Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001? If you’re like most people, the horrifying images and emotions of that day are permanently etched into your mind. Who can forget the sight of a giant airliner slamming into the World Trade Center, the trapped men and women plunging to their deaths, the collapse of the towers and the cloud of pulverized concrete and debris that covered Manhattan.
The awful events of that day changed our world forever. At the beginning of a new century, it heralded a new age of mass terrorism directed at civilians. America’s sense of security—that it could never happen on its shores—was forever shattered. Other nations quickly realized that similar catastrophes could strike their cities. Ever since, terrorism has become a very real threat for countless millions around the globe.
That day’s horror also catapulted the Middle East to the forefront on news programs around the world. Suddenly, what was happening thousands of miles away could affect people regardless of where they lived. A region that, to many, had seemed irrelevant now became the focus of attention as nations everywhere awakened to the reality of how the Middle East impacts us all.
The reality quickly came home that problems thousands of miles away can have a greater impact on us than decisions made by our own local or national governments. The fall of the Twin Towers had an immediate effect on the American economy far greater than any decision made on nearby Wall Street, with an estimated $100 billion loss in direct damages and $2 trillion in short-term stock market losses.
The Middle East affects us all
But Sept. 11 was not the start of terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism or conflict in the Middle East. As part of a historic continuum, it was simply the date on which the accumulated problems of thousands of years finally reached America’s shores.
Considering how much the Middle East now dominates the news, it’s hard to believe that at the beginning of the last century the Middle East “was of only marginal concern” to the Western world. “The region had become a political backwater,” according to historian David Fromkin, author of A Peace to End All Peace (1989, p. 24), a book about the birth of the modern Middle East. “Few Europeans of Churchill’s generation knew or cared what went on in the languid empires of the Ottoman Sultan or the Persian Shah,” he notes (p. 25).
A century later, however, nations around the world are all affected by what happens in this volatile region. The global economy runs on oil, most of which lies under the sand of Middle Eastern deserts. Oil is the lifeblood of Western economies and affluence, and a plentiful and cheap supply is essential to continued Western prosperity. This dependence on oil has fundamentally altered the Western nations’ relationship with the region, transforming it into a strategically vital part of the world.
A second fundamental change has taken place in the Middle East in the last 100 years—the creation of many new nations, which has vastly complicated the politics of the area. The establishment of one country in particular has led to a cycle of violence and upheaval that is seemingly without end. Yet, surprisingly, the Bible prophesied the establishment of this nation thousands of years ago and predicted the growing conflict that would follow its rebirth.
A peace to end all peace
World War I was often called “the war to end all wars.” At the close of the peace conference following the worst conflict in history, Archibald Wavell, an officer who served with the British Army in Palestine and was later promoted to field marshal, prophetically declared, “After ‘the war to end war’ they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a ‘Peace to end Peace’ ” (Fromkin, p. 5).
Before World War I the Middle East was dominated by the Ottoman Empire, the empire of the Turks who ruled over all the lands whose names are now so familiar to us. The countries that are now Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel and others were all ruled by a declining empire that had once also presided over vast lands in both North Africa and southeastern Europe. Within this empire different peoples lived in relative harmony. About 40 percent of the people were Turks and 40 percent Arabs, with the remainder a mixture of different ethnic groups—Armenians and Jews being the most numerous of these.
It might have continued this way were it not for World War I. At the onset of war, it was not clear which side the Ottoman Empire would support. Both the British and the Germans courted the Turks. Finally the sultan opted to support the German kaiser, a fatal decision that ultimately led to the birth of many new nations—and wars seemingly without end. One of the nations that eventually came into being was the Jewish state of Israel, complicating the geopolitical situation in the region and destined to affect all nations on earth.
What few realize is this one crucial fact: After 1,900 years, the restoration of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East was necessary to fulfill ancient prophecies you can find in the Bible. This region, once a “political backwater” of little or no interest to the Western powers, is destined to become the center of the final global crisis that will usher in cataclysmic events leading humanity to the brink of extinction—and ultimately change our world forever.
In the following pages you’ll learn the astounding story of the past, present and future of this crucial region that was laid out thousands of years ago—the story of the Middle East in Bible prophecy.