The Arabs In Prophecy: Fated For Hope Or Despair?

by Dr. David R. Reagan

The Arab peoples often seem to be ignored in prophecy. This is so because the prophetic Scriptures focus on the Jewish people since they are the Chosen People of God. But this does not mean the Arabs are ignored.

Jewish Primacy

God chose the Jews to give the world the Scriptures, and it was through the Jews that He provided the Messiah.

The Jews also serve as God's prophetic time clock, for He points to future events in their history as the key to the timing of other important events. (For example, Jesus said that He would return at a time when Jerusalem is back in the hands of the Jews — see Luke 21:24.)

The Jews continue to serve today as a chosen witness of God's grace. This is manifested in their very existence, for what other god would have tolerated for so long a people so stubborn and rebellious?

The Bible says that the Jewish people will continue to serve as the Chosen People in the future, for when Jesus returns, a remnant of the Jews who have put their faith in Him will be established as the prime nation of the world (Isaiah 60-62). During the Lord's millennial reign, the Jewish nation will be a channel of blessings to the whole world (Zechariah 8:23).

Does this mean that God has no blessings for the multitudinous Arab peoples? Not at all. God has given them great blessings in the past, and He has great blessings reserved for them in the future.

Arab Identity

But before we look at those blessings, let's consider first the identity of the Arab peoples. Who are they?

A popular misconception is that Arab identity is determined by religion — that if you are a Muslim, then you are an Arab. That is not true.

One of the most populous Muslim nations in the world is Indonesia, an island nation in Southeast Asia. Indonesians are not Arabs. They are Malays. Likewise, the nation of Iran is composed of Muslims, but they are not Arabs. They are Persians.

There are also Christian Arabs scattered all across the Middle East. In Israel, the city of Bethlehem is a Christian Arab town.

Arab identity is not determined by religion. Most Arabs are Muslims, but not all; and all Muslims are certainly not Arabs.

Arab identity is determined by ethnic heritage. And the amazing thing is that all Arabs — like all Jews — are descended from the family of Abraham! That means the Arab-Israeli conflict is a family dispute — the longest running and most intense family squabble in history.

Arab Origins

It all began when Abraham decided to help God. That's a nice way of saying that he decided to run ahead of God. I'm referring, of course, to his impatience with God's promise that he would be given an heir.

As he and Sarah continued to advance in years without a child, they decided to help out God by having Abraham conceive a child through Hagar, his wife's Egyptian handmaid. The child born of that union was named Ishmael. God made it clear that Ishmael would not be the child of promise through whom all the world would be blessed (Genesis 17:20-21), but God did make some great promises to Ishmael's mother.

God promised that He would make Ishmael fruitful and would multiply his descendants exceedingly, making of him a "great nation" (Genesis 17:20). He also gave Ishmael's descendants the land to the east of Canaan (Genesis 16:12).

God has been faithful to these promises. Today there are 21 Arab nations with a combined population of 175 million people. The Arabs occupy a total area of 5.3 million square miles of oil rich land.

By contrast, there is only one Jewish state with a population of 4 million people who are squeezed into only 8,000 square miles of space. That's a population ratio of 43 to 1 and a land ratio of 662 to 1. The Arabs have truly been blessed.

Arab Tribes

Ishmael took an Egyptian wife (Genesis 21:21) and became the father of 12 tribes which are listed in Genesis 25:12-16. These tribes were to become the nucleus of the Arab peoples, a people with a mixture of Semitic and Egyptian blood.

Other Arab tribes trace their origin to the six sons of Abraham who were born to him by his second wife, Keturah. They are listed in Genesis 25:1-4. Finally, some Arab tribes were to emerge from the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob who sired the 12 tribes of Israel.

All the Arab tribes have been characterized historically by their impulsive and violent nature. They have been involved in endless wars among themselves and against both Jews and Christians.

It is interesting to note that their volatile nature is a fulfillment of prophecy. God told Hagar that her son, Ishmael, would be "a wild donkey of a man" and that "his hand will be against everyone" (Genesis 16:12).

Arab Prophecies

Let's look now at what the Bible prophesies about the Arab peoples. First, it says they will claim the land of Israel which God gave to their brothers, the Jews. The prophet Ezekiel says this claim will be made in the end times (Ezekiel 35:5,10; 36:2,5).

This prophecy has been fulfilled in this century. For 2,000 years the Jews were dispersed from the land which God gave them, and during that long period of time there was never an Arab state in the area that the world called Palestine. The Arabs who lived in the land considered themselves Syrians. They had no consciousness as Palestinians, and no effort was ever made to create a Palestinian state.

When the Jews began returning in this century, the Arabs gleefully sold them the land at inflated prices because it was considered worthless. It was World War I that changed the Arab viewpoint. The war resulted in the land of Palestine being transferred from the Turks to the British, and the British immediately proclaimed it to be a homeland for the Jews. Suddenly, the Arabs were confronted with the prospect of a Jewish state, and they began to dig in their heels, claiming the land as their own.

The British gave in to Arab pressure, and in 1922 they gave two-thirds of Palestine to the Arabs, creating the state of Jordan. This was land that they had promised to the Jews. But this action did not satisfy the Arab appetite. They wanted all the land God had given to the Jews, and they still covet it to this day, just as prophesied.

Arab Judgments

The Bible further prophesies that God will pour out judgment upon the Arab nations in the end times for their hostility toward the Jews and their attempt to claim the Jewish homeland as their own.

Consider Joel 3:19, for example. This passage has a clear end time context, and in that context it says, "Egypt will become a waste, and Edom will become a desolate wilderness, because of the violence done to the sons of Judah, in whose land they have shed innocent blood."

Keep in mind that Edom is often used as a symbolic term for all the Arab peoples, just as Israel is used as a term for all the Jewish tribes. Ezekiel says that "all Edom" will be dealt with in the end times because of its hatred against the Jews, and the result will be desolation (Ezekiel 35:10-11,15). The book of Obadiah prophesies a similar fate for Edom in "the day of the Lord" (Obadiah 15-18).

Arab Promises

But the future for the Arabs is not all bleak. They must suffer for their sins just as the Jewish people will suffer during the Tribulation. And, like the Jews, a remnant of the Arabs will emerge from their suffering with their hearts turned to the one and only true God (Jeremiah 12:14-17).

The most remarkable prophecy concerning the future salvation of an Arab remnant is contained in Isaiah 19:16-25. Isaiah says that when the Lord strikes Egypt and Assyria, they will turn to Him and He will have compassion on them and "heal them." Isaiah then presents an incredible picture of Egypt, Assyria and Israel living together in peace, worshiping the same God!

Another remarkable prophecy concerns the Arabs who will be living in the land of Israel after the Lord returns. This prophecy relates to the fact that the territory of Israel will be greatly expanded when Jesus returns, incorporating many of the Arab nations that exist today. (The considerably expanded borders of Israel during the Millennium are detailed in Ezekiel 47:15-20.) Amazingly, Ezekiel says that the Arabs living in Israel at that time will be "allotted an inheritance" of the land together with the tribes of Israel! (See Ezekiel 47:21-23 and Isaiah 14:1-2.)

An Impartial God

There is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11). He chose the Jews, not to be a repository of His blessings, but to be a vehicle through whom He would bless all the nations of the world, including the Arabs. But the fundamental requirement to receive God's blessings — for both Jew and Arab, as well as all people — is to accept God's gift of love in Jesus by receiving Him as Messiah.

When I consider God's grace toward the Arab peoples, I am reminded of what Paul wrote when he considered God's grace toward his Jewish brethren: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Romans 11:33).

Keep in mind that the amazing grace which God is displaying toward the Arabs and the Jews is available to you. The message of God's dealings with the physical descendents of Abraham is that there is no sin so great and dark that it can separate you from the love of God which He has expressed in Jesus.

The key to experiencing that grace is repentance. As Paul put it in his sermon in Athens: "God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent" (Acts 17:30).

The Feast of Hanukkah … History And Prophecy

By Jack Kelly

He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue. (Daniel 11:21)

In 175 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to power in Syria by stealing the throne from his relative, Demetrius II, the young son of Seleucus IV Heliodorus and rightful heir. The original Seleucus was one of the four generals who divided the Greek Empire between them following the death of Alexander the Great. Thus Antiochus Epiphanes became the eighth descendant of Seleucus to sit on the throne of Syria.

Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant (Onias III) will be destroyed. With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South (Ptolemy VI of Egypt). The king of the South will wage war with a large and very powerful army, but he will not be able to stand because of the plots devised against him. The king of the North (Antiochus) will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country. (Daniel 11:22,25,28)

Soon after taking power, on his way to invade Egypt, Antiochus attacked Israel, stealing all the gold and silver furnishings from the Temple. He had Israel’s last legitimate High Priest, Onias III, murdered and from then on the office was sold to the highest bidder, with the money going to Antiochus.

The Birth Of The Sadducees

He began to “Hellenize” Israel and before long many of the wealthy and influential among the Israelites adopted the Greek style of dress, cutting their hair short and shaving off their beards as well. They also argued for a blending of Greek philosophy and culture into the Jewish way of life. From these advocates of Greek thinking, the political party known as the Sadducees was born, eventually growing to a position of prominence during the time of Jesus. It was the influence of Greek philosophy on their approach to the Hebrew Scriptures that blinded the ruling Sadducees to the fact that Messianic Prophecies were being fulfilled right before their eyes during the Lord’s life on Earth.

“At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. (Daniel 11:29-30)

Initially, this accommodation with Greek culture encountered only vocal resistance, but that all changed when the Egyptians rebelled and, with the aid of the Roman Navy, defeated Antiochus and drove him from Egypt. In a rage, Antiochus again invaded Israel, this time demanding that he be worshiped as God. (The name “Epiphanes” comes from a title he gave himself, “theos epiphanies” or god made manifest. After this the Jews started calling him “Epimanes” which means the madman.) He outlawed the reading of the Hebrew Scripture, punishing by death anyone found with copies in their possession. Circumcision, praying, keeping the Sabbath, and worshiping the One True God were likewise proscribed with severe penalties for disobedience.

“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. (Daniel 11:31-32)

Put The Hammer Down

In 168 BC Antiochus again broke into the Temple, converting it into a pagan worship center in honor of the Greek god Zeus (called Jupiter in Roman mythology). Instead of the blood of bulls and goats, he sprinkled water in which pork had been boiled in the Holy of Holies, and slaughtered pigs on the altar. Then he erected a statue of Zeus in the Holy Place, with his own face on it, thereby proclaiming himself to be God. Because it rendered the Temple unfit for worshiping God, Jewish historians called this act the Abomination that Causes Desolation, the only event in history so named. It triggered the Maccabean Revolt.

For 3 1/2 years the Jews fought one of the world’s first guerrilla wars under Judeus Maccabeus (Judah the Hammer) finally defeating the Syrians in 165 BC. Upon regaining the Temple, they smashed the polluted altar and the statue of Zeus, grinding both to powder, and then built a new altar from uncut stones.

Next they set out to cleanse the Temple and re-dedicate it to God, an eight-day process (2 Chron. 29:17). But they could only find enough sacred oil to light the Menorah (the 7-branched lamp stand in the Holy Place) for one day, and the law required that it be lit constantly. Because the preparation of sacred oil was a time consuming process, they decided not to wait, but to use the oil they had to light the Menorah immediately, trusting that God would find this acceptable. God was pleased and made the oil last for the full eight days until the new supply was ready and the re-dedication complete.

Eight Is Enough

Those who study the symbolic use of numbers in Scripture know that eight is the number of New Beginnings, and indeed the Maccabean victory over the Syrians ushered in a new era, known as the Hasmonean Dynasty. During much of this period, which lasted till about 64 BC, Judea, as Israel was now known, enjoyed independent nation status, having finally won their freedom from Syria in 142 BC. Following other Hasmonean victories, the Jews regained boundaries that nearly approximated those of Solomon’s time. Jewish rule was exercised throughout the expanded nation and Jewish life flourished once again. A New Beginning for the Children of Israel.

The Feast Of Dedication

The miraculous burning of the oil is still celebrated in the eight-day Feast of Hanukkah, from the Hebrew word meaning dedication. It’s also called the Festival of Lights and this year began on the evening of December 1.

To celebrate Hanukkah, a special 9-branched candelabra is used, with eight branches commemorating the eight days when the oil kept burning. The ninth branch, called the Shamash, is usually positioned above the other eight. Its candle is always lit first and then used to light the other candles, one each day, until on the eighth day of Hanukkah all are lit. The Hebrew word Shamash means servant, so the Shamash is the servant candle that’s raised up and gives light to all the others.

Incredibly, the Hanukkia, or Hanukkah candelabra, becomes a beautiful model of the Messiah and His church. It was the Lord Jesus, the obedient servant, who was raised up (John 3:12) and gives light to all others (John 8:12). For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. (Mark 10:45)

If you’ve read our studies on the Lord’s probable birth date, you know I believe He was conceived during the Feast of Hanukkah and that His life, like all others, began at conception. If so, the Hanukkia is a fitting reminder that the Light of the World arrived during the Festival of Lights, ushering in a New Beginning for all mankind.

History To Prophecy

We know that all the Levitical Feasts have both a historical and a prophetic fulfillment. For example, Passover commemorated the Jews’ freedom from bondage in Egypt and looked forward to the Messiah freeing us all from the bondage of our sins. The prophetic aspect of the Spring Feasts were fulfilled in the Lord’s 1st Coming, the summer time Feast of Pentecost commemorated the giving of the Law and was fulfilled in the Church, and the Fall Feasts commemorated God’s dwelling among them and will be fulfilled in the 2nd Coming. Hanukkah is not a Levitical Feast but I think it has an important prophetic fulfillment like the others.

In reviewing the history of Hanukkah,I’m sure you spotted the similarity to events yet future to us. One day soon a man will arrive on the world scene. He’ll become very powerful very quickly, assuming a leadership position that’s not rightfully his. Many will give their loyalty to him and he’ll conquer most of the world. Even in Israel, many will favor accommodation with him, some even thinking he might be the Messiah. (John 5:43)

But then he’ll stand in the Holy place and declare that He’s God. (2 Thes. 2:4) Another Antiochus Epiphanes. He’ll have a statue of himself erected and put in the Holy Place to be worshiped.(Rev. 13:14) Another Abomination of Desolation,the one Jesus warned about in Matt. 24:15. Just like his predecessor he’ll demand to be worshiped as God on pain of death, and make everyone swear a pledge of loyalty to him. He’ll put a stop to the recently instituted Temple sacrifice(Dan. 9:27) and try to erase every trace of the legitimate God from the world.He’ll wage war against those who oppose him, but they’ll fight back in another war of resistance. After 3 ½ years he’ll be defeated(Dan. 12:7) and the defiled Temple will be cleansed and made ready for use again during the Millennium. Another Feast of Dedication.And Israel will again experience a period of untold peace and prosperity, expandingfully to its originally promised dimensions.Jewish rule will be exercised throughout the expanded nation and Jewish life will flourish once again.(Isaiah 65:17-25) Another New Beginning for the Children of Israel and for all the world.Happy Hanukkah. 12-04-10