Prof. J.S. Malan, University of the North, South Africa
From the viewpoint of biblical prophecies Iraq is very important. This country is so important that there are good reasons to expect that the Antichrist will make his appearance here. In the end-time Iraq will, according to the Bible, not only produce one of the biggest threats for world peace, but also the initiative for a false peace which will unite the world for 3˝ years.
In biblical times the present Iraq had different names during different periods. It was known as Mesopotamia (that means “Land between two rivers” – the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers). In ancient times this land was also known as Chaldea, Shinar and Babylonia. The first world empire was established here by Nimrod, who was the builder of the city of Babylon on the banks of the Euphrates River. At that time Babylonia was much bigger than the present Iraq. Subsequently, the Assyrians conquered the Babylonians and called the entire region Assyria. It was a vast territory, stretching from the Mediterranean See to the Persian Gulf. In 612 BC the Chaldeans subjected the Assyrians and re-established the Babylonian empire (or new-Babylonian empire). Nebuchadnezzar was the second king of the restored Babylonian empire, with Babylon as capital. In 586 BC Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and many Jews were taken captive to Babylon. In 539 BC Babylon was captured by the Persians. After that, Babylon was controlled by various nations. During the times of the Greek and Roman empires this region was known as the Syrian Province. In the seventh century AD the region was conquered by the Arab forces of Islam. It later became subdivided into different countries, viz. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Kuwait.
In the book of Daniel we get a clear indication that the Antichrist will arise from the ancient Babylonia, which was later also known as Assyria and the Syrian Province:
· In Daniel 7:7-8 the origin of the Antichrist is indicated within the context of the old Roman Empire as one out of ten. No indication is given from which one of the ten countries the Antichrist will come. Keep in mind that the Syrian province, which includes the present Iraq, was part of this empire.
· In a following scenario in Daniel 8:8-9 the Antichrist is depicted as one out of four, referring to the four provinces of the divided Greek empire. The circle is now narrowed to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Syria (including the present Iraq) was one of these provinces.
· In Daniel 11 the Antichrist is finally identified as one out of two, i.e. the provinces of the king of the north (Syria) and the king of the south (Egypt) in the divided Greek Empire after Alexander the Great. The historical battle between these two kingdoms is described in Daniel 11:1-35, while the end-time king of the north, the Antichrist, is described in Daniel 11:36-45. It can thus be concluded that he will originate from Syria or Iraq.
In Isaiah there is another important prophecy on the revival of the ancient Assyrian empire in the end-time. It is discussed within the context of the day of the Lord (Isa. 10:20) and the Antichrist is described as the king of Assyria:
It is very clear from this scripture that the Antichrist will be the modern king of Assyria. He will institute a new world order of international unity in which the boundaries between earlier sovereign states will be removed and the powers of their governments severely curtailed. He will, without any trouble, appropriate their treasures and gain control over the world economy. Furthermore, he will conclude a marriage between religion and politics by deifying himself as world leader. Daniel 11 refers to this end-time king of the north who will declare himself to be God:
“And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation…. Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god… He shall regard neither the God of his fathers… for he shall magnify himself above them all” (Dan. 11:31-37). The daily sacrifices which the Antichrist will take away refers to the abolition of the sacrifices in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem to replace it with the worship of the abomination of desolation. That will happen in the middle of the tribulation period of seven years (Dan. 9:27). He will cause an image of himself to be erected in the temple and force all the citizens of his global empire to worship the image. Those who refuse will be executed (Rev. 13:15). He will also make relentless attacks on the Jewish people after they have revoked their covenant with him, and try to annihilate them all. Jesus said the following about this time in Israel’s history: “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place… then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains… For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Mt. 24:15-22).
This scenario is definitely end-time. In Matthew 24:29-30 the Lord Jesus says that immediately after the tribulation of those days His second coming will occur. Paul also refers to the self-deification of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2 where he describes him as “the son of perdition who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” This is clearly an act by the great end-time Antichrist, of whom Paul says that he is the great rebel and lawless one “whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thes. 2:8). The events described in the last part of Daniel 11 will, therefore, be fulfilled in the end-time.
The Bible clearly teaches that a false prince of peace will arise in ancient Babylonia or Assyria in the end-time, who will claim to be God and demand the worship of all people. Like his old-time predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, he will put to death all those who refuse to worship his image. Revelation 13:15 explicitly states that all people who refuse to worship the Antichrist will be executed. The peace and unity that the Antichrist will initially bring will be based on religious deception. He will propagate a multireligious ideology in which he will occupy the position of universal Messiah of all faiths. Shortly afterwards he will proceed to an even more blasphemous act of religious self-exaltation by declaring himself to be God. He will be merciless in enforcing his world-religion on all people. In that time, 1 Thessalonians 5:3 will be fulfilled: “For when they say, Peace and safety! then sudden destruction comes upon them.”
According to Daniel 9:27 it is evident that the Antichrist will conclude a covenant with many nations for seven years. During the first 3˝ years he will rule the world as a false prince of peace from Babylonia and also rebuild his capital city, Babylon. After a period of revolt against his world empire he will rule as a military dictator during the last 3˝ years of his reign. All people will then be forced to worship him and be marked with his number on their right hand or forehead to be able to buy or sell. During that stage the revived Babylonian empire, sometimes referred to as the Assyrian empire in the Bible, will in every respect fulfil its role as the stronghold of an evil, God-rejecting kingdom. Only then will Babylon be destroyed by fire during the judgements of God.
From these scriptures it is evident that no statement is made about the gradual dilapidation of the city during many centuries. The final destruction of Babylon will occur in one hour when the city will, as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, be consumed by fire (Isa. 13:9; Jer. 50:40). At the same time a great earthquake with continuous thunder and lightning will occur, then the city will subside into a lake of fire, never to be restored or inhabited again (Rev. 16:17-19; 18:21). The smoke of her burning will form dark clouds across the plains of Shinar and be clearly visible from the ships in the Persian Gulf (Rev. 18:17-18). That will be the end of a kingdom, an ideology and a society that rejected God, despised His grace and lived in open rebellion against Him.
What will happen to the relatively small group of people in Babylonia, Syria, Egypt and other Arab countries who survived the great tribulation? According to Matthew 24:30 all the tribes of the earth will mourn when they see the true Christ coming on the clouds of heaven at the end of the great tribulation. They will repent under deep conviction of their sin, accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour and serve Him wholeheartedly. The thousand year reign of Christ will then begin and all the false religions will be rejected and forgotten. Only the craters of destroyed Babylon will remind of their earlier existence and tragic end. Isaiah says the following about the new situation that will prevail in the Middle East during the day of the Lord in the millennium:
Israel will be the head of the nations according to Jeremiah 31:7, but Egypt and Assyria will join them in wholeheartedly proclaiming the praises of the Lord. Only when the true Prince of Peace has come, who will also be the King of kings, there will be lasting peace on earth. Until that time there will be increased unrighteousness, wars, natural disasters, and a false, satanic peace by which the nations will be deceived to worship Lucifer and his false christ.