What does the future hold for Syria, Israel, and the Palestinians, amid all the protests and turmoil in the Middle East?

With many tanks and soldiers marching into different cities in Syria, the clash between Sunni and Shiite groups intensifies and threatens to add to the tension. There will be planned protests, too, on May 15 which could add even more fuel tot he fire. A Palestinian state could be declared by September. Why is there so much feuding, and what will result from all of this?

First, a brief explanation of why all the feuding. When Abraham sojourned into the land of Canaan, God told him he would be a great nation. He promised, “I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee.” (Genesis 12:3)

Abraham ran ahead of God, though. Instead of trusting in God’s time for his wife Sarah to bear him a son, he had a child with Sarah’s maid, Hagar. (Genesis 16) This child, Ishmael, was also blessed, but not with the same blessing God gave Isaac, Abraham’s son through Sarah. Instead, the children of Ishmael would often be at war with each other, for, “His hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16:12) This same verse says he will “dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

In other words, the Arabs would end up living in the presence of the Jews. However, the conflict would not just be between these groups. Instead, God merely prophesizes that they will dwell together. There have been times when there was relative peace throughout history.

Instead, the prophecy is that there would be great civil strife among Ishmael’s seed. That strife exists in the Sunni and Shiite Muslims, as the clearest example. This conflict is what the protests in Syria are about.

As for the Palestinians, first, it should be noted that not all Palestinians are Muslims. About three-quarters are, with 17% being Jews. They are, instead, a people group which has been trying to get a homeland.

Some claim that Palestinians only want to claim part of Jerusalem. But, some really want to eliminate Israel, as a few maps show. They also have refused to accept Israel’s right to exist, something Germany and Britain, among others, have insisted must happen before a state is granted.
To make a long and convoluted story short, the Palestinians are supported by Syria in part, opposed in part, and it can change by the minute at times.

Several things come into play here.

First, the Bible says God promised this land to Abraham. In fact, the Biblical patricarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are buried here, with their wives, according to Jewish tradition – a tradition which Muslims recognize. They simply believe that God promised the land to Ishmael.

Not only do Muslims believe that Abraham – whom they call Ibrahim – is buried there, which would give the Jewish people just as much right to inhabit the land, there is also ample archaeological evidence for the Bible and that the Jewish people were there many centuries before the Palestinians, unless the Palestinians claim that they descended from the Canaanites (which some, perhaps, might). So, their right to a homeland based on being there before the Jewish people is fallacious. They were given a home by the United Nations in 1948; and yet they are not accepting the right to exist of the other nation given a home in that same mandate.

Of course, that brings up all sorts of complex International Law questions, So, instead of debating whether they should claim this, let’s instead look at what will happen? And, how does this tie in with Syria? Can the Bible, which makes so many other correct prophecies, also tell us what will happen here?

Yes, it can!

This doesn’t mean we can know everything with pinpoint precision, like, “At 8:32 PM on this day this will happen.” Prophecy isn’t like reading a precise history, though some of it gets quite specific. For instance, as I noted in another blog on this site, it is specific to the point that it’s easily understandable afterward. Take the judgment against Tyre, a very rich ancient trading city which was prophesized several centuries before it happened to be destroyed, not be rebuilt, and to have its ruins literally scraped down to the rock.(5) In 332 B.C., after many other nations had fought against it, Alexander the Great’s armies did just that – they scraped the ruins into the sea to make a way to the island part of it was on, and destroyed it entirely.

Instead, prophecy gives us knowledge such as Isaiah 17. This chapter of Isaiah tells us that Damascus will be a “ruinous heap,” and that it will become so very quickly. Once this happens, it will on longer be inhabited. Now, that city has been lived in for thousands of years. This has not come true yet. This doesn’t mean it will happen as a result of the tension in Syria right now. However, it will happen, whether by meteor strike, weapon explosion, or natural gas explosion perhaps triggering weapons, if there are a lot stored somewhere.

We also don’t know when it will be. It could be during the final Battle of Armageddon, or during a war which comes before that. It could also be from a natural disaster.

The Bible tells us that Jerusalem will be given over to the Gentiles (non-Jews) till the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled. This means the time the Gentiles control Jerusalem.

This may or may not have begun to be “phased out,” as Hal Lindsey has said, when Israel took the land in 1967 – Israel is still a secular state, after all, though a miraculously reborn one after 2500 years and one with definite similarites to the Biblical/historical one. However, regardless of whether Israel’s rebirth or taking of Jerusalem started a heavenly clock ticking, it is clearly a sign that God is gathering the Jewish people together in the last days as He promised in many places in the Bible.

What is important for this discussion is, how does the dispute with the Palestinians relte to prophecy? It seems like just another war. And, in a sense, that’s true. God’s Word says in James 4:1-2 that wars come from our own lusts, instead of trusting God to open the doors to allow things to happen which are for our best interests. He knows the future and what will result from each action better than we do, and therefore it is His perfect knowledge of a situation that allows us to succeed.

So, thsi desire for land comes from a human desire, a lusting after something which will one day pass away.

However, it is more than just another confrontation. This is apparent because jesus said that the wars, rumors of wars, and many other problems would be like birth pangs.

When a woman is in labor, the contractions start out slow – sharp, yes, but not nearly as close together or as sharp as later. They increase slowly till the baby comes out, at which point they come one right after the other, with no stops.

It might seem like this war has gone on for 2,000 years. It’s true. But, these wars are one of the labor pains, and the unrest has increased since 1948 alone. From wars every decade to skirmishes every few years to almost constant rocket attacks into the northern part of Israel from Lebanon, the stride has increased. So, too, has pressure on Jerusalem, which the Bible says will be a cup of trembling and a burdensome stone which will crush all who try to lift it. (Zechariah 12:1-3) Many world leaders have tried to solve the problem, and all have failed so far.

One won’t, of course – the Antichrist. When he is on the scene, just before Jesus’ Second Coming, most experts agree that Jerusalem will be divided again. Half of the people will be taken captive at this time. (An earlier reference to this, in Zechariah 1, is referring to the past, when Babylon had done this.) God will then fight against all those nations that try to make war against Him, and He will prevail. This will usher in the Millennial Kingdom, during which he will reign 1000 years and the world will be perfect. (Revelation 20)

We see, then, that the Palestinian cause, just as with all those who try to rely on worldly treasures, will not succeed in the end. The answer for them, as for Syria and everyone, is to seek heavenly treasure. This is what Jesus warns us in Matthew 6:19-21. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

So, whether or not their cause is right, the words of Matthew 6:33 are most prudent and important to follow. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Jesus has just finished speaking of housing, food, clothing, and other necessities here. But God – who knows all of our needs – knows what things we have need of and will provide them for us if we don’t go and try to act like we can do it all ourselves. When, in reality, we can only accoml;ish what God allows us to with the skills, chances, and so on which He has lovingly given us.

How is that Kingdom of God sought? It can’t be sought through works, but only by faith. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) He wants us to come to Him by faith. For we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

God wants peple to have freedom, of course, And, in His timing, He may give some protesters their wish and allow them to win and find great freedom in their lands. But, if he does, it is to serve a greater purpose.

That purpose is to show His love, power, holiness, etc.. He is not willing – it’s not His desire – that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) He constantly works in our hearts to show us His love and goodness. He has lovingly promised that the Jewish people will keep their everlasting covenant with Him; it is just that the Gentiles are grafted in. And, He has warned us of the coming wars and rumors of wars, and the time of the end.

Isaish 17, along with Ezekiel 38:39 and other wars, may not come tomorrow, but they are rapidly approaching. The death of bin Laden and public celebrations following it – celebrations which would never have come to such an extent years ago – show the mindset that is growing which will cause people to celebrate the death of God’s two witnesses as mentioned in Revelation 11. Things are moving closer every day – to the point Jesus is even now at the door.

The way to be prepared when that happens is to know Him personally. Because, He doesn’t want anyone to perish – He doesn’t want anyone to suffer everlasting punishment away from the face of God. However, He lets people have free choice. He wants each of us to choose eternal life.

It’s not just a head knowledge like some have. I ahd that myself till I was in my late teens. Then, I realized I needed heart knowledge – I need a personal relationship with Him. I received jesus Christ to save me from my sins by faith, because I knew I tried really hard and was usually pretty good, but I still wasn’t perfec, which is God’s standard for goodness. Once I trusted Him to forgive me, He did. He’s been a faithful guide, helper, comforter, friend, and so on every since.

Any of us can have Him as a friend, guiding here and protecting from the wrath to come. All it takes is a single, sincere step of faith, calling on Jesus Christ, believing He is God in flesh, and trusting Him to save you from your sin, through what He did on the cross, when he took the punishment for your sin by dying for you; then, He rose from the dead. He has the victory over all the evil in this world, but He continues to allow people to make bad choices and sin. One day, though, when the age of grace is over, he will judge it, though.

The battles in the Middle East are over things that will pass away. It’s possible that Syria will have much more freedom soon. However, no matter which side wins, that victory will be short-lived. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Romans 14:11) Even if the Lord would give the Palestinians victory, the important thing is not the treasures we get on Earth. The important thing is that we gain treasures in Heaven by serving Jesus, showing the love and compassion that he has for us. It’s not because we have to; it’s because we want to after what He has done for us.

Ezekiel 38 part 2 – The Battle of Gog

In the first study of Ezekiel, we looked at who Gog is, what nations will be under his military control, and how and when they will attack. This next part is a study of the actual battle that is to take place.  Text is taken from the NIV translation of the Bible.

9 You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.

Gog’s army will be like a cloud covering the land.  Imagine a dry dusty road that you drive down and picture the dust cloud behind your vehicle.  Now, picture an army of nations driving their vehicles and war machines.  There will be so many army movements that a cloud of dust will cover the land.  The imagery may also point to massive air forces.

10 ” ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme. 11 You will say, “I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people—all of them living without walls and without gates and bars

Gog will plan this attack. It will not be a spur of the moment type attack.  It’s possible that it may be a retaliatory or a preemptive strike against Israel. In either case it will be premeditated.  We also learn that Israel will be a land of security and peace.  Israel will not be suspecting an attack from anyone, which leads me to believe that it will come after the peace treaty is signed with the Arab nations, facilitated by Antichrist.

12 I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land.” 13 Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all her villages [d] will say to you, “Have you come to plunder? Have you gathered your hordes to loot, to carry off silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods and to seize much plunder?” ‘

The attack will come at a time when Israel is resettled, rebuilt, and wealthy.  If you look at the map of Israel, the city in the center of the land is Jerusalem.  In verse 13 it would appear that Gog has come to pillage and plunder the wealth of Jerusalem.  Perhaps this is the reason for the attack: Greed.

The physical location of Sheba is disputed, however modern evidence points towards Yeman in Southern Arabia (wiki). Dardan is now known as a city of Arabia, modern Al-‘Ula (wiki). Tarshish is the name of a village in Lebanon. The village is located in the Baabda Kadaa at an elevation of 1400m and is 50 km away from Beirut.  It is also a province of Jerusalem. It’s interesting to not that even the Arabs are threatened by Gog (Dedan and Sheba both located in Saudi Arabia), however in Genesis 15:18, God makes a covenant with Abraham that God will give him the lands between the river in Egypt (the Nile river) and the Euphrates.

14 “Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? 15 You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. 16 You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.

The attack will come from the far North.  Where is a good question, and I have no good answer to that, other than to wait and see.  We can only watch and be ready.  The army will largely be mechanized and machinery, and will be a massive horde. In verse 16 we see God’s purpose.  God has allowed this massive attack on Israel so that He will in the end be glorified through the battle, and so that Gog will understand the power and glory that is God.  This is how God operates, by the way, if you do not know.  Everything that has happened and will happen, does so according to God’s thoughts – Isaiah 14:24: The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand’; and it does so for the Glory of God.

17 ” ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Are you not the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel? At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them.

God tells Gog that this is not news. God’s prophets have been prophesying against Gog for a long time.

18 This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign LORD. 19 In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground.21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign LORD. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’

Verses 19-23 depict God’s retaliation to Gog’s attack.  It begins with a massive earthquake, so great that everything will be affected, even the birds and fish.  Mountains and cliffs will be flattened.  People will be terrified and there will be mass confusion and terror.  The armies of Gog will be so terrified that they will turn on each other. Gog’s army will suffer plagues and massive loss of life.   There will be torrents of rain and hailstone and burning sulfur, which could be in the form of a volcanic eruption. There are scientific reports of burning embers being in-cased in ice during volcanic eruptions from the blast shooting embers high into the atmosphere, giving one the impression of hail and fire falling from the sky, and many time massive earthquakes are contributed to volcanic eruptions.  The acidic plume of smoke that will cover the area is also known to cause skin sores, boils, and even death. Strangely enough, the nearest active volcanos are located around Madagascar, and South America.

As always, I would remind you that no one knows the hour nor the day. We can only watch and prepare.

God, open our eyes so that we may see the truth, and grant us wisdom to understand.  Amen.

Now an earthquake in Chile! Do these earthquakes signal the end of the world is near?

First Haiti has a devastating earthquake. Then, a large quake hits near Japan. Now, Chile has one of the largest in recorded history, at 8.8! The number of major quakes in recent years seems to be increasing. These three came in just 2 months. An enormous 2004 quake not only caused the Asian tsunami, it sped the earth’s rotation momentarily. It’s enough to make people wonder if the end of the world is near.

Earthquakes are scary, as unlike bad weather, they come without warning. Aftershocks can occur for days, weeks, sometimes months. They cause terrible destruction. The increase in intensity in recent years is much like that of birth pangs that a woman feels before giving birth. Interestingly, Jesus uses the same analogy when he speaks of the end. And, “earthquakes in diverse places” – very different places, some of which don’t normally have them, thouhg some will – are one of the signs.

In Matthew 24, Jesus tells his disciples of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. They ask Him several questions. First, they ask when that destruction would happen, and then they ask about the signs of the end of the world. Jesus takes much more time on the second question than the first. He knew He would inspire His Word to be written, and that it was much more important to answer the second. Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21 each cover different aspects of what Jesus said.

Notice, first, that He answers the part about the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 21:9. This is important because it gives us context to assure us that Matthew 24-25 is about the future, His coming and the end of the world. There are false Christs now, but there were also false Christs back then. There was lots of commotion, but the end – that is, the end of the world – did not come in 70 AD. Luke 21 talks more about the end, but also says that “before these things” – before the great earthquakes, famine, etc. – the disciples would be persecuted, and there would be a time of great trouble in Jerusalem.

However, the destruction of Jerusalem was horrible, but it was not the worst ever in history, as Mat. 24:21 says the end will be. That event in 70 AD was a picture of something that would happen in the future. We know because Matthew 24:15 says that before the end – during the Tribulation – there will be another temple. An abomination – a horrible, blasphemous thing – will be set up in the temple. That didn’t happen in 70 AD. Quite the opposite, in fact; no stone was left upon another. (The “Western Wall,” or “Wailing Wall,” now in Jerusalem is from an old Roman fort built after that.)

There’s another reason we know Jesus is speaking of the end of the world in Matthew 24. the first word of Mat. 25 – “Then” – shows Jesus is talking about the same subject. He’s drawing an analogy to situations in the end times. Yes, the parable of the talents later in that chapter has numerous spiritual applications for the Church, but there is a plain, literal meaning to Scripture, too.

“So, wait,” you ask, “you mean these earthquakes in diverse places are a sign we’re definitely near the end of the world?” Not quite. We are close – I don’t know how close. It is not given to us to know the day or the hour.

But, other signs also point to us being near, if not in, the end times: Famines, pestilence (major diseases), iniquity (lawlessness) running rampant, the love of many becoming cold (we talk about love, but that true, unconditional love isn’t there), and so on. These things are increasing more and more, just like birth pangs. There is, in fact, a site called “Rapture Ready” with a “Rapture index” that measures all of these. (The entire site is filled with good material, and forums, for those who wish to know more.)

“So, wait,” you ask, “are we really that close to the end? How do I prepare?” Like Jesus with His disciples’ questions, I will only gloss over the first, because the second is most crucial. Yes, we are getting close, but unlike a sonogram, these “birth pangs” can only be estimated. We just know they keep growing.

As for how to prepare, be confident that the Church has not replaced Israel. There will be another temple – in fact, Israelis have been preparing for it for years. God will once again deal with his chosen people as a nation, not just as individuals. Before He does this, though, something will happen which you can prepare for: The Rapture. “For the Lord Himself will descend with a shout, and the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then, we which are alive and remain shall be caught up with them in the clouds, to be meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

To know you’ll be caught up with Him, it’s as easy as ABC.

Admit you’re a sinner, that you fall short of God’s perfect glory. When sin was brought into the world through man’s disobedience, it spread everywhere, and caused all things to start decaying. We all fall short of His perfection through our sin. We don’t’ always mean to sin, and some people try really hard to be nice al the time. But, we can’t; we’re not perfect. That sin keeps us out of Heaven, except a price was paid to get us in.

Beleve that Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead. He is God in flesh, and he paid that price to get you into Heaven. It was the perfect sacrifice, the just for the unjust. He took the punishment you and I and everyone else deserves for our sin – for the fact we fall short of God’s perfection.

Choose to receive Him as your Savior by simple faith. That means heart knowledge, not just head knowledge. Call on Him to save you from your sins, receiving what He did by simple faith, as being for you personally. Because, He died for each of us personally. He had each person on mind who ever lived when he died on that cross, and frose again. All you have to do is receive Him.

If you do, He will come into your heart and change you on the inside, helping you be more like Him in His love, compassion, goodness, peace, and so many other wonderful things. He’ll give you peace so you wojn’t have to worry about all the problems of this world, and so you can get through them with His help. Because, we don’t know how long it will be before He comes for us. But, whether we rise first, or meet Him in the air, we have His promise that He will come for us before things get as horrible as it will in the Tribulation.

These things we see here, these massive earthquakes and such, are only the beginning of sorrows. But, Jesus has promised to help us through, if we just trust Him – with our souls, and then with our lives. And, if He says it’s our time to leave this world, by knowing Him as Savior, we can be certain that we will be forever with Him, in that awesome place where there is no pain, no suffering, and no tears.