Category Archives: Current Affairs

When Bad Things Happen

Thoughts on Covid-19

It has been a long time (2016) since we last added a blog to this website. Much has happened in the last 4 years, but our position has only been refined and strengthened. We hope this blog will both encourage you and be insightful and give strength in the unfolding drama of history.

In this document we write down an understanding of what underlies the Covid-19 outbreak. In this, we have sought God, His word and history. This understanding is not fixed, but changing as new knowledge is gained. We feel the geopolitical situation could evolve in many different ways, some very unexpected. These are exciting times. For those interested, much of the theological background to this document is in my two books “The Time is Near volumes I and II” published by Balboa Press in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

Who is the Enemy?

In what follows below we often refer to the “enemy” to avoid longer phrases. We define the “enemy” to be the spiritual forces of evil. We don’t include human authorities and human beings in this as they, like us, are part of this world that God loves. We long and pray for them to honor God and listen to Him. Each human being makes their choices and that determines their spiritual allegiance which can change many times during their life. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 ESV “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”. In a sense, all human beings are targets of spiritual forces and our spiritual war is not against them, but for them. God’s desire for all human beings is their salvation; the enemies desire is their allegiance and to fulfill their purpose.

In a very real sense, mankind are victims of the “enemy” although what they become spiritually depends on their choices. All human authorities are comprised of human beings each on their own life’s pathway. They each have free will, make their own choices and become like the spiritual forces they worship. They can become increasingly evil or increasingly good depending on who they follow. The “enemy” works through earthly authorities that reject the living God of the Bible and he has therefore a large kingdom under his authority. God has been building His kingdom too. These two kingdoms are engaged in spiritual war which can reveal itself on earth as a form of conflict or even physical war.

The book of Revelation refers to the “kings of the earth” who are human authorities. They are depicted as spiritually blind, drunk with the wine of the wealth, knowledge, power and glory of this modern world (the Bible refers to it as love for this world) and rejecting the love of the living God and His good news offer of salvation. Because of spiritual blindness they lack God’s wisdom and are vulnerable to deception. Australia is blessed at this time to be led by a man who loves God and is subject to His direction.

The Intention behind Covid-19

God is intentional in everything He does or allows so there must always be purpose in all that happens. The enemy is too. We assume this as biblical, but do not debate it here.

From our studies in science, the physical processes that produced the virus appear to be random , although related to connections between human beings and other living things. Other possibilities are being investigated. We see that the enemy must have sent it since its outcome is strongly opposite to God’s character evidenced by His sending Jesus into the world to die for us. This means God must have allowed it, but that does not mean He is happy with it, approves it, desires it or is to blame for it. This then raises questions about His love, justice and sovereignty. We address those later.

We suggest the enemy initiates his attacks at strategic times for strategic purposes. For him it is timely to release the virus now and we examine the reasons why below.

The Geopolitical Impact of Disease.

Books have been written about the geopolitical impact of disease. See for example “Plagues and People” by William McNeill, Anchor Press, 1998.

Of great interest is the comment by William McNeill about the impact on the rise and consolidation of Christianity during and after the Roman Empire and how it altered older world views fundamentally. He writes, “One advantage Christians had over their pagan contemporaries was that care of the sick, even in time of pestilence, was for them a recognized religious duty.” This outcome of the love of God through His people greatly reduced mortality and also strengthened Christian churches. Normally, in those times, pagans fled from the sick and heartlessly abandoned them.

Of further interest is the impact of the bubonic plague which was spread by fleas living on rats, and which ravaged the Eastern Mediterranean region intermittently from 542 CE to 750 CE and which historians estimate killed around one-third of the population . This was followed by the Sassanid Persian Empires invasion of Syria, Egypt and the capture of Jerusalem from the Byzantines in 614 CE and their defeat by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641 CE) who recaptured Jerusalem in 630 CE.

As Karabell then writes , “But the war had taken a toll on both regimes, on their treasuries and their soldiers, and neither had recovered its full strength four years later.” When the Muslim caliph Umar attacked, the “Persian Empire had descended into a brief but ruinous civil war, and Heraclius had withdrawn in exhaustion from an active role in leading the Byzantine armies” so the opposing forces were at their weakest. “Three battles essentially decided the fate of both empires. In 634, at Ajnadin, south of Jerusalem, and in 636 at Yarmuk, in Syria, the main Byzantine divisions in the region were wiped out by smaller, more mobile Arab forces. In 637, at the battle of Qadisiya, near the Euphrates, the Persian army led by General Rustam was annihilated.”

As we can see here, the combination of the devastating bubonic plague and multiple exhausting military conflicts, paved the way so that Islam could arise as the major world power in its day. The timing was such that Islamic forces attacked during a short period of time when their opposition was at its weakest. The timing was strategic and chosen when it would achieve its purpose.

The bubonic plague described above made an important change to the geopolitical climate in the Eastern Mediterranean of those days with a significant impact on the resultant outcomes. Today we can see that Covid-19 is having an incredible impact on every nation, especially economic. We have yet to see the resultant geopolitical outcomes, but we can be confident that its timing is strategic.

The biblical perspective is that the enemy knows that his time is very short , and he is very angry. He fears God and knows that he will lose, but he is too proud to let go. However, his goal is to bring down the whole world with him so that God fails in His goal. So, he seeks global authority because from that position he can do the most damage. Since we now have a global civilization, he can do far more damage than when empires were regional. The more powerful our technology, the greater influence his power can have through a single authority. In fact, the greater the world unity, the stronger the influence he can have through centralized evil leadership.

Why is this Happening Now?

My growing sense is that we are seeing something now like the geopolitical impact of the bubonic plague described above. The impact of Covid-19 that we can see even now, is a big leap towards setting up the world for the end time picture the bible gives us – which includes a centralized government and the rise of an Islamic world ruler . The 542 AD plague and subsequent battles set up the world for the rise of Islam. What is happening now parallels it. To have the desired impact 20 years ago would have been more difficult because globalization was less, the economy was growing strongly, not so many traveled, China and India’s economy was smaller and nations would not be able to lock-down so effectively which is creating the huge economic issues we are facing today. I suspect 20 years later would have been too late since other global factors would have come into play nullifying its impact. This virus being extremely contagious but not very virulent, will create economic chaos (its primary purpose) and rule out the possibility of a managed economic decline.

I am also starting to ask the question why it is western nations that are apparently being hit the hardest. This could be because many other nations which are poorer, cannot afford the testing and hospital care so that the statistics for these countries do not tell the full story. Another possible reason is that in hotter countries, the contagiousness is less because the virus’ life decreases as the temperature increases. A further reason may be because richer nations have a much greater number of people travelling and therefore being infected. Whatever the answer, I do think we need to consider that the reason for the now is also because it will hit the rich nations economies much harder than the poorer ones and so escalate the world-wide economic collapse.

Luke 21:28 ESV “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The Approach to the End Times

In the book of Revelation, the bible gives us an interesting picture of developments in God’s plan as the end time approaches and what will happen in the end times. I will briefly describe the picture I believe the book of Revelation gives us which is scary accurate. See my two books for a much more detailed explanation.

The end of the 1260 days is marked by Israel becoming a nation which occurred in 1948 so that the Jews are no longer in mourning and being nurtured in the wilderness . Both Jesus in Luke 21:24 and John in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 mark a key event prophetically fulfilled after 42 months in 1967; that is when Israel regained full control over Jerusalem. At the same time, the two witnesses, who are God’s kingdom and Israel, are prophesying with power. This is the situation today as we see the continuing restoration of Israel and their blessing to the world and the ongoing rapid growth of God’s kingdom. This will continue until the beast is released from the abyss which marks the beginning of the end times .

Concurrently with what God is doing with His people, Revelation 13 informs us that the enemy has created two kingdoms. The first, the one out of the sea with ten horns and seven heads, is the Islamic kingdom which is gaining strength today. The second, the one out of the land with two horns like a lamb who spoke like a dragon, is the materialistic kingdom which dominates the world and is very wealthy and powerful. Satan cannot deceive the nations neither can he work directly against his enemies, but he can work through the kingdoms he has created. Unfortunately for the enemy, the materialistic kingdom has also set up the environment which gives the opportunity to spread the gospel, so God’s kingdom grows and the prophecy of the two witnesses is effective.

However, the materialistic kingdom is heavily reliant on the Islamic kingdom which contains so much of the resources (especially oil) that the materialistic kingdom needs to continue to grow. However, by exploiting this wealth, the Islamic kingdom has been resurrected from near destruction when the caliphate was terminated in 1924, but since then the wounded head is being healed . Revelation 17 describes this relationship in a vivid picture of the “woman riding the beast”. Both kingdoms need each other but exist together in tension.

The materialistic kingdom is further described in Revelation 17:1-2 ESV, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” Essentially, the kings of the earth have become so attracted to the wealth, resources, power and glory of our modern culture, that having taken it they cannot stop wanting more and so have become drunk with what it provides and have lost the freedom to go a different direction. And they want more and more.

In summary, Revelation pictures the world as having 4 kingdoms, (1) the materialistic kingdom (from the land, Babylon, the prostitute), (2) the Islamic kingdom (from the sea), (3) God’s kingdom and (4) Israel. That is the situation today.

The impact of the virus is to increase the rate of economic deterioration of the materialistic kingdom. It is interesting to observe that, with a few exceptions, it is the more advanced countries that seem to be most affected by Covid-19. The world was in huge debt; that debt has now been significantly enhanced by the lock-downs implemented to curtail the spread of Covid-19. It is early days, so we have yet to see the full impact, however, it feels like the enemy is trying to increase suffering and death to curtail the growth of God’s kingdom and to gain greater control and upset God’s timetable. In response, it feels like God is using this to accelerate the growth of His kingdom and bring the end times and the destruction of evil nearer. God’s plan is still on track.

God’s Response to Human Suffering

It is inadequate just to say that the enemy sent Covid-19 for two reasons. First, because that shifts any blame away from us for the consequences of our sin which, in fact, empowered the enemy and enabled him to do it. And second, because it leaves unanswered, questions about God’s love, justice and sovereignty and can be used to incorrectly imply that by allowing Covid-19 to be released, God is to blame for all the suffering and the bad things that are happening.

It is also misleading to say that the impact of Covid-19 is God’s judgment because of the wickedness of mankind. This is because the nature of our suffering is flowing from the natural consequences of disobeying the spiritual laws God has put in place, rather than His direct intervention.

Our fundamental understanding is that if God intervened to prevent the suffering, that would invalidate that we really have free will. What our free will choices do is to empower the spiritual forces to whom we give our allegiance. When we turn to God in prayer and in obedience, we give God permission to act according to His will. When we ignore God in our choices, we empower the enemy. Godless people are spiritually blind and therefore vulnerable to deception. Evil people empower the enemy by their choices.

God will not step in to correct the bad effects of our godless decisions. Free will choices must be allowed to produce their outcome otherwise, God would destroy free will and all the purpose behind the way the universe has been created. The consequences of our decisions must be allowed to reap their full outcomes, or the fabric of our created universe would be torn apart. Love would lose its meaning and justice would be compromised.

For God to create a universe and give mankind free will reflects a higher level of sovereignty, than one where He exercises full control. He has a plan that fully includes the outcome of every decision that man will make. That plan includes the spiritual permission for all spiritual forces to respond according to the allegiance we give them. This means that when I pray to God that gives Him the permission to act according to the spiritual laws He has made. Similarly, if we follow the enemy, then the enemy has permission to act according to their spiritual laws.

God cannot intervene in history to stop the suffering that is spreading as a result of Covid-19. If He did so, that would destroy the reality of free will by interfering with the natural outcomes of the exercise of free will. Does that weaken His sovereignty? No, on the contrary it strengthens it by the failure of those choices to damage God’s plan.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, our feeling is that the enemy has initiated Covid-19 in order to accelerate the collapse of the world’s economy, and create fear, confusion and suffering. It has been timed precisely to when our global civilization is so sensitive to anything that threatens to damage the good life we have been having but also to when we have the technology to allow the rapid spread of the virus creating a pandemic. In the resultant chaos, and economic fragility the world will be more vulnerable to a strong leader who in deception offers hope of economic benefits. We will be more willing to come under governments that exercise more control to preserve the good life we have experienced. Especially as we are drunk with the attachment to the life which comes with wealth, power and glory.

From the perspective of God’s people however, a leaner, more committed, praying and empowered people will emerge. A desperate world will more likely turn to Jesus. A more devoted people will walk closer to God and experience greater joy. The crisis will create more physical difficulties, but we will see greater blessing flow. It is not a victorious eschatology or a doom and gloom one, rather it is a joy and gloom one; joy for God’s people and gloom for the world.

Amazing Prophecy about the Church

Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding the interpretation of Revelation 10-11 has robbed these chapters of much of their power. In reality, they provide an amazingly clear guide from God with interesting detail about our role in the church age.

Our conviction is that these words complete the prophecy given to God’s people (Daniel 10:14) by Daniel in Daniel 10-12. What was closed to Daniel (Daniel 12:4, 9) was opened to John who now completes it. A word which starts in the third year of Cyrus in 535 BC and ends at the end of the age. A word whose first half, described in Daniel, is temporarily suspended when the power of God’s people is totally shattered (Daniel 12:7) by the Roman Empire. A word whose second half is resumed when the Islamic Kingdom came to power and completed during the rest of the church age. So Revelation 11 is not a prophecy which is fulfilled in 3.5 calendar years, but rather in more than 1,200 years.

The language is clearly symbolic, but is also narrative prophecy with a literal meaning. If the prophecy was just for 3.5 calendar years, then very likely the two witnesses introduced in Revelation 11:3 are two individuals. The NIV reference to the them as men (Revelation 11:6) seems to favour this futurist perspective and perhaps reflects a translator bias. However, given that the prophecy extends for over 2,500 years and begins in 535 BC and is explicitly about God’s people then the two witnesses must be God’s people, not two individuals.

Therefore, the period of 3.5 years must be symbolic. Since the two witnesses are called to minister in the power of the Spirit for 3.5 years, then to be defeated, die, to lie dead for 3.5 days, rise again and then ascend into heaven, then they are clearly called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, exactly as Jesus did. The allusion to the ministry of Jesus is remarkably clear and obvious.

At this point we could delve deeply into the detail of what we are called to be and to do. That would make this post incredibly long. We leave it for another time.

So these two chapters sit at the crossroads of understanding the book of Revelation. Previous chapters set the context, subsequent chapters’ flow along the direction implied by how they are interpreted.

ISIS

The Islamic State in Syria also known by other names, is a newly emerging state that has grown rapidly especially in the last two years. It has produced world wide condemnation like nothing else even Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and other notorious regime leaders. Unlike most of these, it is a theocracy with both a spiritual and physical agenda. It is promoting a radical form of Islam and claiming to follow the Koran with greater purity than other forms.. It is strictly Sunni Islam and has shown extreme violence against other forms of Islam and of course Christians, Jews and others who refuse to accept its form of Islam.

In the Bible, the book of Daniel (chapter 8:9 and following verses) teaches that the ruler at the end of the age will start off small (he will initially be a little horn), then grow towards the south and the east and towards the land of Israel. He will keep on growing and be very successful and become very powerful. He will cause fearful destruction, destroy powerful nations and God’s people, but in the end be broken, but not by a human hand. Many biblical scholars identify this person with the Seleucid king Antiochus IV who reigned from 175 to 164 BC. However, although matching some of this rulers characteristics, it fails badly in others, especially in starting small, his degree of violence and his lack of success. Antiochus IV did not start small, was not very successful and indeed was defeated by the Jews before his sudden death.

Intriguingly, in recent times, there have been many speculative proposals about the identity of this end of the age ruler. If the criteria mentioned above had been applied to these proposals they would all have been rejected, for example President Obama. None of them have been likely candidates. None of them have resided north to north west of Israel which is necessary to fulfil Daniel 8:9. In contrast, it should be seen that ISIS matches quite a few of the criteria well, but it is too early to establish that identity since other criteria remain which have not been satisfied. Especially, we do not yet know how successful ISIS will be. The world is horrified at what ISIS is doing and confidently predicts its destruction. However, the longer it survives the stronger it is becoming. It is a very well organised state, has substantial wealth and is training an army of people who will die for their cause. It also has world wide domination as its objective.

World conditions are such today that it is very difficult for the high technology and military capability of the west to intervene as was done in Iraq in 2003. The west is extremely fragile economically being under huge debt. It cannot afford and is very unwilling to put many troops on the ground in the Middle East now even in spite of its heavy reliance on Middle Eastern oil. The west has lost much of the trust of Middle Eastern countries because of its ambiguous political alignments. The internal conditions of many countries in the Middle East is unstable and deteriorating with many disparate groups often fighting one another. Loss of life and human displacement is huge. Suffering is huge. This is making this whole region ripe for the emergence of radical groups just like Daniel 8:23 NIV says “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise”.

The other very significant feature of ISIS is their declaration of the reestablishment of the Islamic caliphate on 29 June, 2014. That status is currently rejected by the majority of Islamic nations. However, in my understanding of the book of Revelation, the reestablishment of the Islamic caliphate is a very significant event. Let me take a little time to explain its significance.

If your view of Revelation is some form of preterist view so that most of Revelation is fulfilled in the first century AD or perhaps until the collapse of the Roman Empire, you will probably interpret the “beast out of the sea” in Revelation 13:1-10 as the Roman Empire. If you are futurist, with most of Revelation being fulfilled in the last 7 or 3.5 years before Jesus returns, then the “beast out of the sea” will be the final anti-Christ kingdom and likely a “revived Roman Empire”. If you are a historicist who takes the visions in Revelation as history being fulfilled in the chronological order in which they were written, there will be a variety of identifications of the “beast out of the sea”. If you are an idealist, you will probably identify the “best out of the sea” first with Rome, but then as symbolic of all the emerging empires opposed to God’s kingdom throughout history. I am none of these. I am a historicist who sees a very close integration between Daniel and Revelation which therefore necessitates concurrently parallel visions in Revelation like in Daniel. I see that Revelation reveals the rest of the vision that was closed to Daniel in Daniel 12:9 and opened to John when he wrote Revelation and could only be opened once Jesus had won the victory on the cross. I do not know anyone who holds this view; let’s call it historicist with recapitulation.

That lead to the unambiguous identification of the “beast out of the sea” with the Islamic kingdom that began with Muhammad starting around 610 when he received his first vision. History reveals that the Islamic kingdom grew very rapidly for about 150 years under Arabic leadership, grew further until significant defeats in France in 732, and in Vienna when the Ottomon’s were defeated in 1683. From that time on the Islamic kingdom entered a period of slow decline until its most serious humiliation when the Caliphate was disbanded in 1924. In this perspective, this is the only reasonable way to interpret the head of the beast which seemed to have a mortal wound as described in Revelation 13:3. This is a very apt way to describe the status of the Islamic kingdom since 1924, a theocracy without a unifying leadership head. Reading Revelation 13:1-10 carefully then makes clear that the “now time” of this vision is when the head is healed, in other words, when the Islamic Caliphate is reestablished. This is seen by the world as like a resurrection since the whole world marveled at the beasts recovery. Note that up until and including verse 7, everything is in the past tense, however, the worship by the whole world of this beast in verse 8 is future. So if indeed the whole Islamic world comes to recognize the Caliphate established by ISIS, that will be very significant.

In my opinion, we should watch and pray with great alertness and not allow any of our well-formed end time theologies to prevent us from seeing what is happening. We need to be prepared spiritually for what is unfolding and be very excited at the spiritual revival that has been and is occurring in many parts of the world, especially in the last 20 years. Paul ensures us that if we remain alert we will not be surprised at the events that lead to the return of the Lord (see 1 Thessalonians 5:4).

Synchronism between Bible and Current Events

Although we regard the collapse of our modern civilization as inevitable, it is most likely impossible to determine when that will occur and what it will look like. Our modern world system is hugely complex and tightly coupled and the unfolding of events is very dependent on human decisions especially by key people. However, we may be able to set some date boundaries around future events if (1) the Bible is the word of God and if (2) it lays out a prophetic word picture of God’s plan, and if (3) we can interpret it correctly. Up until now the third point has been singularly unsuccessful especially when it comes to the timing of future events.

Perhaps the most serious example of difficulty in using the Bible to predict future events is seen in the huge diversity of ways the seventy sevens prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 has been used to calculate events in Jesus’ first coming. Careful examination of these calculations shows their methodology to be highly suspect. In particular they often assume what they are trying to prove and try to adjust the beginning and end points to fit this assumption. This arises because the anointed person in Daniel 9:25 and 26 is translated “Messiah” (=Jesus) in some English translations when the Hebrew word is less specific and so it needs to be proved that it is Jesus (it cannot be legitimately assumed). In one well known case, a calculation was made predicting Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem to the very day and for many years this was touted as the most amazing prophecy in the Bible until it was discovered that there was a simple oversight in the calculation arising because of confusion over the use of Julian and Gregorian calendars resulting in a 3 day predictive error.

As my just published book, “The Time is Near Volume 1” seeks to show among other things, the whole basis for Preterist and Futurist end time theologies is seriously to be questioned because of the way the Seventy Sevens prophecy is used as a foundation framework in those theologies. In my opinion, the root assumptions in these theologies, that so often go unquestioned, are seriously flawed and that is why future prophesies are so often wrong.

Aside from this, in my view the real situation is not as bad as it seems and we have to continue to search why specific events linked to periods of time are recorded in the Bible. We also have to recognize that Daniel did precisely predict the rise of key leaders, notably Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, Antiochus the Great and others and he did predict significant details of emerging empires 100’s of years before they happened. Most encouraging is that research in the last 50 years continues to improve our understanding and knowledge of past events including their timing. In reality, today we are in a better position than ever, to interpret what the Bible says providing we are careful and rigorous in our approach.

To assist us in this we can learn from the attempts to match events in the Bible with extra-Biblical sources (synchronism’s) in order to accurately fix dates. Perhaps the oldest of these which has a large measure of concurrence is the lunar eclipse recorded by Ptolemy and the Babylonian Chronicles in the fifth year of Nabopolassor king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s father, which computer calculations can pinpoint accurately to 621 BC. Both the Canon of Ptolemy and the Babylonian Chronicles record that he reigned for 21 years which enables us to pinpoint the Battle of Carchemish to 605 BC (probably May or June) and the exact day of Nebuchadnezzar’s accession to the throne (30 August, 605 BC). Since Jeremiah 25:1 says that this was the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, a synchronism between the Bible and history can be made with a high degree of confidence. All significant historical events later than this are usually known accurately to within a year or two. Bible chronologists can work backwards from this date using numerical details in the Bible such as the lengths of the reigns of kings to pinpoint when earlier events occurred..

Most chronology recorded in our modern Bibles for the kings of Judah and Israel, is based on the work of Thiele which starts the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son in 931/930 BC. however, research continues to question his work especially the accuracy of the synchronism’s he made with the Assyrian records and his inference that the Southern kingdom dated the accession of most of their kings from the seventh month of the Hebrew year rather than the first. This can lead to the date of Rehoboam’s reign starting up to 45 years earlier in 975 BC, so that dates of Rehoboam’s reign near 975 BC are probably more accurate and the dates of the kings in many Bible Study notes could be in error by up to at least 30 years. Still, to date the reign of a king 3,000 years ago within 45 years is not bad. We can also date Abraham pretty accurately too. Here we should seriously question the skepticism of many about the Bible. In reality, it gives us a remarkably accurate, honest and relatively detailed history of a nation whose existence began some 4,000 years ago. No other ancient literature comes close to this achievement.

Moving forward from the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s accession to the throne in 605 BC we can be confident that Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC (some say 587 BC). Jeremiah’s prophecies in chapter 25 and 29 also tell us that after 70 years the servitude of the nations to Babylon would end and the exiled Jews would return to their land and start to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. History pinpoints the fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Great in 539 BC and the commencement of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem to about 535 BC, 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar came to the throne.

The book of Daniel gives us some remarkable prophetic detail of key events that will impact the Jews. In particular it speaks of Alexander the Great and the subsequent Ptolemaic and Seleucid kings whose campaigns trampled over the Promised Land until the Seleucid king Antiochus IV sought to destroy the Jews (we know about 164 BC). The subsequent uprising by the Jews which led to their survival is then briefly mentioned. This is then followed in Daniel 11:36 and onward with a description of the rise and fall of Rome beginning with the major military conflict of Antiochus III with Rome (Daniel 11:40) which history dates as occurring from 192-188 BC. It then gives details of the advance of Rome leading to the fall of Jerusalem (we know this occurred in 63 BC) and Egypt becoming a major resource of wealth for the Roman Empire (Daniel 11:43, dated 30 BC) among other things. Rome’s character is also accurately described in the military prowess of their infantry especially in siege warfare (Daniel 11:38) and their soldiers worship of a Persian god (see Daniel 11:39). The persecution of the Jews which led to their eventual scattering and total loss of control over Jerusalem (which we know finally occurred when the Muslims captured Jerusalem in 638 AD) is then described (Daniel 12:1 and 7). From these descriptions we get a sense of the degree of significance of historical events impacting Israel which lead to them being mentioned in the Bible. This gives us major clues as to events in recent history concerning the Jews whose significance might lead us to expect some entry in the Bible.

This has led us to conclude that in the modern era, there are three very important synchronism’s about which we can have a reasonable degree of confidence These are

1. The end of the 1260 days in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6 which equates to the end of the period of time when the Jews were without a home and scattered all over the world and during which God’s people mourned and fasted for Jerusalem. We suggest this equates to the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948.

2. The end of the 42 months (which computes to 1279 days if converted to days and rounded up using the Julian Calendar in use by the Roman Empire) in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5. This equates to the period of time when Jerusalem was under the authority of non-Jewish people’s which ended historically in 1967 with the outcome of the famous six day war.

3. Is it then coincidence that if you regard the days as years, both these periods of time begin in the same year and that year is 688 AD when the “Dome of the Rock” was bring constructed in Jerusalem and probably the year when that construction began? For those that question there is substantial evidence in the Bible of equating the Hebrew word for day with years. There are no less than 6 explicit examples when this is being done.

In further support of these synchronism’s we can provide extensive subjective reasons based on the correspondence between many Biblical prophecies with the current situation in the Middle East. It is beyond the scope of this post to go into that here. Just let me say that the ongoing pressure on the nation of Israel and negotiations that focus on the nation of Israel returning to its 1967 borders highlights the huge significance of the outcome of the six day war in modern Jewish history. In my opinion, when compared with significant events of Jewish history in Daniel, it has sufficient stature so that it is very likely to be included in Biblical prophecies. Both Jesus in Luke 21:24 and John in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 pointed to a specific time when full governmental authority over Jerusalem would be restored to the Jews.

Let me also add that it is most unreasonable for literal interpretations of the 1260 days and 42 months to claim they are the same length of time. Their use in Revelation has very distinct contexts and a 360 day year had been replaced by a more accurate calendar by all nations by the time of Daniel all of which point to a year of around 365 days.

If this analysis is correct, then we can pinpoint where we are today with respect to prophecies in the book of Revelation. I would suggest somewhere in Revelation 11:3-6 since we are after the end of the 42 months, but the witness of the church has not finished. Somewhere approaching Revelation 12:13-16, because Satan is still trying to destroy the Jews. Somewhere around Revelation 13:6-7a, because this is after the end of the 42 months and the opposition to the church is increasing.

If you accept these synchronism’s then it sheds a very different light on the chronology of Revelation than most scholars promote, while retaining a very literal interpretation. This is very evident in Revelation 11. Firstly, the two witnesses can no longer be individuals for the period of their prophetic ministry exceeds 1,000 years. Secondly, there is an unspecified period of time between the end of the 1,260 days and the completion of the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses referred to in Revelation 11:7.

Israel’s Independance Part 2

This post updates the post of 28 May 2013. It repeats some of the things said there, then tracks the changes since then and corrects, refines and evaluates what was said.

The nation of Israel is in a very unique, but fragile position. It is a very powerful nation for its size surrounded by other nation’s which are jealous of its prosperity, hate its presence and would destroy it if possible. These other nations will form alliances with it if that is advantageous to them, but there is no certainty that these alliances will continue long term. These nations will also tolerate peace treaties if necessary. But underlying all this is a jealous hatred and a deep rooted anger. In fact all the nations of the earth harbour deep wounds that go back 1,000’s of years. Even within the nations around Israel, there is anger against the corruption of wealthy rulers and fears because of the economic insecurity of the future which led to the rebellion as witnessed by the current conflict in Syria and the Arab Spring uprisings of the last few years. But there are bigger forces at work. Powers external to Syria are seeking to capitalise on the Syrian conflict to gain advantage for themselves as a greater priority than peace. To add to the complexity, the Syrian conflict is now adding a Sunni verses Shiite flavour.

But overall, Israel is a nation whose security is at high risk. This risk has been present since its nation formation in 1948. Although there are strong, sympathetic elements within some outside countries, especially the U.S., ultimately they will make decisions to support Israel only if it continues to be advantageous for them to do so. Overall, the U.S. support for Israel since the Second World War has been huge and there is a substantial community within the U.S., largely Christian as well as Jewish who favour Israel. However, especially in the last few years, the U.S. economic and political strength has deteriorated and in recent months there is evidence of a huge reluctance by the U.S. for continued military involvement in the Middle East which would be expensive, cause substantial loss of life and whose successful outcomes are doubtful.

So overall, the trends of the last few months, would suggest power realignments in favour of Iran, Syria and Hizbollah backed by Russia and a decline of the influence of nations backed by the U.S. This is especially evident in Egypt whose internal dysfunction and the possibility of huge economic disaster looms. Turkey’s relationship with Israel remains ambivalent and the rest of the Middle East except Jordan appears aloof. What will happen to Syria’s relationship to Israel remains unclear, but it seems likely that the rebel forces in Syria are a mixed bag of disunited groups some of doubtful genre so that their ability to unite and form a new government in Syria is highly questionable. However, the forces arraigned against Israel are slowly increasing and it would seem that they could rain huge numbers of missiles on Israel with uncertain results.

Quite mysterious is the continued reluctance of Western powers to support peace in Syria with Assad retaining authority. As a result, external powers continue to support both sides of the opposing powers so that the tragic, ongoing loss of life and internal terrible suffering continues. Political factors seem to have greater priority than stopping the continued tragic suffering of the Syrian people. And today the internal conflict in Syria has stalemated, but now Assad seems to be slowly gaining the ascendancy and the human tragedy grows as external powers selfishly try to protect their own agenda. As much as we abhor the use of chemical weapons, the achievement of an agreement on their use is really a sideshow as almost all of the suffering is due to conventional weapons about which no treaty seems near.

We continue to watch for a treaty involving many nations in the Middle East which will have major worldwide significance and signal the beginning of the end times as suggested by the end of the age scenario in Daniel 9:27. We considered whether the UN resolution on the dismantling of chemical weapons in Syria would have that stature, but consider that very unlikely. Currently, Russia and the U.S. have called for the Geneva 2 peace conference on Syria in November 2013 involving all participants without preconditions. If this was successful, it may have the required stature. We will wait and see what happens.

One gets the feeling that the U.S. is publicly trying to preserve its original status in the world, but secretly working towards a political solution to bring peace while trying to minimise the cost to its political status in the Middle East. To many, this will look like a continuation of its double standards. In this ambivalent situation, Turkey lies in a strange position and it’s unclear where its loyalties truly lie as it probably is genuinely uncertain. It has strong ties to the U.S., wants better relations with Russia and Iran and is perhaps superficially on the same side as Israel in a fragile relationship more dictated by pressure from the U.S. than anything else.

For Israel, it would seem its security in the Middle East is declining. The U.S. while still strongly supporting Israel, is seeking a solution involving a measure of peace with Israel’s strongest opponents. Thus the forces threatening Israel’s survival are growing in strength whereas those supporting her survival are weakening. Thus Israel is increasingly being isolated. So Israel will retain its independence to the extent necessary for its survival, even if it receives enormous help from the U.S. The hint that Israel might be talking with Saudi Arabia and other gulf states is interesting as also Netanyahu’s word to the UN that it might be willing to go it alone against Iran’s ongoing nuclear development. The huge instability in the Middle East continues with oscillation between near major military conflict and the hope of peace.

Given the Bible’s forecasts that there will be one more successful invasion of Israel, we infer that there will come a time when the U.S. will not be able to provide the support that Israel needs. Extrapolating from the current situation, this most likely will occur because of economic weakness. It already seems apparent that the U.S. is reluctant to directly involve itself in Syria and the internal position is now strongly favouring Assad’s survival, primarily because of the support from Iran, Hizbollah and Russia. China also seems to favour Assad although it is unclear whether this is more than words. At the same time, the U.S., Turkey, Jordan and perhaps Saudi Arabia have backed down from the level of support they were giving to the rebels. Perhaps because some of the rebels are terrorist organisations. So Russia is gaining influence and the U.S. seems to be losing it.

In the end, it would seem that Israel will have to defend itself from its own resources. It will have to fight alone against the might of the surrounding nations. In the end, the U.S. is likely to lose its influence in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia and other oil rich nations in the Middle East will not be supplying oil to the West. The West’s economy will decline so that their focus will be on maintaining their internal condition. Although internally still powerful, they will not be able to project their military power into the Middle East. Israel will be isolated. This will set up the conditions in the Bible for the final invasion of Israel. The end time picture in the Bible could be arrived at in many ways and the Bible does not give us a lot of detail, however, the above scenario seems to be one plausible way that picture could be reached.

Whatever transpires, Israel must track its own unique path. It cannot yield on Jerusalem. It will not yield on the West Bank or Gaza unless its security can be guaranteed. Eventually, the surrounding nations will try to impose their favoured solution on Israel. The conditions are heading towards those that the Bible describes, especially in Ezekiel 38 and 39.

Is “Peak Oil” Dead?

In recent times, discussions on “peak oil” on the internet have substantially decreased as though the belief in an impending crisis due to a decline in oil production is no longer there. This has come about in part because of substantially increased production of shale gas and tight oil in the US and perhaps due to a decreasing demand for oil in developed countries to try and counter its high price. As a result some are saying “peak oil” is dead and we have enough fossil fuel to meet our energy needs perhaps for another 100 years and the US will regain energy Independence. Unfortunately, this thinking grossly overstates the truth as the new publication “Snake Oil” by Richard Heinberg makes clear.

For the past 200 years, the increasingly available, cheap coal and then oil and natural gas has “fuelled” our modern, global civilisation to heights never experienced before in history.and probably never to be experienced again. However, research clearly shows, that there are limited quantities of these fossil fuels and as these riches deplete they become increasingly expensive and less profitable to extract. “Peak oil” is the term that has been coined to identify when the quantity of oil produced reaches its maximum. The fact that there will be a point of maximum is undisputed. What is disputed is how soon that will occur. The recent production growth of shale gas and tight oil has made some believe that “peak oil” is now a long time in the future. However, recent research reflected in Richard Heinberg’s new book argues compellingly, that the the new sources of growth will maximise and decline quickly so that “peak oil” has only been postponed for a few years.

So in reality, the situation has not changed very much. The collapse of our modern, global civilisation is still certain, only it has probably been delayed just a few years. This gives us perhaps a few more years to ramp up alternate energy sources, but the eventual economic decline is still certain, “peak oil” is still very much alive. Crude oil production is still sitting on the production plateau that began in 2005 and costs are continuing to slowly increase as the slight production growth is relatively expensive. Economic growth no longer seems possible in a long term sense although we may see local growth for short periods. The developed world remains challenged by increasing debt propped up by money creation to keep the GDP climbing.

So we are living on borrowed time, sustained by human ingenuity, but rapidly approaching the point of no return. In some ways, the world has never had it so good as our average lifespan is so long and worldwide interconnection for many purposes is amazing. In other ways, it has never been so bad with 1 billion people living in poverty and some nations on the edge of collapse and with many people, especially those living in the very volatile Middle East, suffering tremendously. If war broke out in the Middle East in a scope that would severely curtail oil supply, this would have very immediate and severe economic consequences world wide. We are still living on the edge.

My conviction remains that the coming collapse of our modern civilisation is certain and likely within the next few years although human ingenuity could delay it, but human injustice precipitate it. In fact, it might be argued that collapse has already begun, although I’m sure many would dispute this and say growth will recover. It’s a bit like the long running dispute about global warming being anthropomorphic in that it takes a long time for the emerging trends to show a clear pattern.

My conviction as a Christian is that this coming economic collapse, water and food supply crises, global warming and the emerging military conflict in the Middle East are the beginning of the end time trouble that the Bible predicts. What is about to happen is irreversible and will ultimately lead to the return of Jesus.

To me, this is not a “doom and gloom” perspective. I look forward to the return of Jesus and to the end of human suffering and the proper dealing of the enormous injustices propagated throughout history. I also realise that those living unrighteously will fight very hard to protect their investments into wealth and position, leading to severe conflict for a short time.

Everyone without exception can find protection from this coming trouble by sincerely calling out to God for help. Although the church is far from perfect with many within not truly following Jesus, there remains a substantial core within the church that love Jesus and are living in the joy of God’s presence. Seek them out for they can really help to guide you to find God and are seeing amazing miracles of provision, protection and healing. At the same time, the prophetic sense I have is that there will be a major shift towards greater trouble around 2015 to 2016. Now is the time to prepare.

Peace in the Middle East? Part 2

This post will be fairly technical and targeted especially for Christians interested in end time theology. It will seek to answer the question “What will identify the beginning of the end times? Our answer will be, “the establishment of a significant treaty between many nations centred around Israel”. This post will seek to answer this question as simply as possible. It will suggest that the emerging, current context of conflict, tension and power alignment discussed in part 1 may well lead to a treaty signalling the beginning of the end times so we should watch and pray with heightened alertness.

For many reasons outside the scope of this post to investigate fully, it is possible to show that the unfolding events in the history of Israel form a means by which we can discern the timeline of God’s plan. In other words, we can see where we are in God’s plan today by what is happening to Israel. From this we can infer that we are not in the end times yet, but we are approaching them and we are near. We make a distinction between the last days which begins with Pentecost about 30 AD and spans the whole church age and the end times which is associated with the emergence of the end of the age ruler (sometimes called the anti-Christ). We understand that the key verses that mark that starting point (although it would take too long to explain the reason for that here) are Daniel 9:26-27 from the seventy sevens prophecy.

Our understanding of this prophecy is different from many. An earlier post explains why the periods of seven are not periods of seven years. We also indicated that the Hebrew text of Daniel 9:24-27 is highly ambiguous. We believe the reason for this ambiguity is intentional for these verses are highly structured so that they can form a template whose interpretation only makes sense when slotted into their correct contexts. And there are three contexts which fit; we call them scenarios! The fact that it is structured should be expected since scholars now know that Hebrew text is often structured and that the structure carries substantial meaning and clues to its interpretation. Discerning that structure, if present, is therefore of critical importance. So I want to write these verses in a way that exposes their structure.

The final two verses make a statement about a covenant for the final period of seven preceded and succeeded by a tri-colon. To explain this, Hebrew text can contain multiple lines (or colons) in a thought unit. These lines each add to the thought and can be parallel, inverted parallel, opposite or in other kinds of related thoughts. If there are two lines it is a bi-colon, if three a tri-colon and so on. The bi-colon is usually unmarked, but if the writer wants to vary from this to serve some special discourse function, he will usually mark the thought unit in some way. For example, we see that Psalm 1:1 is a tri-colon marked by the phrase “Blessed is the man”, whose three following thoughts identify characteristics he does not have.

In Daniel 9:26-27 we claim the author does this by beginning the two tri-colons with a time phrase. Typical of Hebrew writing, the most important thought is in the middle rather than at the beginning. Here that central thought is framed by the two tri-colons, each of which contains an opening time phrase followed by three balanced and matching phrases.

Daniel 9:26
After sixty-two sevens
(A) an anointed one will be cut off and will have nothing.
(B) People of a coming ruler will devastate the city and the sanctuary and its end will be with a flood.
(C) Until an end of warfare, desolations are decreed.

Daniel 9:27a
And he will make a strong covenant with the many for one seven.

Daniel 9:27b
From the middle of this seven
(A) sacrifice and offering will be made to cease,
(B) and upon a wing desolating abominations,
(C) until an end which is decreed will pour out on the desolator.

Careful consideration of the three lines in the thought unit shows that they are related; the cutting off of the anointed one with ceasing of the sacrifice and offering, the devastation of the city and sanctuary with the desolating abomination and the continuation of the effects of these things until the end. The two time phrases identify a period of time which must be within the period of the final seven and so the events in the tri-colons must be concurrent. It is also apparent that Daniel 9:26 deals with physical effects whereas Daniel 9:27b is associated with religious ones.

This structure is highly significant and to our knowledge has not been recognised before. We’d be delighted if it was accepted, but our expectation is that it will produce many objections. For one, it challenges those who interpret the passage as describing events in chronological order. Our conviction is that the heart of the message is the middle statement which is framed by two statements which are chronologically in parallel, because the first statement is fulfilled after sixty two sevens which must therefore be within the final seven and the other occurs in the middle of that seven. The two statements outline the events which will occur within that seven, whereas the middle statement indicates that the strong covenant is put in place at the beginning of the seven, not the middle of it as some interpret. This structure is quite typical of Hebrew literature as explained above, although in this case it has some unique features.

In general, the prophecy is focused on the survival of Israel and the answer to Daniel’s prayer although it will take a long time and Israel will suffer greatly in the process. If you study commentaries on Daniel you will find that the prophecy is usually interpreted so that the “coming ruler” in Daniel 9:26 is one of three authorities, (1) the end of the age ruler or (2) Antiochus IV or (3) a Roman general. In our view, the prophecy is written as a template which can be applied to all three authorities and which then leads to three distinct scenarios . Each covers a period of time when Israel’s survival in the Promised Land was severely threatened. So rather than being applied to just one of the three authorities identified above, all three are covered. In all scenarios, the crisis is in the final period of seven. In the first two scenarios, the final seven is short although not seven years. The final seven in the first scenario is still future and will be the worst and will begin when the end of the age ruler appears and the strong covenant will then identify the beginning of the end times. The second scenario was completed when Antiochus IV attempted to impose Hellenism on the Jews before he died in 163 BC. In the third scenario, the whole period of Jewish history starting with the return from exile to the end of the age is covered, with a focus is on rebuilding Jerusalem, the persecution and scattering of the Jews under Rome, the death of Jesus, and the Jews survival through a long period of difficult times.

When Daniel received God’s answer in Daniel 9, he only knew of one scenario to which it could be applied; that was the message he was given in Daniel 8. In the final vision, he was given the other two which can be identified by the phrase “the abomination that causes desolation”. Interestingly, this phrase is plural in Daniel 9:27, but singular in Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 12:11.

The reason we cover all this is in order to explain that only in the first scenario is the final seven still future. The “he will make a strong covenant with the many for one seven” in Daniel 9:27a is what initiates the end times and is therefore a crucial event still in the future whose occurrence will mark a key synchronism between current affairs and God’s plan revealed in the Bible.

Let’s examine Daniel 9:27a for this first scenario. Note there are at least 3 ambiguities that can lead to different interpretations, (1) the identification of the “he”, (2) the identification of the many and (3) the length of the period of one seven.

Firstly, who is the “he”? Normal grammar would connect it to the previous, immediate antecedent which in this case is the coming prince who will devastate the city and the sanctuary. The parallelism between phrase “B” in Daniel 9:26 and Daniel 9:27b suggests that the devastation occurs in the middle of the final seven and causes worship to cease. We connect this to what Jesus said in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 which speaks of a coming invasion of the location of the sanctuary which should cause God’s people to flee Jerusalem in urgent haste. So the “he” in this scenario is the end of the age ruler.

Secondly, who are the “many”? Our conviction is that these are many nations and the “he” will be the leader of one of them, but he does not necessarily have to come from the most powerful of those nations.

Thirdly, with regard to the length of the final seven, if we connect this scenario to Daniel 8 we are told there that following the defilement of the location of the sanctuary there will be 2,300 evenings and mornings until the end of the little horn. This is most likely to indicate that the period is literal 24 hour days which equates to about 6.3 years. The overall period of the final seven would therefore be perhaps 10 to 20 years since the defilement of the temple location is somewhere in the middle of this seven.

By the way, in our understanding of this scenario, the anointed one cut off in Daniel 9:26a is the nation of Israel. In this respect, it is most enlightening to read Isaiah 53 as a prophecy with dual fulfilment, applying to Jesus at His first coming and to Israel in the end times.

So the key event we are looking for is a major treaty involving many nations probably including Israel although that is not essential from the text. To me this will signal the beginning of the end times. Of course, the treaty could be initiated for many reasons, so we will have to wait and see what happens. We will also need to discern whether the treaty has the right stature and significance, because Bible prophecy is quite high level. This may only be possible after a period of time. It will also give us clues as to the identity of the “he”.

The discussion about a treaty initiated by the U.S. and Russia to bring peace to Syria, also involving many Middle Eastern countries, may lead to a major treaty with the right stature to be this key event. We must watch and pray because the end times could soon be upon us.

I believe that if a treaty occurs soon, for whatever reason, many Christians will miss its significance for a while because of their end time theology. This will be particularly true for those who see the rapture occurring seven years before Jesus returns. The situation will not be unlike the Jews during Jesus’ first coming who expected the Messiah to overthrow Rome and take world wide authority. Because their interpretation of the Bible was wrong, they failed to recognise who Jesus really was. It may also be missed by those with a dominion slant, because they are expecting the church to embrace the world and God’s kingdom to be established on earth before Jesus returns. We are in interesting times!

Thus, in these days, we need to be alert and on the watch and prayerfully seek to understand what is happening so we can guide our people through the coming crises. We must also weigh up events and be alert to what the Spirit is saying so we rightly understand what is happening. That is why we must test our understanding very carefully with the word of God and hold onto what is good.

The permission of God to allow Satan to carry out damage is significant in the book of Revelation. It stems from God allowing mankind to reap what they have sown. God’s grace operates to prevent wars and disasters occurring until the appointed time. Satan continually tries to throw God off His plan and precipitate conflict He does not desire. In part, this is one of the lessons we can learn from Daniel and Revelation especially.

The outcomes of the evolving tensions in the Middle East are having significant impact on the alignments of major powers. Some have not yet shown their hand, but they are certainly watching very closely and will act if their own security is threatened. The outcome of a major treaty seems very possible. In all of this, it is hard to envisage the terrible suffering of civilians especially in Syria. So this is also God’s opportunity as many turn to Him in their desperate cry for help. This is how I believe we should pray. It is the salvation of as many as possible that is at the centre of God’s heart.

In all this turmoil, God’s mercy is available to everyone no matter how evil they have been. Anyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved. This is what we must pray. Also, when peace comes to Syria, there may be open doors for a short time in a narrow window. We need to stay alert.

Israel’s Independence

The nation of Israel is in a very unique, but fragile position. It is a very powerful nation surrounded by other nation’s which are jealous of its prosperity, hate its presence and would destroy it if possible. These nations will form alliances with it if that is advantageous to them, but there is no certainty that they will continue long term. These nations will also tolerate peace treaties if necessary. But underlying all this is a jealous hatred and a deep rooted anger. In fact all the nations of the earth harbour deep wounds that go back 1,000’s of years. Even within the nations around Israel, there is anger against the corruption of wealthy rulers which lead to rebellion as witnessed by the current conflict in Syria and all of Arab Spring. But there are bigger forces at work. Outside powers are seeking to capitalise on the Syrian conflict to gain political advantage for themselves as well as desiring peace to come. To add to the complexity, the Syrian conflict is now adding a Sunni verses Shiite flavour.

But overall, Israel is a very fragile nation. Although there are strong, sympathetic elements within some outside countries, especially the U.S., ultimately the U.S. will make decisions to support Israel only if it continues to be advantageous to do so.

So Israel will retain its independence to the extent necessary for its survival, even if it receives enormous help from the U.S.

Given the Bible’s forecasts that there will be one more successful invasion of Israel, we infer that there will come a time when the U.S. will not be able to provide the support that Israel needs. Extrapolating from the current situation, this most likely will occur because of economic weakness. It already seems apparent that the U.S. is reluctant to directly involve itself in Syria and the internal position is more and more favouring Assad’s survival, primarily because of the support from Iran, Hizbollah and Russia. China also seems to favour Assad although it is unclear whether this is more than words. At the same time, the U.S., Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have backed down from the level of support they were giving to the rebels. Perhaps because some of the rebels are terrorist organisations. So Russia is gaining influence and the U.S. seems to be losing it.

Will this trend continue?

What of Egypt, Sudan and Libya? Egypt is in a dire situation economically. In fact, it would seem that Israel’s immediate neighbours, although desiring to see Israel removed, will not have the power or capacity to do very much.

In the end, it would seem that Israel will have to defend itself from its own resources. It will have to fight alone the might of all the surrounding nations. In the end, the U.S. is likely to lose its influence in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia and other oil rich nations in the Middle East will not be supplying oil to the West. The West’s economy will decline so that their focus will be on maintaining their internal condition. Although internally still powerful, they will not be able to project their military power into the Middle East. Israel will be isolated. This will set up the conditions in the Bible for the final invasion of Israel. The end time picture in the Bible could be arrived at in many ways and the Bible does not give us a lot of detail, however, the above scenario seems to be one plausible way that picture could be reached.

Whatever transpires, Israel must track its own unique path. It cannot yield on Jerusalem. It will not yield on the West Bank or Gaza unless its security can be guaranteed. Eventually, the surrounding nations will try to impose their favoured solution on Israel. The conditions are heading towards those that the Bible describes, especially in Ezekiel 38 and 39.

Peace in the Middle East? Part 1

Over the last few years, it appears that from time to time tension mounts in the Middle East and war involving many nations seems very likely. Then the protagonists appear to back off. Such a war between many would also be significant since there has not been a major war with such a large number of nations directly involved since World War 2 or perhaps the Korean War.

The current civil war in Syria is, as we all know, a humanitarian disaster. It is also most extraordinary because there are many nations who have aligned their support behind one side or the other in Syria and have therefore succeeded in prolonging the conflict. At the same time, although not directly at war, these nations are fighting their political battles behind the scenes without direct military conflict, but through providing supplies and training and perhaps advisors on the ground. Some want Assad to remain in power others desire a more democratic government to be put in place. Underlying all this is the dark shadow of the world economic crisis, the threat to water security and climate change. Our inference would be that nations are far more reluctant to enter direct conflict because it is so expensive in money as well as life and the outcome very uncertain. To a certain extent, the U.S. seems to be exhausted by its many wars and reluctant to be caught up in another. Iran also seems reluctant although threatening war, probably because they know they are not yet strong enough.

To illustrate, around August 2012, reports suggested that there was a substantial military build up by the major powers and that many of the Middle Eastern countries were preparing for war. Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia very definitely were. Saudi Arabia especially was (and still is) very concerned with war against Iran, at least in part because their oil production would be severely threatened by the huge economic impact that would result. The U.S. reportedly positioned 4 aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and France was sending one there too. There was also a build up in the Eastern Mediterranean with Russia positioning substantial forces there in part to prevent intervention by the West in Syria. The UK and Greece and probably other nations were also involved as well as the US, Israel and Turkey. Then the tension eased.

Thus, the threat of many nations at war rises and falls. In recent days, bolstered by the military support it has received, Assad seems to have recovered somewhat leading to the situation that the internal war could drag on for much longer. So it is heartening to read that now it seems that the U.S. and Russia, who are on opposite sides, are talking of coming together with many nations and seeking to find a treaty solution to stop the disaster. At the same time, Russia seems to be strongly backing Assad, whereas the U.S. clearly wants to see a democratic government without Assad. Surely, in all this mess, a solution which brings peace to Syria would be best. But perhaps, it is oil and gas supply, lack of trust and fear of economic collapse that underlies everything.

At the same time, the antagonism of many nations against Israel never seems to abate. Israel’s political stance is always motivated by long term survival; that of the world to stop fighting now in the quest for peace. So any kind of military intervention by Israel always leads to strong protests from many nations just wanting to stop immediate conflict without giving Israel the security that it seeks. Since Israel has returned to the land of Abraham in the last century, the many attempts to stop their return or to expel them from this territory have failed. And they have failed catastrophically with huge loss of life and great pain. Hamas, who control Gaza, continue to maintain their charter to destroy Israel and so continue to be technically at war with her. By Hamas refusing to back off from their aggressive stance, the people living in Gaza suffer tremendously and have attracted the sympathy of the world. Recent history reveals the fact that all nations that have attacked Israel have suffered far more and continue to live in relative economic poverty.

When we study the Bible, we discover that it paints a picture of the approach to the end times where all nations who oppose Israel will suffer tremendously. That is exactly what we are seeing unfolding before our eyes.

My personal alignment in this is towards God and towards all the nations. God loves the world and by His grace I am working towards more love for the world as well. Although I am tremendously grateful to the descendants of Abraham, because they have given us the knowledge of God and Jesus, I also recognise that all nations have given us wonderful leaders and terrible ones too and many in between. But the Bible is very clear, God will vindicate His name to the world and He will be utterly faithful to His promises. It would be far better if we would fear God more than our neighbour; that would be the beginning of wisdom. It would also be better if our loyalty was to the world first and our nation second rather than the other way around. Then our commitment would flow with God’s desire.

Our Energy Future

There is growing, world wide debate and research about energy supply and cost, its impact on climate change, food supply and water security and the world’s economy. Underlying all these outcomes is the world’s burgeoning population, currently over 7 billion, which published research such as the annual “Living Planet Report” now suggests it is at least 1.5 times the population that our planet earth can sustain. Currently, we are managing to support this population, but primarily because of high technology which depends critically on energy supply and cost.

There is growing evidence that we are rapidly approaching the “Limits to Growth” projected in 1972 according to that books business as usual scenario. Our human ingenuity is enabling us to maintain our current prosperity levels and may continue to succeed in this for a number of years, but our conviction is that the limit will soon be reached which will precipitate a world wide crisis. It may be very soon or a number of years away, but we do believe that it is inevitable.

If we took action now, the pundits suggest we could still prepare for and learn to manage the lifestyle changes which are inevitable. However, the world authorities cannot help taking decisions along the lines of what will sustain or cause growth in their own nations now, because immediate demands and potential financial gains override the potential long term future pains. I’m still impressed by the title of James Hansen’s book on climate change, “Storms of my grandchildren” where he makes a powerful plea for strong action now against global warming to avoid creating a world of great difficulty for our future generations.

As we see it, our sinful human nature is fundamentally selfish and greedy and ignores God’s clear guidance to us and so we are inevitably destroying our future. For inevitably we will use wealth and resources we discover to improve our own house first before we will use it to help others.That same selfishness and greed is evident in our nations today as it has been throughout history as we prioritise their own nations welfare above that of other nations. In contrast, the Biblical standard is to love our neighbour as ourself which is a fundamentally different principle. History is repeating itself today for if we examine the past (research has looked into this closely), all previous civilisations have eventually collapsed, even the most powerful. So we believe that unless we change our fundamental character and self-preservation priorities, the current civilisation must eventually collapse. We see that the evidence of impending collapse is all around us.

The problem, is that although some of our experts continue to suggest rightly and wisely what we need to do, the fundamental nature of our modern, world wide national leaderships, does not have the inner power and philosophy to motivate and instigate those changes. As a well known writer penned many years ago, fundamentally “the love of money is the root of all evil” accurately reflects are human mindset from the beginning of history. To change our deep inner motivations requires a dramatic, fundamental religious change that only some are prepared to make.

We need to listen to the modern voices of such people as Richard Heinberg, Gail Tverberg, Lester Brown, Janes Hansen and many others who see the writing on the wall for the world of today. We should also visit web sites such as the Post-Carbon Institute and Peak Prosperity and others who are sounding powerful warnings and constructive suggestions about our future. Yes, there are many other voices that differ from these, but a study of their backgrounds suggest that many of them have a vested interest in the present which exceeds their longer term interest in the future.

I came to investigate all these things, because I first saw them in the Bible and wished to verify what I felt it was saying. I was stunned to find that the picture the Bible presents of the approach to the end times matches very well what we see unfolding today. Most end time theologies anticipate some of the things we see happening in the Middle East, but are far from seeing a picture of our modern civilisation and its collapse due to economic decline, food and water supply and global warming.

Energy supply and cost is a key factor. Our modern civilisation is founded on energy supply from fossil fuels, primarily coal, oil and natural gas. We have been extracting the fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate and as we do so, they have become harder to extract and increasingly expensive. In a general, big picture sense, this had made industrial production and farming and pretty much everything we do increasingly expensive and less profitable. There is still large resources available, but they are approaching the point where the cost of extraction is closing in on the financial return from the investment. So developed nations which rely more on industry are coming into increasing debt which they are finding increasingly difficult to reduce.

Enormous effort is now bring made to keep the good things going. Huge gains in efficiency have been made, but at the cost of making our world systems increasingly interdependent and tightly coupled. What we are doing is holding off collapse, but at the price that when it does happen it will be increasingly catastrophic in its impact the longer we continue this route. We are doing this in order to try to preserve the current glory, but at the price of long term pain rather than implementing some pain now to preserve a less glorious, but less painful future.

My perspective on all of this that what we are seeing unfold is heading towards the end time picture that the Bible presents which leads to a climax when Jesus returns. I see that it is not reasonably possible for there to be another global civilisation as long as we continue to live with a “me first” philosophy. We have lived contrary to God’s direction and are now reaping the consequences of our free will choices. God is not to blame for the current crisis and enormous suffering. We are. God has given us all we need and then some. We just haven’t listened.

References

The Living Planet Report, WWF, http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/2012_lpr/

Limits to Growth, The 30-Year Update, Meadows, Randers and Meadows, Earthscan, 2005.

Storms of my Grandchildren, James Hansen, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009

Richard Heinberg is a well known author of books such as “The Party’s Over” and “The End of Growth”.

Gail Tverberg has a web site “Our Finite Planet” and is well respected for the continuous stream of quality articles she writes.

World on the Edge, Lester Brown, Earthscan, 2011