Projecting prophetic outcomes is admittedly a dangerous and imperfect science. Still certain truths can be stated with certainty. In other cases we can even begin to see the outlines of future fulfillment in today’s headlines. Scripture tells us clearly that the nation of Israel faces a tough road in the last days. From Scripture it appears that there are at least 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 at least somewhat 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, and following that, Israel will face the infamous Gog-Magog invasion.
PART I – THE CONTROVERSIAL PSALM 83 WAR
The words of Psalm 83 have created a rather heated controversy in the prophetic Christian community. Is Psalm 83 a true prophecy of things to come? Or is it a prayer of Asaph, its author? Well Thomas Ice, the Executive Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center located at Liberty University makes the case that is that alone. He writes: “Psalm 83 does not contain a prophecy. It just contains the lament or the complaint that Asaph is giving.” He sees any attribution of the prophetic on Psalm 83 as being purely speculative.[i] He is joined in his skepticism by prophecy author Joel Richardson. [We’ll need to start here with a short geeky explanation of the ‘why factor’ behind the two positions.] As we’ll see, Psalm 83 names some very specific nations that are to come against Israel. In fact, the nations named are those of the ‘inner ring’ around the Jewish state; those that border her directly. The other prophecy in play here, found in Ezekiel 38, also names some very specific countries. And the funny thing is, they are mutually exclusive. If you are mentioned in one group you will not be found in the other list. (Of course, this is all just a little bit clouded by the fact that ancient names are used – and further, that the people groups / nations mentioned – had over time, moving borders. [Think Mexico and Texas. Texas was once part of Mexico, then was independent, then a part of the United States.]) So Joel Richardson believes that the Ezekiel and Psalm passages are likely describing the same event from a different perspective – (kind of like the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection.) He believes “these passages do contain surface differences,” [that]…can be understood as the natural result of the diverse historical circumstances through which each of the various prophets was prophesying.” In other words, the historical circumstances of their lifetimes would color the way they reported a prophetic event. A further argument is made that an expanded definition of some of the names given in Psalm 83, could mean that this was describing “an invasion that would be far more substantial than one only involving the nations that immediately surround Israel.” What Mr Richardson is saying is that maybe Psalm 83 IS naming some of the same nations.[ii] So there you have the controversy. But let’s start by taking a look at the scripture itself.
“‘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) Now we have seen that this 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 the many calls by the Iranian Mullah’s to “wipe Israel from the face of the earth,” or the clause in the Palestinian Charter that denies Israel its existence. Arab maps consistently show Palestine without the presence of Israel. [In that sense they have already been ‘wiped from the map.’]
But what of those nations mentioned? Is this just a prayer? Or is it a prophecy? Bill Salus, author of Psalm 83, The Missing Prophecy Revealed, begins by arguing that 2Chronicles 29:30 clearly identifies Asaph as a “seer” – or a prophet. A seer is one who is given to visions. Well in his prophecy, Asaph talks about Gebal, which is not mentioned in prophecy for another 400 to 500 years. “Therefore, Psalm 83 has to be a prophecy because Asaph was not just saying, ‘God help us with these enemies around us.’ Asaph listed the very specific group of ten …. and two of them weren’t even in the fray at 1,000 BC. Asaph was talking about a future scenario.”[iii] Dr John G Weldon weighs in to support the prophetic position with this. “The specific nations listed in this Psalm as seeking to destroy Israel have never yet jointly existed in history, which indicates this may have a dual fulfillment, both ancient and future. Regardless, no one can logically deny that an Arab/Muslim conspiracy to destroy Israel has existed ever since the nation was first born in 1948.” Bible commentaries assert that “No such widespread alliance of adjacent states” is ever mentioned in Scripture as a historical event. Weldon’s conclusion: While there may have been partial fulfillment in the distant past – (and possibly even in the wars launched against the modern state of Israel since its reestablishment in 1948) – “a good argument can be made that it also refers to a future attempt.”[iv] And that is the sense of thing as I best understand it. So let’s break down just what we’re talking about.
The Scripture is very specific. Edom can often refer to Jordan. But Bill Salus sees a more precise meaning here. As described by Dr Weldon, the “Tents of Edom” are “the Palestinian peoples that the Arab nations are using as a ploy not only against Israel but to gain sympathy from the international community.” We’re talking here about the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan that hold about 370,000 people. Besides those in camps, about another 1.6 million are identified as Palestinian.[v] 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, especially those in Gaza, Tyre is in southern Lebanon, Land of Hezbollah. Finally, Assyria takes in part of the areas of Syria, Iraq and Iran.
So now let’s look at things from a modern, historical perspective. We know it is the purpose of Arab / Islam to drive Israel into the sea. Three major wars and several conflicts have proved it. But who will be involved in the next round of fighting? Syria has long been arming itself and modernizing, holding itself in readiness for a conflict with Israel. The current war in there has been an interruption in their war plans, but now, barring Western interference they are on the verge of vanquishing the rebels. Russia has been equipping the Syrians with advanced weapons, including in April of 2018, the sophisticated S300 missile defense system.[vi] Damascus has long supported terror organizations that targeted Israel. A general Arab plan has existed since the mid 1990s, as published in a report by The U.S. House of Representatives’ Task Force On Terrorism And Unconventional Warfare. They revealed a plan 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.[vii] Terrorism expert Joseph Bodansky has detailed how this scenario nearly played out several times during the Clinton and early Bush administrations.[viii]
As of this writing the Syrian situation remains inherently unstable. Israel feels they may soon have to take on Hezbollah in Lebanon. That and the insertion of Iran into the situation makes war an imminent possibility. Prophecy scholar Glenn Allen believes that God’s judgement will fall on Syria for her next attempt to destroy God’s People. Syria has waged major wars 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….Perhaps!
Chuck Missler offers corroborating scriptural support for the Psalm 83 War. He cites Jeremiah 49:2, 8, 18 as the declaration of war. Israel is the victor in this war. God has decreed that He will make Esau “bared” (Jeremiah 49:10) and Edom (modern day Arabs) “desolate” (v 20). This is the time, Missler and many Bible scholars believe, that will see the fulfillment of Isaiah 17:1, the destruction of Damascus. “The burden against Damascus. ‘Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap.’” 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.’” This will signal the end of Syrian political power. 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.
There is one more aspect that seems to be a part of this war – and it is the hardest to swallow. 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.”
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 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)
The outcome of the 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. Then there is this; and I don’t quite know what to think of it. Since, oh say, December of last year, 2017, a number of stories have surfaced spouting the theory that Iran is in a similar state as the former Soviet Union – and therefore on the verge of collapse.
[i] Thomas Ice, A Psalm 83 War: Objections by Tommy Ice, The Christ in Prophecy Journal, Lamb & Lion Ministries, March 27, 2014
[ii] Joel Richardson, PSALM 83 WAR SPECULATIONS, Joel’s Trumpet, November 17, 2017
[iii] Dr David Reagan, (Words of Bill Salus), A Psalm 83 War: Defense by Bill Salus, The Christ in Prophecy Journal, Lamb & Lion Ministries, March 28, 2014
[iv] John G Weldman PhD, The Ezekiel 38 and Psalm 83 Prophecies / Part 7, The John Ankerberg Show, 2011
[vi] Russia to Israel: We will not refrain from arming Syria, Arutz Sheva, April 22, 2018
[vii] 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,
[viii] 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.