The Book of Daniel gives us a glimpse at the empires and conflicts that will occur at the end of the age. Chapters two and seven present a statue of a man divided into four distinct metallic parts and four different beasts respectively which are unanimously interpreted as synonymous representations of four empires.
The general consensus in theology circles has been that these four empires are the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, the Grecian Empire, and the Roman Empire.
However, there are good reasons to challenge these interpretations and consider a futurist interpretation which would relegate these prophecies to the end of the age.
One of the key proponents of the futurist interpretation is Mark Davidson, whose book Hidden In Plain Sight (revised as ‘Daniel Revisited’) and website The Four Signposts are well worth your time.
Davidson’s interpretation lays out the theory that the democratisation of Iraq in the last decade was the first of four key signposts preceding the revealing of the antichrist and he maintains that the second is possibly before us right now with these events in Iraq. Certainly, Davidson lays out a far more detailed presentation than I intend to here.
Daniel chapter eight memorably depicts a series of challenging symbolic images, including those of a ram, a goat, and a series of successive horns. Historically, these images have been interpreted as representing the Persian Empire which was then defeated by the Grecian Empire. Yet there are clear reasons to believe that this prophecy will only be fulfilled in events at the end of the age.
In Daniel 8, the prophet receives understanding about these images, clarifying that they refer to events at the end of the age:
So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.” (Daniel 8:17 ESV)
He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. (Daniel 8:19 ESV)
If the key to these prophetic puzzles are a futurist interpretation, we can look to the Middle East with the expectation that these prophecies will be fulfilled near the end of the age and my personal conviction is that we are nearing the end of the age, so we could even be watching the foundations fall into place today.
Am I making the ever criticised error of date-setting? No. Allow me to elaborate.
What I am saying is that there are signs in the earth today that strongly indicate that people alive today may very well live to see the time of Jacob’s Trouble referred to in the scriptures, which ends with the victorious return of Jesus and his inauguration as Israel’s King.
An image that might help clarify my claim is that of the changing leaves on deciduous trees. Towards the end of summer, the leaves begin to change. In autumn, the leaves fall to the ground. Soon after that, winter arrives. All the signs showed me that winter was coming a good time before it arrived. If I can see the season changing, Then I should be preparing for the next season.
No surprises but this is exactly the image Jesus gives so that we will not be caught off guard.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Mark 13:28-30 ESV)
In 70 A.D., Israel ceased to exist and did so until its unlikely restoration in 1948. Ever since, maintaining its existence has been a struggle. In recent times, the whole Middle East has been writhing in political turmoil and several key regional players have emerged: the ram and the goat.
The ram is regionally the Persian Empire, today occupied by Iran. They have been vying to be a nuclear power for a while and that ambition is likely still in place, despite their recent pleasantries with the United States. Their former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an outspoken adherent to Shiite Mahdism doctrine, frequently threatening Israel with utter destruction and promising the Islamisation of the world.
The goat is regionally the Grecian Empire, today occupied by Turkey. They were secular until Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took office in 2003 and ever since, they have been on a steep descent back into their Islamic roots. Erdoğan has replaced significant military and media personnel, stripping Turkey of freedoms and increasing imposing elements of sharia law.
And in the middle of these two powers is the terrorist group ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, snaking its way from Syria across Sunni Iraq and beyond, if it is able. Turkey, being Sunni, is all for their advance. Iran, being Shiite, is backing the essentially powerless Shiite Iraqi government with military support to halt the advance.
So here we have the brewings and makings of a dangerous but scripturally expected conflict between two ancient regions. Scripture tells us that it’s the ram that seeks power first;
And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great. (Daniel 8:2-4 ESV)
Therefore, based upon what we see before us today, an empire headed by Iran would take control of at least Iraq, probably in a bid to see their eschatological hopes fulfilled in the reestablishment of the Caliphate which, according to their Shia doctrines, will probably usher forth the Mahdi.
Once again, if this interpretation of scripture is correct there would be a powerful and devastating response from Turkey which would establish it as the unchallenged power in the region:
As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken… (Daniel 8:5-8 ESV)
While these two passages in Daniel do quite accurately describe the ancient actions of the Persian and Grecian empires, neither of their victories nor defeats could be said to be “at the time of the end”. The very last event of these two images would be the death of Alexander and the division of his empire but even this was a long way out from the often interpreted end in 70 A.D. and I know of no other “time of the end” suggested by theologians.
Walid Shoebat presents a different angle on the same futurist interpretation, suggesting the following:
Such a move would be a radical policy shift for Turkey, a key U.S. ally and NATO member. Under the Turkish current policy, Ankara has been keen to preserve Iraq’s territorial unity in order to prevent a Kurdish state from being created, because such a development could promote separatist sentiments among Turkey’s own Kurdish minority of about 12 million people.
But the escalating Sunni-Shia sectarian war in Iraq is forcing (as is claimed) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other policymakers in Ankara to review that position, said Veysel Ayhan, director of the Ankara-based think tank International Middle East Peace Research Center (IMPR).
“The federal state [in Iraq] has not brought stability, so we have to discuss a new system, either a confederation or division,” Ayhan told The Daily Beast.
“Sunnis will not accept to live under Shia rule, and Shiites will not live under Sunnis. If Sunni and Shiites do not want to live with the other side, we can’t protect the unity of Iraq.”
Erdogan drew a similarly bleak picture of the situation on Thursday. Speaking to reporters in Ankara, he said the conflict in Iraq had gone beyond a mere confrontation between the Sunni extremists of ISIS and the army of the Shia-led central government in Baghdad. “It has turned into a real sectarian war,” Erdogan said.
A Turkish official close to the Prime Minister went further by saying Turkey realised that Iraq was falling apart.
“It has become clear for us that Iraq has practically become divided into three parts,” Huseyin Celik, spokesman for Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told Rudaw, an Iraqi Kurdish media network based in Erbil, the capital city of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Celik was referring to Sunni, Shia and Kurdish sectors in the country.
Shoebat’s conclusion is an interesting one that would certainly pave the way for a Caliphate ‘race’;
But the real story is that Turkey is likely collaborating with Iran to divide not only Iraq, but the entire region to join either an Iranian Axis or the Turkish Axis.
I am not claiming that any of these theories are exactly how it will work out but rather that they represent possible explanations for what we are seeing in the Middle East today.
Regardless of how it eventuates, the evidence suggests that the vision of the ram and the goat remains a future reality that has been foreshadowed by types and patterns (the rise of Persia and then Greece) that help us understand.