Dear friend in our Messiah Jesus,
Shalom in His grace. Join me again in wishing modern Israel a happy 70th birthday. And congratulations to our country for moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, marking a significant affirmation of our nation’s relationship with Israel.
Yet, more than ever, Israel desperately needs our prayers and support, especially during these difficult days as the Jewish people are surrounded by fierce enemies who seek their destruction.
In fact, what is happening today is simply a replay of what took place centuries ago: One of Israel’s historic enemies now poses a significant threat to Israel. This country is Iran!
It is common knowledge that the modern country known as Iran is, in fact, ancient Persia. The ancient territory of Persia extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Persian Gulf in the south, and from the Tigris River in the west to the Indus River in the southeast.
The Persian Empire rose to prominence by conquering the Babylonians (Iraq) and achieved dominance from 539 to 331 B.C., until they were conquered by the Greeks under the leadership of Alexander the Great.
Persia, led by King Cyrus, inherited both the land of Israel and Babylon, where the Jewish people had been taken captive in three waves, beginning in 605 B.C. and concluding with the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.
Persia in Scripture
In biblical times, Israel came under Persian dominion. Some of the key cities of ancient Persia were mentioned in the book of Esther, but also in the books of Daniel, Isaiah, Ezra, and Nehemiah. The entire book of Esther takes place in Susa, the capital of Persia, where the Jews were threatened with annihilation by Haman, who served in the court of King Ahasuerus.
In Isaiah 44:28, the prophet predicts that God would raise up a Persian Gentile leader, Cyrus, to deliver the Jewish people from the Babylonian captivity and bring them back to the land of Israel. This prophecy aligns with Jeremiah 29:10, which prophesied to the Jewish exiles that they would remain in Babylon for seventy years. 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 confirms this when the writer reports this great deliverance of the Jewish people by the hand of Cyrus, the Servant-Shepherd predicted by Isaiah.
Who is the Prince of Persia?
In the book of Daniel, we are introduced to the Prince of Persia who, according to the prophet, was intent on keeping the angel Gabriel from coming to Daniel and interpreting the vision (Daniel 10:13, 20-21).
Daniel 10:20-21 recounts how the angel Gabriel remained in conversation with the kings (note the plural) of Persia until he was released through the actions of Michael the archangel. Clearly, the Prince of Persia is some type of angel, probably an evil angel (demon), who was working against God’s purposes and was sent by Satan to hinder the travel of Gabriel’s message to Daniel.
This brief passage gives us some insight into the cosmic conflict taking place in the heavens between Israel and her neighbors. These types of conflicts should not surprise believers in Jesus as the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6, describes these battles as continuing into the New Testament era:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
The question we naturally want to ask is this: “Is the current conflict between Israel and Iran a reflection of the spiritual battle between God and the devil as we draw closer to the end of this age?” It certainly seems so! Both Ephesians 6 and Daniel 10 pull back the curtains of heaven to show us that this earthly war reflects heavenly realities. The nations of the world, inspired by Satan himself, seek the destruction of God’s chosen people in order to put a stop to the plan of God for the end of the age (Romans 11:11-19). This would elevate the Middle East conflict beyond the political and into the spiritual realm!
The Nature of Iran’s Threat to Israel
This past April, the tensions between Israel and Iran became literally more explosive when Iran established an air defense system in southern Syria that could be used against Israeli Air Force (IAF) planes acting in defense of Israel. Iran continues to control the area just north of Israel’s border through Hezbollah, its proxy. This has created an extremely dangerous situation on the northern border of Israel, and it is why the IAF attacked the Iranian air defense system in southern Syria.
It is apparent that Iran and Russia are supporting the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in his war against insurgents. This war is bad for Israel—not that victory on the part of the insurgents is good for Israel either! To win this war, Assad was forced to create an alliance with Russia and Iran. The United States, of course, opposed this coalition and is supporting Israel. The U.S. has been sending airstrikes into Syria to destroy the chemical weapons Bashar is using against his own people. Of course, one day, these weapons could easily be used against Israel, as could Iranian nuclear weapons when developed. There is no question that Syria, Iran, and Russia form a triad of enemies to the nation of Israel now perched on the northern border of the Holy Land.
The Current State of Iranian Shi’ite End-Time Theology
What is even more disconcerting for those of us who read the Bible and understand God’s plan for Israel is that the Islam of the Ayatollahs is not simply driven by political motives or territorial ambition. Their reasons for hating Israel and the United States are theologically motivated and are not easily seen at first glance. Let me explain.
The modern state of Iran is Shi’ite, as distinguished from Sunni. Shi’ites believe that the arrival of the Mahdi (Messiah) will be signaled by the following signs:
The vast majority of people who profess to be Muslim will be so only in name despite their practice of Islamic rites, and it will be they who make war with the Mahdi.
Before his coming will come the red death and the white death, killing two thirds of the world’s population. The red death signifies violence and the white death is plague.
Several figures will appear: the Al-Harth, Al-Mansur, Shuaib bin Saleh, and the Sufyani.
There will be a great conflict in the land of Syria until it is destroyed.
Death and fear will afflict the people of Baghdad and Iraq. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them.
There are some similarities between biblical and Islamic eschatology that cannot be missed! One point of uniqueness involves Syria—which causes the conflict in Syria to take on a new spiritual dimension. Perpetuating the conflict in Syria prepares the path for the coming of the Mahdi, the Shi’ite false Messiah.
The battle on the northern border of Israel in Lebanon between pro-Assad and anti-Assad forces fought by Russia and Iran raises the level of danger to Israel since Iran’s eschatological motivation is always a more potent threat than mere nationalism.
The Growth of the Gospel Among Iranians
The Lord is also performing incredible miracles among Iranians who are coming to Jesus the Messiah. Perhaps you have heard of the dreams and visions Muslims are experiencing both within and outside of Iran. Jesus has been revealing Himself to Iranians in this nation where it is still almost impossible to conduct regular missionary activity. Unfortunately, it is also not uncommon for Iranian pastors and Christian leaders to be put in prison for their faith and ministries. One of the very exciting ministries happening today in and outside of Iran that is touching the lives of Iranians—especially Muslims—is that of Hormoz Shariat. He founded and continues to broadcast evangelistic television programs in Farsi through the Iran Alive television program.
The Iranian Messianic Jewish Movement
Iranian Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah, but there are also many Iranian Jewish followers of Jesus around the globe as well. In the center section of this newsletter, we feature the testimonies of two Iranian Jewish couples who came to faith in Jesus the Messiah in the United States. Three of these four believers have their testimonies on the ifoundshalom.com Messianic Jewish testimony website that we created in partnership with One for Israel ministries. We have also begun an Isaiah 53 outreach campaign in Farsi through Facebook ads focused on reaching the hundreds of thousands of Iranian Jews in Israel, the United States, and England.
We need to continue to pray for God’s work among Iranians. As our brother Hormoz attests, when even the most vociferous Iranian opponent to Israel comes to know Jesus as Lord, they also tend to love the Jewish people and support Israel. The testimonies of Iranian believers, both Jews and Gentiles alike, is evidence that God loves Iran and is not willing that any Iranian should perish without knowing the Lord! It is also clear that God still has His holy and powerful hand upon the Jewish people, even though difficult days lie ahead before the return of the Messiah.
Your brother in the Messiah,