Bible students are aware that near the “time of the end” the world will be facing trouble never before seen. So precarious will this time be that Christ said: ” . . . Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved . . . ” (Matt. 24:22). The Moffatt Translation adds the word, alive, meaning that unless those days are cut short “no flesh shall be saved alive.” What will take place in the future requires a set of circumstances that lead up to it. These present day circumstances are what need to be considered.
The area of Palestine will play a central role in these events. The world is presently aware of the quagmire of violence and bloodshed that has taken place in this area over the past 50 years. The antagonism between the Jewish state and the Palestinians has an ancient paternity. The catalyst that precipitated it in modern times was the establishment of the Jewish state. The importance of Palestine in coming world events cannot be underestimated. But when did the antagonism between these peoples really begin?
To understand this last question, let us consider the origin of the Arabs and Jews. The Patriarch Abraham was the father of both. God promised Abraham that his descendants would possess the land of Palestine-the Holy Land, and it was given to them as an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:8). “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18). “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Gen. 17:7-8).
God had promised Abraham that he would bring forth an heir who would receive these promises, but the fulfillment was a long time in coming. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was unable to bear children, and she became impatient. Both Abraham and Sarah were past the age of child-bearing and the fulfillment of the promise seemed impossible. Yet, the Apostle Paul said that because of her faith, God did grant them a son and heir (Heb. 11:11-12). But before this promise was fulfilled, Sarah had become impatient and decided to take matters into her own hands.
And Sarai said to Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived her mistress was despised in her eyes. (Gen. 16:2-4)
This polygamous relationship led to serious trouble. “And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee. But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face” (Gen. 16:5-6).
But Hagar was instructed by the Angel of the Lord to return to her mistress. And He gave a promise regarding a son that she would bring forth.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; [Heb., wild ass of a man] his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. (Gen. 16:10-12)
The descendants of Ishmael are the present day Arabs. In due time God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled. Sarah brought forth a son who was the rightful heir to God’s promises. He was named Isaac. He was the father of Jacob, and Jacob was the father of the twelve patriarchs. One of these was Judah, the father of the present day Jews. Yet the tension in Abraham’s family continued. In due time, Isaac was weaned, an event which called for a feast.
And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. (Gen. 21:8-12)
The promise that God gave the Holy Land to the descendants of Abraham through Isaac is clear. Ishmael was excluded from this promise, yet he was promised other blessings. God told Abraham: “And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed . . . for I will make him a great nation . . . . And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer” (Gen. 21:13, 18, 20).
What this account makes plain is that the descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, have the rightful claim to the land of Palestine. The animosity that exists between the Jews and Arabs stems from this tension-the result of Sarah and Abraham taking matters into their own hands. It goes back more than 2,000 years.
For God told Abraham:
. . . Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seed after him. [The Jewish people are of this seed-one of the twelve tribes of Israel] And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. (Gen. 17:19-21)
Because of their national sins, the Jews were removed from the Holy Land by the Babylonians. Later, some returned but were removed by the Romans. These were scattered around the world. When the Byzantine Empire fell in 1453 AD, the Ottoman Turks gained control of the Middle East, and even parts of Europe. The Turks continued in power in the Holy Land until they were driven out during World War One. Under a British mandate, the United Nations authorized the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948. During the long period of Jewish absence, thousands of Arabs had moved into the area. When the Jewish state was established, many of these Arabs moved into adjoining Arab countries, but others remained. Both Jews and Arabs believe the land belongs to them, and this has been the source of conflict between them for over 50 years.
World Crisis to Center in Palestine
There is great concern around the world over the volatile Middle East situation, and a full scale war could develop which would easily bring in the major powers. For that reason great political pressure has been put on the nation of Israel to resolve the problem with the Arabs. Those who demand that the Jews find a solution to the problem have a tendency to hold them more accountable than the Arabs. This is because a number of U.N. resolutions have been passed which censure Israel, and Israel is not cooperating. Jerusalem is a divided city, and the Arabs accuse the Jews of encroaching on their section of the city, and on the land in general.
We are aware of the suicide bombings that have taken place against the civilian population of Israel, and the Jews feel they have every right to defend themselves. A recent General Assembly resolution demanding that Israel comply with a world court ruling to dismantle the West Bank barrier was passed with 150 in favor, while 6 opposed and 10 abstained. A great deal of antagonism is developing among Europeans toward the Jews and America over this issue. This barrier is being built by the Jews to prevent suicide bombing attacks. Israel is concerned about the security of its own population and is being accused of ignoring the basic rights of the Palestinian people. How serious this situation eventually becomes remains to be seen.
One thing is certain. There is going to be a Middle East crisis that precipitates a massing of armies in the Holy Land.
The Bible prophesies:
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:2). “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (v. 9). Read the whole chapter. The time setting for these verses is very near the time of the second coming of Christ!
What is going to precipitate this massing of armies? At this point of time no one knows. But, again, here is the warning: “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land” (Joel 3:1-2). “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about” (v. 12). “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (v. 14).
Where is the valley of Jehoshaphat? Bible commentaries tell us that there is no such valley in the land of Palestine. Some believe that since King Jehoshaphat gained a great victory over the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites (2 Chron. 20:22-26), the “valley of Jehoshaphat” is a general term for the theatre of God’s final judgment upon the foes of Israel. The word, “Jehoshaphat” therefore, must be symbolical and signifies the judgment of God. In the book of Revelation the location is called “Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16). The word “Armageddon” means “fortified Meggido,” or “the mount of Meggido,” or “place of troops.” This indicates that the massing of armies will take place on or near the location of the ancient city of Megiddo, about 30 km SSE of the modern city of Haifa. Revelation 16:13 calls the occasion “the battle of the great day of God Almighty.”
That this battle will occur near the time of Christ’s return is found in Zechariah 12: 9-10:
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Not until this time will the Jews come to national repentance and accept Christ as the Messiah.
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. (Zech. 12:11-14)
Jews, Americans, and Christians Hated Worldwide
A critical increase in anti-Semitism, antagonism against dedicated Christians, and dislike for Americans is developing around the world and in America. Make no mistake about it; persecution against fundamentalist Christians is just around the corner.
As noted above, the hatred against the Jews by the Arab world goes back to the beginning. Many Bible prophecies are dual in their fulfillment. For example, Psalm 83:1-8 indicates an alliance will be established against the people of Israel. Psalm Two indicates a worldwide anti-Christian confederacy-a hatred for the rule of God shortly before the time of the end. But this rebellion against God will be of little avail. “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Ps. 2:9-12).
Jesus foretold the hatred that will be manifested in the last days. When asked about His return, He told His disciples: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matt. 24:9). Jesus was not talking about that time then. He was talking about the time of the end (v. 3). In this same Olivet prophecy, He told His disciples: “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” (Luke 21:20). This text clearly shows the time setting to be near the return of Christ. The critical events that are approaching have been well catalogued in advance by the Old Testament Scriptures as well as Jesus’ own words! And certainly, what we see developing politically proves this. Consider this: A Newsmax article, August 6, 2002, reported on a non-binding resolution passed by the U.N. General Assembly demanding that the Israeli military cease incursions into Palestinian territory. According to the U.N. these incursions have caused the situation to gravely deteriorate. Those who criticize the U.N. General Assembly over this resolution say that it is out of step with the reality of events on the ground.
The U.N. view, on the other hand, is that the Israelis have violated the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and the UNGA resolution of 1967. Referred to earlier in this article, in 2002, Israel announced its intention to build a wall that stretches the length and breath of the Occupied Palestinian lands to separate both Israelis and illegal Jewish settlers from Palestinians in the West Bank. The International Court of Justice ruled that the barrier now being built by the Jews is outrageous and should be condemned. The U.N. then adopted a resolution demanding that Israel comply with the world court ruling. Many view the barrier, which juts into the West Bank, as a ploy to seize land and that it complicates the moves to create a Palestinian state. The problem is that the location of the wall does not follow the internationally recognized 1967 temporary borders of the Green Line. Many villages will not have access to either purchase or sell goods and produce. With a Palestinian unemployment rate of 77 percent in 2002, and the poverty level at 55 percent, the barrier would make matters worse. The cost of the wall is estimated to be one million dollars per kilometer. There is great hatred by the Arab world toward the Israelis and deep resentment toward the United States-the U.S. because it continues to pour billions of dollars into the Israeli state, a large part which goes into the military.
The fact is: Anti-Semitism is rising at a rate not seen since the end of World War Two. For example, two-thirds of the 313 violent acts in France last year was directed at Jews and Britain showed a 75 percent increase. In France the attacks come from Muslim youths angered by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Haaretzdaily.com., May 14, 2003). The measures taken by the Jews to protect themselves from bombings and killings by Arabs are labeled as Nazi-style acts of aggression. But accusations fly on both sides and Jews are accused of regularly killing innocent Palestinians. Readers may recall the World Conference against Racism, held in 2001, in Durban, South Africa, which was supposed to be dedicated to end racism and vilification but instead turned into a concerted assault of anti-Semitism echoing the anti-Semitic curses in the years before the Second World War. The B’nai B’rith reports that the U.N. and its member states are not standing up to defend the organization’s own charter and declarations that were designed to protect minorities from hate and vilification. Hal Lindsey tells us in an Internet article dated February 3, 2005, entitled, “The incredibly irrelevant United Nations,” that this organization has become a place where predators of international crimes who violate U.N. laws argue endlessly about how they haven’t broken them. In brief, the United Nations has become a debating society for tyrants and human-rights violators to protest their innocence. In effect, it has become a facilitator of evil in dark places by its refusal to take action against serious abuses of its laws around the world (WorldNet Daily).
Much of the hatred for America stems from its close relationship with the Jewish state. There is outright hatred in the Arab world and a growing antagonism in Europe. A book entitled, The Roots of Anti-Americanism, by Sam Vadkim, Ph.D., on the Internet website, http://samvak.tripod.com/html, gives a good summary of why such hatred exists. The author tells us that America seems to be provoking blanket repulsion everywhere. Last year the Pew Research center found out that in 44 countries and 38,000 interviewees the most startling revelation was the extent of anti-American groundswell everywhere including our NATO allies, in developing countries, in the Muslim world, and in Eastern Europe. He goes on to say the view is that while the U.S. sets one standard at home, it flouts this standard everywhere else. America is regarded as using international law for its own ever changing ends when convenient, and ignored when it is opportune to do so. In brief, America is a bully, a law unto itself, twisting arms and breaking bones when faced with opposition while ignoring the edicts it proclaims when convenient. While America generally does not mistreat its own subjects, it does so every place else, primarily by its foreign policy. In its policy it has aided and abetted countless murderous dictatorships. Consider, for example, Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega.
Vadkim points out that supposedly a champion of charity, the U.S. contributes less than 0.1 percent of its GDP (gross domestic product) to foreign aid, while Scandinavia contributes 0.6 percent. However, the author does not consider private contributions apart from government aid, which more than likely makes Americans the most generous of contributors.
The article goes on to say that much of the criticism is due to the envy of America’s might and wealth. But its haughtiness and refusal to do some soul searching and house cleaning does not help the matter. While all powers are self-interested, Vadkim says America is narcissistic. It is not what Americans may intend to do; it is what they do that rankles so many feathers-namely meddling unilaterally and ignorantly, sometimes with force. Yet, in spite of all these criticisms, when needed, countries call upon America to get involved because they know it can rise to the challenge.
Looking at Christianity today, one does not have difficulty observing the pervasive negativism and outright antagonism directed toward dedicated Christians, not only in America but in other parts of the world. When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .”
In America the attack on Christianity began when Justice Hugo Black declared a new legal principle. What Justice Black did was to interpret the First Amendment to mean that no religious expression shall be found in the public sector. This previously unknown principle erected a wall between church and state so that now any reference to Christianity or any symbol representing Christianity is regarded as illegal. In effect, the First Amendment has been transformed into a total ban on any religious expression in the public square. Faith has been replaced by a new source of wisdom-secularism. The mention of God, Christ, the Bible, and the Ten Commandments, or even such expressions as “God Bless America” are called “unconstitutional.”
Examples of the prohibition of religion in the public sector include the public school prohibition of Christmas manger scenes, forbidding the presence of Bibles in school libraries, no mention of God and no prayers in commencement ceremonies, and no “Merry Christmas” wishes at Christmas time. A federal court ruled that a schoolteacher could not be allowed to be seen with his own Bible in school. Other examples are these: The sentence of a man convicted of clubbing his mother to death for her money had his conviction overturned because the prosecuting attorney mentioned the Bible in the courtroom. A public cemetery could not have a planter in the shape of a cross because the mere sight of it could cause emotional distress to some. If that happened, this would be regarded as “injury-in-fact.”
Ministers must be careful not to suggest or imply a justification for the use of force against governmental protected businesses, such as abortion clinics. On November 23, 2004, Pastor Randy Steele of Mount Vernon, Illinois, was questioned by two FBI agents because of a remark he had made some months previously. An anonymous member tipped off the FBI who regularly visits churches to see which are deemed to be a threat to hate law legislation. It did not take long for the agents to determine that the charge was bogus, but it indicates which direction free speech is headed for when it comes to religion.
The situation is far worse in Canada. There legislation is seriously being considered by the liberal majority in Parliament to prohibit ministers from speaking negatively about homosexuality and abortion. Former Prime Minister Chretien bragged that he had been able to keep any mention of God out of ceremonies that commemorated the victims of 911. He did not go after the churches, but the present Martin government has. Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew is denying ministers, priests, bishops, and others from their rights as Canadian citizens to express their opinions. In his view, churches are interfering with the realm of secular government. The Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency recently threatened to remove the charitable status of churches that speak out on gay marriage, which is regarded as a political issue.
It may only be a matter of time before the same attack against churches in America will take place under the guise of hate laws. Any mention of homosexuality and abortion may soon be made illegal and labeled as hate crimes. Recently Dr. James Dobson spoke out about student indoctrination of the “gay lifestyle” in public schools. He pointed out that while the “We Are Family” video series (Sponge Bob, Square Pants, and Barney the dinosaur) being distributed to grade schools around the nation did not openly promote homosexuality, it was a surreptitious attempt to indoctrinate children into accepting the homosexual lifestyle as natural. It accomplishes this by emphasizing tolerance and diversity with the goal of getting children to take a tolerance pledge found on the website of those sponsoring the video. This tolerance pledge includes tolerance toward homosexuality. This is simply the old bait and switch routine, in this case used to desensitize children to homosexual and bisexual behavior. The problem was not the video itself but the We Are the Family Foundation website’s “tolerance pledge,” mentioning sexual identity and its ties to other groups supporting gay rights.
You can be sure Dr. Dobson’s expose, as well as others who recognized what was being done, was not well received by the purveyors of homosexuality and their supporters. A watchdog group recently asked the IRS whether the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family broke the law by trying to sway voters in the November presidential election. Focus on the Family is a non-profit organization (503(c) 3), and as such is not allowed to endorse political candidates or parties. Dr. Dobson heads Focus on the Family.
Lest one believe persecution against Christians is limited to the United States, consider this:
A NewsMax.com article posted on February 11, 2005, and written by Austin Ruse, informs readers of a U.N. commission appointed for the purpose of achieving the Millennium Development Goal-a five year U.N. initiative that is to be reviewed in September by U.N. Member States at the “Millennium Summit.” The purpose is to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health. In U.N. language that refers to abortion. The report states that the “Task Force” is opposed to political and religious fundamentalisms that seek to erode women’s rights which are guaranteed by numerous international conventions.
According to the report, these conservative and fundamental forces have persuaded some governments to limit or withdraw funding from effective programs that support women’s sexual and reproductive freedom. In addition, they have censored or distorted information and research on comprehensive health interventions and issues. And they have caused some governments to renege on previous international agreements involving sexual and reproductive rights. The U.N. Committee’s view is that these tactics have choked the progress made in the last ten years to improve women’s rights on these issues. So what we see developing is an international effort to sanction abortion and homosexuality, and Christian fundamentalists and conservative political ideologies are standing in the way. This trend does not portend good for fundamentalist Christians.
Geopolitical expert Dr. Jack Wheeler predicts that if the wave of attacks continues against fundamental Christian values, Christian civil disobedience will become a major social movement in America. Wheeler says that most Americans have not lost the moral courage to be proud of their civilization and their country. Wheeler says that America has always been a Christian country. The question is: Will those who hate God and His Law gain enough political power to turn on fundamentalist Christians and persecute them?
The Coming Tribulation
What should be obvious is that slowly and surely the stage is being set for the Great Tribulation. What is going to be the catalyst that sets it off? No one knows. But the prophet Daniel wrote: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1). There can only be one time of trouble worse than the world has ever seen. This time of trouble is ahead. Jesus said: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:21-22). Consider what the Apostle John wrote in Revelation chapter seven when he referred to a martyrdom of saints. When asked who these were, the answer was: “. . . These are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (V. 14). The definite article “the” is in the original Greek. There can be only one great tribulation!
There is much significance to John’s statement to Christian brethren: “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). Who can escape this coming tribulation? The answer: Those who seek God! “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). We should seriously consider the times we are facing and take the necessary steps to obey God. This is the way we can be sure we will not be caught up in the terrible events ahead.