By William T James
Sixth century B.C. prophet, Zechariah, spoke words that pierce today's ears in thunderous decibels. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about .... And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though ... gathered together against it (Zech. 12:2-3).
Jerusalem is a city as ancient as any still in existence, yet it is as contemporary as today's front page headlines. It is a city destined to become the center of the world's most volatile geopolitical conflict ever and, ultimately, the precise spot on the planet where God's own foot will touch down to put an end to man's genocidal madness.
The beginning of the end of human history is traceable to a general geographical area of the Earth, portions of which the world watched the United Nations Desert Storm coalition forces decimate with unprecedented military might. It has been termed "Mesopotamia" by the geographers and the "Cradle of Civilization" by historians and anthropologists.
According to the Bible, it is the region where the Garden of Eden was home for the first human beings. When Adam and Eve broke fellowship with the Creator by yielding to the serpent's temptation, the end-time clock began ticking for the present Earth.
The first murder followed, setting in motion the blood-drenched record upon which we now look back. Such dynamics will produce the indescribable carnage and gore that is prophesied to take place during man's last seven years of this dying, decaying age.
What Are the Signs?
Apocalypse and Armageddon loom just ahead. But, can we know if those long talked about, worried-over events will even come to pass, much less within our own lifetime? Have not doomsday prophets for centuries been predicting such things? Most of them have been predicting those end-time events would occur during their lifetimes. What makes predictors and predictions today any different from then?
Perhaps to begin answering such questions - good questions at that - questions of another kind are in order. Why are you reading this treatment of the subject of the biblically prophesied Apocalypse and all it will entail? Something has piqued your ears, your eyes, your attention.
Why the suddenly increased fascination with things to come - with that once hazy, most generally presumed-to-be-mythical matter called Armageddon? Something has happened. Something drastic, almost irresistible, calls people to begin looking more seriously at what the immediate future holds for their world.
Jesus found himself surrounded by a group of people who asked what the signs of His return to earth and of the end of the world would be. As He always did, Jesus spoke to the heart of the subject with precision and truth, outlining the major signs that would immediately precede the Second Advent.
His followers asked in Matthew 24:3, "... what shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world?" Jesus gave them more than they asked for as He answered, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these things are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matt. 24:4-14).
In these few passages, Jesus swept the entire panorama of world history from His time on earth forward, using specific word pictures of things in the future. These signs were given and are recorded in God's Holy Word to be understood by each and every person, of each and every generation that the prophecies involve.
God's Word has many levels of meanings pertaining to the truths given. However, one must seek to know what is given. We do not simply absorb these truths as a sponge absorbs liquid, nor can we through osmosis assimilate God's holy ways as a plant draws nutrients.
If we want to know God's instructions, information, and truth, we must "know" the Bible for ourselves. This "knowing" begins with the heart of the gospel, John 3:16. To know God is to know Jesus Christ.
The Beginning of the End
Each of the signs Jesus expounded upon in the foregoing passages of Scripture will be dealt with in future essays. For now, we will concern ourselves with the one sign Jesus gives that seems most directly to signal the beginning of the end. We have been living a part of that most dramatic sign since 1948, when the nation of Israel was born in a single day - May 14.
Of that time of Israel's rebirth, Jesus - speaking in parabolic language to His disciples - said, Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (Matt. 24:32-34).
Jesus, in speaking to His disciples in the Olivet Discourse, looked down through the eras of future man; He spoke to future disciples - to the generation that would be alive at the time of His second advent.
The nation Israel, in the symbolic language sometimes utilized in God's Word, is likened at times to a fig tree in that God intended the children of Israel to be fruitful, a blessing to all the world. Such references to Israel as a fig tree are found in Judges 9:10-11, Joel 1:7-12, Habakkuk 3:16-17, and in many other passages.
Jesus clearly used the fig tree parable to tell the last generation of believers that the re-establishment of the nation Israel would be a key sign of His nearing second advent as well as a sign of the end of the world system. All other signs given by Jesus would accompany this major sign as the end of the age approached.
Since Jesus had told of the destruction of Jerusalem - and implied the dispersion of the Jewish people - just prior to giving the parable of the fig tree, He spoke most pointedly of the time when Israel would be regathered and begin to "shoot forth" its leaves. The golden summer of His millennial reign would be near when this came to pass. His coming again would be imminent.
First, however, the black winter clouds of Apocalypse would have to storm upon a world gathering to commit collective suicide.
Possessing the Land
The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the Diaspora and rebirth of God's chosen nation - the same nation that made the world tremble nervously in anticipation of its reaction to Saddam Hussein's Scud missile attacks during the Persian Gulf War.
And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land (Ezek. 36:19,24).
God's promises to this beleaguered, precariously perched nation, the nation most prominent in the process of pursuing world peace, are numerous throughout the Scriptures.
Consider the profound assurances given through Moses: That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and will gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee.
And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it ... (Deut. 30:3,5). And,. .. Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she bought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord ... (Isa. 66:8-9).
The exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union, since the supposed benevolent institution of glasnost and perestroika, has been staggering. The dissolution of much of Eastern Europe's communist superstructure has freed many more to migrate to Israel. They stream from Ethiopia and from around the globe to the Land of Promise. We are witnesses to God's promises to Israel in ways unthinkable a few years ago. God is indeed making manifest, through the Jews, His great prophetic truth in this generation!
Dry Bones, Live!
Put yourself in the prophet Ezekiel's place for a moment. While you do so, think of the things you know about the Jews in the day in which we now live. Think for a moment on the blowing sands of the Palestinian region and of the empty, desolate places, void of human life for the most part.
Now, remember the stark black and white images of starving, dying people you've seen on documentary footage of the death camps called Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthasen, Sachsenhausen, Treblinka. Remember the trenches, the bulldozers, the skeletal forms beneath loose, pasty-white skin. See again the corpses, intermingling and meshing together - rolling over each other as the bulldozers did their work of pushing the bodies into the ditch-like, common graves.
Recall the scenes of the allied commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower, as he and his staff walked among the pathetic, stick-like, human figures following the liberation of the concentration camps. See again the German people, robust, wellfed, even though bone-weary of war. Picture them in your mind's eye as they held handkerchiefs to their noses, some of them weeping, others retching, and some trying to leave the lines in which they were forced to walk while viewing the rotting bodies of the dead Jews.
Remember all this as you put yourself, for one moment, in the place of God's prophet, Ezekiel. The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of mart, can these bones live? And I answered, 0 Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, 0 ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, 0 breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, 0 my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel (Ezek. 37:1-12).
The Nazis would have built their Reich atop ground filled with the dry bones of God's people of destiny. Adolph Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering, Reinhard Heydrich, Martin Bormann, and the other elitist, Aryan monsters of the Third Reich, fired the engines of satanic, ideological hatred with the skeletal remains of more than six million of the house of Israel. The final solution, once and for all, would have rid the world of the despised Jew. Instead, Hitler's ashes lie scattered in the bloody soil of German shame. The bones of all the other Nazi diabolists are strewn in ignominy - who knows where. Yet, the Jew remains, thrives, and prospers the world in every facet of life from the arts to industry, medicine, science, and beyond.
God began His chosen nation's restoration to Palestine nearly a century before the Nazi beast began its genocidal work. Migration, though a trickle at first, began about 1838. The revival of national Jewish life in that land started in earnest in 1878.
Then came the event that distinguishes it as perhaps the most important signal that Apocalypse is near, that Armageddon approaches. Jerusalem was reclaimed for the Jew in precisely the manner the prophet Isaiah had foretold more than twenty-seven hundred years earlier: "As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it" (Isa. 31:5).
In 1917, General Edmund Allenby, commander of occupied Palestine for the British Empire, was ordered to take Jerusalem for the Jews. He found the city in possession of the Turks. To take the city by force meant risking initiation of hostilities that might so inflame the region as to cause a massive conflict to result. Bloodshed could have raised the indignation of the whole world.
Allenby, seeking advice from his government, was told to use his own judgment. He again contacted his superiors, who told him to pray, offering no further counsel in the matter. Allenby then ordered the commander of a fleet of airplanes to fly over Jerusalem. This action so terrified the Turks that they surrendered the city without a shot being fired.
Isaiah's prophecy was thus fulfilled: "As birds flying," God "delivered" Jerusalem; the city was "'defended" while aircraft "passed over."
As a result of this action, the Balfour Declaration was signed on November 2, 1917, recognizing Palestine as the rightful homeland for the Jew. The regathering began to take on new dimensions. So, too, did the ugliness of anti-Semitism.
Hatred for the Jew seemed driven by dynamics that transcended reason, reaching fever-pitch in Germany on the evenings of November 9 and 10, 1938. During these -Crystal Nights," as they have become known, Jewish homes and businesses were ravaged and destroyed, and many Jewish people were brutally assaulted.
Nazi inner-circle members haughtily termed it the "Week of Broken Glass." Hitler's plan, taken from the pages of his prison-dictated writings, "Mein Kampf," had taken root. The persecution had become full blown.
From the valley of dry bones - the crematorium/gas chamber hells of Nazi Europe - arose a God-breathed spirit that screamed then and screams still, "Never again!" The crucible of holocaust tempered a people for the rebirth prophesied almost three millennia earlier.
Modem Israel was born on May 14,1948. The Jews have miraculously prospered. From a people near extinction in 1945, they are today the focal nation of the world. Surely, Israel is the premiere sign that God's prophetic clock approaches the midnight hour.
The Time of Jacob's Trouble
Saddam. Hussein's demented obsession to become a twentieth century Nebuchadnezzar, through the elimination of Israel, was short- circuited by unseen forces greater than those of the United Nation coalition, valiant though those men and women were. Israel is in the process of being compressed and funnelled into an unalterable course. It will be a forced march which, for the last few years of human history, will cause Jewish people to wish they could trade their plight for even that suffered by their ancestors during the Holocaust of the Nazi death-camp years.
Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble ... (Jer. 30:7).
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be (Matt. 24:21).
What will set in motion for the world in general, and for Israel in particular, a time described by Jesus himself as the worst man has ever known? There is an event that brings forth Apocalypse from the self-assured smugness of man's effort to at last establish world peace and safety. "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape" (1 Thess. 5:3).
In Daniel 9:27, the prophet Daniel speaks of the event and of the time that will begin human history's final seven years, called the time of Jacob's trouble by Jeremiah. "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
To see the awesome import of this prophecy, one must understand that it relates directly to what Jesus Christ said in expounding on that most terrible time. The abomination of desolation is a future dictator whose record of atrocity will make Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and all other preceding tyrants seem hardly worthy of mention.
Jesus' words on this last and most ferocious dictator are recorded in Matthew 24:15-16. Jesus, confirming the words of Jeremiah and Daniel, is speaking to the Jews of Palestine at the end of the age.
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains.
Notice that immediately before the time of unprecedented terror, there is first negotiated a covenant with many. The many in this passage are the Jews - the nation Israel - returned after their dispersion. It is the Israel born in a single day - May 14, 1948.
Do we see any evidence, in the present hour, of a peace process in which Israel is involved in a major way?
Saddam Hussein, before the Persian Gulf crisis was enjoined by the United Nation coalition forces, reported a dream in which he said the Prophet Mohammed appeared to him and told him that in the event of war, he - Saddam - had his Scud missiles pointed in the wrong direction. "Oh, great prophet," Saddam. asked the figure in his dream, "which way should they be pointed?"
The prophet answered him, "You know which direction to point them." Israel was Saddam. Hussein's real target, and is the target of every anti-Israeli nation and organization in the world. Jerusalem and that tiny nation are the thorns in the side of the chaotic, incendiary, militant, Arab conglomerate. Even so, the Palestinian homeland issue is merely a rifle scope through which to focus the hostility.
The Center of the Storm
What is the true source of the world's rage against Israel? And there appeared a Wee wonder in heaven, a woman ... And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon ... and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations ... and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne (Rev. 12:1-5).
Here is found the nucleus of the geopolitical storm presently gathering in the Middle East. More than a mortal storm, it is a cosmic, universal maelstrom of eternal consequence.
Lucifer, that fallen angel; Satan, that serpent called the devil - stirs the black, brewing tempest that will soon unleash his fury into man's final war. His hatred for the people through whom God chose to give fallen man His supreme love gift, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in order that people can be reconciled to the Creator, grows more intense and more manifest by the hour.
The Jew, the nation Israel, is the centerpiece of the MidEast turmoil. Why? Because the Jew, Israel, is at the center of that struggle over which man and his intellect have philosophized since antiquity but have never comprehended. The struggle is between good and evil. Many governments have tried to deal with the trouble in this region. Some seemed for a time to succeed in their efforts. But, the ancient conflict goes on, and more and more often, inflames to the point of eruption.
The wars are legendary by their very nature. Modem Israel, though surrounded on three fronts by forces thirty times greater and backed against the Mediterranean Sea, has not only survived major assaults in 1956,1967, and 1973 - in fact, it was born in the midst of battle in 1948 - but, it has miraculously and completely routed the enemies each time while gaining additional territory. Now, Israel faces a subtle aggression, but one much more virulent and dangerous. Diplomatic cries for peace and safety through a negotiated solution to the problem of a homeland for the Palestinian refugees are becoming demands. The "Palestinian problem," the diplomats say almost without exception, "is the key to war and peace."
The Conquering Leader
There is coming out of the soon-to-be united Europe a leader who will go "forth conquering, and to conquer" (Rev. 6:2). "There was given unto him a mouth speaking great things..." (Rev. 13:5).
This mightiest leader ever will come riding the white horse of peacemaker and will confirm the covenant with many for one week. Translation: This leader from a Europe united in a configuration equivalent to the Europe of the Roman Empire days - a revived Roman Empire, a neo-Roman order of sorts - will make a covenant treaty to which Israel will be a major signatory.
The pact will be for seven years, one year equaling one day of the seven day week indicated in the Scriptures. The "conquering" by the leader at this point in time, no doubt is in the realm of diplomacy. Undoubtedly, he will offer brilliant initiatives, magnified in their allurement by a charismatic, personal charm that convinces Jew and Arab alike to trust him as a friend of all. As the guarantor of the peace not just for that region, but for a global peace upon which can be built a New World order and a new age of prosperity, he will succeed where others have failed. His promises will be sweet to the ears of a world ravenous for such lies. And lies they will be.
Globe-trotting exploits by would-be peacemakers have met with fates ranging from abject failure to moderate, though temporary, success. One recalls seeing documentary film of the well-intentioned, but fuzzy-thinking, Neville Chamberlain holding up the piece of paper Hitler duped him into believing was the megalomaniac's true desire for "peace for our time." Henry Kissinger impressed us mightily with his seeming inexhaustible energy while pursuing an honorable peace in Vietnam. Even his brilliant efforts ultimately faded and failed. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, of the Bush administration, eclipsed even Kissinger's air mileage as he jetted in and out of the capitals of the world in search of a formula that will defuse the time bomb that is the Middle East. He, too, has failed to secure the lasting peace for which the world hungers, although there may be temporary, superficial "progress" made.
There is movement in the Arab world to bring great pressure to bear on their avowed enemy, but this time they plan to use diplomatic maneuvering rather than their often failed military force and/or terrorism. These types of tactics are most likely what the world can expect from now until the nation Israel is lulled into a false sense of security. The Scriptures plainly teach that diplomatic deception will make Israel vulnerable to attack. This prophesied end time, caution-softening process can be sensed in a New York Times news service release dated July 22, 1991, by Thomas L. Friedman.
Jordan on Sunday joined Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in agreeing to attend a regional peace conference proposed by the United States. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, however, told visiting Secretary of State James Baker that he wanted more time to consider the matter. "We are ready to attend a peace conference," King Hussein said, "and we are very happy indeed it is going to be a comprehensive one." ... Jordan also joined Saudi Arabia and Egypt in offering to suspend the Arab economic boycott of Israel if it will suspend the building of settlements in the occupied lands.
In another press service release, it was reported that President Bush said he did not want to use a "volatile" word like "pressuring" when talking about his stance with the Israelis.
He preferred to call it "reasoning and taking this, what I keep calling a new credibility for the United States in the Middle East, and using that to encourage what is a very reasonable and important step to peace."
Groundwork is being laid. America's well-meaning diplomacy might be the effort that makes clear the pathway for the final Fuehrer to perform his diabolical work when his time comes to step upon the world stage. This man, termed Antichrist in 1 John 2:18, is dealt with at length in later chapters of this book.
But Christians - all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as the one and only way of redemption, i.e., the means of reconciliation with God the Father - are looking not for the Antichrist. Rather, they are looking for Jesus Christ who will "descend from heaven .... Then we which are alive and remain [until His secret coming in the clouds above the earth] shall be caught up together with them [those who have died during the age since Christ's redemptive work on the cross] in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Israel is beset on all sides with demands that they submit to a peace process that will prevent their own expansion while giving the Palestinians a homeland and the world relief from the constant tensions in the region: this is the clear signal that the end has already begun!
Nov 19, 2007
By William T James