Once and Future Battlefield

Remember these bold predictions about the world’s most unpredictable hotspot!
From the February 2000 Trumpet Print Edition

How could anyone predict what will happen in an area as unpredictable as the Middle East? For most of the 20th century, that region has been chaotic with change! Empires have crumbled, boundaries been drawn and redrawn, governments been toppled, whole populations been dispossessed. Isn’t it crazy to presume to foresee what lies down the road for this region?

Yet, for over 60 years, first the Plain Truth and then the Trumpet have done just that—with astonishing accuracy. These writers were there to report, analyze, comment, prophesy and warn about what would—and yet will—happen there.

How? By using the Bible as their guide.

About the Middle East, the Bible is absolutely clear on certain facts of prophecy. Herbert W. Armstrong was emphatic in pointing these out—some of which have already occurred! On other points, he and the other writers based their assessments and projections on the principles laid out in prophecy. Many of these were also quite accurate. Time is bringing such specifics into clearer focus; events that the Trumpet has reported on in the last ten years have brought even more detail to our understanding of how prophecy will play out in the Middle East.

Let’s give you some of these remarkable statements, and couple them with their subsequent fulfillment in current events.

Jews Take Jerusalem

“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:2). The Jewish translation renders the latter part of that verse, “And upon Judah also shall it fall to be in the siege against Jerusalem.”

In May of 1963, The Plain Truth made this interesting statement: “Old Jerusalem is today almost entirely in the hands of the Kingdom of Jordan. But this prophecy unveils a struggle for the possession of Jerusalem by Judah—the Jews.” Also, Zechariah 14:2 indicates that half of Jerusalem would be conquered just before Christ returns; that means the Jews would have to control the whole city prior to that time. Based on these and other scriptures, the Plain Truth staff believed the Jews were prophesied to take over the entire Old City of Jerusalem.

On May 1, 1967, Mr. Armstrong was returning from a trip to Amman and Jerusalem, speaking to an assembly at the Ambassador College campus in England. In that tape-recorded address, he said this: “Any day, now, you may expect the Israelis of the country that calls itself ‘Israel’ to flood over with a military invasion into the Jordanian half of the divided city of Jerusalem….

“Once the Israelis do take over the Jordan sector of Jerusalem, instantly the United Nations and the major individual powers, the United States, USSR, Britain, France, probably will stop further occupation of Arab countries by the Jews…. But the Jews will undoubtedly be allowed to hold the Old City of Jerusalem.”

Just five weeks later, Palestine exploded in war, just as Mr. Armstrong prophesied. Little Israel went on the attack and for six days pushed back the frontiers of their country in virtually every direction—also taking over Jerusalem. It was a stunning defeat for the neighboring Arab countries, ending in a cease-fire.

However, it was not to be a permanent peace.

The July 1967 Plain Truth reported, “Here on the spot in Jerusalem, a few days after the cease-fire, no one worries about another war. Israelis are exuberant, confident, proud.” But notice the statement that followed: “The air is filled with tense excitement—the Jews expect great events to occur soon. And indeed they will…but not the way the world expects!” While the Jews anticipated a more stable future on the heels of their victory, the Plain Truth foretold otherwise.

The Peace Process

Even at that early date, these were the Plain Truth’s specific predictions about the aftermath of the 1967 war: “First, Israel will very likely give back some territory. That is, Israel will use conquered land she does not really desire in order to bargain for benefits she dearly wants” (ibid.). There followed postulations about specific parcels Israel would return: the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, captured Syrian territory except for the Golan Heights. However, the Heights itself, and the West Bank area, they felt, would likely remain in Israel’s hands.

The “bargaining” for peace predicted by this article began 11 years later, with the 1978 Camp David Accord. Israel gave the Sinai back to Egypt in exchange for a promise of peace. That was the first time Israel tried to negotiate for security rather than fighting to secure it. Here is Gerald Flurry’s analysis of that transaction, printed in the November 1996 Trumpet:”When the Jews gave the Sinai back to Egypt, that probably included Mt. Sinai, where God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. This fiery mountain spectacle gave birth to the nation of Israel!…

“The United States and Britain have both been instrumental in pressuring Judah [modern Israel] to give the Sinai back to Egypt, even though our ancestry was also a part of Israel when God’s law was given on Mt. Sinai.

“The nations of Judah, Ephraim (Britain) and Manasseh (U.S.)—their Bible names—are to be conquered together just before Christ returns. So the Jewish nation had to be established by God for that prophecy to be fulfilled (Hos. 5:5). A miracle by God had to be performed.

“Why are these three nations in such serious trouble today? Giving the Sinai back to Egypt is at the heart of their problems! If God were to give me the Sinai, I would never give it back unless God commanded it—which, I’m quite sure, He never would. The whole world could not influence or force me to do so.

“Those three nations are looking to men for peace and not to the great God of Mt. Sinai. Their history with God is virtually meaningless!… The nations of Israel are going to fall because of that faithlessness.”

Today, the “bargaining” continues, even for those areas no one thought Israel would give up: Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan. The hot wars that flared up several times since Israel declared statehood—the wars in which Israel defended itself to win land parcels critical to their security—have given way to this painful, protracted “peace” process, punctuated by terrorist violence, in which Israel is making territorial concessions bit by bit.

This process is actually paving the way for the “great events” predicted by the Plain Truth in 1967!

Gerald Flurry wrote in the April 1996 Trumpet about the terrifying dangers for Israel in following this land-for-peace formula. “Judah is afraid to get tough even in the Arab area which they control. They are fearful that the ‘peace’ process will break down. What most of them don’t know is that the peace process is a deadly delusion! It is a wound that is going to cause death, if they don’t repent. It is like terminal cancer!”

As this article goes to press, Israel is working out a deal with Syria to return the Golan Heights, which they captured in the 1967 war. Mr. Flurry had this to say in that same article: “The Israelis are almost begging the Syrians to take back the Golan Heights…. The Israelis think giving back the Golan will bring peace. Actually, it only makes the Arabs more aggressive….

“Through the peace process Judah has become vulnerable to the enemy, with very little freedom to strike back…. Soon the whole world will see what the Arabs saw all along—that the peace process was a wound from which Judah would never recover!” (That is a reference to the “wound” spoken of in Hosea 5:13.)

Mr. Flurry has predicted that the peace process will conclude with half of Jerusalem being taken away, in fulfillment of Zechariah 14:2. In the November 1996 Trumpet he wrote, “When one half of Jerusalem is taken captive, [Israel] will see that it all happened as a part of the Middle East peace process. Their wound, or the peace process, primarily causes them to lose one half of Jerusalem.

“God tells Judah that Germany cannot ‘heal you or cure you of your wound.’ Why does God say that? Because Judah got into this mess by looking to men. Now they are trying to get out of the quagmire by looking to men. Palestine will never find a cure or healing until they look to God!” Our readers will do well to remember these statements as the peace process proceeds and Israel puts its trust in the word of its Arab neighbors—not to mention its security in their hands. Keep your eyes on that peace process as a prelude to further troubles for Israel!

However, when these treaties break down, the “men” Israel will ultimately look to are from German-led Europe.

Loss of the Suez

The faithlessness displayed by Israel in the peace process was preceded by weakness on the part of another major world power over a Middle Eastern crisis: Britain, in its struggle over the Suez Canal. Here, too, Mr. Armstrong made an accurate prediction.

Back in July of 1956, President Nasser of Egypt took a calculated gamble and seized the Suez Canal from British control. Before Britain responded, Mr. Armstrong went to press with this analysis of the seriousness of the situation: “To allow the canal to become the complete property of Egypt, with all rights of control, operation and management in Nasser’s power, would only give this upstart dictator a weapon by which he could sever the very lifeline of the British Commonwealth of Nations…. The Suez Canal is one of the major factors in [Britain and America’s] growth to economic power and national greatness never before equalled by any nation.”

But Mr. Armstrong predicted, based on biblical principles (see p. 28 for more on “sea gates” prophecies), that Britain had lost the canal for good. “The probable outcome of this Suez controversy—not specifically or directly prophesied in the Bible—is that Britain has lost control of Suez for the rest of this age, and will not be able to gain it back” (Plain Truth, Sept. 1956; emphasis mine here and throughout). He was right. Britain was paralyzed by internal bickering for months, only to be pre-empted by an Israeli strike in the Sinai. They finally counter-punched Egypt in November, but then backed down under international and domestic pressure before they could gain a clear victory. The United Nations took over the mess, and subsequently returned the canal to Egypt. Britain had lost Suez for good, causing a major blow to British pride and naval supremacy. Historians say the event signaled the end of Britain as a great power.

It also signaled the beginnings of a new, significant presence on the world scene.

The Rise of Islam

The Bible identifies an end-time Middle Eastern power as “the king of the south” (Dan. 11:40)—likely an international coalition of nations dominated by one in particular. The April 1958 Plain Truth warned of Arab countries unifying as an important factor to watch in the Middle East. This was written shortly after a unity pact between Egypt and Syria. “Neither Egypt nor Syria are powerful nations alone. But if united in foreign policy they hope to dictate to others on their own terms. They can strangle Europe economically….” (That statement points to others made about Europe’s future relationship with the region, which we’ll look at later.)

While the Arabs are not generally known for their unity, this article pointed to the fact that their surging Pan-Arab nationalism was driven by the Islamic religion made it strong enough to draw them together. However, it predicted that their unity would never be strong. “Throughout North Africa we found that the Muslim religion is making rapid progress…. A divided Christianity is rapidly losing ground there….

“[Nasser] calls on all Arabs to join with him in ‘a common struggle’ against Western ‘imperialism’…. Nasser is working for Muslim unity because he knows it gives him absolute power over the economic destiny of Western Europe. But Nasser will never be able to unify the Arab world…. Egypt will make alliances with certain nations, but…will not unite all the Arab world…. Egypt and Syria are destined to be conquered in war, along with several Muslim nations in North Africa which are yet to be associated….”

The October 1963 Plain Truth also reported on Nasser’s efforts at Arab unity: “The effect of these events on the British and American peoples is destined to be tremendous. For we are being kicked out of the Middle East…. A rising tide of hate against America and Britain is being fomented by Nasser…. These events are causing the great gulf of misunderstanding between our peoples and the Arab nations to grow continually larger.

“This misunderstanding—and the Arabs’ hatred of Israel—is a wedge being used to help create a powerful union of Arab nations which is destined to cooperate, not with either the U.S. or Russia, but with the powerful new Germany in particular and the soon-coming United Europe. This definitely spells trouble ahead for the U.S. and Britain!”

Arab hatred for Israel, Britain and America hasn’t dissipated one iota since those words were written! And despite strong U.S. efforts to befriend Arab countries—including overtures on the recognition of an independent Palestinian state—U.S. influence on the region is declining in every way. Increasingly, it is Europe that is being sought as the major outside arbiter of Mideast troubles, just as the Plain Truth said it would be!

The same theme was taken up in this February 1966 Plain Truth news briefing: “Even though deep-seated rivalries among themselves still exist, the Arabs are finally attempting to co-ordinate their military potential…. The Arabs have lacked unity and leadership in their previous fiascos with the fierce-fighting Jews. This they hope to achieve with their new command set-up. It was prophesied long ago in your Bible.”

Finally, an article called “A United States of Arab Nations” in the November 1971 Plain Truth made the religious nature of the coalition and its geographical extent even clearer: “Islam can become a powerful political-religious force, binding these Arab nations together into a unit with a common world outlook. But this outlook goes further than the Arab states. The Muslim faith penetrates the Balkans, stretches across the width of North Africa and into the Philippines and Indonesia. The religious influence of the Middle East could be far wider than its geographical center of gravity….

“The Arabs have not forgotten the past glories of Islam, the time when they were the world’s superpower. It is no wonder that they desire to revive their glorious past.”

Today, Middle Eastern Arab countries continue their efforts to unify, though they often seem like siblings who try to get along but always end up bickering over things no one else understands. Their rhetoric may be different at the bargaining tables of the various current “peace processes,” but the common denominator among most Arab nations remains largely their religious hatred for the Jewish presence in the region, and their continued, decades-old aim to “throw Israel into the sea.”

Continue to watch the news for efforts among these nations to strengthen their presence as a world power—especially through the drive for unity!

Increasingly at the center of the Arab coalition will be Iran, which is not Arabian but Persian, but all the same is fueled by the furnace of radical Islam. The Trumpet believes, based on current trends, that the king of the south will be radical Islam, drawing on the power of several countries and spearheaded by Iran.

Kingpin of the King of the South

Indications of Iran’s eventual supremacy among Arab nations appeared as early as 1972 in the Plain Truth’s January issue. An article titled “Iran Today: Nation With a Mission” stated, “There are definite indications that Iran is setting her sights on becoming the most important and influential country in the sweeping arc of nations extending through the Middle East to the western borders of India.”

At the time, that goal was supported by Britain, which pumped Iran with armaments and other resources to make it the stabilizing force in a region Britain wanted out of. But Iran’s leadership changed, and now—as with post-World War II Germany—the West is finding itself facing a monster of its own making.

Of Middle Eastern nations today, Iran is of most chilling concern for the West. Iran leads the region in sponsoring terrorist activities, in subverting efforts at peace, in stockpiling and building new weapons. Gerald Flurry wrote in the February 1995 Trumpet about “Iran’s master plan for the destruction of Israel,” which involved surrounding the little Jewish country with enemies. “Iran is flagrantly working to topple unfriendly regimes,” he wrote. “They have the utmost contempt for peace treaties.”

Iran is working hard to create a regional security framework, strengthening its relationship with Saudi Arabia, Oman, and other Gulf Cooperation Council states. It has led efforts to push the 55-member Organization of the Islamic Conference to a more visible and active role internationally, including hosting in 1997 its best-attended summit since the organization’s inception in 1971.

Yet today, the U.S. is handling Iran gently, trying to curb its hostile behavior by holding out the carrot of normal relations. In so doing, the U.S. has shown itself naively willing to overlook a great deal so it can pretend that cooperation with Iran is still a possibility. But it isn’t!

Still common in Iran are demonstrations such as this one reported by Reuters on November 4, 1999: “Tens of thousands of Iranians rallied outside the former U.S. embassy Thursday… burning American flags and vowing to renew the struggle against the ‘Great Satan.’

“Demonstrators also burned Uncle Sam in effigy while chanting ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel,’ familiar cries in the streets of Tehran over the past two decades. School children, bussed in from various parts of Tehran, issued a declaration condemning U.S. officials for ‘their complicity in international atrocities, especially in prolonging and buttressing the former regime’ of the ousted Shah.”

U.S. leadership wants so badly to not have to worry about Iran stirring up a Middle Eastern hornet’s nest, they willingly bury their heads in the sand over such provocations! What other nation on earth would pretend such things weren’t happening, let alone one that is supposed to be a superpower?

Such weakness only provokes Iran even more, and is playing a significant part in their rise as a regional power.

“The Western world—especially America and Israel—is bewitched by seeking formal peace treaties in the Middle East,” Mr. Flurry’s article continued. “This deadly flaw has blinded them to reality….

“Being spellbound by peace treaties has kept the Western world from seeing Iran’s massive plot to control the Middle East. That will never be stopped by a peace treaty! Only a superior power could ever stop this extreme Islamic movement!” (Trumpet, Feb. 1995).

Events are bearing this out. Last October, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said that despite two years under moderate President Mohammad Khatami, Iran continues to violate America’s three conditions for normal relations: Stop underwriting terrorism, stop undermining the Mideast peace process and stop acquiring weapons of mass destruction. “We have not seen any evidence of improvement in those three areas,” Cohen said. In December, one U.S. official reluctantly conceded that Iranian support for terrorism is actually intensifying. Last month the U.S. publicly admitted the possibility that Iran is now capable of building its own nuclear weapons. Iran’s nuclear program has been at least 15 years in the making, supported to varying degrees by Russia, China and Europe.

Watch for Iran’s power and influence to continue to spread. This situation deserves vigilant monitoring in the time just ahead.

The King of the North

What will happen to this Islamic coalition? Did the Plain Truth make any predictions about that? Yes—sure predictions based on the prophecy of Daniel 11:40-41.

Those verses say this king of the south will push at another power called “the king of the north.” That will precipitate a crushing attack by that northern power, which will overthrow many Middle Eastern countries, including “the glorious land”—Palestine, with Jerusalem. That prophecy shows the massive inferiority of the Islamic power to this king of the north, which we should be able to witness in development today.

So who is this king of the north?

As far back as 1955, when communism was spreading its tentacles into the Middle East just as Britain and America were pulling out, Mr. Armstrong wrote in the November/December Plain Truth: “The 11th chapter of Daniel shows…the city of Jerusalem will finally be captured by a revival of the power of fascism in Europe—not by a Communist invasion of Palestine!” Thus, again, while the rest of the world was looking at the dangers of a spreading communism, Mr. Armstrong knew the real area to watch was elsewhere. He continued, “It will be a fascist revival of a church and state union—a United States of Europe—that will attempt to establish the palace and capital there….”

It is Europe the Plain Truth warned about—specifically Europe’s intervention in the Middle East, where it will first expose itself as a brutal imperialist power! German-led Europe will be the king of the north!

As time went on from 1955, one probable reason for this yet-future conflict began to come into view: oil. The Trumpet still stands behind this statement from the February 1966 Plain Truth: “Before the mounting crisis in the Middle East is over, all major nations of the earth will be embroiled [speaking of the battle of Armageddon, Zech. 14:1-2]. Why will they be there? One major reason is oil. Western Europe’s economy is absolutely dependent upon these reserves. So is that of Japan. Any major disruption of this oil supply—such as an all-out Arab-Israel war—would bring intervention.”

By 1998 statistics, the Middle East was Europe’s biggest oil source, accounting for 36.6 percent of its oil imports. Arab countries could try to “push” Europe by choking off that vital oil supply. That would certainly move Europe to swift retaliation. Even in July of 1971, the Plain Truth put forth this possibility by reporting that instability in the oil-rich region has sparked “new calls for Europe to assume a greater role in the Middle East, including the peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli confrontation…. Europe, and particularly the Common Market, is certain to increase its involvement in the area.”

Europe maintains a major interest in Mideast “peacekeeping” today. Examples abound in daily headlines. EU envoy Miguel Moratinos was consulted by both Palestine and Syria in their peace talks with Israel (the EU officially supports Syria’s bid for the Golan Heights). European Council Secretary Javier Solana traveled to Israel in January to influence negotiations with Syria. Low-level talks may soon begin between the EUand Libya. France is due to take over the presidency of the European Union for the last six months of 2000, and French President Jacques Chirac is already preparing for a stepped-up Mideast presence. Reuters reported on January 4 this statement by Chirac: “Peace is possible in the Middle East…. Europe can bring it by significant aid in helping to create a new spirit through real solidarity and a shared prosperity.” He said Europe could help a future Palestinian state by solving water supply problems or helping build a port at Gaza. Already France plans to hold military exercises in the region as part of a “new Gulf security paradigm,” though this makes Iran squeamish, as it doesn’t want to compete for Mideast supremacy.

At the same time as all of these decidedly pro-Arab maneuvers, Israel too seems quite willing to go to Europe for support in constructing regional peace. Watch for that alliance to strengthen as U.S. presence wanes. The Bible prophesies that Israel will ultimately call on Europe, the king of the north, to make peace in the Middle East when all other options fail. That will be the biggest mistake they will ever make. You can read more about this in our booklet The King of the South.

Jerusalem: Catholic Capital

Based on other prophecies, particularly those involving “the abomination of desolation” (look at Matthew 24:15 in conjunction with Luke 21:20), there is another likely reason for the final clash between the kings of the south and north. The May 1963 Plain Truth reported, “Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church has entered the picture. During the first sessions of the Second Vatican Council the question of peace in the Middle East came under discussion. A tentative suggestion was the re-establishment, under papal jurisdiction, of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

“In the Middle Ages the crusaders established in Palestine a Catholic Kingdom of Jerusalem. Then it was to recover Palestine from the Mohammedan ‘infidel.’ Today it would be established—so goes the suggestion—to keep the peace in the Middle East.”

Mr. Flurry took up this theme in the November 1996 Trumpet: “Even though Germany cannot help the Jews, the Germans do get involved in Jerusalem. The Catholic Church is going to unite and then guide the European Union or the king of the north—with Germany as the real power behind it. The Catholic Church also has a great interest in Jerusalem.

“Christianity, Judaism and the Muslim religion all have an intense interest in Jerusalem. The city is the second-most holy site to the Arabs…. It is the most holy city for the Jews. Christians consider it their first or second holiest city. In the end, it is going to bring disaster to all three religions….

“Many leaders today are asking for Jerusalem to be made into an international city…. Are the Jews about to invite a peace-keeping force in?… Is [the ‘push’ of Daniel 11:40] going to be over Jerusalem? It is probably going to involve oil. But the clash appears to be over Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem is about to make headlines again as it comes up on the table for discussion in Middle East peacemaking. When it does, watch for Europe and the Catholic Church to take an intense interest in the situation!

Future events in the Middle East can be foretold. In fact, all those who do not understand in advance what is to happen there will be dismayed as it explodes in a conflagration which will envelop the whole world! Not one person on Earth will be able to ignore the situation for much longer.

You are witnessing in embryonic stages the dramatic fulfillment of these events prophesied for thousands of years in your Bible! For six decades the Plain Truth and Trumpet have showcased and broadcast the absolute currency of these prophecies. Are those prophecies the world has already seen fulfilled enough to convince you to take those yet to occur seriously? How much more do you need to see before you will believe—and act upon—God’s clear prophetic vision?