THE LAST DAYS OF BABYLON Part 2, THE RISE OF PERSIA

Goodnews Christian Ministry

"God has roused the spirit of the king of the Medes, because he has a plan against Babylon to destroy it..." ---Jeremiah 51:11

CHAPTER 7

The Four Empires of Persia

"Three more kings are going to rise in Persia; a fourth will come and be richer than all the others, and when, thanks to his wealth, he has grown powerful, he will challenge all the kingdoms of Javan."
Daniel 11:2

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The prophecies of Daniel have decreed that the fate of the world lies in an empire called Persia. On four occassions, Daniel writes, kingdoms from this eastern empire will rises up and cross the Euphrates river to challenge the western nations -- a coalition of kingdoms which the Bible collectively calls 'Babylon'.

Intimately related to the four angels of destruction described by the Book of Revelations, and which God has chained to the banks of the Euphrates, these four empires are elements of 'the kings of the East' whose battalions are dependent on the quiet blast of Revelations' 'Sixth Trumpet'. (Rev.9:13-19).

According to Daniel, the culmination of these four hostile invasions into the lands of Christianity will be the fateful appearance of the fourth and last Persian empire. The world's end, this visionary explains, and all the tribulation and warfare preceding it, will come to pass in the birth and growth of this fourth eastern league of nations.

Far wealthier than its predecessors (Dn.11:2), it will rise up to "challenge all the kingdoms of Javan." (Dn.10:2). "Different from all the other kingdoms" on the planet, "it will devour the whole earth, trample it underfoot and crush it." (Dn.7:23).

While scholars can prove that these words define conditions that took place in history long before Christ appeared in the Holy land, they are also key elements of Daniel's prophecy about the last days, so we must assume that they represent a recapitulation of ancient events in the Christian era.

Jesus said that John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born on earth, but then he qualified this statement by adding that the least person in the kingdom of God was even greater than John. A new age dawned on earth, then, when Jesus began to preach.

Applying Daniel's chronology to this new age -- to the Christian era -- allows us to move the historic sequence underlying his words into Christian times. When we do this, we find patterns that match.

All Bible scholars agree that the term "Javan" in Daniel's words stood for the kingdoms of the west. Originally it applied to the kingdoms associated with Greece -- and in Daniel's writings, the scholars say, especially to Rome.

But with the spread of Christ's words across the western world, another empire of "Javan" appeared on earth in the form of a Christian empire made up of scores of diverse kingdoms all committed to the spread of the doctrine of Christ.

This conglomerate of nations grew strong through faith and, though challenged on its eastern front, spread throughout Europe, finally crossing the Atlantic Ocean to eventually encompass the entire Western Hemisphere.

While the four ancient encounters between Persia and the western world before the birth of Christ have been widely chronicled; when they happened again in the Christian era, they passed virtually unnoticed. (At least as far as Daniel's prophecies were concerned).

But there can be no doubt that the pattern is there and has been repeated. Three of these conflicts have come and gone. The fourth is just beginning.

As we said before, in Daniel's writings, the four eastern kingdoms follow a pattern of events that occupied history during the era of Alexander the Great. But because Daniel's prophecies apply to Christ, we must look for the corollary to all these eastern invasions within the time-frame of the Christian era.

And they are there.

Since the time of Christ, there have been three major eastern empires which have sprung from the area of Daniel's prophecies, crossed the Euphrates river (See map), and tried to challenge the spread of Christianity in the Middle East.

About 500 years after Jesus was crucified, a Persian empire came to power in an area now called Iran. It was ruled by the Sassanid family. Since this was the first Persian empire to appear after the death of Jesus, the Sassanid's must be viewed as the first of the four invasions of the West foreseen by Daniel. (Dn.11:2).

Challenging the people around them, the Sassanid's began to move westward across the Euphrates, conquering Syria, Palestine, Egypt and much of Asia Minor (Turkey).

They captured the city of Jerusalem. This fulfilled the prophecies which predicted that Jerusalem, having been left desolate by the dispersion, would be handed over to the 'east wind'. (Is.27:8).

Trying to protect its territory from this invasion, Constantinople, the headquarters of the eastern Christian church, fought back against the Sassanid family and finally succeeded in driving the Persians out of Asia Minor (now called Turkey), but which in Sassanid times had been Greek territory since the days of Alexander the Great.

After its defeat in Asia Minor, the Sassanid Persian empire collapsed in revolution and disappeared.

Right on its heels, however, appeared the eastern prophet Mohammed. Hidden within his writings there lay a call to mobilize. After Mohammed's death, the Arabs -- carrying his teachings and coming out of Media and Persia -- invaded all the lands around them and began to build a second vast eastern empire that ultimately stretched from India all the way to Spain.

Jerusalem, having been toppled by the Sassanids a few years earlier, was one of the very first cities to fall to these new eastern invaders. And once again, the east wind blew across the valley of Kidron, laying still deeper the sands which covered the memory of a fallen Judea.

The incursion into western lands by the Mohammedan Arabs was overwhelming and it occurred with lightening speed. This second Persian empire gobbled up most of North Africa and vast areas around the Mediterranean Sea, advancing all the way to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

After conquering Spain, the muslims pushed even into France but were defeated there by the Christians at the city of Tours.

This deep penetration into western territory by the Islamic force from Media and Persia was the second of the four eastern empires predicted by Daniel. But, while it resulted in a massive conquest of lands formerly ruled by Christian leaders, the churches of Christ did not completely disappear from the conquered areas once the muslims came to power there.

That is because the conquering Arab forces exhibited a measure of religious tolerance, allowing Christians and Jews in all these countries to continue practicing their faith.

Considered 'infidels' by their Arab conquerors, Christians and Jews under muslim rule were generally relegated to a second class position. And Christian preachers were no longer allowed to openly proselytize -- thus Christian growth in the Middle East was highly restricted by the muslim presence there.

The Arabs tried to take Asia Minor (Turkey), and thus complete their conquest of all the territory occupied by the eastern Christian church, but they were only partly successful in this endeavor.

By the eighth century, Christian control of the eastern segment of the old Roman empire had been reduced to only those areas where Greek civilization was predominant -- primarily Asia Minor (Turkey), Macedonia and Greece.

The capitol of the eastern Christian church was in Constantinople, and from there the eastern church had to struggle to fight off attempts by the Arabs to overrun Turkey and push into Europe across the Bosphorus.

While the eastern church was fighting the Arabs in Turkey, the western church also had to struggle to keep from being overrun as well. Because, before they were finally turned back, muslim forces under the banner of Mohammed conquered the island of Sicily and even successfully invaded Italy, almost taking Rome itself around 860 A.D.

Then the third 'Persian' empire arose. About two hundred years after the Arabs were pushed from Italy, during the 11th century, an Islamic people from central Asia (the Seljuk Turks) invaded and conquered most of Asia Minor (Turkey).

This third Persian empire, in swallowing up the land they renamed Turkey, reduced the small remaining territory of the eastern Christian church by almost half and subjected a great many Greek Christians to muslim rule.

They conquered Constantinople, the capitol city of the eastern Christian church. Gaining control of this city, the muslims renamed it 'Istanbul' -- the name it carries to the present day.

By capturing Asia Minor and renaming it 'Turkey' after themselves, the Seljuk Turks garnered control of all seven of the cities to which the Book of Revelations was addressed. As a result, city names like Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea all passed into Christian history.

The Turkish invaders came from an area of south-central Asia (recently a part of the Soviet Union), close to where the Parthians originated. It was in this same general area that the ancestor's of the original inhabitants of Media and Persia originated -- a fact that ties all of these people together as far as bible prophecy is concerned.

Moreover, it establishes an ancient genetic unity extending from Russia to Persia and encompassing areas from Turkey and the Black Sea across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan that may play an important role in the development of the expansive fourth Asiatic Persian empire which is now just beginning to form.

This relationship shows that, just as scripture's term 'Javan' now applies to the whole western world, we cannot restrict the Bible's use of the word 'Persia' to the relatively small country of Iran. The term seems to encompass a much larger area in the prophetic codes -- one that, at the very least, incorporates all the ancient elements of Parthia.

Under Ottoman rule the Turkish muslims grew very powerful. Crossing the Bosphorus, they invaded central Europe, driving almost to Vienna Austria before being turned back.

The Turks represent the third eastern kingdom to rise up against the Christian world since the birth of Christ.

Although they were driven out of most of Europe, they maintained their hold on Asia Minor and their empire was not completely dissolved until our own century when it was finally demolished by the British and the Arabs (with the help of Lawrence of Arabia) during the Mediterranean campaigns of the first World War.

While the Ottoman empire has now disappeared, much of the territory occupied by this dynasty continues to remain under muslim administration. And thanks to many successful western penetrations by various Ottoman armies , muslim enclaves now dot southern Europe.

This has created ethnic rivalries that have on occassion become intense over the years. This is true today in Bosnia and Hercegovina where antagonists have launched a bitter attempt to destroy the Islamic people of Sarajevo, etc.

The British destruction of the last remnants of the Ottoman empire during World War I brought the third kingdom of Persia to an end, and it casually united the Arab kingdoms of the south and emplaced them at their northern boundary -- the Euphrates river.

With the defeat of the Turkish Ottoman's, the Holy land fell into British hands and the Arab victories under the guidance of the English officer, T.E. Lawrence, established the nations of Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

This drove a major wedge into the muslim world by partitioning Persia on the eastern side of the Euphrates and hostiley dividing it from the Arab muslims to the west and south. This set in place the exact boundary established by Daniel for the fourth kindom of Persia is to arise.

Historically, then, three large Asiatic empires from east of the Euphrates have come into being since the time of Jesus. This brings us back to the prophecy of Daniel which led our chapter:

"Three kings are going to rise in Persia; a fourth will come and be richer than all the others, and when, thanks to his wealth, he has grown powerful, he will challenge all the kingdoms of Javan."
(Dn.11:2).

While Javan, as we said, literally means Greece and has been applied to Rome, symbolically it references the whole western world. This seems obvious in Daniel's reference: "all the kingdoms of...", which suggests not one, but a great concourse of nations.

In the same way, while it literally describes the territory of Iran, the Persia of prophecy symbolically references the entire East. Encompassing the genetic framework of the Parthian's of antiquity, the term references a vast population spread throughout Asia and the Middle East.

In the case of the fourth kingdom, Persia is described by Daniel in the dual terms of 'Media and Persia'. Since much of the land of ancient Media is now encompassed within the boundaries of Iraq (See Map), the first part of this prophecy falls today at the feet of Saddam Hussein.

Sitting in a kind of political no-man's-land, and bitterly antagonistic to the West, Saddam Hussein's country fits well with Daniel's description of the embryonic beginnings of the fourth empire -- the first horn of the rich militant ram.

If this is true, then the fourth confrontation in this series began a few years ago and is still in its infancy. A two-pronged attack, the initial stage of which was almost certainly the Gulf War, this fourth eastern assault against western forces is destined in its early phases to plunge the Middle East into war a second time and conclude with the West victorious once again. (Dn.10:2-4, 8:5-6).

Since key parts of this prophecy have already been fulfilled, our position today relative to Daniel's sequence can be roughly ascertained. We exist at the present moment in a time-frame that has deep metaphoric ties to Alexander the Great, the driving patron of Greece who conquered the power of the East in the days just before Daniel was born.

That places us in an era identical to the one prophesied by Daniel for the He-Goat and the Ram -- the earliest kingdoms associated with the birth and development of the fourth and final Persian empire.

If this is actually the case, then we are at the doorstep of Daniel's visions, because the bulk of his propheies circle around events mimicking the exploits of Alexander, his sudden death near the Euphrates, and the rebel who rose up to lead an eastern remnant of the empire he once headed.

From the victories of Alexander until the assassination of the Jewish high priest -- events around which the majority of Daniel's words revolve -- about 170 years passed.

Since this earlier sequence was a pattern in metaphor, the times and dates involved are entirely arbitrary. But one thing we know for certain, Jesus said that the last days were destined to be cut short by the hand of God for the sake of the survival of the elect. For this reason, something less than 170 years seems almost certain.

All that can be determined at this time is that the final events described by Daniel have already begun to occur -- events which have clamped the world onto a sequential countdown to disaster because of sin.

With chronology aside, Daniel's sequence can best be measured by studying the patterns of the events themselves.

In fact, that is why the Holy Spirit has directed Daniel's sequence be given to us in the first place -- so that we can trace patterns in it that are common to events happening now, and know as we see each of them occur that the future of this world is growing shorter every day.

The necessity to listen to Christ and turn to Him grows more urgent as each element in the prophetic pattern occurs and takes its place in history.

The gaps which separate these events will be determined by faith. If the world repents and returns to worship Christ as it did in the past, the time will be lengthened. If not, it will be shortened. And once the Rebel appears it will be shortened again because of his violence.

Daniel's comments concerning the immense wealth of the Media and Persia which he predicted would be involved in the rise to power of the fourth Persian empire key perfectly with two nations which are their modern Middle Eastern geographical counterparts.

There is no question that Iraq and Iran today are far wealthier than any of the eastern empires that ever occupied these lands in the past. Moreover, it is hard to imagine any nations in this area every possessing more wealth in the future. The oil reserves that the middle eastern nations now possess has made them the financial barons of the entire world.

And their militancy cannot be argued. The Twentieth-Century version of this 'Media' has pursued a course of aggression that has already produced two significant wars in less than fifteen years -- one against Iran and the other against the western world.

At the same time, the 'Persia' of our age has become intensely militant as well -- sending out terrorist units like tendrils to wreak havoc in neighboring countries and stockpiling armaments far beyond the needs of its own defense.

By attacking the concept of embassy and taking diplomats hostage, it has expressed for all the world to see how far away from civilized deportmant its internal rage has carried it.

Under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has been the first of these two middle eastern countries to actually challenge the western world (Javan) to a military confrontation.

And since these two countries are situated on the very sands that now cover ancient Media and Persia -- they are perfect templates for the twin horns that the prophet Daniel said are destined to unsuccessfully challenge the power of the West at the start of the last days.

Most unsettling of all, both of these nations are using their immense oil capital in an all-out arms race which is reported to involve nerve gas factories, biological weapons facilities and nuclear weapons plants; and, in the case of Iran, the purchase of sophisticated war machinery from the debt-starved Soviet Union (nuclear submarines for instance).

These two countries are now amassing all the militant ingredients necessary to fulfill every pre-ordained vision that concerns them.

Since the words of Daniel assure us that his prophecies are a blueprint for the events of the end times, we can be certain that a second and far more intensive war will soon occur in this location once again -- a war which is destined to forever alter world history.

This repeat of the Persian Gulf War will fulfill Daniel's vision concerning the second of the two horns of the ram.

At its conclusion the West will emerge victorious, and Iraq will probably disappear, much of it falling into the hands of the southern coalition at a new boundary stretching along the Euphrates river -- a line which will stand like a kind of 38th Parallel between the North and the South in the Middle East. (See map)

That part of Iraq on the eastern side of this river will become the borderland of the fourth Persian empire. This will firm Daniel's prophecies and create the base for all the warfare and violence that will later follow.

North and South will face each other with this river and the fortifications along it standing like a kind of Maginot Line between them.

In his confrontation with the West, an underlying goal driving Saddam Hussein was the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.

Since the first three 'Persian' invasions also included subjugations of Jerusalem, each of these four eastern challenges has involved not just political, but religious objectives as well. All of these confrontations have pitted the power and philosophy of the East -- the descendants of Hagar -- against the people and philosophies of the two 'Houses' of Israel -- the Christians and the Jews -- the descendants of Sarah.

It is this consistent religious antagonism that tells us that the three Persian empires of the past two millenia, and the one now forming, are all thematically biblical. By adhering to scripture's patterns, these empires close the loop between fortuitous history and Daniel's prophecies.


The Last Days of Babylon


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