By Terry James and Todd Strandberg
Iraq the Troublemaker
Iraq, which sits at the heart of what historians have long called Mesapotamia, "the Cradle of Civilization," and which is called Babylon in the Bible, draws the collective worry of the world community. Hour by hour, war-like developments in that vast region north of Israel cause students of Bible prophecy to search the headlines and research the Scriptures with anticipation. This is done with good reason. Bible prophecy refers to Babylon second only to Jerusalem and Israel in the number of mentions about cities and nations. Indeed, prophecies involving the area now called the Middle East seem poised for fulfillment today.
Obstacle to World Peace
All prophecy yet future must be considered in light of this one fact: God’s chosen nation is back in the land of promise. Understanding that country’s position in the arena of Middle East and world affairs is critical to understanding all other geopolitical matters. That is, to know where all this talk of war with Iraq is leading, one must carefully study that tiny, though militarily powerful state called Israel.
Israel is prophesied to become an intolerable problem that world leaders think must be eliminated before there can be peace in the Middle East and in the world. God, himself, will see to it that Israel will be a major obstacle to sin-flawed, man-made peace. This is because only God’s Son--Jesus, the Prince of Peace--can establish true peace on Planet Earth.
"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" (Zechariah 12: 2-3).
Do we see a volatile situation today with regard to the modern nation of Israel? Is the world community of nations, especially the United States, fretting over problems between Israel and its neighbors? The answer is, of course, a resounding "yes!".
The Problem is Supernatural
A reasonable question, for those who truly seek world peace, is this: Why is Israel always at the center of the problem that threatens to involve the whole world in thermonuclear war?
World leaders cannot understand the answer God’s Word, the Bible, gives to this “reasonable” question. This is because the leaders of the world reason in line with Satan’s thinking, not in line with God’s thinking, which comes from His perfect foreknowledge. Today’s world leaders believe they can find the formula for peace, totally apart from taking into consideration God’s explanation of the supernatural causes involved.
Concerning the obstacles Israel presents to Middle East and world peace in our time, God, through revelation given in symbolic language to the prophet John, tells about ancient hatred that spawned and perpetuates the problem:
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days" (Revelation 12: 1-6).
Revelation, chapter 12, tells about a “woman,” which refers to Israel, the Jewish people out of whom the Deliverer, Jesus Christ, will come. The great red dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns, whose tail draws one-third of the stars, refers to Satan. The stars are the angels who rebelled and followed Lucifer, who was cast out of Heaven.
Satan hates Israel because it is the nation chosen by God to bring the Savior into the world. The Devil, as he is also called, is prophesied to do all within his considerable power to destroy that people. Antichrist will be the Devil’s world dictator who will try to carry out Israel’s destruction, as outlined in Daniel, chapters 7, 8, 9, and 11, and in Revelation chapter 13.
Build up to Armageddon
"Armageddon" is the biblical term most everyone thinks of whenever war begins to look imminent in the Middle East. Even the mainstream news organizations bring this troubling name into their reportorial mix at times when war seems to loom. Armageddon is prophesied in Revelation to be an incrementally stepped-up war, rather than a single battle. It will be a conflict that progressively involves more and more nations, until the military forces of all nations of the world come together in a triangular valley called Jezreel, near an ancient place called Megiddo
The worry among many who watch troubles in the Middle East is that the next military conflict might ignite Armageddon, mankind’s final war, according to how most view Bible prophecy. It will be, many mistakenly believe, the end of the world.
What About Iraq and the Impending War?
Will the war involving Iraq that is apparently about to erupt bring on Armageddon? The answer is both "yes" and "no".
Yes, war against Iraq will move the world ever closer to the beginning of the conflict called Armageddon. We can say that with certainty because hatred for Israel is at the core of Saddam Hussein’s black heart. All of the satanic rage in the Middle East is directed at trying to destroy God’s chosen people.
Armageddon, according to the Bible, will be Satan’s attempt to completely eradicate Israel, and to try to prevent Jesus Christ from returning to set up His millennial throne atop Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. So, “yes”, war with Iraq will take the world one step closer to Armageddon. The satanically driven Hussein’s development of weapons of mass destruction--the purported reason the U.S. wants to remove him--is aimed at getting enough power to destroy Israel. Such a feat would make the Iraqi dictator the Nebuchadnezzar of his time in the eyes of Israel’s enemies. This is recognition he desperately wants. In that sense, it will bring history one tick of the prophetic clock closer to Armageddon.
The answer is at the same time "No". the fight with Iraq won't be the event that sets the Armageddon war campaign in motion. We have God's Word on it. Jesus Christ, who was and is God the son, said:
"And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet" (Matthew 24:4).
The world has been in this time of “wars and rumors of wars” throughout history. Jesus here did, however, strongly imply that there will be a great increase in the number of wars and rumors of wars as the end of the age draws near. Certainly, the 20th century was the bloodiest of all centuries, with millions of people killed in war. Certainly, too, with the fear of thermonuclear war and the horrific destruction it would bring, “rumors of wars” were more pronounced than at any other time. “But the end is not yet,” Christ said. The impending war with Iraq is but one more rumor of war that will, it is highly likely, become a war in fact.
Is there anything of prophetic significance we can make of the second war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? Does the Bible have anything to say about end-time Iraq?
As a matter of fact, yes. Quite a bit. But Bible prophecy speaks of Iraq as being in an apparently changed form from the Iraq of today. Prophecy again calls that region Babylon, and it is in big trouble with God. Jeremiah the prophet foretold Babylon’s end-time plight:
"The word that the LORD spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet. Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces. For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast" (Jeremiah 50:1-3).
The prophet said further: "Therefore, behold, the days come, that I will do judgment upon the graven images of Babylon: and her whole land shall be confounded, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her. Then the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for Babylon: for the spoilers shall come unto her from the north, saith the LORD" (Jeremiah 51:47-48).
Babylon's Last Days Role
It becomes obvious, if one believes Bible prophecy should be taken literally, that the area now called Iraq is mentioned prominently as having a role to play in history yet to unfold. We can be sure the prophetic Scriptures haven’t yet been fulfilled, because the region has never been rendered completely uninhabitable like foretold by Jeremiah.
"And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant" (Jeremiah 51: 29).
Does the prophecy above indicate that nuclear devastation is prophetically scheduled for the area presently occupied by the nation called Iraq? Radioactivity that contaminates the land to the point it cannot be inhabited seems to fit such a scenario.
Prophecy Scholars Differ On Babylon
When it comes to the subject of Babylon in prophecy, excellent prophecy scholars hold different views. Some believe that an actual city will be rebuilt on the very real estate once occupied by ancient Babylon. This, they believe, will be the great religious and commercial center that will be destroyed in one hour, as indicated in Revelation.
"And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come" (Revelation 18: 9-10).
Other prophecy scholars believe prophecies about end-time Babylon found in Revelation and Jeremiah refer to the entire world religious and economic system that will have developed by the time of the end. These prophecies, they believe, involve ancient Babylon only in that it was the matrix out of which all of the religious and commercial evils began to grow and infect mankind’s activities throughout history. These prophecy students believe that the city destroyed in a single hour might be the greatest center of commerce at that time. For example, in our day, that city would be New York City, because it has the most influence over world trade, etc.
Iraq Today - The Bottom Line
Although Saddam Hussein has begun rebuilding a city on the site of ancient Babylon, it is–at this point in time--many, many years away from even having a chance of again becoming a great world commercial and/or religious center. It is scarcely more than a tiny, token symbol of the magnificence that once occupied that area.
A major war that removes Hussein would most likely disrupt that rebuilding effort. But some prophecy watchers suggest that with Saddam removed, the world community might think to come together and make the present effort to rebuild Babylon into a true symbol for world unity and world peace. Some believe that even the United Nations might be moved to a rebuilt Babylon as a gesture of world community and harmony.
Whether war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq will bring about the prophesied end-time Babylon cannot be known for sure at this point. We can be certain, however, that such war will not start Armageddon, as mentioned before. If such war was severe enough, however, with weapons of mass destruction doing damage to major populations, that conflict could be the catalyst that helps bring about the event that will start the Armageddon campaign of war in motion. Here’s how.
The Tribulation Era
Already the world community is demanding that peace be made between Israel and its Middle Eastern neighbors. The world’s leaders see the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as holding the greatest potential for igniting all out war. Additionally, the Jewish/Islamic differences are seen as explosive fuel that might be thrown on any war that might erupt in the region. Global leaders intend to do all within their collective power to force peace upon Israel and those who want to push the Jewish people into the Mediterranean.
Daniel the prophet foretold a peace that will destroy many people, both Israel’s and its enemies’ people. The Antichrist will, according to Daniel 9: 26-27, be the leader who guarantees that seven-year covenant of peace. When this “man of sin,” as Antichrist is also called, brings together Israel and her foes for that peace treaty, the Tribulation era will begin.
The Tribulation is prophesied by the prophets Daniel, Jeremiah, and others, and by Jesus, to be a time of God’s judgment upon rebellious earth-dwellers. This judgment will last seven years, and will conclude with Christ’s return, when the last battle of the Armageddon war is taking place in the Middle East.
Peace Agreement Brings on Armageddon
It will be Israel’s agreement with the Antichrist to sign that peace covenant that will begin the Tribulation, or Apocalypse. This also sets in motion a progressive series of conflicts that grows into the war called Armageddon.
So, war with Iraq won’t start Armageddon. But such a war could, if destructive enough to major populations, be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. It could hasten the world community into forcing Israel and her enemies to finally agree to the so-called peace which has proved so elusive throughout the great diplomatic efforts since Israel’s rebirth in 1948. In that sense, the "Butcher of Baghdad"--Saddam Hussein--and Iraq might fit significantly into the prophetic picture.
Chronology of a Civilization5000 B.C.: Farming spreads into southern Mesopotamia, the ancient name for the territory of Iraq. The world's first great cities develop along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Two regions become dominant: Akkad in the north and Sumer in the south.
3500-3000: The Sumerians develop the wheel, writing, counting and calendars.
2334-2279: Sargon the Great establishes the Akkadian Empire.
1792-1750: Hammurabi establishes Babylon as the region's power center. Hammurabi is best known for a code of laws that bears his name.
1400: Assyrian, Babylonian, Hurrian and Elamite kingdoms flourish and vie for ascendancy.
722-705: Sargon II strengthens Assyrian rule and builds a palace-temple complex near Nineveh.
612: The Assyrian Empire collapses suddenly; Chaldeans take control.
597: Nebuchadnezzar II captures Jerusalem. Under Nebuchadnezzar, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are built. Nebuchadnezzar's is the last home-grown government in Mesopotamia until the 20th century.
539: King Cyrus of Persia captures Babylon.
331: Alexander the Great seizes Babylon, declares it his capital and dies there in 323.
226: The Persian Sassanid dynasty is established.
637: The Arabs defeat the Sassanids in the battle of Qadisiya and bring Islam to Iraq.
762-63: Mansur founds Baghdad. Probably the world's first completely planned city, Baghdad becomes the center of Islamic civilization.
1258: Mongols sack Baghdad.
1534: The Ottoman Turks, under Suleyman the Magnificent, seize Iraq.
1800s: Britain begins to exert its influence in the Persian Gulf to protect trade routes with India.
1914-18: The Ottoman Empire sides with Germany against Britain, France and Russia in World War I.
1919: The League of Nations gives Britain a mandate over Iraq.
1921: Prince Faisal, who had fought with T.E. Lawrence against the Ottomans, is brought to Iraq and chosen king in a referendum.
1932: Britain grants Iraq its independence.
1958: Gen. Abdel Karim Qassem topples the monarchy in a military coup.
1979: Saddam Hussein becomes president.
1980-88: Iraq-Iran war.
1990: Iraq invades Kuwait.
1991: Persian Gulf War.
1998: U.N. weapons inspectors leave Iraq.
2002: President Bush calls for a 'regime change' as he seeks to disarm Saddam Hussein.
Sources: The New York Times, Knight Ridder Tribune, Associated Press, CIA World Fact book 2001, 'Iraq: Enchantment of the World' and 'Iraq: Old Land, New Nation in Conflict'
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