Once and Future Battlefield
Remember these bold predictions about the world’s most unpredictable hotspot.
How could anyone predict what will happen in an area as unpredictable as the Middle East? For decades—even millennia—this region has been chaotic with change. Empires have crumbled, boundaries drawn and redrawn, governments toppled, and whole populations dispossessed. Isn’t it crazy to presume to foresee what lies down the road for this region?
Yet, for over 70 years, first the Plain Truth and then the Trumpet have done just that—with astonishing accuracy. For decades, writers of these publications reported on, analyzed and warned about what would—and will—happen in the volatile Middle East.
How? By using the Bible as their guide.
Regarding 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 two decades have brought even more detail to our understanding of how prophecy will play out in the Middle East. (To learn about the Trumpet’s legacy of prophecy in the Middle East, read our February 2010 issue.)
Let’s give you some of these remarkable statements, and couple them with their subsequent fulfillment in current events.
Jews Take Jerusalem
A prophecy in Zechariah 12:2 reads, “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.” The JPS Tanakh Bible renders the latter part of that verse, “And upon Judah also shall it fall to be in the siege against Jerusalem.”
In May 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 will be conquered by non-Jewish forces just before Christ returns; that means the Jews will have to control the whole city prior to that time. Based on these and other scriptures, Mr. Armstrong and the Plain Truth staff taught in the early 1960s that the Jews were prophesied to take over the entire Old City of Jerusalem.
On May 1, 1967, Mr. Armstrong, returning from a trip to Amman and Jerusalem, spoke to an assembly at the Ambassador College campus in England. In that recorded address, he said: “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” (emphasis added throughout).
Just five weeks later, the Middle East erupted into war, just as Mr. Armstrong prophesied. Israel went on the attack and for six days pushed back its frontiers in virtually every direction—also taking over Jerusalem. It was a stunning defeat for the neighboring Arab countries, ending in a ceasefire.
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 ceasefire, no one worries about another war. Israelis are exuberant, confident, proud.” 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, Mr. Armstrong and the Plain Truth foretold the opposite.
The Peace Process
Even in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, the Plain Truth made some bold and specific predictions: “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, Plain Truth writers felt, would likely remain in Israel’s official control.
The “bargaining” for peace that was specifically predicted by this article began 11 years later, with the 1978 Camp David Accords. Just as Mr. Armstrong predicted, Israel gave the Sinai back to Egypt in exchange for promises of peace. Much later, in 2005, as part of the “Roadmap to Peace” initiative, the Israeli Army withdrew from Gaza, and all Jewish Israelis living in the Gaza Strip were evacuated. These events prove Mr. Armstrong’s bold forecasts startlingly accurate!
The wars that flared up several times after Israel declared statehood—the wars in which Israel defended itself to win land parcels critical to its security—have given way to this painful, protracted “peace” process, punctuated by terrorist violence, in which Israel is making territorial concessions bit by bit. It is very possible that this “bargaining” is not yet over.
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 …. It is like terminal cancer!”
Mr. Flurry stated in the same article: “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 prophesied that the peace process will break down and then half of Jerusalem will be taken by violence in fulfillment of Zechariah 14:2. In the November 1996 Trumpet he wrote, “[W]hen 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. [The Jews] will never find a cure or healing until they look to God!” Our readers will do well to remember these statements. Keep your eyes on that peace process as a prelude to further troubles for Israel!
Scripture also tells us that when these treaties break down, the “men” that Israel will ultimately look to for help will be from German-led Europe.
The Rise of Islam
The April 1958 Plain Truth warned about the unification of Arab countries as an important factor to watch in the Middle East. While the Arabs are not generally known for their unity, this article pointed to the fact that their surging pan-Arab nationalism, driven by the Islamic religion, was 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. …
“[Egyptian President Gamal Abdel 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.”
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 in the region is declining in every way. Increasingly, it is Europe, and the head of the “European religion,” that are being sought as the major outside arbiter of Mideast troubles, just as the Plain Truth said it would be.
Both Israel and Arab states are calling for more European involvement. Not since German Gen. Erwin Rommel’s Middle Eastern desert campaign during World War ii has Europe, particularly Germany, had the potential to be such a powerful player in the region.
Despite Europe’s gestures toward Israel, its true partners are the Arabs. Europe has reached out to Arab nations through the European Neighborhood Policy and the Union for the Mediterranean. For well over two decades, Europe has been negotiating a free-trade agreement between Gulf states and the EU. The EU is already the number one trading partner of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a union of six Gulf countries. Germany, in particular, has focused on procuring military contracts in the Middle East. In 2011, for example, it agreed to sell 200 Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia. In 2012, its arms exports to countries in the Gulf region rose by almost 60 percent to $1.88 billion from the previous year. In international affairs, European states and their peoples regularly take the Arabs’ side against Israel.
But Europe’s relations with the Middle East will go far deeper than trade. As a 1963 Plain Truth article reported, the ultimate goal of both the Arab nations and the Catholic-influenced European power is the destruction of Israel. This common interest will cause some Arab nations to ally with the EU.
The February 1966 Plain Truth discussed this: “Even though deep-seated rivalries among themselves still exist, the Arabs are finally attempting to coordinate 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.”
Today, Mideast Arab countries continue their efforts to unify, though they often seem like siblings who 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.” Bible prophecy shows that they will eventually organize themselves into two main groups: one aligned with Iran, and one that quickly allies itself with Europe.
Already the rough outlines of the two groups are visible. Iraq is moving ever closer to its Persian neighbor. With the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is in a position to thaw its hostility toward Iran. At the same time, civil war-devastated Syria is poised to move out of Iran’s orbit and is calling for Europe to get more involved in the Middle East.
The Bible identifies an end-time Middle Eastern power as “the king of the south” (Daniel 11:40)—likely an international coalition of nations dominated by one in particular. Watch for Iran—which is not Arab but Persian, yet still fueled by the furnace of radical Islam—to grow in power. Based on current trends, the Trumpet strongly believes 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 to extricate itself from. 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, and in stockpiling and building new weapons. As Iran grows ever closer to building a nuclear bomb, the U.S. shoves its head even deeper into the sand. Routinely trying to deceive international observers and in defiance of international pressure, Iran has over a period of years steadily improved its capability to enrich uranium, all the while insisting that it would only serve peaceful civilian purposes. But in December 2009, secret Iranian documents revealed that, at least since early 2007, Tehran had been working on a “neutron initiator”—the trigger needed to detonate a nuclear bomb.
The King of the North
Will this Iranian-led coalition succeed? 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”—Israel, with Jerusalem. That prophecy shows the massive inferiority of the Islamic power compared to the king of the north.
So who is this king of the north?
As far back as 1955, when communism was spreading its tentacles into the Middle East, Mr. Armstrong wrote about it: “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!” (Plain Truth, November-December 1955). 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 that the Plain Truth warned about, specifically saying Europe’s intervention in the Middle East would be the arena in which it first reveals itself as a brutal imperialist power! German-led Europe will be the king of the north.
As time marched 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; Zechariah 14:1-2; Revelation 16:16]. 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.”
As of late 2014, the EU imports around 40 percent of its oil from opec countries, which are mostly Middle Eastern nations. These countries could try to “push” Europe by choking off that vital oil supply. That would certainly prod Europe to retaliate swiftly. Even in July 1971, the Plain Truth put forth this possibility by reporting that instability in the oil-rich region had 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.”
Today, Europe’s involvement in the region includes the peace process and even extends to troop deployments. In late 2006, the German Navy took command of the maritime component of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, tasked by the Security Council to secure the Lebanese coastline. Other European states are part of a multinational task force acting as a buffer between Israel and southern Lebanon. Germany has soldiers deployed in nato’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Germany has also played an important back-channel role, negotiating on Israel’s behalf for soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah and Hamas. In January 2004, for example, it brokered the swap of more than 400 Arab prisoners for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three soldiers. Germany also helped with the mediation that secured the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in October 2011 in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists. Germany and Israel have held joint cabinet meetings and have agreed to hold many more. Israel regards Germany as one of its closest and most important allies. Europe—especially Germany—is showing itself willing to be a Mideast “peacekeeper,” and is in many ways taking over from the U.S. as the Western mediator.
Regarding the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli Prof. Naomi Chazan stated, “The U.S. without a doubt has played in the past and continues to play a lead role in determining the terms and the pace of progress toward resolution of the conflict. It is not, however, the only player. Increasingly Europe, for many years content to take a back seat to Washington, is becoming a more vocal political (as well as economic and security) actor” (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2009).
This is exactly what Mr. Armstrong prophesied.
One of the EU’s first acts after it enacted the Lisbon Treaty on December 1, 2009, was to produce a statement calling for the division of Jerusalem. Europe’s leaders said Jerusalem should be split between Israel and a new Palestinian state that has East Jerusalem as its capital. The same month, the terrorist group Hamas claimed that it had been meeting secretly with high-ranking EU officials, breaking the EU’s promise in 2006 that it would not engage in talks with Hamas.
Despite all the signs indicating Europe’s pro-Arab bent, Israel seems quite willing to rely on Europe for support in constructing regional peace. Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. is ditching Israel, which pushes the Jews to rely more on Europe for help. The Bible prophesies that Israel will ultimately call on Europe to make peace in the Middle East when all other options fail. That will be the biggest mistake it will ever make. You can read more about this in our free booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy.
Jerusalem: Catholic Capital
There is an important reason, beyond oil, for Europe’s keen interest in Middle Eastern affairs, and especially the affairs of the Jewish state. As you might have come to expect, Herbert Armstrong and the Plain Truth discussed this reason too.
Using prophecies, particularly those involving “the abomination of desolation” (look at Matthew 24:15 in conjunction with Luke 21:20), Mr. Armstrong explained that 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 reestablishment, 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. Armstrong believed that Europe, under the influence of the Catholic Church, would take a greater and greater interest in Jerusalem. Mr. Flurry has since built on this theme. In the November 1996 Trumpet, he wrote: “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 peacekeeping 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 constantly making the headlines in the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In June 2014, just after Pope Francis visited the Holy Land, he hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for a meeting in his home at the Vatican. The topic of discussion? How to bring about “peace in Jerusalem”! This was the first time the Vatican has ever hosted a prayer gathering of two leaders engaged in conflict. Inserting himself into the Middle East peace process is a significant political move for the religious leader. As the Washington Post wrote, “The pontiff had said his visit [to Israel] would be ‘strictly religious,’ but it was not” (May 26).
In truth, the impartial-looking Vatican is no stranger to playing politics. Though many people view it as purely a religious entity, it is in fact a state, with independent sovereignty, diplomatic immunity, ambassadors, a central bank, a capital and a very centralized government. It also has strong political interests in Jerusalem.
We can expect the Roman Catholic Church to continue to press its way into Middle Eastern affairs. History shows, however, that in this case, the Jews have ample reason to view the pope’s overtures with suspicion. For one, by every measure the peace process that the pope is advocating has been a disaster for the Jewish state. Each time Israel has entered into negotiations and made agreements with the Palestinians, it has resulted in a loss of land and a subsequent increase in violence and terrorism.
As both Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Flurry have forecast, we should watch for Europe and the Catholic Church to take an ever more intense interest in the Jerusalem 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 that 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 seven 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 seriously those that are yet to occur? How much more do you need to see before you will believe—and act upon—God’s clear prophetic vision?