Turkey in Bible Prophecy
The future of Turkey after the failed coup
The dramatic military coup in Turkey that took place two weeks ago in July 2016, suddenly broke out and yet the crisis dissipated the very next day. In the moment of crisis it seemed as if the whole area could suddenly change. Yet now things move on and the crisis is quickly forgotten about.
But the fact is, that Turkey and Europe did change, never to be the same again on that day, fulfilling the expectation of Bible prophecy.
The belief that the Ottoman Turkish Empire would decline and “dry up”, was long held by students of Bible Prophecy as a fulfillment of Revelation 16:12, where the text reads: “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.” The drying up of this power was seen as a prerequisite for the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, also as a necessary fulfillment of the many prophecies in the Bible.
Both these events have taken place, verifying the truth of scripture and also the basis and overall interpretation of these prophecies. Subsequent to the first world war, the Turkish Empire disappeared and the momentum built for the return of the Jews, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The modern country of Turkey has continued as a significant power in the Middle East. Is a further drying up of the Turkish power necessary as a fulfillment of Bible Prophecy?
Modern Turkey, the remaining puddle of the once great Ottoman Empire, lies in the heartland of its predecessor the Byzantine Greek Empire, the eastern leg of the Roman Empire. Not only does Turkey lie in the cultural and religious heartland of the Greek Byzantine Empire, the capital, Istanbul, is situated on the Bosphorus, a strategic international waterway and Russia’s access to the Mediterranean sea. The Bosphorus also creates the geographic boundary between Europe and Asia. Istanbul was once Constantinople, the capital and religious centrefor the Byzantine Empire. Russia is the undisputed heir to the Greek Byzantine Empire, Moscow replaced Constantinople as its capital; yet the strategic, religious and cultural significance to Russia is enormous.
The significance of Istanbul or Constantinople to Russia
1. Strategically Istanbul is the gateway, both maritime otherwise to the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa for Russia. The lengths which Russia went to, to retain its military presence in Crimea on the Black Sea are useless without passage through the Bosphorus. Russia’s operations in Syria and its port there, would be far more difficult if not impossible to maintain without passage through those straights. Turkey is a member of NATO. If the straights were closed to Russian vessels, war would be inevitable.
2. Religiously, Constantinople is the heartland of Russia’s state church, the Greek Orthodox Catholic religion. The church “Hagia Sophia” in Istanbul was for over 900 years the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church. When the Ottomans came, the church was converted to a mosque and then after the demise of the Ottoman Empire it was converted to a museum in the 1930’s. There is a movement in Turkey to convert the building back to a mosque again, which would no doubt cause confrontation with Russia.
3. Russia has historical and cultural roots in the Byzantine Empire, although the area is now very Islamic. However, to an Empire builder such as Putin, Constantinople would be almost irresistible.
With this in mind, the significance of Istanbul to Russia is very plain and apparent. Now, what about from a prophetical standpoint? What is the significance of Constantinople from a prophetical point of view?
In Daniel chapter 2, the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the metallic image, we learn about what will be in the latter days. The prophet Daniel says to the king, in Daniel 2:28, “But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.” Daniel 2, then, is a prophecy of what will be in the latter days. Daniel explains to the king, that each of the metals of the image represents a subsequent kingdom that will reign over the earth. There are four phases, with a fifth of clay and iron in the feet and toes which form a rather shaky basis for the image. In the days of the final kingdom of iron and clay, the image will be stand in its entirety. In other words the last kingdom will contain elements of all the empires that have gone before. The prophecy is very emphatic on this point; Daniel says, “Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together…” In order for them to be broken together, they have to stand together. Each of these empires; Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, each had rule over the holy land, the land of Israel, the land of Daniel the prophet’s nation. The Roman legs, are an apt representation of the Roman empire, which became divided into a eastern (Byzantine) leg and a western (Latin) leg. Today we live in the days of the feet, the phase of iron and clay, partly strong and partly broken. There would be certain elements with a Roman Imperial character and certain elements with a clay character. This we understand to be the power of the people or democracy. As Adam was created from the dust of the ground so clay is an apt description of the power of man.
While we live in this phase of the iron and clay, it can’t be forgotten as has been established, that the image is broken in pieces together and so stands together. There is to be a latter day empire, descended from the Roman Empire that will be destroyed by the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ — the little stone that smites the image upon its feet. When Nebuchadnezzar saw this image standing, in its entirety, right before its destruction, he is awestruck as the form thereof was terrible. This is the character of the latter day empire that will be formed on the earth, out of the remains of the Eastern and Western Roman empires. Therefore Daniel 2 leads us to the conclusion of the importance of the Eastern Roman Empire in the latter days, that it must stand up with the rest of the image with its religion, culture and military power.
The prophecy of Daniel 7 parallels Daniel chapter 2, portraying the four empires not as metallic parts of an image, but four terrible beasts that arise one after another. Daniel 8 again parallels these other prophecies, giving us more information from a different angle — a Greek point of view. Daniel 2, has a Medio-Persian, chest and arms of silver; Daniel 7 represents this power by a Bear raised up on one side, and; Daniel 8 depicts it as a Ram. Daniel 2 then has a Grecian belly and thighs of brass, which Daniel 7 represents with a four headed leopard, and Daniel 8 depicts with a male goat who is victorious over the Ram. However, while Daniel 2 and 7 have a representation of the Roman empire, Daniel 8 only has the two animals. Yet, as we read through Daniel 8 we can clearly see the Roman power, however, he arises out of one of the horns of the goat. This demonstrates how the Greek culture and character would continue on the in the Roman Empire, in particular in the Greek East. Daniel 8 also brings us to the time of the end which that kingdom would be broken. The “king of fierce countenance” will stand up against the “prince of princes”, but would be “broken without hand” — just like Daniel 2! This king of fierce countenance would stand up in the latter days of the divisions of the Alexanders Greek Empire, he would cause the sacrifices in the temple to cease and cast down the sanctuary — the temple in Jerusalem. This would be at a time when the transgressors in the Jewish kingdom had “come to the full”. All of this clearly shows that this “king” is a Roman king, ruling over the Greek Empire. This became the Byzantine Empire.
We are given more details about what this king will do in the latter days in Daniel 11. He will change his religion (Daniel 11:37), not worshipping the God of his fathers. This great change in the Roman Empire was accomplished by Constantine, who changed the empire from Paganism to Christianity and gave his name to Constantinople. At the time of the end he will come against the holy land like a whirlwind and overflow many countries. He will come with many ships (Daniel 11:40,41). The ships of this latter-day Greek and Roman Empire will come from the Black Sea and through the Bosphorus down to the Middle East. Yet he will be destroyed, Daniel says and no one will come to his aid.
From these prophecies then, we would expect Russia to strengthen its role as the eastern Greek leg of the Empire that will stand in the latter days as depicted in Daniel 2. From Daniel 8 we learn that this Greek element of the empire will exist until it is destroyed without hand, when the Lord Jesus establishes his kingdom in the earth. In Daniel 11, we see how this Roman/Greek empire will invade the Middle East, overflowing and passing over many countries. All this would lead us to believe that Russia will take Constantinople, establishing its self as the rightful descendent of the Byzantine/Greek empire, controlling the passage of its ships through the Bosphorus and exercising religious authority over earth from the Hagia Sophia, in conjunction with the Roman Catholic Church seated in Rome.
The military coup in Turkey is a clear symptom of greater problems lying under the surface. On July 28, the New York Times had an article entitled, “With Army in Disarray, a Pillar of Modern Turkey Lies Broken”. President Erdogan of Turkey as led a massive purge of the country, “jailing and suspending tens of thousands of state employees”. The New York Times article says, “…the military that has long served as a unifying force for the country is deeply divided, diminished and discredited. Nearly half of the top generals and admirals have been jailed or dismissed and thousands of foot soldiers charged.” The article goes on to say:
“With its main pillar, the military, broken, the Turkish state will no longer be able to check a divided society or effectively counter security threats,” said Halil Karaveli, a senior fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program.
“That is a blow, not only to the country, but also to NATO, of which Turkey is a member. The Turkish military is a crucial ally in fighting terrorism, reining in the Islamic State, and in controlling the migrant tide that has overwhelmed Europe. Chaos within the military symbolizes not only its waning power in the country — and the rise of the police, which Mr. Erdogan built up as a bulwark to the military — but also its diminished reliability as a partner to the West.”
All this suits Russia. Weakening NATO and weakening military power in Turkey. The article also points out this will give impetus to the Kurds, to have their own state and independence. These events are very significant. We are seeing the continued rise of Russian power and the demise of Turkey and NATO. We will watch for these trends to continue, as we look forward to the return of Christ to the earth, when the little stone power will strike the image upon the feet and bring into being the righteous age of the kingdom of God in the earth.
By David Billington
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