From the beginning of the civil unrest in Syria in 2011 (Arab Spring) and the escalation of the civil war up until today, more and more Bible scholars and prophecy teachers are proclaiming that Isaiah 17 is about to reach it’s fulfillment. Isaiah 17 is an oracle of judgment against Damascus, which is located in Syria. In summary, it proclaims that Damascus will cease from being a city and it will become a ruinous heap. So, the question is, “Are we about to witness Damascus become a desolated city, a ruinous heap, which will fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 17?”
To understand when Isaiah 17 will be fulfilled, let us begin by discovering the context of this sobering prophecy. Isaiah 17 is grouped in a series of oracles by Isaiah. From Isaiah 13 to Isaiah 23, he prophesies of the Lord’s judgment against the following nations; Babylon, Assyria, Philistia (Gaza), Moab (Jordan), Ethiopia (Sudan), Egypt, Edom (Jordan/Arabia), Arabia, Shebna, Tyre (Lebanon), and Israel. In Isaiah 24, he prophesies about the seven-year tribulation period on the whole earth, and this chapter concludes with Messiah’s second coming (Isaiah 24:21-23). Isaiah 25 & 26 praises God for His salvation and confirms Messiah’s second coming, as well. In the following chapter, Isaiah 27 confirms the restoration of Israel at Messiah’s second coming and millennial reign. Below is the chronological timetable and sequence of the events:
- Isaiah 13 to Isaiah 23 – Oracle of Judgment on Satan, the Antichrist, and the nations
- Isaiah 24 – Beginning of Judgment during the seven-year tribulation period
- End of Isaiah 24, Isaiah 25 and Isaiah 26 – The fulfillment of judgment, Messiah’s second coming
- Isaiah 27 – The Restoration of Israel at Messiah’s millennial reign
The context of Isaiah’s prophecies is clearly describing the Day of the Lord, His second coming events, because he repeatedly proclaims, “in that day, in that day.” “In that day” is an eschatological term for the Day of the Lord, the Second Coming of Messiah (See Joel 1:15, 2:1-2, 2:11-13, 2:30-32, 3:18-21). So, Isaiah 17, along with the other oracles of judgment against these specific nations (Isaiah 13-23), will be fulfilled during the time of Messiah’s second coming. Now, with this knowledge, let us begin discovering the oracle of Isaiah 17.
Isaiah 17:1-2, “The burden against Damascus, “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; They will be for flocks which lie down, and no one will make them afraid.”
Isaiah begins the prophecy by declaring the judgment is against Damascus. He declares it will cease from being a city and will become a ruinous heap. Scholars widely agree that the location of the cities of Aroer have not been confirmed. However, since the Scripture says, “the flocks will rest in peace as there will not be anyone to make them afraid,” we can be confident that the cities were located in the region of Damascus. Isaiah is painting a picture of destruction and desolation in the region of Damascus, as the oracle begins with “the burden against Damascus.” As Isaiah continues, he also gives us prophetic insight of another location that is associated with the region of Damascus.
Isaiah 17:3, “The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; They will be as the glory of the children of Israel,” says the Lord of hosts.”
In this short but powerful verse, Isaiah prophesies, “the fortress will also cease from Ephraim, the kingdom from Damascus.” Ephraim was located in the region of northern Israel, which is modern day Galilee. At the time of Isaiah’s ministry (740-680 BC), the kingdom had been split into the northern (Israel) and southern kingdom (Judah) (1 Kings 12). The northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian Empire (Syria) in 722 BC. Isaiah wrote this prophecy in approximately 700 BC, and this is the reason why he wrote it this way. He proclaims, “the fortress also will cease from Ephraim, the kingdom of Damascus,” because at that time, the northern kingdom (Ephraim) was under the control of the Assyrian Empire (Damascus). So, the oracle of Isaiah 17 is not only for the destruction of Damascus, but also for the destruction of northern Israel, as well. When some scholars and teachers speak on Isaiah 17, very few discuss how the ancient northern kingdom of Israel (Galilee) will also be destroyed with Damascus at this time, as the judgment will include both. Isaiah also proclaims that there will be a “remnant of Syria” from the kingdom of Damascus, and they will be “as the glory of the children of Israel.” Although God will judge all nations, He will always protect His faithful remnant, including the Syrian believers! Hallelujah! (Isaiah 10:22)
Today, as hate, murder, and violence sweeps across Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc., sometimes we (believers) forget that our brothers and sisters in Messiah are trying to survive through this horrific persecution. Sometimes we get so excited about the fulfillment of Bible prophecy (Isaiah 17), as we should, but we forget that it affects the Lord’s remnant in those nations (homeless, hungry, medicine, education, etc). The good news is that there is an incredible revival occurring in the Middle East in places that are predominantly Muslim, especially in the areas of Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and others, as the underground church is rapidly growing with new believers in Messiah! Amen! I hope you will join us in prayer for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and all over the world. Now, let us confirm when Isaiah 17 will take place.
Isaiah 17:4-6, “In that day it shall come to pass that the glory of Jacob will wane, and the fatness of his flesh grow lean. It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain, and reaps the heads with his arm; It shall be as he who gathers heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in its most fruitful branches,” says the Lord God of Israel.”
Isaiah confirms this prophecy is for the end of the age, as he declares, “in that day.” As we discussed, “in that day” refers to a specific time in the future, which is Messiah’s second coming events. Isaiah also proclaims that the glory of Jacob (Israel) will fade, and the fatness of his flesh will grow lean, pointing to the seven-year tribulation, also known as the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). He uses the parable of the “harvester and the reaper,” as well as, grapes and the olive tree, which confirms this event will occur at Messiah’s second coming events. These parables align with Messiah’s prophecy in Matthew 24, as well as, the prophecies of Revelation 14:14-20, Revelation 19:11-16, and Isaiah 63:1-6. “Harvesting and reaping” are eschatological terms used for referencing Messiah’s judgment at His second coming, as He will “thrust in His sickle and reap, for the time has come for Him to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe (Revelation 14:15).”
Isaiah 17:7-10, “In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; He will not respect what his fingers have made, nor the wooden images nor the incense altars. In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel; And there will be desolation. Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings.”
At Messiah’s second coming, every person on earth will fear and mourn the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus (Matthew 24:27, Revelation 19:11-16). Isaiah prophesies that mankind will forsake the pride and love of success and carnality, as “man will not respect the alters, the work of their hands, the wooden images, or the incensed altars. Also, because the people forgot the God of their salvation (Jesus), the strength of the cities will be forsaken and desolate, which refers to the judgment of Messiah’s second coming.
Isaiah 17:11, “In the day you will make your plant to grow, and in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; But the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow.”
Isaiah begins to conclude this oracle by referencing “the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow.” The day of grief and sorrow (mourn) is referencing Messiah’s second coming, as the inhabitants of the earth will mourn at His day of vengeance.
Matthew 24:30, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Isaiah 17:12-13, “Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; But God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.”
Isaiah gives us another incredible reference as he warns the armies of the world during this time. He proclaims that the armies of the world will become like “rushing mighty waters,” or a flood during the great tribulation (Daniel 11:22). However, at Messiah’s second coming, He will rebuke and destroy them (Isaiah 2:4), as the evil nations will “be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind” (Matthew 25:31-46). As we know, the wind blows chaff off of the mountaintops and it will never return! The “rushing mighty waters,” or flood, is a direct reference to the seven-year tribulation and Second Coming. Daniel prophesied about a “flood of armies” at the time of the Antichrist’s reign on earth.
Daniel 11:20-22, “And in his place shall arise a vile person (Antichrist), to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue. With the force of a flood (armies) they shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant.”
Revelation 12:15, “So the serpent (Satan) spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman (Israel), that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood."
The terms “rushing waters and flood” is symbolic for the Antichrist’s (Satan incarnate) armies, and it directly links Isaiah 17 to Messiah’s second coming events.
Isaiah 17:14, “Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who rob us.”
“In that day,” which is Messiah’s second coming events, the region of Damascus and the northern kingdom of Israel (Galilee) will be destroyed, and will be no more by morning.
In conclusion, the prophecy of Isaiah 17 will be fulfilled at Messiah’s second coming events. Is the Syrian civil war a precursor of what is to come in Isaiah 17? Absolutely, however, it is not yet the appointed time. With that being said, it is our opinion that the outcome of the Syrian civil war will ignite the “next great war” in the Middle East, which is the prophetic war of Daniel 8.
In our book, God’s Prophetic Timeline, Messiah’s Final Warning, we explore Daniel 8 in great depth to understand the geopolitical “climate” in the Middle East and what to expect as we journey forward to our final destination. Here is an excerpt from the book.
“According to Daniel 8, there will be a major war between Turkey and Iran, which will include their allies. The angel Gabriel tells us that Turkey will win this battle. If we take into consideration the governmental anarchy, chaos, and wars of the Middle East and North Africa, it is just a matter of time before Turkey will crush Iran, in order to dominate the Middle East. Make no mistake, the outcome of the Syrian civil war is very important in the timeline of Daniel 8. It very well could be the spark that ignites the flame for Turkey to begin its fulfillment of Daniel 8.
SIGNS OF THE NEXT GREAT WAR BETWEEN IRAN AND TURKEY
“On August 24, 2016, something very interesting occurred not only historically, but perhaps prophetically, as well. To be clear, I am not predicting or setting any dates whatsoever; however, August 24, 1516, is the historical date when the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) began their dominance and control over the Middle East at the Battle of Dabiq, in Syria.41 The Ottomans defeated the Mamluk Sultanate and continued to rule over the Middle East for four hundred years.
On August 24, 2016, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Dabiq in Syria, Turkey (Ottoman Empire) has begun its largest intervention in Syria via a land invasion, which could be the spark that eventually lights the flame to the next great war in Daniel 8. Remember, Iran is a supporter of President Assad, and the Ayatollah has major influence in Syria, including the deployment of weapons, troops, and support during the ongoing civil war. Turkey, however, does not support Assad and Syria; thus the escalation of the invasion. As Turkish tanks entered Syria on August 24, 2016, Erdogan boldly proclaimed:
“Syria is responsible for the terrorism since it refuses to accept our solutions . . . When we speak of Syria or the Balkans or the Caucasus, these were part of our [Ottoman] geography from years ago. I believe we will overcome all the obstacles in front of us, which will be the will of Allah . . . . Turkey has a massive power and will use it … We are more confident today about our future because since the morning of July the 15th (Turkey coup), we are more powerful, we are now in a place that looks more hopeful . . . Our commitment in achieving the 2023 target. Turkey will cut off the front foot with the diplomatic games. We will continue to remove, those who played their games.” Erdogan continued to add, “what I promised in Syria, Iraq, the Balkans and the Caucasus is now within reach.” In 1516, the battle was called the Battle of Dabiq, and in 2016, it is being called “Operation Euphrates Shield.” The Euphrates Shield is correlated with the memory of the Ottoman invasion of Syria at Dabiq. August 24, 2016, the 500th anniversary, could have set the stage and prepared the way for the next great war of Daniel 8.”
How important is the fulfillment of Daniel 8?
Once Turkey begins its prophetic destiny by crushing Iran, the country will eventually be divided into four regions (Daniel 8:22), and after that prophetic event, a king, the Antichrist, will rise to power in the region (Daniel 8:23-25). At that time, a period called the time of Jacob’s trouble (seven-year tribulation) will occur (Jeremiah 30:7, Isaiah 24), and the fulfillment of all the end of the age prophecies, including Isaiah 17, will conclude at Messiah’s second coming! I ask that you join me in prayer for the Lord’s protection of His remnant in Syria and all of the Middle East.”
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