Peace is eventually going to come to this troubled region of the earth but not in the way many expect. What does the Bible say about peace in the Middle East?
Modern tension in the Middle East is traced to the founding of the State of Israel in May 1948. As the British Mandate for Palestine came to a close, the new state declared its independence on May 14 and came into existence on May 15. The world’s only Jewish-majority nation was immediately attacked by neighboring Arab armies. Israel survived that initial war and has since fought several more with its Arab neighbors, adding and annexing land in the process.
In some ways, the modern State of Israel is a great success. Governmentally, it is a representative democracy, and its citizens enjoy the highest standard of living in the Middle East (United Nations Human Development Index). Furthermore, the World Health Organization reports that Israelis have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. Yet there is a strange irony to the long lives Israel’s citizens live.
In spite of the many blessings the modern State of Israel enjoys, its citizens live under the constant threat of war. Even though Israel currently has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, long-standing animosities by Arabs in other neighboring nations seem to continually undermine efforts for regional peace. To understand the biblical explanation of this long-held hatred, see the article “Middle East Conflict.”
The absence of peace in the Middle East is not for lack of trying. Several nations, including the United States, have attempted to help broker peace. At the 2000 Camp David Summit, U.S. President Bill Clinton tried to help negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine. During the negotiations, Ehud Barak of Israel offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Authority chairman, rejected it.
Since the failure to secure peace at Camp David, there have been rocket launchings, kidnappings of soldiers and retaliatory strikes between Israel and its primary foes in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. At the time of this writing, Israel and its neighbors are maintaining a fragile cease-fire. When tensions and military actions flare up, the trend has been for the opposing sides to simply declare a cease-fire rather than negotiate a peace treaty.
In the back of many people’s minds is the fact that the Israeli Air Force destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria on Sept. 6, 2007, because of fears it was the first step by Syria toward a nuclear bomb. Israel currently states that it reserves the right to do the same in Iran in order to protect Israeli citizens if the United Nations fails to defuse Iran’s ambitions for a nuclear bomb.
What the Bible predicts
Striving to make peace is always the godly expectation. As Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Even so, human efforts to make peace in the Middle East are doomed to fail. Consider a few prophecies that show this to be the case.
Speaking of the end time, God, through the prophet Zechariah, said, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:2-3, emphasis added throughout). This far-reaching prophecy has implications for now and the future.
First, it indicates that tensions in the Middle East will continue until Christ returns. Second, it speaks of Jerusalem becoming a “very heavy stone” to virtually everyone—a problem many will try to get rid of to their detriment and ultimate defeat. This is going to occur as all nations congregate to fight against Christ when He returns to establish the Kingdom of God on earth (Luke 21:20; Revelation 19:19).
Continuing the prophecy regarding Jerusalem through Zechariah, God said, “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle” (Zechariah 14:1-3).
The battle will be a dreadful mismatch—humans against God. The “beast [the human leader who will have been given authority over every nation (Revelation 13:7)], the kings of the earth, and their armies” will gather to fight against Christ (Revelation 19:19, also see Revelation 17:12-14). Christ and His heavenly army (Revelation 19:14) will quickly prevail. The beast, along with the false prophet, will be “cast alive into the lake of fire” and the armies that fight against Christ will be destroyed (verses 20-21).
Knowledge that leads to peace
With the destruction of all opposition, Jesus Christ will then begin establishing the Kingdom of God throughout the earth. One of His first acts will be to bind Satan the devil—the evil, spirit being responsible for deceiving the “whole world”—for 1,000 years (Revelation 12:9; 20:1-2).
After Satan is restrained, God will assign those raised in the first resurrection the job of teaching people God’s “knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15). In time, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
With Satan bound and no longer able to deceive people, God’s way will make sense and be readily accepted by earth’s inhabitants. Picturing this time, God said: “Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities. … Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD” (Zechariah 8:20, 22). As people begin sincerely seeking and obeying God, peace will come.
Peace, glorious peace
The peace that will come as inhabitants of the earth begin seeking God will be so powerful as to melt ethnic animosities. When people humbly acknowledge that they have sinned and need to be forgiven by God’s grace, it will be easier for them to forgive those who have sinned against them.
Notice the wonderful peace that will come about because so many people will be seeking God. Continuing through Zechariah, God says, “In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (verse 23).
Instead of allowing previous ethnic tensions to keep them apart, people will be joining with Jews in worship of God. A blessing will then come from God: “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance” (Isaiah 19:25).
The peace God had promised the ancient Israelites if they would obey His laws will now come to all who obey. “I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid” (Leviticus 26:6). Anticipating this wonderful future, David noted that “the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11).
With Christ—“the Prince of Peace”—ruling the earth, “there will be no end” to the peace that will envelop our planet (Isaiah 9:6-7). As Isaiah hopefully noted, “LORD, You will establish peace for us” (Isaiah 26:12). And as each individual obeys God, he or she will enjoy peace. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (verse 3).
What we can do
Even though mankind in general does not currently know the “way of peace” (Isaiah 59:8) and even though wars will continue and intensify before Christ’s return (Matthew 24:6-7), faithful followers of God can have peace of mind now. This peace can come to us the same way it will come to people after Christ returns—through obedience to God’s law.
Explaining this concept to His disciples before His crucifixion, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a gift of God that we can receive after repentance of our sins and baptism (Galatians 5:22; Acts 2:38).
In addition to entering into a covenant relationship with God through baptism, Christ instructs us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come (Matthew 6:9-10). As we have already seen, the establishment of the Kingdom of God is what will finally bring peace to the Middle East and to all the world.
When King David asked people to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6), it was much like Jesus Christ’s instruction to pray “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10), for lasting peace will not come to this ancient city until the King of Kings and Lord of Lords returns. To help you prepare for and be part of this coming time of peace, see the articles in the section: “Christian Conversion.”