and two very bad ones in awesome spiritual battle in that area of the world.
The Bible is very clear that there is a spiritual warfare going on around us all the time. Is there any better explanation for the chaos prevailing in the Middle East? Daniel teaches us that there are resident demons, or territorial demons as some call them. Iran and Iraq are special examples of this. This probably holds true over the entire earth, but there are certain places where these demons have held very long and powerful sway. Revelation says that demons are especially loosed in the Great Tribulation. Some of these are imprisoned in the Euphrates River area (Rev. 9:14) to prepare the way for the rulers of the East to surge across Asia and attack Israel.
I believe that there is evidence of demonic strongholds even here in the U.S. Sometimes there is simply no visible explanation for situations other than that it may be a stronghold of demonic power. Paul wrote that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). There is a wrestling match going on, and some of the powers are in heavenly places. It is indeed spiritual warfare.
The outcome of this spiritual wrestling does not depend on our skill or ability; it is not according to the flesh. Just as Michael fought for Daniel, we have ministering spirits in angels assigned to us, and we have the victory assured in the resurrection of Christ (Hebrews 1:14). God promises a formal assurance of victory in the spiritual warfare. Christ “having disarmed principalities and powers…made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15). Satan’s kingdom is smashed in its ultimate authority. In Christ, we always have the victory (I Corinthians 15:57).
Most people familiar with their Bible would associate Iraq with the city of Babylon. The Bible speaks much of Babylon specifically; the name is found 284 times. The literal term Babylon refers to both an empire and a city. The Babylonian Empire was vast. At one time, it spread over a huge area that extended from present day Iraq west to the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt, north into what is now Turkey and south into Saudi Arabia. The city of Babylon was located on the Euphrates River and was active until about 250 AD. During its greatest prominence, the city was about 200 square miles in size and had walls over 300 feet high and 85 feet wide with 100 gates.
There has been some confusion over whether Baghdad and the city of Babylon are one and the same. The site of ancient Babylon is actually about 55 miles south of Baghdad not far from modern-day Karbala, and it is probably the most famous archaeological site in all Iraq. It is said that the first President George Bush had read a book on prophecy and thus ordered that the ancient ruins of Babylon not be attacked even though the Iraqis had parked military equipment there. Today, U.S. troops camp there.
Iraq is also the home of many Bible cities that are not in existence today. The earliest mention of is as the likely location of the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:8 says, “The Lord planted a garden eastward in Eden.” According to this verse, the Garden of Eden would have to be east of Israel, which is the geographical and prophetic center of the world (Ezek. 5:5; 38:12). “Eastward” would refer to a location east of the land of Israel, which is Iraq.
Further evidence for the Garden of Eden being in Iraq is found in Genesis 2:10–14, which describes a river with four tributaries that watered Eden. The Euphrates and the Hiddekel, now called the Tigris, still exist. They originate in present-day Turkey, join together in southern Iraq and run into the Persian Gulf. The Pishon and the Gihon are now dried up. Smithsonian magazine once ran an article that had satellite pictures revealing the former riverbeds of the Pishon and Gihon flowing into the same area as the Tigris and Euphrates. A New York Times article from 1993 also showed a huge former riverbed stretching across Saudi Arabia into Iraq.
The Tower of Babel (Gen. 10 & 11) was in Iraq. After the Flood, Nimrod, who was a grandson of Ham and great-grandson of Noah, “began to be a mighty one on earth” and “was a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen. 10:8 & 9). Some believe that this means he was a tyrannical leader who hunted men. His vast kingdom included Babel, which was the precursor to Babylon (Gen. 10:10).
Genesis 11 relates how the single-language people of this area devised to build a city with a tower reaching to the heavens. This Tower of Babel was likely an occult ziggurat with astrological indications. God judged the people for this devilish plan by confusing their language so that they could not understand one another. The name Babel literally means “confusion.”
Ancient Nineveh was near the modern-day city of Mosul. It was a great city located on the banks of the Tigris River in modern-day Iraq. It is also mentioned in Genesis 10 along with other cities built by the mighty Nimrod (Gen 10:11). Nineveh is better known as the wicked city to which God directed Jonah to preach a message of repentance and salvation.
Iraq is the possible location of Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham’s birthplace, first mentioned in Genesis 11:28. Two Scripture passages place Ur in Mesopotamia (Gen. 24:10 and Acts 7:2-4), which means “the land between the rivers,” referring to the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Many secular and Bible scholars place Ur in southern Mesopotamia, which is present day Iraq. The location is thought to be not far from modern-day Nasiriya, where Pfc. Jessica Lynch was captured.
Most of the mentions of Iraq in the Old Testament involve the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The prophet Jeremiah foretold the siege and fall of Jerusalem and the carrying off to Babylon of the Jews. Isaiah also predicts the eventual fall of the Babylonian king and destruction of the empire. The conquest of Jerusalem is described in II Kings 20, 24 & 25; I Chronicles 9:1 and II Chronicles 36.
The stories of Esther and of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego take place during the exile in Babylon. Ezra and Nehemiah recount the return of the Jews to Israel after their 70-year exile. It was in exile in Babylon that Daniel received his great prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, the rise of Antichrist and the end times. Ezekiel prophesied the restoration of Israel (the vision of the dry bones) and end time events while in exile in Babylon.
Matthew refers to the captivity of the Jews in Babylon in his genealogy of Christ (Matt. 1:11). The land area of Iraq is mentioned in Acts 2:9. People from that area were in the crowd at Pentecost. Stephen also spoke of Abraham coming from there (Acts 7:2) and of the Babylonian captivity (Acts 7:43). Peter referred to Babylon as still having a Jewish population in his day (I Peter 5:13).
John calls a future Babylon “a great city” in Revelation 14:8; 17:18 and several verses in chapter 18. A literal interpretation would require the rebuilding of an actual city of Babylon. Saddam Hussein was seeking to rebuild this great city before the war and his capture. Over 60 million bricks, some bearing Saddam’s name, are in place atop ancient bricks with the name of his hero, Nebuchadnezzar. The Ishtar Gate has been rebuilt, and the famed Hanging Gardens were on the drawing board. There was even a street map of a new Babylon. A July 2006 New York Times article says that U.N. and Iraq administration officials plan to restore Babylon and make it the centerpiece of a new cultural center.
John also speaks of a figurative Babylon in Revelation 17. Babylon was a city, and it was also a mystical religious system including twisted astrology, the mother-child cult, the god of fortresses or force. Much of this drifted over into ancient Israel through Jezebel. As a matter of fact, the word “Easter” is a take-off on “Ishtar,” the name of a pagan goddess.
Religious Babylon is to be destroyed by Antichrist who claims himself God (Rev. 17:16). But the great city of origin has to be rebuilt in order to be destroyed. Evidently there is some unique commercial tie involved as the city goes up in fire and smoke and the earth’s merchants mourn its destruction (Rev. 18:9).
Some believe Babylon is figurative, possibly of Rome. But when John wrote Revelation, Rome was Rome and Babylon was Babylon, so there is no reason to “mystify” these places. Since John already writes about mystery Babylon in Rev. 17, it seems clear that a real city of Babylon will exist in end times.
One element of that Babylonian entity is sorcery or “pharmakeia” (Rev. 18:23). Revelation 9:21 speaks of end time nations as not repenting of their sorceries, which is the same word. The root word means “chemical application,” although it can also be working magic in the mysterious sense.
The chief reason we went into Iraq was weapons of mass destruction. We were told that Saddam had gassed 175,000 Kurds and some Iranians and that he was a threat with his WMDs. Did he have them? Of course he had them. The West had sold huge quantities of Sarin, Tabun, VX and mustard gas, which he used against his enemy, Iran. Incidentally these are just four of about 70 such deadly or harmful chemicals. The world is always on the verge of chemical outrage. Revelation 9:21 says there is no repentance in the end times, meaning no change of mind, so chemical warfare will be a part of end time events.
Thought often overlooked in Bible study, Jordan is an ancient Bible land. It is a major factor in both biblical history and end-time prophecies. It was Old Testament Israel, and it will one day harbor persecuted Jews. Its lands will be absorbed into the Millennial kingdom from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River.
Geographically, Jordan is between modern Israel and modern Iraq. It is a result of the post-World War I division of the Middle East by the victorious allies who were given mandates over the area by the League of Nations.
Jordan is a very young country. Like most countries in the Middle East, it dates from the late 40’s when World War II came to an end. Prophetically, Jordan is part of the fulfillment of Luke 21:29 & 30 where Christ said, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees” (emphasis mine). The fig tree likely refers to reborn national Israel as Jeremiah 23 outlines. If so, then “all the trees” refers to the surrounding nations: Jordan, born in 1946; Syria, 1946; Lebanon, 1943; Iraq, 1932 and Egypt, 1923.
Following WWI, the British had control of Palestine, which then included all of present Israel’s area and Transjordan, which is today called Jordan. (Incidentally, if the entire area was called Palestine, wouldn’t anyone living in Transjordan/Jordan be a Palestinian?) Things became so difficult for the British that Jordan was given in 1921 to the Hashemites, an Arab family whose lineage goes back through Mohammed and, of course, to Ishmael.
Jordan has perhaps more specific places mentioned in the Bible than any country outside Israel. In fact, eastern Old Testament Israel was in what is now western Jordan.
Esau settled in southern Jordan in an area known as Seir or Edom, and his descendants became known as Edomites. This is also known as Sela and is basically located in the area of famed Petra. Genesis 32:3 is the first mention of Seir and Edom. Amalek was a grandson of Esau by a Canaanite wife (Gen. 36:12), and he would later trouble Israel as they moved through that area from Egypt on their way to Canaan (Exodus 17:8). This meant the Amalekites would be sorely judged. Saul was called on to fulfill this, but he reneged and let the Amalekite King Agag live (I Sam. 15). Later Saul himself was tragically killed by an Amalakite (II Sam. 1:8). Saul’s disobedience cost him his kingdom and his life. Wicked Hamaan, who wanted to kill all the Jews, was an Agagite in what is now Iran (Esther 3:1).
The wilderness journey of Israel was through much of Jordan. Southern Jordan is where the serpent in the wilderness was raised on a banner pole in the pattern of a cross (Numbers 21). It is the area where Moses struck the rock to bring forth water. Because he struck it twice in anger instead of once in obedience, it cost him entry into the Promised Land. Aaron died at Mount Hor nearby (Num. 20:26).
Moving northward, we find the Brook Zered (Deut. 2:13). Another river mentioned in several Old Testament verses is Arnon, which formed a huge canyon. This was the southern border of Moab (Num. 21:13). Significantly, somewhere in that vicinity is where Lot ended up after fleeing from Sodom with his two daughters. He incestuously fathered Moab and Ammon, whose descendants were the Moabites and Ammonites. Jordan’s capitol, Amman, is named after Lot’s son Ammon.
Central Jordan is actually Old Testament Moab. Many wars were fought between the Moabites and the Israelites. The bright spot is found in the Book of Ruth where a widowed Moabite woman moved to Israel with her mother-in-law and became the mother of Obed, who was the great-grandfather of David and a progenitor of Christ.
Moab was under judgment for their shabby treatment of the Israelites as they made their way toward the Promised Land. Isaiah 15 is an example. Along the way, the Israelites encountered hostile kings, one of whom was Sihon, King of Heshbon (Num. 21). The Israelites took his lands from the river Arnon in the south to Jabbok in the north. Later, they moved into the Golan Heights and defeated Og of Bashan, an Ammonite giant whose bed was 13 feet long (Deut. 3:11). That bedstead was displayed in Rabbah, which is modern day Amman. The tribes of Ruben and Gad and half of Manassa wanted to settle in Moab and Ammon because of the wonderful cattle pasture lands (Num. 32).
Amman was also where David sent brave Uriah the Hittite, a convert to Judaism and husband of Bathsheba, to die in battle to cover David’s own sin.
The prophecies of Balaam were given in central Jordan as the Israelites camped east of the Jordan River on the Plains of Moab (Num. 22-24). Balaam spoke of Messiah as a Star out of Jacob and Scepter from Israel. Jordan was where Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind (II Kings 2). Not far from where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River from Jordan and attacked Jericho is the baptismal place of Christ. It was not in the Jordan River, as people have assumed, but was “beyond Jordan” (John 1:28) in a small, clear rivulet that is clearly in Jordan.
The Brook Jabbok is stream that flows into the Jordan River in northern Jordan. It was there that Jacob, panicked by Esau’s vengeful approach, wrestled with God all night, was saved and renamed Israel (Gen. 32 & 33).
Prophetic scriptures also feature Jordan. It is believed that famed Petra in southern Jordan will be a refuge for Jews during the Tribulation. Revelation 12 speaks of a place in the wilderness, and that is where Petra is located. Isaiah 63 says that Christ comes up from Edom and Bozrah in a sweeping deliverance and then to Jerusalem. Modern day Busera is near Petra. Edom, Moab and Ammon are also mentioned prophetically. Daniel 11:14 says that Antichrist will not invade those areas. Isaiah 11:14 indicates that the Israelis will recapture the Gaza area in the west and Edom, Moab and Ammon on the East.
Jordan is one of only two Arab countries to sign a treaty with Israel. Prior to that, Jordan had joined four other Arab nations in attacking Israel. Prior to 1948, the United Nations had established two potential states in what we now call Israel—one for Israel and the other for a Palestinian state. Israel accepted the offer, but the Arab states didn’t. Five Arab nations, including Jordan, attacked Israel. When the fighting stopped, Egypt took Gaza, Syria took Golan and Jordan took the West Bank.
Incidentally, none of these countries ever established a Palestinian state. In fact, the fighting caused 300,000 Palestinians to flee to Jordan. They became so obnoxious in upsetting Jordan that they were militarily chased out to Lebanon. Many were killed, a news story which seems lost to the media deriding Israel for about every ill in the Middle East.
Jordan possessed the West Bank from 1948 until 1988 when King Hussein turned it over to Yasser Arafat’s PLO to establish whatever they could. Israel is in the process of giving much of the West Bank to a Palestinian state if they find a responsible way to maintain peace and eliminate terrorism. And that’s where we are today.
There is a Christian presence in Jordan with about 3% of the population being Christian. We should pray that those who are committed to Christ witness well.
Egypt is a much-mentioned Bible country. From Genesis to Jude, Egypt is mentioned in 32 books of the Bible, 27 books in the Old Testament and five in the New Testament. Although it is generally referred to as a Middle East country, Egypt is actually an African country. It is included in this commentary because of its great historical and prophetic prominence.
The fabled land of Egypt is one of the world’s oldest civilizations with its famed pyramids, Sphinx, the Temple at Karnak and the Valley of the Gods. The Nile—the world’s second largest river—is its fluid bloodstream.
Following World War I, the British had control of Egypt. But, by 1923, Egypt was basically a new modern country, finally getting full freedom in 1956. As with other Middle Eastern countries, Egypt is like a budding tree in modern times, perhaps the budding concurrent with Israel’s budding fig tree (Luke 21:29).
Egyptian culture is exceedingly old. It reaches back at least 3,200 years before Christ when the civilizations of Upper and Lower Egypt joined together to form a united Egypt. A series of some 30 dynasties ruled the country. The third dynasty gave us the Pyramids, which are actually huge tombs. It was about the time of the 18th to 20th dynasties that the Israelites left Egypt.
Egyptians practiced a pagan religion. They worshipped multiple gods until one ruler made them monotheistic, although still pagan. They honored animals and the Sun and made elaborate plans to go from this life into the next. Untold millions of dollars worth of accompanying items were entombed with the Pharaohs to assist them in a happy afterlife. If the Pharaoh was happy, all the people would be happy.
Egypt was home to two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world. One was the great lighthouse off Alexandria and the other is the Great Pyramid. The pyramids west of the Nile are at the north end of a 60 mile-long graveyard. The Egyptians were preoccupied with death. Rulers spent most of their lives preparing for the afterlife by building huge structures. The largest of these is the Great Pyramid at Giza not too far from Cairo.
The Great Pyramid is the largest single structure in the world. It covers 13 acres and stands 486 feet high and 755 feet wide on each side. It was built with 2,000,000 stones averaging 5,000 pounds each. It was surfaced with bright stone, which is now mostly gone. It has a huge chamber inside that led to the burial spot of the Pharaoh. The room was ingeniously blocked when a person who sacrificed his own life tripped an enormous stone. It is the world’s largest tomb. Contrast that with the Empty Tomb near Calvary. The former is one of incredible gloom and spiritual darkness; the latter is one of triumph and glory.
In a further contrast, the ancient Egyptians thought the scarab was an emblem of eternal life. It is actually a dung beetle so named because it rolls dung to feed its young. A snake adorned the headdresses of many pharaohs. This is an example of what Paul said in Romans 1:23. They “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”
Biblical Egypt is first mentioned when Abraham, then called Abram, went there in time of famine (Gen. 12:10). He lied about his marriage to Sarah, who was so beautiful that he thought the Pharaoh would kill him and take her as his wife. Despite Abraham’s lie, Sarah wound up in Pharaoh’s house, but God rescued Abraham, and the Pharaoh sent them out. Abraham must have been quite far south at the time since the capitol of Egypt was then in Memphis, which is a bit south of modern Cairo and likely west of the Nile River.
The land covenant God made with Abraham went from the northern border of Egypt, known as the River of Egypt, in the present Rapha area up to the Euphrates River (Gen. 12:18). When Abraham fathered Ishmael by Hagar, an Egyptian, she took a wife for the boy out of Egypt (Gen. 21:21).
Beginning in Genesis 37:28 and continuing through the rest of book and into Exodus, we find the story of Joseph and the children of Israel in Egypt. Joseph was sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery. His father Jacob sent his remaining sons, except for Benjamin, down to Egypt in a time of famine. Joseph, who was by then second in command in Egypt, provided the family with food. After a family reunion, Jacob’s entire family moved down to Egypt at the Pharaoh’s invitation, and thus began the 400 hundred-year stay of the Israelites in Egypt.
Eventually, a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph became ruler, and the Israelites became slaves in terrible bondage. The 10 horrendous plagues pronounced by Moses ended with the slaying of all firstborn children in Egypt. The Israelites were spared by shedding a perfect lamb’s blood and applying it on the doorway and eating its flesh. This was the Passover when God’s destroying angel passed over them.
The Israelites left Egypt in the miraculous Exodus, but the Jews were not gone from Egypt forever. Jeroboam fled from Solomon to Egypt (I Kings 12), and some Jews at the time of the Babylonian captivity took tragic refuge there (Jeremiah 43). History records that Jews taken captive when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD were sold back into Egypt.
There is a positive side to the Jews in Egypt. The young child Jesus was quickly taken there from Bethlehem by Joseph and Mary (Matt. 2:13–19) to avoid King Herod’s wrath.
I believe God has a remarkable plan for Egypt in the end times because they gave refuge to Jacob’s family and the young Christ Child and also because they were the first Arab nation to recognize Israel. (President Anwar Sadat paid for that with his life when he was assassinated in 1981 because of it.) However, that blessing will eventually come only after horrendous judgements.
Two awesome sections in the Bible outline future troubles for Egypt in the end times. In Isaiah 19, we find the following awesome predictions: “I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians, city against city and kingdom against kingdom.” (verse 2). That is one verse for the basis of Luke 21:10 where Christ speaks of “ethnic group against ethnic group.” Then, in verse 4, “…a cruel lord and fierce king shall be set over them.” In verse 11, we read that the rulers’ advice is totally erroneous or, literally, stupid. Verses 5–9 speak of horrendous judgements upon the Nile River. The Nile dries up, the vegetation along the banks is badly damaged, fishermen are terribly upset, and the textile industry is tragically damaged.
However, Isaiah 19:16–25 outlines a sweeping and glorious national revival to come. It forecasts something never seen as yet: Israel, Egypt and Assyria (modern Syria and parts of Turkey and Iraq) will be a blessing in the midst of the earth!
There are another staggering couple of chapters that refer to Egypt in the end times. Ezekiel 29 & 30 is a passage every prophecy student needs to study. Ezekiel 29:4 & 5 speak of marine creatures in the Nile being judged with fish thrown into open fields to decompose. Egypt will be uninhabitable for 40 years. Egyptians will be scattered to finally return after 40 years (vs. 11-13). Ezekiel 30 continues the description. The phrase “the day of the Lord is near” (v. 3) usually refers to the Tribulation period.
Is there anything in our day to correspond to these prophecies? In a word, yes! It has to do with the Aswan Dam and huge Lake Nasser that was created behind it.
In an effort to move from being a “backward” nation into the modern world, then-president Abdul Nasser engaged the Russians to build the Aswan Dam for water control and to generate electricity. Evidently, he mortgaged the Egyptian cotton crop to Russia. Construction began in 1960 and was complete by 1970. Many Egyptians were displaced and had to be relocated when Lake Nasser flooded the area.
Unfortunately, the Aswan Dam has all but wrecked Egypt. There is no more annual flood, which means there is no more free fertilizer. When the Nile flooded its banks each year, it would leave behind silt that enriched the soil. Now, fertilizer has to be imported at great expense. Since Egypt has no rainfall, the salinity level in the soil, which was formerly washed away by the flooding Nile, is increasing, and valuable cropland is going out of production.
Without the annual flooding, rodents thrive, and disease is a problem. Without the silt that would come from upstream, the river now flows faster, thus eroding bridge foundations. Because of evaporation in Lake Nasser, there is less water for irrigation. Porous rock absorbs water and moves it down to historical sites such as the Sphinx, damaging them. The differential in the flow of the Nile has changed the wave patterns in the Mediterranean, which are eroding delta farmland and damaging the shrimp and sardine harvest.
Some say that Lake Nassar may become a huge swamp with all the built-up silt that no longer is deposited on the river banks below the lake. Some have suggested that the Aswan Dam will one day give out because of pressure from the silt behind it. Others have even suggested blowing up the dam and returning to the former annual flooding and free fertilizer.
Ezekiel 30:8 says that the Lord will set “a fire in Egypt.” If that fire is a nuclear attack on the dam, a flood of radioactive waters would surge down the Nile Valley and surrounding countries, throwing dead fish up on land and making the land uninhabitable, perhaps for 40 years. With global nuclear fears growing, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Only a clean-up by God Himself going into the Millenium would restore the land.
Isaiah foretells a time when Israel, Egypt and Assyria will all worship the Lord. It no doubt refers to what the song says of Jesus reigning in Jerusalem after the seven-year Tribulation. As the hymn says, “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun/Does his successive journeys run,/His kingdom stretch from shore to shore/Till moons shall wax and wane no more.”
If the developments in Egypt are even a small part of the end-time forecasts of Isaiah and Ezekiel, then we are truly rushing closer to the return of Jesus Christ for His redeemed Church. God may use some other means to accomplish those Egyptian prophecies, but we now have actual or potential technologies to do it. We are indeed late in prophetic time. It is high time to seek the Lord Jesus Christ and, having found Him, to serve Him.
When Hezbollah was bombing Israel, nearly every newscast mentioned some place I have visited in Israel. Many of these sites have great biblical significance including Haifa, Acre, Afula, Tiberias, Safed and Nazareth.
Haifa is at the western end of Mt. Carmel where Elijah contested with the prophets of Baal and called down fire from heaven (I Kings 17). When he sent his servant to watch for a rain cloud, the boy would have looked right over the area of modern Haifa.
Acre (Acco) is only referenced once in the Bible by this name. In Judges 1:31, it is referred to as one of the places the Israelites failed to hold. In the New Testament, Acco was known as Ptolemais, and was one of the stops on Paul’s final return to Jerusalem (Acts 21:7). Ptolemais was situated on the main sea and land route in ancient times. It served as the main port of the region until Caesarea was built. Herod the Great received Augustus Caesar at this site, since Caesarea had not yet been completed. Vespasian first docked at Ptolemais when he came to subdue the First Jewish Revolt. Later, the Arab inhabitants changed the name back to Acco.
The rocket that hit Afula would have passed right over the Valley of Armageddon mentioned in Revelation 16:16. Today, that area is a fantastically large fertile valley, and in the middle is a huge military airfield from which planes were no doubt leaving to bomb Hezbollah. Armageddon is where the world armies will one day converge to march on Jerusalem.
Safed is set way up in the hills. It is thought to be the city set on a hill referred to by Christ in Matthew 5:14. Even today its twinkling light can be seen from Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee miles away.
Tiberias is a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is mentioned in John’s Gospel in reference to the sea, which was also called the Sea of Tiberias. It became a more significant city under Herod Antipas. Although not mentioned in the New Testament, Tiberias is just south of Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene.
Of course, Nazareth was the boyhood home of Jesus. In Nazareth is Mary’s Well, the spot where Jesus’ mother would likely have drawn water as a girl. It is where He caused a huge stir when He read of the Messiah in Isaiah 61 and applied it to Himself. Nazareth was jeopardized by rockets launched by Hezbollah, a group that despises the doctrine of the deity of Christ.
That Israel exists at all is stunning. It is a nation that had been dissolved for over 1,900 years and came back with its original language and monetary system. It had not had sovereign geographical control over its land for about 2,500 years, and by the time of Christ had lost technical political control. They couldn’t even execute a criminal but had to get permission from Rome, which is why Christ had to be taken before the Roman governor Pilate. The final indignity came from the Romans in AD 70 when any semblance of national structure ceased.
After Christ died, rose and ascended, He left behind a somber prophecy that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies and the gorgeous 100-foot high Temple would be leveled (Matt. 24:2). Further, no stone would be left on another.
By AD 66, oppressed Jews revolted against Rome. In AD 70, 80,000 Romans soldiers under General Titus built a five-mile wall around Jerusalem and simply starved its inhabitants to death. In a final attack, the remaining Jews set fire to the Temple. The Romans fed the fire and it burned. Roman catapults heaved huge stones at the structure. Then, what hadn’t been destroyed was disassembled stone by stone to recover the molten precious metal that had drizzled down between the close-fitting stones. When the Romans were done, they removed everything from the Temple Mount and plowed the ground so it looked like nothing had ever been there. Those huge stones are still seen at the bottom of the Western Wall near the southwestern corner. They’ve been uncovered in recent years and are just where they fell in AD 70.
Some of the Jews who had escaped Jerusalem in AD 66 captured Masada situated on a high plateau just west of the southern part of the Dead Sea. It was the perfect hideout since it was a brutal 300-foot climb to the top. Nine hundred and sixty men, women and children had enough food and water to stay for years. As the mighty Roman military attempted to take the refuge, they were mocked by the Jews. The new Roman governor of Judea finally had enough and, with Jewish slaves as his work force, built a huge earthen ramp up the back of Masada inching a battering ram up the slope.
When the Jews knew that the Romans were close enough to storm the rock rim, their leader, Eleazar, called them together. He gave an impassioned speech explaining how more honorable it would be to commit suicide rather than have the women raped and the rest paraded in humiliation around the empire. The place where he spoke was at cliff’s edge within the structure that served as their makeshift synagogue.
So, each father killed his own family. By drawing lots, one man was designated to kill the other fathers, and then he committed suicide. The Romans stormed over the wall to deadly silence. They had won, but they had lost. But Israel was finished as a nation.
I have stood on the spot of Eleazer’s speech on ten occasions and wept each time. We read Eleazar’s speech and then Deuteronomy 28 where all this was forecast. A few yards away from that place, however, modern Israelis dug up an ancient scroll of Ezekiel 37, the vision of dry bones, that had been buried there for centuries. In Ezekiel’s vision, a dead nation is likened to a huge valley of weather-bleached bones that come together, are filled out with flesh and muscle and miraculously come to life when God breathes into them. Someone had buried that scroll there in faith, knowing God’s word would one day be fulfilled even though there was not a shred of evidence to that effect.
Captured Jews were sold into slavery and the land fell into ruin. Various invasions left the land eroded, and the trees were cut down. Swamps and wastelands caused Mark Twain to say it was just a barren wreck unfit for human dwelling. Jews bemoaned their fate, sometimes returning to wail at the western retaining wall of the destroyed Temple to pray and plead for God to restore their nation.
But God had spoken of a regathering in Ezekiel 37, and His word must be fulfilled. Jeremiah 16:13–15 speaks of a promised exodus rivaling Egypt’s. In Isaiah 5:26, God said he would “whistle” for the Jews to come home to Israel. It is repeated in Zechariah 10:8, “I will whistle for them and gather them….” Isaiah 36:8 speaks of Israel coming home, and Zephaniah also says the Lord will gather them and bring them home (Zeph. 3:19 & 20).
Those who hold no end-time position for Israel need to read Jeremiah 31:35–37. “…‘If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord’.”
Few thought that Israel could be reborn, including many Jews. However, in 1859, a Jewish boy was born who would alter Jewish history. No one knew it then, but surely God did. Alfred Dryfus aspired to service in the French army and rose to captain by 1894. It was almost unheard of for a Jew to rise so far in prejudiced Europe. That year, he was accused of treason, tried, found guilty and banished to Devil’s Island for life. Professing innocence and aided by his brother, he was finally retried and found guilty again because of forged documents. A change in political parties brought Dreyfus’ case to public awareness. After his case was reopened twice more, he was fully exonerated in 1904.
Covering the story was a young Hungarian Jew named Theodore Hertzl. He saw the wild injustice while serving in Paris, and hearing mobs shout “Death to Jews!” became convinced of the necessity of mass exodus of Jews to a homeland. He wrote, campaigned and raised funds tirelessly for this, and between 1897 and 1902 convened six Zionist congresses.
About 75% or more of world Jewry would have voted against a Jewish homeland. Hertzl even said after the first congress, “At Basle I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. If not in five years, certainly in fifty everyone will know it.”
Fifty years later, the world not only didn’t laugh, it witnessed the rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948. It took the United States under President Harry Truman just 11 minutes to recognize the new state. We were the first nation to do so. Today, after all the centuries of devastation and neglect, irrigated deserts are in full bloom (Is. 35:1).
Several other things aided this nation’s rebirth. World War I saw the occupying Ottoman Turks captured by the victorious English, and in 1917, General Allenby, a Christian, captured Jerusalem. That same year, the British government issued the famed Balfour Declaration saying the British government would look with favor on a Jewish homeland. Hitler’s murderous holocaust further moved Jews toward Israel.
Israel exists by the divine mandate of God in fulfillment of Scripture. Israel must exist to play a key a part in end time prophecy. Israel must exist so that scores of Old Testament prophecies can come to pass. It must exist so that Daniel 9 with its treaty and Antichrist passages can be fulfilled. It must exist to provide a national entity to repent and receive Christ as Messiah at the end of the Tribulation (Zech. 12 & 14). Israel must exist to be host to the fulfillment of the Davidic and Messianic Kingdom (Ezek. 40–48). It must exist so that the veracity of God can be reaffirmed by Bible scholars who believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture.
Israel does exist. It is not a perfect state, but is a marvelous example of unique national resurrection. Israel is not perfect. She has not received her Messiah, but there is coming a day Israel shall receive her Messiah.
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for his firstborn” (Zech 12:10).
“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. … And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—“The LORD is one,” and His name one” (Zech 14:4 & 9).
And we Christian believers will return with Christ to reign with Him. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Tim 2:12). “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever!’” (Rev. 11:15) .
Overall Prophetic Significance
When the Israel/Hezbollah conflict began, I was asked what the prophetic significance of it was. I want to caution us all that we should not seek to apply every uprising that occurs to some specific Scripture. Frankly, we don’t even know when this will end and how it will end. The scene changes almost daily and will probably have changed radically by the time this goes to print. There are some things however, that need to be said.
Author, commentator and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called all this part of World War III. He noted terrorist outbreaks or threats in North Korea, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Israel, Spain and England and, of course, 9/11, and recent arrests in Canada and Florida. He said that it is war, and it is global.
Jesus did speak of wars and rumors of wars (Matt. 24:6) and of men’s hearts failing them for fear of what is coming on the earth (Luke 21:6). In general, evil men will grow worse and worse as Paul put it in I Timothy 3:13. Just when we think it can’t get any worse, it does! Nuclear threat is ever more ominous, and the terrors of grievous sores falling from the sky are forecast in Revelation 16:2. All this commotion may just be a prelude of worse to come. Jesus did say, “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).
On the other hand, all this may bring us a kind of “time out” when there is a brief breather of peace. We need to pray that our country stands by Israel. Genesis 12:3 promises blessing or cursing upon those who bless or curse Israel.
This is a major test in a crucial time. Israel took care of Iraq’s nuclear power threat in 1981. The world screamed then, but it gave us a nuclear respite. Now, there seems to be the idea that if Israel wipes out Hezbollah, both Iran, their sponsor, and Syria, their facilitator, will back down. Even nations that are usually critical of Israel are restrained. The G8 didn’t routinely condemn Israel, and the United Nations to date has not exclusively condemned Israel. For the very first time ever, Arab nations are not condemning Israel and are even criticizing Hezbollah.
Again I don’t know what will happen in the near future, so I have to stay on safe ground and avoid faulty predictions. But everyone sees this as a possible opportunity to get all parties together in what is called a comprehensive peace plan.
There will be a comparative but temporary peace under Antichrist (Dan. 9:24). The peace “treaty” will be confirmed by Antichrist and then broken half way through the seven year period of the Tribulation. A comprehensive peace plan may be the early stages of that treaty. There are bits and pieces in place now with treaties between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan. A truly comprehensive peace plan would have to include Syria and Lebanon since no peace treaty has ever been signed by those two nations with Israel since 1948. That would make every nation bordering Israel a party to peace assuming that the Gaza problem could be settled, and Israel is in the process of dealing with terrorists there.
Because Antichrist would be such an obvious figure in his person and action, we are not to look for him but rather for the Christ. Before Antichrist confirms any covenant, Jesus Christ will take the redeemed Church out of here in the Rapture, in a moment and the twinkling of an eye. I trust you are ready. If not, this latest chapter of Middle East history should inspire you to get ready by trusting Christ as Savior and, if you already have, to be alert to what is going on and to commit yourself to dedicated Christian living.
This commentary is taken from transcripts of a series on “The Word And The World” broadcast that aired August-October of 2006.
Scripture verses are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.