PREPARING FOR END TIMES

by Clay Watts

"Middle East Summary"


 

This section contains the following topics:

Introduction

Middle East Situation

The Iraq War in Prophecy

Responding to the Middle East Situation

America in Bible Prophecy

 

Introduction

The Middle East is the alpha and omega of human history.  From the Garden of Eden, the first heaven on earth, in present day Iraq, to the New Jerusalem, heaven eternally come to earth, this blessed and cursed region is the stage for the imminent fulfillment of End Times prophecy.  Therefore, we have two reasons to be interested and knowledgeable about the history and current situation of the peoples of the Middle East.  These parallel the two basic aspects of preparing for the fulfillment of End Times Bible prophecy.

The first is the passive aspect of preparation.  This involves knowing the facts about the nations, past and present, which allows us to fully appreciate what God is doing so that we don’t miss critical events that represent prophetic fulfillment.  In this mode, we are not trying to decide who is wrong or right, but rather determining how God is bringing about the conclusion of this phase of human history.

The second reason for knowing about the Middle East embodies the active aspect of End Times preparation.  This allows us to make judgments about what we should do, such as how we should respond individually, or as a nation, to a particular event or proposal.  This is the tricky part, however, since it would be very easy for us to be influenced by our preconceived idealistic principles that may not be at all in tune with God’s ultimate will. 

For example, we might have a predisposition that says war is bad and peace is good.  That is certainly the conventional wisdom, with the exception that a nation has a right to defend itself against an unjust aggressor.  However, we know that prophecy says that the antichrist’s peace covenant with Israel will actually lead to deception and destruction.  Israel will be saved from utter annihilation only at the last minute by God’s miraculous intervention.  So, when we see movement towards peace between Israel and other nations, should we be supportive or skeptical? 

There are many other such paradoxes.  For example, we know the antichrist is going to have a world-wide system for buying and selling that depends on individuals taking an identifying mark in their forehead or right hand. So when we see technologies and laws being put in place that could facilitate this, do we ignore them or oppose them?  If we oppose them, are we obstructing God’s ultimate plan? 

In general, then, how do we prepare to have Godly judgment and take the appropriate actions?  The first step is to be knowledgeable about the world situation, especially in the Middle East, and how nations and events figure in End Times prophecy.  We must approach this task as objectively as possible, suppressing our natural tendency to be biased towards a particular mind set.  Only in this way do we have a chance to see the big picture and thus appreciate what God is doing.  Then, we will be in a better position to prayerfully assess what our response should be in specific situations.  At the conclusion of this study, we will address how this can be done, and give examples. 

Middle East Situation

First, however, let’s look at the past and current situation in the Middle East.  The following is drawn from Fast Facts on the Middle East Conflict by Randall Price, 2003.

 

Here is a very short overview of the modern history of the Middle East, brought up to date:

 

19th century – Jewish Zionists immigrate to Palestine to join Jewish communities

1918 Ottoman Empire collapses, League of Nations puts Palestine under British Mandate, who gives conflicting promises of independence to Jews & Arabs, who develop nationalistic ambitions; Balfour Declaration of 1917 said Jewish National Home originally included Jordan, but in 1922 was divided to only include area west of Jordan River

1948 UN partition plan resulted in Israel declaring independence; rejected by Arabs who declared war on Israel and were defeated, to their humiliation

1963 PLO, created by Arab League, represents Palestinians to provoke Arab world to destroy Israel

1967 Six-Day War gives Israel West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, Sinai; creates Palestinian refugees; UN Resolution 242 called for peace based on return of captured territories—Arabs have done nothing but still expect Israel to return land

1968 Yasser Arafat, leader of Fatah terrorist group in the PLO, politically perceptive yet ruthless dictator, becomes chairman; transforms from pure terrorist to a political organization with perceived legitimate cause.

1979 Camp David accords; Egypt & Israel sign treaty; Israel withdraws from Sinai

1987 PLO starts Intifada terrorist tactics to force Israel to retaliate; ancient Islamic strategy for dealing with nations too strong to be defeated militarily

1993 Oslo Peace Process signed by Israel and PLO; Palestine National Authority (PA) created as the legitimate governing entity of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, who receive autonomy in Jericho, Gaza, much of West Bank; but terrorism continues.

1994 Arafat becomes president of Palestinian Authority, never renounces terrorist tactics.  Israel & Jordan sign peace treaty.

2000 Intifada resumed after Oslo process fails to produce diplomatic negotiations.  Arafat rivals are religious terrorist groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas, who believe the PA has betrayed the cause by engaging in a peace process.  However, the Israelis believe the PA is a haven for terrorists and no longer look to Arafat and the PA as peace partners.

2001 9/11 begins attempt by Arab Muslim radicals to force a final confrontation between East and West, fueled by arms race and weapons of mass destruction

2002 Israel begins building Security Wall approximately along old green line borders established by the 1949 armistice agreement, before conquering the West Bank and Gaza.  Purpose is to stop terrorist infiltration with a physical barrier.  Negative is that it also hinders flow of Palestinian workers into Israeli territory.

2003 Road Map is US proposed plan for settlement of conflict by 2005 with an independent Palestinian state and withdrawal from West Bank, Gaza & East Jerusalem; to be monitored by US, UN, EU & Russia (the international “quartet”); requires PA to stop terrorism & Israel to withdraw from settlements occupied since 2001.  Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas shook hands and pledged to fulfill the conditions of the Road Map.  Invasion of Iraq increases tension in the area, although focus is on US as an aggressor rather than just a supporter of Israel.  Quick collapse of Iraqi forces shocked the Arab world and may have made the PA more open to gestures of democracy.

2004 Yasser Arafat dies, making way for more moderate leadership of the PA.  Israeli – Egyptian relations improve.

2005 Mahmoud Abbas elected president of PA.  This longtime henchman of Arafat seems more moderate and willing to work toward negotiated settlements.  Preparations made by Sharon to disengage from all Gaza settlements and from four West Bank settlements.

 

Arab Influences

 

Many of the present Arab states were created somewhat arbitrarily by the imperial powers after WWI.  These states have regularly fought with Israel and among themselves, struggling with conflicting influences of:

·        Pan-Arabism, a desire for a unitary Arab state; this is a secular movement that uses Islam to pacify the religious crowds and unite all Arabs under one banner; it started with Arab defeat by Israel in 1948; Egypt’s Nasser was the initial proponent; Israel is seen as the main obstacle to this goal.

·        Pan-Islamism, the desire to reconstitute the Islamic religious empire in spite of intrusion of western violation of doctrine and values.

·        Nationalistic movements to create independent states, e.g., the Palestinians.

·        Dictatorial & imperial designs of individual Arab leaders.

·        Tribal & sectarian loyalties.

 

Issues

·        Arabs learned disinformation tactics from Nazis, e.g., that there is a Palestinian “people” with a history and a culture; that Jerusalem is not a Jewish city and there is no evidence of the temple being in Jerusalem

·        WWII refugees all absorbed into own lands, except Palestinians, who are refused by Arab countries, except Jordan, to maintain the pressure on Israel.  More Jewish refugees from Arab lands moved to Israel without compensation, than moved out of Palestine (who were compensated).

·        Labor party leans to socialist policies, often dovish land-for-peace.  Held power from 1948 to 1977, when Menachem Begin of the Likud party became PM.  Likud is conservative, nationalist, free-market, hawkish, less willing to make territorial compromises or negotiate for peace during times of violence.

·        Peace in Islamic terms means no further opposition to Islamic domination

·        Muslim leaders, as with other dictators, only understand strength.  Concessions are a sign of weakness to be exploited.  Peace will only come through strength.

·        Wahhabism is radical sect of Islam founded in 18th century to reverse decline of Muslim empire by removing cultural pollution of Western influence and returning to golden age when Qur’an was interpreted literally.  Death cult which promotes suicide bombers.  Espoused by Al-Qaeda.

·        Ba’ath Party is a radical & militant Arab nationalist political system wanting to eventually establish a Pan-Arab state.  Syria is the only Arab country now under Ba’athist influence.

 

Israeli Prime Ministers

·        Shimon Peres, Labor party PM 1984-85, 1995.  Dove among doves.

·        Benyamin Netanyahu, Likud PM 1996-98, expert on terrorism, security hawk, mellowed while PM, but more hawkish than ever as foreign minister under Ariel Sharon

·        Ehud Barak, Labor PM 1999-2000, made large concessions in 2000 at Camp David, but rejected by Arafat

·        Ariel Sharon, Likud PM since 2001 “the Bulldozer”; blamed for inciting the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000 with his visit to the Temple Mount; surprised hawks and doves by supporting the Road Map at the Aqaba Summit and building the Security Wall, both of which were originally supported by Labor and opposed by Likud.

 

In summary, the current Middle East situation is extremely volatile and a potential source of major conflict, primarily because of the oil production in the region.  The multi-faceted historical, religious, and political tensions are incredibly complex and defy rational analysis, much less solution.  There can be little doubt that the conditions are ripe for fulfillment of Biblical End Times scenarios.

 

The Iraq War in Prophecy

 

The following are notes from a discussion group in Spring, 2005

 

Background

·        What Bible lands and cities are part of today’s Iraq?

o       Babylonia, Chaldea, Babylon (mentioned more in Bible than any other land and city except Israel & Jerusalem)

o       Assyria

·        What are the characteristics of the major people groups & sects?

o       Kurds – non-Arab ethnic group, 15-20% of population; northern area; desire self- rule, bitter about Hussein’s mistreatment; control 50% of oil

o       Sunnis – 20-27% of population, including most Kurds; bitter about losing power to other groups, tend to be more secular

o       Shiites – 60% of population; bitter about Sunni domination; tends to represent the pure sect of Islam

·        What is the source of the current terrorist resistance?

o       Outside radicals see opportunity to humiliate Western powers

o       Internal radicals see opportunity to create unrest & gain control

·        What are the prospects for liberty and self-government?

o       Deeply desired by most Iraqis

o       Rejected as anti-Islam by most clerics & insurgents

o       Compromises will be needed in constitution—not a likely outcome

o       May see three separate states loosely federated: Kurds in north, Sunnis in central, and Shiites in south; could work together, but more likely will be against one another

 

Iraq in the Bible

·        Genesis: cradle of civilization and false worship

·        Isaiah 13

o       1-3, 17-22 fulfilled by Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon (Dan 5)

o       Medes ~ Kurds; Persians ~ Iran; may still be an end time fulfillment through these agents of destruction

o       4, 6-14 indicate end of age destruction by a distant country with devastating weapons that inflame and humble Babylon/Iraq

o       19-22 some say not completely fulfilled in Old Testament, indicating end times rebuilding of Babylon, maybe by UN as symbolic gesture; others say it was essentially fulfilled then, and the end times Babylon refers to world economic/religious system

·        Jeremiah 50 & 51

o       God’s people to flee (50:8; 51:6, 45)

o       utter destruction from alliance of great nations (50:9)

o       will be made uninhabitable with extensive weapons of destruction

§         arrows (50:9) – laser-guided munitions

§         never again inhabited(50:39 - depleted uranium armor-penetrating shells

§         roaring sea (50:42) – jet engines

o       Other nations go mad due to wine (51:7) – oil

o       Our response – don’t fear (51:46)

·        Revelation: judgment of Babylon

 

Modern Prophetic Words

·        Reasons and cautions for starting the war

o       Many saw great risk going to war prematurely

o       Hordes of demons – spirits of hate being sent to inflame the Islamic world; triggered by US going into certain nations (one in particular, unnamed) in pursuit of terrorists; could have grave consequences for Israel in biological warfare; can be avoided by intercession

·        Far fulfillment scenarios

o       World will blame war disaster on selfishness of a nation (US) acting on it’s own; will result in cry for global solution

o       Assyrian culture will rise to prominence in northern Iraq and Syria and be a major nation (Isaiah 19:23-24)

o       American “owns” the land of Babylon and has thus taken on the role of Mystery Babylon (lots of Babylonian symbolism in US, e.g., Statue of Liberty as the goddess Ishtar, etc.)

·        Messages for US

o       Iraq war will trigger terrorism in US and nuclear exchanges world-wide; God’s judgment & destruction of US can be avoided by national repentance

o       God is using US to judge Iraq, but then He will also judge the US

o       War in Iraq will be transformed into a war with someone else (implies North Korea/China)

o       War on terrorism is not easily won; involves the entire world

o       God warns US that plans were being made for terrorism in America even as we focused on the elections; costal and metropolitan areas are at risk; this is a warning, we need not have fear enter into our heart, but we need to discern when and where to go.

·        Messages for Iraqi Christians

o       Come out of Babylon!

·        From Cindy Jacobs’ group – Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders

o       The United States has been saved from those who would remove God from its borders, but now the nation must be established. There is a four-year window for the intercessors to war for the establishment of morality and righteousness. God is going to raise up a president in 2008 who will reconcile the nations to the United States. Bush has been called to be a man of war, like David, but God is bringing a Solomon to the office in '08 who will make peace with the nations.

o       Iraq is a nation rich in Biblical significance. It is also a place where Satan has built his strongholds. God wants to use Iraq to "crack open" the Middle East for an in-gathering of souls for the Kingdom.  For this reason we are calling upon the Body of Christ to pray for the upcoming elections. A 21-day fast is being called, beginning January 15th through February 5th, 2005. Special prayer is called for the soldiers of all nations and relief workers, as well as Iraqi nationals who are fighting to see democracy established in the region. Pray to break the demonic powers of witchcraft and the occult who would bring confusion and discouragement, and bind the spirit of babel that would bring confusion on the troops fighting for democracy.

 

Responding to the Middle East Situation

 

So how do we use this historical and current knowledge about the Middle East in conjunction with knowledge about End Times Bible prophecy?  And how does this help us know how to respond to specific opportunities? 

 

There are several ways we can handle the knowledge part:

  • Start with the historical and current situation and look for End Times passages that seem to match.  An example is the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.  This appeared to be a historic peace treaty that set out certain conditions that would supposedly lead to peace over the succeeding seven years.  At the time, many prophecy observers speculated that this could be the seven year covenant mentioned in Daniel 9:27.
  • Start with End Times passages and look for historical and current events that seem to match.  An example is the detailed account in Daniel 11 of the kings of the south and north.  This passage is known to have been precisely fulfilled, up to a certain point, within a few hundred years of Daniel’s vision.  But there have also been attempts to correlate it with recent events.

 

While there is nothing wrong with either of these approaches, great care must be taken to avoid making rash or inappropriate matches.  Often an event that seems to fit a passage is a partial fulfillment, meant to sharpen our eyes and ears as we wait for the final version.  An example is Hitler, who certainly exhibited aspects of the antichrist.

 

Following Christ’s example throughout the gospels, especially Luke 4:24, and other examples such as Peter in Acts 2:16, the Biblical way to correlate events with scripture is discernment through the prophetic office or gift.  In addition to knowing the prophetic scriptures and being open to how they are to be fulfilled, this requires that one “follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy” (1 Cor 14:1).  If one does not use this spirit-empowered gift in love, then it is very likely that an inappropriate application of prophetic scripture will be made.  Note well—this means that merely applying logic to make such correlations, however precise and well-intentioned, is not adequate to determine whether it is in fact a true fulfillment, and is likely to lead at best to frustration, and at worst, deception.  This is not to say that one should not make such correlations.  But unless one is operating in the gift of prophecy, these analyses should be labeled as speculative scenarios.

 

Once we know by the gifts of the Spirit that a particular prophetic passage is related to past or current events, we then have a responsibility to take the appropriate actions. 

 

An obvious example is not taking the mark of the beast.  The action is clear in this case, but discerning who the beast is or what the mark consists of may not be trivial.  If you believe that the beast and mark will be easily identified, then the “only” issue is having the courage and faith to refuse the mark, even if it means losing your own life or that of your friends and family.  You might also want prepare to live as a fugitive, since you would not be able to earn money or spend it.  Or you could believe, as some scriptures indicate, that God would supernaturally protect and provide for you during this time. 

 

On the other hand, if you believe that the beast and the mark may not be so easily identifiable, or that the system to be used for taking the mark will be introduced earlier in a different context, then you may be unwilling to participate in broad schemes to standardize and computerize personal identification and commerce.

 

This last scenario raises a general issue regarding how to respond to events or proposals that may support in some way the ultimate agenda of antichrist in End Times.  Here are some examples:

·        Should we categorically support the government of Israel, no matter what they do? 

·        Should we support national or world-wide identification schemes to reduce crime, terrorism, illegal immigration, etc.?

·        Is world peace, or at least peace in the Middle East, a desirable goal?

·        What should our attitude be toward other religions, especially Islam, which fosters Arab aggression against Israel?

·        Should Christians move to the country and stockpile food?

 

Of course, the ultimate answer is that each believer should be led by the Holy Spirit.  A Christian diplomat working in a European or Arab country may be led differently than a working-class believer living in the rural South.  However, there are some general guidelines that may help guide our behavior when we do not have specific direction from the Holy Spirit.

·        Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed (Genesis 12:3).  In general, nations who have helped Israel have prospered, and those who have been enemies of Israel have been eventually destroyed.  America is one of the few supporters of Israel, and many Christians believe there is a direct correlation between that fact and our prosperity.  Some take this to extremes, and believe that if we support any action to diminish Israel’s territory (e.g., West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem) that we are in danger of losing God’s blessing.

·        Resist the devil (antichrist) and he will flee from you (James 4:7).  Of course, this is preceded by “submit therefore to God.”  We should always be in repentance and humble submission to God before discerning how the devil is trying to work in our lives.  Even more so must the entire church be unified in repentance and submission to God and love for one another before we will have the power to resist the spirit of antichrist and perhaps antichrist himself.  If we think that some system, religion, group, or event is preparing the way for antichrist, we had better be in unison with other spirit-filled believers and pray earnestly for discernment and wisdom as to how to respond.  Most likely, God will lead us, as Jesus modeled, to pray, speak the Word, and go on the offensive to increase God’s kingdom.  The most effective way to destroy the works of the devil is to do the works of God.

·        Witness until the end; God delays the coming of Christ only to give all an opportunity to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

·        The coming judgment of the world is a good and necessary thing, in spite of the trials and tribulations that even some Christians may have to endure.  We should not be surprised or dismayed at the increasing frequency and severity of natural and supernatural events during the last days.  Rather than praying against them, we should recognize God’s hand and pray that he will protect us, provide for us, and, if required, to allow us the great honor of sacrificing our lives as a testimony for him.

 

In summary, the key is to be alert and watch for the signs that are given in God’s Word.  Then be so filled with the spirit of Christ that you immediately recognize not only the signs, but their importance and what your response should be.

 

America in Bible Prophecy

 

While the Middle East and various European regions are prominently mentioned in Bible prophecy, many are surprised or concerned by the apparent lack of mention of the United States.  The following is a short summary of possibilities, in the form of notes for a discussion group in the Spring of 2005.

 

Why is America not mentioned in Bible prophecy?

·        It just isn’t, and it may still be a powerful nation during End Times.

·        It will be destroyed during the wars between nations.

·        It will have lost influence through moral decay.

·        It will have been brought to its knees by the Rapture; until then it is a defender of Israel; then the antichrist “helps” Israel in the power vacuum after the Rapture; power shifts to Europe

·        It is mentioned under the label of Babylon

 

Scriptures that may shed light on America’s role in End Times:

·        Genesis 12:3 – America is blessed or cursed as we treat Israel; State Department policy is typically to evaluate our practical national interests, which often results in favoring Arab oil interests; contrasted to Bible-believing leaders who tend to favor Israel out of Scriptural convictions; broad support for Israel in America has waned since the 1975 Oil Embargo which followed the 1973 Yom Kippur war – most want cheap oil

·        Isaiah 18:2 – a tall, smooth-skinned people, feared far and wide, who are aggressive, or enterprising; could be America

·        Jeremiah 50-51 – America is equated with Babylon and her judgment for sins; 50:24 opposed the Lord; 50:36 false prophets; 51:24 for wrong done in Zion; 50:25 against you O destroying mountain…will make you a burned out mountain (see Rev 8:8 – America as the blazing mountain?)

·        Ezekiel 38:10-13 – Sheba and Dedan refer to Saudi Arabia, allies with merchants or young lions of Tarshish, which could be America or West Europe, who are against Gog and allies

·        Ezekiel 39:6 – fire on those who live in safety in the coastlands; could refer to America; fire could come from Russian nuclear subs off the coast

·        Daniel 7:4 – the lion is interpreted to be America by some

·        Zechariah 14:2-3 – Will gather all nations to fight Jerusalem – including America?  Notice the Lord destroys those nations

·        Revelation 8:8 – Like a mountain ablaze thrown into the sea; could the mountain be America (see Jer 51:24-25); vs. 9 continues referring to destruction of 1/3 of the creatures and ships in the sea – note that America is about 1/3 of the world economy; brought to the level of the sea, i.e., the other nations

·        Revelation 12:13-17 – Israel is given two wings of an eagle – does this refer to America?  Although Deut 32:11 states that the eagle is God Himself

·        Psalm 46:2 – we will not fear

 

Another possible scenario for America in End Times events:

·        Islamic terrorism occurs in America and is blamed on Christians supporting Israel; these Christians are persecuted for bringing on this extremist danger

·        Fear of terrorism weakens the economy and further divides the American people politically and religiously

·        America’s growing weakness invites more terrorist pressure, ultimately resulting in limited nuclear attacks

·        Strong, prepared Christians, in spite of an antagonistic American government, will lead a revival and focus on prayer to support Israel against an attack by Muslim nations led by antichrist

 

Note that this scenario combines the apparently contradictory prophetic themes of God’s judgment on America with Americans providing support for Israel.  This shows that it’s not about what political or economic system is “right,” rather, it’s about having Godly behavior under persecution, which results in prayer, repentance, and power to see God’s will ultimately fulfilled.

 

 


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