Turkey is seldom out of the news media in recent times. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it has a role to play in the build up to Armageddon and the return of our Lord. Secondly, it has a unique geopolitical setting. It is a bridgehead linking the continents of Europe, Asia and also the Middle East. Importantly it provides the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. This sea passage presents a difficulty for any invader from the north as it acts like two bottlenecks. The first is the slender Bosporus channel taking ships past Istanbul itself into the small Sea of Marmara, followed by a second channel called the Dardanelles which empties into the Aegean Sea. The Dardanelles are narrow and easily defended; a fact the British discovered in World War I when they lost ships trapped under the Turkish guns during the Gallipoli campaign.

The history of Turkey, and indeed its future, is immutably linked with that of its most famous city Constantinople.

The great city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) withstood all invaders for 1100 years until the massive walls were breached in 1453 by the Moslems using cannon fire for the first time to breach a city wall. This event fulfilled an important Bible prophecy found in Revelation 9:9-21.

Constantinople

Constantine changed the religion of the Roman Empire to a Catholic version of Christianity in AD324 and appointed Constantinople as his capital. He then changed the name from Byzantium to Constantinople in AD330. This impressive city gained superiority over Rome after Rome fell to the Goths in AD476. The emperors Justinian and Phocas issued decrees from Constantinople which changed the history of the Church of Rome and the whole of Europe. The Justinian code, issued in several volumes between AD529 and AD533, included privileges favourable to the Catholic church. For example, this code included civil laws which made it difficult for non-Catholics to plead their lawsuit in civil cases as well as religious disputes. It became the basis of law throughout Europe right up to the French Revolution. Some elements of the Justinian code still survive in the legal system of some European countries today.

Phocas, on the other hand, issued a decree in AD608 which settled the argument among the bishops of the Catholic church as to who was the greatest and the true successor to Peter. The decree of Phocas confirmed the bishop of Rome as “universal Bishop and Head of all the Churches.” This decree is the foundation of the Papal system today.

During the 9th century, a division occurred in the Catholic church over statues and images which were worshipped by the Roman church and still are. The other issue was the supremacy of the Pope of Rome. The Eastern church banned statues and images but allowed icons which could be “venerated but not worshipped.” In 1054 the Roman and Eastern church formally divided. The repercussions are still visible today, as the Russian Orthodox church and other Eastern Orthodox churches take the same position as the Constantinopolitan church. When Constantinople fell in 1453 many of the bishops and clergy fled to Kiev and Moscow. To this day the Russian Orthodox churches have a cross above a crescent moon adorning their domes, the symbol of the church dominating Islam. Mr Putin, the President of Russia, is a committed champion of the Russian Orthodox church and he shares the dream of planting the cross again on the dome of St Sophia. Ancient history is coming alive in today’s news!

Hagia Sophia

The other notable achievement of Justinian was the building of the great Church of Hagia Sophia, one of the most splendid buildings at that time and that even today is greatly admired. When the Moslems under the young Mehemet II (then only 22 years old) overcame the defences of the city after six weeks of bombardment, they stripped the cathedral of all images and icons and the trappings of the church and turned it into a mosque.

In 1934 Mustafa Ataturk, the Turkish general of Word War I who wrested control of Turkey, turned the mosque into a museum as part of his program of making Turkey a more democratic republic. These changes embraced a more moderate form of Islam and gave women a greater role in society.

Then on 24 July 2020, the current President of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, provocatively transformed it from a museum to mosque again.

Erdogan has reversed many of these social changes and incurred the disapproval of the Pope, and the Patriarchs of the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches. His action was also condemned by the Orthodox churches, the World Council of Churches, UNESCO and many other ‘Christian’ organisations. He further announced in a speech on 3 October 2020 that, “Jerusalem is our city; we occupied it for over 400 years.” The liberation of Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917 by the British and Australian forces was part of the fulfilment of Bible prophecy concerning the “drying up of the Euphrates,” a symbol of the evaporation of the Ottoman Empire (Rev 16:12). It was one of the greatest prophetic events of the last century, and vital to the opening up of Palestine for the return of the Jewish people to their land and the subsequent formation of the State of Israel.

Russia and Turkey

We know from the prophecies of Zechariah and Joel that Jerusalem will become a “burdensome stone” and will be the central target of the Russian invasion leading to Armageddon and the return of our Lord (see Zech 12:2-3; Joel 3:1). It is interesting that in Joel 3:9 when the prophet says, “Prepare war, wake up the mighty men,” the Hebrew has the meaning of “sanctify” war (KJV mg). This points to a religious motive as well as a political and strategic intention in the lead up to Armageddon.

Russia made a bid in the Crimean war of 1853 to reclaim some of the “Holy places” in Jerusalem but failed by suffering defeat in the Crimean Peninsula. Russia reclaimed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has occupied Eastern Ukraine since February of the same year. This is part of a strategy to launch an attack on Turkey as the first stage of the invasion of the land of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 and Daniel 11:40-45.

President Erdogan has, by some of his foreign policy decisions, recently found himself in opposition to Russian interests. We can mention some of them here.

The Armenian/Azerbaijan conflict is an ancient one. Between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea lie Christian Armenia and Moslem Azerbaijan. Both are situated on Turkey’s northern border. The conflict is over a separate area within Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh and this corridor is predominately Armenian. These two countries were once part of the Seljuk Turkish Empire, and then the empire of the Moguls and finally became part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

Armenia became ‘Christian’ in AD301 before Constantine changed the Roman Empire to his brand of Catholicism. It is a country supporting an independent Armenian Apostolic church, which is neither Orthodox nor Catholic. Turkey hates the Armenians and massacred 1.5 million of them in 1915 in an atrocity only superseded by the Holocaust.

All this area was once named after Togarmah the son of Gomer, and indeed the early sons of Japheth gave their names to the Caspian and Caucasian areas that appear on ancient maps over Central Turkey itself (Bochart Ancient Geography, Gesenius). We can better understand now the verse in Ezekiel 38:6 which mentions “Togarmah of the north quarters” or flanks. This is the route the Russian infantry will doubtless take in the invasion of Israel, driving through the Caucasian Mountain passes and devouring the area involved in the present conflict there.

Turkey’s adventurism

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has supported Armenia, and Turkey has supported Azerbaijan. Russia has supplied Armenia with arms and material help in the recent conflict and Turkey has done similarly with Azerbaijan. So, President Erdogan precipitates himself headfirst into this cauldron of conflict and no doubt Mr Putin is not amused!

As well as this, on 22 October 2020 he met Mr Voldymir Zelensky, the Ukrainian Defence Minister, to discuss co-operation in the defence industry involving the manufacture of drones, rockets technology, satellites and exchange of military weaponry. Again, this will inflame the Russians since they already occupy Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea. Whilst being a member of NATO, Turkey has ordered Russian S400 anti air attack missile systems. The Weekend Australian on 31 October 2020 commented on Erdogan’s attitude saying, “President Erdogan is a megalomaniac leader who is supposed to be a member of NATO.”

Further to this he has involved himself in the Libyan conflict, once again, on opposing sides to Russia. Since the ignominious death of the tyrant, Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has been ruled by a government appointed by the UN. In the east, a rebel movement led by a General Kahilifar Kaphfta has been fighting to overthrow the government. He is an ally of Mr Putin and is being supplied with Russian arms including, just recently, several Russian attack fighter aircraft. These planes had their Russian insignias painted out, but everyone knows where they came from! President Erdogan has again chosen the wrong side to support and will again antagonise Russia.

The prize, as far as Libya is concerned, is oil and gas. So far Turkey has missed out on the rich gas finds which have occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean. It relies at present on the Turk Stream oil pipeline from Russia across the Black Sea to the North Coast of Turkey. The appointed Prime Minister of Libya Fayez al Sarpaj has stood down, so we can expect more unrest in Libya. Oil is also responsible for Turkish activity in the Mediterranean, where its exploration vessels frantically search for gas and oil. This research has angered the Greeks because Turkish naval and oil exploration vessels have intruded into Greek/Cypriot waters.

This brings us to Cyprus, an island which houses a large British naval base on the north coast of the island. Britain formally annexed Cyprus in 1914 up until 1960 when the island was declared an independent state. Then in July/August 1974, Turkey invaded the north of the island and seized about one third of the landmass. Relations between Greece and Turkey have often been very sensitive to say the least!

Frog spirit out of the mouth of the dragon

We have already pointed out that the Ottoman Turkish Empire came to an end in 1917 under the influence of the 6th vial (Rev 16:12) and this vial will continue to pour out its contents until the return of the Lord and the battle of Armageddon is fought (Rev 16:15-16).

In Revelation 16:13 we are introduced to “three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.” It has long been the Christadelphian position on this verse that this frog spirit refers to the ongoing effects of the French Revolution emerging from these three centres: the dragon, the beast and the false prophet.

The “beast” refers to the beast of the earth or the area of the Holy Roman Empire, that is, the current European Union with its headquarters today in Brussels. The “false prophet” refers to the Papacy, but what of “the dragon?”

The symbol of the dragon is first introduced in Revelation 12 where it is described as “a great red dragon” (v3). In this verse it represented the undivided pagan Roman empire. It was “cast out” of power when Constantine was victorious over Licinius at Adrianople in AD324.

In Revelation 12:16, however, a constitutional change occurred to the dragon. It lost its pagan identity and adopted a Catholic identity in its place. It was still a persecuting power but the constitution of the empire was now ‘Christian.’ Constantine then moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople, thereby displacing Rome as the centre of the empire. The dragon therefore became a symbol of the Imperial Roman power centred in Constantinople.

In Revelation 13:2 the dragon symbol reappears and this time it is described as giving power and authority to the beast—the Roman church in the west. The empire was divided into two, with the beast system in Western Europe centred in Rome and the dragon power in the East centred in Constantinople. With this as a background, we can therefore identify the dragon territory predominantly as modern Turkey, a country that retains an anti-Christian flavour.

But we might ask how Turkey would be connected with the French Revolution? The three frogs can be seen on the shield of Clovis the king of the Franks, the first of the barbarians to convert to Catholicism—but what has it to do with Turkey, and how is this frog spirit currently emerging from that country? To answer these questions we need to remember that the French Revolution was about more than “liberty, equality and fraternity” or the Declaration of Human Rights of 1794. It is broader than that. Out of that upheaval came the chaos of revolution, mass murders, the overthrow of those attempting to rule, the execution of the King and Queen and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. Marvellous General that he was, and though raised up by God to bring the Catholic church to its knees, nevertheless he brought war and carnage to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Thousands upon thousands perished.

So whilst the frog spirit has its roots in humanism, the attendant unrest and disturbances that lead to war and conflict are as much a part of that frog spirit as the godless forces are which were first unleashed by the French Revolution. Turkey’s unpredictable behaviour and its prodding of the Russian bear through the bars of his cage might well contribute to Russia making its “grand move.” When the Russian confederacy invades Turkey and then overflows and passes into the land of Israel, then there will be a time of trouble such as never was. But, for us, that time will herald the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ and his glorified saints. We hope and pray that we may be there to share our Lord’s triumph.