HOW CLOSE ARE WE?
(12th and final article in the series based on the book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666?)
The time is very near for the most spectacular event in human history since the miraculous birth, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ … the Rapture. The first five articles of this blog site captured in fairly extensive detail many features of this stunning event; followed by five articles to identify the Antichrist, then six more articles to disclose and document the characteristics of the woman who forms an alliance with the beast. This blog is the twelfth and final article to bring all this together and also to lead into next week’s topic that will focus on current events.
When the Rapture occurs, it will usher in the astonishing reappearance of the beast; an unheard of and seemingly impossible seven year treaty between Israel and the Muslin nations; followed by the greatest natural and man-made episodes of destruction and death in human history (four horsemen of the apocalypse) interspersed with massive God-directed judgments; culminating in the glorious appearing (return) of Messiah Jesus. The Book of Revelation even discloses the approximate number who will perish … one half of the earth’s population. Not too long ago, the world’s head-count reached seven billion. Although we have no idea exactly how many will be taken at the Rapture (my own estimation is one out of seven or about one billion), somewhere around three billion people will die during the Great Tribulation. Put this in the context of roughly 40 million killed during World War II, makes the tribulation casualty count nothing less than staggering … mind boggling.
I’m not sure we fully understand just how close it is. We’ve reached the apex of wars and rumors of wars that Jesus warned about in Matthew 24. World War III will not be another war with a winning and losing side as experienced in the first two world wars; only for the world to return to a semblance of peace while it awaits yet another global conflict. With the horrific weaponry, not the least of which is nuclear, the world simply could not sustain or survive another world war; unless God, himself, intervened. Most social, political, economic, and military experts agree that another global conflict would, in fact, be the war to end all wars, an end to civilization itself. Whether by an evil rogue nation that would unleash a nuclear bomb on another country or by a nuclear armed nation desperately trying to defend itself, it is virtually inevitable that these weapons of mass destruction would be employed in the next global war.
We’re approaching the end of the famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world that are also part of the birth pangs foretold by Christ; although there will be a few more to come. In the past few decades, we’ve witnessed an unprecedented increase in both the frequency and severity of world-wide catastrophes, such as massive tsunamis, incredibly destructive tornadoes, repulsive plagues (Aids virus), tragic famines, and shocking earthquakes of 7.0 or higher magnitude.
Listen to the words of Jesus: “For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones” (Matthew 24: 21-22).
What makes the current rumors of war so different from past conflicts is Scripture’s timetable predictions that in the very last days Israel and Jerusalem would be the center of world attention and tension. Before our very eyes, day after day we are witnessing precise fulfillment of Biblical prophecy in the Middle East, the most startling of which is Iran’s (and other nations) recent publicized threats to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. The words spoken by Iran’s former president are eerily similar, if not identical to the prophetic words of Scripture. “Come, they say, ‘let us wipe out Israel as a nation. We will destroy the very memory of its existence’” (Psalms 83:4).
That’s how close we are. If/when a nation’s leader articulates the last day prophetic words that the Bible says will be uttered, it won’t be successive generations that will experience the anxiety and consequences of those threats; it will be that very generation! A parallel example (one that was good) is God’s prediction through the prophet Isaiah that a Persian ruler, whom God even named before the ruler was born (Cyrus), would issue a decree for the Jewish exiles to return to Israel. Isaiah even prophesies the words that Cyrus would declare some 150 years later, “When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command, ‘Rebuild Jerusalem’; he will say, ‘Restore the Temple’’’ (Isaiah 44:28). If you like, read Ezra 1:2-4; which is the decree that Cyrus announced, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.
This Iranian (along with other Shiite groups) threat is much more than idle boasting. The Iranians are serious—backing it up with their own messianic claims that Islam’s Madhi (messiah) is waiting for a massive intifada (Muslim uprising) against Israel and those who support Israel. Iran is banking on its ability to quickly finish years of nuclear development to provide enough enriched uranium to arm a nuclear warhead or two, or three. Depending on which intelligence sources are accurate, this could be a few weeks, but no longer than a few months.
There is no doubt with those leaders in Israel, who fully understand the mindset of their enemies, that Iran is not bluffing; that Iran’s megalomaniac rulers would detonate a nuclear device in Israel, if they had the capacity to do so. A preemptive strike by Israel would lead to Muslim reprisals that would engulf the entire Middle East in a conflict that would dwarf past wars in Israel. One that could be a catalyst to persuade the superpowers to take sides; one that would lead to global war and the apocalyptic carnage that today’s super weapons can inflict.
What we read in today’s headlines involves much more than just sabre rattling. We are watching Israel’s mortal enemies defy United Nations sponsored economic sanctions against them as their very economy begins to collapse around them. Their hatred for the Jews and all who would align themselves with Israel is both irrational and irreversible. They would rather die than give up their diabolical pursuit of Israel’s annihilation. And, they would love to see the United States brought to her knees.
The upsurge of international tension fostered by civil war in Syria, unprecedented strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, especially in Egypt, the overt and covert support of most Muslim nations (including Iran) by Russia, China, and North Korea, the ambiguous waffling of the United States between isolationism and support of Israel cannot possibly remain in a vacuum. Like any other balloon such as the economic bubble that burst in the US in 2008, you can’t keep filling the balloon with hot air indefinitely. Something has to give.
Animosity even exists between Shiite branch ultra-conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia is extremely fearful of a nuclear armed Iran, so much so that they are prepared to purchase nuclear weapons from Pakistan should Iran’s centrifuges produce the required amount of enriched uranium. You see, the Saudis are wealthy enough to simply buy nuclear warheads Rich enough? Instant nukes … just buy them!
Danger! Red Lines Ahead
The greatest of these dangers to the United States is the recent and blatant disregard for Israel’s security, via appeasement of Iran over the UN sanctions. Our President simply doesn’t grasp the senseless hostility of many Muslim nations and groups against Israel and against the United States. Or, if he does understand the malicious intentions of both radical and moderate Muslims, then we can only wonder about our President’s real objectives. No amount of negotiation or concessions will dissuade or deter radical Muslim leaders, especially Iran, from accomplishing their malevolent design of world domination. At the very best, negotiations will only delay Islam’s renewed effort to accomplish its goal of world-wide implementation of Sharia law through jihad (holy war). At the very worst, more concessions will intensify and accelerate the insane and apocalyptic ambitions of rogue nations such as Iran.
The current administration has already backed away from the red line it drew in Syria, regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. Our President had promised reprisals against the Syrian government should this red line be crossed. The red line is now a yellow line: let’s be cautious and not rush into doing what we said would be done. Another red line drawn through Iran has also been blurred. According to the current administration, there’s no way the US would allow Iran to fully develop nuclear weapons. As this article is being written, our President and his staff have not only retreated from this red line, they are contemplating the relaxation of economic sanctions that have at least delayed the relentless goal of Iran—the possession and unthinkable use of a nuclear arsenal.
Why are these things so dangerous to our country? Because we are perilously close to crossing the red line that God, himself, has drawn around Israel. It is the line that became symbolically visible when God called Abraham to leave his home, and journey to the land that would be given to him and his descendants forever. I repeat for emphasis: Forever. This unconditional covenant includes a wonderful promise for Abraham and his descendants (the Jews) that included the Gentile nations. It also contained an ominous warning to these nations. God said to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12: 2-3).
In just the last few years these verses have been quoted many times by Evangelical Christians who support Israel, by Messianic Jewish leaders, by observant (religious) Jews, even by secular Jews … by all those who understand the history of and purpose for the very existence of Israel. One of these purposes is to be a light for the Gentile nations, by bringing to the world the “light of the world,” Messiah Jesus.
In direct proportion to or even greater proportion (depending on the extent of God’s mercy) that the United States withdraws support of Israel, God will remove his support of our nation, or any nation. To the extent that the US does not recognize Israel’s sovereign right of freedom to build more settlements in Judea and Samaria, the God-given rights and freedom of this country will be taken away from us. In the measure that our government ignores and even jeopardizes the security and safety of Israel or lessens its economic and military aid to Israel, God will remove his protection and prosperity from this wonderful nation we call the United States of America.
“Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God’s royal Son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!” (Psalms 2: 10-12).
Numbers in the Bible
As explained in my book, Out of the Abyss, numbers are an integral part of the Bible. Both literally and symbolically certain numbers specifically represent and depict the interaction of God in human affairs. The significance of the number forty, whether days or years, in Scripture is that it constitutes a period of testing, trial, or preparation for an individual or nation. Included in this preparation is a lesson of patience and dependence upon God; waiting for God to instill in his people a total awareness of the need to completely trust him for what comes next … all the while developing determination and courage to fulfill the purpose of God.
Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days/nights, while the Israelites were being tested and primed to receive the greatest (at that time) revelation from God ever given to mankind—the complete law of God. For 40 years the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness to learn from their mistake of not trusting God; but also to prepare them for what would be some of the greatest battles they would ever fight in the early history of their nation, in order to enter, conquer, and possess the Promised Land. Israel’s first King, Saul, reigned for forty years while God was preparing another King (David) “a man after his own heart” to finally conquer Israel’s enemies and unify the twelve tribes into one nation. King David ruled for 40 years to prepare Israel for the generation to follow, one in which Israel experienced total peace and prosperity under King Solomon, who also ruled for 40 years.
It’s been forty years since the last major war in Israel … the Yom Kippur War of 1973. I believe that it is more than mere coincidence that the current life and death (for that is what it is to Israel) issues over a nuclear Iran and its sworn determination to annihilate Israel, has entirely seized the attention, time, energy, skills, resources, and patience of the world’s superpowers. Likewise, it’s more than a random interval that this 40-year period of time has brought Israel and the world to the brink of a regional and potential global conflict with consequences so devastating that only the return of Messiah will save Israel from extinction and the world from unparalleled savagery.
By means of blog sites, web sites, emails, articles, newspaper, books, and other internet news sources, I keep a very close eye on Jerusalem, Israel, and the Middle East as a whole. I am not alone in my observation: Not since just a few decades before the birth of Jesus, have the Jews expressed a more intense and enthusiastic longing for Israel’s Messiah, as they do today.
Tragically, God’s own people rejected their Messiah after he was born in Bethlehem of a virgin; with equal tragedy they have paid an enormous price for missing Messiah’s first visitation. Although most Jews of today’s world await what they believe is the first appearance of Messiah, while we Christians are waiting for his return, the fact remains: Messiah will arrive at the appointed time to rescue Israel from her enemies in a miraculous fashion.
Make no mistake: God still loves Israel and has not forgotten her. He is willing that all of Israel would be saved–along with many Gentiles; saved from their individual sins and the penalty of sin (everlasting separation from God) and saved from national ruin by their enemies.
God waits in Heaven for the precise moment when he will send his Son back to this earth to complete the majestic plan of salvation and to deliver what the Bible calls God’s “special possession” from utter defeat at the hands of her adversaries.
We who are believers in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of Man, the Son of David, and the Son of God also wait for our deliverance from this ungodly world, a world gone mad … blinded by the god of this world who seeks to destroy the true Church of God and the very nation of Israel from where Messiah will rule and reign.
The beast awaits his release from the Abyss to regain the glory he once had, and then to expand that glory on a truly global scale. The woman waits and longs for another opportunity to establish a mighty ecclesiastical kingdom that rules over the kings of the earth.
“For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.” The time is short … very, very short for us to give such a witness on behalf of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Look to 2014 and 2015 for some extraordinary events … some things that might even signal the beginning of the end. I certainly am not making any predictions for the Rapture, i.e. day or hour. It could be next year, the year after, three years, or it could be while you’re reading this article!
“The land of Judah will be the Lord’s special possession in the holy land, and he will once again choose Jerusalem to be his own city. Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for he is springing into action from his holy dwelling” (Zechariah 2: 12-13).
Things to Ponder
Is your hope in the return of Messiah Jesus growing stronger? Do you see how Biblical prophecy is coming more alive and active every day, by the unfolding of events in the Middle East? Is it becoming clearer that we are on the precipice of something huge, of a bubble about to burst because it has been stretched beyond capacity by the ominous confrontations of nations against nations? Are you listening for the final trumpet call of God? Are you looking up? Soon, it could be very soon!
I think about the rapture every day. I only have one thing to say.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Amen and Amen!