From our article ‘Biblical prophecies about Israel’ we should expect to see the following sequence of events taking place regarding Israel.
- The Jewish people scattered from the land of Israel and dwelling amongst the Gentile nations of the earth.
- The Jewish people keeping their identity in the lands of dispersion and re-gathering to Israel.
- This re-gathering to be in unbelief.
- A time of trouble taking place during which the nations of the world gather against Israel.
- Out of this time of trouble a spiritual rebirth to take place as a result of which the remnant of Israel calls on the name of Yeshua (Jesus) for salvation.
- The physical return of Jesus the Messiah to the earth to rule and reign from Jerusalem during the Millennium (Messianic Age).
When we look at Jewish history and current events in Israel what do we see? The Jewish people have been scattered to the nations of the world, where for the most part they have been treated shamefully, especially by those who claimed to be Christians. Despite years of oppression in Islamic lands or in Christendom they kept their identity and never lost their desire to go back to the land of Israel. Each year at Passover they end the meal with the words ‘L’shana ha ba b’irushalayim’, ‘Next Year in Jerusalem.’ By such reminders the desire to return to the land of Israel was kept alive through the long years of exile.
According to Ezekiel 36, during the time of this exile the land would become ‘desolate wastes’ with ‘cities that are forsaken’ (Ezekiel 36.4). This was exactly the condition Mark Twain, the American author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, found when he visited Palestine, at that time a backwater of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, in 1867. He described it in his book, The Innocents Abroad:
‘Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince … It is a hopeless, dreary, heart broken land … Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. … Palestine is desolate and unlovely.’
Of Jerusalem he wrote:
‘Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt abound, lepers, cripples, the blind and the idiotic assail you on every hand. Jerusalem is a mournful, dreary and lifeless. I would not desire to live here’.
By the late 19th century Zionist pioneers, mainly from Russia and Ukraine, began to immigrate into Palestine and to purchase land from absentee Arab landlords. They drained the swamps and planted trees and began the process of turning the barren land into a fertile place. The population of Jerusalem swelled from about 15,000 in 1865 to 45,472 in 1896, of whom 28,112 were Jews. The prophecy of the physical rebirth of Israel was beginning:
“But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. For I am indeed for you and I will turn to you and you shall be tilled and sown. I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt.” (Ezekiel 36.8-10)
At around this time the Zionist movement began to organise seriously. At the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, Zionist leader, Theodor Herzl, wrote in his diary on August 29th 1897:
‘At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I were to say this today, I would be greeted with universal laughter. In five years, perhaps, and certainly in fifty, everyone will see it.’
On 29 November 1947, exactly 50 years later, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed by 33 votes to 13, with 10 abstentions (including the British), the resolution to partition Palestine, which led to the creation of the State of Israel in May 1948.
Herzl dreamed of an orderly return to Zion from the nations of the world. In fact the return and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 came after the agony of the Holocaust and the destruction of one third of the world Jewish population. It also came in the teeth of fierce opposition from the Arab world and from the British government, which had the Mandate for Palestine at that time. Nevertheless the United Nations took the decision to partition Palestine and allow the establishment of a tiny Jewish state on a fraction of the territory originally promised by the British government through the Balfour Declaration.
The immediate and continuing response of the surrounding Arab nations was to seek to eliminate the Jewish state. At times Arab leaders like Nasser of Egypt almost literally quoted the words of Psalm 83.4:
“Come let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”
In verses 6-8 of this Psalm there is a list of nations, which can be identified with Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and Iraq. In 1948, 1967 and 1973 Israel has had to fight wars for survival against superior armies from these countries bent on pushing the Jewish state into the sea.
In 1964 the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was set up with the intention of ‘liberating’ Israeli lands and returning them to Arab control. This was before the Six Day War, which took place in 1967. So the land intended for ‘liberation’ was the territory of Israel as established in 1948, not the area of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestine National Covenant, the Charter of the PLO, calls for the ‘liberation of Palestine’ from the ‘Zionist invasion’ by ‘armed struggle’ and ‘aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine’ (i.e. the destruction of Israel). It denies that the Jews are a nation or that they have ‘historical or religious ties with Palestine.’ It states that only ‘the Jews who normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.’ Therefore it denies Israel’s right to exist in any form and commits the organisation to a programme aiming at the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian State from which the majority of Jewish citizens would be expelled. In pursuing these aims the PLO became the first organisation to use the tactics of modern terrorism, which have been copied by other terrorist organisations throughout the world.
In spite of all that has been thrown against her, Israel has survived and through victories won in 1948 and 1967 ended up with control of more territory than was originally allotted to her by the UN. The Six Day War in 1967 brought the whole of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula under Israeli control. The West Bank is the name given to the region meaning that it is the west side of the Jordan River, as opposed to the east bank which is the country of Jordan. In August 1967 Israel offered to return these territories in return for peace and recognition by the Arab world, but the response of the Arab nations at the Khartoum Conference was: ‘No recognition, no peace, no negotiations with Israel.’
In October 1973 Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar when Jews fast and pray for forgiveness of sins. For a few days it looked like Israel was about to be overrun by the Syrians, but incredible bravery of Israeli soldiers and God’s intervention turned what could have been the end of Israel into another defeat for the Arab armies. Five years later, in 1978, Israel did return the Sinai to Egypt after Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, and Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Peace Agreement.
For Israel, taking the West Bank meant taking possession of the biblical region of Judea Samaria which contains the most significant places in their history from a biblical point of view, including Hebron and the Old City of Jerusalem. From 1948 to 1967 Jerusalem had been a city divided by a wall with barbed wire and checkpoints as Berlin was during the days of the Cold War. The new part of the city, where the Knesset (Israeli parliament) is housed, was under Israeli control. The historic Old City was under Jordanian control. Here were the holy places, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosques, (the Temple Mount) and the Jewish Quarter with the Western (Wailing) Wall. During the entire period of Jordanian rule all Jews were expelled from the Old City and unable to pray at the Western Wall.
When the Israelis entered the Old City of Jerusalem on 7 June 1967, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Force, Moshe Dayan, stood at the Western Wall and said:
“We have regained our holiest place, never again to depart.”
Jewish people worldwide flocked to pray at the Western Wall. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City was resettled with ‘yeshivas’ (study centres) being established for Orthodox Jews and attracting students from all over the world. At the same time the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa mosques remain under Muslim control. These mosques stand on the Temple Mount, the site of the Jewish temple in the days of the Bible.
For the Arabs, the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state and Israel’s defeat of Arab armies and occupation of Jerusalem and Judea Samaria or the West Bank is a calamity which ‘contradicts the march of history’. Jerusalem is considered by Muslims to be the third holiest city in Islam and should be under Arab Muslim control. Indeed the whole of what is called Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean is regarded as part of the Dar al Islam (house of Islam) and should remain so until the end of days.
The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is also seen as a denial of the Palestinians’ right to have a land of their own. So we have today an international effort to make a peace settlement which would hope to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Arab world by Israel withdrawing from territories occupied in the 1967 Six Day War. A Palestinian State should be established and should renounce violence against Israel. At the same time Israel faces implacable hostility from much of the Arab world and from Iran. Iran is allied to Syria and to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and is actively supplying missiles and other weaponry to them. So Israel faces a peace track and a war track and in reality both tracks actually would like to see the end of Israel ultimately.
“It is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict and to strive to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security.” –
So said Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, as he signed the Oslo Accords with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in 1993.
However, even as the agreement was being signed, the leaders were making mutually exclusive claims about Jerusalem. Rabin said, “Jerusalem remains under Israeli sovereignty and our capital.” But Arafat said, “Whoever would relinquish an inch of Jerusalem is not an Arab or a Muslim.” Seven years later the Oslo Agreement broke down primarily over the issue of Jerusalem. In July 2000 Israeli Prime Minister Barak offered Arafat far more than anyone, including US President Clinton, expected. However Yasser Arafat refused to compromise over the Palestinian demand for sovereignty over the whole of the Old City of Jerusalem. As this includes the Jewish Quarter and Jewish holy places, there was no way Barak could accept this demand without provoking total rejection from the Israeli population, so bringing down his government. At the meeting of the Islamic Conference Organisation in Morocco a month later in August, Arafat declared:
“Our struggle will continue and we won’t concede even an inch of the city.”
Jerusalem remained the ‘burdensome stone’ just as Zechariah prophesied 2500 years ago.
Since that time the search for a settlement has gone on despite renewed Palestinian violence against Israeli targets unleashed through the Intifada which began in September 2000, the security barrier which Israel erected in order to defend its citizens against terrorist attacks from the Palestinian areas and the split in the Palestinian Authority between the Fatah-led West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza.
From 2002 onwards the ‘Quartet’ of the USA, EU, Russia and UN have been engaged in trying to create some kind of settlement in the Middle East. This means the most powerful nations in the world plus the UN (which represents all nations) are focused on resolving the status of Jerusalem and of this nation, which is no bigger than Wales. At the time, 2500 years ago, when Zechariah the Hebrew Prophet prophesied that Jerusalem would be a ‘burdensome stone’ for ‘all nations’, most people living in Europe, Russia, America would have not known where Jerusalem was, much less been concerned about what was happening there. Today everyone knows where Jerusalem is, and resolving the conflict about who should rule it is top priority for the world powers.
If we fast-forward to the present day, we find that the world is becoming increasingly impatient with Israel for not proceeding to a peace settlement with the Palestinians. The plan is that Israel withdraws from the land it occupied and allows the Palestinians to have an independent state in the West Bank. Then it is claimed that the Arabs will live in peace with Israel.
On 19 March 2010, representatives of the Quartet met in Moscow to issue a statement calling for –
‘a settlement negotiated between the parties within 24 months, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours.’
Present at the meeting were U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union Catherine Ashton and Quartet Representative Tony Blair.
So by 2012 the nations of the world want to have the Israel–Palestine issue resolved and a peace settlement in place. However, resolving this issue is not so simple. As far as Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu is concerned, Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world for Judaism, should remain the undivided capital of Israel. Speaking on Jerusalem Day in May 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said,
“United Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem has always been – and always will be – ours. It will never again be divided or cut in half. Jerusalem will remain only under Israel’s sovereignty.”
As far as the Arab world is concerned, Jerusalem is said to be the third holiest city in Islam, despite the fact that it is never mentioned in the Koran. As such it should be under Arab Muslim control. On 26 April 2009 on America’s ‘Meet the Press’ TV programme, King Abdullah of Jordan said that Israel faces all-out war within 18 months if it does not come to terms with the Arab world and allow the establishment of a new Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem. On 23 September 2010 in his UN General Assembly address, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that if the settlement construction freeze issue would not be solved, a violent conflict could break out by the end of 2010.
The Quartet aspires to the creation of ‘an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.’ It has to be said that Israel’s experience of withdrawing from ‘occupied territories’ and leaving behind a peaceful democratic neighbour has not been very encouraging so far. In May 2000 Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon ending a 22-year military presence there. The territory was quickly seized by Hezbollah Islamic militants who used it as a base for hostile attacks on Israel with missiles supplied by Iran and Syria. In August 2005 Israel handed over the Gaza strip to the Palestinian Authority, dismantling all its settlements. In June 2007 Hamas took over Gaza and increased the number of missiles fired from its territory into southern Israel.
With this in mind, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that Israel must have a presence in the West Bank to stop rockets from being imported into the area and fired into its territory even after a peace agreement is achieved. The West Bank borders major Israeli cities and is within rocket-firing range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport. Military strategists long have estimated Israel must maintain the West Bank to defend itself from any ground invasion. Hamas leaders have warned they would take over the West Bank as they took over Gaza if Israel pulls out of the territory.
In September 2010 peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians started again in Washington with the aim of finding a settlement within one year. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he is entering direct peace negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to find a ‘historic compromise’ that will enable both people to live in peace for generations. Recalling that after previous Israeli withdrawals from south Lebanon and Gaza, Iran-backed terrorists used those territories to mount attacks on Israel, Netanyahu said it was vital to ensure that any land Israel conceded would not be turned into a ‘third Iranian-sponsored enclave aimed at the heart of Israel’. Therefore, the Prime Minister said, a defensible peace required security arrangements that could withstand the test of time.
At the moment of writing (October 2010) the peace talks have reached deadlock. The Palestinians have said they will not resume talks unless Israel halts the building of Jewish settlements. In response to the Palestinian walkout Mr Netanyahu said Israel would reinstate the settlement freeze if the Palestinians would in turn publicly and officially recognize that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. Palestinian leaders immediately rejected the offer. “We forcefully reject all these Israeli games,” said Senior Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat.
In the recent negotiations Abbas has stated that Israel must accept all Arab demands. The main ones are a return to the pre-1967 borders (which means dismantling all the settlements and dividing Jerusalem) and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. This would mean that Israel should open its borders to millions of hostile Arab citizens now living in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. This would effectively mean the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.
Abbas has consistently refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish state as Netanyahu has asked him to, saying,
“Historically, there are two states – Israel and Palestinian. Israel has Jews and other people, and this we are ready to recognize, but nothing else.”
He has also made it clear that any future Palestinian State must be ‘Israeli free’:
“We clarified that the Palestinian Authority would not agree to continued Israeli presence, military or civil, within a future Palestinian state.”
Abbas has hinted that the Palestinian Authority may fall apart if the peace negotiations fail. If that happened it would most likely be replaced by Hamas in power. That would put an end to any ‘peace negotiations’, as the Hamas Charter states:
‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it. The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours.’
However, it seems that the ultimate aim of the Palestinian Authority is also the eventual destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian State from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Even now Palestinian Authority TV, which is controlled by President Abbas’ office, continues to claim that all of Israel is ‘occupied Palestine.’ The children’s show ‘The Best Home’, broadcast three times a week during the month of Ramadan 2010, referred to Israeli cities, including Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramle and Acre as ‘occupied’ Palestinian cities. A recent sermon from PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash said that “Jerusalem has to return to its owners. And we are its owners.” If not he said, “The term ‘war’ cannot be erased from the lexicon of this region.” (Information from Palestinian Media Watch August 30 2010.)
From Israel’s side, Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated frequently that there should be no return to the 1967 borders and that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel under Israeli sovereignty. However more recently Ehud Barak, his Defence Minister, said in response to a question about the future of Jerusalem:
‘West Jerusalem and 12 Jewish neighbourhoods that are home to 200,000 residents will be ours. The Arab neighbourhoods in which close to a quarter million Palestinians live will be theirs. There will be a special regime in place along with agreed upon arrangements in the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the City of David.’ (HAARETZ newspaper 4/9/10)
Does this mean that Israel is now moving to a position whereby it would accept a division of Jerusalem with some kind of ‘special regime’ in the Old City in order to obtain a peace treaty? Would such a ‘special regime’ require some kind of international body to oversee it? Could this be provided by a NATO force policing a peace settlement backed by America, the EU and the UN?
Up until recently the United States has always been seen as being supportive of Israel and its security needs in any negotiations with the Palestinians. However, since Barack Obama became President there has been a growing tension in this relationship. America wants to mend its relationship with the Arab world and is growing impatient with Israel. Both US and EU leaders have talked of penalising Israel if it does not move ahead with the establishment of a Palestinian state. US special envoy George Mitchell has threatened that his country would freeze its aid to Israel if the Jewish state failed to advance peace talks with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.
During July 2009, the EU’s Javier Solana lectured in London and said that if the peace process was going nowhere, the international community should consider recognizing a Palestinian state under a UN resolution even without Israel’s consent. European Foreign Ministers have declared their support for the division of Jerusalem, saying that a way should be found to make Jerusalem the shared capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state. There has even been talk of an international military force being sent into the region to enforce a peace settlement. French President Sarkozy is on record as suggesting placing 40,000 NATO troops in the Palestinian territories to keep the peace.
The Bible prophecies indicate that in the last days a world leader will make a ‘covenant’ involving Israel. In Daniel 9 we read about a seven-year covenant made with Israel which breaks down halfway through the seven years and leads to the final time of Jacob’s trouble. At the present time we see the attempt to make a peace covenant with Israel with the world powers involved. We also see that the process is continually failing. The end time scriptures indicate that the successful peace covenant will only take place when the Antichrist reaches his seat of power, most likely following the war of Gog and Magog (see following section).
Here is Daniel 9.26-7, with some comments I have added to show this. The passage moves from the time of the Messiah Jesus and His sacrificial death to the last days of this age:
And after the sixty two weeks Messiah shall be cut off but not for Himself; (i.e. the sacrificial death of the Messiah Jesus) and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary (the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in AD 70 by the Romans, 40 years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus). The end of it shall be with a flood and till the end of the war desolations are determined (following the first coming of Messiah there will be a prolonged period of wars and the desolation of Jerusalem). Then he (i.e. the prince who is to come) shall confirm a covenant (peace agreement) with many for one week (seven years – see Genesis 29.27); but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation which is determined is poured out on the desolate.
There is a strong emphasis on treachery in the prophecies, which surround the last days. ‘The treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously’ (Isaiah 24.16). Concerning the ‘prince to come’ Daniel says that ‘he shall act deceitfully’ and ‘he shall enter peaceably’ even though his real intention is to invade and plunder (Daniel 11.23-4). Leaders of Israel will make a ‘covenant with death’ with him and will eventually discover the mistake they have made: ‘For we have made lies our refuge and under falsehood we have covered ourselves’ (Isaiah 28.14-15). The peace agreement will break down halfway through the seven-year Great Tribulation period and lead eventually to the final battle for Jerusalem, which will be the occasion for the return of the Lord Jesus to the earth.
Of course there are also those who want to see Israel removed and replaced by a Muslim state. They show no interest in seeking a peace settlement. Iran’s leader, Ahmadinejad, has called Israel a ‘stinking corpse’ which should be wiped off the map. Iran has been giving support and weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, neither of which have any interest in a temporary peace deal with Israel, but aim at the eventual elimination of Israel and its replacement with a Muslim Arab state, ideally leading to an Islamic Caliphate extending throughout the Middle East. As we have already noted, the Hamas Charter calls for the obliteration of Israel.
By Israel’s reckoning, Iran will have the know-how to make nuclear weapons during 2010 and, thereafter, could build atomic bombs within a year. “If Iran gets nuclear weapons, the Middle East will look like hell,” says one senior Israeli official. “I cannot imagine that we can live with a nuclear Iran.” Ahmadinejad has expressed the hope that even the threat of Iran having a nuclear bomb will cause Jews to leave Israel and therefore bring about the collapse of the State.
Israel also fears the potential of nuclear power in the hands of what it regards as a dangerous ‘apocalyptic cult.’ According to the leaders of modern Iran we are now living in the last days of this age and the Mahdi will soon appear on the scene. The Mahdi is an Islamic Messiah figure who (it is claimed) will lead the Muslims to defeat ‘the Great Satan’ (the USA) and the little Satan (Israel) and set up an Islamic world government. According to the Shiite Muslim belief held by Mr Ahmadinejad there will be a time of great trouble on the earth before the Mahdi arrives. In 2008 Ali Larijani, the chairman and speaker of the Iranian Parliament quoted Imam Mohammed Baqir, a famous Muslim scholar, as saying, “there must be bloodshed and jihad to establish Imam Mahdi’s rule.” Ayatollah Ibrahim al Amini, professor at the Religious Learning Centre at Qom stated, “The Mahdi will offer the religion of Islam to the Jews and Christians; if they accept it they will be spared, otherwise they will be killed.”’
The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) website says the world is now in its ‘last days.’ It claims that the Mahdi will first appear in Mecca, and then Medina. He will conquer all of Arabia, Syria, Iraq and destroy Israel. Then he will overcome enemies and ‘will eradicate all corruption and injustice from the face of the earth and establish the global government of peace, justice and equity.’
In the light of all this Israel faces two bad possibilities in relation to Iran:
- Iran gets the bomb and threatens to use it against Israel.
- Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities and faces the consequences of world condemnation and counter attacks from Iran.
In the past Israel has not accepted the risk of a staunch enemy having the means to destroy it. In 1981 Israeli jets destroyed the nuclear reactor being built at Osirak in Iraq before it went operational and began to supply Saddam Hussein with the means to produce a nuclear bomb. In 2007 Israel destroyed a mysterious complex in the Syrian desert widely believed to have been a nuclear reactor being built with help from North Korea.
There have been repeated rumours of Israel staging an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites to prevent this from happening. Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defence Minister, said in 2009 that a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities was still an option should the international community fail to put sanctions on Iran tough enough to make it suspend its nuclear programme. Israeli officials estimate that a raid on Natanz and a nuclear facility at Arak, in central Iran, would set Iran’s nuclear program back by two to three years.
Such an operation would be far more difficult and dangerous than the raids on Iraq and Syria, given the distances involved, the dispersion of nuclear material at many different sites in Iran, the Iranian air defences and the international repercussions which would follow. Such a raid could provoke a full-scale war between Israel and Iran and its proxies in the region – Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. At the time of writing this book news is coming through of a sophisticated computer virus, known as Stuxnet, which has attacked Iranian facilities, in particular the nuclear power station at Busheir and the nuclear processing plant at Natanz. While this has not been definitely linked to Israel, the evidence points in that direction. Potentially the use of cyber warfare could be more damaging than an air raid in terms of shutting down Iran’s (or another hostile nation’s) computer systems and electricity generating facilities.
On 27 February 2010, Ahmadinejad summoned all the terrorist groups that Iran sponsors for a gathering in Teheran to finalise their roles in military operations against Israel in the event of a Middle East conflagration. He also held talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad and heads of the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas on 25 February 2010, during a brief visit to Damascus.
In October 2010 Ahmadinejad visited Lebanon and held a massive rally in Bint Jbeil near Lebanon’s border with Israel. There he praised the ‘resistance’ to ‘Zionist occupation’ and told the cheering crowd that Israel would ‘soon evaporate.’ Appearing with Hezbollah leaders to whom he has given tens of thousands of rockets and missiles to use against Israel, Ahmadinejad called for them to continue the struggle and promised Iranian ‘volunteers’ to help fight. Ahmadinejad was greeted as a hero by tens of thousands of Hezbollah members and other Lebanese citizens as he declared his solidarity with them in defiance of Israel. Iranian flags and posters of Ahmadinejad adorned public buildings and lined the streets. A replica of the Al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount was built in Bint Jbeil, and Iranian flags flew over that as well, a signal many analysts interpreted as a token of a soon coming war.
Iran has provided Hezbollah and Hamas with more than 40,000 rockets and missiles to use against Israel, and Ahmadinejad promised ‘volunteers’ from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would come to help in the fight. Israeli sources indicate they expect another outbreak of war very soon. “The world should know that the Zionists will perish,” Ahmadinejad said. “Occupied Palestine will be liberated from the filth of occupation by the strength of resistance and through the faith of the resistance.”
In response to this threat, Israel is providing her citizens with masks to defend against weapons of mass destruction. European diplomatic reports have quoted Israeli high ranking officials saying that the Netanyahu government and the Israeli army command are expecting a war against their country waged either jointly by Iran, Hezbollah and the Hamas movement, or by one of these three bodies. There are now tens of thousands of missiles in Lebanon and Syria (on the borders with Israel), mostly supplied by Iran; and Iran itself has long-range missiles capable of reaching Israel.
The Israeli army fears that Hezbollah might launch missiles with biological and chemical warheads capable of reaching Tel Aviv. If this were to happen, Israel confirmed that its response would include targeting southern Lebanon, the suburbs of Beirut, the Bekaa valley and the heart of the Gaza strip. Israel has also let it be known that if Iran strikes Israel with long-range missiles carrying chemical and biological warheads, Israel will respond by devastating air strikes and lethal extremely advanced weapons to target Iranian cities. There are also warnings of Israel and Syria coming to blows, with Israel threatening to attack Damascus if Syria continues to supply Hezbollah with missiles. Syria has said that if Israel were to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria would respond and not sit idly by.
Israel is also responding to the missile threat by developing anti-missile technology, which is way ahead of anything else in the world. Israel already has the Arrow missile system in place which can detect incoming long-range missiles and shoot them down before they reach Israel. This relies on a directed fragmentation warhead to destroy enemy missiles, a bit like hitting a bullet with a bullet. Any missile launched from Iran against Israel which is intercepted by the Arrow would land either in Iran itself or in a neighbouring country, probably Iraq or Jordan.
In July 2010 Israel successfully test fired the ‘Iron Dome’ anti-missile system which can intercept short-range missiles coming in from Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon. An observer who watched this test said:
“Iron Dome when faced with a volley of Grad-type Katyushas, fires a counter-volley and the interceptors are required to select and intercept specific Grads in this flying pack. It looked impossible, but they did the impossible. Every missile picked the specific Grad it was asked to select and destroyed it. There’s no doubt this is historic.” (Ha’aretz 21/7/10)
Israel has also been stocking up on advanced weapons. Given the firepower which is available to Israel, there could also be great destruction on the Arab side. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Damascus. This prophecy is made more fascinating by the fact it remains unfulfilled in history. Damascus is the oldest continually inhabited city on earth. Although conquered many times, it has been preserved intact as an economic and cultural centre to this day. But Isaiah predicted Damascus would one day face utter destruction: “Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and it will become a fallen ruin”, he writes in Isaiah 17:1.
From the Bible’s point of view all this could find its prophetic fulfilment in Psalm 83 whereby a conflict erupts between Israel and its immediate neighbours resulting in an overwhelming Israeli victory. This is what Psalm 83 says:
O God, do not remain quiet; Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. For, behold, Your enemies make an uproar; and those who hate You have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Your people, and conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, ‘Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.’ For they have conspired together with one mind; Against You do they make a covenant: The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; they have become a help to the children of Lot. Selah.
All of these countries surrounding Israel come together with one purpose – to wipe out Israel. There was no historic event in biblical times in which this prophecy has been fulfilled. Certainly we can see elements of its fulfilment in the recent wars of Israel. But could it also have a future fulfilment?
If such a conflict takes place, will Israel survive? Bible prophecy indicates that it will although there may be considerable destruction in the process.
The outcome of this could well be a peace settlement which will hold for a number of years until the next round of conflict is ready with the war of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-9). In this passage an alliance of nations invades Israel led by ‘Gog’, a leader from the uttermost north of Israel at a time when Israel is at peace in the region. Again this is a prophecy which has never been fulfilled in past events.
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you. Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them. After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely. You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.’ ” (Ezekiel 38.1-9)
Joel chapter 2 also speaks of a northern army invading Israel in the last days. Both Joel and Ezekiel 39.1-5, 27-29 show that when this happens God will intervene and destroy this army and that following this there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Persia (Iran) is one of the countries mentioned in this war, in which an alliance of nations invades Israel led by ‘Gog’, a leader from the uttermost north of Israel. Russia, the power to the north, is supplying Iran today with nuclear technology at its Busheir nuclear power station and with advanced weapons. Russia has recently opened up a naval base in Syria. Another country mentioned in the line up of countries taking part in this war is Togarmah which many Bible commentators identify with modern day Turkey. The geographical position of Turkey is significant being the main region of the eastern Roman Empire, which at one time had Constantinople (modern Istanbul) as its capital. Until recently Turkey has been known as a secular Muslim country, seeking membership of the EU and friendly towards Israel, even taking part in joint military exercises with Israel. Now it has become hostile to Israel. Significantly no Arab country bordering on Israel is mentioned in the line up of nations in Ezekiel 38-9.
According to the Bible, the War of Gog and Magog happens after the restoration of Israel from worldwide dispersion and before the end of this age. The nations who take part are supernaturally defeated by God intervening to save Israel. As a result, there is a turning to God in Israel and among the nations. Since the armies destroyed will be Islamic, this could lead to a collapse of faith in Islam since God will be seen to destroy Islamic armies.
The final conflict will be the gathering together of the armies of the world (Armageddon) which leads to the physical return of Yeshua / Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords:
And I saw three unclean spirits of demons performing signs which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole earth, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. … And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew Armageddon. (Revelation 16.14-16)
This time Jesus will not come as a Suffering Servant but as King of kings and Lord of lords, with all power at His disposal to rule and reign over the earth. The Hebrew prophet Zechariah prophesies this event in words which clearly point to Jesus as the Messiah. He describes a world conflict over the status of Jerusalem, a question, which will not just affect the countries of the region, but the whole world:
And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; and all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it. (Zechariah 12.3)
When the armies of the world gather together against Jerusalem to battle, God says:
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son.” (Zechariah 12.10)
Following this, Zechariah says:
Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. … And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. (Zechariah 14.3-4, 9)
These scriptures point to one who has been ‘pierced’ as the one who saves Israel in the last days. Who could this be? Yeshua / Jesus, the One who is revealed in the Gospel as the only Son who has been ‘pierced’, dying by crucifixion, in order to redeem the world, and who will come the second time to judge the world according to how we have responded to His message.
Zechariah 14 is believed by Orthodox Jews to be about the Messiah coming at the end of days and today the Mount of Olives is covered in gravestones. It is the most prestigious place to be buried, because it is believed that the Messiah will come to the Mount of Olives, blow the trumpet for the resurrection of the dead and then those who are buried there will be the first to be resurrected. The theological problem this raises for Orthodox Jews is that if we agree that Zechariah 14 is about the Messiah (and we do!) then the Messiah is called the LORD (Hebrew YHWH – the most sacred name for God). Not only this but He will also apparently have feet and stand on the Mount of Olives. If He has feet presumably He will have the rest of a body as well!
The Mount of Olives is a very significant place in the New Testament also. Jesus gave His teaching on His second coming there (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and ascended into heaven from there. As He did so, an angel spoke to the disciples saying:
“This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1.11)
The event described in Zechariah, when Israel looks on one who has been pierced, will be the same event as the one I have already quoted in Matthew 23.39 when Jesus said concerning Jerusalem:
“You shall see Me no more until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
When Jesus is welcomed and accepted as Messiah by the Jewish people, He will come to the earth and finally bring peace to Israel, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah:
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2.2-4)