Friday, June 21, 2013

The Syrian?

Syria and the prophet Amos

God speaks through the ancient prophet Amos about Syria's significance in the end time. Amos is called a "minor prophet" not because of importance, but simply because it is a shorter book than others. Amos's warning to Damascus (Amos 1:3-5) was one of eight prophecies given to tribes or countries in the region of Syria and Israel.

Damascus was one of Israel's long-term rivals. Verse 3 says Damascus has "threshed Gilead with implements of iron." It is likely that the threshing attack is the same incident referred to in 2 Kings 13:7. "The metaphor Amos used is that of a threshing sledge, an agricultural implement made of parallel boards fitted with sharp points of iron or stone...The intensity of the metaphor, however, implies the most extreme decimation and may hint at especially cruel or inhuman treatment" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on Amos 1:3).

Verse 4 mentions Hazael and Ben-Hadad. They were father and son, both kings of Syria , noted for their cruel treatment of Israel (see 2 Kings 8:12-13).

The reference in verse 5 to Aven (Awn in Hebrew) "may the valley between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, called El-Bekaa, where are the ruins of the Baalbek temple of the sun; so the LXX [i.e., Septuagint] renders it On, the same name as the city in Egypt bears, dedicated to the sun-worship (Gen. 41:45; Margin, Ezek. 30:17, Heliopolis, 'the city of the sun'). It is termed by Amos 'the valley of Aven,' or 'vanity,' from the worship of idols in it" (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary, note on Amos 1:5).

The possible detailed mention of the Bekaa Valley is startling, given its position today in Middle Eastern geopolitics. Specifically, the prophecy says, "I [God] will also break the gate bar of Damascus , and cut off the inhabitant from the Valley of Aven" (verse 5).

"A cosmic holocaust"

Throughout this short prophecy is the repeated theme that God's punishment is to send "fire" that will "devour." Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary explains this as "flames of war (Ps. 78:63)," and explains that it "occurs also in vss. 7, 10, 12, 14, and 2:2, 5" (note on verse 4). In addition, Amos 4:11 speaks of an actual conflagration, such as destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

This "fire" is much more than one of the countless cross-border wars between Syria and Israel. After introducing fiery destruction in the prophecy, Amos later refers to this war as "it" in Amos 1:14 and Amos 2:2, 5. The Anchor Bible Commentary states: "All eight oracles refer to the same 'it', which will not be retracted or reversed. There was a single decree covering them all...declaring judgment on the entire region as a unit...This unity suggests one cosmic holocaust, not just several invasions that would pick these countries off one by one" (note on Amos 1).

In its somewhat difficult-to-follow language, Amos warns of a great end-time destruction that is tied in with the nation of Syria and that will engulf many nations.

Jesus spoke of such an ultimate catastrophe, which will threaten the continued existence of the world: "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive" (Matthew 24:21-22, New International Version).

Therefore, the future of seemingly insignificant Syria is crucial to the entire world! We need to keep a watchful eye on what happens there, for it is a trigger point, leading to a cascade of events that will change the world forever.

There two little horns in Daniel. The one in Daniel 7:8 springs up within the 4th Kingdom, the Roman Empire, and is clearly a prophecy of the anti Christ. In Daniel 8 a little horn comes out of one of the four surviving components of the Greek Empire following Alexander’s death. This is commonly thought to be the Selucid Kingdom in today’s Syria. This prophecy was fulfilled in the life of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Selucid King responsible for the desecration of the Temple and subsequent Maccabbean revolt in 168-165 BC.

But beginning in Daniel 8:23 the Angel Gabriel’s interpretation of Daniel’s vision also seems to include an end times reference to the anti Christ, called a stern faced king, who will come to power by means of peace. This reference has helped scholars see Antiochus as a type of the anti Christ since much of what he did in prompting the Maccabbean revolt will be repeated at the beginning of the Great Tribulation.

Like the antiChrist, Antiochus called himself a god, and set about to destroy Israel. He erected a statue in his own likeness in the Holy Place, and required worship on pain of death. This too was called the Abomination of Desolation and sparked a 3 1/2 year revolt.

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