Over the past few years, world news has been playing ‘whack-a-mole.’ Burning headlines jump back and forth between subjects such as U.S. riots, U.S. elections, and U.S. border crises. And, as has recently been exposed, major media have spotlighted a deliberate media focus on fear-inspiring coronavirus-related headlines over the past year, in order to boost circulation. But for those who keep an eye on Middle East developments, it is Iran’s nuclear subterfuge and turtle-like progression toward developing functional atomic bombs which has exercised a sobering influence on the area’s top players – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The recently signed Abraham Accords were crafted to have a multi-faceted emphasis, yet most analysts see the heart of the matter here to be a defensive response to Iranian ambitions in the Middle Eastern arena. Iran’s unconcealed desire to become the dominant Islamic Caliphate is understood to be a real threat by the world’s Sunni Muslim majority.
Iran’s Islamist dictators are driven by faded dreams of Shi’ite glory going back to the 600’s A.D., when their leaders once looked ‘most likely to succeed’ in steering the jihadi ship of state. Crushed repeatedly in combat (especially at the Battle of Karbala 680 A.D.) by Sunni power brokers, the Shi’ites saw their own defeat as a paradigm of holy martyrdom, and they looked forward to an End of Days scenario which would usher in Shi’ite triumph. At that point their Mahdi (‘rightly guided one’) would return, smiting all enemies (including Sunnis and Jews) and bringing on a Day of Judgment. Thus the establishment of a Shi’ite Caliphate (a world Islamist dictatorship) is their goal. To that end, Iran supports Shi’ite terrorist movements in Lebanon (Hezbollah), Gaza (Hamas; Palestinian Islamic Jihad), Syria (Iran Revolutionary Guards), Iraq (Kata’ib Hezbollah or Mahdi Army), Yemen (Houthis or Ansar Allah), etc. Their initial goal is to fully crush and control Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Lebanon and Israel. This would give them control over most of the world’s petroleum and shipping lanes in the Middle East. Western military and intelligence influence would be blocked throughout the Near East as well.
A deadly serious cat-and-mouse game has been going on in the Middle East for some time now between Iran and its proxies on the one hand, and Israel and the U.S.A. on the other:
Recently headlines have noted:
- the American assassination of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani (January 3, 2020) of the Iran Revolutionary Guards
- a purported Israeli assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist and weapons program director Mohsen Fakhrizadeh
- a purported Israeli Naval Seals attack on an Iranian spy ship in the Red Sea.
Over the past months, Iranian-linked naval forces have hijacked foreign oil tankers and shot missiles or attached limpet mines to Israeli-connected cargo ships. For the most part these skirmishes have taken place in the shadows, but they underline the strategic importance of Iran as a spoiler and threat to Middle Eastern stability.
“It is Zion; no one cares for her” (Jeremiah 30:17)
For the most part, the Western world and China are not overly concerned about Iranian calls for Israel’s annihilation:
- On May 22, 2020 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei marked Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Iran, declaring “The Zionist regime is a deadly, cancerous growth and a detriment to this region . . . It will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.”
- On January 3, 2021 Iranian lawmakers proposed legislation that would obligate the government to initiate steps for the “destruction” of Israel by 2040.
- “Creating facts unilaterally won’t help us in this already difficult situation,” (Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, referring to Israeli intentions to build housing in the Jerusalem area)
- “What we are hearing currently out of Tehran is not a positive contribution, particularly the development in Natanz,” (Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, referring to recent purported Israeli counter-intelligence operations against Iran’s Natanz nuclear weapons factory)
- “We reject any attempts to undermine or weaken diplomatic efforts on the nuclear agreement” (European Union spokesman Peter Stano, condemning purported Israeli operations against the Natanz nuclear weapons factory)
- “China strongly condemns the sabotage on the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran. We firmly oppose attacks on nuclear facilities, which is a grave issue and can bring unpredictable and inestimable consequences” (Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on April 14, 2021)
- Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on April 14, 2021 that those who “planned, ordered, participated in and carried out” the action committed a “reckless criminal nuclear terrorism” and a “grave war crime that must not go unpunished.”
There is a certain amount of buzz in some Christian circles regarding Iran-related apocalyptic events. But what bedrock biblical information is available to us about Iran’s End Times role and her spiritual dynamics?
A threefold cord
The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 informs us that “the sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram” (Genesis 10:22). Abraham was a descendant of both Shem and Arpachshad (Genesis 11:10-26). Elam was also a descendant of Shem, and he was the forefather of one of the three great Iran-based nations, the Elamites. Abraham had to rescue his nephew Lot from the forces of Chedorlaomer king of Elam in his own day (Genesis 11:11-17).
The three nations connected biblically with modern Iran are the Elamites, the Medes/Medians, and the Persians. Isaiah 21:2 and Jeremiah 25:25 refer to the ancient political and military union between the kings of Elam and Media, while in the Book of Esther there is a reference to the ‘Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia’ (Esther 10:2). These three nations uneasily shared the territory of what is modern Iran.
When Assyria exiled the Ten Tribes of Israel, they were banished to territories that Assyria had temporarily conquered from the Medes: “Then the king of Assyria led Israel into exile to Assyria, and put them in Halah and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 18:11). From that time onward, Jewish people lived in exile in the country known today as Iran. During the Feast of Shavuot/Pentecost, Jewish men would travel the great distance from Iran to Jerusalem, in order to participate in the sholesh regolim – the thrice yearly pilgrim holidays (Exodus 23:14-17). This means that Persian (also known as Parthian) Jews were also participants in the outpouring of the Ruach Hakodesh (the Holy Spirit) on the Day of Pentecost: “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites . . . Jews” (Acts 2:8-10).
YHVH the God of Israel raised up the Medes and the Persians to destroy the superpower of Babylon: “Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them, who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold. And their bows will mow down the young men. They will not even have compassion on the fruit of the womb, nor will their eye pity children. And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isaiah 13:17-19). Darius (of Daniel’s ‘lion’s den’ fame) was described as being “the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 9:1).
Ezra sees these three nations as kingdoms bound together: “And they finished building following the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (Ezra 6:14). “The laws of Persia and Media . . . cannot be repealed” (Esther 1:19).
The prophetic destiny of Elam
There are two clear statements about the destiny of Elam found in Jeremiah. The first one prophesies a near-future collapse of their empire accompanied by great destruction and devastating exile.
- The word of YHVH that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning Elam, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying: “This is what YHVH of armies says: Behold, I am going to break the bow of Elam, the finest of their might. I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four ends of heaven, and will scatter them to all these winds. And there will be no nation to which the outcasts of Elam will not go. So I will shatter Elam before their enemies and before those who seek their lives. And I will bring disaster upon them, even My fierce anger, declares YHVH. And I will send the sword after them until I have consumed them. Then I will set My throne in Elam, and eliminate from there the king and officials, declares YHVH (Jeremiah 49:34-38)
The second prophecy is one of comfort, promising a restoration of Elamite fortunes at the End of Days.
- But it will come about in the last days that I will restore the fortunes (Jeremiah 49:39)
The prophetic destiny of Persia – part one
There are three passages which lay out prophecies about Persia which have already happened.
The first passage prophesies that Babylon will be conquered by the Persians and the Medes and divided between them (539 B.C.):
- “Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out. Now this is the inscription that was written: ‘Menē, Menē, Tekēl, Upharsin.’ This is the interpretation of the message: ‘Menē’ – God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. ‘Tekēl’ – you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. ‘Perēs’ – your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” . . . That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two” (Daniel 5:24-31)
The second passage prophesies the rise of four Persian kings and their eventual conflict with the Greek Empire (529-480 B.C.):
- “Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them. As soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will stir up the entire empire against the realm of Greece” (Daniel 11:2)
The third passage prophesies in two parts – the first concerning the near-future rise of Persia/Media and Greece, and the second referring to a coming metamorphosis of Greece into a fourfold kingdom (the Diadochi):
- And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, “Gabriel, explain the vision to this man.” So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; and he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end” . . . And he said, “Behold, I am going to inform you of what will occur at the final period of the indignation, because it pertains to the appointed time of the end. The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. The broken horn and the four horns that came up in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power . . . And the vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true. But as for you, keep the vision secret, because it pertains to many days in the future” (Daniel 8:16-22, 26)
The prophetic destiny of Persia – part two
Ezekiel is the prophet who gives us clear details about the role that Iran/Persia will play in the Last Days. He calls that country out by name, and explains that it will be part of an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel military invasion force which will overrun the mountains of Israel – all this just before the return of Messiah Yeshua:
- Now the word of YHVH came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘This is what YHVH God says: “Behold, I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. So I will turn you around and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them magnificently dressed, a great contingent with shield and buckler, all of them wielding swords; Persia, Cush, and Put with them, all of them with buckler and helmet; Gomer with all its troops; Bet-Togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops – many peoples with you. Be ready, and be prepared, you and all your contingents that are assembled around you, and be a guard for them. After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual place of ruins; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. And you will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you.” (Ezekiel 38:1-9)
- Therefore prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, ‘This is what YHVH God says: On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it? You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding horses, a large assembly and a mighty army; and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I show Myself holy through you before their eyes, Gog. This is what YHVH God says: Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them? (Ezekiel 38:14-7)
This detailed prophecy reveals that Iran’s apocalyptic role involves invading Israel, attacking the Jewish people who have been gathered from all the nations and restored from the sword of the Holocaust. These Jewish people would settle on the mountains of Israel – what is today called Shomron or Samaria or the northern section of the West Bank. Iran will be part of an international fighting force with contingents from many specific countries in the Middle East, Africa and the Turkic belt of some of those countries whose name ends with the suffix “stan”.
Persian princes and spiritual warfare
Daniel the prophet receives clear revelation from an angelic being (chapter 10), possibly Gabriel. That angel explained to him that from the first day that Daniel had set his heart on understanding these matters and on humbling himself before his God, Daniel’s words were heard (see James 5:16; Luke 18:1). The angel then says that “I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was standing in my way for twenty-one days. Then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the latter days, because the vision pertains to the days still future” (Daniel 10:12-14). A determined demonic opposition may have slowed the arrival of the divine answer, but it could not stop it. It is a comfort to remember that the angels of God have the power to counteract and thwart the agents of the Devil. Worth noting here is that this prophecy specifically opens up the divine destiny of the Jewish people in the Last Days.
This amazing angelic revelation shows us that physical countries and empires are influenced by demonic hierarchies. There is an administrative demonic order in Satan’s kingdom. Paul refers to such things as well: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The Bible indicates here that every country has demonic princes which are trying to influence their populations for evil, to foster and encourage sin, and to pull on men and women to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).
The angel then said to Daniel, “Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am leaving, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. However, I will tell you what is recorded in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince” (Daniel 10:20-21). Here it is revealed that the rise and fall of world empires is connected to God’s strategies. But there is simultaneously an opposing undercurrent of Satan’s hierarchical warfare as well. See Revelation 12 for a summation of this process and its prophetic insight regarding the specifically redemptive Jewish factor here as well. As we consider the modern Middle East as well as the Western and Eastern superpowers, let’s keep aware of these demonic factors and influences as we shine God’s light into a darkened world (see Philippians 2:12-16).
How to pray for Iran
At present there is a strong body of believers in Iran who have courageously thrived under intense persecution and tribulation. Many of these wonderful people have a deep love for the Jewish people and for the country of Israel. I have seen secret videos from Iran where believers worshipped to Hebrew melodies, danced Israeli folk dances in praise, and used the flag of Israel with its star of David as part of their meetings.
- Pray for Iranian believers – for protection, boldness and spiritual fruit and harvest
- Pray for Iran’s leadership – for Damascus Road revelatory experiences, angelic visitations and dreams from heaven
- Pray for many Iranians to catch YHVH’s vision of His love for His Jewish people and His continuing redemptive acts on behalf of Israel
- Pray for the raising up of the Ezekiel 37 prophetic army among the Jewish people
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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