Preface by Proclaim & Defend:
Today’s headlines blare of unrest in the Middle East. Christians do well to be concerned. About eighteen months ago, we published an article in our print magazine that offers significant insight into the current situation. We urge you to read this article again, be an evangelist, especially of Muslim acquaintances, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Recent events in the Middle East have brought to our attention once again the central role that events in that region play on the world stage. In addition, we were given a crash course in just how quickly things can change there and how precious the freedoms we have in the United States are.
However, we were also reminded of the rising concerns over radical Islamic control of the region and the unique relationship our country has had with Egypt. Much may change between the time of this writing and when readers will get this issue of the magazine, but there are certain historical and geographical truths that attach to these events that are pertinent in considering the potential results as well as the proper response for Christians.
The place to begin is to point out that Egypt as we know it today is far different toward Israel and the West than it was for centuries, including the first eighty years of the twentieth century. Though it is now considered moderate, it was, for most of its history, not so. To most Americans, Egypt is the country of Mubarak and Sadat (the previous president), but prior to that it was the country of Gamal Abdel Nasser, and even Sadat was not necessarily as passive as some think.
Nasser began his leadership of Egypt shortly after its revolution in the early 1950s and was the leader of that country through years of its aggression toward Israel, including the Six- Day War of 1967. Many believe it was Nasser who originally energized the idea of a Palestinian state comprising the West Bank and Gaza. Nasser “unofficially” let Yasser Arafat take charge of the Palestinian movement.
Anwar Sadat took over as president of Egypt after Nasser’s death in 1970, and, though he probably was not as aggressive as Nasser, he was in fact president of Egypt when it joined in the attack on Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Subsequent to the war, he moved in a different direction and, ultimately, signed the Camp David Accords in 1979, becoming the first Arab leader to officially recognize Israel as a sovereign nation. However, he gave his life for this action when he was assassinated on October 7, 1981 (while attending a commemoration of the 1973 attack on Israel). Sitting next to Anwar Sadat when he was killed was Hosni Mubarak, the recently ousted president of Egypt, who was Sadat’s vice president. Mubarak took the reigns of leadership upon Sadat’s death and led Egypt until February of this year.
Mubarak was not without fault, and he did stand in the way of expanding personal freedoms in Egypt for quite some time. But in a world of sin and a region rife with the constant tension that sadly in some ways defines the Middle East, he was a surprisingly reliable ally to the United States, even in the War on Terror, and he was a dependable peace partner to Israel. This does not excuse his wrongful acts but, from a political perspective, the situation with Egypt could have been far worse over the past thirty years.
It is generally believed that the group responsible for the assassination of Sadat was an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood, a group getting a great deal of attention in the news recently, is an organization that is approximately eighty years old and whose primary purpose and desire is to see Islam established worldwide under a caliphate or universal Islamic kingdom- state with centralized religious leadership. While it is not technically considered a terrorist organization by the US government, this group has launched Hamas and al-Qaeda and is responsible for many of the terrorist activities worldwide, though they have been careful to distance themselves from direct connection to these events. Sadat had become an enemy to the Brotherhood because of his secular views and his agreement with Israel. Both of these elements have an impact on what is occurring in Egypt now.
The Brotherhood is hoping to achieve its desires in a two-step process. First, they must regain control of the governments of all lands that were under Muslim control in the past. Next, they seek to expand Islam worldwide, removing all national boundaries so that the caliphate becomes a united theocracy. They long again for the early days of Islam as it was under Muhammad and will use any means to get there and, of course, they seek the destruction of Israel as an important part of the plan.
Key among the lands that were once under Islamic rule are the countries in the Middle East that are currently experiencing upheaval. Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan all sit near the center of the Islamic universe and have all seen demonstrations and sudden changes in their governments before the eyes of the world. Iran has already had its revolution, and Libya and Sudan would be easily swept up into a new caliphate. Syria is a partner to Iran, and Saudi Arabia would fall quickly if things escalated to that point. Only Israel would stand alone in the midst of such a movement, except for possibly Iraq, but the response of Iraq might depend on the relationship with America and the level of American military presence at the time.
Of course, I am not making any predictions here but just highlighting the desires of the Brotherhood and what the region would look like if they had their way. Egypt, Syria and Jordan are particularly interesting in this regard because they were the primary aggressors in the wars with Israel and share borders with her; Egypt of course is also interesting Biblically because it is the “King of the South.”
Of course, we cannot know at this time (or we may never know) precisely what role any particular group has had in the various demonstrations currently taking place. It is quite possible that they all legitimately began as the result of a basic human yearning for freedom. If that is the case, Americans can certainly sympathize with such a motivation, but the cause is rather irrelevant. The most important question is, what will be the result? If these countries, some of which have been relatively “quiet” for a very long time, have a leadership change, what will be the new direction? With the many anti-American and anti-Christian voices in the region it is a matter of concern. Already we have heard reports that some vying for power in Egypt would not honor the peace with Israel. A violation of that agreement would be a challenge for our country since we are a party to that agreement and have assisted in maintaining the peace. In such a case there no doubt would be calls within our country to distance ourselves from Israel. Even worse, perhaps, are the present calls insisting that the Muslim Brotherhood have a voice in the new Egyptian government as it is formed.
Regardless of how it all takes place, if any of the changes in government that will be occurring over the next year in the Middle East result in the Brotherhood or their ilk gaining any level of power or moving them closer to having power, those would be giant steps drawing the world closer to Armageddon. Egypt has been strongly opposed in the past but it is a “prize” that radical Islam is determined to win. These truly are challenging times.
In the midst of all of this sits our friend Israel. She has been relatively silent through it all, but I can assure you that there is great concern among the people there. Her continued existence and the confidence that we have in the impossibility of her annihilation are encouragements for the believer regarding the reality and reliability of our great God. Yet we feel great concern as we see all of this satanic activity.
Egypt has been described as being the cradle of civilization. It certainly has a rich history, but it will also be very involved with the events on earth in the last days. One cannot help but wonder if we are seeing some of the preliminaries for the final act unfolding before our very eyes.
So what is the responsibility of the believer in the midst of these events? We can speculate about the timing of Biblical prophecy and the elements of its fulfillment, and it is certainly reasonable to anticipate a coming caliphate, but what about right now? In the first place we need to be mindful of the history of the region so we can be discerning as we listen to news reports and see all these things happening. In this we must, of course, remember that we are not getting nearly the full story, and in many cases we are not getting the correct story.
Further, and much more importantly, we must be praying regularly for the people affected and the souls of the lost. Of course we have the Biblical mandate to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but we must also pray for Muslims the world over. It is only through trusting in the shed blood of Jesus that they will be saved from the lies of Islam, whether they are radical like the Brotherhood or not. It is probably a good idea that each of us learns about Islam and the best ways of reaching Muslims.
We must also pray for the efforts of those who are reaching out to the Islamic people of the world. In many countries we are hearing reports of precious souls being saved who previously were in the grips of Satan and believed the lie of Islam. The ambassadors for God throughout the world are to be helped in any way possible because of the vital yet difficult work they are doing. May we see and hear of many Muslims turning to Messiah as we say, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”
Dr. Craig Hartman, founder and director of Shalom Ministries, Inc., a New York City–based ministry to the Jewish people, is a frequent conference speaker and is an adjunct faculty member at Bob Jones University. His newly released book Through Jewish Eyes may be purchased through BJU Press. Craig may be contacted at .
This article first appeared in FrontLine • March/April 2011. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.