The Rise of ISIS and The Fall of Damascus—Syria, Part-1

It has been over three and a half years since the Syrian Day of Rage protests staged on March 15, 2011, and over the ensuing months a violent civil war has erupted in the land of Syria, a Muslim strong hold, which is very heavily supported (financially and militarily) by the countries of Iran and Russia.  Over 200,000 thousand militants and innocent civilians alike have died in this uprising, yet the bloodshed continues unabated.  The people are crying for “more economic prosperity, greater political freedoms and civil liberties”— the basic human rights, to chart their own destinies.  They are also looking westward for help against their current political installations.  We have looked at Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and seen the results of popular uprisings and the installation of new political and military administrations, in what is now known as the Arab Spring. Protests also erupted in Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, and Morocco.  America and the West are seeking to benefit from Bashar al-Assad’s fall, and the politics goes on.

Here is the audio-video version of this presentation delivered again on April 8, 2017: https://fccdl.in/ZbNp3t1Y5

In this study, we will learn that there is a Divine hand involved in the destinies of nations and kingdoms, and that the crises in the Arab world today, are but the dawning of a new prophetic day, the very sounding gong from the contractions of birth-pains, yearning for the Messiah’s Kingdom of peace and righteousness. Next will follow active persecution against Christians, not just in the Middle East, but across the globe.  The good news thought is simply this, Y’shuah’s  kingdom will not be realized on this earth, until the Peoples of Abraham’s descent are allowed to hear the everlasting gospel in the own tongue, even while the salvation of our world awaits the Loud Cry of the Third Angel’s message.  The challenge is ours, to rise to the antitypical Macedonian call, to rise up to the help of the YHWH, to the help of YHWH against the mighty!

I like this very insightful statement from the pen of Ellen White: “God has a people upon the earth who in faith and holy hope are tracing down the roll of fast-fulfilling prophecy, and are seeking to purify their souls by obeying the truth, that they may not be found without the wedding garment when Christ shall appear.” [1]

The challenge today is ours to be that people.  Is your church providing you this “meat in due season,” through understanding “the roll of fast-fulfilling prophecy”?  If not, you owe it to yourself to be nourished and fed that your soul may be watered from the “wells of salvation.” (Isa. 12: 3).  It is for this reason alone why this article is now written, that those who desire to “purify their souls by obeying the truth,” and to be adorned in “the wedding garment” of Messiah, may obtain it in due season.

The prophet, Isaiah, lived about 740 years before Christ, and wrote about events for his days and ours.  He has written so heavily on the life and ministry of the Messiah, that he is sometimes known as “Isaiah the Gospel Prophet.”  His writings speak of last day events with such specificity as is rarely seen in other prophecies, except for those in Daniel and the Revelation.  Isaiah predicted the fall of Damascus, Syria, and the rise of a new kingdom in the land of Aram.

“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.”  Isa. 17: 1

According to this prophecy, Damascus, Syria, will cease from being a city, State, that kingdom will fall and become a ruinous heap, prior to the Second Coming of Christ in power and great glory!  How, why and when will this prophecy be fulfilled, and what will follow in the wake of Damascus’ demise?  I cannot now give dates, but the major events marking the birth pangs of a new era, will become very evident to the reader, as we journey through this chapter.  As signposts to the weary traveler, so are the fast-fulfilling prophecies to the student of Scripture.  The central theme of these warnings is to prepare a people for the kingdom of YHWH, wherein dwells righteousness and peace.

Since 2011, a new resistance movement has begun in Syria, known as ISIL (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), also known as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), and IS (The Islamic State).  The Levant is a large swath of land covering from Turkey in the North to Egypt in the South, and From Ethiopia in Africa to Iran in the near east.  This terror group has become famous for the high level of violence it projects and the wanton beheadings and direct persecutions of all persons disagreeing with their religious views.

“The Levant (/ləˈvænt/), also known as the Eastern Mediterranean, is a geographic and cultural region consisting of the ‘eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt’.[2] The Levant today consists of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and part of southern Turkey (the former Aleppo Vilayet)… The Levant has been described as the ‘crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa’,[4] and the ‘northwest of the Arabian plate’.[5] Other names for the Levant include [the region of] Syria, Sham, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Historically, the region was known by a variety of names, of which the first recorded to apply to the whole region was Canaan.” [2]

Syrian News Roundup

“The Syrian civil war, also referred to as the Syrian uprising, is an ongoing internal armed political conflict in Syria. The conflict began on 15 March 2011 with public demonstrations as part of the wider Arab Spring and developed into a nationwide uprising, and a civil war in 2012. Protesters have demanded the end to nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party rule, as well as the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.

“In the spring of 2011, the Syrian government deployed the Syrian Army to quell the uprising. Several cities have been besieged, and soldiers were reportedly ordered to open fire on civilians.  According to witnesses, soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians were summarily executed by the Syrian Army. Civilians and army defectors began forming fighting units, and unified under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, fighting in an increasingly organized fashion…” [3]

“The death toll from three years of Syria’s civil war has risen to more than 191,000 people, the United Nations reported Friday.”[4]

Exclusive: Libyan fighters join Syrian revolt against Assad”  “BEIRUT (Reuters) – Veteran fighters of last year’s civil war in Libya have come to the front-line in Syria, helping to train and organize rebels under conditions far more dire than those in the battle against Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan-Irish fighter has told Reuters.”[5]

Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have already fallen, while Syria is in teeters—on the verge of collapsing to both internal and external military and political pressures.  The struggle is not over, and it will sweep from one Arab nation to another.  Numerous countries in the greater Middle East have had their uprisings, and power shifting to ease the bloodshed, but tensions are running high, and they will reach the tipping point of outright civil war as we are currently witnessing in Syria.

Joining the Syrian Army is the Hezbollah Islamist Terror Group, one of Israel’s arch enemies.  And what of Israel?  This uprising in the Middle East is also a unifying voice in the wait, and at the appropriate time, they will set their eyes on Israel, the real prize and enemy of Islam, and then the flood-gates bloodshed and warfare will be opened in the greater Levant!

Background on Syria

“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.”  Isa. 17: 1

Damascus, Syria was first mentioned in the Bible when Abraham engaged the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah to recover his nephew Lot.  In that account we read: “(14) And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. (15)  And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. (16) And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his [brother’s son (see Gen 14:12)], Lot and his goods, and the women also, and the people.” Gen. 14:14-16.

Note that Lot is not Abram’s “brother,” but instead his nephew (Gen 14:12).  Observe too that Damascus is identified in the territory of “Dan,” years before the land was so divided by Joshua.  In other words, the expanse of the ancient Kingdom stretched to Syria, the territory of Dan—from whence came Israel’s Judge and apostasy!

That Damascus is in the territory of “Dan,” gives rise to the memorable expression “from Dan even to Beersheba” (Judg. 20: 1), which provides the northern and southern extremities of the occupied territories of the nation Israel.

“Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.  And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.  And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.” 1Ki. 12: 28-30.

Illustrating the distance the people traveled to engage in apostasy, the parallel versions below describe it in words meaning very far away, in the northern quarters.  Let’s take a parallel rendition of verse 30:

And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.”1Ki. 12: 30, NIV.  Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.” 1Ki. 12: 30, NASB. Worshiping them became [Israel’s] sin. The people went as far as Dan to worship the one calf.” 1Ki. 12: 30, GWT.

It is not an overstatement then to say that Israel’s idolatry emanated from Damascus, for there is where ancient Dan resided.

In the year 732 BC, some 8/7 years after Isaiah’s prophecy, Damascus was defeated by the Assyrian army, however this military defeat did not bring the city to a ruinous heap, nor was it ever depopulated.  The account of this event has been left on the inspired record for us, in 2Ki 16:7-9, and the main antagonist in that siege has further documented his military gains for all to see that the prophesy of Isaiah 17 has not yet met its fulfillment, for the simple reason that Damascus has not “ceased from being a city,” as with the kingdom of Babylon, as the terms of the prophecy demand.

“Tiglath-pileser’s records contain an account of the campaign… Eventually the Assyrians were victorious, and Resin, having fled hastily to Damascus, shut himself up within its walls. Tiglath-pileser pursued him, laid siege to the city, and eventually took it… (‘Eponym Canon,’ p. 65). The Assyrian monarch thus describes the siege (ibid., p. 121): ‘Damascus, his city, I besieged, and like a caged bird I enclosed him. His forests, the trees of which were without number, I cut down; I did not leave a tree standing. [I burnt] Hadara, the house of the father of Rezin, King of Syria.’ And took it. The ancient Damascene kingdom, which had lasted from the time of Solomon (1 Kings 11:24), was thus brought to an end. Damascus gave the Assyrians no further trouble; and within little more than thirty years it had been so absolutely absorbed into the empire that its governor was one of the Assyrian eponyms (‘Eponym Canon,’ p. 68).” [6]

Immediately after the flood and the confusion at Babel, the world was divided, and its peoples scattered to form their nations and kingdoms, based on their racial and unique language groups. “The children of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram.H758 Gen. 10:22.  Aram would in time form the kingdom of Aram, today known as Syria.  From Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, we read:  “H758 ‘ărâm; arawm‘; the highland; Aram or Syria, and its inhabitants; also the name of a son of Shem, – Aram, Mesopotamia, Syria, Syrians. 1) Aram or Syria the nation; 2) the Syrian or Aramean people; Aram =” exalted.”

Situated on in the heart of the Fertile Crescent, Syria (Aram) was a major trade route for all travelers to and from the east, and their language became the language of trade for many centuries.  Even in the days of Y’shuah, the common language of the people was Aram-aic, the language of Syria and greater Canaan.

It was from Aram, whence Isaac’s wife hailed, When time came for Jacob to find refuge from Esau’s wrath, he went to his uncle, Laban in Aram, where he also found the love of his life—Rachel: “And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padan-aramH6307 unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian,H761 the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.” Gen 28:5.

The very name Padan-ARAM, means the plain or plateau of Aram—Syria.  Again, in Strong’s Hebrew Dictiionary, we read, “H6307,  paddan ‘ărâm,  pad-dan’ ar-awm’;  From an unused root meaning to extend; a plateau; or the second form which is from the same and H758; the table land of Aram; Paddan or Paddan-Aram, a region of Syria.”

“Aramaic…The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily, which also includes Canaanite languages such as Hebrew and Phoenician.  Aramaic script was widely adopted for other languages and is ancestral to both the Arabic and modern Hebrew alphabets.

“During its 3,000-year written history,] Aramaic has served variously as a language of administration of empires and as a language of divine worship. It was the day-to-day language of Israel in the Second Temple period (539 BCE – 70 CE), some speculate was the language spoken by Jesus, is the language of large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra and is the main language of the Talmud.”[7]

“The Aramaic language was the international trade language of the ancient Middle East. Originated in what is modern-day Syria, between 1000 and 600 BCE it became extremely widespread, spoken from the Mediterranean coast to the borders of India.”[8]

History of Damascus

Given the clarity of the prediction, “”Damascus will no longer be a city. It will become a pile of rubble,” it helpful for us to determine the history of this city, and to determine if it has ever been depopulated since its record debut on the stage of time some 4,500 years ago. “Damascus, settled about 2500 B.C., is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.” [9]

“Many scholars believe that, among the ancient cities of the world, Damascus is perhaps the oldest continuously inhabited. Over the centuries, Damascus has been conqueror and conquered, wealthy and destitute, and capital of empire and small states. Its fame has been sustained by its continuous prominence as a commercial and intellectual centre.” [10]

Given the fact that Damascus is “one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world,” coupled with the prophetic pronouncement that it shall cease from being a city, the only conclusion admissible is that the prediction of her becoming a “ruinous heap,” has not yet been fulfilled, and must be, before the consummation of all things, before the eschatological end of the world.

“After passing through various vicissitudes, Syria was invaded by the Romans (B.C. 64) and Damascus became the seat of the government of the province. In A.D. 37 Aretas, the king of Arabia, became master of Damascus, having driven back Herod Antipas. This city is memorable as the scene of Saul’s conversion #Ac 9:1-25…Christianity was planted here as a centre #Ac 9:20, from which it spread to the surrounding regions.[11]

“Damascus was for a time the capital of the Mohometan Empire, and in the palmy days of Saracen rule was one of the greatest manufacturing cities in the world.”[12]

At this point the reader needs to take careful note that Damascus was the seat of government for three principal religions, each claiming ancestry in Abraham.  It housed Abraham’s family, and thus became a nurturing ground for the Hebrew Faith; it cradled the head of the Roman Empire, and in time the Roman Catholic Faith; it became the capital of the Mohametan Empire and thus the Islamic Faith, and as the place of Paul’s conversion, after the dispersal of the church from Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Christian Faith.

Syria has long been a center for true worship, and the Saviour of mankind also made this place a part of His mission field, when He walked as a man among men: “And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” Matt. 4: 24

At the birth of Y’shuah, the seat of roman power emanated from Syria, the office of the governor, thus we are told of the taxation decree: “(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)” Luke 2: 2.  The inclusion of the “governor of Syria,” in this verse, was designed for us to see that the Roman seat of power—their governmental authority was centered in Damascus, Syria.

Damascus was also a missionary training field, and it was from here that many missionaries were sent to distant fields: “(22) Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: (23) And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.”  Acts. 15: 22, 23.

“Syria is significant in the history of Christianity; Paul was converted on the road to Damascus and established the first organized Christian Church at Antioch in ancient Syria, from which he left on many of his missionary journeys.”[13]

As the world watches on in confusion, the Church is asleep and knows not the hour of earth’s history in which we live, and both are engulfed in satanic darkness and the greatest event in modern history is about to break forth, and the Kingdom of YHWH be revealed.  Now when I say “kingdom” this is not a euphemism for the Second Coming, as many theologians tech, but I’m speaking of the completion of the will of YHWH on earth in these last days, as it is in heaven.  Hence the famous prayer entitled “The Lord’s Prayer.”

My fellow reader, the hour is late and the time is now when we must break up our fallow grounds and sow not among thorns, the time to put on the robe of Christ’s Righteousness, the character of Y’shuah our king, that we may be found of Him in peace when he stands on Zion’s summit arrayed with 144,000 life-savers.  Will you be there in that crowd with Him arrayed in white tunic?  Let us strive with all the power God has given us to be numbered among his first fruits saints, earth’s final evangelists!

By Garrick Augustus, October 17, 2014

___________________________________________________________

[1] Testimonies for The Church, vol. 4, p. 307.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levant

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Civil_War

[4] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/08/22/united-nations-syria-death-toll/14429549/

[5] By Mariam Karouny, BEIRUT | Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:18am EDT; http://www.reuters.com

[6] http://biblehub.com/2_kings/16-9.htm

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramaic_language

[8] http://www.ancientscripts.com/aramaic.html

[9] http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm

[10] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/150420/Damascus/25657/History

[11] Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Syria.

[12] 1904, ATJ, Empires of the Bible, p. 38.

[13] http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm

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