Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rumors of Wars

When Jesus tells His followers to watch for His return, He makes it a point to be clear about what we are to watch for. If we want to consider the possibility that He lists what to watch for in order of it's importance, we might do well to notice the second thing He describes for us is contained in the phrase "wars and rumors of wars". The word rumors is only found in the Bible twice, and only in this passage and in the Mark account where Jesus is talking about the signs of the end. That fact caught my eye immediately, and probably is very important in order to understand what Jesus is trying to tell us. The Greek word for rumor found here comes from a root word which means to "report". So the thought here seems to be that Jesus is saying we need to watch for reports about the possibility of a coming war. Since we have already decided that our watching is not to be random but specific, and the next major event in Israels' history will be the destruction of Damascus, it follows we should be watching the news for reports of a possible conflict that could fulfill this specific prophecy.

Now it is probably almost impossible to find anyone who is not familiar with the problem of Iran attempting to obtain a nuclear weapon. Their pursuit of a nuclear capability has been reported in the news for several years now, as well as the statements by Israel that they will never allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. Obviously, although the nations of the world have attempted to slow or stop Iran's progress, the fact remains that they have moved ever closer to their goal. Conversely, if history has taught us anything about Israel it's that they will do anything they feel is necessary to protect the survival of their nation and people. If they say they are going to do something, you would be foolish to ignore their warning. Yet despite these warnings, Iran seems intent to do just that. It makes me wonder if in fact, Iran for some reason is intent upon provoking an attack. Now you might wonder if a conflict with Iran is what is being "rumored", what has that to do with the prophecy of Damascus we are watching for? The answer to that may be found in what else Iran has also been quietly doing for the past several years.

Many may have forgotten the Lebanon War of 2006, in which the radical terrorist organization Hezbollah launched approximately 4000 rockets into Israel from Lebanon. Fortunately for Israel, the damage from these attacks was not as bad as it could have been for the rockets available to Hezbollah were small, unreliable, and for the most part unguided. Since then, however, it has been reported that they have rearmed with more than 30,000 rockets of a much more sophisticated capability, a much larger payload, and an increased range that puts most of Israel at risk. Where have these rockets come from you ask? Not surprisingly, they are coming from Iran, and what's more, Iran is not selling them to Hezbollah, they are giving. Even better, Iran doesn't send them all the way to Lebanon, but rather they fly them to Damascus where Hezbollah picks them up for transport back to Lebanon. Why would Iran be investing so much in this particular way? The simple answer is that they lack the ability to attack Israel from their own territory. To try and respond militarily to any attack by Israel from their own country would be futile. The distance is too great for any rocket response, and a ground offensive couldn't proceed through Iraq because our forces are in the way. They could, however, tell Syria and Hezbollah to launch every rocket they have into Israel in the hope the destruction would be so massive that Israel would be unable or unwilling to respond. If this scenario were to occur, I believe the Bible has already told us what Israels' response would be; and I for one, wouldn't want to be living in Damascus.

On October 19Th, at a speech in Seattle, vice presidential candidate Biden stated that as President, Barack Obama would be tested by the world just as John Kennedy was. What's more, he said it would be within 6 months. Why? Maybe because it has also been reported that both presidential candidates had recently been provided with information from the current administration that Iran would be able to construct a nuclear bomb by February 2009, just 3 months from now. That of course, only leaves Israel 3 months to do something about it. What will happen when they do, and does the Bible give us any clues as to when this will happen? I believe it does, and that fact along with the events occurring in the political arena both here in the United States as well as in Israel, are rapidly combining to produce what could easily be described as the "perfect storm".

Note: Some of you have had the opportunity to read my book about this coming conflict, and have asked if more copies are available. The good news is that I have had it converted to a PDF file so it can be downloaded and read with Adobe Acrobat Reader. The bad news is I have no idea how to get it on this page for downloading, so if you want a copy please just e-mail me and ask for a copy and I will e-mail it to you. Check my profile for the e-mail address. Thanks, Allan

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are We There Yet?

Who hasn't heard those words while travelling with small children? I remember trying unsuccessfully to teach my daughters how to recognize and read road signs when they were young so I wouldn't have to answer that question so often. There did come a day, though, when they learned not only how to read, but how to look for the signs in order to know how close we were to our destination. As often as I have had the opportunity to teach on the subject of what the Bible has to say about the end of this age, I often find myself in much the same predicament.

Many believers today simply have little or no knowledge about what the Bible teaches about the period of time immediately preceding the Second Coming. This might at first seem startling, unless you consider how rare it is to hear any sort of teaching of prophecy from the pulpits in our churches today. Last year I had the opportunity to watch a program on a national network where a well known columnist interviewed several pastors of some of the largest churches in America today. When the subject of the return of Christ came up I was dumbfounded to hear one of these pastors state emphatically that the church had no business teaching on that subject, and people should simply concentrate on how they are living their lives right now! Fortunately for equal time, another of those pastors spoke up quickly to say that it is the only thing we should be teaching! My thought is that if the Second Coming was the subject Jesus taught the most, it probably means it's important and we should be doing the same. After all, if we look at the context of Matthew 24 and 25 where Jesus talks about the signs of His return and the penalties for not watching, we would do well to remember in Matthew 23 Jesus totally ripped the religious leaders of that day for not recognizing the "time of their visitation"! He then goes on to tell us what to watch for, and what the signs would be of His return.

Of course, it's been my experience that one can't talk about the Second Coming for more than 30 seconds before someone quotes Matthew 24:36 where Jesus says that "no man knows the day or the hour" to justify their indifference, but allow me to point something out. Most scholars will agree that in this verse Jesus is referring to the rapture of the Church, and saying that it will take many by surprise. I am in total agreement with this position, but let me suggest that there is a common mistake many make, and that is the rapture should not be confused with the Second Coming of Christ. At the time of the rapture, the Bible teaches that when Jesus returns for His bride we will meet him in the clouds. It is at the end of the seven year tribulation that we see Jesus finally return to the earth. So although we may not know the day or the hour of the rapture, the second coming of Christ will be obvious to anyone who is willing to look for the signs that the Bible tells us will occur just before His return.

If we hold to the belief that the rapture of the church occurs before the beginning of the tribulation we can begin to answer the question "are we there yet" by simply looking at the prophecies concerning Israel to see how close they are to what the Bible calls the seventieth week of Daniel. Most believers recognize the names Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah as the names of books in the Old Testament, but unfortunately many are unclear as to who these men were and the role they played in the history of Israel. The short answer is all were men chosen by God to prophesy to Israel about their future, and Ezekiel and Daniel were both captives in Babylon at the same time. Probably the most significant thing about the three is that when we combine their individual accounts, we are left with a complete picture of what the future holds for the nation of Israel as well as a timeline for all of it to be accomplished. From the Babylonian Captivity to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, from the rejection of the Messiah to the diaspora, and from the regathering of the nation to the Second Coming of Jesus, their entire history is laid out in detail.

So where are we if we look at these prophecies, and how close are we to the advent of the tribulation period? I think we can have a pretty good idea if we but look for the road signs God has told us to watch for through the prophecies of these three men. First Ezekiel told us that Israel would one day be regathered into the land they had been dispersed from. We saw that occur in May of 1948 when Israel became a nation once again, and completed in the eyes of many in the summer of 1967 when Jerusalem became the undivided capitol. Second, Isaiah tells us that the next major event would be the destruction of Damascus, capitol city of Syria, by Israel. Since Damascus is still alive and well, and no such destruction has ever taken place in history, this must be in the near future. Why near? Remember, Jesus said that when we saw the fig tree put forth it's leaves, that generation would not pass away until "all these things" happen, so it must occur soon.

The result of this destruction by Israel is the gathering of an immense coalition of forces from many nations that is described by Ezekiel in the 38th chapter of his book. The attempted invasion by these forces is called the "Gog/Magog" war, and it is the point in time where God directly intervenes in order to show the world that Israel is in fact still under His divine protection. It is a result of this defeat that many believe an agreement is mediated between Israel and it's enemies by the man Daniel refers to as the "prince who is to come", otherwise known as "The Man of Sin" or "The Anti-Christ". The acceptance of this agreement begins the period of time known as the tribulation, so we are left with a series of three events, or roadsigns, that must occur in a very short time. The next, obviously, is the Destruction of Damascus referred to in Isaiah 17, so we need to ask ourselves if we can see anything going on in the world today that might lead us to believe that this conflict is imminent? It is the answer to that question that will give us the answer to our original question; "Are we there yet"?

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Are we living in the end times?
Does the Bible talk about what is happening in the world today?
Are we seeing the signs Jesus told us to watch for?
Is the rapture of the Church going to occur soon?

These are just some of the questions I have been asked in just the past few months, and in all honesty, with much greater frequency in just the past few weeks. So much so, that I have decided to start this blog in an effort to try to not only answer those questions and others, but to try to help explain just what is occurring in the world right now.

For those of you who know me or have heard me teach, it should come as no surprise that the subject of these pages will be the imminent return of Christ for His people, and an affirmation that we are fast approaching the end of the world as we know it. That has been the preeminent subject of my teaching for years. What you may not understand, however, is why I have chosen to focus on Gods prophecies concerning the end of the world to such an extent. So allow me to share briefly the reasoning behind what some have described as my "obsession" with the second coming of Christ.

Let's look first at what Jesus taught in the book of Mark, chapter 13, verses 28-37. Here we find Jesus explaining to His disciples that just before His return there would be numerous signs given as a warning that the end was near. He concludes by commanding four times that His followers should "watch" for these signs so as not to be surprised. Now I doubt that many of you would disagree with me in concluding that a command from God is not something to be taken lightly, and that to disobey or ignore a command would be sin. So obviously the first reason I teach what I teach is that I want to obey Gods command to watch. The second reason can be found in the Old Testament where God is instructing His prophet Ezekiel. In chapter 33 of the book of Ezekiel, God appoints Ezekiel to be a "watchman" for the nation of Israel. What we might want to focus on though is what God says to him in verse 6 where God makes it very clear that if a watchman fails in his duty to warn the people, their blood will be on his hands. So the picture painted here for us as believers is one of responsibility to not only watch for the signs of Jesus' return, but to warn others of what we see. That is the primary reason I have chosen to study prophecy, and to teach about the signs of Jesus return.

There are, though, other reasons that motivate me to choose to do what I do, and I would like to share just a few of those with you also. I have observed over the years that one thing most all believers have in common is the fact that at one time or another we all struggle in our walk in the Lord. The Bible makes it pretty clear that the world will not appreciate our decision to follow God, and we can expect to be attacked at most any time. Yet in the book of Titus, Paul tells us in chapter 2, verses 11-13 that one way we can get the help we need is to look "for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ". If our focus is above, it's pretty hard to get bogged down with the problems we face down here. So the advice we seem to get from Paul is to watch for signs of Jesus' return as inspiration to keep walking the way we should, and to receive the strength we so desperately need.

Another reason to study prophecy might be the thought that most of us have experienced the gratification that comes from being rewarded for doing something. Rewards are nice to receive, and can serve as a motivation to do even more. God is perfectly aware of this, so it should not come as a surprise that He is willing to reward us for doing His will. Yet I am amazed sometimes that most Christians seem to be unaware that in the book of Revelation, which comes directly from Jesus through John the Apostle, offers a reward to those who study it! In chapter 1, verse 3, Jesus says that those who read and study the prophecies of Revelation will be "blessed"! So how is that for motivation? The book of Revelation is the only book which actually promises the reader will be blessed if he reads, hears, and keeps the things that are written in it. Maybe that explains why some people can't get enough of that book!

Now let me give you what I consider to be the best reason of all for studying prophecy. Although receiving help in our walk, and being blessed on earth sound pretty good, it's just the beginning. I have had the priviledge over the years to hear wonderful teaching from a great many pastors and teachers. One of my favorite quotes comes from Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California who said, "you can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead". He goes on to explain that we need to be making deposits in the bank of Heaven, so we can enjoy our rewards for eternity. Paul obviously had this idea in mind when he says in 2 Timothy 4:8 that he would receive a crown of righteousness in heaven because he spent his time down here looking forward to Jesus' return. He goes on to say that not only will he receive that crown, but anyone else who looks forward to and "loves" Jesus' appearing. What does it mean to love Jesus' return? Let's put it this way, I was blessed with three daughters and seem to recall that when a boy was coming over to visit, or to pick them up, they seemed to spend a LOT of time looking out the window and watching for them to show up. Do you as a believer want Jesus to return so much that you spend a lot of time looking and watching for Him? By doing so, Paul tells us we will receive a crown of righteousness in heaven.

So what are my reasons for being "obsessed" with watching for signs of Jesus' return? Well, God has commanded us to watch, warned us what will happen if we don't, and promised us a reward for doing so, not only on this earth but in Heaven as well. In the weeks ahead I plan to try and show and explain how the events occuring in the world right now are in fact the signs that Jesus told us would preceed the rapture of the Church, and the Second Coming at the end of this age. How close is it? Well, another of my favorite quotes comes from Chuck Smith, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. When he was asked how close we are to the rapture he said this, "when you see the Christmas decorations going up, you know that Thanksgiving is near". People, what we are seeing right now is the world being decorated for the period of time the Bible calls the Tribulation. All of what we see happening is simply preparation for what is to come, something we could describe as the time of "one". One world monetary system, one world religion, one world government, and of course, the one man who will presume to govern the entire world. If we see the decorations going up right before our eyes, you tell me, how close do YOU think the rapture of the church is?