The Ottoman Empire existed from 1299 until 1922. It was in many respects the Islamic successor to the Eastern leg of the Roman Empire and like the Roman Empire it had its headquarters in Constantinople (Istanbul). At the peak of its power and influence, the Ottoman Empire extended from the Adriatic Sea in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east and from Austro-Hungary in the north to the southern tip of the Red Sea. It was at the center of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for 6 centuries. The Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War 1, having aligned itself with Germany. Its dissolution at the end of the war led to the formation of 40 new nations in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa, many of them on land once claimed by the Romans.
Suleiman The Magnificent
The Empire’s greatest days occurred under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent who reigned from 1520-1566. Only 25 years old when he came to power, Suleiman began his reign by performing many acts of kindness and mercy toward his people. He freed hundreds of slaves, showered his officers with gifts, and built a school for slaves. To the Ottomans he was known as The Lawgiver, having re-written the non-Shariah portions of the law. This was the law by which the Ottoman Empire was governed for all of the remaining years of its existence. Because of the humanitarian nature of his laws he was also called Suleiman the Just by his subjects.
Suleiman was a powerful conqueror for Islam. His armies pushed the boundaries of the Empire nearly to Vienna and his powerful navies controlled the Mediterranean. Because of the tribute he received Suleiman became one of the wealthiest men of all time. He never wore the same clothes twice, he ate from solid gold plates with jewel encrusted utensils and had a harem of over 300 women.
The Ottomans were tolerant toward the Jews and welcomed thousands of them into the Empire after King Ferdinand expelled them from Spain in 1492. Suleiman’s father had wrested control of what is now Israel from Egypt in 1517 and Suleiman fell in love with Jerusalem, ordering its walls rebuilt in 1535. It was the first successful rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls since the Romans destroyed the city in 70 AD and Suleiman’s walls can still be seen surrounding the Old City today.
According to Nehemiah, the Persian King Artaxerxes Longimonus issued a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem following the Babylonian destruction. He did this in the spring of the 20th year of his reign (Nehemiah 2:1). On our calendar it would have been March of 445BC. On the 483rd anniversary of this decree Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on what we know as the first Palm Sunday, fulfilling the prophecy fromDaniel 9:25 of the Lord’s 1st Coming as Israel’s Messiah. Then in 68-70 AD the city was destroyed by the Romans. After centuries of being rebuilt and then torn down by various conquering groups, the walls around Jerusalem were finally rebuilt for good by Suleiman beginning in 1535 AD, and during his reign the city enjoyed an exceptional period of peace and religious tolerance.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
Turkey is the surviving remnant of the Ottoman Empire. Following their defeat in WW1 the Empire was divided up by the victorious Western powers. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had been a high ranking Ottoman officer and led the effort to found the Republic of Turkey. He set about to make it a secular nation in the style of western democracies. While endorsing Islam, he limited it to the status of a religion instead of allowing it to be the political force it had been. He saw to the suspension of the Ottoman Caliphate and Sultanate, clearing the way for the newly formed National Parliament to assume ultimate power. Among the many changes he enforced were the institution of a new language and alphabet, the adoption of western style of dress and mandatory 2nd names for men, and the granting of full political rights to women.
Until recently, Turkey has been viewed as a western nation. With membership in NATO and more than a dozen military and commercial treaties with Israel, Turkey has been an important western ally in the Middle East. In fact, many students of prophecy have seen Turkey’s alignment with the west as a major obstacle to an early fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39. It appears from a study of the modern equivalents to the Biblical names mentioned there that Turkey has to be among the Islamic forces that will invade Israel in the future.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Lately there’s been a major shift in Turkish politics in what could be a dramatic step toward the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38. After stalling for years, the EU has put Turkey’s application for membership on the back burner and as of now a majority of EU ministers oppose Turkey’s admission to the Union.
Perhaps as a result of this Turkey has begun to look to the East, and current Prime Minister Erdogan is fast becoming a regional Muslim leader by criticizing Israel—particularly after the Gaza war. His clout is spreading from the streets of Gaza to Beirut, Damascus, and Cairo—the traditional strongholds of Arab nationalism.
PM Erdogan is by far the country’s most popular political leader enjoying wide support among the Turkish people, due in part to his frequent criticism of Israel. He’s become convinced that instead of relying on outside powers to bring peace to the Middle East the Ottoman Empire should be re-born to take the lead. He’s been quoted as saying, “Turkey’s goal is to live in peace with all countries and restore the might of the Ottoman Empire.”
In this regard, a recent article by historian Robert E. Kaplan entitled ,”The US Helps Reconstruct The Ottoman Empire” has been getting some attention. Dr. Kaplan’s specialty is modern Europe and he received his doctorate from Cornell University. His article was published by the Gatestone Institute, “an international organization dedicated to educating the public about what the mainstream media fails to report.”
In the article Dr. Kaplan shows that with the exception of Iraq, the ultimate outcome of each American intervention in Europe and the Middle East since the mid 1990′s has been the replacement of a secular government with an Islamist regime in an area that was formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. Providing detailed documentation, Dr. Kaplan wrote the article more to raise awareness of what he sees as US strategy in the region rather than to draw any conclusions.
It turns out that there are three primary beneficiaries of a revived Ottoman empire. Turkey is an obvious one because Turkey is the surviving remnant of the original empire and is the logical choice to head up a revived version. Germany is another beneficiary. Germany had a close and beneficial relationship with the Ottomans in the years leading up to WW1 and is working behind the scenes with the US in the hope of regaining its influence in the Muslim world. And the US benefits because like Turkey the New Ottoman Empire would be primarily composed of the Sunni sect of Islam. Helping the Sunnis get control of the Middle East would further marginalize Shiite Iran, something the US sees as being strategically important.
If this is what’s really going on, it could help to explain Pres. Obama’s efforts to reconcile with the Islamic world, why he included Turkey in his first overseas tour upon taking office, and why he seemed to be so obviously on the side of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in their efforts to unseat Hosni Mubarak’s secular government in Egypt. It would also help to explain Turkey’s decision to build a $100 million mosque/cultural centerin Lanham, Maryland, about 30 minutes from the White House. It is expected to “be the largest and most striking example of Islamic architecture in the western hemisphere” when it is finished in 2014.
The Man With No Name (Yet)
A Revived Ottoman Empire would send students of prophecy scurrying back into their Bibles to see if the re-birth of the Ottoman Empire could fulfill the prophecy of the so-called revived Roman Empire. There are already some who believe the 7th Kingdom ofRev. 17:10 is the Ottoman Empire, and they point out that Constantinople is also a city on seven hills. If so, its Islamic heritage would confirm the identity of the one world End Times religion as Islam. It would also support the idea that the end times Islamic leader called al-Mahdi could be the anti-Christ.
As details of Islamic eschatology become more widely known, prophecy students are discovering a striking similarity between Islamic prophecies of al Mahdi and Christian prophecies of the anti-Christ. I’ve made mention of these in several previous articles, how both come on the scene during a time of great turmoil on Earth, both come claiming a desire to restore peace, both have a seven year reign, both head a one world religion and one world government, both claim supernatural origins, and both reigns end in a battle between good and evil that brings Earth’s final judgment. Could they be one and the same? The legend surrounding al-Mahdi as being in occlusion (supernaturally hidden) since the 10th century could make him the 8th king who belongs to the seven, just like Rev. 17:11 says.
As you can see we might have an interesting circumstantial case here for a revived Ottoman Empire. It’s not something to build doctrine on just yet, but it certainly bears watching. One nice thing about our times is we won’t have long to wait before we find out how these prophecies are fulfilled.