Israel and its neighbors are at the heart of age-old conflicts long ago prophesied in your Bible—conflicts that will intensify at the end of this age, leading to the return of Jesus Christ!
Will we ever see peace in Israel and the surrounding Arab countries? Bible prophecy shows how events in that region will determine the future of the whole world.
After more than a decade of military involvement in Iraq, American leaders have been shocked by the quick rise of the ISIS (“Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”) movement, which rejects century-old British-drawn boundaries and seeks to establish a Muslim state, ruled by Shariah law, across a war-torn remnant of the old Ottoman Empire.
ISIS supporters have been accused of recruiting Palestinians to spread their cause and further destabilize this troubled region, possibly putting the current government of Jordan at risk. Israeli leaders are increasingly concerned that the conflict may make the Palestine Authority a hotbed of terrorist activity and a greater threat than ever to peace in Israel. As Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops crack down on terrorist cells operating out of the Gaza Strip, blood is being spilled on both sides.
By early August, after a little more than three weeks of concerted IDF attempts to stop Gaza-based attacks against Israel, the estimated death toll was in excess of a thousand Palestinians—including many civilians among whom terrorists were working—as well as several dozen Israelis, mostly IDF troops. Officials in charge of United Nations humanitarian programs are calling the Gaza situation “dire.”
How much more blood will be shed before this conflict is resolved? How many more governments will rise and fall? Indeed, will there ever be a time when the Middle East achieves lasting peace?
The good news is that your Bible foretells of a time when peace will reign not only in the Middle East, but on all of planet Earth. Yet that time will come only after a period of intense war and suffering such as our world has never before seen. If we know what prophetic signs we should be looking for, we can have hope and confidence in God’s promised future of peace, even while we are still experiencing terrible fighting and devastation. What are some of those signs?
Do you remember the Iran-Iraq War? It lasted from 1980 to 1988, and more than a million people were killed. The Euphrates River figured prominently in that conflict, and your Bible shows that it will again be central in prophesied end-time events.
The Euphrates River runs from Turkey through Syria and Iraq to the Persian Gulf. The nation of Iran lies immediately to the east of Iraq. During the prophesied Day of the Lord, an immense army of 200 million soldiers will move westward across the Euphrates River into the Middle East.
In the Book of Revelation, we read about a powerful army from the east, which will kill billions of people. The Apostle John describes this as the sixth trumpet plague. Notice where this huge force will be gathered: “Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’” (Revelation 9:13–14).
John continues: “So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed; by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths” (Revelation 9:15–18).
This is describing a world war in which billions of human beings will die, as an army of 200 million drives west across the Euphrates River and destroys one-third of the planet’s population! This is why Jesus Christ told us that unless those days would be shortened, no flesh would be saved alive (Matthew 24:21–22).
What world powers are east of the Euphrates? Look at a map, and you will find nations including Iran, India, China and Russia. Be sure to watch those nations’ military developments and international alliances.
In June 1967, Israel fought what came to be called the “Six-Day War.” Pitted against the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This victory gave Israel access to Jerusalem’s ancient holy sites, including the Western Wall (also known as the “Wailing Wall”) at the Temple Mount. At the close of the war, Israel offered to return the West Bank to Palestinian control, if they would accept Israel’s complete ownership of Jerusalem. Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt’s president at the time, joined with his Arab neighbors in saying “No!” to Israel’s land-for-peace offer.
Seven years later, on October 6, 1973, Israel again had to defend itself. In what became known as the “Yom Kippur War”—since it began on the Day of Atonement that year—Israel repelled invasions by Egypt and Syria. Eventually Israel, Egypt and Syria agreed to a United Nations cease-fire plan ending that conflict.
Since then, there have been occasional military strikes, as well as the years-long intifada (Arabic for “shaking off”) in which Palestinians expressed resistance—sometimes bloodily—to what they considered unjust Israeli rule. Fighting and bloodshed have also continued among warring Palestinian factions; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at one point described his nation as being “on the verge of civil war” due to struggles between his Fatah organization and the Islamic militant group Hamas—the same groups which, earlier this year, took major steps to demonstrate reconciliation through their agreement on the formation of a “unity” government. Will this unity persist, or will age-old patterns of conflict re-emerge? Whatever the short-term answer, history has shown that even while intra-Arab conflicts continue, warring Middle East nations will not hesitate to join forces to fight against Israel.
To the north, the non-Arab nation of Iran remains a threat, as massive rallies across the nation have urged Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere to fight Israel “to the end.” Iran also continues its push toward developing nuclear weapons.
South of Iran, traditional disputes among Arabs and Muslims continue, yet students of Bible prophecy know to watch for growing unity among these forces against their common enemy—Israel. While some pundits mistakenly focus on Iran as Israel’s chief enemy and the main destabilizer of the region, your Bible reveals that it will be a “King of the South” that will unite several Arab nations, forming a power bloc so threatening that the prophesied “King of the North” will intensify its military actions around Jerusalem (Daniel 11:40–45). This will bring about a frightening conflict that will shake our world, but Bible students will be able to recognize that this is also a sign that Jesus Christ will soon return as prophesied.
For years, Jerusalem’s importance to three major world religions has made its administration a focus of international controversy. Although Israel has controlled both East and West Jerusalem since 1967, many other governments want to see Jerusalem administered internationally. The original 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) proposed that Jerusalem be treated as a corpus separatum—an internationally administered zone—and although this status never took effect, many still hope for something similar to be achieved. In 1984, Pope John Paul II wrote in his apostolic letter Redemptoris Anno that he hoped Jerusalem could be given a “special internationally guaranteed status.” Who might guarantee that status? In 1975, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger proposed that Jerusalem become an international city, with the control of holy places and religious administration given to the Roman Catholic pontiff.
Will such international control of Jerusalem be achieved? The Bible reveals that a shocking turn of events will occur, through which Jerusalem will be controlled not by Israel, but instead by other governmental powers. The Apostle John wrote, “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city under foot for forty-two months’” (Revelation 11:1–2).
Yes, Jerusalem (“the holy city”) will be controlled by the Gentiles for 42 months before Jesus Christ returns! A great world power, described as the “Beast” in the book of Revelation, will invade the Middle East and take control of Jerusalem for the three-and-a-half years preceding the return of Jesus Christ! During that time, two prophets of God will be witnessing with great power, and will contend against the Gentile force that will then be dominating the Middle East (Revelation 11:3–14).
If you have read the books of Daniel and Matthew in your Bible, you may have been puzzled by the mysterious “abomination of desolation.” What is it, and what will it mean in end-time prophecy? First, let us look at Jesus’ own words: He said, “‘Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains’” (Matthew 24:15–16).
Clearly, this is an important sign to understand. It signals the time when God’s people are to flee to escape the final three-and-a-half-year sequence of devastating end-time prophetic calamities.
Historically, the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes issued a decree in 167bc that prohibited the Jews from making sacrifices in the Temple. “And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 11:31). Historically, not only did Antiochus stop the daily sacrifices; he erected in the temple a statue of Jupiter Olympus, and directed everyone to worship it.
This event, also described in Daniel 8, prefigures a prophesied end-time milestone. “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days” (Daniel 12:11). Yes, 1,290 days before Jesus Christ’s second coming, animal sacrifices will again be cut off! Jesus warns us as Christians to be alert to an end-time abomination of desolation! Just as Antiochus Epiphanes profaned the Temple in 167bc and cut off the sacrifices, so will a profane authority cut off Jewish sacrifices in the future! In fact, the Apostle Paul warns of a great false prophet that will stand in the holy place. “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4).
A great false prophet will work great miracles and deceive millions of people. He will cultivate worship toward himself and claim the mantle of divinity. This great false prophet will work amazing miracles, even calling down fire from heaven, and he will deceive millions of people around the world (Revelation 13:13–14)! But we must not be deceived by these signs and wonders! Scripture tells us, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
But there is a catch. The Jews have not offered animal sacrifices since 70ad, when the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. In order for end-time sacrifices to be stopped, they need to have been started! When animal sacrifices begin again in Jerusalem, you will know that the prophecies Jesus spoke about are soon heading for a grand-smash climax!
Watch for developments in Israel leading to the reinstitution of animal sacrifices. This may or may not mean the rebuilding of a full-scaled temple structure. Notice what happened when the Jews returned from Babylonian exile around 536bc. They had a holy place, but not yet a temple. The book of Ezra describes their coming to the “House of God” before they had a temple in which to offer sacrifice (Ezra 3:8). Later, in the verses that follow, we read about the laying of a temple’s foundation.
The point is that sacrifices must be presented in a “holy place”—but we have seen in Ezra that sacrifices could be made daily even without a physical building called a temple! At present, only Muslims are allowed to worship on the Temple Mount; the holiest site currently controlled by Jewish religious authorities is the Western (or “Wailing”) Wall. One way or another, sacrifices will resume, though it remains to be seen exactly where and how this will occur. Watch for a great national crisis in Israel to precipitate this event!
Earlier we learned of the prophesied “king of the North”—a superpower north of Jerusalem. That superpower is identified in Bible prophecy as a revival of the ancient Roman Empire—and, before Christ returns, its forces will take control of Jerusalem. The prophet Daniel also describes the rise of a competing power, guided by a leader south of Jerusalem, which will push against that northern power. Notice: “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He [the king of the North] shall also enter the Glorious Land, [or the Holy Land] and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape” (Daniel 11:40–42).
The king of the North will enter into the “Glorious Land”—the location of the modern state of Israel. Bible scholars identify Ammon (which escapes out of the king’s hand, along with Edom and Moab) as modern-day Jordan, leading many to believe that Jordan will be allied with the European power. Who will be part of this alliance against Israel? Notice Psalm 83. Assyria (modern-day Germany) will lead an alliance including Moab, Ammon and Edom. Look at your Bible maps to find their historic locations, and if you have not already done so, write for a free copy of our informative article Resurgent Germany: A Fourth Reich? to learn about Germany’s role as modern-day Assyria.
What does Scripture tell us about the king of the North? We have seen that it is also known as the “Beast”—but who is the Beast? Notice this marginal note from the Douay-Rheims (New Catholic Edition) of the Bible, commenting on the beast of Revelation 17:11. “The beast spoken of here seems to be the Roman Empire, as in chapter 13.” In other words, both the Beast of Revelation 17 and the Beast of Revelation 13 represent the Roman Empire. This Catholic Bible also comments concerning Revelation 13:1 as follows: “The picture of the first beast is based on the seventh chapter of Daniel. This beast is the figure of kingdoms of the world, kingdoms founded on passion and selfishness, which in every age are antagonistic to Christ and seek to oppress the servants of God. Imperial Rome represents this power.”
Yes, the “Beast” is a revival of the ancient Roman Empire. If you are watching world events, perhaps you have observed that the European Union is developing political, military and economic characteristics of the empire described in Scripture. You can read about the economic power of this empire in Revelation 18.
As we near the Great Tribulation, true Christians will increasingly be persecuted. But Jesus instructs us how to react as religious persecution intensifies. “By your patience possess your souls. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near” (Luke 21:19–20).
We are now in the prophesied period known as the end-time. We need to be prepared for the Second Coming. Christ will be King over all the earth, ruling from the new world capital, Jerusalem. “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—‘The Lord is one,’ and His name one” (Zechariah 14:8–9).
Thank God, this wonderful world government under Jesus Christ is coming soon. May we pray with all our hearts, “Your Kingdom come!”