Here’s what’s going on. Currently a non-international armed conflict is being waged in Syria with hundreds of thousands of casualties. POTUS has threatened to get involved, the mainstream media has picked up the story, and for once the American people are aware of a conflict that doesn’t involve them…yet.
Now students of Scripture have a handful of current events that appear to coincide with some biblical prophecies. The fact that they deal with Middle Eastern countries that bear the same names as their biblical ancestors doesn’t hurt, especially since Israel might be involved. That’s always enough fodder for a pace-quickening sermon on how close the return of Christ might be!
And that’s not a bad thing.
There is a reward promised for those who love the day of his return. (2 Tim. 4:8) We’re told that the grace of God creates a people eagerly looking for their Savior to reveal his glory. (Titus 2:13) And we know that He could come at any time. (Matt. 24:44) We welcome any reminder of these truths.
We love hearing the Scriptures encourage us to lift our eyes out of this world and strain for a glimpse of the world to come. However, we despise those who would use fear to fund vast publishing and production industries. We deplore those who would twist the Scriptures to draw a crowd. I don’t have anyone in particular in mind, but on the question of Syria, I think the danger is real.
Isaiah 17:1 decrees the destruction of Damascus, the capital of Syria both now and around 725 BC (when Isaiah was writing). Two chapters later, Isaiah 19:1-4 speaks of a civil war ravaging Egypt before the establishment of a tyrant-king. Sound familiar? Some think so. Syria threatens to annihilate itself, and Egypt reels from one coup to another. It’s like Isaiah was watching CNN, except that he wrote about these things before they happened.
Wait. They happened?
Right. These things have already happened. Read the chapters. Isaiah 17 tells us how both Syria and Israel (most of it anyway) would be destroyed together. No, don’t turn the TV on; read your history book. Or read 2 Kings 16:9 and 17:6. The Assyrians conquered them both. This was future for Isaiah, but it is past for us.
What about Egypt? Isaiah 20 talks about that, how Assyria conquered them too. Of course, that was after a great conflict that saw a man named Shabako take the throne, who was ultimately defeated in his attempts to oppose Assyria. Again, future for Isaiah, history for us.
What about the return of Jesus? That hasn’t happened yet.
True. There is almost always an element of Bible prophecy that has not yet occurred. Often we find the prophets speaking to a situation that is current for them, and they speak of God’s destructive judgment followed by redemption for those who trust in Him. The thing we need to note is that often the judgment has already fallen, while the restoration has not yet come. And the reason for this can be found in the work of Christ.
We know that he has already come. He came, lived, died, rose again, and ascended to his throne at the Father’s right hand. He is the exalted King, and we are awaiting his return for his people. We find ourselves in the in between, the already / not yet of Bible prophecy. So much has already happened. So much has yet to happen and won’t happen until he returns.
And Isaiah speaks of this. In his prophecy against Syria, he saw the day when they would repent of their sins and false worship to turn to (for our purposes) Jesus Christ. (17:7-8) He saw the same thing concerning Egypt (19:20). And that’s exactly what we don’t see on the news.
What does Isaiah say about the current situation? That we should long for the coming of the only One who can bring peace to the Middle East. That we should pray that those involved in today’s wars would meet the One who came once to provide salvation for all who repent and believe in him, and who will come again to bring the Kingdom that so many are trying desperately to build for themselves.