Category Archives: Current Affairs

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.

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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

The Coming Crisis

It is strikingly apparent that people in our world today, perhaps with the exception of those with monotheistic beliefs, expect life on earth to continue far into the foreseeable future. Although some see huge dangers, in general, most believe that we will get through the current challenges somehow and life will continue. In general, we seem to be eternal optimists. In the developed and developing countries many live from day to day without giving a great deal of thought to longer term issues; many others will plan to secure their financial and long term health issues as best as their nation will provide. In poorer countries, most can only live from day to day as courageous survival and intelligent adaptability is the best they can hope for.

Most exciting in our time is to see the growth of our modern, world wide civilisation and to be part of it. This is quite unique in history. Never before has a world wide civilisation occurred. However, there is an increasing number of people who realise that this amazing civilisation is coming under a growing threat and is on the edge of collapse. Perhaps, this threat was first made public with the release of the book “The Limits to Growth” in 1972, which caused a storm of controversy and was rejected by many who had political mind sets, but not on scientific grounds. The essential thesis of this work was that our modern civilisation cannot continue to grow forever because there are limits to what our planet can sustain. The authors suggested that we needed to put in place measures to control population growth, limits to the use of energy resources especially fossil fuels and to limit pollution, because without these controls our modern civilisation would become unsustainable and must eventually collapse sometime in the 21st century. Two subsequent updates to this work, the last one in 2004, indicated that our civilisation had grown beyond sustainability and that more drastic measures were needed to avoid a more catastrophic decline. Recent research seems to confirm the correctness of these conclusions and also show that the results were remarkably accurate. Today more and more people are recognising how fragile our modern civilisation is and this web site will attempt to reflect on these emerging circumstances and to provide recommendations for discussion and action.

The unique features that this web site brings is to link this perspective and the unfolding events especially pertaining to Israel and the Middle East with a matching perspective to God’s plan revealed in the Bible and described by an end time theology. Not surprisingly no existing secular source goes near this connection. In addition, from a Christian perspective, no existing, published end time theology is able to do this as their framework is unable to link together the teaching of the Bible unambiguously, clearly and with confident interpretations of every relevant passage of the Bible. The conclusions are startlingly relevant in a new and exciting way. That’s why we say the the return of Jesus is near. Our prophetic sense is that God’s patience is running out and that He will not allow the huge suffering in the world to continue very much longer.

Thus it is my conviction that our current modern civilisation will inevitably collapse and that this collapse reflects the end time scenario in the Bible that will lead to the return of Jesus. Thus I believe that the world we know today will end, but will be replaced by a new world which will be far better and which God planned for before the beginning of time. I do not look on this negatively as a doom and gloom perspective because the reality is that most people living today are already suffering to a tremendous degree. God has planned for heaven on earth. Today we are able to experience a foretaste of this within communities that are vibrantly connected to God, but God’s plan is that this experience will extend to the whole earth after Jesus returns. In the meantime, there are churches that are experiencing a measure of this joy and it is exciting to see this unfold.

The Big Picture to Watch

The granularity of Bible prophecy is an important factor we must understand if we are to interpret the Bible correctly. We have to be very careful when seeing events in the world as fulfilling Bible prophecy. They need to be carefully tested as frequently a specific event does not have adequate significance to match the big picture presentation of Bible prophecy. We can gain some perspective of this from the book of Daniel because we can identify the exact fulfilment of some of the things that are written. The same granularity must carried over to all other Bible prophecy.

In this post we want to examine two key passages in the book of Joel. The first is the very well known passage in Joel 2:28-32 where God foretells the outpouring of God’s Spirit on all flesh. This prophecy is picked up by Peter when the Holy Spirit first came on the Day of Pentecost. On that day, Peter quoted from this passage saying that Joel’s prophecy was beginning to be fulfilled and that this was the beginning of the “last days”.

At this point we come up against a major challenge in Biblical interpretation. Many Christians see that Joel’s prophecy will be fulfilled in the last few years before Jesus returns in an extraordinary end time revival and that what happened on the Day of Pentecost foreshadowed a much greater outpouring that will occur in the end times in the generation that will see the return of Jesus. The alternative interpretation is that Joel’s prophecy began with Pentecost and then extends throughout the church age which is equivalent to the “last days” and so has so far lasted nearly 2,000 years. In our view the Biblical evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of this alternative interpretation.

Crucial to making this choice is the time element. Many see most Biblical last days prophecy being fulfilled in the generation that will see Jesus return or the last 3.5 or 7 years before His return. These will inevitably interpret the outpouring of God’s Spirit as primarily being fulfilled during this end time period. However, if the last days extends throughout the church age then so must the outpouring of God’s Spirit.

To see this more clearly, let’s unpack Joel 2:28-32, for the Hebrew text reflects a typical Hebrew structure which can only be partially discerned in our modern English translations. In the Hebrew Bible these five verses are a separate chapter, chapter 3. Our chapter 3 is the Hebrew chapter 4. This passage divides into three sections.

A. The outpouring of God’s Spirit (v 28-29).
B. Final signs (v 30-31)
A’. The salvation for all who respond (v 32)

Sections A and A’ have similar structure

Section A

And it will be (one Hebrew word which implies more than just “and”)
A time phrase (afterward)
An action (I will pour out my Spirit)
An outcome (prophesying, declaring God’s word)
A time phrase (“in those days”, in the Hebrew text this comes before the next phrase)
The same action (I will pour out my Spirit)

Section A’

And it will be (the same Hebrew word as begins section A implying the same time period)
The time phrase is omitted as it is implied and not needed
An action (Every one who calls on name of the Lord)
An outcome (salvation in Mt Zion and in Jerusalem)
The time phrase is omitted as it is implied and not needed
A similar, reverse action (Whom The Lord calls)

Note how the outpouring of God’s Spirit and the prophesying in section A lead to people calling out to God and God calling so that there is salvation in section A’. The two sections are parallel and are fulfilled concurrently. All will experience the outpouring of God’s Spirit, but only those that call on the Lord will experience salvation. That is what Peter saw on the Day of Pentecost; the beginning of the fulfilment of this prophecy as section A and A’ were seen. According to Acts 1 and 2, those that respond to the Spirit and accept God’s call are empowered by His Spirit to be His witnesses and these witnesses prophesy. Together with the Spirit, the prophetic witness is passed on so that more and more people respond and shine the light of the glory of the gospel to those around them. This is also the prophetic witness described by John in a concurrently parallel passage in Revelation 11:1-6 in his allusion to Joel in Revelation 11:3-4. This understanding of Revelation 11 is explained in the book “The Time is Near” available for download on this web site.

Peter also quoted Joel 2:30 describing wonders seen in the heavens and on earth blood, fire and smoke which was clearly not being fulfilled. This verse and similar words are here and elsewhere described as occurring just before the Day of The Lord and associated with the second coming of Jesus. Interestingly, this verse is sandwiched between section A and A’. I suggest the reason is obvious; section B marks the end of the period of time which begins with the outpouring of God’s Spirit and the opportunity of all flesh to respond to God’s initiative. Conclusion, this prophecy must span the whole church age. It is not just about a final end time revival which we have yet to see.

When we examine the statistics of church growth throughout the church age, history supports our conclusion. The outpouring of God’s Spirit has been occurring throughout the church age and also there has been an acceleration of growth and the manifestation of God’s power too.

Note that when Peter quotes from Joel in Acts 2:17-21, he omits the last part of Joel 2:32, the final verse. In that part, those on whom the Lord calls are specified rather than those that call on the Lord. Curious. This relates to those who respond to God’s final call, especially the faithful remnant of Jews and others who have not heard the gospel. See also Revelation 11:12 and those that respond when the earthquake comes and Revelation 14:6-7.

So the locust invasion and the mighty army invasion in Joel 1 and 2 identify the beginning and on going attacks against people which lead up to the Day of The Lord which ends them. Joel 3 describes that final end.

When we come to Joel 3:1, we see that the time of its fulfilment is “in those days” which is the same phrase used for the period of the outpouring of God’s Spirit in Joel 2:28-29 and, in addition, the time when God has restored the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. If, as we believe, “in those days” refers to the church age, then the only time in history when the second condition could be concurrently fulfilled is in recent times when Israel became a nation in 1948 and the subsequent history which saw Israel win some extraordinary military victories and enjoy incredible success in the face of enormous opposition. At that time, Joel 3:2 says that God would gather all the nations to a place of reckoning and enter into judgment against them based on the way they treated His chosen people.

In a big picture sense, that is what we are seeing occurring today. This gathering is not something occurring in an instant of time, but rather the result of activity spanning the decades since the Second World War. It is the overall outcome of multiple events. In our view it is significant that all the nations geographically surrounding and near Israel are Islamic and that most of them are hostile or at best unfriendly. A few of them, notably Iran and Hamas have publicly stated their goal is to destroy Israel and technically are at war although not in practice. The alignment of other nations further away seems to vary continuously, but is primarily based on political and economical factors. Only the US and a few other nations have remained as faithful allies.

In quite a notable way, the description in Joel 3:4-8 corresponds well with the condition of Lebanon (the region of Tyre and Sidon) and that of the Palestinians (the regions of Philistia) mentioned in Joel 3:4. Although written in words corresponding to the geography and language contextualised to Joel’s era, the description of these people being sold to Judah who then in turn sell them to the Arabs (the Sabeans) is vivid and in a big picture sense an accurate picture of the current situation. This all suggests that Joel 3:1-8 is a picture of our “now”.

If this is correct then the next thing that occurs from Joel 3:9 and onwards is preparation for war. I would suggest that this is already happening. Therefore, we must watch and pray in order that we can be prepared and not be surprised or dismayed as tragic and threatening events continue to unfold.