The Future of Iraq
Imagine, if you will, a highway that connects Baghdad with Cairo and Jerusalem; a highway without tolls and borders! Imagine Israel leading the world in religious observance, without rivalry from any nation on earth. People could spend their money on personal and social projects, without a dime going toward defense!
A dream, you say? No, not a dream, but a future reality predicted by Isaiah the prophet. As you read his predictions, keep in mind that much of present-day Iraq is the ancient land of Assyria: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be a third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth” (Isaiah 19:23, 24). This, of course, is a reference to the Millennial Kingdom, a time when Messiah rules on earth, restoring order, and for the most part, reversing the curse that sin has inflicted upon this planet.
Of course, this time of blessing will not happen in the next few months, or even years, but happen it will, just as God predicted.
However, before this time of peace, there will be much bloodshed and suffering, not just in Iraq, but among all the nations of Planet Earth. Whatever our view of the current war on terrorism, we know a temporary era of peace is coming to Iraq, perhaps even in our lifetime, before the Lord returns.
There are many end-time scenarios, but one held by many students of prophecy teaches that Iraq will most likely emerge as an oil superpower, and with trillions of dollars flooding into the country, become a magnet for banks and corporations. The ancient city of Babylon (50 miles south of Baghdad) will become one of the most modern cities in the world. Just read Revelation 18, where Babylon is described as the “great city” and a center of “extravagant luxury.”
Unfortunately, Babylon will not only become a political capital, but also a city of great evil, and possibly the residence of the Anti-Christ. For a time he will dominate the world, expecting to be worshipped by all who live upon this earth (see Revelation 13:7–9). His glory is short-lived, however, and because his empire is centered in Babylon, he will face the fierce judgment of God, most probably when Jesus Christ returns to earth to end the Battle of Armageddon and establish His Kingdom.
During this millennial reign (a 1,000-year period), Iraq will, of course, be rebuilt but under the direction of the world’s new ruler, Jesus Christ. Then a highway will connect the cities of the Middle East and peace shall ensue.
And where will we be when all this happens? We shall be reigning with Christ in the Kingdom, whose capital is Jerusalem. We will already have been translated into God’s presence by the rapture of the Church.
I want to be sure you take away this thought: Yes, Iraq has a marvelous future, but it cannot compare to our future as God’s own people. No matter what you are experiencing today, the best is yet to come!
Examining the End Times
We’re all curious about the end of the world. How will it happen? When? Where will we be? Here, Pastor Lutzer provides some insight into the coming of the Anti-Christ and the Millennial Kingdom.
Q: You end your article on page 2 by saying that the Church will be already translated into God’s presence by the time the Kingdom is established on earth. Why do you believe this?
A: Because the rapture (1 Thess. 4) will already have taken place. Space does not permit a detailed explanation of this except to say that the return of Christ precedes the establishment of the Kingdom. Even those who believe that the Church will go through the Great Tribulation, admit that when Christ returns to establish His Kingdom, all the saints who have died, as well as those who are alive at His coming, will have their eternal, glorified bodies.
Q: But aren’t there people living in the Millennial Kingdom in their earthly bodies? The Bible predicts that children will be born and die, etc. How can it be that we who will have glorified bodies can rule with Christ in such a context?
A: You are right, the Bible does teach that the people who survive the Tribulation will enter the Millennial Kingdom in their earthly bodies. At the same time, the Church and the resurrected Old Testament saints will be there with their glorified bodies. But this should pose no special difficulty. After all, Jesus got along perfectly fine with His disciples after He was raised from the dead with His eternal, heavenly body! In fact, He even ate fish (Luke 24:42, 43).
Q: The Bible predicts that there will be a coalition of Arab countries, led by Russia, that will seek to attack Israel, but they will be destroyed by God (Ezekiel 39).When will this happen, and what will be the effects of this massive destruction?
A: Excellent question! Here is a scenario that might fit: After the rapture of the church there could be a period of preparation for the events to unfold that would wrap up history as we know it. Then, a ruler will arise, the Anti-Christ, who would make a peace covenant that would guarantee the security of Israel and a temporary peace would come to the world. During this time, the coalition (referred to above) would be destroyed directly by God. The balance of power would shift to the Anti-Christ, who would now be unchallenged in his rule of the world.
With these oil-producing countries out of the picture, Iraq (which interestingly is not listed as part of this coalition that will be destroyed) would enjoy great wealth because of its huge oil reserves. Then Babylon would be rebuilt and the Anti-Christ would move his capital there. Then in the middle of the tribulation, the Anti-Christ goes to Jerusalem to break his covenant and declare himself to be God. Three-and one-half years later, the battle of Armageddon occurs and Jesus returns with His saints and destroys all opposition, including Babylon. Then the Kingdom is established.
Keep in mind that in this scenario, the coming of Jesus is in two stages: in the rapture he comes for his saints, in his glorious appearing he comes with his saints in great glory.
Q: Prophecy often divides Christians…there are some scholars who believe the church goes through the Tribulation and others believe there is no Millennial Kingdom because they take all the Old Testament passages metaphorically.
A: You are right, there are many different views, and even those who agree on the main points disagree about the details. Remember, the purpose of prophecy is not to satisfy our curiosity, but to motivate us to holiness and faithfulness. In the end, even the best of scholars will discover they got things wrong! What we know for sure is that Jesus is returning to earth and we don’t know when!