Although early 2018 allowed us to catch our breath, current events in the Mideast have been ramping up with major prophetic implications. In January I listed the top five things I was keeping an eye on this year, and several of them seem to be intersecting.
Scripture tells us about three major prophecies leading up to (or in) the future seven-year tribulation period. We see the stage for all three very clearly being set in our day.
1. ZECHARIAH 12
The tiny nation of Israel, and its capitol Jerusalem, will progressively become the focus of the world, with the specific notion of dividing the land/moving the boundary stone (Zechariah 12:2-3).
3. EZEKIEL 38
A Russian, Iranian, and Turkish led alliance will attack Israel from the north (in other words, from Syria) (Ezekiel 38-39).
If we have paid attention to the news the past 7 years (during Syria’s civil war), all three of these should get our attention—especially with last weeks developments!
THE TIMING OF ZECHARIAH 12
We see the foreshocks of Zechariah 12 occurring now, and it will be the focus of the future seven-year tribulation period—culminating in the war campaign of Armageddon at the end of the tribulation period.
THE TIMING OF ISAIAH 17
Regarding Isaiah 17 and the destruction of Damascus in Syria, we don’t know when this will occur but many prophecy experts believe it will happen prior to the Ezekiel 38 war. This makes sense given what we see in Syria today. We read this in verse 1, “See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins.” And we read this in verse 14, “At evening time, behold, there is terror! Before morning they are no more. Such will be the portion of those who plunder us and the lot of those who pillage us.”
Damascus is the oldest continually-inhabited city in existence. Many prophecy experts think that the sudden destruction of Damascus will be the catalyst that triggers the Ezekiel 38 war, or will occur in conjunction with the Ezekiel 38 war. These 2600+ year old prophecies have not been fulfilled as of yet. Damascus, though ravaged by the Syrian Civil War, still stands and still has people living there (perhaps Jeremiah 49:23-27 is occurring in our day as a lead up to the full destruction of Damascus). As we’ve see recently in the news, there are several Russian, Iranian, and Syrian military installations in and around Damascus, as well as chemical weapons and the headquarters of several terrorist groups.
Iran is setting up shop in Damascus and openly state their religiously-driven plans to destroy Israel. Airstrikes in 2017 and 2018 by Israel against weapons convoys (gifts from Iran to Hezbollah), and an Iranian built installments near Damascus makes one wonder how close we are to Isaiah 17 and Ezekiel 38. We’re not told who destroys Damascus or how it is destroyed, but surrounding verses suggest it’s during conflict with Israel. Recent events suggest it may be a preemptive strike by Israel necessary for her survival.
THE TIMING OF EZEKIEL 38
Based on prophecy cues given in Scripture, we understand the Ezekiel 38 war occurs after Israel’s rebirth as a nation (see Ezekiel 37). Most prophecy experts are not dogmatic about when this war will take place in relation to future end-time events. As I study prophecy, I tend to think (for various logical reasons) this war will happen as a mideast power (and natural resource) grab soon after the rapture, or in the very early stages of the tribulation period (perhaps as part of the second seal judgment—the fiery red horse of war).
While Israel is a supremely successful agricultural, technology, and business start-up country, it has always relied entirely on imported energy sources. Jewish rabbis have often joked that God blessed them with milk and honey but accidentally gave all of the oil to the Arab countries.
However, in 2009, a natural gas field large enough to fill 40 percent of Israel’s energy needs was discovered. The Tamar field, 15 miles off of the coast of Israel, was the first of several such fields Israel would discover in 2012 and 2013. But wait—there’s more! In 2015 a massive oil reserve ten times larger than average oil fields in other parts of the world was discovered in the Golan Heights.
What that all means in concrete terms is this—prior to 2009, Israel had to import energy. But by 2019, she will be a major exporter of energy. All of this amidst reports that oil production in the surrounding countries will peak in a few short years, and the fact that Israeli energy exports to Europe will cut directly into Russia’s oil sales, which are its main source of national (ie. military) funding.
With that in mind, read this telling verse found in the Ezekiel account, “Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all her villages will say to you, “Have you come to plunder (Ezekiel 38:13)? Sheba and Dedan are modern-day Saudi Arabia, and many prophecy experts believe Tarshish is modern-day England. If that is the case, her villages—other translations render this as coastlands—could be seen as America and other countries originally colonized by England.
In other words, Saudi Arabia, England, and America (perhaps along with others) merely protest the invasion and this verse gives us insight into the fact that Russia will be after something valuable that Israel has. Could it be oil and gas? Experts differ on what keeps America from intervening in the conflict. My view is that America will have been crippled by the rapture (and related events) and unable to come to Israel’s aid.
Perhaps the energy factor—along with the recent escalations of conflict and the partnerships Russia is forming with Iran, Turkey, and other Islamic countries (who have a satanic hatred for Israel)—is the “hook in the jaw” mentioned in 38:4 that “turns” him around from his country’s affairs and draws this end-time Russian leader into war.
Russia just announced it is sending more troops to the area as a result of the limited US led attack last week. Also, the US recently announced it was pulling its troops out of Syria. This would essentially leave Israel alone to deal with Iran and Iran’s protector Russia.
Is it sheer coincidence that this alliance and the other prophetic developments listed above, have formed after Israel’s rebirth as a nation (see Ezekiel 37) and during the same time period Israel is becoming energy independent and discovering massive amounts of potential plunder?
Turkey and Iran are on opposite ends of the Islamic (Shia vs. Sunni) spectrum making them historic enemies, and Russia used to be a Christian nation before its atheistic revolution in 1917 (the same year as the Balfour Declaration I might add). Saudi Arabia has never been aligned with Israel and the US as foretold in Ezekiel—until now! How could the Bible have predicted these events 2600 years ago unless God foretold it? I believe we are seeing the stage being set before our very eyes for these three major end-time prophecies.
It will be very interesting to see what happens leading up to Israel’s 70th Anniversary Celebrations with conflict churning to her north with Iran, and along the Gaza border to her south. We need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem—and we need to pray that people respond to the message of the Gospel as we see this current age drawing to a close. This doesn’t seem to be a dress rehearsal and I don’t see anyway the stage will be un-set.
Note: For further study, here’s a 2-part study by Chuck Missler of Koinonia Institute unpacking the history of Biblical people groups and how we can be fairly certain who the modern players are for these 2600 year old prophecies. Part 1 | Part 2