A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Israel and Middle East. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Israel and Middle East. Show all posts

October 21, 2023

Bible Prophecy and The Heavenly Chess Match Between Good and Evil

 As I alluded at the end of my last post, I want to continue to look into the historical perspective of the conflicts in the Middle East, both from a Biblical point of view as well as taking a look at recent events in this modern age. I think it is important that we try to understand the big picture and do some real critical thinking on this subject.

Back in 2015, I was beginning to see a sequence or development of events coming into view. At the time, it was all about Russia and what was going on between the world's superpowers in the Middle East. It was all over the news that Russia had deployed a small, but consequential military force into Syria, which had the potential of changing the dynamic in that war-torn country.  It had been four years since the start of the Syrian civil war, with U.S.-backed rebel forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad and his faithful Syrian army. The sectarian war created a breakdown in authority, providing the opportunity for ISIS to get a foothold and begin building their caliphate.  Russia said that they wanted to assist Syria in fighting ISIS, and that was their primary objective in coming to Syria's aid. 

But, as always, when global powers begin making military moves, there is more to the story.  From what I was able to gather, there was a history of a Russian/Syrian alliance, all the way back to the 1970s when Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, aligned with Moscow. In fact, Syria is [still] among the last proxies, or representatives, of the Russian political influence in the Middle East. Interestingly enough, that puts Russia on the same side as Iran, who also provides military aid and guidance to Iran's proxy, Hezbollah. Apparently, in 2015, Vladimir Putin was getting a little concerned that Iran was having too much influence in Syria, hence the show of military force.

Fast forward to today, and 8 years later, it's looking like the age-old dynamic of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is once again in play. And, as always, oil is the common factor of all these conflicts. So, in 2023, we are left wondering if Russia and Iran are now aligned, perhaps to foil the prospective treaty between Israel and Saudi Arabia. And interestingly enough, I wrote this in 2015: "There are also those who surmise that Russia's escalating presence in the Middle East might forecast a threat to Western interests; or on the other hand, provide valuable intelligence and military aid in fighting Islamic jihad.  Either way, Russia gives themselves a way to bargain for Western and European concessions in regards to Ukraine and economic sanctions". As you can surmise, it's a never-ending game of moving pieces on the cosmic chess board.

And just as in 2015, Russia now seems to be partnering with China to form a coalition against U.S. and European interests in the region. There are so many players on the field and they change partners so many times that it is difficult to discern what their plan is. Can I make all the puzzle pieces fit nicely to form a clear picture to determine if these are End Times events? No. But there is enough going on that my spiritual radar is up. And it just seems as if the world is careening towards [if not an apocalyptic alignment of a one-world government, economic, and religious system], then at least an Armageddon-style conflict that will result in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies of an emerging New World Order and Anti-Christ kingdom.

And I can't help it, but I just sense that the global elite are manipulating events, alliances, and heads of state. To be honest, I'm finding it very difficult to find the truth in the midst of all the chaos. I don't trust the "official line" we are being told by any of the participants in this human tragedy. Who is on which side? Are the coalition forces really working together, or are they each trying to benefit their own political agenda? How do the various factions of the Islamic faith play out in relationship to each other and their goal to wipe Israel off the face of the map? 

I just keep returning to the Bible's prophecy in Zechariah 14, that "I (God) will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped." Just like in Ezekiel 37-39, it is God who brings the enemies of Israel against them in order to shake their world  in the hope that they will abandon their worldly ways and return to their original purpose in His plan for the redemption of mankind [by leading the world to the knowledge of the God of Israel]. At this point in history, and as I have explained in my previous post titled The Lord Has Chosen Zion, the current state of Israel [just like its history] does not resemble the nation God planned to be His spokesman. 

In fact, the reality of modern Israel mirrors the historical nation that the prophet Isaiah lamented over in Chapter 1 of his prophetical book. Although a vision and prophecy was given to the prophet Isaiah about the destiny of the nation of Israel during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the king of Judah, it also foretells the future of the tribe of Judah during the End Times. Furthermore, I believe its message should be heeded by our own nation, as well.  I just love the multiple layers of significance that the Bible holds throughout all generations!  Those who say it is no longer relevant in our time are sadly (and dangerously) deceived.   

 Isaiah laments his sinful nation ... he accuses them of immorality and criminality; they have forsaken the God who made them a great nation above all others, and they now only show Him contempt -- worse, still, they ignore Him. Because of their "detestable disobedience", the future of their country is bleak. Their land has been attacked by enemies and strangers occupy what was once so generously bestowed upon them.  And then the prophet tells them something that should have stopped them in their tracks, and caused fear to bring them to their knees.  The nation of Israel -- indeed, all the world, including today -- knows what befell Sodom and Gomorrah.  Ezekiel, Chapter 16, tells us: "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me...".  The purpose of this post is not to dwell on the sexual immorality and perversion that were practiced in Sodom and Gomorrah [and indeed, in today's society], but to take to heart the judgment that fell on them, and will be due us if we don't repent and return to God. I also want to encourage you and and pray that you will recognize the hope that is in the remnant that will survive. 

Isaiah received spiritual perception in the 7th Century B.C. to minister to the nation of Judah. He knew that God had a purpose for them, but he needed to make them see how far they had wandered from Him. All Israel knew that God had poured fiery sulfur on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, completely destroying them and all of their inhabitants. (To this day, the area where Sodom and Gomorrah were located remains a desolate wasteland.)  So Isaiah wants them to ultimately understand what God did out of the midst of that tragic judgment, and how they deserve the same verdict. He points to a particular nature of God as their reason for hope.

He tells them that "the Lord of hosts" spared a remnant, and it is that Sovereignty and Mercy that He wants his nation to recognize.  And it is very important to take note of the name for God he uses in this verse.  In Hebrew, "the Lord of hosts" is spoken of as Jehovah-Sabaoth.  From our human perspective, this is the name of God to run to when there is no other help.  From God's perspective, this is the name He uses when He wants us to know that He is not only the One who delivers us, but also the One who judges us. He wants us to bow our knee to Him.  This particular name of God meets our failure, and offers deliverance.  

Isaiah wants Judah to realize that their actions deserve the devastating and complete punishment that befell Sodom and Gomorrah. They need to acknowledge that Jehovah Sabaoth -- "the Lord of hosts" -- has rightly judged them, but He is also going to deliver them by the means of that remnant.  A small group will survive His judgments in order to fulfill God's purpose for them.

Over 700 years later, the Apostle Paul quotes Isaiah's forewarning of a remnant, in Romans, Chapter 9.  He says, "And Isaiah solemnly cries aloud over Israel:  Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved [from perdition, condemnation, judgment]"!  Paul is trying to tell the Hebrew nation that God's own prophets have foretold this sad and frightening truth -- that their disobedience deserves full destruction [as happened to Sodom and Gomorrah], BUT through God's mercy, He will leave them a remnant that will survive ... a Jewish remnant that will bow their knee to their King and Messiah.  

If you will take the time to look into the current state of Israeli affairs, you will find both the same faults of ancient Israel in the Bible, and the same corruption, immorality, and deception that plagues all the nations of the modern world. But whatever happens in this current conflict we need to be praying that Israel will be drawn to their destiny; that God's name will be more honored through this Jewish remnant, and the world will be more blessed.  This is the purpose of "God's chosen people" -- that a remnant will come forth and declare God and offer salvation to the world.

Isaiah knew it; Paul knew it; and we as the Christian component of the Body of Christ should and need to know it. We need to draw the comparisons with our own fallen state, and come out of our own Sodom and Gomorrah and fulfill our purpose in God's will!

Jeremiah 10:10     But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.

October 18, 2023

The Battle In The Middle East Is Centuries Old; The Bible Tells Us The Ending

Whether you are a student of the Bible or not, I think it is essential that the world try and understand the players in the Middle East and how they all might align with End Times prophecy. For myself, I discern that it's increasingly important to look at everything I am seeing through the lens of Scripture. I t's not that I'm looking to be raptured -- (in fact, I happen to think that we Christians will be needed on earth, for a time, to offer words of hope, encouragement, and endurance during the battles leading up to God's wrath against the wicked) -- it's just that I am mindful that Jesus instructed us to be aware of the "seasons" in which we live, and what we see being played out now in the world is a definite "season", or stage, in world history.

That being said, I don't think we can afford to ignore some of the major world events we are seeing before our eyes. And it's really hard to look at them through Western eyes. We, in America, tend to forget that the Bible's inspired writers and prophets were Middle Eastern, and we try to translate and understand their epistles and letters through the lens of today's Western experience.  So, I'm not here to say that I am a Bible expert, by any means, but I have spent a lot of time asking God and Holy Spirit for insight and revelation as to how these age-old prophecies will play out in our time, and coincide with the End Times events spoken about in the Bible.

What has surprised me is that the alliances between groups in the Middle East have existed for centuries, right up to our present-day world. We think that what we see happening in Israel and Gaza today is a new event with only current implications. But, in reality, the rage and passions have never really ceased to exist. This very day, the world's media machines are working overtime to get "their truth" out about the crisis in Israel. Amid the recent rocket launches between the militant Palestinian group Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), both sides of these attacks are scrambling to put forth their side to justify their actions. Just over a week ago, the world was horrified at the atrocities perpetrated against innocent Israeli citizens [both young and old] by the terrorist group Hamas. But just days later, factions of the media and politicians are proclaiming the cruelty and savagery didn't really happen. It's not surprising that people seeking the truth are asking, "Which came first? The chicken or the egg"? 

The historical truth concerning this hotbed of violence is this: Palestine has always been situated at a strategic location between Egypt, Syria and Arabia, and it is the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity.  The Palestinian region has a long and tumultuous history as a crossroads for religion, culture, commerce, and politics. The region has been controlled by numerous different peoples, including Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, the Sunni Arab Caliphates, the Shia Fatimid Caliphate, Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mameluks, Ottomans, the British and now, modern Israelis and Palestinians.

Boundaries of the region have changed throughout history, due to agreements between nations after various wars, and were last defined in modern times by a French-British boundary agreement (1920) and the League of Nations mandate in 1922.  Today, the region comprises the State of Israel and Palestinian territories in which the State of Palestine was declared. So, in reality, nothing is new.... this territory has long been in dispute and its ownership has often been determined by the victors of war. 

Today's conflicts can trace their roots to the aftermath of Hitler's diabolical Holocaust, and the birth of Zionism.  Of course, to many,  Zionism has become the trademark and secular "dirty word" for any attempt by Israel to defend itself. Originally, this term was understood as a movement for the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel. In short, it is the rebirth and renewal in the Jewish homeland established for them by Jehovah God. In today's understanding, Zionism is often seen, by its critics, to mean it as a colonialist or racist ideology that led to the denial of rights, dispossession and expulsion of the "indigenous population of Palestine".

Those who claim that the Palestinians are innocent refugees in their own land, will side with the group Hamas, which was founded in 1987, when several Palestinians were killed in a traffic accident involving an Israeli driver, and the events that followed—a Palestinian uprising against Israel's West Bank and Gaza occupation—led to the founding of Hamas as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. It has since developed a militant military wing, devoted to the elimination of Israel as a state. It is this group who has been blamed for the violence and slaughter in Israel this month.

But once again, the tide of public opinion seems to be turning against the Jews in Israel, as the Palestinian population in Gaza is caught in the cross fire, and Israel is blamed for innocent deaths as they battle to recover hostages and defeat Hamas. As throughout its history, Israel will need to rely on their God to protect and deliver her. Yet, the nations of the world need to be aware ... much about the Jewish state mirrors our own rebellion against the God of Israel. Which nations are going to receive God's purifying discipline? Our own country needs to be careful about how they respond to this powder keg. What's more, are we seeing all the nations lining up against Israel as in Ezekiel 38 and Psalm 83?

But the world must also recognize that Israel did not start this war, and history shows that they have not been the aggressors in the modern age. We can go back to a statement made in 2014 by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who directly threatened the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, saying, "The Jews thought we forgot Palestine and that they had distracted us from it ... Not at all, Jews. We did not forget Palestine for a moment. With the help of Allah, we will not forget it … The pioneers of the jihadist fighters will surround you on a day that you think is distant and we know is close. We are getting closer every day." Those threats have not, and will not, cease to exist against Israel. And from my limited perspective, it certainly looks [in the current situation] as if events are pointing towards Israel standing alone. And that fits what the Bible has forecast, too.  So, as we watch the world rushing towards the fulfillment of the Bible's prophecies, we can almost see it unfolding before our eyes.

None of us, and least of all me, can predict when and if we are on the precipice of seeing these prophecies achieved. But my discernment is telling me that the time is near; that we need to be right with God, and we need to pray for Israel. For just like we Christians, Her only hope is in God, Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah. Evil is marching towards Her and the Day of the Lord is at hand. I will admit that I have at least as many questions as I do answers, but there is one thing I know for sure ... the enemies of Israel are the enemies of God. Nations and individuals need to think very carefully before they align themselves with those who God will judge guilty of cursing Israel.  No amount of media and political propaganda can change His mind. History has proven that this was once Israel's ancient homeland, and the Bible declares that it will remain so. That is the Truth of the entire dilemma.

NOTE: I invite you to read my previous posts to get a broader sense of my Biblical worldview. And I will be expanding upon the historical context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Isaiah 34:16       "Seek out of the book of the Lord and read: not one of these [details of prophecy] shall fail, none shall want and lack her mate [in fulfillment]. For the mouth [of the Lord] has commanded, and His Spirit has gathered them."

September 16, 2017

The Anti-Christ Spirit in Israel Targets Jewish Messianic Believers

   The other day I read, with much astonishment, an article at World Net Daily which shouted the headline, Sanhedrin Bans All Messianic Jewish Marriages in Israel.  I knew that Orthodox Jews were unfriendly towards Messianic Jews, reviling them for their faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  And I knew that the court system in Israel was becoming increasingly hostile to Messianic Jews, but I wanted to understand why this latest assault against the Messianic faith was taking place.
     According to the article, Israel’s religious establishment is taking its persecution of Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus to a new level. "A rabbinic court, or Sanhedrin, has ruled that a Jew who believes in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is no longer considered a Jew for purposes of marriage in Israel. This makes it impossible for two Messianic Jews to get married inside the country".
     First of all, this brings up thoughts of the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus; and secondly, I wondered what purpose it serves this religious court to ban these marriages.  The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported the same understanding of the new ruling ... "Judges say the couple are not Jews but converts to Christianity, and must either renounce their new religion or marry as Christians".  In other words, this couple would have to renounce Jesus Christ as their Savior and deny any faith in Him as the Son of God in order to have a state-recognized Jewish wedding ceremony in Israel.
     But Messianic Jews are Jews, and faith in Jesus does not change that, although it looks as if the modern-day Sanhedrin wants to change their legal status.  To deny a Jewish couple the rites and observances of a traditional Jewish wedding seems excessive and indefensible. According to the website Judaism 101, "A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism".  Furthermore, according to the website, "A person born to non-Jewish parents who has not undergone the formal process of conversion but who believes everything that Orthodox Jews believe and observes every law and custom of Judaism is still a non-Jew, even in the eyes of the most liberal movements of Judaism. And a person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew, even in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox. In this sense, Judaism is more like a nationality than like other religions, and being Jewish is like a citizenship".
     So, let me get this straight.  You can be born to a Jewish mother and be an atheist, and still be a Jew.  But if your mother is Jewish and you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, then you are treated as if you are a non-Jew. But here's what I didn't know:  ALL marriages in Israel are controlled by religious authorities, whether Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or any other faith. This is according to laws handed down under the Ottoman Empire, and retained by the British Mandate when Israel became a nation in 1948.  But it gets even more interesting... according to halacha, which is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah, this Jewish couple would be seen as Jewish, because even Jews who convert to another religion can still be considered Jewish. So, why is this modern-day Sanhedrin so hell-bent on denying them a Jewish wedding, and denying them their rights as Jewish citizens of Israel?
     Dr. Michael Brown, a Messianic Jewish scholar and author, is quoted as saying, "In the eyes of most Orthodox Jews, Messianic Jews are heretics and idolaters, unworthy of being part of the larger Jewish community, even though they would consider us still Jews,” Brown told WND. “Many of them want to keep us out of Israel entirely, so refusing to grant two Messianic Jews an official rabbinic wedding is in keeping with their hostility toward us.”  Dr. Brown goes on to point out that this ruling is in keeping with the persecution against Jews and believers in Jesus that the Bible tells us will come in the End Times.
     Then there is Messianic Rabbi Zev Porat, who is founder of the Tel Aviv-based Messiah of Israel Ministries. He grew up an Orthodox Jew, and his grandfather, Rabbi Pinchas Porat, was a Holocaust survivor who later became one of the heads of the Sanhedrin in Israel.  Rabbi Porat laments this decision because it will deprive people of retirement, medical and other benefits that come with a state-recognized marriage. He said Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders are celebrating this move because they have long been “furious” about Jews coming to Jesus Christ.
     Sound familiar?  This is the same anti-Christ spirit that the Bible portrays among the members of the Sanhedrin that sought to kill Jesus.  Before I go any further, I do not want this to be interpreted as hating or blaming the Jews for Jesus's crucifixion.  On the contrary, I do not blame the Jews in Judah who were blinded by an anti-Christ spirit sent by Satan.  Instead, I agree with Romans 11 which declares that God is not through with Israel, and that the fullness of Israel involves the full number of Jews being Saved by faith in Jesus as their Messiah, so that they will operate in full power and full character as God's Chosen People, and they will enter into their full purpose of leading the world to Christ.  I celebrate the Jewish roots of my faith, embrace my Messianic brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray for the day that all Jews and Christians join together in praising Yeshua as the Son of G-d.
     That being said, I also recognize that the Enemy has sought to keep many peoples of the earth, especially the orthodox among YHWH's chosen people, blinded to the truth of Jesus Christ.  And now that same Anti-Christ spirit of old is attempting to destroy the identity of Messianic Jews by using the Sanhedrin to declare them no longer Jews, but Christians.
     According to Rabbi Porat, this couple will now be required to leave Israel, get married, return and apply for this certification of marriage to the Ministry of Interior.  “The ministry, of course, will delay the certification and legitimization of their marriage for up to as many as five to seven years,” he noted. “While they are waiting, by design, the Ministry is going to make this process as difficult as possible because the ultimate goal is for the Messianic believers to vacate Israel all together.”
     Can you see how this would serve the purpose of Satan?  If he can get the Israeli government to forbid Jewish believers in Jesus Christ to marry, and ultimately force them to leave the country, then Romans 11 will be more difficult to achieve.  But I am here to tell you that there is an increasing number of Jews coming to faith in Jesus, and that is precisely why this orthodox rabbinic council in Tel Aviv is setting up roadblocks.
     Rabbi Porat puts it all in perspective ... "“What is the true motivation behind this new law? Jews to leave, get out of Israel and go preach your Jesus elsewhere,” he said. “They have no problem with all manner of sin including a gay pride parade in the main streets of Israel, which is a total abomination to the word of God. Not one rabbi comes out against this, but yet [they] will do all manner of gymnastics to go after Messianic Jews! God forbid they should be allowed to live in Israel! There is a huge, unreported spiritual revival in Israel that the rabbis are apoplectic over. They deem the rise of believers in Yeshua as a danger to their futures, just as 2,000 years ago. Nothing changes.”
     But there is one more aspect of this situation that I found fascinating.  Lion & Lamb Ministries points out that on October 13, 2004, the Sanhedrin Council of the Jewish nation was reconstituted for the first time in 1,600 years. The ceremony took place in the Israeli town of Tiberias, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was the site of the council’s last meeting in the year 425 AD. This incredible development, largely ignored by the press, appears to be one more step toward the construction of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Since that time, there have been several attempts by Jewish religious leaders to ascend to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where they hoped to pray and investigate clues pertaining to the location of the Second Temple, the one destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Speculation has persisted that these attempts are all in preparation for the building of a Third Temple.
     It is interesting to consider that while the Sadducees of the Bible are believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Pharisees are believed to have changed and become the basis of Rabbinic Judaism today.  Remember, the Pharisees in the Bible adhered to Jewish law and kept away from the Romans and secular authorities. They were the authorities that compiled the Mishnah and Gemorrah (the two parts of the Talmud) and thus they are the direct ancestors of Jewish law and practice today.  So, it appears that the current Orthodox stream of Judaism in Israel and elsewhere, is a continuation of the Pharisees’ interpretation of Judaism.
     If the modern Sanhedrin has the building of a Third Temple in mind, then we know they are still awaiting the Messiah, and would resent the Messianic Jews who believe He has already come!  But "resent" is probably too mild a word.  This latest ruling that declares that the marriage ceremony of two Messianic Jews will not be recognized by the State amounts to nothing less than persecution.  We are reminded of Jesus's words in Matthew 10:  Beware of men [whose nature is to act in opposition to God], for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles ... And you will be hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name.  Note that these were His Jewish Disciples; and He is warning them that their fellow Jews would persecute them because of their faith in Him.
     All of this amounts to a spirit of fear [sent by God's Adversary] among the Jewish religious leaders, causing them to come against a sect of "Jesus-Believers" who are upsetting their power base and blaspheming G-d with their words and faith.  Doesn't sound much different than what happened more than a couple centuries ago, does it?  But this time, the outcome will be different, and I pray that the scales will be removed from the eyes of these religious men, and they will at last recognize their Messiah.  It's been a long time coming, and I hope He doesn't tarry too much longer.

John 1:12-13   "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God".

March 24, 2017

Ten Prophetic Keys

     I am an unabashed history lover. And no history is more fascinating than that of the ancient Israelite nation, whose story permeates the Old Testament in the Bible. And with the upcoming Feast of Passover in April, my thoughts turn to the deliverance of ancient Israel from Egypt. I also wanted to consider all the prophecies that the Good Book makes about the future nation of Israel, and how we are seeing them play out before our very eyes.
     I  want to begin by giving recognition to Asher Intrater, the Director of Revive Israel, for the research done on this topic. Revive Israel is a Ministry with a vision of Revival and Restoration in the land of Israel and the Nations.  And as part of the Messianic remnant in the Holy Land, the ministry team feels the Lord has a plan for them in this 21st Century.  And I was greatly interested in the unique perspective that Intrater, a Messianic Jew, could bring to the Bible's prophecies about Israel in these latter days.  So, after studying Jewish history, Rabbinic thought, and current events in Israel, Intrater gives us an interesting picture of how a modern Jew views modern Israel from a Biblical worldview. Allow me to share his insight on ten prophetic keys to the restoration of End Times Israel:

Eliezer Ben Yehuda
     1. Restoring the Language. What was perhaps the first modern prophetic key regarding Israel in the End Times, came to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in the late 1870s. He had a vision. He felt God tell him, "You will go back and restore the language of the prophets in the land of the prophets." He accepted that calling, and today is known as the father of the Modern Hebrew language. He moved his family to Israel in 1881, and his son was the first person to speak Hebrew as his mother tongue since ancient times. Intrater reports that, today, the Messianic community in Israel, has returned not just to the Hebrew language, but to speaking in tongues as the early church did for the first time on Pentacost in Acts 2.
    2. Global Reconciliation.  The second key was from Rabbi Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, and possibly the most significant in modern Jewish history. In the beginning, the Ultra-Orthodox Jews were against the nation of Israel. In fact, most of them continue to be so. Kook saw that the Israeli pioneers were secular, atheist Communists. Therefore it seemed that the movement could not be from God. However, because they were bringing God&039;s people back to the Land of Israel according to Biblical prophecies, he created a bridge between Ultra-Orthodoxy and modern Zionism, and in doing so, laid the foundations of what we call Modern Orthodoxy. Today this stream of Judaism is pro-Israel and even serves in the IDF.
     Similarly, Intrater believes that the calling of Messianics is to bring together all the diverse aspects of Israel, including Orthodox and secular Jews, as well as the international Ekklesia (church). Even though they're all supposed to be on the same side, throughout history these groups have opposed each other. So the second End Times prophetic word is the joining together of Israel and the church.
     3. Stages of Restoration.  Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine; a Jewish thinker, Kabbalist and a renowned Torah scholar. He was born in 1865 and died in 1935. It is interesting to note than when Rabbi Kook considered modern Israel, he did not believe that it was the Kingdom of God, but rather the first stage of the restoration which would lead to the Kingdom of God. There had to be some sort of physical restoration of the Land and the people of Israel so that redemption could take place.
     It is even more interesting that Asher Intrater is saying the same thing. He believes that modern Israel today is not the Kingdom of God, but rather the initial steps of a restoration that is leading to the Kingdom of God. He states that it is a mistake to be overly Zionist and call this the Kingdom of God, and it's also a mistake to reject the idea completely. He believes that these are the beginning stages and the Messianic community is in the middle of it.
     4. Reading the Prophets.  David Ben-Gurion, visionary and leader of Modern Zionism, read the Bible, particularly the prophets. He held Bible studies each week in his home. He taught the Bible, but he mistakenly interpreted the Bible through a Communist viewpoint, as a kind of a socialist work. However, he was right to encourage the reading of the prophets, and to not just read the Bible, but try to live it. Intrater believes that because he took inspiration from the Scriptures about restoring the nation of Israel, God chose him to be the first Prime Minister of Israel.
     5. Pre-Governmeny Preparation.  During the time of the British Mandate, prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, Ben-Gurion also realized that one day the future nation was going to have a government, but it wasn't ready yet. They needed to build an organization that could function like a government so that they would be ready to have a nation when the time came. He set up an organization called the "Histadrut," and it began to function like a government until it later became one.
     Intrater believes that is a prophetic word for the Church. The Ekklesia is supposed to be two things, not just the people who have been gathered out of the nations to become the Body of Christ, but the word Ekklesia also means a governing body or coalition. As Believers, we are here not just to run the Church but act as our own "Histadrut" or pre-government. We are being prepared now to run Yeshua's government when He returns. That's why we believe in apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, in elders and deacons, and in the structure of the Church, because we are in training. A government isn't run by one person, but by a whole group of people. That's what discipleship is all about; getting ready to run one of the positions of His government.
David Ben-Gurion
    6. Preparing for War.  Ben-Gurion also knew that when the new State of Israel, was declared, within 24 hours every nation in the Middle East was going to attack it. They were not ready. They didn't have any weapons or soldiers. They didn't know how to fight. So he set aside all of his other functions, forming and training a military in a year and a half.
     Again, Intrater believes this is a prophetic word coming out of the body of Messiah in Israel. We are heading towards the greatest war in the history of mankind. We are moving into a period where all the nations of the world are going to attack Israel and Christians, and do everything they can to stop the second coming of Yeshua.  We need to learn to pray and prophesy, to understand the Scriptures and declare the Word of God.
     7.  Confrontation of .the Nations.  Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, goes to the United Nations and confronts them, unlike any other world leader we've seen. He tells the UN that they are making decisions against the Land and people of Israel, even though they have a mandate from God to be there. He quotes the Bible and he rebukes them for immorality and humanistic thinking, boldly confronting the nations of this world.
     There is something about the nation of Israel and its very existence that is in confrontation with the UN. Intrater believes Israel is going to begin to confront the nations of the world with the truth of God. This is one aspect of Israel's calling, and now that the body of Messiah is connected to Israel, they have a prophetic message to give to the world.
     8. Exposing Radical Islam.  Netanyahu - more than any other world leader today - understands that radical Islamic terrorism is the worst evil this world has ever seen, and we need to fight it. Intrater says, "People are being murdered at an unprecedented rate and nobody is really fighting it other than Israel. There is an alignment coming out of the nation of Israel".
     Furthermore, he says, "You have the choice either to succumb to radical Islam or to fight against it. The church doesn't necessarily need to take up weapons. But it needs to be able to speak the truth and call it what it is: a murderous, Anti-Christ spirit. When you send people all over the world to murder everyone who disagrees with you, you are breaking the Ten Commandments. That cannot be the God of Israel, and we need to actively oppose it".
     9. Establishment of the Throne of David.  In Hebrew, there is no word for 'prime minister.' Instead, the title is the 'head of the government of Israel.' Do you remember all the prophecies about Yeshua when He was born? He would sit on the throne of David and rule over the tribes of Jacob. When Yeshua comes back, He will sit on David's throne and rule the world from David's throne forever.
     Intrater, and the Messianic community in Israel, believe in a literal fulfillment of the prophecies of the Kingdom of God coming on earth. But until there was modern Israel and a government in Israel, how could you believe these prophecies? For 2,000 years much of the Church did not really believe in the Second Coming, but instead in the Second Appearance. They believed that Yeshua is going to appear, come half way down, rapture away His bride, and then leave again! But the Bible says He comes back once - all the way back to the Mount of Olives! Israel has been restored and its capital is in Jerusalem. Yeshua can now return and reign over the earth from Jerusalem.
     10. Physically inheriting the Land.  Lastly, Intrater wants it understood that one of the things that the head of the Israeli government does is to guarantee that Jews and their descendants can settle in the Land: that they have the right to build homes, establish farms, support an economy and raise their children. It is amazing how much this idea is hated by so many around the world.
     Does the Bible indeed say that when Yeshua comes back the saints will inherit the earth? Yes (Matthew 5:5 and 25:34). The way God ensures that His kingdom will come to this earth is by promising it to the Jewish people, in the Land of Israel. If it doesn't happen there, it can't happen anywhere else on the rest of the earth. The fact that Jewish people are living there is a sure sign that Yeshua is coming and we will inherit the earth.

     I hope you have found this perspective as fascinating as I have.  As Christians, it is important that we put politics aside and recognize that the modern state of Israel has yet to fulfill its prophetic fullness: 1) The full number  has yet to be Saved; 2) They have yet to operate in their full Biblical power; 3) They have yet to operate in their full Biblical character; 4) They have yet to operate in their full Biblical purpose to lead all nations.  But, as you can see by Asher Intrater's resolute conviction, the Messianic Jews in Israel recognize God's plan for the fullness of the nation of Israel, which will bring about the Glory of God in the Millennial Kingdom. Our God is a God of covenants, and His commitments and promises to His portion, Israel, will not be broken.

Amos 9:14-15    "I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the Lord your God".



January 2, 2017

Israel & The U.S.: Will We Be Blessed or Cursed?

     If you have any knowledge of the Bible and how God feels about His inheritance, Israel, then you were as astonished as I was to hear out-going Secretary of State, John Kerry support the UN resolution against Israel: "If the choice is one-state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both and it won't ever live in peace."  How arrogant!  Who are we to counsel another sovereign nation on their faith and their form of government?  Oh, yeah, I forgot ... we seem to have done that quite a bit in the last few decades.  But when it comes to Israel, we are playing with fire; and I mean heavenly fire!
     There is a very real and stark reality that this modern world does not comprehend, and it goes back all the way to the Tower of Babel.  Remember that in Genesis, Chapter 11, God was displeased that the peoples of the earth had come together to build a city and a tower, "with its top in the heavens".  The Bible then tells us, So the Lord dispersed them from there [Babel/Babylon] over the face of all the earth.  But that's not the end of the story!  Deuteronomy 32 gives us a fuller picture:  Remember the days of old .... When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He divided mankind, He fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God (elohim, lesser gods).  But the Lord's portion (share) is His people, Jacob (Israel) His allotted heritage.
     Here's the picture we need to see:  God was so angry with His creation, mankind, at the building of the Tower of Babel, that He, in essence, divided them into nations to be ruled by lesser gods.  But He kept a portion for Himself.  That allotment He called Israel -- before the nation of Israel even existed! This is long before He calls Abraham out of the world, and before He establishes Jacob and his offspring as a nation unto themselves.  It has alway been His plan that there would be a nation Israel that He called His own!
     At this point, I want to make it clear that I do not think that the modern state of Israel completely fulfills the description of the people that YHWH plans to restore at the end of this Age.  But they are the Diaspora returned to their original homeland; God's Holy Land that He has determined will be restored to the remnant of Judah.  There are many Believing Jews living in Israel right now, and I do believe Jerusalem is the eternal capital of His chosen people.  I believe the Bible when it says there will be a restoration of Israel and physical and spiritual salvation of God's people. One can learn a lot of how God feels about this nation and this people if only one would read His Word!
     So, that is why I was dumbfounded when I heard Secretary Kerry say Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic.  That's how God established them in the Bible, and that's why they can still be both today.  There is a fascinating book, written by Robert Kimball Shinkoskey, titled Democracy and the Ten Commandments: The Politics of Limited Government in the Bible.  The author does a great job of explaining how God guided Moses to set up a democratic government within the twelve tribes of Israel... "It is telling that God's first commandment to Moses, 'Go and gather the elders of Israel together', later inspired the first commandment given to the entire nation at Sinai (You shall have no other gods before Me).  The priority and content of the first constitutional article was to define and empower a legislative body to rule in Israel.  The God of Israel was the originator and protector of this national legislature.
     Shinkoskey goes on to expound that God essentially receded into the background to let the people begin the work of civic policy-making.  The encouragement of God to Moses to "Go and gather" the elders of Israel essentially meant, "Go and make sure the voices of the people in every tribe, clan, and family are heard".  They would do that by organizing themselves into governing bodies in the tribes and deciding policy for themselves.  The tribes came together from a tremendous variety of religious and political views, and they found a way to govern themselves as a nation.  In effect, they were a democratic confederation -- a society that used locally elected representatives to make the laws for a people, who then agreed to live by them.  And they continued in their covenant faith with YHWH. The ultimate fate of the Biblical nation of Israel was that they would remain democratic AND Jewish.
     Now, I understand that modern secularist politicians probably don't care what the Bible has to say about ancient Israel or any implications that may pertain to the current state of Israel.  But they do that at their own peril -- and ours!  God has made it clear throughout history that those who bless His inheritance, Israel, will be blessed, and those who come against her will be cursed.
      Being at the center of regional conflict is nothing new for Israel.  Throughout her history, the nation of Israel has been the target of its neighbors' hatred for God's chosen people.  This has been Israel's fate from the ancient Canaanite kings, to the Syrian/Egyptian/Greek wars, to Roman occupation, to the Jewish–Roman wars of 66–136 AD, during which the Romans expelled most of the Jews from the area and replaced the nation of Israel with the Roman province of Palestine, beginning the Jewish Diaspora. And along with all of Israel's previous enemies, the Roman Empire was doomed to fail!  And for nearly 1850 years, the Jewish people were separated from their God-designated homeland.
     Was God's Hand involved with the re-establishment of a homeland for the world's Jews in 1948?  The fact that they are back in the land that God established for His people gives us pause to consider how we treat this nation.  Have they, as a nation, confessed "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord"?  Only a minority in the modern state of Israel have made that declaration and see Jesus as their Messiah.  So, in that sense, they are still rebellious in their denial of Christ.
     But the world should not forget that YHWH made this declaration in Ezekiel 28:25-26: "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Israel will again live in their own land, the land I gave my servant Jacob. For I will gather them from the distant lands where I have scattered them. I will reveal to the nations of the world my holiness among my people. They will live safely in Israel and build their homes and plant their vineyards. And when I punish the neighboring nations that treated them with contempt, they will know that I am the Lord their God." 
     So, as soon as I heard the discouraging words coming out of John Kerry's mouth, I said the following prayer:  Please, God, do not judge those of us who love Israel because of the words of our leaders!  Do not hold us accountable for their actions! We recognize that Your Word says You will gather Israel and once again do a work in them that will bring them into their fulness.  We recognize that means the full number of Jews who will see Salvation in Jesus; that they will operate in their full power as a Godly nation; that they will operate in their full character as a righteous people; and that they will enter into their full purpose of world leadership.
     We acknowledge that hasn't happened yet, and that it will occur in your timing, and only after Israel has repented for her sins and rebellion against You.  But, Father, until that glorious day, we stand by Your chosen people, Israel, as we pledge to fulfill our purpose, which is to witness to all the nations.  Lord, forgive our transgressions as a nation, and turn the hearts of our leaders back to Israel. We pledge our loyalty and allegiance to You and Your people.  And we look forward to the day You return to Jerusalem to dwell among men as you did before sin entered this world.  I ask for Your blessing, Father, for this nation of Believers and for those in Israel, who know the risen Christ. Amen.

Psalm 122:6     Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you!

January 1, 2017

Zechariah 12:8

In that day the Lord will defend the people of Jerusalem, and the one who is impaired among them in that day [of persecution] will become [strong and noble] like David; and the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the Lord [who is] before them. 

     Regarding our nation's recent statements on the U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements, I will have more to say on that tomorrow.  But today, I will let the Bible make its own statement(s).
     From the beginning of her history, the nation of Israel has been beset by surrounding nations, who have declared themselves her enemies.  Nothing has changed in 3,000 years.  Whether it be via the Canaanites, or the modern-day Palestinians, the nations of the world have aligned themselves against the people of God.  But what the world has never understood is the truth as expressed in Zechariah 12:8 -- that God can [and will] supernaturally protect and defend Israel against attack -- especially His eternal city, Jerusalem.
     As evidenced by today's battle over the capital city, the Arab peoples surrounding Jerusalem have a passion for possessing the city that, upon historical and religious analysis, does not appear to be justified.  Muslims claim Jerusalem as their third-holiest city, but Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran. In fact, Jerusalem’s importance to Muslims comes from the belief that in the Dome of the Rock shrine there is a rock where two significant things happened: 1) where Abraham intended to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, and 2) where Mohammed allegedly ascended into heaven. Though this tradition is firmly rooted in the Muslim mind, it is of recent origin. It was invented by Yasser Arafat’s uncle - Haj Amin el-Husseini, who was the past Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. He promoted this myth in the 1920’s and 1930’s to arouse Arab passions against the growing Jewish presence in Jerusalem.
     The Dome of the Rock was built not because of the Koran, but because the Muslim ruler, Abdal-Malik, wanted to gain revenue from pilgrims and worshippers, and because he wanted to prevent the rebuilding of a Jewish Temple.  The Temple in Jerusalem has always been recognized as the dwelling place of YHWH, and followers of foreign gods have done everything they could to prevent God's Presence from being established in Jerusalem.
     In the recent decades of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Israel was willing to concede almost everything to the Palestinians in an amazing willingness to make peace. The only thing Israel would not concede was sovereignty over Jerusalem. The recent problems between Jews and the Arab world may have centered around Israeli settlements, but at the heart of it has alway been this one sticking point: Jerusalem.
      The one thing that cannot be argued is that the Jewish claim to the city is entirely Scriptural. As the late Christian apologist, Dave Hunt, wrote in The Berean Call, “The very fact that Jerusalem is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible makes it worthy of special attention. This unique city is the only one upon which God has bestowed His distinctive blessing and protection, and the only city for whose peace we are commanded to pray. God says He has chosen Jerusalem as the place where He has put His name forever. The new heavens and new earth will contain ‘the city of my God...new Jerusalem’. That there will be a ‘heavenly Jerusalem’, but no ‘heavenly’ New York, Paris, London, Damascus, Cairo, etc. speaks volumes.”
     What is even more astonishing is that in Zechariah 12:4, just a few verses prior to the one I have chosen, God tells us, And in that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will come and be gathered against it. 
     We see that being fulfilled in the U.N. resolution this past week.  Who could have imagined when the Old Testament was written that all the nations of the world would be involved in deciding the fate of Israel? And this involvement of all nations in dividing Israel has occurred exactly as prophesied and is still in the process of being implemented. 
     But the nations of the world would do well to contemplate what YHWH says in verse 8... The feeblest among the people of Jerusalem will be like King David; men of war, bold and brave, skillful and strong. The Angel of the Lord will go before them, just as He did in the Exodus and their establishment in the Land.  He will guard His eternal city in supernatural power.  And like God, the city and the people will maintain their supremacy in the world.  
    This Scripture gives us, the Faithful, the hope and knowledge that men and their councils will never destroy Israel's place in the world, as guaranteed by the Lord.  And as a last thought... perhaps the nations of the world should pay heed to the next verse in Zechariah.  Verse 9 says, And in that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  The United Nations and the leaders of the world would do well to listen to the voice of God.


August 29, 2016

Why Understanding Eschatology in World Religions Matters

    As you know, I have been focusing on the subject of spiritual warfare of late.  It is because I believe that the turmoil and chaos we see in people's personal lives and throughout the world is the result of an earthly king who opposes God and His people, and the “prince” who stands behind that realm, prompting men to carry out his will. Of course, this belief system is supported by my faith and profoundly frames my Biblical worldview.
     So, when I look at topics like the racial violence in our cities, terrorist attacks in Europe, and the latest issue of Dabiq, the propaganda magazine of the Islamic State, I see beyond the surface images and discern a deeper truth regarding their significance to men.  Each one points to an underlying element of satan's character and conduct -- to wreak havoc and spoil and ruin in his never-ending quest to destroy mankind, which is God's creation and the one who usurped his position in Heaven.
     I'm pretty sure that you are aware of the first instances I cited, but that third one ... Dabiq, the propaganda instrument; what part does it play in satan's plan?  First of all, thanks to Joel C. Rosenberg, prolific author and communications strategist, we have a unique perspective on the importance of this strategic tool and the significance of its name.  Dabiq, a small town in northern Syria, lies around 6 miles from the Turkish border, and it features in Islamic apocalyptic prophecies as the site of an End Times showdown between Muslims and their enemies.  By naming their propaganda tool after this site, ISIS is showing the world that they intend to bring about this confrontation.  In essence, the magazine Dabiq is foreshadowing Islamic eschatology.
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah
     For those of you who need a solid definition of just what comprises eschatology, here it is:  eschatology is the part of religious theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind; it is the belief of what will happen in the final events in the history of the world.  Each of the three major religions has their own form of eschatology (and none of them are universally accepted by all adherents of each faith).  In Judaism, this time period is known as "the End of Days", and centers around the belief that the God of Israel will redeem His people from captivity (which began in the Babylonian exile) and return the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.  God will restore the Temple in Jerusalem and the House of David, out of which will come a King, a Jewish Messiah, who will defeat the Gentile nations, lead the Jewish people and the world, and He will usher in an age of justice and peace.  All nations will recognize that the God of Israel is the only true God, after which He will resurrect the dead and create a new heaven and a new earth.
     In Christianity, our End Times eschatological theology can vary among different denominations.  So, I will present it as I understand it from my study of Scripture ... Jesus returns at the end of "the Tribulation" to rescue Israel, defeat the Antichrist, judge the nations and the wicked in Israel, and rule over the Messianic Kingdom.  The Church will be snatched away at some point prior to God's judgment being poured out on the wicked of the earth.  [Whether that is pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation is anyone's guess.  I prefer to see it as pre-wrath since 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says that God did not appoint us to suffer wrath.  That being said, Scripture tells us "no one knows the day or hour"].  After Armageddon, Satan is bound and believers enter the Millennium.  Following the thousand year reign of Christ there is a final battle with satan, the destruction of the cosmos, and recreation of a new heaven and earth.
     The eschatology of Islam looks like this ... Jesus (Isa) will return to over-throw the Romans in "Dabiq or Al-A'maq" in Syria, or at the Lud gate in Jerusalem, according to another account.  Jesus will "kill all pigs and break all crosses", confirming Islam as the only true religion.  After 40 years Jesus will die and be buried next to Muhammad in Medina (Islam teaches that Jesus didn't die in A.D. 33 but has been in a state of "suspended animation" since).  That is the purpose of Jesus's Second Coming according to Islam.
     In Judaism Jesus returns as the Messiah to defeat the hostile Gentile nations and restore the kingdom of Israel.  The Jews will return from exile to their Holy Land (already occurring) and they will rule in a spiritual age of harmony.  His return in Christianity is similar; Jesus will come to rescue Israel, defeat the Antichrist, judge the nations and the wicked in Israel, and rule over the messianic kingdom.
     So, while all three major world religions share in a belief of a final judgment, the establishment of a new earth, tribulation before the establishment of this new earth, and the belief in the eternal reign of a Messianic figure -- there is a major difference that must be noted.  The Bible never calls on Jews and/or Christians to annihilate their enemies to bring about the Kingdom of their Messiah.  But Apocalyptic Islam calls for just that -- there must be a conquest of their enemies before the Kingdom of their Messiah can be established.  Some analysts have said ISIS could be trying to hasten this battle by goading the U.S. into putting boots on the ground in Syria.  According to the Islamic view the soldiers of Allah will win this battle, ushering in a period marked by the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel and the dominance of Muslims globally.
     Do you see why it is important to note and understand the eschatology of these World Religions?  We can no longer ignore a major religion that consists of 1.6 Billion followers and approximately 23% of the global population (and growing).  And we cannot ignore the message shouted from the pages of Dabiq:  ISIS leaders make it clear they want to bring about the End of Days; they vow to “break the cross” — that is, to slaughter Christians in the Middle East, in the West, and around the world, and to annihilate Christianity from the Earth; and they list six reasons they hate us .... 1) we are "disbelievers" in their god;   2)  they hate us because our secular, liberal societies permit the very things that their god has prohibited;  3)  they even hate our atheists because they deny our Lord;  4)  they hate us for the crimes and transgressions they believe we have waged against their religion;  5)  they hate us for what they see as crimes against Muslims; and 6) they hate us for invading their lands, and they vow to fight us and drive us out.
     For perhaps the first time in the short history of our nation, eschatology is at the heart of our enemy's motivations, their strategies, and their tactics.  Many Muslims across the globe see the unfolding events in Syria and Iraq as proof that the prophetic traditions of their religion are coming to pass and will soon lead to the return of the Muslim Jesus and the Mahdi ... the "guided one", the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rule for five, seven, nine, or nineteen years before the Day of Judgment and will rid the world of evil.
     And just in case you are wondering what all this has to do with spiritual warfare... it should be apparent by now.  The powers of darkness which have been given territorial rule by the prince of this world are running their programs.  The Enemy of mankind senses that his time is short ... he, too, knows the eschatology of each of the major religions and he is playing his hand for all its worth right now.  So, we'd better know the game plan, too.  And all the earth better know that there is only One True God who will rule the world.  When that trumpet blows, it will be the Jewish Messiah, our Lord and Savior, who descends from heaven.  And every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  Amen!

Isaiah 60:1-2    "Arise, shine, for your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you."

January 9, 2016

The Tale Of Two Extremes

     The following news item comes to us from Rudaw, a Kurdish media network, whose aim it is to impart news and information about Kurdistan and the Middle East.  Nadia Murad, a 21-year-old Yezidi woman who escaped the clutches of Islamic State (ISIS) militants and went on to highlight the plight of women kidnapped and enslaved by the group, was officially nominated by Iraq on Tuesday for the Nobel Peace Prize.
     The Iraqi government said, in a statement announcing the nomination, "“She is the symbol of women’s struggle against the dark forces aiming to degrade women. Nadia talked about the plight of Yezidi women abducted by ISIS, and she asked the international community to rescue a record number of 3,400 Yezidi girls and women from the hands of ISIS."  Murad was kidnapped by ISIS along with thousands of other girls and women, when the predominantly Yezidi city of Shingal fell to ISIS in August 2014. She has traveled around the world to shed light on ISIS atrocities against the Yezidi religious minority, and told her personal story before the UN Security Council this last December.
     The U.K.'s Mirror, related her testimony before the UN:  "Rape was used to destroy women and girls and to guarantee that these women could never lead a normal life again," she told them.
     Nadia described her horrific ordeal, saying how she was taken by bus to a building in the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, where thousands of Yazidi women and children were exchanged by militants as gifts.  A few days after she was taken by a man, she said: "He forced me to get dressed and put my makeup on and then that terrible night, he did it. He forced me to serve as part of his military faction, he humiliated me every day."  When she tried to flee, she was stopped by a guard.  "That night he beat me. He asked me to take my clothes off. He put me in a room with the guards and then they proceeded to commit their crime until I fainted," she said.  She sobbed as she begged the Security Council: "I implore you, get rid of Daesh (Islamic State) completely.
     But Nadia is not the only victim of the deterioration of the Middle East.  We, here in the U.S., have struggled to understand the civil war in Syria.  Who are the good guys?  Who are the bad? Why have we chosen the rebel's side?  While I believe that we are intentionally kept in the dark, there is no escaping the human toll in that war-torn country.
     BBC News reports that civilians are under siege, and Opposition activists in Syria have told the BBC that people are dying of starvation in the government-besieged town of Madaya, near Damascus. Reports say residents have resorted to eating grass in two Shia villages further north, Foua and Kefraya, which have been blockaded by rebel forces for even longer.  The World Food Programme and the International Red Cross describe conditions in some areas as "extremely dire", after nearly five years of civil war.
     The U.N. has released figures of nearly 400,000 besieged citizens throughout the country of Syria, and the meager supplies that have reached them is clearly disturbing:  "In September, some 7,800 people were reached with water, sanitation and hygiene assistance in one besieged location. In October, 10,500 people in besieged locations were provided with food, health and basic relief assistance and some 16,700 people were provided with water, sanitation and hygiene assistance. In November, 1,077 children received textbooks and 50 children were provided with winter clothes," the  UN report states.  "No other assistance reached the besieged areas in November."
     That leaves the civilians trapped inside areas under siege depending on black market supplies at inflated prices.  The UN Human Rights Council found that "Trapped without basic necessities and under constant fear of deadly snipers or bombardment, [Syrians are suffering] severe psychological trauma, and desperation characterizes the besieged communities", resulting in people, particularly the vulnerable, dying of malnutrition and lack of access to medicines and electricity.  A resident of the town of Madaya, Abdel Wahab Ahmed, told the BBC, "People here have started eating earth because there's nothing left to eat," he said. "Grass and leaves have died because of the mounting snow." He described the lack of medical facilities for the sick and vulnerable as "terrifying".  He continued, "Citizens are dying. They're eating stuff off the ground. They're eating cats and dogs."
     A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, reported that people had begged him for baby milk when he travelled to Madaya in October (the last time aid reached the town). Mothers were so malnourished they were not producing milk, and there was no way to feed newborns and young babies, he was told.  A local official in Madaya told the Associated Press that the cost of goods had recently soared, with wheat costing about $250 for a kilogram and powdered milk more than $300.  (Is anyone else thinking of Revelation 6:5-8?).
     Perhaps the saddest aspect of this siege is that out of the 400,000 encircled citizens, only 460 people were evacuated under the auspices of the UN and Red Cross by means of a local agreement covering the four besieged towns of Zabadani, Madaya, Foua and Kefraya.  That leaves hundreds of thousands still in danger of dying from malnutrition, disease, and lack of basic human comforts.
     While half-way around the world, Millennials here in the U.S. revealed through one of the never-ending surveys that our culture is fond of, that they expect to retire early, with 15 % of them believing that winning the lottery is a viable retirement strategy, while 11% expect to be "gifted" money for retirement.  I'm assuming that they think that somehow the government is going to come up with a new entitlement program for them, just because they will need it.  Sadly, their concepts of what it takes to survive the current economic market, as well as their understanding of how current and world events will affect them is based on faulty assumptions.
     The problem is that they have educated themselves through their phone devices and the internet, and do not understand that, in reality, they have just been programmed by the Beast System.  They believe what is furnished them on their news feeds, and rarely do their own research.  In fact, the education system they have grown up in has discouraged critical thinking and urged them to embrace "group think" and the collective mindset.  
     That being said, I am not ready to disparage the entire Millennial Generation.  I personally know several that give me hope; young men and women with curious minds that seek to add to their knowledge, rather than accept what they are spoon-fed.  They are the hope for the future.  But are there enough of them to change the course of the world?  Will they turn to the Creator and away from the Beast?  And I fear this widening chasm among the world's population.  I'm afraid that what I have disclosed about the experiences of the youth in the Middle East will not be detained to that region.  In these two scenarios, we are seeing the extremes of constant war and relative safety; famine and waste; poverty and wealth... and I do not know if the Riders of the Apocalypse have begun their foray or not, but I'm not ready to discount them, either.
     It seems as if we are barreling towards the End Times and no one is putting the brakes on.  I know that our God is Sovereign and in control; and I know there is a purpose for each of us in His plan.  I just don't want the youth of this country to be ignorant that they have a part to play -- and it is not the part that this world system would assign them.  Please, Lord, help those of us who understand what time it is to guide them to You; to help them to throw off the beguiling veil through which they see the world; and to help them engage their minds and spirits for a greater purpose.  I'm feeling it stronger every day --- this is the generation that must stand; and we can help that happen, with Your Grace, Mercy, and Power.

Matthew 6:25     Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 

January 5, 2016

Where Will It All Lead?

     The news from the Middle East becomes more chaotic each day, and threatens to involve the whole world.  The latest headlines which disclose the execution of 47 dissidents by the government of Saudi Arabia has ignited the Arab world, and pitted the Sunni guardian of Islam (Saudi Arabia) against the Shia guardian of the Muslim faith (Iran).  It doesn't help their centuries-old battle for supremacy when a prominent Shiite cleric, Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, was among the executed.
     One must understand the basis of their acrimony in order to see how it might affect the fragile peace of the world.  The blog, Behold Israel, explains it succinctly and concisely.  The division between Shia and Sunni dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and the question of who was to take over the leadership of the Muslim nation.  Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet’s companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. This is what was done, and the Prophet Muhammad’s close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation. The word “Sunni” in Arabic comes from a word meaning “one who follows the traditions of the Prophet.”  (The adoption of the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, by the leader of ISIS, shows his allegiance to the Sunni branch of the Muslim faith).
     On the other hand, some Muslims share the belief that leadership should have stayed within the Prophet’s own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself.  The Shia Muslims believe that following the Prophet Muhammad’s death, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law, Ali bin Abu Talib. Throughout history, Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders, choosing instead to follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God Himself. The word “Shia” in Arabic means a group or supportive party of people. The commonly-known term is shortened from the historical “Shia-t-Ali,” or “the Party of Ali.” They are also known as followers of “Ahl-al-Bayt” or “People of the Household” (of the Prophet). 
     Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei is the current Ayatollah and Supreme Leader of Iran.  Khamenei claims to hold the title of Sayyid, which means that he claims direct patrilineal descent from Muhammad.  So you can start to put the puzzle pieces together and see why President Bashar al-Assad, of Syria, who describes himself as an Alawite, a sect of Shia Islam, is battling the Sunni fighters of ISIS, and receiving the support of Shia Iran.  This naturally puts Saudia Arabia (Sunni) in direct conflict with Iran, but also puts them in a precarious position with their own Sunni citizens.
     Because of their alliance with the West (and primarily with the United States) and their opposition to the rise of the barbaric Islamic State (ISIS, who is also Sunni), there is a growing tension among those in Saudia Arabia who would like to turn more toward the fiery doctrine of Wahhabism, which is at the heart of ISIS's ideology.  How does the new leader of Saudia Arabia, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, maintain allegiance from his people and still preserve his oil dealings with the West?  How does our country's treaty with Shia Iran to continue their nuclear program sit with King Salman's Sunni populace?  It is a balancing act that threatens to engulf the entire world into choosing sides.
     Add to this the fact that Saudia Arabia lies between the ISIS-occupied regions of Iraq (Sunni) and Iran (Shia), and contains the holy Islamic sites of Mecca and Medina, and you can see that it is truly at the center of a powder keg. 
     Will that result in the Judgment of the Nations that Isaiah 17 speaks about?  Will we hear "the roar of many peoples, like the roaring of the seas?"  Will the "nations rage like the raging of many waters?"  And will there be "sudden terror" in the evening, and before morning, "it is gone?"
     I know that we can find many prophecies in the Bible that seem like they are pointing to current world events, and I know that none of us can know the mind or exact plans of God.  But even if the Day of the Lord is years or centuries away, we cannot ignore that the confluence of ISIS with the Sunni House of Saud and the Shia clerics of Iran could cause desolation that will spill over to the rest of the world.  We already see the effects of Middle Eastern refugees -- both innocent ones and those who wish to infiltrate Europe and the West with their hostility and hate.  How much more will we have to endure if nuclear weapons are engaged?  
     If nothing else, these executions in Saudia Arabia, the continued march of ISIS, and the disruption in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran may have implications for peace efforts in Syria and the rest of the Muslim world.  We are fooling ourselves if we think that it won't affect us.  For now, we can't predict where all this leads, but it is wise for us to stay alert, pray for God's intervention, and be ready to share the Gospel with those who will be fearful.  That's it in a nutshell, and it goes without saying ... we are living in interesting (and dangerous) times!

Amos 13:40-41      Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: "Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you."

December 30, 2015

Prophecy In The Headlines

     As we approach the New Year, I can't help but feel that we are all going to witness a new reality in world history.  As you know, while I have to live "in this world", I try not to be "of this world".  That means that I always have one eye on what world events seem to be showing me in relation to Biblical prophecy.  Those who cannot understand this perspective, will simply blow me off as failing to see the rational and logical reality of their man-centered viewpoint.
     That is why so many people are caught up in politics and social movements as the answers to the world's problems.  They do not understand the spiritual connections to all the chaos and war in the Middle East, the increasing fanaticism and violence caused by terrorists, or the attempts to intensify racial and cultural division within our society.  Even if they were able to identify them as the strategy of our Enemy to extend his power and bondage over the human race, it is difficult for them to see specific illustrations in the Bible that correspond to current events.  That is part of the devil's attempts to cast doubt upon God's Truth.
     But there were two specific headlines that jumped out at me over the last day or two.  Both articles appeared on Walid Shoebat's website.  He is a Palestinian American who converted to Christianity from Islam. Shoebat stated he used to be a Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorist in a CNN television interview.  While he is a controversial subject to those who want to discount his message, his Middle Eastern background provides a perspective that we in the West do not have.  So when he runs what are, essentially, two back-to-back articles this week with headlines that say, Erdogan Has Just Been Declared The Leader Of The Entire Muslim World, Muslims Are Already Calling Him God; and the equally interesting By Peace They Will Deceive Many: Agreement With Turkey ‘Close’, Says Israeli Foreign Ministry Head, then I sit up and pay attention.
     Are these forecasting the possible fulfillment of Biblical prophecy?  I am not qualified to make that declaration.  But as a Christian, I am aware of what my Bible tells me will occur as the world approaches the End of Days.  The Old Testament prophet Daniel tells us that there will be a king who rises out of a confederation to "depose kings and raise up others", and "The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place."  
     Then the New Testament apostle Paul tells us that there will be a Man of Lawlessness, "Who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God."   So, we have two divinely-inspired men, born over 600 years apart who verify each other's visions and prophecies.  Add to that the recent developments in Turkey and the growing power of President Erdogan, who is setting up his own system of government, and it should certainly give us pause.
     Consider the recent statement by Erdogan's "fatwah-giver" Hayrettin Karaman (remember a fatwah is "a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority", which in this case is Erdogan, himself):

“During the debate on the presidential system, here is what everyone must do so while taking into account the direction of the world’s national interest and the future of the country and not focus on the party or a particular person. What this [presidential system] looks like is the Islamic caliphate system in terms of its mechanism. In this system the people choose the leader,  the Prince, and then all will pledge the Bay’ah [allegiance] and then the chosen  president appoints the high government bureaucracy...".

     We must take into account, President Erdogan's recent declaration, in which he proclaimed, "I am a leader of a political movement."  That may sound rather vague and benign to the Western ear, but it has profound implications in the Muslim world.  As the Turkish website Today's Zaman reports, "In calling himself “leader of a political movement,” Erdo─čan is reaching out to a wide spectrum of people, one that stretches from moderate conservatism to radical Islam. He is using rhetoric that taps into the rich history and political traditions linked to Islam. The controversial theories of political Islam show us what we need to grasp from the phrase “leader of a political movement... According to the general theory of political Islam, the relationship between those who lead and those who are led is based upon a “contract of allegiance.” Those who are led declare, via their representatives, that they will obey their leader, thus surrendering all of their political rights -- unconditionally -- to said leader. And so the contract draws up the parameters for both sides: The leader will lead justly, while those who are led will be obedient. In the meantime, within the traditions of political Islam, those who use their power in this way are called “caliphs.” And a caliphate is, for leaders who rely upon religious references in the Islamic world, the name of the system that they will inevitably turn towards."
     Granted, there have been many leaders throughout history who have appeared to resemble this man of lawlessness.  But when Erdogan and his party suffered a major setback earlier this year when they lost their majority hold on the parliament, many predicted his disappearance from the pages of history.  But Daniel 11 prophecies that the Man of Lawlessness will "come up and become strong with a small number of people."  And Erdogan has done just that, managing to defeat three other major parties within his government to exert the power he now professes.
     Furthermore, Erdogan matches the Biblical prophet Habakkuk's description of the Man of Lawlessness (or dare I say, Antichrist) as “the Proud Man” who “enlarged his desires as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all peoples” (2:5). Erdogan is definately a “proud man” who desires to “gather unto him all nations” in his neo-Ottoman Caliphate dream to unite the Muslim world. He denies Father and Son (1 John 2:22) and “does not honor the God of his fathers” as Turkey at one point in time was Christian.  The December 27th article on Shoebat.com provides many more Biblical similarities that are due your examination and deliberation.  They are hard to dismiss.
     Add to this Shoebat's report that Dore Gold, Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, gave a rare interview to a Saudi website, in which he stated that an agreement with Turkey on normalization of ties was close.  “Some points have already been finalized and others are still being discussed, but things are on track.”  Gold added that “the interests of Turkey and Israel at this time are finding a lot of common ground due to regional events. Things are headed in a positive direction towards a solution to satisfy the desires of both parties, but there is still no date for a final agreement to be reached.”  Is this the seven-year "covenant", about which Daniel prophesied?  In full disclosure, the Erdogan government's official comment is, "while progress was made in talks, no agreement has been reached."
     And to be completely honest, I want to be very careful about reading too much into these news stories.  I do not want to get caught up in "predicting" the future or claiming to know God's timeline.  But I also discern that I am to be "awake" and prepared to minister to both unbelievers and lukewarm Christians, should God determine that our generation will be blessed to see the appearance of the Antichrist and the return of our Savior.  I am to know the signs and the seasons and be prepared to preach the gospel message at all times.
     So, whether 2016 will see these two stories accelerate these Last Days, or not, remains to be seen.  I have long felt a "tension" in my spirit regarding Turkey, and see clear reason to keep my spiritual antennae up when it comes to their activities.  They always seem to be in the background of front page headlines, and I believe there is more going on there than we are allowed to see.
     But, I want to encourage you not to become anxious or worried about potential prophetic fulfillments.  God will make it clear to our spirits when the Day of the Lord is at hand.  Let us remain steadfast in Him, declaring our allegiance to the One True God, and employing our full armor against the deception and strategies of the Enemy.  Then the headlines won't matter; we will be one step ahead of the dark forces, and one step closer to our reward.  And that's what truly counts.
2 Thessalonians 2:11     "Therefore God sends upon them a misleading influence, a working of error and a strong delusion to make them believe what is false..."