Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you.’” EZEKIEL 38:1-6, NKJV
One of the greatest empires of ancient history, the Persian Empire, played a key role in the Old Testament story of God’s Chosen People. A careful study of Scripture makes it clear that Persia (modern-day Iran) has a key role to play in future prophetic events as well. To better understand what the Word of God teaches about these coming events, we first need to look at the storied past of this often victorious and powerful nation.
The beginnings of what would become the Persian Empire can be traced back in Iran hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Two major tribes that became known as the Medes and Persians grew to become powerful groups in their own right. They were first under the control of the Assyrian Empire and later the Babylonians. At first, the Medes were the dominant partners in the pair, but after a period of struggle, Cyrus the Great supplanted the Medes and established himself as ruler over all of Persia.
It was the Persian army that was encamped around the famed city of Babylon the night that Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall of his palace as he celebrated a drunken feast. Belshazzar made a fatal mistake when he called for the vessels of silver and gold that had been looted from the Temple in Jerusalem to be brought in for use in their celebration. That very hour the judgment of Babylon was written on the wall. It is no coincidence that the disrespect shown by Belshazzar to the God of the Jewish people was the final act that brought his reign to an end.
The prophet Daniel was called when none of the wise men of the kingdom could interpret what had been written. He delivered the message that the words MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN meant that God had numbered and weighed Belshazzar and was about to judge him by taking his kingdom from him. Just as Daniel foretold, the city was taken that very night by the invading Persian army.
Cyrus was very kindly disposed toward the Jewish people and issued the Edict of Restoration, which called for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. This act was foretold by the prophet Isaiah more than 150 years before it happened, including naming Cyrus as the leader who would allow the Jews to return to their homeland. Skeptics scoff at the notion that the prophet could have identified by name a future pagan king who would return God’s Chosen People to their ancient capital of Jerusalem, but it is yet one more indication that whatever the Word of God says will surely come to pass. The God who knows all things has given us glimpses into the future, and when we rightly study the Word, we can learn the things He wishes for us to know to prepare for the future.
The Persian Empire expanded even more under Cyrus’ successors, the most famous of whom was Darius the Great. (This is not the same Darius as the ruler named in Daniel 6 who was deceived into signing the decree that ended with Daniel being thrown into the den of lions, but a later king with the same name.) Under Darius the reach of Persia stretched across from Europe and North Africa across the Middle East and into Asia. As foretold by Daniel, the Persian Empire lasted until it was conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great some 300 years before the birth of Christ. From that time forward, the land we know as Iran passed from one hand to the next. Among the empires who ruled Iran were the Parthians and the Sassanids. Not long after the foundation of Islam, Iran was invaded and conquered, and it became part of the Islamic Caliphate.
The Mongols under Genghis Khan conquered Iran as part of the westward expansion of his empire. The region was a major battle ground for centuries, until the establishment of the Safavid Dynasty some 1,500 years after the birth of Christ. They settled the borders of what is now Iran and ruled into the 1700s when the Ottomans from the West and the Russians from the north took much of their land and held it until after the First World War.
In 1925, a military coup placed Reza Shah in power, and he and his son Mohammed Shah Pahlavi ruled the country for most of the next 50 years until the Iranian Revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. This revolt, which was covertly and sometimes openly supported by many Western nations, including the United States under President Jimmy Carter, installed the radical Islamist regime that still holds power today as a bitter enemy of the nation of Israel. This represented a radical change for Iran, which under the Shah had been very friendly toward the Jewish state.
This enmity is no surprise to students of prophecy. In describing the participants who will take part in the great End-Time battle against the restored nation of Israel, Ezekiel lists Persia as one of the nations that will be drawn into the conflict in defiance of God and His Chosen People. It is not hard to see the prophetic pieces being positioned when we read the news day after day.
The leaders of Russia and Iran have had a series of recent meetings, and it is known that Russia has reaped billions of dollars in profits from the sale of nuclear and military technology to Iran. These actions, taken in defiance of United Nations sanctions to prevent Iran from getting such advanced weaponry, are a clear indication that Russia is arming potential allies for a future war. Iran has benefited greatly from the technological know-how of Russian advisers and scientists during its current build-up.
No one knows the exact timing of the war to annihilate Israel foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, but we do know that it will certainly take place. Those who oppose the Jewish state and wish to see the Jewish people destroyed have taken sides in the ancient enmity between Satan and God over the fate of His Chosen People, and their judgment for doing so is certain.
The Bible not only foretells this great battle, but it gives us the end result as well:
“And I will bring him to judgment THE PERSIAN EMPIRE Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC) Modern-day country borders are overlaid with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 38:22-23).
Many people believe that the Bible foretells a nuclear strike against those who attempt to destroy Israel and the Holy City of Jerusalem. For example, the prophet Zechariah described the results of the battle in terms that certainly match the effects of a nuclear blast:
“And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths” (Zechariah 14:12).
Whatever means are used to bring about their defeat, there is no doubt that the enemies of Israel, including Iran, will be destroyed for their attempt to touch the “apple of God’s eye”—the Jewish people. This Bible prophecy is just as certain as the many that have already been fulfilled. Though Iran certainly poses a grave threat to Israel, and its desire to see the Jewish state destroyed cannot be denied, ultimately Iran will fail in its evil purpose because God has declared that He will do battle to defend Israel and bring glory to His name.
“Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, ‘O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.’ While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.’” (DANIEL 10:10-13)
In the book of Daniel, we find the great prophet and man of faith praying and fasting and seeking answers from God about the visions he had been given regarding the future. After three weeks Daniel was visited by an angel who brought him the answer to his prayer, but the angel also revealed to Daniel a spiritual battle that had been taking place in the unseen realm.
The angel said that the answer had been sent immediately, but it had been delayed because a demonic power that he referred to as the “prince of Persia” had blocked it from being delivered. It was not until the archangel Michael, who is seen in Scripture as a great fighter for God’s people, arrived and helped win the battle that the angel with Daniel’s answer was able to come to the prophet and deliver it to him.
The Bible teaches that there are different levels of authority in the spirit realm. Paul wrote,
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
One of the most important truths I have ever learned is that no battle can be won in the physical realm unless it has first been fought and won in the spiritual realm. If Daniel had not been faithful to continue praying, even though his answer was delayed, I do not believe that the spiritual battle would have been won. We are not observers in spiritual warfare; we are on the front lines of the battle. Our prayers matter a great deal, and they are powerful. The great hymn writer William Cowper said, “Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees.”
We have a responsibility to be active participants in spiritual warfare. We must take this seriously, because these spiritual powers—both demonic and angelic—are actively at work in our world today. This is one of the vital lessons of this story from the book of Daniel. Each of us is facing battles against differing levels or layers of authority in the spiritual realm.
This is not just true on an individual basis; it is true on a national level as well. The demonic being referred to as “prince of Persia” had power and authority over one of the greatest empires of history. This is not an isolated or special case. Other nations have demonic powers assigned to them. After talking with Daniel, the angel revealed that there was another evil spirit involved.
“Then he said, ‘Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come” (Daniel 10:20).
This tells us that just as Persia had a demonic power working in authority over its empire, there was a “prince of Greece” as well. It was only after the demonic power behind the kingdom of Persia had been defeated by the archangel Michael that the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, were able to defeat them on the field of battle. Previous to that time, the Greeks and Persians had fought a series of battles, but there was no decisive victory until the demonic power dynamic was changed.
This matters a great deal to us today because Persia—modern-day Iran—is once again involved heavily in potential conflict with the nation of Israel. We do not know whether the same “prince of Persia” that was active in Daniel’s day is the same one behind the rulers of Iran today, but there is no doubt that there is a demonic power behind the throne. Satan has hated God’s Chosen People throughout all of human history, and his demonic powers have turned many governments against them. From Pharaoh in Egypt to Hitler in Germany to the leaders of Iran today, the same evil forces are at work to try to destroy the Jewish people.
I personally confronted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top Iranian political and religious leaders in New York City a few years ago. I can tell you without any question that the demonic power in these men is real. I could feel its presence when I walked into the room with them. I immediately began to pray in my spirit that the Spirit of God would bind those demonic forces and give me His power. God is greater than any power of the enemy!
The reality of spiritual warfare is that Israel cannot be defended just with tanks and planes and soldiers and intelligence services or any other weapons. The Jewish state must first and most importantly be defended in prayer. That is why the Jerusalem Prayer Team exists—to gather Believers from around the world to fight and win the most important spiritual battle of our lifetime.
As Daniel did, we must be faithful to pray until the victory is won. Only when the “prince of Persia” is defeated in the heavenlies will Israel have victory over the great threat posed against her today by Iran, and that victory will not happen unless and until we do our part to win it.
Shia vs. Sunni
There is a deep theological divide within Islam that dates back to the days just after the death of Mohammed. The great majority of Muslims in the world today follow the traditional Sunni sect. The more radical Shia trace their roots back to Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali, who they believe should have succeeded Mohammed as the head the religion. Shia is a shortened version of Shiat Ali, the party of Ali.
Most Muslim countries today are dominated by Sunni Muslims. The most notable exception is Iran. There, the Shia have held sway since the Islamic revolution in 1979 that overthrew the Shah and placed Ayatollah Khomeini in power. For the past 36 years, Iran’s leaders have been attempting to export their theology by sponsoring terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.
The Shia hold a particular endtimes prophecy that closely mimics the Christian doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ. They are watching for the 12th Imam (because of this, they are often are referred to as “twelvers”) to return and place the entire world under Islamic sharia law. They believe that this descendant of Mohammed will only be revealed after a bloody and violent war—all the more reason not to trust Iran with nuclear weapons.
A Friend Betrayed
In the 1970s, the Shah of Iran was a great friend of both the United States and Israel. Under his leadership, Iran was rapidly becoming part of the modern world, but during the disastrous presidency of Jimmy Carter, the U.S. turned its back on a friend and paved the way for a wave of Islamic terrorism like nothing the world had seen before in the modern age.
I had the privilege of interviewing Empress Farah Pahlavi and Mike Evans discussed American involvement in the Iranian Revolution. Shahbanu Farah Diba some years ago. She recounted in detail the many ways in which the U.S. government worked to undermine her husband, and how billions of dollars were poured into the coffers of Ayatollah Khomeini to use for his revolution.
The sad reality is that most of the terrorism we are fighting around the world today traces its roots to the Carter Administration’s decision to support the Islamic revolution that took over Iran in 1979. The lessons of America’s betrayal and the fate of Iran in the 1970s are not lost on Israel today. There is no guarantee that the United States will stand with Israel with either the Iranian nuclear program or a potential United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood.
A Speech to the Nation of Israel
When I addressed the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, I talked about the four different ways of waging war in the modern era: 1) economic war, 2) media war, 3) proxy war, and 4) boots on the ground. Much of modern conflict is aimed at achieving victory before step four is ever reached. Then I said this: “I don’t need to tell you about winning military wars. Israel has won wars against overwhelming odds time and again. You have all the tools to fight and win conventional wars. What Israel needs is help fighting the spirit war that motivates these attacks.”
The truth is that while Israel’s military is amazingly well trained and equipped, and it has been proven again and again in battle, it cannot win the war. America’s military might cannot win the war. The war—the war that matters most—can only be fought and won by Believers who are willing to wrestle against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places.