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Series 3 - The Great Teachings of the Bible and What They Mean for You: Bible Prophecy and You

Hi friends! Welcome to the 10th lesson in the "Bible Prophecy and You" series!

The Middle East has the attention of the world, especially since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. on Sept. 11, 2001.

The geographic focus of the Bible is on the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. In the Bible it is called (at different times) Canaan, Israel and Judah and in the New Testament, Judea, Samaria and Galilee. The name "Palestine" is not in the Bible, but it has been used increasingly since Roman times. It seems the name was derived from "Philistine."

The area of the nation of Israel is tiny, not much larger than New Jersey. Why does it get so much attention in the news? There are many factors—historical, religious, cultural and political. Anti-Semitism continues throughout the world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is explosive, and many militant Muslims want to destroy the very existence of the state of Israel! The same people usually hate America also for giving support to Israel.

All of this would be terribly confusing, but because of God's revelations in the Bible, we can understand the past, present and future of the Middle East. And, thankfully, the story will have a happy ending!

Lesson 10: Focus on the Middle East

Biblical history, current world news and end-time prophecy are largely focused on the Middle East. The conflicts and potential conflicts there strongly affect the rest of the world and will do so increasingly. It's critically important that we understand the Middle East from a biblical perspective.

Don Hooser, a minister in Washington, tells this story:

In 1991, I gained added understanding of the geopolitics in the Middle East. In that year, one of the sites chosen by our church for celebrating the biblical Feast of Tabernacles was Amman, Jordan. My wife and I and two of our children took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to observe the eight-day festival there and afterwards go on a weeklong tour of Israel.

During the Feast, we went on several day tours, the most exciting being the remains of the ancient city of Petra. In Israel, we were able to visit Jerusalem and many important biblical sites, a priceless experience.

Jordanians are known for being quite friendly and hospitable toward tourists. But when we were there, they really rolled out the red carpet for our group. Why such exceptional hospitality?

Consider what a remarkable year this was to be in Jordan. The Persian Gulf War had just ended on Feb. 28. The United States, with its Operation Desert Storm, led the coalition forces from 34 nations to oust Iraqi forces from their occupation of Kuwait. Most of the Arab nations joined with the coalition forces, but Jordan remained neutral. After the war, King Hussein's government was trying to do everything possible to repair the damage done to its relationships with Middle Eastern and Western nations.

King Hussein was king of Jordan from 1952 to 1999 when he died. In 1978, he married a beautiful and gracious American, Lisa Halaby, who was renamed Queen Noor al Hussein. A real highlight of our time in Jordan was an invitation by Queen Noor to a reception in one of the royal palaces. After being treated to fancy hors d'oeuvres, we sat in an elegant hall while the queen spoke very warmly to us for about 45 minutes.

Queen Noor's primary point was to apologetically explain to us why King Hussein had decided not to take sides against Saddam Hussein of Iraq. She explained that her husband's sympathies were with Kuwait and the allied coalition, but the Jordanians felt extremely vulnerable since Jordan borders Iraq. The king feared possible massive retaliation from Iraq.

After her address, we formed a reception line and each one of us got to introduce ourselves and shake hands with her. It was an inspiring experience plus it helped to enlighten us about the complexities and dangers in the Middle East.

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A Short History of Jerusalem and the Holy Land

The "land of Canaan" is first mentioned in Genesis 11:31. After Abraham had lived there for 24 years, God promised "all the land of Canaan" to him and his descendants "as an everlasting possession" (Genesis 17:8). Then 430 years later, after the Israelites had become enslaved in Egypt, God miraculously delivered them out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses (Exodus 12:40). God promised "to give them the land of Canaan"—a "land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 6:4; 3:8).

Under the leadership of Joshua, God enabled the Israelites to conquer the Canaanites and to settle in that land. However, for about four hundred years, the Israelites never fully conquered the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Joshua 15:63). It was King David who finally took full control of the city, also known as "Zion," and David called it "the City of David" (2 Samuel 5:6-7).

Israel became a powerful nation under David and Solomon, and Jerusalem became the capital. Solomon built a magnificent temple on Mt. Moriah, the same hilltop where Abraham was to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2; 2 Chronicles 3:1). After Solomon's death, when the nation split in two, Jerusalem continued to be the capital of the southern house of Judah.

In 586 B.C., Judah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, and the survivors were taken as captives to Babylon. But in 539 B.C., Babylon was conquered by the Persians, and all who had been captives were allowed to return to their homelands. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews who chose to return rebuilt the city and temple, although not to their former glory.

When Judea came under the domination of the Roman Empire, King Herod enlarged and beautified the temple. Most of Jesus Christ's ministry was in Judea and Galilee, and many of the important events that took place during His ministry occurred in Jerusalem, including His crucifixion and resurrection. The Church was born when Christ's disciples received the Holy Spirit as they were gathered in Jerusalem to observe the festival of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

When the legions of Rome crushed a Jewish rebellion in A.D. 70, Jerusalem and the temple were once again destroyed. Centuries later, in 638, Muslim Arabs took the city. In 691 Muslims completed the Dome of the Rock, and many believe it was built on the site where the temple had previously been. Since then, Jerusalem has changed hands several times. In 1517, the Ottoman Turks seized control and dominated the Middle East for four centuries.

In 1917, during World War I, the British defeated the Ottoman Empire and gained control of Jerusalem. Finally, in 1948, after Britain announced it would relinquish control of Palestine, the United Nations voted to divide Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews. As the British withdrew, the modern state of Israel was born. Within hours, armies from five surrounding Arab nations attacked Israel, determined to destroy it. After months of fighting, Israel was the victor. But Israel has had to fight additional defensive wars in 1956, 1967, 1973 and several other major skirmishes since then.

In the 1967 war, the Israelis gained control of the Old City—the eastern part of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount. However, so far Israel has allowed the Muslims to keep religious control of the Temple Mount in order to avoid a major confrontation with them.

Today, there are 57 Islamic nations, including 22 Arab countries. Since many of these surrounding nations are hostile toward Israel, the tiny nation of Israel often thinks of itself as David facing a giant Goliath.

Today, Jerusalem is considered a holy city in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. God picked Jerusalem to be "the holy city" but, shamefully, for much of its history, it has been more like "Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:2, 8).

Jerusalem was earlier known as Salem, which means "peace" (Genesis 14:18; Psalm 76:2; Hebrews 7:1-2). However, the city has not lived up to that either. According to Wikipedia, "Jerusalem, in the course of its history, has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times."

After Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, returns to earth, Jerusalem will become the capital of the entire world (Isaiah 2:1-3). It will truly be a holy city and city of peace! Then after the Millennium, it will be replaced by an even greater city—New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2).

You can read much more fascinating history of the Middle East in our booklet titled The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.


What Does the Bible Say About the Middle East?

Was Jerusalem prophesied to be a focus of much end-time conflict?

Zechariah 12:2-3
"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…"

Jerusalem was predicted to be the center of controversy and conflict in the end time—"a cup of drunkenness" and "a very heavy stone for all peoples."

Will Israel be right in the middle of major end-time wars?

Daniel 11:40-45
"At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.
"He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon.
"He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
"He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels.
"But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many.
"And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.

The land of Canaan, later known as Israel and even later as Palestine, has always been a major crossroad and has often been coveted and conquered by competing powers. "At the time of the end" there will be major wars between "the king [kingdom] of the South" and "the king [kingdom] of the North." Since the focus of the Bible is on the area of Israel, "south" means mostly south of Israel and "north" means mostly north of Israel.

Prophecies in Daniel, Revelation and elsewhere make it clear that "the king of the North" will be a European revival of the Roman Empire. But until recent times, it was hard to imagine a coalition of forces to the south that would have enough power to compete with the European power. However, in the last few decades, we've been seeing the growing power of Islamic fundamentalism that could increasingly unite the Muslim world.

Why were 1948 and 1967 key prophetic turning points in history?

Matthew 24:14-16
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."

This passage refers to "the holy place," implying a place for the worship of God. Jesus referred to the prophecy "spoken of by Daniel the prophet," so He must have been referring to Daniel 12:11, especially since we know that prophecy is for "the time of the end" (verse 9). In Daniel 12:11, we see that the setting up of "the abomination of desolation" coincides with the time when "the daily sacrifice is taken away." Therefore, "the holy place" must refer to a Jewish altar where animal sacrifices are made. For Judaism, there is only one city in the world qualified to have a holy altar, and that is Jerusalem. And the Jews had no control of the Holy Land until 1948 and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem until the Six Day War of 1967.

Many prophecies are dual, having a former fulfillment and a more complete final fulfillment. In fact, Daniel's prophecy has had two former fulfillments. One was in 167 B.C. when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple and forbade Jewish sacrifices, referred to in Daniel 11:31. The other was in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple and abolished the Jewish priesthood and sacrifices (Luke 19:43-44).

To understand Daniel 12:11 (a future event), it is vital to understand these past events, as God often causes history to repeat itself. Many historic and prophetic details are explained in our booklet The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.

What else can we learn by comparing Luke's parallel account of Jesus' prophecy?

Luke 21:20-24
"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."

Jerusalem's "desolation" happens right after Jerusalem is "surrounded by armies." There will be spiritual desolation and "great distress" when freedom of religion is taken away. There will be desolation (devastation) of the city when "Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles." And Jerusalem will become largely desolate (empty) of its citizens because many "will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations."

Does the Bible tell of an end-time Arab confederation determined to destroy the nation of Israel and its chief backer, the United States?

Psalm 83:1-8
Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate you have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against your people, and consulted together against your sheltered ones. They have said, "Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more."
For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against you: the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; they have helped the children of Lot.

The following quote is from "Prophecy of an Arab Confederation" from our booklet The Middle East in Bible Prophecy:

"Edom includes the Palestinians and some of the Turks. The Ishmaelites, descendants of Ishmael, are many of the Arab peoples throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Moab is the area of central Jordan. The Hagrites appears to refer to other descendants of Hagar, mother of Ishmael.

" commonly equated with the Phoenician city of Byblos, modern Jubayl in Lebanon. Ammon refers to northern Jordan around Amman, the capital (which gets its name from Ammon). Amalek appears to refer to a branch of Edomite Palestinians. Philistia is the area around what is today known as the Gaza Strip. Anciently Tyre was a major city-state in southern Lebanon along the Mediterranean coast. Assyria ethnically appears to refer to inhabitants of Central Europe who migrated there many centuries ago, while geographically Assyria is in what is today northern Iraq. The children of Lot refers to Moab and Ammon—again, regions of modern-day Jordan."

Will the great battle commonly called "Armageddon" take place in the Holy Land?

Revelation 16:14-16
For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
"Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame." And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.

The final battle is actually called "the battle of that great day of God Almighty." But before the actual battle, the demonic spirits "gathered them [the armies] together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon"—northwest of Jerusalem (verse 16).

The actual battle will be at "the Valley of Jehoshaphat" near Jerusalem (Joel 3:2, 12). There, God says, "I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem" and "will go forth and fight against those nations" (Zechariah 14:1-3). The armies that were planning to fight each other turn and "make war with the Lamb," but "the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation 17:14). More will be explained about the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord in future lessons.


Apply Now

With so much news these days about the Middle East, let's brush up on a little geography by taking a look at the maps below from The Middle East in Bible Prophecy (on page 41 and 73). For each nation, notice its size and which bordering nations surround it. This will help you to better understand the news and to appreciate how real peace is humanly impossible. Then, not only "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6) but pray for Jesus Christ to return soon to bring peace to all nations. Then no nation will "learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).

Next Lesson: The Great Tribulation

Questions about this lesson? Feedback about this lesson?

Related Resources:

The Middle East in Bible Prophecy

The Coming "Abomination of Desolation"

Israel's Amazing Story: Fulfillment of Bible Prophecy

Jerusalem: Focus of Bible Prophecy

Jerusalem's Temple Mount: Center of Conflict Today


Map - Middle EastMap - Middle East