Welcome to another edition of our weekly programme, The Bible in the News.
This week we ask: What is the United States up to? Are they going to launch an attack on Iran--or are they about to make some kind of military sweep through Iraq? One thing is quite certain: there is a significant build-up of US military force taking place in and around the Middle East right now.
According to an article in the Jerusalem Post on January 30th which reported US ships and troops transiting the Suez Canal:
"The US Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, will be overseeing around 50 warships in the Mideast after the arrival of the Bataan and an American aircraft carrier group in February ... The Fifth Fleet normally commands a fleet of about 45 ships, about a third of them from US-allied navies, Brown said. The navy is in the midst of a regional buildup, with the group of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis on its way as well as 21,500 US soldiers being sent to Iraq. The carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is already in the region."
U.S. carrier heads for Middle East
Another news report in The Sunday Herald (UK) carried the headline: AMERICA "POISED TO STRIKE AT IRAN’S NUCLEAR SITES." It reported that "The American build-up along the Black Sea, coupled with the recent positioning of two US aircraft carrier battle groups off the straits of Hormuz, appears to indicate president Bush has run out of patience with Tehran's nuclear" (ambitions).
According to the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, there is a 50/50 chance that the United States will attack Iran, but others--such as the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for Iran says it’s all psychological warfare.
President Bush himself says he has no intentions of attacking Iran--which naturally leaves everyone wondering just what he is playing at. Just how a naval build-up can sort out the political and sectarian chaos in Iraq is difficult to explain. There are, of course, other trouble-spots in the region with Lebanon and the Palestinians on the edge of civil war. However you look at it there are several fuse-wires burning away in the Middle East right now, any one of which could ignite the whole region into flames. Perhaps the UK's Economist hit the right note a few weeks ago with a cartoon depicting the Middle East as a bomb that could blow the world apart.
But while journalists and political commentators speculate, what can we learn about all this news from the Bible? And especially in view of the current military build-up; what does this tell us?
The Bible reveals that there are to be two major power-blocks at the time of the end--two powerful alliances that will be opposed to each other in a face-off over the Middle East in general, and over Israel in particular. And as we look at the world scene today, that is what we see developing. One group is led by Russia and the Europeans, and the other is seen to be trading nations--largely the English-speaking world--led by the United States and Britain.
In Zechariah chapter 6, these blocks are represented by two mountains of brass. In Scripture a mountain is a symbol that represents a kingdom. For example, a reference Jeremiah 51:24,25 will show that Babylon is spoken of as a "destroying mountain." Again, in Daniel chapter 2 the little stone is seen to become a great mountain which fills the whole earth--that is in verse 35. The interpretation of that is given in verse 44 where we are told that God will set up a kingdom which will consume all others, and so it will fill the whole earth.
The mountains are of brass--a metal which is associated with the serpent and sin (Numbers 21:7-9). These are kingdoms of sin because ruled by sinful men, and prophetically it is especially connected with the power of the Greeks. This can be seen from the image of Daniel 2, verses 32 and 39.
Now when we come back to the prophecy of Zechariah chapter 6 we see that the two mountains of brass relate to a north country and a south country--that is in Zechariah 6:6. This north-south division is described again in Daniel 11:1-6 where it is seen to be a division of the Greek empire: A king of the north and a king of the south. And it is verse 40 that tells us that a similar situation is to exist at the time of the end.
It is Ezekiel 38 that describes in some detail the northern power. This is the Russo-European Confederacy under Gog--and it includes Persia, or Iran, as was explained last week. It is Ezekiel 38:13 that describes a group of trading nations (merchants KJV) who are in opposition to Gog of the north. Part of this trading group is Sheba and Dedan which are located in the south. It is this north-south alignment that we see developing today--Russia, Europe, Iran and others in the north. The US, Britain and the Arabian peninsular in the south. This is what makes the present US military build-up interesting. It fits the prophetic picture exactly.
Now Daniel 11:40 informs us that at the time of the end the king of the south--the south power--will "push" or contend with the north. This is a military move (compare the "pushing" of Daniel 8:4). When the king of the south pushes at the time of the end, it will bring a tempestuous response--an invasion by land and sea. There can be little doubt that this will be a world war involving many nations--the great battle predicted in the Bible.
Whether the current military build-up that we see taking place is going to lead to the great crisis we do not know. We must watch developments for we know not the day or the hour. What we do know is that these events are gradually moving in a direction that will ultimately bring the fulfillment of all these prophecies. The important message is that we must prepare ourselves. It is all very interesting--but how does it affect us? Where will we be when the storm breaks?
Now is the time when we can turn to God, when we can learn His will from the Scriptures, and when we can enter into a covenant relationship which can ensure our own salvation through God's mercy.
Join us again next week here on www.bibleinthenews.com when God willing we shall look at more Bible and more news!