Is there hope for the Middle East?

Marko Joensuu         1 comment
Many Christians think that it is biblical to believe that the Middle East will suffer from a never-ending war until the return of Jesus. But that’s not in the Bible. It is time for Christians to reassess their Bible prophecy interpretations when it comes to the Middle East, as otherwise we will soon be in danger of standing against God’s plans rather than for them.

The never-ending war in the Middle East is an extra-biblical teaching that I also used to believe in, mainly as it was presented as Bible truth. But in fact the Bible gives a lot more nuanced picture about the Middle East in the End Times than that.

What the Bible  seems to teach clearly is that there will be one final End Time war between Israel and many nations. This conflict will be ended by divine intervention. And it is not a never-ending conflict but a conflict with a clear beginning and end.

Looking at all of these prophecies would require writing a full-length book. But let’s look at Zechariah 14:3-5:

“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 Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah."

According to Zechariah, this Final War will end with the remnants of the nations and Israel worshipping God together. If we combine the prophecies of Zechariah and Revelation, it would seem that this Final War would mark the beginning of Jesus’ 1,000-year rule of peace on earth, after which Satan will be released to stir the nations for the last time.

But why is this teaching about the never-ending war in the Middle East so popular? It seems to be the prevalent paradigm about the Middle East, and most charismatic Christians seem to take it for granted.

Here are some of the reasons:

1. Projecting parts of past and present into future selectively

We suffer from selective memory, and as since the end of World War 1 the Middle East has been in nearly never-ending turmoil, we tend to perceive the Middle East as natural place for violence. What we forget is that the Middle East was a relatively peaceful place for centuries, but that after World War 1 the European powers divided the Middle East arbitrarily in such a way that it didn’t follow any facts on the ground. For example, Kurdish people ended up living in four countries—Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria—when they should have in fact been given a country of their own. Most of the conflicts today in the Middle East are result of that Western intervention. For that fact alone, the Western powers owe a massive debt to the Middle East.

Also, in the Old Testament Israel and Judah seemed to be in continual war. Subconsciously, we tend to project those wars into today and future, without being aware of this projection. But just because there were many wars between Israel and her neighbours in the ancient times, it doesn’t necessarily follow that there should be wars in future.

2. It is the prevalent interpretation of Bible prophecy because of the birth of the modern state of Israel

Many teachers of Bible prophecy simply lump the Bible prophecies about End Time Israel with  Jesus’ prophecy about many wars without caring much about the details. But details matter—especially when God is talking! 

For example, Matthew 24:3-8 says,

“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

Jesus says that there will be many wars, but He doesn’t locate any of them on the map. They might be in Europe. They might be in America. They might be in Asia. They might be in the Middle East.

And then we read Bible prophecies about wars around Israel very carelessly.

Let’s take Zechariah 12:1-3  which says,

“The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him: ‘Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.’”

Many teachers interpret this as a prophecy that the modern-day state of Israel will always be in war with the neighbouring nations. But that’s not at all what Zechariah means, as he says next:

 “The Lord will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah." (Zechariah 12:7)

This can’t be applicable to today, as the Jews lost most of the distinction between the tribes after return from Babylon. But the fulfilment of this prophecy fits neatly to the Hasmonean dynasty. It was the ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity. Between c. 140 BC and c. 116 BC, the dynasty ruled semi-autonomously from the Seleucids in the region of Judea. From 110 BC, with the Seleucid empire disintegrating, the dynasty became fully independent, expanded into the neighbouring regions of Galilee, Iturea, Perea, Idumea and Samaria, and took the title "basileus". Some modern scholars refer to this period as an independent kingdom of Israel. In 63 BC, the kingdom was conquered by the Roman Republic, broken up and set up as a Roman client state. The Kingdom had survived for 103 years before yielding to the Herodian Dynasty in 37 BC. Even then, Herod the Great tried to bolster the legitimacy of his reign by marrying a Hasmonean princess, Mariamne, and planning to drown the last male Hasmonean heir at his Jericho palace. 

The Hasmonean dynasty started in the area of Judea first and from there it expanded to the surrounding regions.  It is a lot easier to apply the prophecy of Zechariah 12:1-7 to the Hasmonean dynasty shortly before times of Jesus than to the End Times.  

That makes a lot of a sense, as straight after, in Zechariah 12:10-11, the prophet refers to the crucifixion of Jesus that happened in times of the Herodian dynasty.

“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 pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.”

Here we seem to switch to End Time prophecy, through a transition that is made through referring to an event that took place soon after the end of the independent kingdom of Israel.

We need to study the Bible carefully, and not assume that every prophecy talks about our times, or the End Times. If God cares about Israel, He has cared about Israel at all times, hence it would make sense that at least some of the Old Testament prophets would have prophesied about the Hasmonean dynasty.

And the Bible doesn’t prophesy that Israel will have a never-ending war with her neighbours. In this article I look into a prophecy by Ezekiel that shows how Israel will have a time of peace with her neighbours in the End Times.

3. Projecting the Final War into our time

Just because we will die one day, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t attempt to live well before it! The Final War is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that before that we have to live in continual war. Or, just because I know I will die one day, it doesn’t mean that I should go and kill myself today. There’s no point in living as if we were at the end of the world when we are not. 

Jesus said in John 9:4-5, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 

Let’s work while it’s still day!

4. Because of the rise of Islamic extremism

The rise of Islamic extremism has made the political picture of the Middle East even bleaker than it used to be, and today, we hear many theories about the Islamic antichrist. What many fail to realise that the antichrist can never be an Islamic extremist, as he will be the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). If the Bible prophecy clearly defines the antichrist as man of lawlessness, why do we even try to make that prophecy fit into a caliph or imam whose agenda is to bring everyone under law—Sharia? Surely God would have defined the antichrist as someone who would bring false law rather than lawlessness. And I would imagine that Satan will want to release every imaginary sin onto earth, when the opportunity for his rule comes, rather than bring everyone under law.

5. Teachers of Bible prophecy don’t study history

Most teachers of Bible prophecy don’t study history, hence they miss the fulfilment of prophecy in the past. I don’t know a single charismatic Bible prophecy teacher that even seems to be aware of the Hasmonean kingdom that fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies. But how can you teach about the Bible prophecy if you don’t know history?

I believe that God has better plans than Never-Ending War for the Middle East. I’m basing that partially on Bible prophecy but also on what the Holy Spirit is and has been speaking about the Middle East.

In 1992, when I was studying at the University of Tampere in Finland, God spoke to me. He said, “In five years from here there will be a satellite that will cover the whole Middle East.”
God spoke to me about this satellite—the NileSat—five years before it was launched because He had good plans for the Middle East. For the last five years we have been airing Christian programming in Arabic via that channel. So have many other ministries. Did you know that last year, just one Christian channel airing in the Middle East in Arabic got well over 10 million contact requests?

In 2005, God spoke to me about a coming harvest in the Middle East that would be gathered in with the help of the internet, satellite TV, small groups and large-scale public evangelism. I write more about that in my book Five Movements: Winning the Battle for Your Prophetic Gift.

Recently when I was on holiday, the Holy Spirit began to speak about how He the season in the Middle East when full-scale mass evangelism will become possible in our lifetime. Think about tens or hundreds of Reinhard Bonnkes released to the Middle East!

It doesn’t look like that but that’s the way it will be!

But the devil is fighting against God’s plans with all his might, trying to keep the Middle East under the rule of chaos and destruction. A while ago I was in prayer, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “The devil has gone to Jerusalem, and as he is watching his work, he is satisfied with it.”

I believe that what is taking place in the Middle East right now is Satan trying to preempt God’s plan. He’s trying to kill a generation. What did he do when he got to know about Moses who would deliver Israel? He got every Hebrew child killed. What did he do when he heard about Jesus? He got every child in Bethlehem killed. Right now, Satan is on a rampage to kill a generation of potential future deliverers in the Middle East.

What did he do when he tried to stop the return of Jews to Israel? He released the Holocaust through his servant Adolf Hitler. But even that failed, and the Jews returned to Israel nevertheless.

God is greater than Satan, and no matter what Satan will try, God’s plan will always defeat the plan of Satan.

Right now, we are experiencing the birth bangs of the great deliverance of Arab and Muslim people in the Middle East. Pray with me, and stand with us, until we see the wave of salvation transform the Middle East!

Perhaps it is true that peace won’t ever come to the Middle East before Jesus returns. But He can return to the Middle East now, through the Holy Spirit residing in the hearts of millions of Arabs and former Muslims.
Published by Marko Joensuu

Marko Joensuu has worked for over sixteen years in the publishing and media ministries of Kensington Temple. He is an author, publisher and screenwriter.
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1 comment:

  1. Transformation is evolving in the lands of the rising sun.




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