Can Israel survive ISIS?

A May 2016 article in Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter of ISIS (the Islamic Republic of Iraq and Syria), stated that the “war on Israel will not be limited by geographical boundaries or by international norms.” It went on to say that “all polytheist combatants on earth, and the Jews among them, are legitimate targets for it [jihad].” [1] Islamic fundamentalism’s goal is the destruction of the people of Israel and the conquest of the Land of Israel.

But radical fundamentalism bent on the destruction of Israel is nothing new. In fact, it is something very old. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the book of Daniel makes a prediction so accurate about this earlier fundamentalism that some scholars claim it must have been written after the fact by someone other than Daniel.

The Four Beasts

Daniel writes about four kingdoms, picturing them as violent beasts. Daniel’s vision predicts the fates of Babylon (where Daniel was living in exile) and the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. I believe that the third beast, described as leopard-like (Daniel 7:6), represents the Greek empire of Alexander the Great, who conquered the then-known world. Alexander is also symbolized as a male goat (Daniel 8:5) with four horns (8:8). The four horns represent the four generals among whom Alexander’s kingdom was divided after his death. One of these generals, Seleucus, was given Syria, Israel and Mesopotamia. The Seleucid Empire became the dominant overseer of the Middle East during the intertestamental period (between the book of Malachi, around 400 b.c., in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the birth of Jesus).

During this time, a Syrian king arose whose religion was radical fundamentalism—not Islamic, but Hellenistic. He forced Greek culture, religion and language on all his subjects. He came to Israel with his army, overthrew the Jewish people, captured Jerusalem and defiled the Temple. Daniel calls this the abomination of desolation, which involves setting up altars to the Greek pantheon gods. This king, Antiochus IV, also known as Antiochus Epiphanes, declared himself to be “God” (Epiphanes means “god manifested”).

Daniel specifically predicted all of this, which took place around 165 b.c.—well after he wrote the book in the sixth century b.c. This is the story of Hanukkah, when the Maccabees rose up and defeated Antiochus, reclaiming the Temple.

History Repeats Itself . . .

So today’s threat from ISIS is not the first time Israel has faced radical fundamentalism from Syria. The modern-day fundamentalism is a flash forward of what the prophet Daniel predicted (and which came to pass in the second century b.c.). But today’s existential threat to Israel is building to a far greater crisis.

As we continue to read through Daniel, we see a foreshadowing of a fiercer enemy of God (called the anti-Christ—or anti-Messiah). [2] The rabbis referred to this one as Armilus. [3] Yeshua (Jesus) alludes to him in the New Testament, when he says, “When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place . . .” (Matthew 24:15). The first fulfillment of Daniel’s prediction occurred in 165 b.c.; the second is yet to come. The New Testament book of Revelation, which speaks of the future, employs language about beasts and horns in chapter 13 which parallels the language in Daniel.

It is not uncommon for a prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures to have more than one fulfillment. For example, in Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” At least one famous medieval Jewish commentator has seen the “prophet like Moses” as having a fulfillment in the person of the Messiah. [4]

The Time of Jacob’s Trouble

Jesus foresaw Israel’s coming crisis and referred to it this way: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” (Matthew 24:21). The Hebrew Scriptures refer to this period as the time of Jacob’s trouble: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7).

This seven-year period, often referred to as the Great Tribulation, ends with the return of Israel’s Messiah (who I believe is Yeshua), who defeats the anti-Christ. Both Daniel and Revelation predict desolation coming upon the nation of Israel. But just as Israel has survived every attempt to destroy it, so too will it survive ISIS.

Some believe that the anti-Christ will be Jewish because the Bible says he has no regard for “the god of his fathers” (Daniel 11:37). But the word translated as “god” in that verse could just as easily be rendered “gods.” Since the Jewish people worship only one God, this would make the anti-Christ a gentile. I discuss this topic in one of the appendices of my book, Future Hope.[5]

I believe that ISIS is a forbearer of the coming anti-Christ or Armilus. In describing the anti-Christ, the Scriptures use the Syrian king Antiochus as a type, or model. I believe the anti-Christ is likely going to be an Arab, a Syrian. Who would be better suited to establish peace between Jews and Arabs than a fellow Arab who is a world leader? I believe that the Scriptures predict both the coming of the Syrian Antiochus and the coming of the future anti-Christ.

Why the Land of Israel Will Survive

Will Israel survive? Yes. Because Israel survived Antiochus, Israel will survive the second Antiochus, the anti-Christ, Armilus. ISIS is a Syrian/Iraqi representative of radical Islam in the same way the Syrian Antiochus was a radical Hellenist.

The attempt to destroy Israel as a people is also an attack on the Land. But God made a covenant with Abraham about the Land. This is an unconditional, eternal promise, not based upon Israel’s performance. God said:

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God. (Genesis 17:7–8)

We also read this:

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites,  the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18–21)

There could be nothing more definitive than the Abrahamic Covenant and nothing more central to that covenant than the promise of land. God gives a specific territory and the boundaries. And because God stakes His reputation on His promise of the Land, we don’t need to wonder if ISIS is going to win.

Why the Jewish People Will Survive

The Land is not going to disappear as long as the earth is here. But what about the Jewish people? The prophet Jeremiah recorded this promise from God, which ISIS may want to take as a bit of military advice. Jeremiah said:

Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day  and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:35–37)

ISIS has been shooting its weapons into Israel. What it needs to do is aim them at the sun, moon and stars. According to Jeremiah, if they can wipe those out, they’ll succeed in destroying the Jewish people. Israel—the people and the Land—is secure not because its military is the strongest, but because the Lord of Hosts has staked His reputation on her survival for all eternity.

Those problems which Daniel predicted regarding Antiochus Epiphanes were only a foreshadowing of a greater problem yet to come—one for which I think ISIS is laying the foundation through Islamic fundamentalism. Ultimately the anti-Christ himself will arise, gather his armies and invade the Land of Israel in the middle of the plain of Megiddo (in what has come to be known as the battle of Armageddon).

The Pierced One

The Scriptures teach that Israel will recognize her Messiah and cry out for deliverance at that time:

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10)

Who is the one who was pierced? Could it be Yeshua (Jesus)? This writer believes so.

The Scriptures not only offer good news for Israel but for the Arab peoples as well. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, God will eventually establish peace between Arabs and Jews, and together they will worship the God of Israel and be blessed:

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:23–25)

A time when God will rescue His people? When Jews and Arabs will worship Him together? When ISIS will no longer be a threat? The Scriptures indicate all this. Are you willing to consider all this implies?

  2. “Christ” comes from the Greek word for “messiah,” which in Hebrew is “Mashiach.”
  4. Levi Ben Gershom, or Gersonides, wrote in regard to Deuteronomy 34:10 that “no prophet whose office was restricted to Israel alone could ever arise again like Moses; but it is still quite possible that a prophet like Moses might arise among the Gentile nations. In fact the Messiah is such a prophet . . . . Moses, by the miracles which he wrought, drew but a single nation to the worship of God, but the Messiah will draw all nations to the worship of God…” (The Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah according to the Jewish Interpreters, vol. 2, ed. S.R. Driver and A.D. Neubauer (reprint; New York: Ktav, 1969, p. 568). Apparently, then, he does not even see a fulfillment of the “prophet like Moses” in any Old Testament prophet but only in the Messiah. See also:
  5. David Brickner, Future Hope: A Jewish Christian Look at the End of the World (San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 1999), 135. The book is available here:

This article originally appeared in the Jews for Jesus publication Issues 22:01 and reposted with permission.