Two words about Erdogan’s move into Syria: Birth. Pangs.
In Matthew 24:4-8, Yeshua told us certain birth pangs will accompany the end of our age. He listed “wars and rumors of wars” as one of those signs. Tragically, wars have been with us throughout human history, so how will these “birth pangs” be different?
As many have pointed out, birth pangs increase over time, both in frequency and intensity. In terms of wars, it’s easy to demonstrate that the bloodthirsty twentieth century exceeded any excess this tired world has seen before.
But beyond the general indicator of “wars,” a deeper look at scripture yields some specific conflicts prophesied as markers of the last days. One of these is depicted in Ezekiel 38. While there is debate about the location of some of the nations listed in the prophecy, it’s clear that Turkey (Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, Beth Togarmah) and Iran (Persia) are included. As Turkish forces surge into Syria, the conflict depicted in Ezekiel 38 comes increasingly into focus.
Amir Tsarfati points out that:
The prophet Ezekiel spoke of a time when Russia, Iran, and Turkey would invade Israel from the north. Russia has been entrenched in Syria, fighting in the Syrian civil war. Iran has been entrenched throughout the Middle East, but especially in Syria for some time. Syria is a highway to Iran’s proxies and another platform for them to launch attacks at Israel. Turkey has held a minor presence in Syria up to this point, but now, all of that’s about to change. With Turkey announcing their invasion of Syria, the three biggest militaries involved in the Ezekiel coalition will now be condensed inside of the same country north of Israel.
The Ezekiel 38 coalition will be led by a mysterious figure: “Gog of Magog.” While scholars have traditionally believed Magog to be in Russia, Joel Richardson has put forward a persuasive argument that Magog could be located in modern-day Turkey.
When we see Erdogan emerge as an Islamist despot, could we be witnessing Gog’s rise? And the descent into the Ezekiel 38 war?
“Erdogan has increasingly… removed his mask,” Richardson says. “Erdogan and his government are emerging as the greatest potential entity to take control of the emerging pan-Islamist Caliphate. It is long past due that the American government and the praying church awaken to the profoundly caustic mixture of nationalism and Islamism that has emerged in Turkey.”
There’s been plenty of political furor over Turkey’s move into Syria. That’s not really my arena, so I won’t add my voice to the hubbub. But you’ll find a perspective here (SkywatchTV: Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis–Get America Out of Syria’s War) that may serve to counterbalance some of what we’re hearing from other media.
The world’s concern has rightly been drawn to what is happening to the Kurds, who are in the direct line of fire. I find it telling that much less concern has been directed at the tragic outcome for Christians and other religious minorities. Sources on the ground report that Erdogan’s move into Syria has already been accompanied by a bloodletting.
…a severe impact on civilians which included *targeted attacks against Christian communities*….[Turkey]’s Directorate of Religious Affairs organized a *90,000 mosque wide recitation* of morning Islamic prayers which *encouraged Turkish soldiers to attack apostates and atheists* throughout the invasion….Many of the civilians [in this area] are descendants of those who escaped the 1915 genocide committed by Turkey.
In other words, Turkey’s state-sponsored religious leaders have been encouraging its forces to slaughter “infidel” non-combatants wherever they find them. A number of Christian communities have sustained heavy shelling.
The mother of a family that we worked so hard to save. She and her family survived ISIS, rescued by The Nazarene Fund only to be killed along with her husband and children by Turkish forces today. Please help us save the Christians and Yazidis https://t.co/HKB45HIxBj pic.twitter.com/iYQjlpcGiQ
— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) October 10, 2019
By way of context, it’s worth revisiting the background of the blood-soiled tyrant whose forces are poised to slaughter their way into Syria.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been President of Turkey since 2014. Joel Richardson, a Christian filmmaker and author focused on the Middle East, has stated he is becoming the most dangerous actor in a region noted for bad actors.
“If Erdogan is not stopped, history will recognize him as the closest thing to the Adolf Hitler of our generation.”
For most of his decades-long political career, Erdogan assumed a moderate stance. But in July 2016, the Turkish military attempted a coup—which some believe Erdogan himself orchestrated. The coup was squashed at great cost: more than 300 killed and more than 2100 injured.
Erdogan used the coup as justification to tighten his grip on the majority-Muslim nation of eighty million. (>95% are Muslim; <1% Christian.) According to CNN, in the coup’s aftermath Erdogan’s forces:
Reports are particularly dire concerning treatment of those arrested on suspicion of involvement in the failed coup. Mosques all across Turkey—which enjoy the benefit of government funding—called on the Turkish people “to take to the streets and airports” in defense of Erdogan’s regime. Hardline vigilantes answered the call, hunting Turkish soldiers and beating, torturing, lynching them.
The brutality continued once surrendered soldiers reached police stations. Amnesty International reported that it “gathered credible evidence that up to 10,000 detainees in Turkey are being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape…. Turkish police in Ankara and Istanbul are holding detainees in stress positions for up to 48 hours, denying them food, water and medical treatment, and verbally abusing and threatening them. In the worst cases some have been subjected to severe beatings and torture, including rape.” (Yes, this is homosexual rape. Some Muslims believe homosexuality is only a sin for the effeminate partner.)
With dissent brutally and effectively silenced, Erdogan made a chilling move to consolidate his power base. In April 2017, his Justice and Development Party convinced voters to approve a constitutional reform package, in essence voting to “trade democracy for a system of government that looks like authoritarian rule.” Erdogan gained frightening new powers, with authority over all branches of government.
Turkey’s constitutional referendum granted Erdogan
disturbing new powers (Source: CNN)
The issue? “…Electoral fraud,” Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a former member of Turkey’s parliament, told Christian World News. “There are hundreds of cases of ballot box stuffing. What’s even more scandalous is the Supreme Council of Election changed the rules of counting over an hour into the counting which is always an embarrassing smoking gun.”
Erdogan has pushed the nation, a key NATO ally, sharply toward Sharia law. His speeches have been marked by a “belligerent clash of Islam versus Christianity. It’s the battle of the cross versus the crescent rhetoric,” Erdemir says. Such rhetoric “mobilizes people, it brings votes to Erdogan…
“He knows first-hand that the magic formula in a majority Muslim country is incitement. Religious incitement….”
Authorities have used these new powers to seize at least fifty Christian churches. Included in the move are ancient and historic properties such as the Byzantine Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (which was once Christian Constantinople), and the fourth-century Mor Gabriel Monastery.
The Hagia Sophia was the world’s largest cathedral for over 1000 years. It was made over into a mosque in 1453, then into a museum–a fair acknowledgement of its multi-faith background–during Turkey’s moderate Islamic phase beginning in the 1930s. Erdogan is now promoting a movement to repurpose it into a mosque once more.
My heart bleeds for the horrors innocent people are currently enduring as Turkey pushes into Syria. We must all remember these brothers and sisters “as if chained with them” (Heb 13:3).
An hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. (John 16:2-4)
This isn’t the first time in the history of the church that believers have had to “resist to the point of shedding blood” (Heb 12:4). And we know it won’t end here. We’re experiencing precisely what scripture has warned us about all along–what J.R.R. Tolkien called “the long defeat.” But we also know that this apparent defeat will end in a sudden plot twist. Our Lord will return and usher in a new kingdom where justice will reign.
If by some chance you’ve gotten tired of hearing warning messages about fulfilled prophecy and the imminence of our Lord’s return (I’ve unfortunately seen the eyerolls from some), then I’d ask you to step back for a moment.
“Sixty years ago when I first started preaching, you had to scratch around like a chicken to find one sign of the Lord’s soon return. But today there are so many signs I’m no longer looking for them. Instead, I’m listening for a sound—the sound of a trumpet!”
– Elbert Peak at a Bible prophecy conference in the early 1990’s, as quoted by David Reagan
Thank how exciting these days are, with prophecies jumping out of the Bible and into the headlines! What a privilege it is to live in such times–even dangerous times! As in the days of Yeshua’s first coming, “many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Luke 10:24).
Are you ready?
If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand. (Ezek 33:6)
We must all be watchmen in this day.
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.