The Middle East in Bible Prophecy
Bible prophecy describes how the increasing political and media bias of western nations, and the increasing aggression of Arab-Muslim nations finally leads to a major end-time war against Israel. In fact, since prophecy here is not precise, some see several major Middle East wars just before the close of this age and the Second Coming of Christ. What we can say with some certainty is:
- Any major future invasion will be defeated by the God of Israel. As in 20th century wars, the nation of Israel survives
- There will be an alliance of invading nations – mainly an Arab-Islamic alliance, possibly led by Russia
- At the very end of this age an army from ‘all-nations’ will invade Israel – commonly referred to as ‘the Battle of Armageddon’. It will be defeated at the Second Coming of Christ
- These end-time wars will usher in a time of peace and justice on the earth under the rule of Christ. Some refer to this as the ‘Millennial Age’
The Arab-Islamic Invasion: the Gog-Magog War
It seems very plausible that Ezekiel 38 and 39 refer to an invasion of Israel prior to the “all nation” invasion, and that this war involves mainly those Arab-Islamic nations surrounding Israel. Psalm 83 speaks of an alliance of invading nations, a mainly Arab-Islamic alliance. Key present-day Arab-Islamic nations such as Turkey, Iran, Libya and Ethiopia are identified in Ezek 38.1-6. Psalm 83 seems to speak of a confederacy against Israel with the aim of eliminating Israel:
They have said, ‘Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more … they form a confederacy against You’ (Ps 83.4,5)
Does this sound familiar?
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it [ Hamas Charter, 1988 ]
Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be ‘eliminated’ [ President of Iran, 2012 ]
Is Russia Involved?
The key question here is, ‘Where is the land Magog?’, the land of the key player Gog in the coalition against Israel. There are several possibilities. Bible atlases tend to place Magog in northern Turkey, but others disagree. Historians link the Scythian peoples to Magog: Hesiod identified Magog with the Scythians and the southern Russia area in the 7th century BC, and Herodotus wrote about the descendants of Magog by their Greek name, the Scythians in the 5th century BC. Both Jerome and Josephus claimed that Magog is a general designation for the many Scythian tribes of the north, whilst Philo (1st century) identifies Magog with the southern Russia area, link.
So what of the Scythians? They were a people dwelling north and east of the Black Sea and in the area surrounding the Caspian Sea. Today’s maps identify this area to include the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, link. The Russian Federation (and Moscow) is indeed to the ‘far north’ of Israel (Ezek 38.15).
Russia’s strengthening economic and military ties with Iran (a key nation in Ezekiel 38) supports the view that Russia could be the leader of the God-Magog invasion, link.
The prophetic picture suggests the total defeat and humiliation of militant Islam in the sight of many nations (Ezek 39.21). Moreover, from that day, Israel starts to know her God as He pours out His Spirit on her:
So the House of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day forward … for I shall have poured out My Spirit on her (Ezek 39.22,29)
The Last Middle East Conflict – the “Battle of Armageddon”
This is the “all nation” invasion referred to in prophecy. The term ‘all nations’ appears to be precisely that (rather than Middle East nations local to Israel) if it is to be consistent with Zech 14.9; the Lord cannot be King over part of the earth! Now if all world leaders attack Israel, this implies a change of policy in America, or even the absence of America on the world scene! Indeed, it is difficult to find America in end time prophecy.
Continuing, the armies of the nations gather at a place called Armageddon (Hebrew ‘har megiddo’ or ‘Mountain of Megiddo’, Rev 16.16). This is located in northern Israel in the valley or plain of Jezreel, near Mount Carmel. It is an ideal location for amassing large armies and may also be the location of the last war between human armies (the Gog-Magog war). But it is certainly the gathering place for the world’s armies as they prepare for the final war against Jerusalem and in particular for war against Christ and His armies – a unique man-God war (Rev 19.19)(Zech 12.2-9).
The timing of this Middle East war against Israel appears to be at the very end of this age, just prior to the return of Christ to the earth. God says:
Proclaim this among the nations: prepare for war … assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around (Joel 3.9,11)
I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle (Zech 14.2)
I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone … though all nations of the earth are gathered against it (Zech 12.3)
This man-God war is the final war of the age. In biblical terms it is ‘the great day of God Almighty’ (Rev 16.14). The important point here is that Israel will not be alone since her God, the ‘Lion of Judah’ protects her:
As a lion roars … so the LORD of hosts will come down to fight for Mount Zion
The LORD will go forth and fight against those nations … and the armies of heaven follow Him
(Zech 14.3, Rev 19.14)
The battle is described in detail in Rev 19.11-21 and Zech 14. The world armies are defeated (Rev 19.20,21).
God’s Protection of a Remnant of Israel
Although Israel was scattered throughout the nations for some 2500 years, it is amazing that somehow the nation survived. Today we see many of the world’s Jews now regathered in Israel. Moreover, they have been and will be protected by the ‘Lion of Judah’.
The 6-Day War: In June 1967 the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon (and later Iraq) attacked Israel. Their goal was “to wipe Israel off the map”. The military balance was clearly in favor of the United Arab Republic, link, which had huge superiority in armour, aircraft and troops (Egypt’s estimated armed forces were 180,000-200,000 men). Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, realizing the immense military challenge told his cabinet:
God help us through if they hit us first.
Well, it appears God did help, and Israel defeated the unprovoked attack in just 6 days! After the war Israel held the Sinai, the Golan Heights, Gaza, the West Bank and all of Jerusalem. The West Bank and Jerusalem were actually part of the area allotted to Israel for Jewish settlement under the 1922 Palestine Mandate, link. So through this unprovoked attack, God gave back to Israel what Jordan had illegally gained through the 1949 Arab-Israeli war!
The Yom Kippur War: In October 1973 Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated attack on Israel in an attempt to win back territory lost in the 6-Day War. Iraqi forces soon joined the war, and Syria received support from Jordan. The Arab armies used up-to-date Soviet weaponry.
The war was launched on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, link. This took Israeli Defense Forces by surprise and Israeli causalities were heavy. But after some 20 days both Egypt and Syria had suffered military defeat, despite attacking when Israel was at a time of rest, prayer and fasting.