Mideastern Events—Do They Fulfill Prophecy?
IN RECENT months, the Middle East has figured prominently in the news. Many persons have therefore expressed the fear that the problems between Arabs and Jews might lead to a world conflict.
Writing in the November 30, 1974, issue of Le Monde, André Fontaine states: “Swift action must be taken to prevent the tragedy in which Jew and Arab have been embroiled for the last quarter of a century from touching off the apocalypse. What a weight of shame would the world’s rich and ‘civilized’ nations have to bear if they had to stand by powerlessly until perhaps the flames engulfed them, too.”—Reprinted in Atlas World Press Review, January 1975.
Could it be that events in the Middle East are shaping up for what the Bible calls “Har–Magedon” or “Armageddon”? (Rev. 16:14, 16) Many people might be led to reach such a conclusion because the name “Har–Magedon,” meaning “Mountain of Megiddo,” can be linked to the Middle East. Some nineteen miles southeast of modern Haifa in the state of Israel lie the ruins of ancient Megiddo. That city occupied a strategic spot overlooking and dominating the plain of Esdraelon. Over a period spanning more than three millenniums the area around Megiddo has been the scene of many decisive battles. As noted in M. R. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, ‘Jews, Saracens, crusaders, Egyptians, Persians, Druses, Turks and Arabs have all pitched their tents on the plain of Esdraelon.’
However, while the name Megiddo is attached both to a city and to the adjacent plain, no known geographical site in the Middle East or elsewhere is called “Mountain of Megiddo.” Observes The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: “As no Mount Megiddo is known to either ancient or modern geographers, it appears the more likely that in a book [Revelation] abounding in symbolical language this term also should be meant to carry a symbolical meaning.”
The war foretold to be waged at this symbolic “Har–Magedon” is not a conflict between nations. It is designated in the Scriptures as the “war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 16:14) The apostle John symbolically described the forces that the nations will be confronting: “I saw the heaven opened, and, look! a white horse. And the one seated upon it is called Faithful and True, and he judges and carries on war in righteousness. . . . Also, the armies that were in heaven were following him . . . And out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword, that he may strike the nations with it, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron. He treads too the winepress of the anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 19:11-15) So the nations will suffer defeat at the hands of the “King of kings and Lord of lords,” Jesus Christ, and powerful angelic forces.—Rev. 19:16.
The Bible reveals that the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” is part of a “great tribulation” to come upon the entire human system of things. (Rev. 7:1-3, 14) The survivors of that “great tribulation,” for example, are described as a numberless “great crowd,” “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Rev. 7:9) Accordingly, the “great tribulation” spoken of in the Bible must embrace much more than just the Middle East. It will encircle the globe.
But might an upheaval in the Middle East furnish the “spark” for the “great tribulation” to begin? The Bible does not refer to any specific location in the Middle East or elsewhere as the place for that event to start. The details of how matters will work out remain to be seen.
FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY IS INVOLVED
Does this mean, then, that recent troubles in the Middle East have no prophetic significance? No, for Jesus Christ did point to conflicts and other calamities in various parts of the earth as part of a composite “sign” marking the nearness of his coming to execute his Father’s judgment. In answer to his disciples’ question about ‘the sign of his presence and the conclusion of the system of things,’ Jesus said: “You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not terrified. For these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another.” (Matt. 24:3, 6, 7) Note, though, that Jesus Christ did not say that such wars would be confined to or begin in the Middle East. Just as the famines and earthquakes have not been limited to one geographical area, neither have the wars.
Similarly, the climate of fear and anxiety existing in the world today cannot be attributed entirely to developments in the Middle East. Jesus Christ’s words have proved to be true that the things happening, not just in the Middle East, but throughout the earth, would give rise to great fear. He said: “On the earth [there will be] anguish of nations, not knowing the way out . . . while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Luke 21:25, 26.
Accordingly, recent events in the Middle East are merely one part of a mountain of evidence that Jesus’ words about conditions marking the “last days” of the present system are undergoing fulfillment. But no one among mankind really knows what role affairs in the Middle East may play in developments leading to the “great tribulation.”
REMAIN AWAKE TO PROPHECY
Of course, devoted servants of God are rightly concerned with what is happening in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. They are like the Hebrew prophets of ancient times who were keenly interested in the fulfillment of their spirit-inspired utterances about the Messiah or Christ. At 1 Peter 1:10, 11, we read: “A diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these.”
However, we should not go beyond what a particular prophecy actually says. Bible prophecies cannot be understood in full detail until the events to which they point take place. So we do well not to speculate as to what certain happenings in the Middle East or elsewhere may or may not mean.
Such speculation can lead to one’s becoming off balance and deeply involved with matters that actually have little or nothing to do with the building up of faith. A person might also spend much time that could otherwise be used far more profitably in gaining spiritual strength.
Furthermore, if an individual did not see things take place as he imagined they should, he might lose sight of the importance of maintaining a fine relationship with God by walking in a divinely approved way. He might begin to think that God’s day for executing judgment is far off. This could result in his being tempted to ‘get all he can’ from the world. He could deceive himself into thinking that he will be able to discern from the trend in world events just when he should make the needed changes to gain God’s approval and survive the execution of his judgment. Such reasoning could cost a person his life when the “great tribulation” strikes, at an unexpected time, catching him in a disapproved condition before God.
Surely it is far wiser to live daily in expectation of God’s great day. This is the only course that will result in survival. Jesus Christ admonished his followers to remain awake to the certain fulfillment of his prophetic words. He urged: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth [not merely the Middle East]. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
If you are interested in standing before the Son of man, Jesus Christ, as an approved servant of God, take time to consider what the Bible really has to say. Exercise care not to draw unwarranted conclusions from the changeable trends in world affairs, whether they relate to the Middle East or not. Concentrate on the truly important things—living in harmony with the prophetic word, applying the Bible’s counsel in your life. If you do, you will find that your life will be richer even now and you will be able to look with confidence to the future.
[Map of Middle East on page 387]
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[Picture on page 388]
The area around Megiddo is not the symbolic Har–Magedon where God’s great war will be fought