Iran — Another Important Piece in the Prophetic Puzzle

“The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia.”

[Daniel 10:13]

Obvious attention has been given to the escalating tension between Iran and the United States. Iran has carried out numerous acts of war through military aggression, terrorism, espionage, and piracy in the Middle East. Not to mention Iran’s direct involvement with mercenaries and proxies throughout the region, including Iraq, Yemen, Syria, the Gaza Strip [Hamas], Lebanon [Hezbollah], and the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has been working relentlessly to acquire and develop nuclear weapons — if they don’t have them already — brandishing ballistic missiles with intercontinental range. Let’s not forget Iran’s irrational hatred for Israel. Not only does the Holy Land sit basically in Iran’s own back yard, but Israel considers Iran its most-serious and imminent threat to survival.

Iran’s most recent act of war was a strategic attack on our U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The U.S. military wasted no time and carried out a precise drone strike on Iran’s top general — Qassem Soleimani — killing him and his entourage outside the Iraqi Airport on New Year’s Day. The swift response by President Trump somewhat stunned Iran, who vowed revenge by raising the notorious red flag of war over the country.

But now Canada, France and Ukraine are demanding answers after a passenger jet leaving the Iranian Airport allegedly was shot down by an Iranian surface to air missile — killing everyone on board. While an investigation is pending at this time, it is difficult to believe that this latest act of terror was in any way accidental or coincidental.

For good reason, the world is taking notice to the mounting tensions in the spiritual epicenter of the world. Many have a sense that this latest exchange somehow is different, perhaps providing the spark that will set many unpredictable and consequential fires into motion.

But regardless of the potential geopolitical dynamics and regardless of how the media machine will spin the truth and redismisinate misinformation, we must be able to view everything through the lenses of Scripture to see the whole picture.

As followers of Christ and students of the Word, we must grasp the deeper, more substantial issues with Iran, which include the historical, the spiritual and the prophetic.

Historical Persia

From the original table of 70 nations in Genesis 10, the ethnic and geographic roots of modern-day Iran can be traced back to Elam — the son of Shem and grandson of Noah. After the dispersement of the nations at Babel, Elam settled in the territory northeast of the modern day Persian Gulf and eventually rose to prominence as a world power in the 6th Century B.C.

From a biblical perspective, Media/Persia provides a critical historical backdrop for many of the Old Testament authors, including Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Ester, Haggai, and Malachi. As we will see, Persia represents both the historical kingdom contemporary with the likes of Daniel and Esther, and the future territory of ancient Elam/modern-day Iran, which plays a key role in the end times and is a key piece to the prophetic puzzle.

Through decades of military conquest and expansion, the Persian Empire [circa 550-330 B.C.] absorbed one of the largest imperial land masses in the ancient world, including Media, Babylon, Egypt, Asia Minor, Assyria, and parts of India. Finally in 330 B.C., Macedonian King Alexander the Great conquered Persia and brought the dynasty to an end.

http://mapsofwar.com

Daniel refers to Persia — like the other major world empires — in cryptic and apocalyptic language. Yet using the context, the external data and the internal witness of the Scriptures, we can be confident in the historical reliability of Daniel’s vision and also in the prophetic accuracy of things to come. Here are some examples.

  1. Persia is the second kingdom represented in Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, as described by its chest and arms of silver. You can read Daniel’s interpretation in Daniel 2:31-45.
  2. The 2nd beast kingdom in Daniel 7, as described as a bear raised up on one side [Daniel 7:5].
  3. The ram with two horns in Daniel 8.

After Javan (Ancient Greece/Macedonia) conquered Persia, it has remained somewhat on the periphery of the geopolitical main stage and Biblical timeline until just recently. Inspired by radical Shia Islam, the Iranian regime has emerged once again as a significant player in the Middle East.

These most recent developments also force me to wonder if Iran has started down a path of defiance and has passed the point of no return?

Spiritual Persia

The Persians historically are known for embracing pagan idolatry and polytheism — like virtually every Gentile nation that was established after the tower of Babel. Later at the height of the empire, Zoroastrianism officially was the most highly regarded and widely practiced religion in Persia. Zoroastrianism would dominate Persian spiritual and cultural life for over 1,000 years, until Islam brought jihad to Persia in the 7th Century A.D. and subdued the land under Shariah.

Historically, the spiritual complexion of Persia has been very dark and oppressive. Persia is not known for being a spiritual beacon of light and hope to the rest of the world. Persia has not been known for being a haven of spiritual liberty. Persia certainly is not known for worshiping and honoring Yahweh — the Most High God. Quite the contrary. Persia is one of Israel’s great traditional enemies.

Furthermore, Persia — aka Iran — has been one of the most restrictive nations of the gospel of Jesus Christ in recent memory. Since the revolution and regime change in the 1970s, Iranian followers of Jesus have been systematically purged by the radical Muslims.

That is … Until NOW!

In the midst of all of this chaos, conflict and confusion, the Word of the LORD has broken free in Iran, the Spirit of God has been poured out on the people or Iran, and Iranians are turning in faith to Jesus Christ in record numbers.

We are witnessing at this time one of the greatest revivals on planet earth. Many are receiving the gospel message from the resurrected Jesus Himself in dreams and visions. The underground church is growing like wildfire, and it has much to do with the relentless courage and obedience of the faithful women of Iran, who are unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ even unto death! [discover more here]

Of course this reminds us of the testimony of both the prophet Joel and the Apostle Peter.

 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit … before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.”

[Joel 2:28-29, 31b]

It is through Messiah — the Lord Jesus Christ — that the Most High God is reclaiming the nations as a people for His own possession, so that everyone who calls in faith upon the name of the Lord Jesus — whether Jew or Gentile — will be saved and will become heirs of God’s kingdom.

This is why Paul makes a direct connection between the promised “seed” of Abraham and the blessing of all the nations on the earth (Genesis 12:1-3). We know that the promised “Seed” is Jesus Christ — the son of Abraham — who would eventually bring into fulfillment all that Yahweh promised the nations.

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith … for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith … There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

[Galatians 3:7-9, 26, 28-29 ]

It is by grace through faith in Christ that any of us inherit the promises God made to the patriarchs. So today, may we give God all the glory for demonstrating His grace and power among the Iranian people by redeeming those who at one time were not His people. Through Christ, God is including the Gentiles and bringing them into the commonwealth of Israel and the family of God, incorporating them into His body and calling people from every nation His beloved bride.

While we rejoice with God for His saving grace for the people of Iran, we also must recognize the spiritual component of evil resonating and influencing the kings and rulers of Iran. Although the Son of God ultimately reigns supreme over every nation, there remains an ancient spiritual principality and power controlling the Persian regime, and this supernatural prince of Persia will not surrender quietly.

The PrincIPALITY OF PERSIA

According to the Biblical testimony, the Most High God — Yahweh — effectively disinherited the nations in response to their rebellion at Babel and relinquished the nations over to rebellious sons of God, called princes. These divine princes at one time were included in God’s heavenly council and sat alongside Yahweh on thrones. These princes were given authority by Yahweh to participate with Him in accomplishing His will and purposes in heaven and on earth.

The rebellion of the divine council and Babel episode are the only Biblical explanations sufficient to explain the presence of the supernatural prince of Persia in Daniel 10. As Gabriel resisted and contended with the prince of Persia for 21 days, the reader is given a glimpse behind the scenes into the spiritual battles taking place between the principalities and the powers in the heavens and on earth.

Both Moses and Paul agree that the Babel episode is the exact moment in history when God divided up the nations and set their boundaries according to the number of the sons of God, while claiming Israel as His own portion on the earth.

“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.”

[Deuteronomy 32:8-9]

“You should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.”

[Acts 14:15-16]

 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.”

[Acts 17:26-27]

Instead of honoring Yahweh and submitting to His authority, these sons of God rebelled and set themselves up as the heathen gods of the Gentile nations, introducing to mankind all forms of evil, idolatry, violence, astrology, sorcery, divination, occult ritual, human sacrifice, moral debauchery, and pagan superstition. All the nations of the earth universally have been vassal nations for the heathen gods. These dark princes and supernatural rebels have been working relentlessly behind the scenes for millennia to disrupt God’s plan and destroy God’s people.

That is precisely why the LORD has pronounced judgment on the gods of the nations. They have dealt corruptly with mankind. They have sought worship and power and glory above the One True God. They have abused their power and kept the people in darkness. They have abandoned their loyalty and allegiance to Yahweh.

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

[Psalm 82:1-5

The New Testament categorizes these supernatural spiritual forces as the cosmic rulers, principalities and powers, thrones, dominions and authorities in the heavenly places. Satan is the chief prince of the demons and has been given the authority over the kingdoms of the world [Luke 4:5-8]; therefore, the Devil is at the head of the enemy hierarchy.

More than demons — who primarily torment individuals — these evil princes have substantial control over national and international affairs in the world.

Just as God has promised to judge the nations, all human rebels and all the ungodly on that Day when Christ comes, He also will judge the divine rebels on that Day, when He inherits the earth and takes His seat on His throne as King and LORD!

This leads us to the last aspect of Persia — the prophetic.

Prophetic Persia

The Prophets Daniel and Ezekiel provide the most comprehensive account of the prophetic destiny of Persia/Elam. We will first consider Daniel 8 and then Ezekiel 38-39.

Daniel is visited by the angelic messenger, Gabriel, and given a prophecy about a regional conflict in the last days. Gabriel emphasizes three times to Daniel that his vision was concerning the time of the end [Daniel 8:17, 19, 26]. Many scholars believe Daniel 8 has already been fulfilled through the historical exploits of Alexander the Great, and although the prophecy may partially have been foreshadowed by these past events, it is clear that it involves two nations in the last days — Javan — the goat –and Persia — the ram.

“As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. And the goat is the king of Greece (Javan). And the great horn between his eyes is the first king.”

[Daniel 8:20-21]

According to Daniel’s vision, we can expect a regional conflict between modern-day Javan (Turkey) and modern-day Persia (Iran) at the time of the end. This prophecy predicts that Iran — the ram — will grow in power and prominence in the last days and then will be confronted by Turkey — the goat — who will defeat Iran and shift the power in the Middle East.

As you can imagine, with the instability and turmoil in the Middle East and a political vacuum existing in Iraq and Syria, it is not difficult to see a conflict erupt between Turkey and Iran for control of the region.

More importantly, we discover that the Antichrist himself — the little horn — will begin to emerge on the political scene following this coming conflict and transfer of power.

Now to the other prophetic passage in Ezekiel that outlines the role Persia will play in the final battle of Armageddon. According to Ezekiel 38, Persia is one of the primary nations that aligns itself with Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I have written extensively about why Gog is the end-times Antichrist, so I will not spend time defending that here.

As the false prophet sends our demonic spirits to the kings of the earth in the last days to gather them for what is known as the Battle of Armageddon, Persia will fall in step [Ezekiel 38:1-6, Revelation 16, Zechariah 12-14].

“Elam is there, and all her multitude around her grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who went down uncircumcised into the world below, who spread their terror in the land of the living; and they bear their shame with those who go down to the pit.”

[Ezekiel 32:24]

It will be at this unequaled moment in time that the Lord of Glory will return from heaven to strike down the nations, judge the Antichrist and his armies, and punish the evil principalities and powers in heavenly places.

And how will the rebel sons of God be judged? What will it cost the supernatural princes who declared treason against Yahweh?

They all will be cast down and die like a men. Every prince will be thrown down to the earth and die a mortals death. Let us finish Psalm 82.

I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

[Psalm 82:6-8]

Isaiah adds …

“On that day the LORD will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven,
and the kings of the earth, on the earth.
They will be gathered together
as prisoners in a pit;
they will be shut up in a prison,
and after many days they will be punished.”

[Isaiah 24:21-22]

Even so come quickly Lord Jesus.

Reflections from the Holy Land — No Peace in the Middle East

“Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”

[Galatians 4:28]

The ancient city of Jerusalem was built on a mountain called Moriah, which remains to this day. Mt. Moriah is significant on many different levels because it holds the key to understanding the age-old conflict in the Middle East between two people groups — Jews and Arabs.

We are first introduced to Mt. Moriah in Genesis 22, when the LORD tests Abraham’s allegiance and faith by asking him to do the very last thing he could have possibly imagined — sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac.

Abraham, unwavering in his faith in the LORD, took his son Isaac and journeyed to the foot of this sacred mountain. It was there on that rock that God would demonstrate one of the greatest foreshadowings of the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ.

Later King David and his son Solomon would choose that very same rock to build the Temple for the LORD. This is where sacrifices were made for atonement and where the high priest of Israel would mediate for his people. This was the place where sinful man could meet with Holy God and seek restoration. The Temple is where God manifested His glory before the people and where they would worship Him in reverence.

“Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”

[2 Chronicles 3:1]

It is evident that the LORD has chosen that mountain as His own resting place for His name to be remembered forever. Consider what the LORD told Solomon at the dedication of the Temple on Mount Moriah.

And the LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.”

[1 Kings 9:3]

Abraham and Isaac

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

[Genesis 22:1-2]

Picture Abraham, an old man by this time, deliberately climbing the rough terrain of Moriah with his beloved son Isaac by his side. Picture him marching the son of promise to the place of his imminent death. Isaac bearing the wood for his own sacrifice on his back, submitting to his father’s will. Abraham had waited years to finally see the LORD provide this son of promise against all odds, and now the LORD was asking Abraham to lay his beloved son down on that rock and offer him as a sacrifice. Would Abraham be willing to give the one thing he loved the most back to God?

Abraham’s faith proved remarkable. Consider what the Scriptures say about his trust in God.

Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

[Genesis 22:5]

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together

[Genesis 22:7-8]

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

[Hebrews 11:17-19]

The obedience displayed by Abraham and his son Isaac and the provision of God on that sacred mountain should deeply resonate within every believer because it effectively foreshadows the Person and redemptive work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The chart below shows how this one event is perhaps the greatest picture of the gospel in the Old Testament.

Abraham and Ishmael

The Arab people living in the Middle East are direct descendants from Abraham’s son, Ishmael, and to a lesser extent Isaac’s son, Esau. While waiting for the LORD to deliver on His promise for a son, Sarai became anxious and took matters into her own hands, suggesting that Abram sleep with the maidservant, Hagar. Abraham foolishly succumbed to his wife’s persuasion and a son was born to Hagar named Ishmael.

Although Abraham loved his son, Ishmael, this one act of disobedience caused perpetual turmoil and dysfunction in the home, and the LORD rebuked Abraham by reminding him that His covenant would not be established though Ishmael, who was illegitimate, but through Isaac, the son of promise. God still had compassion for Hagar and Ishmael and promised to make Ishmael into the father of a great nation (i.e. Arabs), but He unequivocally established his covenant with Isaac, not Ishmael. This is very significant in understanding the ongoing conflict between the Arabs and the Jews in Israel.

“And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.21But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

[Genesis 17:18-21]

The reason this land is so fiercely disputed is because the Arabs, and more specifically the Muslim Arabs, claim Abraham as their father and therefore claim the land for themselves as his rightful heirs. It is true that Arabs are physical descendants of Abraham, but it is also true that the LORD did not establish his covenant with Ishmael, but rather Isaac. That is why He repeatedly calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — not Ishmael.

Although many Muslims today will claim that it was Ishmael who was carried up to Moriah to be sacrificed by Abraham, there is little historical support for such a claim in the Quran and the Muslim Hadith. As a matter of fact, there is actually more support in the Muslim writings that Isaac was the son Abraham took up on the mountain. You can read more here.

We must remember, that Islam emerged on the scene in the 7th Century A.D., which is over 2,600 years after the life of Abraham and over 2,000 years after Moses wrote the Torah. Anything the Muslim traditions add to the Scriptures of outright change must be categorically rejected.

This disagreement about the offspring of Abraham is at the heart of ongoing conflict in the Middle East, and unfortunately as long as Islam and Judaism exist and both live in that land, there is little hope for a resolution.

Which is why we must proclaim the truth to both unbelieving Jews and Muslims alike that they both are missing the True Son who made the ultimate sacrifice on that mountain — God’s beloved Son, the One and Only Savior of the world, Jesus Christ! And only in Christ will there ever be peace — peace with God, peace with mankind, and ultimately peace eternal in God’s kingdom!

Jesus Christ — the Prince of Peace

Perhaps no one has said it best than Christian Apologist Ravi Zacharias. Ravi at one point had the unique opportunity to speak with Sheikh Talal Sider, one of the founders of Hamas, and inspired by the Holy Spirit Ravi said the following.

But the last day, I saw one of the leaders of Hamas, one of the four founders. I went there for one reason; I had one question for him. He gave us a great meal, told us of eighteen years he’d served in prison, some of his children had been lost in suicide bombings, and this and that. And I had a question. I said, “Sheik, I may never see you again and forgive me if I’m asking you the wrong question. Please tell me, what do you think of suicide bombing and sending your children out like that?” I didn’t like his answer. I couldn’t say much. The room was full of smoke.

After he finished his answer, I said, “Sheik, you and I may never see each other again, so I want you to hear me. A little distance from here is a mountain upon which Abraham went 5,000 years ago to offer his son. You may say the son was one; I may say it’s another. Let’s not argue about that. He took his son up there. And as the axe was about to fall, God said, ‘Stop.’” I said, “Do you know what God said after that?” He shook his head. I said, “God said, ‘I myself will provide.’” He nodded his head. I said, “Very close to where you and I are sitting, Sheik, is a hill. Two thousand years ago, God kept that promise and brought his own Son and the axe did not stop this time. He sacrificed his own Son.” 

I said, “Sheik, I just want you to hear this. Until you and I receive the Son God has provided, we’ll be offering our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of this world for many of the wrong reasons.”

http://www.rzim.org/USA/USFV/tabid/436/ArticleID/10018/CBModuleId/881/Default.aspx

Reflections from Israel — The Spiritual Epicenter of the World

“For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place. ‘This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.'”

(Psalm 132:13-14)

Jewish tradition says that the earth is at the center of the universe. Israel is at the center of the earth. Jerusalem is the center of Israel. The Temple Mount is the Epicenter of the Jerusalem, and the Holy of holies is the epicenter of the Temple Mount. [See Ezekiel 5:5]

Spiritually and symbolically speaking, this is true.

I just returned home from the experience of a lifetime visiting the Holy Land of Israel, and my cup overflows. Everything I was told in preparation for my first trip to Israel was true and even exceeded my expectations. Every true follower of Jesus Christ deserves to see this beautiful land firsthand. Pictures and words cannot do it justice.

Truly this place is the epicenter of the earth — the place where the Creator and Lord of the universe has claimed to be His resting place forever. From the very moment my feet touched the dry and dusty mountains of Israel, I knew that I was home. My heart burned within me, and my spirit yearned to remain in this peculiar land. I cannot quite explain it, but I felt like this ancient land was all too familiar.

Of course, as a representative of the evangelical Christian community and a committed follower of Jesus Christ, I am not the only one who claims Israel to be sacred. Millions visit this land every year because it has historical and spiritual significance for the three prominent monotheistic religions in the world — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Israel is where these three main worldviews converge and in many ways collide. Tensions often run high and religious traditions are fiercely defended. Nothing saddened my heart and burdened my soul more than to see the multitudes of people in Israel who have been deceived and blinded by their own corrupt religious systems. The Apostle Paul’s words were never more clearly relevant.

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

[2 Corinthians 4:4]

As a Bible-believing, gospel-loving follower of Jesus, I feel like I had unique perspective from among these competing religions — including the deeply rooted presence of Roman Catholicism in the Holy Land.

I would like to take a few moments to share that perspective.

Judaism

The miracle of the modern rebirth of Israel is one of the greatest prophetic acts in human history. Enough cannot be said how the Jewish nation was reestablished against all odds after nearly 2500 years of occupation, dissolution, and oppression. Since Israel was reborn in May of 1948, hundreds of thousands of Jews have been returning to the Holy Land, transforming the once desolate wasteland into a fruitful and flourishing oasis in the midst of the hostile nations surrounding her.

Israel represents the sole democracy in the Middle East and continues to be a blessing to the nations in spite of the relentless, irrational hatred toward her. Modern Zionists simply believe that Israel has a right to their Biblical homeland, a right to exist as a sovereign nation, and a right to defend herself, but it would seem that the rest of the world, including the United Nations, stand opposed to allowing Israel to exercise its basic rights.

While the geo-political dynamics remain complex, the ancient roots of Judaism continue to thrive in the Holy Land. Although the majority of Jews today would be considered more secular than religious, there remains a strong remnant of Orthodox Jews today who strive to keep Torah and maintain some semblance of the Jewish faith. One can find these Jews daily worshiping and praying at the Western Wall (i.e. Wailing Wall) of the Temple Mount, hoping they live to see the day when the Temple is rebuilt and Messiah reigns again from Jerusalem.

The irony is that the very One that these Orthodox Jews are hoping for has already come in the form of the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. And this Jesus promised to return as the Conquering King in all His glory to deliver Israel from her enemies and reestablish the nation of Israel, ushering in the Messianic age of renewal.

Sadly, apart from a small percentage of Messianic Jews, the overwhelming majority of Jewish people missed the coming of their Messiah in the person of Yeshua of Nazareth nearly 2000 years ago (see John 1:10-13) and therefore remain blinded and hardened toward the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you will not be conceited: A hardening in part has come to Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”

[Romans 11:25]

“Then I will pour out on the house of David and on the people of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look on Me, the One they have pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns an only child, and weep bitterly for Him as one grieves a firstborn son.”

[Zechariah 12:10]

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

[Luke 13:34]

Islam

Roughly 600 years after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, another religious group laid claim to the city of Jerusalem through different means — military force and political subjugation. The followers of Mohammed historically have walked in the example of their prophet, who commanded all Muslims to fight unbelievers and ruthlessly subjugate them into submission to the will of their god Allah.

“Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

[Quran 9:29]

“O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.”

[Quran 5:51]

“So, when you meet those who disbelieve, smite (their) necks till when you have killed or wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly.” 

[Quran 47:4]

Mohammed tried to introduce his teachings both to Jews and Christians of his day, but when he and his teachings were rejected by both groups, he decided he would spread his religious system by other means. Islam rapidly spread into the Holy Land from Arabia in the mid 600s AD and once the Temple Mount was conquered, the Muslims erected their own “temple,” the Dome of the Rock, in 687AD, as a sign of dominance over the most holy site in Jerusalem.

To this day, Arab Muslims have control over the Temple Mount and other important “disputed territories,” such as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The modern-day Palestinian Liberation Organization exists to fully liberate the Palestinian people from all Israeli control by any means necessary.

The Palestinians, backed by the surrounding Arab nations, have adamantly rejected every legitimate peace deal since the inception of the Jewish nation in 1948. Even after the Jews repeatedly have relinquished land for peace, the sentiment among Muslims in the Middle East is that they will never be satisfied until Israel is removed from the map and the Jewish people are driven into the sea.

Although the descendants of Ishmael and Esau can claim Abraham as their father, the Bible is clear that God has established His covenant with the descendants of Isaac and Jacob — aka Israel.

“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the LORD has listened to your affliction.
He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

[Genesis 16:11-12]

“And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’ God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.'”

[Genesis 17:18-19]

Roman Catholicism

Another dynamic in the Holy Land that adds a layer of religious complexity is the presence of Roman Catholicism. After Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity as a viable religion in the empire in the 4th century, Constantine’s mother, Helena, embraced the faith and took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, identifying and preserving many of the traditional holy sites.

As the Catholic Church morphed into a political juggernaut and gained power in the Roman Empire, its influence over the Holy Land also grew. What the Muslims destroyed over the centuries, the Crusaders eventually rebuilt throughout the Middle Ages, until the British finally gained control over Israel in the early 20th Century.

Although from a historical perspective, it is important that many of these sites were identified and preserved for our benefit, the Roman Catholic brand has most certainly been embedded in Israel with gaudy churches, ancient relics, and altars built for the Catholic saints.

For example, within Catholicism there is an unBiblical and unnatural emphasis placed on the deification of Mary, the mother of Jesus, where she is now called the Mother of God and given divine status as one immaculate and sinless in nature. Tens of thousands of Catholics pour into the Holy Land every year to touch the relics and pay homage to Mary and the saints, which frankly robs the Lord Jesus of the glory due Him alone.

I am NOT SAYING that all Catholics understand and embrace these doctrines or that one cannot be Catholic and still be in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ by faith alone, but I am saying that the Roman Catholic tradition does not accurately represent Biblical doctrine nor the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Roman Catholic presence, in my estimation, breeds more confusion than anything else — blurring the picture of Biblical history and the Christian community as a whole.

Conclusion

So much could be said about these complex and sensitive dynamics that converge in the Holy Land, which my time doesn’t allow. But I will say this …

With so much perversion of the truth and spiritual deception engrained in these primary religious systems that operate at the epicenter of the world, it is not difficult to see how the stage is set for Satan to unveil his unholy plan to unify the nations in the spirit of antichrist and set us his demonic system of political and religious power in these last days.

And what is most troubling to me is that I can see how Jews, Muslims, and Roman Catholics alike are susceptible to the coming delusion of the last days. My heart is more burdened today than ever before. As we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we remember that these must take place before the coming of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Have mercy Lord Jesus.

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

[2 Thessalonians 2:9-12]

Jerusalem — a Cup of Staggering and a Heavy Stone

“Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.”

[Zechariah 12:2-3]

Once again conflict in Israel escalated this week, as Islamic Jihadist fired over 700 rockets into Israel, forcing Israeli military retaliation in the Gaza Strip. Although there is a temporary cease fire, both sides have suffered significant casualties and tensions remain high in the land.

The world has witnessed conflict in Israel from its modern inception in 1948. Time and time again, the Muslim majority nations surrounding Israel are fueled with and everlasting contempt for the Jewish people and the land. This should come as no surprise from a prophetic standpoint, because the word of God clearly says that there will be conflict in Israel until the return of King Jesus to utterly destroy the enemies of Israel.

Jerusalem herself is called a cup of staggering and a heavy stone for all the surrounding nations, as they remain drunk on the irrational hatred of the Jewish people and obsesses with wiping Israel off the map, while claiming the Holy Land in what the Muslims consider holy war — or jihad.

The terrorist organization, Hamas, is behind this most recent assault on the Israeli people. Hamas is the proxy military arm of Iran in the Gaza Strip. While Hamas invokes terror and breathes murderous threats toward Israel, tensions in the region have also increased between Iran and the United States.

As tensions mount, it is important to be reminded of what God’s word says about His covenant with Israel and why the Promised Land to Israel has become such a stumbling stone for the surrounding Muslim nations.

The LORD made Covenant with Isaac, Not Ishmael

Both Jews and Arabs claim Abraham as their patriarch of faith and therefore claim the covenant promises that God made to Abraham. But the Bible clearly distinguishes His relationship between Abraham’s two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. The Arab people are descended from Ishmael and Esau (Edom), while the Jewish people are descended from Isaac and Jacob (Israel). Consider what the LORD said to Abraham when establishing His everlasting covenant with him and his descendants.

“And God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ 17Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ 18And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’ 19God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him20As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.’”

[Genesis 17:15-21]

The LORD made Covenant with Jacob, not Esau

If that wasn’t clear enough, the LORD made sure He reaffirmed His everlasting covenant with Isaac’s younger son, Jacob, not his twin brother Esau. Esau’s descendants became the Edomites, who have remained bitter enemies of Israel to this day. Jacob’s descendants are the people of Israel — the Jewish people. God’s covenant promises primarily involved blessing, protection, the land of Canaan (see Genesis 15) and the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.

“And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

“And God said to him (Jacob), “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”

[Genesis 28:13-14, 35:11-12]

According the Bible, this bitter dispute over the Holy Land of Israel will never cease until the end of this age, when Jerusalem will be surrounded once again by her enemies, the people of Israel will be under great distress and in perilous trouble, and the Messiah — King Jesus — will return a second time in glory to deliver and save Israel out of her worst moment.

The everlasting contempt that the Muslim majority nations have for Israel will not go away. It must run its course. There will never be peace in the Middle East until the Prince of Peace returns to establish His kingdom once and for all.

All Israel will be Saved

The escalating tensions and hostility in Israel are but labor pains, reminding us of what it coming. There may be great distress coming for God’s people, like a woman giving birth, but the joy of the child will remove all memory of the pain to be endured.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 11:25-26, that once the fullness of the Gentiles have come in, all Israel will be saved in the end, when Jesus comes in power and great glory.

I will leave you with Zechariah’s prophecy, which speaks of this coming day of divine deliverance and final judgment of the enemies of God’s people.

“And the LORD will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. 8On that day the LORD will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them. 9And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
10“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”

[Zechariah 12:7-10]

Mid East Peace: Trump’s Deal for the Ages

“I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land.”

[Joel 3:2]

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House Adviser, Jared Kushner, recently announced that his Middle East Peace Plan should be released by early June of this year. Although Trump and Kushner have provided few details about the plan, many are speculating that the deal could involve restoring Israeli authority and access to the Temple Mount.

In light of the recent reelection of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kushner said that the goal is to publicly release his plan after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. While Trump has proven to be one of Israel’s biggest public advocates, sources say that Kushner has been working tirelessly behind the scenes with a Muslim coalition from Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu had a great victory, and he’s in the middle of forming his coalition, and once that’s done we’ll probably be in the middle of Ramadan, so we’ll wait until after Ramadan and then we’ll put our plan out,

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/23/trump-middle-east-peace-plan-is-coming-after-ramadan-jared-kushner-says.html
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner watches a ceremony where President Donald Trump was presented with The Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal, at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In a historic declaration, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and also relocated the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city of David. Just this month, Trump also recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which was never “internationally recognized” after Israel claimed victory over Syria in 1967.

In response to Trump’s bold declaration, Netanyahu promised to name a new settlement after Trump in the Golan Heights. No other U.S. president in history has been more proactive in promoting Israeli sovereignty in the land, and yet many believe that if Trump can broker deal that leads to peace in the Middle East, it will be his greatest achievement.

“All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said. “I intend to bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights named after President Donald J Trump.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48031045

Navigating the Prophetic Implications

This is where things get interesting.

From a Biblical perspective, there is good reason to believe that some type of peace deal or “covenant with many” [Daniel 9:27] will be one of the primary prophetic signs of the last days. According to the testimony of the Biblical prophets, this covenant will be established between Israel and the surrounding nations and will involve disputed territory.

The irony of this coming covenant is that on the one hand it very likely will give Israel unprecedented sovereignty, peace, and even the authority to rebuild the 3rd Jewish Temple and reinstitute the daily sacrificial system.

On the other hand, however, this agreement will prove to be an deceptive scheme. The peace in the land will be a false peace. The Temple will be defiled by the Antichrist, who will use it as Satan’s temporary throne, and all the forces of darkness will turn on the Jewish people. Consider the following passages.

1O God, do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace or be still, O God!
2For behold, your enemies make an uproar;
those who hate you have raised their heads.
3They lay crafty plans against your people;
they consult together against your treasured ones
.
4They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation;
let the name of Israel be remembered no more!”
5For they conspire with one accord;
against you they make a covenant

6the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
Moab and the Hagrites,
7Gebal and Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
8Asshur also has joined them;
they are the strong arm of the children of Lot. Selah
9Do to them as you did to Midian,
as to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
10who were destroyed at En-dor,
who became dung for the ground.
11Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12who said, “Let us take possession for ourselves
of the pastures of God
.”

[Psalm 83:1-12]

“While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

[1 Thessalonians 5:3]

“His forces will rise up and desecrate the temple fortress. They will abolish the daily sacrifice and set up the abomination of desolation.
32With flattery he will corrupt those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. 33Those with insight will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by sword and flame or be captured or plundered.”

[Daniel 11:31-33]

The one thing that the Jewish people want the most — peace, sovereignty and the freedom to restore Temple worship — will likely be the very things that the enemy uses to deceive Israel in the end.

While I do not believe Kushner’s new peace plan will be the final peace agreement with Israel, but I do believe that it could be a precursor to this covenant spoken of by the prophets. Either way, every step closer to “peace” in the Middle East is another step closer to the revelation of the Antichrist, the great tribulation, and the time of Jacob’s trouble.

But this also means that it is one step closer to the triumphant return of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is coming to deliver His people and bring everlasting peace to the Kingdom of Israel.

“Of the increase of His government and peace 
there will be no end. 
He will reign on the throne of David 
and over his kingdom, 
to establish and sustain it 
with justice and righteousness 
from that time and forevermore!”

[Isaiah 9:7]

All Eyes on Israel

If the results from Tuesday’s elections in Israel tell us anything, they tell us that two prominent world leaders in the Middle East will be in power for the foreseeable future. After being elected to his 5th term on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now the longest-serving leader in modern Israel’s history, surpassing the late great David Ben-Gurion.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to his supporters after polls for Israel’s general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, April 10. | Ariel Schalit/AP Photo

Although Netanyahu presently has corruption charges lingering over his head, he and his right-wing Likud Party are poised to lead Israel for at least the next four years. The geopolitical dynamics of the Middle East and even the world at large are determined by what happens in Israel. As Israel goes, so goes the world. The next four years will be both intriguing and revealing to say the least.

All eyes will remain on Israel primarily because of one profound truth — the Creator of the Universe has placed a unique claim on the land and people of Israel. All eyes are on Israel because God’s eyes are on Israel.

“And the LORD said to Soloman, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

[1 Kings 9:3]

The Timely Rise of Turkey

Due north of Israel there is another political leader in Turkey who firmly has solidified himself as the head of state in one of the most strategic Muslim nations in the World. Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan first became Prime Minister 16 years ago, and his most recent election as president in 2018 has given him a five-year term and sweeping new powers that many believe will lead to a Turkish dictatorship.

“Since 2002, Erdogan has consolidated his hold on domestic politics while using military and diplomatic means to solidify Turkey as a regional power. His crackdown has been brutal and consistent – scores of journalists arrested, academics officially banned from leaving the country, university deans fired and many of the highest-ranking military officers arrested.”

Soner Cagaptay –director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute (2018)
ANKARA, TURKEY – DECEMBER 14: President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan claps during the 2015 Turkish Academy of Sciences award ceremony at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on December 14, 2015. (Photo by Yasin Bulbul/Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Just over a decade ago, Turkey was considered a moderate Islamic nation embracing western values, a NATO member, and an ally to the U.S. and Israel. Today, Turkey may be the biggest potential threat looming over Israel and the entire Middle East. Erdogan unapologetically has declared his ambitions for Turkish national supremacy and has expressed a clear desire to lead a revived Islamic Caliphate through a Neo-Ottoman empire.

Erdogan, like many Muslim leaders, showed public disdain for President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Addressing a summit of Muslim leaders in Istanbul, Erdogan said that Jerusalem was “our red line,” according to a CNBC article from December of 2017.

“Israel is an occupying and terror state,” Erdogan said as he called on all countries to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.”

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/13/turkey-calls-israel-a-terror-state-says-jerusalem-our-red-line.html

Add this dangerous rhetoric with geopolitical tensions between Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and it would not be surprising to see conflict arise in the Islamic world. And according to the testimony of the Biblical prophets, we should expect to see growing turmoil among the Muslim majority nations in the Middle East. In Daniel 8 the prophet describes future conflict between “Javan,” which refers to modern day Turkey, and Persia (Iran). Combining the civil war in Syria with historical Sunni and Shiite tensions, regional war could erupt at any moment.

Turkey not only possesses nuclear capabilities but also boasts the 9th overall most powerful military in the world, which is now being commanded by a virtual dictator with Neo-Ottoman aspirations.

“The Turkish Armed Forces collectively rank as the second largest standing military force in NATO, after the U.S. Armed Forces, with an estimated strength in 2015 of 639,551 military, civilian and paramilitary personnel.”

 “News From Turkish Armed Forces”Turkish Armed Forces. tsk.tr. Archived from the original on 5 November 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2015.

The Apple of God’s Eye

What the LORD has decreed, He will do. The end which has been declared from the beginning will be accomplished. As the LORD continues to sovereignly work all of these things according to His good will and purposes, we must remember that Jesus is coming to avenge His people Israel and reclaim Zion for Himself. I will leave you with the timely words of the prophet Zechariah.

“For thus said the LORD of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye: 9“Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me. 10Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD11And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 12And the LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”13Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”

[Zechariah 2:8-13]