In a way, modern Iran is ancient Persia. As always, it is controlled by despots, yet its spiritual history is woven through Scripture in a marvelous way. It has been the land of Jewish captives, Jewish prophets and a Jewish queen. For centuries, the Word of God prospered in its dark halls of power, even bringing forth the ruling dynasty of wise men – the Magi – who came to confirm the birth of the Son of Godin Bethlehem.
Of all the exiled prophets who spoke from Persia, Daniel was the most famous. His book begins with his captivity by the Babylonians in 606 B.C., and ends in the ninth year of the Persian ruler, Cyrus, about 530 B.C. The prophet’s influence in that culture was enormous, spanning over 75 years and several monarchical regimes. At his death, he was interred in a monumental tomb and revered as one through whom God spoke directly.
The book of Esther, which covers the period of the great Persian ruler, Xerxes, documents the period beginning about 483 B.C. This is quite important, since it reinforced the already-established power of God in the thinking of the Persian people.
Daniel’s influence also reached out to the period described in the book of Ezra, who also left the strong imprint of Jewish spirituality upon Persia. Ezra, credited with organizing the scrolls of the Bible up to his own time, wrote his book during the reign of Artaxerxes I, about 457 B.C.
The book of Nehemiah also falls within the period of Artaxerxes I. While Ezra documents the spiritual restoration of Judah, Nehemiah primarily dealt with Judah’s political and geographical rebirth, following the Babylonian captivity.
In the accompanying articles in this issue, we write about the Persian leadership caste known as the Magi. Due to Daniel’s teaching, they believed in the prophets of God and the Old Testament, though their religious beliefs and practices deviated from the Orthodox Judaism of the period. Interestingly, they had been in power as early as 520 B.C., historically documented in a decree by Darius I. This was shortly after Daniel’s lifetime.
Their origins coincide with the rise of Persia’s power, and extend half a millennium into the future and the arrival of Christ in Bethlehem. Doubtless, they knew of Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks of years, and were counting the days until they saw the heavenly signs that told them the time had arrived.
Their spiritual counterpoint to the dark succession of despots who ruled Persia is one of the high points in the Bible. There is every indication that the dark forces of Satan are concentrated there, yet the grace of God shines through its dark history in the most amazing way.
We recall the well-known incident in which the prophet Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, until finally the angel of the Lord came to him. The angel famously explained his delay as being caused by the power of a dark angelic ruler who controlled the Persian territory:
“Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia” (Dan. 10:12,13).
Here, we find direct documentation that Satan and his angels control earthly territory. Given Persia’s history – both ancient and modern – it seems very likely that the same dark power of Daniel’s day rules Persia today. Scheming behind the scenes, this angelic prince inflames the anti-Semitism first witnessed in Haman, captain of the Persian princes. The book of Esther clearly reveals that his motive is to destroy the Jews … every last one of them. In the end, of course, he is hanged upon the very gallows reserved for Mordecai and the rest of the Jews.
In Esther’s story, we find one of the Bible’s clearest statements that the Abrahamic covenant is still in effect: The nation that attempts to destroy the Jews, will itself, be destroyed in exactly the same way that it attempted to perpetrate that destruction. God said, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).
The prophet Daniel lived in Persia until his dying day. His legacy was a lingering knowledge of prophetic truth that influenced the lives of Persians, literally all the way up to the time of Christ’s coming. One would think that his influence would have continued all the way up to the modern era, but that was not to be the case.
The Dark Ages brought Persia to a low spiritual state, and it has now emerged under perhaps the darkest rule of all. Islam was founded in the seventh century AD, and spread throughout the Middle East. In recent years, its most virulent sect, the Shiite cult known as the “Twelvers” has risen to control modern Iran.
The Twelvers comprise the largest body of Shiite Muslims. Their name comes from the fact that they believe that their version of a coming messiah figure will be the last of an ancient group of Twelve Imams. The “Mahdi,” as he is called, disappeared down a well, and will return at the appropriate time to lead Islam to victory over the world. That widely-recognized well is in Persia. As we have noted in the past, they believe in a form of chaos theory. They have repeatedly stated that they can hasten the Mahdi’s return by accelerating the outbreak of war. In fact, this belief lies at the core of their religion!
Persia In Today’s News
With a background like this, is it any wonder that the Bible lists Persia as the first ally in the infamous latter-day invasion of Israel? As we shall see, just such an offensive is now forming, and it will lead to perhaps the most famous of all Old Testament prophecies.
In the prophecy, Gog, the leader of a northern power generally conceded to be Russia, forms a pact with other nations. It is interesting that Russia has already signed a long-term mutual defense pact with Persia/Iran: And so Gog’s alliance is taking shape:
“Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee” (Ezek. 38:5,6).
As this is written, the world media are replete with stories about preparations for war, both inside and outside of Iran. The following reports represent only a small percentage of these dramatic announcements.
A small, November 8th dateline from DEBKAfile published an amazing bulletin from NATO:
“Germany has put its Air Force Tornado warplanes in intensive training for a possible attack on targets in Iran, after taking part last week in a joint drill with the Israeli Air Force and other NATO members at the Italian Decimomannu air base on Sardinia. Iran, for its part, is gearing up for a gloves-off reprisal against its attackers.”
If the Old Testament Gomer is Germany, as some have supposed, this is a remarkable case of a contemporary ally of Israel later changing sides and joining the invasion force that comes against the Holy Land.
Israel News Network, released the following, datelined November 11, through its Arutz Sheva service: “Iran has begun to move its nuclear materials underground, further away from possible attack by Western powers, a new report by the United Nations has warned.
“The UN International Atomic Energy Agency said in its report earlier this week that Iran began moving material to an underground facility for the ‘pursuit of sensitive atomic activities.”
A November 10th DEBKAfile report was headlined: “UK expects Israeli attack on Iran next month with US logistical support.”
The report crackles with dramatic portent: “A senior Foreign Office official says British government ministers have been told to expect Israeli military action in the wake of the UN watchdog report ‘as early as Christmas or very early in the New Year,’ the London Daily Mail reported Thursday, Nov. 10th. The ministers were told that Israel would strike Iran’s nuclear sites ‘sooner rather than later’ – with ‘logistical support’ from the US.
“According to the British paper, which has good military and intelligence ties in London, President Barack Obama would ‘have to support the Israelis or risk losing Jewish-American support in the next presidential election.”
Iran, of course, has not taken this lying down. Once again, they have threatened to aim their weapons at the heart of Israel; they openly declare that they want Israel’s complete annihilation.
As reported by Arutz Sheva on November 8th, “The head of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said on Tuesday that Iran would start a ‘street war’ in Tel Aviv if its nuclear program was attacked.
“ ‘Israel is not big enough to launch a military strike on Iran, but if it takes such a foolish decision, the Iranian military will fight with the Zionist soldiers in Tel Aviv streets … and will force them out of the Palestinian soil,’ Seyed Hossein Naqavi said.
“Naqavi also warned, should Tehran’s nuclear program be attacked, the battlefield won’t be in Iran, but ‘the entirety of Europe and the US.”
Such threats are flying thick and fast. On November 9th, DEBKAfile reported, “For the second time in four days, Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel. Sunday, Nov. 6th, Tehran said four missiles would be enough to kill a million Israelis. Wednesday, Nov. 9th, Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, deputy commander of Iran’s armed forces, said an American or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would not only result in the Jewish state’s extinction – ‘Dimona is the most accessible target’ – but generate a response that ‘would not be limited to the Middle East.”
Of course, Dimona is Israel’s main nuclear development center, with a huge underground complex of buildings and tunnels. Iran’s top leaders, the Twelvers, firmly believe that the “end of days” has come. They are confident that by fomenting chaos, they can bring forth the Mahdi to conquer the world for Islam.
However, global Islam is due for a monumental surprise. One of the Bible’s most lucid and unambiguous statements comes in the wake of the aforementioned invasion. Through Ezekiel, God says that this military assault will be the tipping point that triggers His wrath. It seems clear that He is linking the beginning of a final series of judgments, in which the first conclusive strike from heaven is against the anti-Israel alliance:
“And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel” (Ezek. 38:18,19).
Gog, Persia, Gomer and the rest will meet the greatest defeat of any army in modern history as God reveals His power in a way that becomes identifiable to the whole world:
“And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD” (38:22,23).
Toward the end of this battle, the Lord will act in such a way that no one will doubt that Israel is blessed:
“And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD. So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord GOD; this is the day whereof I have spoken” (Ezek. 39:6-8).
In other words, the Day of the LORD comes some time after the colossal defeat of Russia, Persia and their allies. When the smoke clears, national Israel will realize that it has been saved by the Lord, and will come to the point of finally seeking Him. In the process, a false Christ – the “man of sin” – will rise to power and tragically be accepted as the Messiah. When Israel signs a seven-year covenant with him, the Tribulation will begin.
Perhaps the modern Persians are right in their own way. Their Mahdi is indeed coming. We would differ with them in one respect – he is the one the Bible calls the Antichrist.