Look Up, Redemption Is Near
Life goes on. Business as usual. Another day, another dollar. Let’s party this weekend, and next weekend and the one after that. Despite the ominous developments and fateful events taking place all around us, people in this country and the world over seem to live for pleasure more than ever before. We work five days a week in order to play, to party hard whenever we can. Isn’t that what life is all about: eat, drink, and be merry. Don’t bother us with all of that talk about the last days, the end-times, the second coming. Christians have been saying that forever and nothing has happened.
The Apostle Peter counters that live for now mentality: “Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created’” (II Peter 3:3-4).
Listen now to the words of Jesus Christ: “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all. And the world will be as it was the days of Lot. People went about their daily business—eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building—until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. Yes, it will be business as usual right up the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).
No, believers have not been forever saying that the end of the world will come soon. Actually, it’s only been in the last few decades that students of Scripture in general and prophecy in particular have been taking notice and commenting on world events; beginning with the miraculous rebirth of Israel in 1948, then accelerating in scope and intensity after the Six-Day War of 1967.
In summary of his dramatic description of the last days, Jesus said something stunning, words that refute the idea that all of these end-times developments and events will go on indefinitely. It is a promise that narrows down considerably the time-frame of his glorious return: “In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:33-34).
In several prior Eye of Prophecy articles, we have looked at various signs and indicators of the last days, but only one or two at a time. We have also examined the Biblical definition and duration of a generation … 100 years and 70 years. (See The Omega Generation, published 2-15-14).
With six events in this week’s article and six more in next week’s article, we will examine twelve prophetic milestones that have either taken place or are taking place before our very eyes in this age; no matter whether we use a seventy-year or a hundred-year definition of a generation. This week we will look at prophetic fulfillment that pertains directly to Israel. Next week’s list will be global events relating primarily to Gentile nations that are unfolding exactly as the Bible said they would. This list of twelve may not be all-inclusive, but it contains the most significant developments that Jesus and many Old Testament prophets pointed to as trust-worthy markers of the last days. With the exception of the first event listed, they are not necessarily shown in order of importance. In fact, they all bear a substantially equal standing.
Number One: Rebirth of Israel as a Sovereign Nation, 1948.
There are hundreds of Old Testament passages that speak of the miraculous return of the Jews to Israel, from the four-corners of the earth. Most of them correlate this stupendous achievement with the Day of the Lord, i.e. the last days that include the New Testament description of the Rapture, followed by the Great Tribulation or Old Testament Times of Jacob’s Trouble. Israel’s regeneration is the cornerstone catalyst to many of the other events that must come to pass. The physical return of the Jews to Israel will lead to a complete spiritual restoration, as their redemption draws near and then is consummated.
“…This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land…’” (Ezekiel 37:12-14).
“Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home” (Isaiah 60:4).
“Before the birth pangs even begin, Jerusalem gives birth to a son. Who has ever seen anything as strange as this? Who ever heard of such a thing? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment?” (Isaiah 66:7-8).
On May 14, 1948, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed Israel as a Sovereign State. Previously this decision had been approved by the United Nations in November, 1947. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever: this was the wonderful fulfillment of prophecies proclaimed thousands of years earlier. But it was also the beginning of birth pains for Israel and the Jews that will continue throughout the Great Tribulation. That’s what is so remarkable about Israel’s rebirth as a nation. First came the birth, then came the birth pangs … just the opposite of how other nations came into existence. That’s exactly what God said would happen, and that’s precisely how it happened.
Number Two: Recapture of Jerusalem in the June, 1967 Six-Day War
Although it was the formation of Israel as a State that captured the attention of the entire earth, especially those interested in end-times prophecy, not until the Jews recaptured the Holy City of the Holy Land in 1967, did the interest of last days prophecies explode with kaleidoscope chain-reaction force not seen or experienced since the first century passionate expectancy of the Lord’s return.
Though not necessarily in large numbers, Jews from all over the world accepted Christ as their Messiah and Messianic ministries began to sprout up in many places, particularly in the United States but even in Israel itself! Books on prophecy began to roll off the presses. Articles inundated the Internet. Sermons were preached, new praise and worship songs composed and sung, radio and television stations broadcast Christian programs in significantly increasing numbers. This Messianic fervor continues to this very day.
Hundreds more passages in Scripture declare that Jerusalem would be restored as the geographical and spiritual center of Messiah’s reign on the earth. Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart. It is the City God loves above all other cities. It is where his very presence dwelt in Solomon’s glorious Temple on what today is called Temple Mount. The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem just across the Kidron Valley is where Messiah Jesus will first step foot upon his glorious reappearance on this earth. According to the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel and from Jesus himself, a third Temple will be rebuilt, but not until Jerusalem is ultimately controlled by the Jews. Israel’s dramatic reinstatement as a nation in 1948 was not complete until Jerusalem became part of the land, which took place in 1967.
God declares that: “In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness’” (Jeremiah 33:15-16).
Here we see one of many Old Testament passages that combines and condenses hundreds of years into one sweeping event. The righteous descendant of David has, indeed, been raised up. He was born of a Virgin, raised as a Jewish child in Israel, and raised again from the dead after dying for the sins of the every person on earth, as the perfect Lamb of God. One day soon, so very soon, he will return as the Lion from the Tribe of Judah to rescue Jerusalem from utter destruction and save the remnant of Judah (Israel). And then Jerusalem and all of Israel will live in complete safety and security.
Famous photo of Israeli Soldiers at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Six-Day War of 1967
We can’t emphasize enough that even though Jerusalem is still disputed by many nations as Israel’s capital, the fact remains that Jerusalem has once again been restored to the ultimate control of God’s chosen people. Thus, it is a vital piece of the prophetic puzzle that God has providentially put into place to accelerate and complete all that is necessary before the Rapture, which propels the world into the Great Tribulation and then the Millennium.
Number Three: Jerusalem, a Heavy Burden to the Nations
“This message concerning the fate of Israel came from the Lord. This message is from the Lord, who stretched out the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and formed the human spirit. ‘I will make Jerusalem like an intoxicating drink that makes the nearby nations stagger when they send their armies to besiege Jerusalem and Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock. All the nations will gather against it to try to move it, but they will only hurt themselves’” (Zechariah 12:1-3).
Other Bible translations call the “immovable rock” a burdensome stone or heavy stone. Whatever imagery is used, the idea is the same: Jerusalem (Israel) is a stumbling block to virtually the entire world. International leaders have become perplexed, troubled, and even irrational (intoxicated with the implication of losing all sense of rational control) over Jerusalem.
This message from the Lord to Zechariah is an end-times prophecy because it refers to, “on that day,” which is a phrase frequently used as in connection to the last days. Although the nations will stagger (as though being drunk) when they actually send their armies (meaning the final assault on Jerusalem during the series of battles known as Armageddon), the common sense application of the analogy is that the nations will first need to get drunk. It’s the same concept used in Revelation and some Old Testament prophecies in which the nations (begin to) drink from the cup of the wrath of God.
What we read and see daily in the media is a mind-numbing, illogical, and unreasonable response from nations all over the world. The kind of reaction one expects from someone who is getting inebriated, who acts absurdly and stammers: At all costs we must do something about Israel and Jerusalem? When, in reality, nothing needs to be done with or about the only democratic, freedom-loving nation in the Middle East.
Likewise with the immovable rock. The prophetic picture is that of someone trying to move or remove a huge stone in order to gain access to something or build something in its place. But the boulder is just too heavy for the intellectual or technical ability of those who want something done about this burdensome stone. In varying degrees and with different agendas both Western and Middle-East nations either want the rock removed or at least cut down to size.
That’s exactly what is happening in today’s world. To wit:
- Leaders of many Muslim nations, primarily Iran, have sworn to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. To assume complete control over Jerusalem; or at the very least to divide it between Jews and Arabs.
- To that end, Israel has had to fight four major wars since it became a nation: the War of Independence in 1948, the Suez War of 1956, the Six-Day War of 1967, and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Several other smaller and more isolated wars were fought with the terrorist groups of Hezbollah (Lebanon and Syria), and Hamas (Gaza Strip), the most recent of which was just last year … Operation Protective Edge. And, of course, the periodic launch of missiles and mortars into Israeli towns and alarming increase of lone wolf attacks throughout Israel.
- The growing global movement of BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) against Israel from nearly all Muslim countries, from many European nations, and from certain groups in many nations including three prominent Protestant denominations in the United States … the Presbyterian, Episcopal, and United Church of Christ. This is the beginning of the “siege” of Israel and Jerusalem by economic deprivation, which will expand to actual military assaults against Israel.
- The exponential increase of Anti-Semitism the world over, particularly in European countries, but also in the United States … notably in churches and on many university campuses. And now the Roman Catholic Church has joined the ranks (not really surprising considering the long history of animosity of this religious empire against the Jewish people) of nations, peoples, and organizations aligned against Israel, by the Vatican signing a treaty of recognition for a Palestinian State within Israel.
Indeed, the nations of the world are wringing their hands, scratching their heads, and shuffling their feet trying to figure out what to do about Israel. But then, that’s exactly what the Lord said would happen in the last days.
Number Four: The 3rd Rebuilt Temple
The passionate desire of mostly Orthodox Jews to rebuild the Temple on Temple Mount is absolutely off the charts. Here I would like to quote excerpts from a previous Eye of Prophecy article, entitled: Third Jewish Temple, Part I.
How important is the Temple Mount to the Jews and to Israel? I’ll tell you how priceless and precious it is. Although President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has imposed several conditions on the Israelis before he will even sit down at the negotiating table, Prime Minister Netanyahu has imposed only one condition: Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. And, incorporated in that stipulation is the implied and default component that Jerusalem is Israel’s undivided capital. Virtually all other issues are negotiable to the Israelis. But Jerusalem will not be divided between east and west, and the Temple Mount must not be (permanently) annexed by a people who aren’t even citizens of Israel.
But the recent and renewed interest in the Temple Mount is not just based on an increasing discontent with these restrictions. I firmly believe the primary reason for this resurgent passion toward Israel’s revered and venerated holy site has much more to do with the crescendo of enthusiasm over the coming of Messiah. An integral part of this desire for His appearance is the eagerness to rebuild the Temple. There are several organizations in Israel whose members are devoted to this 2000-year old dream, none more so than The Temple Institute.
In the introductory pages of their website, The Temple Institute states, “THE SCHOLARS OF THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE have dedicated their lives to raising public awareness of the importance of the Holy Temple in the life of all mankind, both Israel and the nations of the world. The Institute seeks to disseminate this knowledge, rekindle the desire and yearning for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, and help to prepare as much as possible for the actual rebuilding.”
Hardly a day goes by without global media coverage on Israel, most of which pertains to Jerusalem, and much of that focused on Temple Mount. The latest incident is that all Jews were forbidden to ascend Temple Mount during the recent Muslim month of Ramadan. Thus, the resurgent attention on the Temple Mount is yet another clear signal that the Day of the Lord (rapture, tribulation, and then millennium) is at hand.
Number Five: Israel’s Phenomenal Agricultural Accomplishments
Through the ages, the fulfillment of so many Biblical prophecies about Israel and her (our) Messiah has become a matter of historical record. But what we sometimes overlook or minimize is the astonishing details of so many of those prophecies … big ones and little ones. People, places, events, all prophesied and fulfilled with meticulous minutiae. One that many scholars have not paid much attention to (including me) is the transformation of Israel from an empty wasteland to a virtual Garden of Eden. The rebirth of Israel has led to the abundant blossoming and growth of trees, vineyards, gardens, flowers, fruits, and vegetables, as Scripture said it would.
“The time will come, says the Lord, when the grain and grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested. Then the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel will drip with sweet wine! I will bring my exiled people of Israel back from distant lands, and they will rebuild their ruined cities and live in them again. They will plant vineyards and garden; they will eat their crops and drink their wine. I will firmly plant them there in their own land. They will never be uprooted from the land I have given them says the Lord your God” (Amos 9:13-15).
*Note: There are other Biblical passages just like this one. For example, see Ezekiel Chapter 36.
Terraced Vineyards, just like Amos predicted!
Once again, that’s exactly what has occurred in the 20th and 21st centuries. God has providentially planted the Jews in the land he gave to their ancestors. And the people have responded with a planting and harvesting not seen since before they were exiled to Babylon in 586 BC. It is absolutely extraordinary. Such as:
- Trees & Bushes: About 150 years ago, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) once took a trip to Israel. Several things impressed him including the scarcity of people, the very small size of Jerusalem, and the barrenness of the land. I can tell you from my personal visit to Israel in 2006, all that has changed. The Israeli organization Jewish National Fund alone has sponsored the planting of 250 million trees in the last one hundred years. In a land that has mostly a desert or arid climate, this is a staggering accomplishment.
- Vineyards: In that same trip to Israel, my sister and I drove past several of dozens of vineyards throughout Israel. With hundreds of wineries, Israel produces over ten million bottles of wine a year, much of which is exported. Israelis invented and perfected drip irrigation which is essential for vineyards but also for other agricultural products. Major counties of the world, including the United States, have implemented water irrigation strategies conceived and practiced in Israel.
- Fruits & Vegetables: With a land mass equivalent to the State of New Jersey, the Jews produce 95% of its own food requirements. What makes that so amazing? Only 20% of that land is arable! They need to import only a handful of food items, such as coffee and sugar. Conversely, they export billions of dollars’ worth of fresh produce to many nations of the world, including the United States. Their citrus fruits demand a high price on the world market because of the near perfect texture and taste. Israelis have invented many high-tech methods of growing and improving produce. For example, one Israeli developed a slow-maturing very delicious strain of tomatoes that increases its shelf-life dramatically. This reduces the spoilage which is a huge problem for growers and wholesale and retail outlets.
- Flowers: Israel is one of the largest growers of all kinds of flowers, with a large export base. They even export flowers to Holland!
Number Six: Modern-Day Alignment of Gog/Magog Nations against Israel
Several Eye of Prophecy articles have included partial reference to this end-times assault against Israel and a couple have dealt with it almost exclusively. Each article has presented this titanic battle from different vantage points, i.e. why the attack on Israel; what will happen (God, himself, with intervene and fight for Israel, leading to total destruction of this Gog/Magog alliance); when it will take place (soon after the Rapture); and the apocalyptic results—both Israel and the nations fully realizing that God is in control and will defend Israel. In this article the emphasis is on the nations themselves; that they have only recently risen to power and developed alliances that puts everything in place for this huge assault on Israel.
Russia: In just the last one hundred years (one of the Biblical definitions and parameters of a generation), we have seen the rise, fall, and rise again of Russia, the land of Magog as termed by Ezekiel. Before the first ascent to world power, Russia was a prominent country ruled by the Czars, but nothing like the colossus she became when the Communists under Lenin and then Stalin took over the country. Though Russia suffered the greatest casualties in World War II, by far, it rose to great heights under Communist dictators. It was a very real threat to the United States and the entire world.
But then something completely unforeseen happened. In the early 1990’s the mighty Soviet Union unraveled and then disintegrated, as the Communist Party lost its stranglehold on the people. This is explained in some detail in the Eye of Prophecy article entitled, Beware of the Bear, published 3-22-14. Here are some excerpts from that article.
Some of you may remember: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The Russian President complied, resulting in the reunification of East and West Berlin; also, the end of Soviet dominance of East Germany, which had become like a vassal state to Russia. Soon to follow was the break-up of the Soviet Union, in which most of the 14 satellite states that comprised the Russian Sphere declared their independence from the mother land. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union was no more.
The American eagle flew proudly over the Russian bear, and spread her wings to protect and defend the nations that embraced democracy. The United States regained her status as the world’s only superpower. The Soviet Union seemed to implode from within … suffering from all the ills of economic collapse, political corruption, and social disarray. Virtually overnight, her status as a superpower vanished. Many politicians, social scientists, economists, religious leaders, and even evangelicals believed the once mighty Russian bear was dead.
Students of prophecy shook their heads in disbelief, questioning whether their analysis of the Ezekiel 38 & 39 Gog, Magog attack on Israel could possibly be accurate. Had they been wrong all this time?
We see, now, that the Bear was not dead, but in a state of prolonged hibernation. Due mostly to the leadership of one man, Vladmir Putin, the people from the mother land of “the distant north” once again proudly wave the Russian flag.
Iran (Persia): For thousands of years the country of Persia was a non-plus factor on the world scene. Not until the 1930s did this Persian speaking people begin to once again appear on the world stage as a major player. But it wasn’t until 1979 when the current Islamic regime took over and has now begun to develop nuclear energy with its obvious objective of creating a nuclear bomb. Our headlines have been full of hardly anything else these past weeks, what with the Iran negotiations becoming a daily news item. All of this has occurred within a span of some 70 years, another generational time-frame mentioned in the Bible.
Turkey: The vast and powerful Ottoman Turk Empire was soundly defeated and ceased to exist during World War I. It was from this empire that Israel, then called the territory of Palestine, was liberated by the British. The Jews were allowed to officially return to and settle in Palestine by virtue of the Lord Balfour declaration (the British Mandate over Palestine) in 1917.
The Turks officially threw off Ottoman domination by abolishing the Sultanate and declaring itself to be The Republic of Turkey in 1923. But only in the past two-three decades has Turkey risen to prominence among the more recognized nations on earth, and is also in the international headlines on a frequent basis.
There are other nations in the Gog/Magog coalition, but time/space doesn’t allow more details in this article. Suffice to say the three nations listed are the most prominent members of this unholy, ungodly alliance. But the most startling thing about Russia, Iran, and Turkey is this: not that many decades ago they were rivals, each against the other. Today, Russia and Iran are bosom buddies. Turkey is warming up to Russia as noted by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s friendly visit with Russian Prime Minister Putin in 2009. Although Turkey and Iran don’t see eye-to-eye, both governments are controlled by Muslims; they both want ISIS removed from Syria and Iraq. But, all three have one diabolically depraved agenda in common (along with all the Islamic nations): They all hate Israel. They would do anything to remove this heavy stone.
When it comes time to march against Israel, Turkey and Iran will set aside any differences and join with Russia to accomplish the united goal of eliminating Israel from the map.
Things to Ponder
I believe the value of combining these twelve end-times prophecies into two articles is so that believers can refer to a handy checklist with the prophetic last-days signs listed point by point, as evidence and encouragement that the second coming of Jesus Christ is, indeed, very near. And, hopefully, that unbelievers will see just how incredibly accurate the Word of God is when it comes to the fulfillment of prophecies.
“But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28, NASB).
Be patient we say. All in good time. But according to Jesus that time is just one generation.
I’m convinced that the milestone event (the first of any significance for the Jewish people in hundreds of years) of Balfour’s Declaration of 1917 was the beginning of the first and longest definition of a generation in Scripture … 100 years, as applied to these end-times prophecies. That the rebirth of Israel (1947-1948) was the second monumental landmark that signifies and represents the second generational time-frame … 70 years. And that the absolutely historic recapture and liberation of Jerusalem in 1967 (as well as the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula) was a year of Jubilee, with the next Jubilee beginning to unfold … in 50 years.
All of these take us to the Roman calendar year of 2017 or using the Jewish calendar—up to the first few months of 2019. To repeat what was said in a previous article: I’ll be surprised if the Rapture doesn’t occur by the year 2020.