Pre-Pretribulation Rapture: Part 5

By on July 15, 2011

This is the fifth part of a study, which attempts to bring together and organize the flow of events immediately preceding the Tribulation. Two such incidents involve nations that are, at present, Israel’s sworn enemies. The Bible says that both are to be removed as major powers in the crucial period prior to the Antichrist’s signing of the seven-year covenant. One is Syria, represented in Scripture as Damascus, said to be the world’s oldest continuously-occupied city. The other is Egypt, whose architecture is much older, and whose cities were once the earthly fortresses of idolatry.

Today, Damascus and Cairo bracket Israel on a north-south axis. That will change.

It is our purpose to make connections between certain biblical narratives that at first glance, might not seem to fit together. As we have already demonstrated, the Bible plainly designates a number of important episodes as coming before the Tribulation. However, in their respective contexts, they are not necessarily connected in an order that shows causal linkage, that is, one event leading to another.

We wholeheartedly embrace the doctrine of imminency, which upholds the any-moment coming of the Lord for His church, unheralded by the coming of any intervening  incident, episode or sign. Nevertheless, we observe that there are a number of developments mentioned in Scripture that can be tied to Israel’s current regathering. These can be arranged into a meaningful flow that explains much of what we’re seeing in the world today, as the stage is being methodically set for the Great Tribulation.

It is in the very nature of Bible prophecy to seem paradoxical or ambiguous at times. (Some would say that this is a massive understatement.) Yet in retrospect, we can demonstrate that each critical stage of human history is documented in the Bible. In this, the era of culmination for the church and for Israel, our Lord has encouraged us to be watchful and aware of the signs attendant to our generation. In the past, He criticized those alive at His first coming for their lack of preparedness for His arrival.

The prophecies surrounding Abraham, Moses and the prophets (though often veiled and rearranged) allow us to look back and observe that first-century Israel had enough information to know with certainty the time of Christ’s coming. The Jews of the first century witnessed Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Yet they did not seek the Spirit of the Lord. They did not study or listen to their own prophets. As a result, they failed to recognize Him, even when they were told. Herod, for example, was told by the priests and scribes that the Messiah would be born in Bethelem. His infamous reaction was to kill all the baby boys there.

Jesus castigated the Sadducees and Pharisees for not knowing the times:

“He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 

“And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matt. 16:2,3).

Surely, godly Jews at the time must have watched all this, and sensed that they were living in Messianic times. Unfortunately, the ones who knew were few and far between, and had no influence in the affairs of state. History sadly relates that though the leaders of national Israel suspected His identity, they failed to put it all together. One reason for this is that prophecy is deliberately written in an obscure fashion; another is the self-serving nature of man.

Clearing the Obscure

Anyone who has studied Scripture in depth has long since come to realize that prophecy is not written in a linear manner. Of course, in certain places, one may encounter an obvious timeline. For example, the eleventh chapter of Daniel lays out the lives of Alexander the Great and his successors. It chronicles the lives of the Ptolemies in Alexandria and the Seleucids in Aramea (Syria). From Alexander to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, one finds a clear lineage. But then, at a certain point, Daniel’s narrative skips forward to the Antichrist. In the following example, there is the appearance of chronological continuity:

“And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed. 

“And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done” (Dan. 11:35,36).

Actually, there is break here. Verse 35 refers to the exploits of the Maccabees against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a century and a half before Christ. Then, verse 36 jumps forward to the Antichrist and the Tribulation. Between these two verses, there is a leap of twenty-one centuries. A myriad of events and critical timelines pass unchronicled; events of the age of the Church are entirely omitted.

More importantly, the details of Israel’s regathering are missing. They must be reconstructed from other Scriptures. However, it is well understood that this is the rule in Bible study, not the exception. Timelines are occasionally found, but just as quickly, they are lost.

Still, it is human nature to think in a linear fashion, placing events along a timeline, or calendar, both of which are usually missing in the Bible.

The Necessity of Antecedants

In everyday life, we are accustomed to a sort of procession of events. It is our habit to lay out events in serial order. Particularly, since the industrial revolution and its “efficiency experts,” we have laid out life by the calendar and the clock. Then, with the advent of the computer, there has arisen a literal day-by-day and hour-by-hour accounting of global events, creating a record so complete that someone in the future might assemble even a minute-by-minute record of any given hour of any given day. Each event would be seen as the culmination of a series of antecedents – foregoing events.

We have become slaves to the clock. Astronomy and the computer have given us the ability to look both forward and backward. Ironically, this fact provides a useful illustration of how to unlock the truth about biblical prophecy.

We take it for granted that certain requirements be fulfilled before others can arise. Furthermore, details tend to become compounded, as in the following example:

Before an event (such as a wedding) can be accomplished, it is absolutely necessary to fulfill a number of events along a timeline. Perhaps six months to a year before the event, a church and reception hall must be secured. Then begins a countdown, in which costumes, caterers, flowers, singers, and photographers are reserved. Assuming that the couple is Christian, a minister will be acquired. His services will include some form of counseling, as well as playing a role in deciding  the type of ceremony to be held.

Anyone who has ever participated in a wedding understands one thing very clearly: The period between the engagement and the wedding grows increasingly complex. What begins with good intentions as – “a meaningful ceremony with just a few people, family and close friends” – rapidly grows into a full-fledged pageant, with music, drama, complex attire, and arrangements: food, transportation, hotels and a host of honored guests who bring heaping piles of treasure for the blessed couple.

All of this comes under the heading of “Getting Married.” If you had never experienced the whirlwind of events that inevitably precede the exchanging of vows, you could become quite confused. You might imagine the engagement, followed by a full-blown ceremony, complete with reception and honeymoon trip, all taking place within about a week and a half. In truth, it takes longer than that to decide the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses!

Yet this is exactly the mistake that is commonly made by those musing about the Antichrist’s rise to power. Among Christians, there is this same tendency to reduce a complex event to the ridiculously simple, as in “We’re getting married, ” forget about the details.

But if you think about it, we make the same mistake when we simplify prophecy as “First the rapture, then the Tribulation and the Antichrist, then seven years go by, culminating in Jesus’ Second Coming.”

It just isn’t that simple.

Complexity is Normal

From this has come our attempt to link obviously-pretribulational events together within biblical narratives. Doing this presents a complex challenge, to be sure, but complexity is normal in this life.

We should always remember: It is the Antichrist’s affirmation of a seven-year covenant with Israel’s elders that initiates the seven-year Tribulation.

In the same way that a wedding is preceded by a complex series of interlocking events, the rise of the Antichrist from “prince” (Daniel 9:26) to “king” (Daniel 11:36) must be linked with important shifts in power that change the latter-day world from a loose collection of nations to a global power structure with him at the top.

As we have repeatedly stated, there is no one in the world today with the power demonstrated by the biblical Antichrist. At present, no human being has the political clout to sit down with a group of Middle Eastern leaders and hammer out an agreement that would allow Israel to install a Temple on Mount Zion and begin priestly sacrifices. Yet this is the covenant described in Daniel 9:27 that starts the clock ticking in the seven-year Tribulation.

And as easily as he confirms the covenant, he nullifies it three and a half years later, at the middle of the Tribulation, in what Jesus calls “the abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15). Truly, he is a powerful man.

If anyone were to sign such a covenant today, it would have to include representatives from both Israel and the leaders of the 57 Arab States in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It would take enormous political clout to pull off this feat.

The man who ultimately has this kind of power must develop it by rising through a series of trials that confirm his power to the watching world.

Huge changes must come between now and then. And as we have suggested in the studies leading up to our current one, the change is both drastic and multi-phased. Like the procession of actions that finally ends in a wedding and a honeymoon, it mushrooms into an uncontrollable series of conflicts that conclude with an invasion that is specifically aimed at Israel. Even then, it continues to expand into a global conflict that rearranges the structure of global powers. Daniel says that they emerge as ten kings, one of whom becomes the antichrist.

He will be welcomed by Israel as their long-awaited Messiah. At last, the wedding has come, and soon the honeymoon in the Kingdom. Or at least, so they will believe.

The Coming Syrian Catastrophe

We hold that the Tribulation will be preceded by a monumental war in the Middle East. This, of course, would be the oft-referenced battle of Gog (Ezek. 38). But in fact, even this invasion seems to be preceded by precursor events, such as the one we shall now discuss.

There is a specific prophecy in Isaiah that must somehow be placed into the scenario of pretribulation events. It has to do with the ancient city of Damascus, which is over 4,000  years old, most likely dating to the centuries just following the great flood of Noah.

The name of Damascus is quite ancient, and known in the Akkadian and Babylonian tongues before the later Semitic language  groups came to dominate the region of the fertile crescent. Around 1600 B.C., during the reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III, the city is named among cities that he listed among his conquests.

The long history of Damascus has witnessed the ebb and flow of various powers … Egypt, Assyria, the Syrian kings, the Seleucids, Nabateans, Herod and the Romans, under Augustus, Tiberius and Nero. From A.D. 636 to the present, it has been under Arab rule.

In all that time, it has been a bustling agricultural and trade center. In the New Testament, the city of Damascus is seen as the center of a spiritual conflict. The early church took root there, challenged by Jerusalem’s Pharisaical authorities.

Of course, one of them was Saul of Tarsus who traveled there from Jerusalem to harass the society of believers. He is met by the Lord and taken to a home on an ancient street:

“And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 

“And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 

“And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 

“And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 

“And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. 

“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 

“And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 

“And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 

“Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:5-13).

To this day, in the old city of Damascus, the location of Straight Street is still known, and is, in fact, a tourist destination. Since time immemorial, this place has occupied the same location and status that it has held for millennia. If there is a place on earth that might be called permanent and secure, it is this street, and this city, which makes the following prophecy especially powerful:

“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. 

“The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid. 

“The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts” (Is. 17:1-3).

When this signal event befalls planet earth, it will certainly rank as one of the most distinct time markers in history. Apparently Damascus will be reduced to rubble. Not only that, the “cities of Aroer” will be stricken in some way. The Hebrew text suggests that these cities on the east side of the Jordan River will be abandoned. In fact, there is a darkly ominous suggestion in this phrase, for in Hebrew “Aroer” carries the meaning, “to lay bare, to leave desolate and starkly naked.”

We would suggest that this indicates the probability of a nuclear strike of some sort. Aroer would encompass the plains of Syria and Jordan, which, if pelted with nuclear fallout, would have to be deserted in a hurry.

We suspect that this event fits best into the timeline just preceding the famous northern invasion of Gog. In fact, Syria’s current political stance has been to support Hizbollah’s guerrilla war against Israel. It has provided both support and protection for them as they dig in with advanced weaponry on Israel’s northern border.

At some point, Israel must defend itself against them; Damascus lies only a scant fifty miles northwest of the Sea of Galilee! If Israel were to strike back at Damascus, or if nuclear force somehow came into play, this city would lie well inside Israel’s sphere of defense.

As this was being written, Israel’s DEBKAfile news service posted the following bulletin under the title, “EXCLUSIVE: US intelligence finds 5,000 Hizballah training to seize Galilee towns” 

We include it here because it is characteristic of stories that regularly come out of the Middle East, and also typical of biblical prophecies that speak of a key event that sets off a chain of aggressive acts in the area:

“February 1st, 2010 – When US NSA [National Security Agency] James Jones warned Iran may lash out at Israel via its surrogates Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza in response to increasing international pressure over its nuclear program, he spoke on the strength of a detailed war plan first published by DEBKA-Net-Weekly on Jan 22 …

“Hizballah would sweep across the border to capture Galilee towns backed by missile barrages and likely Syrian support.

“Jones was not talking out of the top of his head, but on the strength of solid US intelligence gathered over months on detailed war plans Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas have drawn up to send five Hizballah brigades sweeping across the border to seize five sectors of Galilee, while also organizing a massive Israeli-Arab uprising against the Jewish state. Hamas would open a second front in the south and in the east. Syria is expected to step in at some stage.”

Darkly suggesting that Syria would back this operation, both with medium-range surface-to-surface missiles and air-to-air antiaircraft rockets DEBKAfile concluded with the following assessment.

“Iran’s Revolutionary Guards instructors at especially established training facilities near Tehran are already well advanced in training a cadre of 5,000 Hizballah fighters in special operations and urban combat tactics to standards equivalent to those current in similar US and Israeli military forces.

“At the outset of the course, the group was split up into five battalions, each given a specific northern Israeli sector for capture with details of its topography and population for close study.

“The Tehran-Hizballah war strategy is all but ready for any contingency. The obvious trigger would be an Israeli military operation against Iran’s nuclear facilities, but once all the elements are in place, they could be activated by any other pretext conjured up in Tehran or Damascus.

“In recent weeks, both Hizballah and its Syrian allies have mobilized their forces while telling the Arab world that the Jewish state is about to attack Lebanon. Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah is straining at the leash to attack Israel however the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program turns out.”

It is safe to say that if the Syrians launch this kind of attack, which could capture northern Israel almost to the seaport of Haifa, Israel would launch an unabated defensive counterattack.

Damascus could indeed, be wiped out, just as described in Scripture. The blowback from such an attack could very well produce the result described by Isaiah. In other words, it is not a foolish waste of time to watch the geopolitics of this region.

Timing the Damascus Event

Isaiah’s description of the Damascus catastrophe has a familiar tone. It speaks of “Jacob” (i.e., Israel) being afflicted at a time of harvest – the universal biblical symbol of clashes leading up to Armageddon, itself. Jesus, Himself, said in Matthew 13:39, “The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.”

Harvest is symbolically used to denote the procession of events leading up to the culmination. We continue Isaiah’s prophecy where we left off:

“And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean. 

“And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim. 

“Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel” (Is. 17:4-6).

Isaiah speaks here of Israel’s latter-day trial in a world that has abandoned them. A harvest has occurred, symbolic of a declining spiritual condition, and of the sparseness of their war-weary world. The “valley of Rephaim,” like the earlier-mentioned term “Aroer,” refers to the land east of the Jordan, running southward, toward parts of Israel and the Negev desert.

As in the preceding portions of this study, we would once again refer to Micah, Chapter 7, in which we have demonstrated the possibility that the harvest denotes the period after the rapture, but preceding the Tribulation. Micah speaks on behalf of Israel in this dark period:

“Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit. 

“The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net” (Mic. 7:1,2).

There is agreement between the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah. In both cases, Israel is isolated and friendless, and it is harvest time. Furthermore, in both cases, an invasion is about to come. In this period, there is the smoke of battle, but Gog’s huge invasion is still in the future.

The Rushings are Coming

Isaiah’s prophecy does not allow the Damascus event to stand alone in historical isolation. The end of chapter 17, connects it to a larger episode that apparently follows it very closely. In fact, the collapse of Damascus is the precursor to a larger Middle East invasion. Given this fact, when it finally happens, it will be a major indicator of the times.

In the past, we have suggested that those alive at the time of this calamity will be able to tell where they are on the timeline, both in relation to the battle of Gog, and to the proximity of the coming Tribulation, which by that time will be very near.

Isaiah’s 17th chapter concludes with a famous passage that many have equated to Ezekiel 38 and the battle of Gog. Remember, in context, the following episode follows the destruction of Damascus:

“Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: 

“In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow. 

“Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! 

“The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. 

“And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us” (Is. 17:10-14).

Here, we have a remarkable description of a lightning invasion of Israel. As we have already said, it is connected with the destruction of perhaps the world’s oldest continuously-inhabited city. In the verses above, it is again mentioned as occurring in conjunction with the harvest, typical of the end-times.

As many students of Bible prophecy have noted, Syria doesn’t appear in the invasion force that Ezekiel describes as coming from the north. This would easily be explained by the fact that in the initial phases of the battle, Syria is taken out.

Isaiah’s description of the invasion emphasizes its swiftness and its rushing sound, which today, with our technical knowledge, we would attribute to the machinery of war … jets, tanks, trucks, cannons, machine guns and rockets. It seems likely that Ezekiel described the same event when he wrote:

“Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee” (Ezek. 38:9).

Assuredly, this describes the kind of military movement that we have come to know as vertical envelopment, in which aerial invasion softens the target that is then secured by ground forces.

We would emphasize the fact that Isaiah prophesies the smashing defeat of the enemy invader, and in a very short time, as well. He speaks of an evening and a morning, about a twelve-hour length of time. In this very brief period, Israel’s enemy is changed from a rampaging aggressor to an overwhelmed casualty.

Both Isaiah and Ezekiel speak of an overwhelming enemy rapidly invading Israel with relentless force. Ezekiel observes that it will take the Israelis seven months to bury all the bodies, as they cleanse the Holy Land.

The Egyptian Deluge

It has often been mentioned that there is another prominent nation that fails to appear in the roster of Gog’s invasion forces. Strangely, it is Egypt, the looming southern force that from modern Israel’s very beginning, has fought against the tiny nation. The following brief history illustrates the geopolitical position of modern Egypt.

On May 14th, 1948, Israel declared statehood. Their Declaration of Independence was then signed.

The next day, on May 15th, the combined armies of Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon and Syria attacked the new state. Fighting continued until Israel reached El Arish in the Sinai Penninsula. At that time, the UN brought the warring parties together.

A tainted and simmering false peace ensued, but it was marked by continued Arab belligerence. Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping, and installed artillery to prevent Israel from passing through the Strait of Tiran. It sponsored fedayeen terrorists, who continued to harass Israel’s borders.

In 1956, Egypt’s President Nasser began to import massive quantities of Soviet arms. He nationalized the Suez and stepped up attacks upon Israel. A war ensued, which was forced into remission by the UN.

However, the seeds of the 1967 Six-Day War had been sown. In that war, Egypt’s attack and Israel’s victory are the stuff of legend. From that day to this, the leaders of Egypt have been seeking revenge. Their two bitter defeats have only enhanced their taste for victory. Today, their campaign against Israel is as busy as ever. They are supplying arms and war materiel to the Islamic terrorists in Gaza.

Amazingly, Egypt is absent when the war spoken of by Isaiah and Ezekiel, actually comes to pass. With their past record of aggression, why wouldn’t Egypt enter into the alliance mentioned by Ezekiel? But they are not there. What happens to them?

A marvelous prophecy tells the tale. By process of elimination, it is pretribulational. It shows Egypt appears as it is today, not as it looked in Ezekiel’s day, and not as it will be in the Tribulation

The fulfillment of this prophecy brings doom upon the accursed land of the Nile. Egypt is destroyed, then utterly abandoned for a period of forty years! This is an astonishing and completely unique development – a one-time event as distinctive as the destruction of Damascus.

For many thousands of years, men have been doing their daily business in the land of the pyramids. One day – and probably one day soon – that will no longer be possible. Here is the prophecy:

“Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt: 

“Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself

“But I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales. 

“And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers: thou shalt fall upon the open fields; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered: I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of the heaven” (Ezek. 29:2-5).

Here is a prophecy of the Nile, and the evil power of Satan that resides within it. Until very recently this great river, from its African headwaters in the heart of Africa, down the Mediterranean delta, was perhaps the greatest natural wonder of all rivers.

God has placed a curse upon the Nile, because the “king of Egypt” has taken ownership of it. Its doom is to be thrown into the wilderness, where millions of fish will be thrown out onto the dry land. How can this happen?

Each summer, after rains drenched the upper Nile in Ethiopia, it would flood, enriching the bottomlands on both sides, and assuring good crops. Its natural cycle marked the central feature of the Egyptian culture.

Then, in 1902, the Low Dam at Aswan in southern Egypt was completed. Its purpose was to regulate the river’s flood period. In 1970, the Aswan High Dam was completed, fully controlling the flood cycle and bringing hydroelectric power to Egypt.

In the old days, floods brought nutrients and minerals to the land, and protected the people from unpredictable, rampaging floods. Now, reservoirs store water for use in dry periods. However, the general population, while using the lands that were formerly prone to floods, has complained that fishing and farming are not as good as in the old days, when natural cycles brought fertility and change.

The following prophecy begins by chastising Egypt for pretending to support Israel, when in fact, they used every opportunity to destroy regathered Israel. Then, it quickly turns again to the theme of the River Nile’s devastation. Again, judgment centers around the idea that Egypt has declared, “The river is mine:”

“And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. 

“When they took hold of thee by thy hand, thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder: and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand. 

“Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee. 

“And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the LORD: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it” (Ezek. 29:6-9).

Syene, Aswan

How can one declare ownership of a river, whose sinews and cataracts run for over 4,000 miles? One way would be to do just what the Egyptians have done, using Russian technology and heavy equipment: Harness and control its waters with a huge dam. And here is the remarkable thing. Ezekiel mentions that dam by name, calling it “the tower of Syene.” Linguistic authority affirms that this is the ancient name for the stretch of the river now called Aswan.

This dam has backed up billions of gallons of water, beginning at the new Lake Nasser, and extending southward into Africa. If it were destroyed, the 700-mile distance from Aswan to the Mediterranean would be torn by a monumental flood.

The “Tower of Syene” (Aswan High Dam) didn’t even exist when Ezekiel wrote about it. And it won’t exist for long.

The high dam is so huge that experts say it would be impervious to ordinary explosives. The only thing that could take it out would be a nuclear blast, which would also infuse the overwhelming inundation of the land with radioactivity. Think about this as you read the conclusion of Ezekiel’s account:

“Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia. 

“No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. 

“And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries. 

“Yet thus saith the Lord GOD; At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered: 

“And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom. 

“It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations. 

“And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them: but they shall know that I am the Lord GOD” (Ezek. 29:10-16).

With these stark words, Ezekiel lays out a remarkable finale to the long life of a mysterious nation. Once the proud home of the Pharaohs, it will finally sink into disrepute. Today, the only substance that would poison a land for forty years, is radioactive waste. Imagine the horror of a land covered by rotting fish and radioactive sludge left behind by the overflowing Nile.

Such a bomb could be put in place, either by ground forces or a guerilla group, which would surreptitiously place it there before beating a hasty retreat. More likely, however, a nuclear weapon would be air-dropped, in reaction to the general outbreak of war.

Never before have the Egyptians been dispersed among the nations for a forty-year period, then regathered into their own land, which Ezekiel called “Pathros.” Therefore, this ruling is future. But since it sidelines them during the Tribulation, it must come in the general period before that, most likely around the Damascus incident, and during the general period when invading forces are aligned into what will become Gog’s combined army against Israel.

We know that this force will be destroyed, as given in Ezekiel 38. But before that, Damascus and Egypt will also be wiped out. This is the geopolitical situation from which the Antichrist will arise to pick up the pieces.

We believe that this series of actions will all unfold after the departure of the church. Why? Because, it marks the period in which Israel will begin its rise to the center of the world stage. At that point, the church will no longer dominate spiritual developments in the world.