Is There Hope for Peace in the Middle East?
Why the Middle East Awaits the Coming of Christ
I’ve just recently returned from Israel, a land drenched in history; a land acquainted with war; a land to which all believers will someday return with our great and glorious King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Until then, we can expect conflict, unrest, and the threat of war.
What chance does peace have in the Middle East? In my opinion, none until Jesus returns to establish His kingdom. Naïve politicians speak about a “two-state solution,” “land for peace,” or other bargaining incentives to bring peace. But I believe all of these plans shall fail for one good reason: the Muslim Palestinian leaders cannot allow peace to come to the Middle East under any settlement. For them, it’s not just history and land that’s at stake, but Islam itself.
While most Palestinians would like nothing better than a reasonable peace with Israel, their leaders refuse to accept the existence of an Israeli state. First, because the radicals do not simply want land—they want Jewish blood to vent their hatred, fueled by the Qur’an. Second, they believe that God gave the land to Ishmael’s descendants—the Muslims. Third, there is the Islamic teaching that a land once under Muslim control (as Israel was under the Turks) should never be surrendered, but must be reclaimed by a jihad.
Taken together, these three reasons form a permanent roadblock to peace in the Middle East. The Islamic nations that surround Israel cannot rest until “Israel is pushed into the sea,” as the saying goes.
We can support our politicians for seeking peace, hoping against hope that a “two-state solution” is both desirable and possible, but I believe their words will eventually fall to the ground. Yes, there might be a temporary peace, such as between Israel and Egypt, but that will last only until the Islamic states think they have enough armaments to finally destroy Israel—they will not make permanent peace. At the end of the day, the cause of conflict in the Middles East is deeply rooted in the religion of Islam, whose radicals insist that they must dominate in the Holy Land, and more ominously, in the entire world.
Zechariah predicted that God would make Israel a “cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples” (12:2). Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and the Arab Spring two years ago turned into an open door for the Muslim Brotherhood to take greater control—the cause of radical Islam is growing and the annihilation of Israel is the goal.
The coming of Jesus will change all of that. He will first come for the church (the rapture) but later, after the Great Tribulation, He will return to the Mount of Olives and peace shall finally be established. What a day that will be!
Meanwhile, God is working mightily in Muslim countries. Tens of thousands are coming to trust Christ, even Muslims in Iraq and Iran. In Africa, whole Muslim communities are turning to Christ. Islam is not a barrier to God; Christ is able to save all who come to God by Him.
Why the Middle East Must Await the Return of Jesus Christ
Most of us have little experience with the Qur’an or the teachings of Islam, so Pastor Lutzer answers some of the questions most relevant to the situation in the Middle East, and our world, today.
Q: You have written in your article that hatred against the Jews is fueled by the Qur’an. What passages were you thinking of?
A: At first, Muhammad said complimentary things about the Jews, hoping to win them over to his new religion, but when they refused his offer he turned against them with vicious curses and hatred. For example, three times we read in the Qur’an that God transformed the Jews into “pigs and apes” (2:65; 5:60; 7:166). Also, the Qur’an teaches that (1) the Jews are the greatest enemies of Islam, (2) Jewish people do not love Muslims, (3) Jews start wars and cause trouble on the earth, and (4) Muslims are not to be friends with the Jews (60:13).
And finally, there is a judgment on both Christians and Jews who must be thoroughly humiliated and even tortured. “O you who have been given the Scriptures [Jews and Christians]. Believe in what we have revealed [the revelations of Muhammad] confirming what was already with you before. We efface faces [making them like the back of necks; without a nose, mouth, eyes] and turn them hind wards, or curse them as we cursed the Sabbath breakers. And the commandment of Allah is always executed” (4:47).
Of course not all Muslims are haters, but unfortunately, for those who wish to be, the Qur’an offers good reasons to vent such animosities against Jews, Christians, and those who might convert to another religion.
Q: Sometimes we hear Muslims say that Islam is older than Christianity, and that Abraham was a Muslim. Explain.
A: Yes, I’ve heard Muslims say that all true Jews and Christians are really already Muslims, if only they were to “purify” their faith. The problem that Islam has is this: the Qur’an in various places honors Jews and Christians as “people of the Book” and even suggests that if people are confused they should check with “the people of the Book.” However, since Judaism and Christianity differ so significantly from Islam, the idea has arisen that the Bible was corrupted since the time of Muhammad and that accounts for these differences.
Thus, if these two religions were to “purify” their faith, they would discard the corrupted Bible, accept the Qur’an , and admit to being Muslims!
Space forbids a detailed reply to this, so I shall simply say that this is false historically, religiously, and textually.
Q: So often we hear that the Muslims are still fighting against Christianity in vengeance because of the Crusades in the 11th and 12th centuries. Explain.
A: Within the first century of Islam (Muhammad c. 570-632) the Muslims, unprovoked, laid siege against Jerusalem and captured the city in 637. Although Jerusalem is not even mentioned in the Qur’an, the city was now regarded as a holy site of Islam.
The first crusade in 1099 was a response to the atrocities Muslims committed against Christian pilgrims who wanted to visit the Holy Land. Monks had been killed in Bethlehem, all crosses were destroyed in Jerusalem, and churches were pillaged. And when the Muslims threatened to destroy the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Pope recruited people for a crusade to recapture the Holy Land.
The Crusades were not an unprovoked attack by Christians signaling Western aggression. Nor did the Christians go there to convert Muslims to Christianity, and yet this is part of the revisionist history blindly accepted by the West. The motive for rescuing the Holy Land was legitimate, but unfortunately, the venture, as undertaken, was wrongheaded for various reasons and has been a blot on Christianity. First, the enlisted were not trained soldiers, thus many went on a rampage in the first crusade and committed atrocities, and secondly, the crusaders fought under the banner of the cross, breeding confusion between the Gospel and warfare.
Q: Do you think we are close to the return of Jesus?
A: Good question. I shall give a brief answer, “I don’t know.” However, never before in history has the stage been so prepared for His return. We should look forward to His return not just for our deliverance but also because of the peace it will eventually bring to the world!