The Middle East lies in constant turmoil. Disagreement, confusion and violence have defined this region for millennia, making this geographic area a bubbling caldron of unrest, contention, terrorism and failed attempts at peace. Humanly devised solutions never work there.
Events are speeding up dramatically in this area of the world. Beginning with Tunisia and Egypt, nation after nation is seeing protests, demonstrations and riots. Things are not getting better, but rather only worse. Yet this is but the beginning of the worsening to come.
Few understand the historic roots of the Middle East. There, nations, cultures, religions, history and politics collide with prophecy! How will it be resolved? What does the Bible say? Events in the Middle East carry far greater significance than most even begin to understand!
This “Personal” covers conditions in the Mid-East today, including some of the history of the region. It also briefly touches on the longest single prophecy in the Bible.
Anti-government protesters: Libyan demonstrators wave their old national flag during a rally in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi (Feb. 28, 2011).Source: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
Demonstrations: Yemeni regime loyalists and anti-government protesters throw stones at each other during clashes in the capital Sanaa (Feb. 22, 2011).Source: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
It has been said that every eight years the Middle East suffers another war. Over 60 years of recent history proves this. And this does not count individual terrorist bombings, violent ambushes and other incidents that always seem to yield death. The Middle East’s problems defy a simple solution—but it can be proven that God has been carefully guiding events there much longer than any can imagine.
The whole world is tied to the Middle East in a remarkable way. The problems there will not go away, nor can the world pretend they will by simply looking the other way!
The Middle East is at the center of a powerful and vitally important prophecy the world knows nothing of. But God’s Plan can be known. He is working out a supreme purpose on Earth.
Most people are completely unaware that there is a purpose for mankind—let alone what it is! The present and future of the Middle East play a large role in God’s Master Plan for humanity, and this region is at the center of astounding prophecies that will affect the lives of all peoples on Earth before this age is finished.
Only God can solve the “Middle East problem.”
Over 2,500 years ago, God inspired the prophet Daniel to record a long and detailed prophecy involving many fascinating twists and turns through history. This prophecy will culminate with cataclysmic events to occur in our time! These events will impact all nations—and yet their meaning has been sealed, closed until the last days!
Some Bible prophecies are general. Others are specific, or even highly specific. Some involve single events that occur at specific moments in time. Others are fulfilled slowly over many years—or even many centuries or millennia—and involve many events. Daniel’s prophecy involves many smaller prophecies that can be examined one by one, until the account arrives at the modern age.
This primarily involves examination of one long chapter in the Bible. The fulfillment of each of the 45 separate verses is not subject to human reasoning, opinion or interpretation. Many of these very intricate separate prophecies have already been fulfilled exactly as God foretold, and have taken their place in history. They are now facts that can be studied—and are powerful proofs that a Supreme Being foretold them and then brought them to pass!
The connection between the periods of the present, past and future of the region is seen in its Mid-East flash point—Egypt. As you read, grasp the importance of tying the present to the past—and then to the future.
First, Egypt’s current state.
In January 2011, the government of the tiny African nation of Tunisia collapsed, brought on by riots sparked from a single protester who burned himself to death in public in mid-December. This event went on to cause widespread riots in Egypt, a long-time strong United States ally of over 80 million people.
Caught off guard: Egyptian anti-government demonstrators harass a pro-regime opponent during clashes in Cairo’s central Tahrir square (Feb. 03, 2011).Source: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images
Voice of America reported, “Since Tunisia’s anti-government protests, at least five Egyptians have attempted suicide by self-immolation, imitating the young Tunisian whose burning death in December first galvanized protesters there.”
This shows the determination driving what followed. Protesters stormed the streets of Cairo and elsewhere to challenge the longstanding rule—almost 30 years—of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. Hundreds of thousands protested. Eighty-two-year-old Mubarak disbanded his cabinet on January 28 and appointed a vice president for the first time since entering office.
The initial protests escalated to unprecedented levels, prompting decisive actions: “Overnight in Egypt, the government shut down the vast majority of Egypt’s Internet service, only allowing a network used by the stock exchange and most banks to stay live” (The Christian Science Monitor).
Former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, who openly supported the protests and is a favorite in the coming presidential election, was put under house arrest.
Video footage from the capital showed utter chaos: injured crying children, a man falling down shot, armored vehicles patrolling the streets and striking people, military helicopters everywhere, authorities firing gas grenades at protesters, mob-fueled street beatings, many fires and explosions. Rioters attempted to seize the foreign ministry and state TV buildings. Other buildings were looted, vandalized and burned. Prisons were abandoned by guards, and hundreds of prisoners escaped. Museums housing millennia-old priceless artifacts were looted. The picture was stark.
Just 18 days after protests began, Mr. Mubarak resigned, turning control over to the military council, which within two days suspended the constitution and disbanded the entire government. Yet this is but a short chapter in a nation of such long history. To look closely at Egypt is in some ways to look closely at the entire Middle East.
The biggest and most populous, and most geographically central nation in the Mid-East, Egypt—and its historical role—is referenced many times in the Bible. Egypt was the world’s first recorded great empire. And it is still the 16th most populous country in the world. History records that Noah escaped to Egypt when persecutors sought his death before the Flood. The ancient patriarch Joseph was sold into slavery there, which led to his father, Jacob, then named Israel, settling there. Certain historians believe that the patriarch Job—Joseph’s nephew—built some of the pyramids. Moses was largely trained in Egypt. An infant Jesus was taken there for protection. Before the Exodus, it took many miracles to break the will of the stout-hearted Egyptians before God could deliver His people from enslavement. Egyptian arrogance caused Pharaoh to ignore all of this and lose his army in the Red Sea as God’s people fled under His protection. History records Egypt never recovered.
Ancient Israel often went to war with Egypt. The Bible records many accounts involving this country as God’s servants and people came into contact with it.
Of course, many dismiss such Bible accounts as Hebrew fables. They do not believe the miracles of Egypt—or any other miracles of the Bible—actually occurred. It can be proven with unmistakable clarity that Daniel’s prophecy stood the test of history—time and time again. Even the close-minded will be surprised at the stubbornness—and the power—of the facts. The authority of the Bible can be proven.
The Bible also reveals much about Egypt’s future. Multiple prophecies reveal that the modern descendants of Israel will again be enslaved in Egypt, among other places. I am not just referring to the Jews—the modern Israelis—but of all 12 tribes, whose identities can be known. But this is a subject for other articles and booklets.
The Bible shows that Egypt will play a key role in the fulfillment of prophecy surrounding an entity called “the king of the south.”
At Christ’s Return, Egypt’s stubborn resistance will repeat itself as a type of certain nations that will not easily accept His rule. As with ancient Israel, it will again take plagues and droughts to break the will of the Egyptian people. Read Zechariah 14:18-19.
Finally, in its latter end, prophecy reveals Egypt will have a special highway built connecting it to Assyria—modern Germany—and running through the re-established nation of Israel (Isa. 19:23-25). All three countries are in this prophecy described as God’s people. But this has obviously not happened yet, and events today are leading toward other prophecies involving this nation’s future.
The governments of many other nations are on the brink. Yemen may be the next to crumble. The New York Times reported, “Scenes [there] broadcast across the Arab world were reminiscent of demonstrations in Egypt this week and the month of protests that brought down the government in Tunisia.”
In Lebanon, the selection of Hezbollah-backed Prime Minister Najib Mikati sparked another “day of rage.” All eyes continue to be on this nation, but also on Jordan. King Abdullah II of Jordan fired his entire government because of large street protests all over the country. But serious unrest also involves several North African countries, such as Algeria and Libya. Iran’s repressive dictatorial government is again under siege. A contagion of protest, revolt and riot is now sweeping many nations of the world. Even certain American states are seeing the same, and as a direct result. More will soon follow—both nations and states!
Let’s now go back a few years and review the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks on our way to the present. We will also examine Iran more closely. Let’s see why Mid-East solutions never work, and more about recent events there.
For reasons involving religion, race and natural resources, primarily oil, the Middle East has long been filled with tension and conflict. The basis for a modern nation of Israel was laid in 1917, during World War I, when the Balfour Declaration led to setting the very problematic boundaries for modern Iraq, as well as for what would lead to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Israel’s appearance brought a radical shift in the region’s power balance, as well as in the attitude of virtually all Arab nations surrounding Israel. But this really extends to every Islamic nation.
Since 1948, endless proposals have been set forth intending to placate the factions in the region and bring lasting peace. The Israelis and Palestinians have sought peace for decades, but it has never worked. Nor will it! The region’s never-ending unrest weighs heavily on governments across the globe. The world’s great powers simply cannot look away.
On September 17, 1978, American President Jimmy Carter negotiated a peace agreement—the Camp David Accords—between longtime enemies Egypt and Israel. This led to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty because Anwar Sadat saw that any peace is always better than war. This treaty was to be a harbinger of temporary better times. The dream of peace flourishing in the age-old volatile region—famous for war, terror and destruction—was on the path to becoming reality.
Or so it seemed. First, Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. Mr. Mubarak replaced him, but upheld the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
Each U.S. administration since President Carter, to varying degrees, have tried to establish peace. This has ranged from the strength of words to the delicate dance of diplomacy—from economic incentives to political compromise.
Diplomatic efforts known as the Middle East Peace Process picked up again in the fall of 1991 and were sponsored by Spain, the United States and the Soviet Union. The talks focused on cooperation among Israel and three of its neighbors—Lebanon, Syria and Jordan—and led to a series of agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization known as the Oslo Accords. By this time, an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty had been signed. This occurred under King Hussein, King Abdullah’s highly respected very moderate father. But virtually all the goals are still eluding diplomats 20 years later.
In April 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush unveiled the Middle East Peace Plan, called “A Performance-based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-state Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Diplomats and journalists called it “The roadmap to peace.”
Devised by the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, the roadmap was a three-phase blueprint designed to reach a peaceful settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians by 2005. It contained a step-by-step process calling for both parties to take action to reach its objective: creating a sovereign, independent Palestinian state, peaceably co-existing with Israel.
Soon after the roadmap was outlined, hostilities flared. The 2006 showdown between Israel and the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah continued the cycle. This war had implications elsewhere in the Mid-East, including Syria, Iran and the Palestinian territories.
A ceasefire came August 14, 2006. Many declared Hezbollah victorious, as did the leaders of Iran and Syria. Syrian President Bashar Assad stated that the outcome of the conflict proved America’s plan for the Middle East is “an illusion.”
In early 2008, three years after the roadmap was to have brought a peaceful resolution, President George W. Bush embarked on an eight-day trip to the Middle East. His trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories was intended to continue pressure for both sides to follow through on their commitments to each other, specifically the first stage on the “roadmap to peace.” The plan called for Israel to stop new settlements, dismantle unauthorized outposts built by settlers after March 2001, and lift more travel restrictions on the Palestinians. It also called for the Palestinians to disband terrorist groups and to build the institutions of a functioning state. Six years after the plan was supposed to be a success, it is still failing.
Solutions have simply never worked between Israel and Palestine—and they never will. Part of the reason is because of other powers in the region—there are over 200 million Arabs—who will not under any circumstance permit tiny Israel to have peace with her neighbors. But the greatest reason lies within how different peoples—Jew and Arab—see so differently their connection to the patriarch Abraham.
While governments around the world focused on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, another problem loomed: an Iranian nuclear state. Iran has claimed it is committed to the peaceful use of nuclear technology, while denying enriching uranium for weapons. It maintains that its nuclear work is to generate electricity and produce isotopes for radiation therapy in hospitals. World powers, particularly Western nations, are unconvinced. So is Israel.
In February 2010, on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran was now a nuclear state. He told a huge raucous crowd, “I want to announce with a loud voice here that the first consignment of 20 percent enriched uranium was produced and was put at the disposal of the scientists” (Tehran Times).
Weeks earlier, in his first State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama promised Iran would pay a price if it does not abandon its nuclear program, stating “…as Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They, too, will face growing consequences” (Time magazine). Of course there has yet come no price, but only more talk.
Tension over Iran’s nuclear ambition rose with the announcement by its president that he would step up enrichment. Iran is prepared to increase uranium enrichment if the United States attempts to halt its nuclear program.
German newspaper Der Spiegel claimed in early 2010 to have access to an intelligence dossier showing the existence of a secret military branch of Iran’s nuclear program. Its aim of producing a bomb has reached an advanced stage. The article stated, “Experts believe that Iran’s scientists could produce a primitive, truck-sized version of the bomb this year, but that it would have to be compressed to a size that would fit into a nuclear warhead to yield the strategic threat potential that has Israel and the West so alarmed—and that they could reach that stage by sometime between 2012 and 2014.”
The explosive Middle East becoming a nuclear battlefield comes ever closer to reality as Iran (1) defies global opinion, (2) feverishly works toward atomic weapons and (3) repeatedly calls for Israel’s annihilation. According to a 2008 report, “Nuclear Programs in the Middle East: In the Shadow of Iran,” by London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, more than a dozen nations in the Mid-East, just from February 2006 to January 2007, announced intentions for a nuclear program, or had restarted dormant programs.
Experts report that time is running out for Israel to destroy Iran’s nuclear complex before Tehran is able to launch long-range missiles with nuclear warheads at Tel Aviv or other Israeli cities. The prospect of mushroom clouds over this strategic region is terrifying the whole world!
With each new round of fighting in the Middle East, the rest of the world looks for a third party to present a solution. This provides opportunities for other nations, or groups of nations, to demonstrate leadership on the world stage. The European Union began to intervene some time ago, so far to no avail.
Let’s see more from 2010 to the present. At a January 2010 UN Security Council forum, an EU official statement advocated a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine: “If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two States. The Council calls for the reopening of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem in accordance with the Roadmap [to peace]” (“[EU] Council conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process”). It maintained, “The EU stands ready to contribute substantially to post-conflict arrangements, aimed at ensuring the sustainability of peace agreements” (ibid.). Israel will not agree.
Commentator Ghassan Michel Rubeiz, writing for Common Ground News Service, a non-profit initiative for a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict, proposed a future role for EU security forces in the region: “Over the years, Europe’s role as a mediator receded, giving way to an expanding US role in the region. But in more recent decades, European states have achieved excellence in policing peace in many places: in the Middle East, the Balkans, West Africa and elsewhere. Given the opportunity, Europe could provide the Israelis and Palestinians with the necessary international security that is crucial for enforcing a two-state solution.” This portends absolutely monumental—colossal—implications.
After Israeli troops raided a Gaza flotilla in May 2010, which killed nine and further heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine, the European Parliament “called for a stronger EU role in lifting the Gaza blockade, a day after foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton gave a chilling account of the situation there and suggested an EU naval mission to help with the transfer of goods.” In addition, the EU Parliament proposed “international monitoring of the crossings, including reactivating the European border assistance mission…at the Gaza-Egyptian border” (Euobserver).
While the futures of Europe and Israel are intertwined, they will follow very different paths.
After two years of silence, a new round of Middle East peace talks began in September 2010, between Israel and Palestine. The initial meetings were hosted in Washington by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Also in attendance were Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Abbas, King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Mubarak. Participants emphasized creating a “framework agreement” to resolve difficult issues such as disputed borders, security, the status of Jerusalem, new Israeli settlements and Palestinian refugee rights.Yet, due to the continuous violence and repeated failed attempts to broker peace, government representatives doubt the process will succeed. Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in the West Bank, said, “I do not believe a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians is possible within a year, nor even during the next generation” (BBC).
All these events have led more to ask, “What does the future hold for the Middle East?” Many millions are pursuing a Bible view of the course of events there. A host of terms are now bandied about. These include the antichrist, the abomination of desolation, Armageddon, World War III, a new world order, and the Mark of the Beast. But what does the Bible actually say? And does history reveal a pattern? Also, other millions wonder about a possible emerging Islamic caliphate, or the arrival of the mahdi—the Islamic Messiah—or about a final “king of the south” referenced earlier.
We have seen that man cannot find a lasting solution to the Mid-East problem. What does God say He will bring about in this region?
Now for just a little of the extensive prophecy in Daniel, found in chapter 11, and concluded in chapter 12. In chapter 10, Daniel is left astonished by the prophecy—shocked and overwhelmed by what God revealed would happen “at the end,” or in the last days. He was so upset, it records, he did not eat for three weeks (10:2-3)!
In reviewing the prophecy, bear in mind that men inserted all chapter and verse divisions of the Bible. While these can be helpful to readers, they can also inadvertently break up longer stories, thoughts or, as in this case, prophecies. The true meaning and scope of the subject matter can be obscured or lost from view by these divisions.
In this case, the entirety of Daniel 11 builds to an unexpected conclusion, yet to be fulfilled.
Some setup. God gives a certain introductory emphasis to those who read the prophecy, and we need to grasp it. First, God gave this prophecy during the third year of the reign of Cyrus, king of the Persian Empire (centered in modern Iran). Notice chapter 10, verse 1: “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar [his given Babylonian name]; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long [it involved the distant future]: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision.”
Daniel recorded that two powerful kings (actually competing kingdoms tied directionally to “north” and “south”) would play an overarching role in Middle East events, all the way to the time of the end. These two kings set the stage for the unfolding of vitally important future events, which culminate before Christ returns!
Two key verses set the stage. In Daniel 10:21, the archangel Gabriel speaks to Daniel: “I will show you that which is noted in the scripture of truth.” Chapter 11 introduces the time setting. Verse 2 continues, “Now will I show you the truth.” When God foretells events, He speaks the truth! They are certain! They will happen! Since no scripture can be broken (John 10:35), neither can any verse of this prophecy! Each must stand the test of close scrutiny.
The remainder of Daniel’s prophecy presents absolutely fascinating knowledge. To learn more, read my booklet The Mid-East in Bible Prophecy, which examines the Daniel 11 prophecy verse by verse, including events to occur in very near future.