Impending Wars in the Middle East

Prof. Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (November 2010)

The Lord says that His wayward people, Israel, will only seek Him and be spiritually restored during perilous times when their enemies threaten to destroy them. In Hosea 5:15 He says, “In their affliction they will diligently seek Me.” Jeremiah also refers to Israel’s end-time distress: “It is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7). Daniel says, “There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation [of Israel], even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered” (Dan. 12:1). He links this time to the actions of the false messiah, who will desecrate the temple and set up an image of himself in God’s sanctuary: “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” (Dan. 11:31).

Daniel also refers to the Antichrist’s seven year treaty with Israel and the nations, by which he will deceive all of them. After 3½ years when his leadership has been firmly established he will declare himself in the temple to be God, abolish all religions and force people everywhere to only worship him (2 Thess. 2:4). Israel will also be forbidden to bring any further sacrifices to Yahweh as an abominable image of the Antichrist will be placed in their temple. Israel will refuse to worship the image and revoke their covenant with the Antichrist. This will highly infuriate the Antichrist and he will order the killing of all Jews. Daniel says, “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate” (Dan. 9:27). The Lord Jesus also referred to this big assault by the Antichrist and indicated that many of them will die during that time:

“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. Let him who is on the house-top not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 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” (Matt. 24:15-22). Only divine intervention will ensure their survival.

Why will the Lord allow such a great distress and threatening annihilation of Israel? Because, as a people, they apostatised and became utterly depraved. They still disregard the Messiah who was sent to them by God 2000 years ago. Through the prophet Ezekiel the Lord said, “The house of Israel has become dross to Me… Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As men gather silver, bronze, iron, lead, and tin into the midst of a furnace, to blow fire on it, to melt it; so I will gather you in My anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there and melt you… then you shall know that I, the Lord, have poured out My fury upon you” (Ezek. 22:18-22).

Israel will only seek the Lord for salvation when they have, humanly speaking, no chance on survival. Zechariah says, “And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the Lord, that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it. I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, This is My people; and each one will say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 13:8-9). That will only happen when the Messiah sets foot on the Mount of Olives during the battle of Armageddon to save the remnant in Israel. They will look on Him whom they have pierced, and bitterly grieve for Him (Zech. 12:10).

It is evident that the big wars of the end-time are all related to different aspects of Israel’s restoration. During the First World War, the land of Israel was liberated and became a British mandated territory. That opened the way for the later allocation of the land to the Israeli people. The Second World War gave rise to the severe persecution of Jews under Hitler, thus forcing many Jews to move to Israel in a desperate bid for survival. At the end of World War III, the entire Israel will be spiritually revived to become the people of the Messiah.

In the present period between Israel’s physical and spiritual restoration they are involved in a large number of bloody confrontations with neighbouring nations. The reason for this distress is because they are not yet reconciled with the Messiah. He is their only Prince of Peace and without Him they will not have lasting peace. It will only be at the end of World War III when the whole remnant of Israel will be spiritually liberated by accepting the Lord Jesus as their Messiah-King on the day of His second coming. Isaiah says: “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgement and justice” (Isa. 9:7).

The ‘unholy’ war

In the meantime, wars and rumours of threatening wars persist in the Middle East. The conventional wars which the Muslim neighbours of Israel are waging against them, as well as the ongoing terrorist war by Palestinians inside of Israel, are all motivated by the Islamic religion. From a young age, children at school are instigated by a revolutionary spirit of the hatred of Jews. Radical Muslims see it as a holy mission to destroy Israel from the face of the earth and to establish an Islamic state in its place with Jerusalem as its capital. In this ‘holy war’ (jihad) they basically conspire against the God of Israel. The psalmist says: “Do not keep silent, O God! And do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You... have taken crafty counsel against Your people... They have said: Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more” (Ps. 83:1-4).

Blinded by fanatical hatred for Jews and Christians, radical Muslims continue with their preparations for a big war against Israel and their supporters. They are arming themselves at a high cost and even develop nuclear weapons. Their final objective is to replace Israel by a mighty Muslim state since they believe that the end-time world will be controlled from the Middle East. They advocate the subjection of the entire world to Islamic sharia law so all of them will base their faith and civil institutions only on the Koran.

President Ahmadinejad of Iran says that the wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world. He believes that the world is heading for a clash of civilisations in which Islam is the only credible alternative to Western domination. He is convinced that Islam can and will win. Part of Ahmadinejad’s conviction comes from his belief in the second coming of the 12th Imam. According to the Shiite version of Islam the 12th descendant of Mohammad, an Imam who mysteriously disappeared during the Middle Ages, will reappear when the world has become full of oppression and tyranny. He will be Islam’s Imam Mahdi.

Ahmadinejad said it is the Islamic revolution’s main mission to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam. They argue that they ought to help spread evil, tyranny and oppression in order to facilitate the coming of the 12th Imam. They also plan to put Iran’s elite military unit, the Revolutionary Guard, at the Mahdi’s disposal to assist him in waging his wars. They also believe that the Imam Mahdi will appear together with the Koran’s Jesus and will join forces with him to ensure that Islam will be victorious everywhere.

However, the large majority of Muslims are Sunnites. They do not expect the coming of the Shiite’s 12th Imam but only believe in the coming of a Jesus who is not the Son of God and did not die on the cross to atone for the sins of the world. They merely refer to him as the son of Mary and say that he was a forerunner of his brother, Mohammed. According to them, Mohammed was the Comforter whom Jesus had promised to his disciples. They say that Jesus is coming back to deny the false claim that the Jews killed him, and consequently also to expose the cross-centred Christian faith as false. He will fight the Jews and Christians and kill the false Messiah. Thereafter he will cleanse the earth from polytheism and unbelief, order the killing of all pigs, and establish Islam as the only true religion. These reforms will usher in a time of peace and tranquillity among all people on earth.

Muslims also say that Jesus lived on earth for 33 years and has to return for the remaining seven years of his prophetic ministry of 40 years. They will, therefore, accept the Antichrist as he will pretend to be “Jesus” and conclude a covenant with many nations for seven years. Big wars will be carried on during this time, in which Islam expects to conquer the whole world.

The Russo/Arab war

The next major war against Israel will be the Russo/Arab invasion in which Iran will play a significant role. According to Ezekiel 38 and 39, various Arab countries will attack Israel under the leadership of Russia in an effort to bring them to their knees and wipe Israel off the map. Gog, in the land Magog, (that is modern Russia in the land north of the Caucasus Mountains) will join forces with Muslim countries such as Persia (Iran), Togarmah (Turkey), Ethiopia and Libya, as well as various other countries, to invade Israel.

The leadership role of Russia (Ezek. 38:7) cannot only be attributed to their superior military strength, but has been determined by the Lord as He wants to judge them. He says, “Behold, I am against you, O Gog” (Ezek. 39:1). The reason for the divine wrath against Russia is this country’s leading role in promoting hatred of the Jews by instigating and arming the enemies of Israel. Furthermore, Russia as a nation has denied the very existence of God by advancing the atheistic ideology of communism in many parts of the world. Because of their national rebellion the Lord will enter into judgement with them on the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 39:4).

The Lord says that He will put hooks into the jaws of Russia and lead them out of their country to participate in this war. They will, therefore, be forced through circumstances to assist their Arab and other allies in their planned war against Israel. God says to Gog: “After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel… You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days” (Ezek. 38:8,16).

Among the allies of Russia which are mentioned by Ezekiel, there are Muslim countries who have committed themselves to the destruction of Israel. Their hatred of the Jews has flared up to new heights after Israel invaded Lebanon to wipe out the strongholds of the Hezbollah terrorists who are supported by Iran and Syria. Afterwards, Israel conducted retaliatory attacks against Hamas in Gaza. Russia condemned the Jews for these acts of self-defence and continues to collaborate with the enemies of Israel.

Syria and Iran had hoped that the shower of rockets launched by Hezbollah would drive the Israelis from the northern part of their territory. Coupled with offensives by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad from Gaza and West Bank areas, they envisaged the downfall of the Jewish state. That did not happen because the Lord fights for Israel (cf. Ex. 14:25).

Radical Islam is planning a comprehensive campaign of retaliation against Israel, and also against the USA and Britain as they are regarded to be enemies of Islam for supporting Israel. But on this occasion the main assault will not be by means of terrorist attacks. Rather, the enemies contemplate a full-scale war against Israel in an effort to occupy the entire land and wipe the Jewish state off the map. For this purpose, they need a multi-national invasion force that can attack Israel from different fronts – from the north, the east, the south and also from Libya in the west, across the Mediterranean.

Israel’s enemies will try to secure Russia’s involvement for this war. To Russia there is the advantage of direct political influence and interests in the Middle Eastern oil fields if they help to realise the Arab dream of complete Islamic domination of the Middle East. Furthermore, there is the possibility that China would offer military assistance to the Arabs if Russia refuses to do so. Although reluctantly, Russia will, according to the Bible, agree to participate in the attempted destruction of the Jewish state.

The war of Ezekiel 38 and 39 is rapidly approaching. But the Lord will reveal Himself in a very clear way through the termination of this war: “I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes” (Ezek. 38:16). The destruction of the invading forces is graphically described by God: “You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the people who are with you... You shall fall on the open field; for I have spoken, says the Lord God. And I will send a fire on Magog” (Ezek. 39:4-6). There will also be a very big earthquake on that day (Ezek. 38:19).

Because of this divine intervention, Russia, Israel, and all the nations will recognise God as the Holy One. That will bring about a big change as most nations of the world, including Israel, have largely lapsed into agnosticism, secularism and humanism, and therefore do not seriously regard God, His Son or His Word. Various leading nations have omitted their earlier recognition of the Triune God’s supremacy from their constitutions, and also discontinued Christian education as a state-supported institution (cf. Ps. 2:2-3). Many of these countries have openly ridiculed the Christian faith by equating it with the heathen religions. South Africa plays a leading role in the promotion of multireligious thought, while many of the local theologians hold derogatory views on the person and divine attributes of the Lord Jesus.

The supernatural destruction of Israel’s enemies will induce the nations to recognise the God of Israel and the Bible as the true God who should be feared and served. That will bring about the end of atheism, agnosticism and secularism. But they will know so little about God that they will accept the wrong person, i.e. the Antichrist, as the Christ and messenger of God. The Antichrist and false prophet will exploit the nations’ new respect for supernatural signs by performing astounding signs and wonders themselves:

“And he [the false prophet] exercises all the authority of the first beast [the Antichrist] in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast” (Rev. 13:12-14). The people will be utterly amazed and, without questioning, accept the false credentials of the Antichrist to be “the Christ” and Saviour of the world.

The deceptive claims of the Antichrist and the false prophet will be so convincing that even Israel will be deceived into accepting this impostor as their promised Messiah. The Lord Jesus said to them, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43). Likewise, the whole world will marvel and follow the Antichrist while worshipping him as the self-declared universal messiah (Rev. 13:3-4).

Through his power to do signs and wonders, the Antichrist will claim credit for the sudden ending of the great war in Israel. Not only Israel will accept and follow him as the promised Messiah but the nations will also conclude a covenant with him and recognise him as their leader. They will openly declare that he saved humanity from a self-destructive world war, thereby giving all people new hope on a better future based upon global peace and unity.

Through Satan’s cunning devices, the world’s sudden swing towards the general recognition of God will end in large-scale deception. It will continue through the seven-year period of the Antichrist’s reign in the tribulation. During this year-week, Israel will derive great economic benefits from the spoils of war. They will use the weapons for fuel or melt them and use the metal in their industries (Ezek. 39:9). The seven years probably refer to the 70th year-week of Daniel (Dan. 9:27) – that is the tribulation period that will elapse between the rapture (Christ’s secret coming for His bridal congregation – John 14:2-3) and His public coming on the Mount of Olives when every eye shall see Him (Zech. 14:4-5).

The battle of Armageddon

The fact that Israel and the entire world will marvel and follow the Antichrist (Rev. 13:3) will give rise to false peace and unity on earth that will continue for 3½ years. That will be during the first half of the Antichrist’s seven-year covenant with Israel and the nations (Dan. 9:27). During this time, the false religions – including a perverted form of Christianity – will join hands and worship the Antichrist as their common messiah (Rev. 13:8; 17:3-5). That will coincide with the formal and world-wide rejection of evangelical Christianity as they cannot enter into any association with the non-Christian religions (John 14:6; 2 Cor. 6:14-16). The Christians who will be saved during that time will be persecuted and killed (Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9,13-14).

During the second half of the tribulation period, the war against the kingdom of God will continue. The Antichrist will go to new extremes in his rebellion against God by declaring himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (2 Thess. 2:4). He will erect an image of himself in the temple’s Holy of holies and order the execution of all people who would refuse to worship him as God (Rev. 13:15).

According to the Bible, the Antichrist’s reign of terror during the second half of the tribulation will last for 3½ years, i.e. 42 months (Rev. 13:5-7). The Antichrist will know that Jesus Christ will return to earth at the end of that year-week to destroy His enemies and save a remnant of Israel and the nations (Matt. 24:29-30). In view of this expected intervention, Satan will send some of his demons to the nations of the world to mobilise them for the war of Armageddon, where they will try to prevent the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth:

“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty... And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Rev. 16:13-16). In Revelation 19:19 John says: “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.”

This great confrontation will happen on the day of Christ’s second coming, but it will be a bad day for the enemies of the Lord Jesus as the Antichrist and the false prophet will be cast alive into the lake of fire, and their armies will be destroyed by Christ merely speaking words of condemnation (Rev. 19:19-21). The short-lived reign of the Antichrist will thus be brought to an end and replaced by the thousand-year reign of the true Christ. Then, the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of Christ (Rev. 11:15).

It is only when the Messiah comes again that the whole remnant in Israel will be saved and reconciled with Him. They will then enjoy all the blessings of the Messiah’s kingdom on earth and be used by Him to proclaim the gospel to all nations. But Israel is spiritually still very far from this position.

What is our duty towards unsaved Israel, particularly with a view to the big wars and great distress that await them as well as the unsaved world? There is only one way of escaping the judgements of God and that is to accept the Lord Jesus as Saviour: “There is… no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). How can we spiritually be a blessing to Israel if we do not proclaim the Messiah to them?

There are even Christian organisations in Israel who are only dedicated to helping and supporting Israel, but absolutely refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Messiah to them as that would offend orthodox Jews. There is also a well-known American preacher, John Hagee, who says that orthodox Jews already have a relationship with God and therefore do not need Jesus to save them. Certain theologians also acquit Israel from the coming tribulation under the Antichrist by alleging that the Holocaust during the Second World War was the great tribulation. In this way Israel will never be saved from their spiritual deception but rather be driven into the arms of the coming false messiah.

Israel should lovingly but very explicitly be warned against the consequences of the dark spiritual road which they are treading. Without the Messiah only judgements and trouble are awaiting them. A Messianic Jew, Arthur Katz, said:

“I have a sense that the [end-time judgments of God] are impending and near… The weight of our Jewish unbelief and unrelatedness to God must bring us down… We are already under the sentence of condemnation until that condemnation is lifted by the receiving of that One whom God sent to bear it, namely, the Messiah of Israel – Jesus of Nazareth. In the continuing rejection of God’s gift, all Israel stands under this sword of judgment, hovering over our heads, waiting for the moment when God simply takes His hand of restraint away. I would rather be proven false, but I believe that this present generation of Jews is going to suffer devastation on a world-wide scale that will eclipse the Nazi era… We are going to be viciously hated and pursued, suddenly uprooted, losing everything in a day, having to flee with only what is on our back and in panic not knowing where we are going… We are going to suffer double for our sins but our God has said, ‘I will restore.’ How urgent, then, to believe that the God who promises judgment and fulfils it is also the same God who promises restoration and will also fulfil it… Not to believe God’s judgment as the fulfilment of His word now is to nullify all hope of believing for His future intervention then. This is the scenario for the last days, namely, the restoration of Israel by the unmitigated grace and mercy of God – so totally undeserved” (The Holocaust – Where was God? An Inquiry into the Biblical Roots of Tragedy p. 89-90).

Israel will ultimately be restored spiritually, but not before two more major wars have driven them to the brink of extinction – i.e. the Russo/Arab invasion of Israel and the battle of Armageddon. Why should people go to such extremes before repenting and admitting that they were wrong by rejecting the Messiah and trying to live without Him? Put your trust in Him as only He can offer you forgiveness, restoration and a hopeful future. Without Him, every person is heading for the time of the Lamb’s wrath which will be poured out upon the entire unsaved world during the coming tribulation. Jesus Christ is either your Saviour and King in whose kingdom you will be a co-ruler, or He will be your Judge who will condemn you because of your sin.