The article is adapted from Dr. Michael Rydelnik’s presentation at our recent 9/11 and the New Middle East conference. Dr. Rydelnik leads the Jewish Studies department at Moody Bible Institute, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
On September 15, 2020, we celebrated the signing of the Abraham Accords, which reflect a normalization of relations between Israel and the Gulf States of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Sudan followed on September 26, 2020, and Morocco in December 2020. Thus, there have already been many economic, social, cultural, and political steps forward between Israel and her neighbors, for which we rejoice!
One of the most significant reasons for normalization is the common concern of the Gulf States regarding Iran becoming a nuclear and potentially dominant power. In addition, the threat of ISIS, instability in Syria and Iraq, and the rise of the Taliban are also important pieces of the puzzle. As a result, the nations normalizing ties want peace with Israel in order to improve economic and political relations, but also for defense reasons, as Israel has the most powerful military in the Middle East.
Yet, despite the frail and even self-serving reasons for this growing peace among Israel’s neighbors, we have a greater sense of hope for peace and prosperity between Israel and her Middle East neighbors today. But will this turn into a more enduring peace? I do not think so, as these agreements are unlikely to bring the Shiites or Muslim radicals into this unity.
So, how then should Bible believers view the future through the lens of Scripture?
Peace in the Middle East According to Scripture
Bible prophecy envisions peace in the region in two stages. First, there will be a false peace engineered by a false messiah. Then we will see an even greater and enduring peace between nations created by the true Messiah, and this peace will endure forever!
As followers of the Messiah and students of the Word of God, we should expect a false peace to come before the true and lasting peace. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1–3, the Apostle Paul detailed the events of what he called the “day of the Lord.” He wrote about a future time when everyone is saying, “Peace and safety,” and then sudden destruction comes.
Most world leaders will accept a false peace treaty, described in Daniel 9:27, which the activities of a future false messiah will bring about. This false messiah will be so politically influential and powerful, so militarily strong that he will guarantee this peace agreement. Then, after a few years, he will break that treaty himself, and Israel’s temporarily peaceful neighbors will turn and make war against the Jewish people.
The prophet Ezekiel predicted this conflict:
Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; Persia, Ethiopia and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops—many peoples with you.” (Ezek 38:3–6)
While Togarmah is Eastern Turkey, the other nations listed are all Islamic states of the former Soviet Union, the “-stan” states. Persia is Iran, Cush is Sudan, and Put is Libya. All these nations are currently Islamic states, and they are going to invade the land of Israel. In that coming day, these are the nations who are going to break the peace.
The prophet Daniel describes that time when the false messiah will set up his tent—his military headquarters—between the Mediterranean Sea and Jerusalem (Dan 11:45). There, he will gather his forces. They will march down to Jerusalem from Mount Megiddo—Armageddon—and gather all nations against Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish people once and for all. These events take place before Israel spiritually returns to the Lord. If you look carefully at Ezekiel 39:22, the prophet predicted that the outcome of this war would lead Israel to come to know the Lord Jesus as their Redeemer (Ezekiel 39:25–28; Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:25–31).
The True Peace Established
But that is not the end of the story! God will allow Israel to come to the end of their rope militarily as the Gentile nations are on the verge of destroying Israel. According to Scripture, it is then that the Jewish people will finally turn to and call out for her Messiah.
The prophet Zechariah looked forward to when they will look upon the one who is pierced and mourn as one mourns for an only son (Zech 12:10). This prophecy is a clear prediction of Israel’s end-times repentance and turning to Jesus the Messiah, which becomes the precursor for the second coming of Jesus and the destruction of Israel’s enemies, leading to true and lasting peace. As the prophet wrote,
And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Zech 12:9–11)
This turning and mourning of the Jewish people trigger the victory of Messiah and His people at Armageddon and bring about the true Messiah’s peace.
The Apostle John affirmed the conclusion to the evil career of the false messiah in the Book of Revelation:
And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. (Rev 19:19–20)
John described the Messiah’s final victory at Armageddon—when He delivers Israel from this final attack—a war truly to end all wars.
At last, the true Messiah establishes His Messianic kingdom of peace. Isaiah penned a moving description of the real and lasting peace established by the true Messiah:
“And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Isa 2:4).
Thus, even though we see hopeful signs of peace now, the Bible teaches that the Middle East, which seems so promising at the moment, will get a whole lot worse before it ultimately gets better. However, once it gets better, it will be better than we could ever imagine!
Our Response to God’s Word
Now, the question becomes, “What do we do today?” Here are three suggestions:
First, we must pray for peace instead of simply waiting for that kingdom of peace to come. Psalm 122:6 says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we are praying for every person who lives there—Jewish, Arab, Palestinian, Israeli, or Christian.
Second, we need to work for peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). Rather than praying peace to come through a military intervention in the Middle East, we should pray that God Himself will bring a measure of peace so that the gospel can go forth. We need to be doing all we can to work for that peace—all we can to help the peace process. It may not be the final peace, but there can be temporary peace, at least in parts.
Finally, the best thing we can do is to proclaim the Prince of Peace. We need to get the message of Isaiah 52:7 out: “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
We need to bring the good news of Messiah to the nations, including both Muslims and the Jewish people. The only hope of turning people’s hearts against war, terrorism, and fear is for individuals to accept Yeshua the Messiah. Only He can permanently reconcile us to Him and one another. Only He can bring peace where we all need it most—our hearts.
We are grateful for the Abraham Accords, as even a moment’s peace is worth the trouble! Every day a Jewish person or Arab does not die in a war or a terrorist attack is precious. Yet, we are People of the Book and want to see life and our future through the lens of Scripture. We know that a day is coming when the Messiah will return! He is our true blessed hope, and we look forward to that glorious day when the Prince of Peace will reign over all the earth!