Oct 22, 2008

The Stage Is Set

By Al Gist

We continue to see the world stage being set for the events of the Tribulation. And that stage-setting is both depressing and exciting. It is depressing because those events will eventually combine to make up the horrible days of pain, suffering, and bloodshed that the Bible prophesies will comprise the Great Tribulation. But it is exciting for us Christians because we know that BEFORE that horrible day, our blessed Savior will come into the atmosphere of planet Earth, snatch us away, and receive us unto Himself, that where He is, we may be also (John 14:3). And “where He is” won’t be here where the foul stench of sin will permeate every square inch of terra firma. He will take us to a place where “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Cor. 2:9) The beauties of Heaven are far beyond anything that humans have ever even imagined.

However, even though we (the Church) will surely miss the dreadfulness of the Tribulation, we may very well experience some hard times before and leading up to it. The godless world of the coming Antichrist will not just happen in a day, but will develop over a period of years. That “rotting process” will be both sad and discouraging for those of us who recognize the path of rebellion against God that mankind has chosen. As we long for a society that loves and honors the God of our forefathers, we will have to witness the satanic slide into sin and destruction. Even as the rain falls upon the just and the unjust, so does the painful results of the wicked behavior of society. Sin will bring hard times to the whole nation.

This is NOT to say, of course, that we are to sit idly by and allow Satan’s minions free reign to destroy what we cherish as the blessings of God. We MUST and we WILL take a stand on the Biblical principles of God. But the Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that in general, man will continue his resolute march to destruction. It is only the gracious intervention of a merciful God that will prevent total self-annihilation.

Persecution of Christians, economic depression, wars, apostasy, gross immorality, etc. will continue and will prepare the world for the rise to power of Antichrist. And that environment will not simply happen in a day. It has been developing over a period of years to bring about a time of confusion, chaos, and anarchy… the perfect setting to cause mankind to accept, and give allegiance to that Man of Sin who will appear to have all the answers for the world’s problems.

With that said, we must not be surprised by the political, societal, economic, and international turmoil that we are witnessing. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (II Tim. 3:1) But we can be assured that the One Who loves us more than we can comprehend is faithful to never leave us, nor forsake us. And He has promised to provide for our every physical need if we will only “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:25-34).

For many years, I have preached that the day will come when God will judge the United States. If there were no other reason, the wanton murder of millions of our unborn children would surely justify it. And yet we have been blessed by God to become the most powerful, the freest, the wealthiest nation in history. So, to us to whom so much has been given, He will require much. We have stubbornly refused to acknowledge His hand of blessing and His remedial judgments of warning. Like a freight train with no brakes, we have barreled ahead with our humanistic values, consistently removing the promotion and witness of our God from our midst.

For the most part, true Christian values have been all but totally abandoned. And the terrorism of 9/11/01… the natural disasters of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and drought… and now the threat of economic collapse, have not deterred us from our maniacal drive to forget God. The more He has blessed us, the more we have shook our fist in his divine face. Surely, the judgment of God is coming!

Biblical history tells us that God will often judge a nation through the god that they worship. The first plague upon the Egyptians was to turn the waters of the Nile River into blood (Ex. 7:20-21)… a slap in the face to their most supreme god, the god of the Nile. Without a doubt, the god of America is “mammon”. Materialism and the devotion to making more and more money is where the hearts of most Americans lie. So it very likely that God will judge this nation through the god that is most worshipped here… MONEY.

Economic disaster is on the horizon. The recent $700 billion bail-out of Wall Street by the federal government is like the little boy who stuck his finger in the hole in the dam. Soon, other leaks will spurt and eventually the government will run out of fingers to plug them. And the dam will break!

I am not a prophet, but an elementary understanding of the Bible and just plain logical thinking will easily allow one to recognize the impending financial collapse. If the feds manage to shore up this financial calamity, another will arrive shortly on its heels.

Now, lets turn our attention to the other side of the globe. As Iran continues it pursuit of nuclear weapons, Israel is being forced into a corner. They recognize that their very existence is at stake. A nuclear bomb in the hands of an anti-Semitic maniac like Mahmoud Ahmadenijad (Iran’s president) presents more than a threat of attack on the tiny Jewish nation. It is a certainty! Almost all military and political pundits recognize this and are predicting a preemptive attack by Israel on the Iranian nuclear facilities soon (probably before George Bush leaves office on Jan. 20).

The repercussions, aside from the international outcry, will likely be devastating… not only to Israel, but to us! Regardless of what kind of military counter attack Iran may be able to achieve against Israel, one response from them is almost certain. If war breaks out, there will be some degree of interruption in the Middle East oil supply. Even if we are able to prevent them from plugging the Strait of Hormuz leading from the Persian Gulf which would stop about 40% of the world’s oil supply (remember that Iran is the country on one side of the strait.)… even if we are able to prevent them from destroying other Mid-East oil installations (like in Saudi Arabia)… And even if the oil flowing from Iran itself was not hindered (Iran is the second largest oil producing nation in the world)… There will definitely be a market reaction to ANY war in the Middle East. That means oil (energy) prices will sky-rocket.

With the U.S. economy “teetering” on very shaky ground now, any kind of interruption in our oil supply would be devastating. It could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

When the U.S. economy crashes, such a weakened position could be the perfect opportunity that the terrorist enemies of this country have been waiting for. A significant attack of terrorism on American soil in such a time could really be our undoing.

If the American economy fails, the economy of the whole world would feel the shock wave. At the very least, it would present great challenges to both the European and Asian markets. This could lead the nations of the world to switch to another currency for oil transactions (the Euro or possibly a new international currency which some countries are already advocating). Of course, this would add fuel to the fire of the economic woes here, pushing us further into a break-down of our economy.

A retaliation from Iran could also spark attacks from some of Israel’s many other enemies, like the Hamas in Gaza, the Hezbullah in Lebanon, and Syria. If the Syrians made the terrible mistake of shooting a missile with chemical or biological warheads into Israel, there is no doubt that Israel would retaliate with non-conventional weapons (a nuclear missile) and the utter destruction of Damascus, as prophesied in Isaiah 17, could become a reality.

But no matter what kind of attack is made on Israel, we know from Bible prophecy that Israel will still be around when our Lord returns (Zechariah 14). So the Iranian response will fail to “wipe the Zionist entity off the map” as Ahmadenijad says they will do. Having suffered a devastating attack on their nuclear sites from Israel and not being able to really hurt Israel in response will, undoubtedly, serve to intensify their hatred for Israel.

At some point, Iran will turn to Russia for assistance in an attack on Israel. According to Ezekiel 38-39, a Russian/Iranian led coalition of Muslim nations will fall upon Israel in an all-out attempt at the “final solution” (Hitler’s term for the extermination of the Jews), only to be utterly destroyed… not by Israel but by the God of Israel!

In recent years, we have seen very close ties forming between Iran and Russia. Every attempt by the United States to impose U.N. sanctions against Iran have been met with Russian objection. Iran’s nuclear technology and even the construction of their nuclear plants have been assisted by Moscow. They have also sold $billions of weapons to Iran, including the recent purchase of a very sophisticated Russian-made ground-to-air missile defense system to protect their nuclear installations. So, the Russian (Gog of Magog) ties to Iran (Persia), as predicted in the Bible, are firmly established.

For Russia to move its land forces south towards Israel, she would need to pass through the Caucasus mountain range between the Caspian and Black Seas. A strategic tunnel through the mountains exists to accommodate such a move, but it leads directly into the western-allied nation of Georgia. Under the guise of protecting her citizens in the northern province of Southern Ossetia in Georgia, (How can they claim to have so many RUSSIAN citizens living in another country?) Russia recently invaded Georgia, sending bombing raids all the way to the capital of Tbilisi. Today, even though they claim to have withdrawn their army, leaving only a “peace keeping” force behind, you can be sure they are positioned to easily take over Georgia.

From Georgia, Russian forces could proceed south through Turkey (one of the Biblically identified nations in the Gog of Magog coalition) and Syria (the arch-enemy of Israel) directly into Israel.

The main opposition to Russia attacking Israel is the United States. However, as we’ve previously mentioned, economic collapse in the U.S. would leave us nearly powerless and Israel to her own defenses for protection. So there is no doubt that Russia will view the American economic collapse and subsequent power decline as the perfect opportunity to remove Israel from the Mid-East and forge permanent ties with the Arab oil-producing nations there.

Many other items of “stage setting” for the coming Tribulation could be noted, but space doesn’t allow it. Suffice it to say, all is set for the final wars leading into the Tribulation! So, even though difficult days lie ahead (even for the Church), we can “look up and lift up our head because our redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28) Maranatha!