Making Sense of What’s Happening in the Middle East
Sam A. Smith
As I write, “democracy protests” have been underway in a number of Middle Eastern countries for weeks. The governments of both Tunisia and Egypt are now in transition—to what form of government, we do not know. Likely Libya will follow, and tensions are building for regime changes in Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, and Sudan. What is now happening in the Middle East and North Africa is completely unprecedented. It is possible that within the next year or two the governments of most of the predominately Muslim Middle Eastern countries will change hands. But into whose hands will these nations fall? The United States released hundreds of cruise missiles and bombs on government forces in Libya even before it had any idea who the leaders of the revolution were, or what their ultimate plans for Libya might be. Such policy may ultimately prove to have been a grave mistake. In the Bible, the prophet Ezekiel in chapters 38 and 39 described the final alignment of nations leading up what The New Testament book of Revelation describes as “Armageddon” (note that the language of Ezekiel 39:17-20, cf. 39:4, is virtually identical to Revelation 19:17-18, which describes Armageddon).1 The nations that are specifically mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy are: Magog, Rosh, Meshech, Tubal (nations in the Baltic region), Persia (Iran), Ethiopia (including modern-day Sudan), Put (Libya), Gomer and Beth-Togarmah (Turkey and adjacent regions in Asia Minor).2 This alliance of nations will also consist of other nations not mentioned by Ezekiel, almost certainly to include Syria and Egypt, both of which are ancient enemies of Israel.3 There has been a fragile peace in the Middle East for the past three decades. Of course there have been limited conflicts, but nothing on the scale of all-out war as in 1967. One of the reasons is that governments in the region came to the realization that the conquest of Israel would be both costly and difficult. And for their own reasons they decided to bide their time. In the meantime, Egypt has for a number of years carried on limited trade with Israel. Radical Islam views this stalemate as a de facto victory for Israel. Not content with the status quo, it is likely that radical Islamists are either orchestrating the current social unrest, or at the very least, hoping to take advantage of the situation.
Is it possible that key Muslim leaders in these countries have taken a page from the playbook of the Iranian Revolution? That revolution also began with protests of freedom from totalitarianism. After deposing the Shah of Iran, Iranians promptly used their newfound freedom to establish an Islamic theocracy in which the government is controlled by a supreme religious authority. Will that happen in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Sudan, and Yemen? It could. Certainly these people have the right to control their destiny. However, those who read and understand prophetic truth know what their ultimate destiny is to be: the setting of the stage for the most destructive war in world history. Is there time for freedom and democracy to flourish in the Middle East before the final alignment of nations appears? We cannot say for certain, but given the history and religion of these peoples such a prospect seems highly unlikely. What seems far more likely is that these nations will develop into a pan-Islamic alliance that will include all of North Africa, Syria, Jordan, Sudan, and eventually Turkey along with some Baltic Islamic states. At the current pace of change, we may soon know how things will play out. Egypt will likely be a leading indicator. If these nations fall under the direct control of Islamic religious leaders it is likely that a pan-Islamic alliance will come to dominate the Middle East; if that happens we can expect the status quo to change quickly. First, the balance of power in the Middle East will be radically shifted as Israel faces a unified and ideologically energized enemy. Second, the dream of militant Islam—the complete subjugation of the Middle East (including Israel) to Islamic control—will undoubtedly top the list of priorities, though the prophet Daniel records that such motives will at first be cloaked in the guise of peace and security, cf. Daniel 9:27.4 Christians should be deeply concerned that the United States may unwittingly be lending its power to the service of those who desire to bring about the destruction both of Israel and the West.
In the meantime, Christians should pray for the people of the Middle East and for peace, while watching for indications that the time of which the biblical prophets spoke is drawing near. For what should Christians be looking? In the near term watch Egypt and Libya; if these nations fall under the control of radical Islam, the handwriting is likely on the wall for the rest of the Islamic Middle East. Also keep an eye on Turkey; any movement on the part of Turkey (or Baltic Islamic states) toward Islamic theocracy or alignment with the other nations listed above, could indicate that the coalition of nations spoken of in Ezekiel’s prophecy is taking shape. In the meantime, let us not forget that the mission of Christ’s church is to reach the lost—whoever and wherever they may be, and to wait patiently for his coming.5
©Copyright 2011, Sam A. Smith
Published by Biblical Reader Communications
April 23, 2011
1 Most premillennial writers tend to view the invasion described in Ezekiel 38-39 as separate and prior to the invasion of the Antichrist, placing the Ezekiel invasion early in the first half of the tribulation period, whereas the invasion by the Antichrist occurs near the middle of the tribulation. This is called the “two invasion theory.” I have given a number of reasons why the two-invasion theory is not plausible (see, The Olivet Discourse: A Reconstruction of the Text From Matthew, Mark, and Luke, with Commentary, by the author, Biblical Reader Communications, 2010, pp.127-128, footnote 6; also see What the Bible Says About the Future, by the author, Biblical Reader Communications, 2011, pp. 113-116). The biblical information leaves no doubt that Joel 1-3, Ezekiel 38-39, and Zechariah 12:209 all refer to the same invasion of Israel by the powers aligned with the Antichrist.
2 Ezekiel 38:1-6. Note that contrary to popular prophetic interpretation, the nations over which the Antichrist will exercise control are not European nations, but Mediterranean nations.
3 Joel 3:19.
4 For a discussion of the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 “weeks” see: The Olivet Discourse, by the author, pp. 201-207, and What the Bible Says About the Future, by the author, pp. 154-161.
5 For a discussion of the imminent rapture of the church see: What the Bible Says about the Future, by the author, pp. 175-212.