Peace in the Middle East
© April 2002 by Asher Intrater
Will there ever be peace in the Middle East? Actually, yes. Peace in the Middle East, extending all over the world, is a central aspect of the kingdom of God. It was and is the dream of all the Hebrew prophets.
Here we have the biblical vision of peace on earth. When does it take place? "In the latter days." This final stage of the kingdom will take place at the end of the age.
And where will it take place? "The mountain of the Lord's house," "Zion," "Jerusalem." Jerusalem is seen as the international capital of this world peace.
Who will be part of it? "All nations," "Many peoples." The international messianic peace will include every nation of the world.
This vision of the kingdom of God - world peace with its spiritual center at Jerusalem - is repeated at great length by many of the prophets (cf. Isaiah 35, 60-66; Jeremiah 33; Ezekiel 40-48; Joel 3:18 ff; Micah 4, Zechariah 14:16 ff). It is also given through the example of the Israelite kingdoms of David and Solomon.
The prophecy in Micah 4 repeats word for word Isaiah's vision, but adds another phrase, "Everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree (vs.4)." This phrase is a biblical symbol for economic prosperity. The messianic age includes not only world peace, but also economic prosperity.
"Beating swords into plowshares" means that weapons of war will be converted to agricultural tools, that is, for peaceful use. This could be interpreted in one of two possibilities: The first is by disarmament at a peace agreement; the second is the conversion of weapons at the conclusion of a war.
Unfortunately, the biblical view is the latter. In the prophet Joel, the Messianic peace follows directly after the war of the "valley of Jehosaphat (Joel 3:2)." In Zechariah, it follows the battle in which "all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2)." In Ezekiel, it follows the war of Gog and Magog (chapters 38-39).
Ezekiel 39:9 Those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields...and the spears; and they will make fires with them for seven years.
This is Ezekiel's description of the swords being beaten into plowshares. It obviously takes place immediately after the apocalyptic war.
Actually there will be a time of peaceful disarmament and prosperity in the Middle East before the great war. In fact, it is the very prosperity of Israel and the lowering of its defense forces that attracts the nations of the world to attack.
The phrase "un-walled villages" in Hebrew is perazot from which we derive the modern Hebrew word for "disarmament." The nations of the world will attack Israel after a peace accord in which Israel has agreed to be disarmed of weapons and is living at an enviously high level of economic prosperity. In other words, the current crisis will lead to 1) a peace accord with disarmament and economic prosperity for Israel, which will lead to 2) a united international military attack upon Israel, which will lead to 3) the coming of the Messiah and the era of true world peace.
The Person and the Place
Why is there such conflict in the world, and particularly in the Middle East? The Bible pictures the general condition of mankind as being in rebellion against God's authority. (Actually, the sin of man is influenced by the rebellion of Satan and his angels.) The sin of man and the rebellion of Satan lie at the root of human problems.
It is God's will to bring peace and prosperity. However, this root of sin and rebellion must be driven out before there can be lasting peace and prosperity. There was peace and prosperity in the Garden of Eden before the sin of man. There will be peace and prosperity in the restoration of the earth when sin has been destroyed.
The Messiah in verse 2 is also referred to as "My King" in verse 6. The Messiah is God's king upon the earth. (This Messiah king is also referred to as God's "son" in verse 7 and verse 12. The idea that the Messiah would be God's son is not a New Testament invention, but rather a viewpoint rooted in the Hebrew prophets. The Jewish world sees the Messiah as a king, but misses His image as God's son. The Christian world sees Christ as God's son, but misses His image as the king of Israel.)
So God has established His authority on earth through a certain person - Jesus (Yeshua) the Messiah. But, He has also chosen a certain place - Jerusalem. He has set His king upon His hill. The hill as well as the king is an expression of God's authority on the earth. We, the human race, have to accept God's chosen person and His chosen place.
These two expressions of God's authority - His person and His place - constitute a test for mankind. It is a test of heart to see whether we will submit to the will of God. It is through God's chosen person and His chosen place that God detects the root of sin and rebellion in man.
A substantial part of the Christian world accepts the person, but not the place. A substantial part of the Jewish world accepts the place, but not the person. Much of the world rejects both. However, we must accept both God's person (Jesus/Yeshua) and His place (Jerusalem/Yerushaliym).
The current war in the Middle East is called the "El Aksa" intifada, or the "Dome of the Rock" uprising. That very spot, that very hill, is called the "mountain of the Lord" in Isaiah 2, and "My holy hill" in Psalm 2. That phrase in the Hebrew is "Har HaBayit" which is also translated as "the Temple Mount." That place is the focal point of conflict because God chose it as a reference point of His authority on the earth (Zechariah 12:2-3). The Bible calls that place "Zion"; the Islamic world calls it "El Aksa." Every one has to choose.
How Will It All End?
The continuing struggle as to whether the human race will submit to the benevolent authority of God will find its ultimate and inevitable outcome in the great apocalyptic war, which immediately precedes the coming of the Messiah. This war is started by the ungodly nations of the world and will be stopped by Yeshua (Jesus) Himself.
This passage is one of the clearest Biblical pictures of the apocalyptic war and the coming of the Messiah. The battle takes place over God's chosen place (Jerusalem) and is conquered by God's chosen person (Jesus - "His feet will stand on the Mt. of Olives.").
Yeshua considers the attack upon Jerusalem as an attack upon Himself. The nations of the world who attack Jerusalem may not realize that they are attacking the Messiah, but God sees it that way. This final conflict is the final test of submission to God's authority. It is at that point that Yeshua returns to sit on David's throne in Jerusalem.
Approximately 1/3 of the angels also rebelled against God's authority (Revelation 12:7). Therefore, the apocalyptic war has a heavenly component to it as well as an earthly one. How does it look from heaven's side?
Revelation 19 and Zechariah 14 describe the same event, but from different viewpoints. At the end of the war, Satan and the demonic forces are bound and jailed, resulting in a 1,000-year peace on earth governed by Yeshua Himself. The battle of Armageddon of Revelation 19 is followed by the Millennial reign of peace in Revelation 20.
At the second coming, not only will the nations who attack Jerusalem be destroyed, but also every person who refused to submit to the authority of Yeshua.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
The nations will be judged as to whether they attack Jerusalem. Individual persons will be judged as to whether they disobeyed the message of Yeshua. The governments of this world must respect God's authority in His chosen capital. Every person must accept God's authority in His chosen Messiah.
Permanent peace will occur only when the root of sin and rebellion is driven out. (In a more temporary dimension, a parallel might be drawn, that any meaningful peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians can only take place when the infrastructure of terrorism has been destroyed.)
What's the Solution?
Behind the political conflict in the Middle East is a religious conflict. Behind the religious conflict is a spiritual one. The true solution to the problem is to deal with the spiritual root, not the political one, and not even the religious one.
The only one who can bring peace to the Middle East is Yeshua (Jesus), the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). It has to be the real Jesus of the Bible. It is not Mohammed. It is not the Lubavitcher rebbe or the Brezlev rebbe. It is not Kofi Anan, Pope John Paul, Billy Graham, or George Bush. It is not Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, or Ariel Sharon. It is not just a heavenly Christ, nor Christianity as a religion. It is Yeshua Himself, who is both the Son of God and the King of the Jews.
If only the world could know...He is the one who makes for peace.
When the disciples asked Yeshua if He would restore the kingdom to Israel, they had in mind the vision of Isaiah chapter 2. They wanted to know if Yeshua would at that time bring the Messianic era. Yeshua told them that it was not yet the time.
He did not say that the kingdom would not be restored to Israel. He said that first His disciples would have to receive the Holy Spirit and preach the gospel. After the gospel would be preached around the world, He would return to bring world peace (Matthew 24:14).
The root of all conflict and war is spiritual. The solution is to repent of our sins, believe in the gospel, and be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). This was Yeshua's instruction to His disciples. "Yes, I will bring peace upon the earth, but first we must get rid of the root of sin and rebellion." It starts in Jerusalem and ends in Jerusalem. There Yeshua was crucified as a sacrificial lamb, and there He will return as a conquering king.
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