Well, the reported numbers of people killed over the past week and half doesn’t seem that far away from civil war—in fact, at what point is this called a civil war? Let me quote you an Associated Press report from Wednesday: It says:
"Iraq began to tilt seriously toward outright civil war after the Feb. 22 bombing of the revered Shiite Askariya shrine in the mainly Sunni city of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad. The government said 379 people had been killed and 458 injured as of Tuesday afternoon in nearly a week of sectarian violence tied to the Askariya bombing. Another 30 died Wednesday."
Another report from A.P. had the headline: Negroponte: Iraq may spark Regional Fight.
"A civil war in Iraq could lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East, pitting the region’s rival Islamic sects against each other, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in an unusually frank assessment Tuesday.
"If chaos were to descend upon Iraq or the forces of democracy were to be defeated in that country...this would have implications for the rest of the Middle East region and, indeed, the world," Negroponte said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats."
The report continued to quote the U.S. National Intelligence Director:
"The consequences for the people of Iraq would be catastrophic," he said. "Clearly, it would seriously jeopardize the democratic political process on which they are presently embarked. And one can only begin to imagine what the political outcomes would be. Saudi Arabia and Jordan could support Iraq’s Sunnis, Negroponte said. And Iran, run by a Shiite Islamic theocracy, "has already got quite close ties with some of the extremist elements" inside Iraq, he added."
So the Middle East is looking highly unstable. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan—not to mention the developments in the Israeli-Palestinian arena—it all looks like a bomb set to go off, and the fuse wire is burning!
Now we have commented on this issue before on Bible in the News. We have talked about the possibility of a pan-Middle East war which could even take on the classification of a world war. From a Bible perspective we have referred to—and have discussed—Daniel 11:40 and onwards.
The prophecies declare that, at the time of the end, there is to be a divided Middle East and a divided Arab world. They show that there must be two great power blocks: A king of the north and a king of the South (in Daniel’s language). Ezekiel chapter 38 describes the development, or preparation of Gog’s great company—and its opposing group of trading nations: "Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof" (verse 13).
Now the question is: Would a major conflagration in the Middle East bring about such a situation? Would it bring into sharper focus that prophetic picture given to us in Scripture? The answer is—probably, yes.
Now in Zechariah chapter 6, these two power blocks are represented by two mountains of brass. Brass is a metal that is used in Scripture as a representative of sinful flesh, as in the brasen serpent of Numbers 21. Politically, it stands for the power of the Greeks—as in Daniel 2:39. After the time of Alexander the Great, the Greek power became divided, with two of those divisions becoming the major players on the world’s stage—in the north this was the Seleucid empire, and in the south the Ptolemy’s based upon Egypt. So: a north power and a south power—and this is the pattern that must emerge in the latter days.
A mountain represents a kingdom or empire. This can be seen from Jer. 51:25 which is talking about Babylon (look at the context verse 29). So a brass mountain is a power that has Greek elements, and in Zechariah chapter 6, we can see from verse 6 that both a north country and a south country are involved—a parallel to the king of the north and the king of the south that we read about in Daniel chapter 11:40 onward.
In Zechariah’s prophecy, four chariots are seen coming between the two power blocks—and in reply to the question (verse 4) "What are these my Lord," the answer given is (verse 5), that "these are the four spirits of the heaven, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth." They are the chariot of the cherubim (1 Chron. 28:18); the four winds or spirits of Ezekiel 37:9; the four Living Creatures—in other words, this is the work of Christ and his saints as they move forward to subdue the nations.
So as we watch the news, let us realize that deep things are involved. A north-south division in the Middle East would set the final scene for the coming of Christ with his holy ones, or saints.
War is a fearful thing—a terrible thing, and when you think about the dreadful weapons that are employed by world rulers today, the idea of it is horrific. But Christ is coming to bring these things under his control. He will work through his saints, and through the nation of Israel when they are perfected, in order to establish righteousness, justice and peace in this world.
As we look at the news today we see many terrible things—but put the Bible in the News, and now there is purpose, there is Hope, there is a time of blessing to look forward to. Yes! There is a promise that all nations will be blessed in Abraham and his seed. That is what we learn from Galatians 3:8. That was the Gospel (Good News) preached to Abraham.
So get the Bible into your news-watching, and join us again next week when (God willing), we will consider more of it.