Admittedly, handicapping the future unfolding of prophecy is not a perfect science. Still certain truths can be stated with certainty. In other cases we can begin to see the outlines of fulfillment in today’s headlines. The daily unfolding of the conflict between Israel and Hamas is driving home the immanency of the next war on the prophetic horizon; the Psalm 83 War. As I write this a little over a week ahead of publication, the Israeli Air Force has destroyed 40 Gaza mosques that have been turned into storage centers for rockets and other weapons. The IDF continues to destroy tunnels. And an Israeli officer has been kidnapped by Hamas, putting an end to a 72 hour truce.[i] [ii]
THE NEXT PROPHETIC WAR
Scripture tells us clearly that the nation of Israel faces a tough road in the last days. From Scripture it appears that there are two prophetic wars facing the Jewish nation before the return of Messiah Jesus. Most are aware of the famous Gog-Magog prophecies found in Ezekiel, chapters 38 & 39. The players are clear, even after about 2,600 years; Russia / Turkey, Iran, some of the former Islamic Soviet Republics. However, Syria, Egypt and the Palestinians are pointedly missing! Yet we know from Micah 5, Isaiah 19, Ezekiel 31 and Obadiah that these nations will suffer devastating defeat after they come against God’s people in the end times. Many prophecy scholars have concluded that there will be a prior war in which Israel will be facing this inner-ring of Arab / Islamic nations: Syria, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians. After that, there will be a time of peace, after which Israel will face the infamous Gog-Magog invasion.
“‘Come,’ they say, ‘let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.’ With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you- the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to lend strength to the descendants of Lot. Selah” (Psalm 83:4-8) Thus has been the battle cry of the Arab nations that surround the State of Israel ever since its modern inception in 1948. “Let us destroy them as a nation”, sounds very much like Iran’s October 2005 call to “wipe Israel from the face of the earth”, or the clause in the Palestinian Charter that denies Israel its existence. The Scripture is very specific. Edom refers to Jordan. The Ishmaelites are Saudi Arabia and Egypt. “Moab again is Jordan. The Hagrites” refers to the Egyptians and possibly other North African peoples. Ammon yet once more refers to Jordan, Philistia is the Palestinians, Tyre is in Lebanon. Finally, Assyria takes in part of the areas of Syria, Iraq and Iran. Who can deny this is the purpose of these Arab / Muslim nations? Certainly not they! Arab maps today always show the Middle East without the nation of Israel.
So we know it is the purpose of Arab / Islam to drive Israel into the sea. Three major wars and a good number of more limited conflicts have proved it. But who will be involved in the next round of fighting? Let’s look at some of the usual suspects. Syria has been arming itself and modernizing, holding itself in readiness for a conflict with Israel since it last was defeated in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Even in the midst of civil war in his own country, President Assad has threatened Israel with chemical missile attacks. It was not so long ago that Israel quietly – if that’s possible – launched a strike against a Syrian nuclear plant to eliminate that immediate threat. From time to time, the Syrians move forces to its border with Israel along the Golan. Damascus has been the headquarters of several terrorist organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel. They’ve encouraged the insurgency in Iraq when the US was engaged there and aided terrorist operations against Israel. Since the mid-90s, plans for the next Arab war against Israel have been well known. In December of 1996, The U.S. House of Representatives’ Task Force On Terrorism And Unconventional Warfare compiled a report revealing those plans. In short, they call for a Palestinian “uprising” to begin the festivities. Once the IDF is fully engaged internally against Palestinian Security Forces, Syrian and Egyptian forces would cross the border to finish the job.[iii] Terrorism expert Joseph Bodansky has detailed how this scenario nearly played out several times during the Clinton and early Bush administrations.[iv]
The Syrian situation remains inherently unstable, – moving from crisis to crisis, – and making war an imminent possibility. Pressure from the US, Britain, France and the UN has fed that instability. In the late Summer and early Autumn of 2013, the civil war in Syria almost led the United States and its Western to intervene. But they were backed away by threats from Russia and China. World War III loomed on the horizon. A terrorist strike by Syrian-backed rebels or a desperate WMD attack by a failing and falling Assad regime – should the al-Qaeda led and US backed rebels succeed – could set off the whole region. Prophecy scholar Glenn Allen describes God’s judgment on Syria for her next attempt to destroy God’s People. Syria has waged war against Israel three times since the re-birth of that nation: 1948, 1967 and 1973. The next war would be the fourth in the series. Here is what Amos 1:3-5 says. “Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron. But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, Which shall devour the palaces of Ben-Hadad. I will also break the gate bar of Damascus””. Allen contends that the next war will be that fourth and final war between Syria and Israel.
Scripture tells us of a Syrian invasion to come in the last days. The result will be that nation’s utter defeat. “And as I have purposed, so it shall stand: That I will break the Assyrian in My land, And on My mountains tread him underfoot.” (Isaiah 14:24-25) Of course, any Syrian invasion of Israel would come across the mountains to the north. Micah 5:6 speaks directly to Israel’s triumph in this invasion. “They shall waste with the sword the land of Assyria, And the land of Nimrod at its entrances; Thus He shall deliver us from the Assyrian, When he comes into our land.” The references to the “land of Nimrod at its entrances” suggests that Israel will at the same time deal with a threat across the Iraqi border, the home of ancient Babylon. As we shall see later, this could very well be a reference to a subsequent war. But a conflict with Damascus is surely coming. The war with Syria will also feature the destruction of the world’s “…oldest perpetually inhabited city”; – Damascus. “The burden against Damascus. “ Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap””. (Isaiah 17:1) [v] Is this a nuclear attack against the Syrian capital? It may be so. Jeremiah 49:26-27 describes the scene. “Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets, And all the men of war shall be cut off in that day,” says the LORD of hosts. “ I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, And it shall consume the palaces of Ben-Hadad.”” What would prompt Israel to use its nuclear arsenal: One of two scenarios at least. As early as 1996, Syria was equipping their Scud-C missiles with VX nerve gas. At that time, the Israeli Government let it be known in unequivocal terms that the very existence of Damascus was at stake should the Syrians decide to use chemical weapons. The threat was repeated in November of 2000, when Israeli General Kaplinsky threatened to attack Damascus because of Syrian support for increasing terror at the hands of Hezbollah.[vi]
After the total destruction of Damascus foretold in Isaiah 17:1, the prophet goes on to detail more judgments in store for Israel’s enemies. “The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid. The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus; the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the Israelites,” declares the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 17:2-3) The prophet here, is communicating God’s judgment on more than just Syria. Aroer is in the southern central part of Jordan. Ephraim refers to the West Bank, the very center of Palestinian claimed land, soon it seems to be part of a new Palestinian State. Aram, again refers to the Syrians. The “royal power” or sovereignty of Syria seems to be compromised in this prophecy. The inclusion of Jordan and the Palestinians in the same verses as the Syrians suggests that the destruction of those particular enemies of Israel will occur at the same time, during a general Arab-Israeli War.
The prophet Obadiah deals with God’s judgments on Edom, the modern-day Palestinians. In the first several verses he sets the tone. “Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom… (…‘Arise, and let us rise up against her for battle’): “ Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You shall be greatly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you”. (Obadiah 1:3) Then the vision of Obadiah pronounces both judgment and sentence. To understand the Biblical language, recall that in the Old Testament, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Verse 10 gives the judgment. “For violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.” Obadiah 1:15 gives the time of and reason for the sentence. It will be executed as we approach the day of Christ’s return. “For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head.” It is interesting too, the use of the term “reprisal”. That is the term often used by the media to describe the “cycle of violence”, as they would have it, between Israel and the Palestinians. Then in verses 17&18, we find the terms of the sentence: Total destruction. “The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau,” For the LORD has spoken.” The terms are stark indeed! Not one “…shall remain of the house of Esau”.
Of course this type of total annihilation is only possible if the Palestinian people are completely separated from the Jews. Intended or not, that is exactly what was accomplished by Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and the progressive and the retreat from the West Bank and what remains of Samaria. The Security Fence was one way of enforcing that separation. Now in the wake of the latest conflict with Hamas, Israel is creating another barrier that would separate Jews from Palestinians. As DEBKA reported on August 4, 2014: “While withdrawing the bulk of its ground troops from the Gaza Strip, the IDF has been quietly carving out an off-limits cordon sanitaire just inside the Gaza border. It is designed to be controlled from the outside by special forces and armored units on round-the-clock alert to bar hostile infiltrations and equipped with a battery of firing posts, sensors and drones.”[vii] This security strip is between 1km and 3 km wide, and completely isolates Gaza from Israel proper. Should these measures become part of some Arab / Israeli peace deal, it becomes easy to imagine a scenario in which Palestinian terrorists perpetrate some egregious atrocity on Israel, with massive casualties, bringing the full destructive fury of the IDF upon the whole Palestinian population, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Hamas was already firing rockets at Tel Aviv. Now imagine if one of those is mounted with chemical or biological warhead. It is even easier to envision if the event occurs in the course of a war in which Israel is desperately engaged fighting for its very survival with Syria and other Arab nations. The sentence is confirmed in Isaiah 14:31. “All you of Philistia are dissolved; For smoke will come from the North.” The entire scenario is reviewed in Zechariah 9. Here the prophet pronounces again “The burden of the word of the LORD”, against Damascus, but this time adds Tyre and Sidon, in modern-day Lebanon, whose power “…will be devoured by fire”. Of course that is where Hezbollah has set up camp with its modernized rocket arsenal ready to launch, and capable of hitting now all of Israel. Zechariah goes on to pronounce judgment against the Philistines (Palestinians) and states emphatically in 9:5, that “The king shall perish from Gaza”. No more Palestinian Authority, – it seems! Gaza is the home of course, of the fanatical Hamas terror entity.
Obadiah describes the extent of Israel’s triumph. She will “…possess the mountains of Esau”, Philistia, (Palestine and Palestinian), Ephraim, Samaria and Gilead. The border of Israel shall extend all the way to Zarephath, which is well into Lebanon; “And the kingdom shall be the Lord’s”. (Obadiah 1:21)
Though the timing is less certain, judgment is proclaimed for Egypt also. Isaiah 19:1-3 reads, “The burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, And the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst. “I will set Egyptians against Egyptians; Everyone will fight against his brother, And everyone against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. The spirit of Egypt will fail in its midst”. It could be describing a scene of both nuclear destruction and civil war. We have seen the seeds of civil discord in the Arab/Islamic world sown by war and terrorism. In the aftermath of the American-promoted Arab Spring, Egypt first went fully Islamist with a Muslim Brotherhood government – only to be later turned over to more secular and hence moderate control.
The outcome of this future prophetic war against Syria, the Palestinians, Jordan, the terrorists of Lebanon and possibly Egypt is one of total victory for Israel. It brings a great annexation of ‘Promised’ land and a time of peace before the next war. One can only imagine the rage of the surviving Arab-Islamic nations, as they witness the destruction of Damascus, the utter defeat of Syria, and the annexation of parts of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the whole of Gaza and the West Bank. Isaiah 17 seems to tell us that it will lead to the hate-fueled invasion by the Gog-Magog alliance of Ezekiel 38. “Oh the raging of many nations, – they rage like the raging sea…they roar like the roaring of great waters.” (Isaiah 17:12) Yet before that invasion there will be a time of peace. When the next alliance comes against God’s People, Ezekiel 38:11 tells us, they will say to themselves, “…‘I will go up against a land of unwalled villages; I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates’”. That peace and sense of security is made possible by Israel’s total victory over the Palestinians and her other Arab neighbors, so totally dedicated to her destruction. Perhaps it is the time of the 7-year treaty confirmed by Antichrist, guaranteeing that peace. In the event, it leads to the great Gog-Magog invasion.
[i] Israeli Air Force takes out 40 mosques-cum-rocket stores, brings new drone into Gaza operation, DEBKAfile, July 31, 2014
[ii] Gaza 72-hour truce folds after feared Hamas kidnap of Israeli soldier and gross violations, DEBKAfile, August 1, 2014
[iii] The Next Arab-Israeli War”, by Emanuel A. Winston, A Middle East Analyst and Commentator, The Jewish Press, Week of January 31, 1997, Vol. XLVII, No. 5, p. 43 and 53, as detailed in Cutting Edge News, #1056 David Bay,
[iv] The High Cost of Peace: How Washington’s Middle East Policy Left America Vulnerable to Terrorism: Yossef Bodansky, 2002 – A general reading of this book lends ample credence to this theme.
[v] Glenn Allen, The Destruction of Damascus
[vi] Glenn Allen, The Destruction of Damascus
[vii] IDF quietly carves out 1-3km security strip while pulling troops out of Gaza, DEBKAfile, August 4, 2014