The Reemergence of Assyria?by Ron Matsen
Daily the world’s media is filled with the macabre images that portray this ruthless group of fundamental Muslims as uncompromising and terrifying to say the least.
The rapid rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has caused many in the world to wonder at its apocalyptic implications. They have distinguished themselves by being the first terror group to declare its captured territory a sovereign country. As a self-proclaimed Caliphate, they aspire to bring much of the Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under their direct control. Just days after the group posted a video on social media showing one of its fighters beheading the journalist James Foley, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declared, “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated.”
Daily the world’s media is filled with the macabre images that portray this ruthless group of fundamental Muslims as uncompromising and terrifying to say the least. We will examine this emerging problem with what I like to call the“Issachar Challenge.” Therefore, we need to address three questions concerning this area of the world:
In the September Personal Update news journal Dr. Steve Elwart laid out the recent history of the regions currently controlled or claimed by the Islamic State. He stated, “Many analysts see the upheaval in the Levant as a realignment of the region to a configuration of national boundaries before Sykes-Picot went into effect.” When we look backwards through history we see that before the Sykes-Picot agreement, which was implemented under the British and French Mandate of 1918, the Ottoman Empire had ruled this area since the mid-sixteenth century. Before the rise of the Ottoman Empire, a brutal succession of Turk and Mongol Empires ruled this region from 930AD. The rise of the Arab Islamic Caliphate between 633–930AD replaced the Byzantine & Sasanian Empires which had occupied this region since the decline of the Roman Empire in 363AD. The Romans (68 BC–363 AD) succeeded the Greeks (332–63 BC) which had succeeded the Persians (539–332 BC) which had conquered the Babylonians (606–539 BC).
What preceded the Babylonian Empire? From approximately 2600 BC to 612 BC this region was home to various Assyrian empires. In summary, the Assyrian region has a 4,600-year continuous history of conflict and conquests. In fact, the armies of this region were well known for their brutal tactics. The Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal wrote after his campaign of 883 BC,
“I built a pillar over against the city gate and I flayed all the chiefs who had revolted and I covered the pillar with their skins. Some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes and others I bound to stakes round the pillar. I cut the limbs off the officers who had rebelled. Many captives I burned with fire and many I took as living captives. From some I cut off their noses, their ears, and their fingers, of many I put out their eyes. I made one pillar of the living and another of heads and I bound their heads to tree trunks round about the city. Their young men and maidens I consumed with fire. The rest of their warriors I consumed with thirst in the desert of the Euphrates.”
Genesis chapter 10 tells us of this region’s first great leader. Nimrod “began to be a mighty one on the earth.” He was responsible for building both the cities of Babel and Nineveh. Some Bible scholars believe that Nimrod was the first world-governing ruler, thus earning him the notoriety of being a prototype of the end-times antichrist. Isaiah tells us that the Pharaoh that “oppressed them (Israel) without cause” was an Assyrian. Both Syrian Kings Ben-Hadad and Hazael put the northern tribes of Israel under tribute. The Assyrian King Shalmaneser IV conquered Northern Israel and Sennacherib led a failed attempt to defeat Jerusalem where he lost 185,000 troops in a single night.
Against this history of ruthless oppression God still deals generously with the Assyrian people. God sent them prophets like Jonah, Elijah, Elisha, and Nahum. The apostle Paul was converted on the road to Damascus and began his public ministry there.
The Bible is not silent when it comes to prophecies concerning Assyria. Daniel chapter 11 details in advance the wars that would be fought between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Assyria. Chapter 11 ends with verses 21 to 35, which detail the treacherous exploits of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In 168 BC this tyrant made Torah reading punishable by death, slaughtered a pig on the Jewish altar, and then erected an idol to Zeus in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. All of this foreshadowed “The Abomination of Desolation” as described by Daniel chapter 9 verse 27. Some Bible scholars believe that Antiochus IV Epiphanes is another prototype of the end-times antichrist.
Daniel gives us yet again another very interesting clue as to the identity of the end-times antichrist that ushers in the seventieth week of chapter nine. He states that “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” In 68 AD the Roman General Titus surrounded the city of Jerusalem, with four legions (V, X, XII and XV). The Twelfth Legion (Legio XII Fulminata) was sent out by the legate of Syria and was made up of units from the Syrian army. This legion participated in the defeat of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.
In the Biblical end-time judgment scenario God promises, “I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks” and He “will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot.”
In Joel Richardson’s book “The Islamic Antichrist” he lists some very provocative predictions concerning Islamic eschatology. He shows that the Mahdi will be the caliph and imam of the Muslim world, make a seven-year peace treaty with a Jew of priestly linage, and will appear on a white horse. The sixth chapter of the Book of Revelation states, “I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer;” so it would seem that the Islamic Mahdi is a perfect match for the rider of this white horse. Notice that the rider on the white horse has a bow (without reference to an arrow). The term used here could mean a symbol of a covenant using the hermeneutic principle of first mention, as the first use of the word “bow” is used to represent a covenant.
Joel Richardson goes on to list the characteristics of the Muslim Jesus. “He will return to the earth in the last-days near a mosque in Damascus. He will arrive at a time when the Mahdi and his army will be preparing to pray.”
When you consider the coalescence of current events in the former region of Assyria with Biblical precedents and prophecies, it should not seem strange to see this region of the world once again at the center of the world’s prophetic stage. The question is, “What should we be doing during this time of great uncertainty?”
The prophet Habakkuk was faced with a similar challenge during his lifetime. God showed him that Israel was going to be overrun by the Chaldeans. “Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you. For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.” These predictions troubled Habakkuk so he sought an answer from God. God responded with this simple statement, “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.”
an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph – i.e. “successor to Muhammad” ↩
1 Chronicles 12:32 ↩
“A MAN-MADE DISASTER” by Steve Elwart – Personal Update September 2014 edition, pages 21–26 ↩
Ibid; page 24 ↩
Genesis 10:8 ↩
Isaiah 52:4 ↩
1 Kings 20 ↩
2 Kings 12,13 ↩
2 Kings 17,18 ↩
2 Kings 18,19 ↩
1 Kings 19:15 ↩
2 Kings 8:7–10 ↩
Acts 9 ↩
Galatians 1:17 ↩
Daniel 9:26,27 ↩
Daniel 9:26 ↩
Isaiah 10:12 ↩
Isaiah 14:25 ↩
Richardson, “The Islamic Antichrist”, 2009, pages 31,32 ↩
Revelation 6:2 ↩
Genesis 9:12,13 ↩
Richardson, “The Islamic Antichrist”, 2009, page 58 ↩
Habakkuk 1:5–7 ↩
Habakkuk 2:4 ↩