Does the Bible predict a coming Islamic Civil War?
This is an update of an article I first posted 2 years ago. Two things prompted me to post it again at this time. First, it’s a good follow up to last week’s article on the growth of Islam. And second, last week, at the last minute, Turkey booted Israel out of a joint training exercise also involving Italy and the US. When they withdrew in protest, Turkey responded by scheduling a training exercise with Syria instead. The reason Turkey gave was Israel’s inability to deliver an order of Heron surveillance drones to Turkey on the agreed schedule, even though it was the failure of a part produced by Turkey that made on time delivery impossible.
Turkey has been distancing itself from Israel since the Gaza offensive, and on top of the canceled training exercise recently began airing a TV series depicting Israeli soldiers as child killers. Inside sources indicate that Turkish PM Erdogan has become convinced that Turkey is destined to play a more pivotal role in Middle Eastern politics by reviving the Ottoman Empire. To that end Turkey has been more involved in MidEast diplomacy, acting as a mediator between Syria and Israel, and has formed a pact with Syria and Iran that features increased military and commercial involvement among the three. Some see in this the re-birth of an end times military force known as the King of the North in Daniel 11. Let’s take a closer look.
The Kings Of The North And The South
“At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood.” (Daniel 11:40)
Three separate kings are in view in this one verse and their identities must be discovered to fully understand what will happen in the days leading up to the end. They are the King of the North, the King of the South, and the one who was identified in Daniel 11:36 as the king who exalts himself. We call him the anti-Christ. All of Daniel 11:4-35 has been taken up with a discussion of various generations of the King of the North and the King of the South, but the King who exalts himself is neither, and subdues them both.
First, the King of the North. The vision of Daniel 11 was given in 536BC and begins with an angel telling him what would happen to the Persian Kingdom then in power. After 3 more Persian Kings, a fourth would arise, an especially rich and powerful King. This Persian King, who we know as Xerxes I, took as his queen the Jewish woman Hadassah, called Esther in the Persian language (Esther 2:16-17). He put together a mighty army and mounted an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Greece in 480BC. About 150 years later the tables would be turned and a King from Greece would conquer the Persian Empire. This was fulfilled by Alexander the Great.
Then Daniel was told in effect that Alexander’s Kingdom would be divided into four pieces according to the four winds of heaven, not going to his offspring. (After Alexander’s death his four generals divided up the Kingdom among them.) The next 30 verses are devoted to the families of two of the four, Seleucus, known in Daniel 11 as the first King of the North and Ptolemy, the first King of the South. 135 historically confirmed prophecies are contained in the first 35 verses of Daniel 11, most having to do with the descendants of these two men. The other two generals, Cassander (West) and Lysimachus (East) are not mentioned here, but in fact Cassander went back to their homeland and ruled over Macedonia, and Lysimachus eventually lost his portion to Seleucus.
So the first kings of the North and the South were Seleucus and Ptolemy. For territory Seleucus eventually got control of what we now know as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Turkey. Reigning for a time from Babylon in modern Iraq, he built a new capital city 20 miles to the south east on the Tigris river and named it Seleucia. Ptolemy took Libya, Egypt, the Sudan, Israel and Jordan, and chose Alexandria in Egypt as his capital.
Through their descendants, these two kings fought each other for control of the known world for the next several hundred years. Then Daniel 11:33-35 brings us to the Macabean revolt when the last important King of the North, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was defeated.
History To Prophecy
Up till now this has all been a recounting of history. Beginning in verse 36 we fast forward to the time of the end when modern versions of these two kings will go after the anti-Christ. What would make them do that? Well, here’s where we get a little more speculative. There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that a struggle is underway between Arab Moslems and non-Arab Moslems for control of the emerging Islamic Empire. The goal of Islam is a single Islamic World Empire, or Caliphate as it’s called, and there’s fierce competition to see who can bring it about. This competition finds Iran, and the countries aligned with it, pitted against Egypt and its allies. The Iran group is largely non-Arab and Shiite and the Egyptian group is largely Arab and Sunni.
It should not surprise students of prophecy to learn that Iran’s group is almost identical in territory to the Biblical King of the North and Egypt’s group is a modern equivalent of the King of the South, with the addition of Saudi Arabia and absent Israel. (Of all the countries involved, Syria is the biggest anomaly here, being Arab speaking and predominately Sunni. Maybe this is why Iran reportedly has a contingency plan to depose Bashar Assad if it becomes necessary.)
But remember, according to Daniel 12:1 we’re talking about the beginning of the Great Tribulation here. Both Isaiah 17 and Ezekiel 38-39 will occur before this competition for Moslem supremacy comes to a head. This tells us that while Syria will cease to be a factor after Isaiah 17 and is not even mentioned in Ezekiel 38, Iran will neither be pre-emptively destroyed by the US and/or Israel (even if an attempt is made) nor completely taken out of play because of Ezekiel’s battle, and will recover to contend for Moslem supremacy.
Ezekiel’s phrase “ send down fire” (Ezekiel 39:6), which many believe to be a reference to nuclear warfare, is directed at Magog, the distant coastlines (somewhere beyond the Mediterranean) and the battle field in Israel. No mention is made of any destruction in Persia (Iran). Whatever Iranian forces are involved in Israel will be decimated, but Iran itself will survive.
Followers of middle East politics can already spot the jockeying between these two groups for Islamic supremacy. For instance, remember how Osama bin Laden, a Sunni from Saudi Arabia, condemned the Shiite Hezbollah for “prematurely” going to war with Israel in the summer of 2006? Even though Israel is their common enemy, he warned the Arab world not to support the Hezbollah action. Lately it’s been rumored that if push comes to shove, Saudi Arabian air space will be opened to Israeli jets on their way to bomb Iranian nuclear targets. (Although reported in the British news, Saudi Arabian officials deny this.) And notice how Iran has displaced Saudi Arabia as the primary sponsor for Hamas, even though Hamas is Sunni. To win this competition, you have to control Jerusalem. All of Iran’s positioning with Hamas, Syria, and Hezbollah is directed toward that end.
If this view is correct we should expect to see more jockeying between these two groups, building to a point where at the outset of the Great Tribulation only a king superior in power and authority to both can unite them. This superior King will have to be an Islamic figure with an even greater right to head the Caliphate than either the King of the North or the King of the South, and even then they won’t give up without a battle.
A Non-Traditional Perspective
Of course this view requires that the one world religion of the last days will be Islam, not some version of Catholicism or New Age pantheism. And it makes it more likely that when the anti-Christ emerges, he’ll come from the Eastern leg of the Roman Empire, not the West. Constantinople (Istanbul) is also known as a city on seven hills, is a former capitol of the Roman Empire, and can just as easily fulfill the prophecy of Rev. 17:9 as Rome does.
As details of Islamic eschatology become more widely known, prophecy students are discovering striking similarities between descriptions of al Mahdi, sometimes called the Moslem Messiah, or 12th Imam, and a figure from Christian eschatology called the anti-Christ. I’ve made mention of them in previous articles, how in their respective prophecies both come on the scene during a time of great turmoil on Earth, both come claiming a desire to restore peace, both have a seven year reign, both head a one world religion and one world government, both claim supernatural origins, and both reigns end in a battle between good and evil that brings Earth’s final judgment.
He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. 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, with the Libyans and Nubians (Sudan) in submission. (Daniel 11:41-42)
This view also provides the first plausible explanation I’ve seen for why Daniel was told that present day Jordan will be spared in this Grand Caliph’s “holy” quest to put the world under submission, even though Egypt, Lybia and the Sudan will be forced to bow. Sunni Moslems believe that the Grand Caliph has to be an Arab from the Hashemite family of which King Abdullah II of Jordan is the current patriarch. This helps explain Abdullah’s extra-ordinary influence in middle eastern affairs and why he “unofficially” controls the Temple Mount. The Hashemites once held sway over the entire Middle East and served as custodians of all Moslem Holy Sites.
I’m not saying that Abdullah II is the anti-Christ. Remember, Daniel 11:41 says that Jordan and its leaders will be delivered from the anti-Christ’s control. I believe Jordan will be left alone out of deference to King Abdullah’s genealogy as the 43rd direct descendant of the prophet through Mohamed’s daughter Fatima, and his closest living relative.
No, it’s more likely that al Mahdi (also known as the anti-Christ) who will be senior even to Abdullah II, will bring the Kings of the North and the South into submission while sparing Jordan. Incredibly, in a way only God could manage, this makes Petra, a mountainous area about 3 hours south of Jordan’s capitol Ahman, the perfect hiding place for the believing Jews during the Great Tribulation.
And this view explains why, with all the quicker and easier ways of executing people available, the one mentioned in Revelation is beheading. We’ve only recently been made aware of Islamic terrorists’ preference for this method. For generations Biblical scholars were ridiculed for their insistence on a literal understanding of beheading as the method of execution in Tribulation times. That all changed when we got to Iraq.
The biggest mistake the West makes is to ignore the religious undercurrents in the Islamic Middle East. As recent events have already shown, Moslems will always choose to be governed by Islamic law rather than western style democracy, given the chance. Their religion teaches them that Islamic law is more just. And the goal of Islam is a world wide Caliphate where there are only two kinds of people, those who submit and those who are targets for execution.
He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. (Rev. 13:15)
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. (Rev. 20:4)