This is another edition of the Bible in the News, and this is Paul Billington bringing it to you. Well: it’s getting very interesting out there, for as The Times newspaper of London put it the other day: “The unimaginable but ultimately inescapable truth is that we are going to have to get ready for war with Iran.” As the current issue of The Bible Magazine reports, Iran is playing with fire; her leader President Ahmadinejad is said to be preparing a nuclear capability, while at the same time saying that Israel should be wiped off the map.
Western leaders are in a quandary as to what to do about it. After the mess in Iraq, there is little stomach for yet another and even more difficult war with Iran, in the Western public mind. Most Western countries are in the grip of a pacifist centered left-wing ideology that tends to seek compromise and appeasement, rather than confrontation with terrorists. Consequently, the militants demand more, and are emboldened in their quest for an Islamic world.
Look at the fury that has been unleashed across the world this last week because newspapers dared to print funny drawings of Mohammed! According to U.S. Secretary of State, it’s all being inflamed by Iran and Syria. “I have no doubt,” she said, “that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and have used this for their own purposes.” If Islamic sensitivities are offended on the one hand, Western values like freedom of speech and the freedom of the press are being threatened on the other! And so it is that the words of Jesus, recorded in Luke 21:25 and 26, are seen to be applicable yet once again, for there is distress of nations “with perplexity”—that is, with no way out; and the turmoil across the world is like the sea and the waves ROARING.
That is an interesting allusion that Jesus uses there—and we can see what he meant by looking at the prophecy of Isaiah (chapter 57:20), where it says that “the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”
So there is a similarity between the raging waters of the sea, and the raging and violent mobs that we see in today’s world. We find the same analogy used in a different context in Jude verse 13; “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame...” The idea of “waters” is often used in the Bible as a symbol for peoples. Take Revelation 17:15 for example— “The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”
So again in “Revelation 16:12, we read of “the sixth angel“ who pours out his vial (or bowl) upon the great river Euphrates—“and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east (or sun-risings) might be prepared.”
Here are “waters” or peoples, who are associated with the great river Euphrates. Since the time of the Reformation at least—and certainly since the 1600’s—Bible scholars have identified this symbolic Euphrates with the Turkish Empire. They did so for two main reasons. First, because empires in Scripture are often associated with the rivers that run through their lands (e.g. the Nile stood for Egypt, Ezekiel 29:3; and Assyria with its river in Isa. 8:7). And secondly they saw that a power associated with the Euphrates appeared in Revelation 9:14 in circumstances which corresponded to the rise of the Turks and Ottomans as they swarmed across the Euphrates to conquer Constantinople in 1453, and that this power is dried up under the sixth vial of Revelation 16:12. So people like Joseph Mede in 1649, Peter Jurieue in 1687, Thomas Newton in 1754—and many others foretold the eventual downfall of the Ottoman Empire. After weakening over about a century, it finally collapsed after the First World War in 1918. In its place, Israel appeared on the map—and also various Islamic Arab nations. These Arab nations are the “waters” or peoples of the region—and they also, as the power of Islam, must evaporate.
This will finally be accomplished when—as Daniel 11:40 tells us—a power from the south will push at him, and when the King of the North comes into the countries to “overflow and pass over.” If push comes to shove, as we might say, this may well be about to happen with the United States, Britain and their allies pushing further into the Middle East (as in Iraq) from the south, causing Russia to enter the picture. Many details are not certain, but as the situation develops it seems that something of this kind may happen soon, and bring a terrible time of trouble upon the earth when men’s hearts will fail them for fear. After 9/11 commentators spoke of “An Age of Anxiety,” and now that is seen all around as nations wait for the next terror attack. We see the situation deteriorating week by week as the Islamic world is set on to a collision course with the Western nations. Statements have already been made by some leaders comparing the situation to that seen in the Second World War. This would try us all. We have to think in terms of a time of testing. But while that picture develops, another one is emerging—and this has to do with the Jewish settlers of the West Bank., Judea and Samaria. We have commented about them over the past few weeks on this programme.
It is amazing to see that the Palestinians are now turning on the International observers and upon the European Union who have promoted the Palestinian cause and who have encouraged the Israeli Government to turn against the settlers and evict them. Well now, having “observed” the Palestinian frenzy at first hand, these “observers” have had to abandon Hebron under escort—and narrowly escaped being torn in pieces by the mob who were incensed over the European cartoons of Mohammed.
Who knows? Perhaps the Jewish settlers will get to stay in Hebron after all! Perhaps they will dwell upon the mountains of Israel just as the prophet Ezekiel tells us they will! It is interesting to note that some 100,000 settlers attended a rally in Zion Square, Jerusalem, last week in protest against the harsh brutality used against young settlers by the police.