Are the uprisings in the Middle East prophetic?
The Middle East is tearing itself apart politically as nation after nation topples its own government. In just three short months the world has watched in awe as street protestors have sent their oppressive dictators fleeing for their lives.
The match that lit the inferno was literal, as Tunisian vegetable cart vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze over his inability to be allowed to make a living. The riots that followed forced Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali just 28 days later to run for Saudi Arabia after 23 years of absolute power.
From there the fire spread to Egypt as emboldened rioters took to the streets, forcing a military coup to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from 30 years of crushing rule. Other nations followed like Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, and Yemen, all experiencing major protests. Lebanon’s terrorist party Hezbollah had already dissolved their government. And now, Libya is in the middle of a blood bath as their rebels attempt to end madman Muammar Gaddafi’s entrenched 42-year rule.
The world is watching this chaotic phenomenon in both fear of the future and in rejoicing over oppressive regimes falling. Hope is in the air that democracy and freedom will replace the old order. Fear is also tangible, as the specter of Islamic Sharia Law rises to choke the Middle East into submission to Allah.
Delving below the politics, students of Bible prophecy are pondering if these strange events can be found within Bible prophecy. With some trepidation, they also wonder how this could affect the timing of the Rapture.
Focus on Egypt
The biggest discussion right now among many students of Bible prophecy is over whether Egypt in particular is presently entering into some kind of prophetic fulfillment.
A February 2011 “Christ in Prophecy Journal” blog poll of 354 people looked to see where people believed Egypt stood in the prophetic light. As expected, 170 respondents (48%) wisely chose that it was too early to tell. Still, 71 respondents (20%) believe Egypt is experiencing Isaiah 19, 63 respondents (17%) believe we are witnessing the beginning of the Psalm 83 prophecy, and to a lesser degree some believe Ezekiel 38-39 or Daniel 11:40-45 are in order. Some even, after the close of the poll, suggested Ezekiel 29:12 is beginning.
What do each of those prophecies mean, and are they truly being fulfilled today? Let’s take a look.
“I [God] will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian… I will hand the Egyptians over to the power of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them, declares the Lord…” – Isaiah 19:2a,4
While Isaiah’s oracle against Egypt certainly sounds relevant for today with Egyptian rising up against Egyptian for or against Mubarak or the interim government, it is still up in the air whether they will be given a new tyrant to rule over them. It is indeed possible that the Muslim Brotherhood will gain power among the turmoil and place the people under strict Islamic law. Or, this could ultimately be talking about the coming Antichrist.
Clearly other parts of this oracle haven’t occurred yet. Verse 5 tells of the Nile drying up and the canals (Suez?) stinking. Verse 18 tells of five of Egypt’s cities being taken over so they “will speak the language of Canaan.” Even more amazingly, the people will turn from their idols and “swear allegiance to the LORD Almighty” and “he will respond to their pleas and heal them” (verse 21-22). God will even go as far as building a road from Assyria (modern day Iraq) through Israel to Egypt and proclaim “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance” (verses 23-25).
Prophetically, it could be that Egypt has started on the path of Isaiah 19’s prophecy which starts with Egypt’s fall, but without a shadow of a doubt Isaiah 19 describes Egypt’s final future in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. Along with Jeremiah 12:14-17, it is revealed that Egypt will make it into Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom, populated by believers, and not living under any judgment.
So, is Isaiah 19 happening today? No, most likely not. This prophecy has all the markings of a yet future fulfillment happening during the Tribulation with its blessings ending up in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom.
“I [God] will make the land of Egypt desolate among devastated lands, and her cities will lie desolate forty years among ruined cities. And I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries.” – Ezekiel 29:12
Are the Egyptians facing a desolation and scattering of its people for 40 long years? One would think so until they read on to Ezekiel 29:19 and 30:10 which shows that the Lord promised that He would “put an end to the hordes of Egypt by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.” Historically then, although there’s no archaeological record of this happening, we can take the Bible at its word that this event happened over 2500 years ago.
A slim possibility exists that there may be a future fulfillment of Ezekiel 29 as well. During the coming Millennial Kingdom, if any nation doesn’t send representatives to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, they will then suffer drought (Zech. 12:16-19). The Egyptians are singled out in this warning, which suggests they could also see a 40-year exile during that period if they persist in their stubbornness, making Ezekiel 29:12 also yet future. I give this only a very slight nod of the head, though, because God’s praise for Egypt during the Millennium recorded in Isaiah 19:23-25 would seem to rule out the harshness of exile.
That this prophecy isn’t for today should be a huge comfort to those who have begun unnecessarily fearing an Egyptian 40-year exile possibly putting off the Rapture for another 40 years.
Psalm 83/Ezekiel 38-39
“With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you… the Hagrites [Egyptians].” – Psalm 83:5-6
Psalm 83 is a prayer calling down judgment and justice upon Israel’s neighboring enemies. In Psalm 83, all the nations that are listed have modern equivalents to the nations that today surround Israel: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Gaza and Egypt. Israel has never fully subjugated those lands as the prayer calls, especially since they became a nation once again in 1948.
Ezekiel 38-39, called the Gog-Magog prophecy, foretells a coalition of Russia, Iran, Turkey, Libya, the Sudan and a number of other Islamic nations uniting together to try to destroy Israel and carry off her wealth. God stepping in to defeat this overwhelming army is nothing short of miraculous and would change the face of world politics as we know it. The Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog Battle creates three main results: 1) The world knows God exists and protects Israel, 2) all of Israel’s hostile Muslim enemy countries are defeated, and 3) Israel leaves its secular humanism to accept God (though not His Son until the end of the Tribulation).
Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38-39 are bundled together here because noticeably absent from the Gog-Magog coalition are the countries that directly border Israel. It would appear Israel would have to deal with their hostile neighbors, possibly subjugating them, for the requirements of Ezekiel 38-39 to fall into place.
If anything happening in the Middle East today is fulfilling Bible prophecy, it is that we are witnessing this very day the formation of these coalitions. Iran has set up proxy states through Hamas and Hezbollah and whomever will come to power in Egypt and Jordan that are seething to wipe Israel off the map. Israel has the world’s fourth largest army which could easily subjugate those neighbors. Israel could not defeat Russia along with Iran and Turkey coming from multiple fronts, and so God will have to step in just as He told Ezekiel He would.
The fall of these Middle Eastern governments today is removing any peace treaties made with Israel and solidifying the relationships between these Islamic nations against Israel. The danger level towards Israel is being kicked up to maximum and it’s possible that any day soon could see a Psalm 83 scenario unfold.
“He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt.” – Daniel 11:42-43a
Earlier in Daniel 11 we get a stunning play-by-play of the ongoing battle between the dynasties of Alexander the Great’s generals. These kings are consecutively labeled the “King of the North” (Syrian Seleucids) and the “King of the South” (Egyptian Ptolemies). This portion of prophecy was fulfilled in such jaw dropping accuracy in the decades following Alexander the Great that it’s lead some to claim that Daniel was written after the fulfillments.
Starting with Daniel 11:36, the picture clearly becomes a prophecy about the future and describes the military campaign of the Antichrist in the Middle East that occurs at the end of the Tribulation. The Antichrist’s preoccupation with persecuting the Jews and Tribulation Saints emboldens some of the nations under his control to rebel, and he’s forced to deal with the King of the North (possibly Syria or one of the regions controlled by one of his 10 Kings) and the King of the South (possibly Egypt or another of his 10 Kings).
Egypt is certainly wrapped up in this prophecy, but it is very much a Tribulation-centric prophecy and not something we are seeing in today’s headlines.
While it’s still too early to fully tell what the outcomes of the riots in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries will produce, all prophetic indications pave the way for radical Islamic regimes to take over and end any peace treaties these nations have had with Israel. Unbounded by treaties, armed by Iran, and united by Islamic hatred of all things Jewish, all prophetic indications reveal that the nations surrounding Israel will attack in a Psalm 83 scenario, followed some time soon after by an outer ring of Muslim nations which will attempt to destroy Israel based on Ezekiel 38-39’s Gog-Magog Battle.
Most importantly to believers in Christ, the historic upheaval going on in Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations has no prophetic significance preventing or delaying Jesus Christ returning to Rapture the Church (Isa. 26:19-21; Mal. 3:17; Lk. 21:36; Jn. 14:1-14; I Cor. 15:51-58). Nothing has to occur for Jesus’ imminent return for those He loves. Believers in Christ may see Psalm 83 come to pass, but if so we can praise God that according to the Bible we are not destined to be here to witness the escalating world conflicts (1 Thes. 1:10 & 5:9; Rom. 5:9; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:4; Rev. 3:10).
Are you under God’s salvation, secure in the knowledge that though the world seems to be spinning out of control that God is still sovereign and is returning for you? Or, are you still rejecting God’s love for you through His Son Jesus’ gift of salvation, awaiting the horrors of these prophetic world events to unfold before your eyes (Jn. 3:36)? If the latter, then don’t live in fear. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior today!