Modern Nations and God's Ancient Plan
Ancient Bible prophecies reveal the future of today's nations!
Is there a logical explanation for why the world is the way it is? Why are certain nations blessed with abundance and freedom, while others struggle with poverty and oppression? Why have certain small and relatively young nations suddenly risen to global prominence, while once-powerful nations with long and glorious histories have receded into the backwaters of world affairs? Why are there so many opinions, but so little knowledge, of what the future actually holds?
Surprising answers to these questions can be found in a source that the leaders of nations rarely consult—and that few understand. Though it is often ridiculed or minimized, the Bible explains why the world is the way it is. Scripture reveals that God has a plan and is working out a purpose on this earth—a plan and purpose involving the nations of this world!
The Bible contains hundreds of prophecies that reveal the future of specific nations. But unless we can understand the modern identities of ancient nations mentioned in Scripture, we will not be able to understand those prophecies, and we will not be able to understand God's plan and purpose for human beings. In fact, without understanding those prophecies, God's Church cannot carry out the commission Jesus Christ gave! As increasingly dramatic events fulfill ancient prophecies on the world stage, you need to know what the Bible reveals about your nation—and about the other nations of the world—so you can prepare for the effect these prophecies will have on your life!
Many who call themselves Christians believe that God's plan was only to send Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world. However, this simplistic approach overlooks Jesus' own words and many Bible prophecies about the plan of God. Scripture emphatically states that God has a great plan and purpose that He is working out on earth. King David wrote, "The counsel [plan, purpose] of the Lord stands forever, the plans [thoughts] of His heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:11). The prophet Isaiah wrote that Bible prophecies reveal the plan of God, "I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel [plan, purpose] shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isaiah 46:9–10). The Apostle Paul explained that God is working out a great purpose—a purpose that has remained a mystery to the leaders and thinkers of this world (Ephesians 1:9–11; 1 Corinthians 2:7–9).
Bible prophecies foretold that the Messiah would come to suffer and die for the sins of human beings (Isaiah 53:2–11; John 3:16). When Jesus stated, "for this purpose I came" (John 12:27), He understood that His death and resurrection made the plan of God possible (Matthew 26:54). However, few realize that Bible prophecy reveals there is much more to God's plan. In the book of Daniel, we find a sweeping outline of world history from the days of King Nebuchadnezzar (ca. 600bc) up to the return of Jesus Christ at the end of this age. Using symbols of a great image with four parts and a succession of four strange beasts, Daniel foretold the rise and fall of four great empires that would shape the history of the world (Daniel 2; 7). Historians recognize these as the Babylonian, Greco-Macedonian, Medo-Persian and Roman empires (Halley's Bible Handbook, p. 342).
The Bible records—and history confirms—that these empires and their leaders played key roles in the plan of God. The Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar conquered the kingdom of Judah and carried the Jews into captivity as punishment for their national sins (2 Kings 25). Seventy years later God used Cyrus, the king of Persia, to conquer and punish the Babylonians and to issue a decree allowing the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem—according to the plan of God (Isaiah 45:1; 44:24–28; Jeremiah 25:11–12; 29:10; Ezra 1:1–4)—"which Jeremiah has prophesied concerning all the nations" (Jeremiah 25:13). The Apostle John also recorded that at the end of the age, God will use specific nations to carry out His plan, "the waters which you saw… are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues… For God has put it in their hearts to fulfill His purpose" (Revelation 17:15–17). The prophecies of the Bible reveal important aspects of God's plan, involving specific nations on this earth. If there were no plan, prophecy would be impossible!
Prominent in the Bible are a series of detailed prophecies that God gave to Abraham and a line of his descendants who became the nation of Israel. God promised that in return for Abraham's obedience, his descendants would multiply and become great, would inherit specific lands, and would give rise to kings (Genesis 12:1–7; 13:12–16; 17:15–16). They would "possess the gates of those who hate them." God would use them to bless "all the nations of the earth" (Genesis 22:17–18; 24:60). God stipulated that these promises would pass on through his son Isaac (Genesis 17:21) and to his grandson Jacob who in turn had 12 sons (Genesis 35:23–26), from whom came the twelve tribes of the house (or nation) of ancient Israel. The ultimate fulfillment of the promises to Abraham passed through Jacob's son Joseph, to his sons Manasseh (who would become a great nation) and Ephraim (who would become a company [commonwealth] of nations as noted in Genesis 48:17–19). The descendants of the sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28; 35:10), were to be known by his new name—Israelites (Genesis 48:6, 16). This is an important key to remember if we are to understand Bible prophecy. When the term "Israelites" is found in biblical prophecies, it usually refers to the descendants of the ten tribes that were part of the northern kingdom of Israel, while the term "Jews" usually refers to the descendants of Judah (another of Jacob's sons) who were the primary peoples of the kingdom of Judah.
God had a purpose in selecting the descendants of Jacob (Israel) as His chosen people (Exodus 19:3–6). He gave them His laws so they could become a light and an example to the nations of the world (Deuteronomy 4:1–10). They were told that if they obeyed the laws of God they would be blessed, but that if they disobeyed they would face serious consequences (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). Both the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah failed in their mission to be lights to the world, and were carried into captivity—Israel to Assyria and beyond, and Judah to Babylon. The Jews returned to Jerusalem after 70 years in captivity, and are a recognizable people and nation today. The peoples of Israel never returned, and became known to history as the "lost ten tribes." However, both the Bible and history offer clues about the location and modern national identities of these "lost" tribes of Israelites—tribes that play a major role in Bible prophecy and the plan of God.
In Genesis, Moses recorded prophecies that would help identify the nations of Israel in the "last days" (Genesis 49:1–28). The descendants of Judah are easily identified in these prophecies as the Jews, who would revere the law of God and produce the Messiah (Genesis 49:8–12). Intriguingly, though, when you study the prophetic descriptions of the other tribes of Israel, you cannot help noticing that these descriptions fit modern nations in (or originating from) northwest Europe. The descendants of Reuben were to become powerful, have notions of grandeur and an amorous reputation, but will lack national stability (consider France: Genesis 49:3–4). The descendants of Zebulun would dwell by the sea and become a mercantile people (consider Holland: Genesis 49:13). The descendants of Dan would leave their mark as they traveled across Europe from their base in the Middle East (consider Denmark and Ireland). The descendants of Joseph (Manasseh and Ephraim) were to become a colonizing people, dwelling in the choice places of the earth yet apart from their continental cousins (consider Britain, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa: Genesis 49:22–26). The specific prophecies about Manasseh and Ephraim—to become a great nation and a company [commonweath] of nations who possess the gates of their enemies—accurately identify the U.S. and Britain (Genesis 48:19). While skeptics may scoff at these biblical identities of modern Israelite nations, it is instructive to consider the evidence that points in this direction.
The Bible and history record that Assyrians carried the ten tribes of Israel into captivity, into what is today northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and Armenia—the area between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. The Black Obelisk from Nineveh in ancient Assyria (now in the British Museum) refers to the Israelites as the Khumri or the people of Omri (the name of the Israelite king who built Samaria—the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel, as noted in 1 Kings 16:21–27). The Babylonians referred to these same people as the Gimiri. Around 500bc, the Persian king Darius carved an inscription of his conquests in three different languages on a rock face at Behistun in northwestern Iran. This inscription refers to the Gimri as the Sacae (who historians also identify with the Scythians who spread over Europe). Archeologist George Rawlinson stated, "We have reasonable grounds for regarding the Gimirri, or Cimmerians… and the Sacae of the Behistun Rock… as identical with the Beth-Khumree of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel" (The Story of Celto-Saxon Israel, Bennett, p. 151).
Clear historical and biblical evidence traces the ancient Israelite tribes' migration through the lands of Armenia as well as northern Iraq and Iran. This agrees with historical records that trace the origins of people now living in Britain. The Declaration of Abroath (the "Scottish Declaration of Independence"), written in 1320ad, states that the Scots' ancestors came from Greater Scythia (around the Black Sea) through the Mediterranean Sea to Spain and then to Britain "twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea" (Bennett, pp. 159–161). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, written around 800ad, traces the origins of the Saxon peoples to the region of Armenia (ibid., p. 209). In his work The Ruin of Britain, the early British writer Gildas (475–550ad) refers to the British people as Israelites. Irish legends call some of the first Irish settlers the tuatha de Danann (The Story of the Irish Race, MacManus, p. 5). Cyrus Gordon, a leading American archeologist, recognized the tuatha de Danann as the biblical tribe of Dan, and connected these Israelite peoples with Ireland and Denmark (Bennett, p. 79). These Danite peoples first arrived in Ireland around the time of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. It is also interesting that the Welsh refer to themselves as the Cymri or Cymru—after the Assyrian name for the people of Israel. The records of history link the national identities of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Denmark with the Israelites of the Bible.
Jesus commissioned His disciples to go to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6). By observing where the disciples went, we should be able to determine the locations of those lost sheep. Indeed, the Bible reveals that the apostles took Christ's commission seriously, and took their ministries to the Israelite peoples. James wrote an epistle to the "twelve tribes scattered abroad" (James 1:1). Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, wrote that the Ten Tribes of Israel had become an "immense multitude… beyond the Euphrates" (Antiquities of the Jews, xi. 5.2.1). The Bible records that Peter went to Babylon (1 Peter 5:13), and that Paul planned a trip to Spain (Romans 15:28)—they knew there were Israelites in these regions!
Early writings trace the apostles' movements. Andrew traveled to Scythia, near the Black Sea. Bartholomew went to Armenia. Thomas and Jude headed to Parthia, south of the Caspian Sea, and beyond, into regions where the ten tribes of Israel had gone. Many early writers confirm that Paul, Peter, Joseph of Arimathea, Simon Zelotes and others all spent time in Britain—knowing that there were Israelites there. Vatican librarian Cardinal Baronius (1538–1607ad) and Anglican archbishop Ussher (1581–1656ad) both mentioned that several of the apostles and their companions traveled to the Isles of the West.
The commission Jesus gave to His disciples—to preach the gospel to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" and to "all the world"—was not limited to the first century Church. That commission is still binding on the Church of God today. Part of that commission is to explain to the modern descendants of ancient Israel why their nations have inherited the blessings they enjoy, and to warn them of what lies ahead if they forsake the laws of their God, who has given those blessings. Scripture clearly indicates that in the "last days" the nations of Israel will experience severe trials—referred to as "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:1–24). Another aspect of the commission is to warn the world about the significance of events that will mark the end of the age and the coming of Jesus Christ. These signs are mentioned in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. In order for the Church to reach the Israelite peoples with this message today, it is necessary to know the location and modern identity of the Israelite nations. This is why the Bible records information about the location and unique characteristics of the Israelite tribes. God has a plan, and unless we can identify the modern descendants of ancient Israel we cannot properly understand that plan.
According to the Bible, modern nations in Europe will also play a major role in fulfilling dramatic prophecies at the end of this age. Prophecies in the book of Daniel indicate that there would be ten attempts to continue or revive the legacy of the Roman Empire (Daniel 7:24), and that the last seven attempts will be encouraged and dominated by a "little horn"—a prominent religious figure (Daniel 7:8, 24–25). History records that these attempted revivals have all occurred in Europe, under the watch of the pope in Rome. Prophecies in Daniel and Revelation indicate that the final revival of the Roman system will consist of a cobbled-together federation of ten nations or kingdoms (which the Bible describes as a mixture of iron and clay) that will "give their power" to a "beast" (an influential political leader) just before the return of Jesus Christ (Daniel 2:40–45; Revelation 17:12–13). This is exactly what is happening in Europe today as nation-states debate about surrendering their sovereignty to a central European government. The current European Union will ultimately prove to be unstable and ungovernable. Eventually a core group of ten nations will agree to move ahead toward full political unity under a popular but deceptive leader, as the Bible predicts.
The Bible predicts that this end-time European "beast power" will be "ridden" by an ornately dressed "woman" who has persecuted true believers, has played important yet subtle roles in global politics and has corrupted the world with religious doctrines adapted from pagan sources (Revelation 17:1–6). The identity of this "woman" should be obvious to anyone who has studied the non-Christian origins of many Roman Catholic doctrines, including purgatory, priestly celibacy, the Trinity, indulgences, the veneration of images, and countless others. The Bible's account of the ornately dressed "woman" playing this role should give us pause when we see the dazzling vestments of popes and cardinals, and the political involvements of papal representatives shuttling between nations on Vatican business. The graphic details of Bible prophecies are meant to be understood. These details identify nations and people that will play key roles in fulfilling prophecies that will accomplish the plan of God!
The Bible indicates that at the end of this age, the Israelite nations' chief antagonist will be Assyria (Isaiah 10). God will use Assyria and its allies to punish Israelite nations that have forgotten their God (Isaiah 10:5–7; 24–25). Just like their ancient ancestors, the modern Assyrians have espoused a "master race" philosophy, have acquired a reputation for a certain aloofness and arrogance and have executed military operations with deadly precision and efficiency (Isaiah 10:8–14). Though few modern scholars look to the Bible for clues to understand geopolitics, the Bible's prophetic references to Assyria in the "last days" do indeed point to modern Germany.
Legends indicate that Germany's oldest city, Trier, grew from an Assyrian colony founded on the site around 2000bc. Arab sources in the 1400s refer to the Germans as Assyriana. The Assyrians and their allies were the earliest nations to use iron weapons, and iron has played a notable role in German social history. Charlemagne ruled from Aachen in present day Germany. He wore a suit of iron armor and "took the iron crown of Lombardy" to become the king of the Franks and Lombards (Germany, Her People and their Story, Gifford, p. 35). From 1813 through the end of World War II, German soldiers were awarded the Iron Cross for their meritorious service in war. German leader Otto von Bismarck acquired the nickname "the Iron Chancellor" for his memorable words that the great problems of the age would be solved by "blood and iron."
Prophecies in Daniel indicate that "at the time of the end" the German-led European "beast power" (called "the king of the North") will engage in military operations in the Middle East. In response to provocation from "the king of the South"—a power south of Jerusalem—the Europeans will overrun nations including Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia (Daniel 11:40–43). From the prophecies, it appears that control of precious natural resources will be at issue (Daniel 11:43). However, the invading European power will be troubled by news "from the east and the north"—the directions of Russia and China (Daniel 11:44). Other prophecies indicate that the "kings of the East" will also move toward the European armies in the Middle East, leading to a final conflagration at Armageddon at the end of the age (Revelation 16:12–16).
Those prophecies describe the very conditions that are developing in Europe, the Middle East and Asia today. The European Union is developing its own military force and is looking for ways to become significantly involved in the Middle East as a "peacekeeper." China continues to build up its military capabilities, and its need for resources is expanding as its economy and population grows. Europe, Russia and China are all competing for the earth's limited supplies of oil and precious metals. The long history of conflict between the Muslim world and Roman Catholicism is also resurfacing. Bible prophecies indicate that world events will come to a climax in the Middle East just before the return of Jesus Christ—probably within the lifetime of most who are reading this article!
Daniel was given prophecies that reveal "what will be in the latter days," and was told that the prophecies are "sure" and "will come to pass" (Daniel 2:28, 45). The prophet Amos was told, "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). Jesus told His disciples to watch world events and warn the world about the prophetic significance of events that would arise on a global scale just before the end of the age and the return of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter explained that the Church of God has a "more sure word of prophecy" (2 Peter 1:19, KJV). One reason for this certainty is that the apostles, like the Church of God today, knew the roles of the different national identities in Bible prophecy. You, too, can grow in this understanding by studying Bible prophecies, watching world news and reading Tomorrow's World.