Category Archives: General

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.

What is different about “The Time is Near”

This post is targeted to Christians interested in the end times. We want to show why this book has a distinctly different, but highly compelling biblical view which challenges long held views. You will need to come to it with an open and prayerful mind. It exposes the current world situation like no other. It is not for the faint-in-heart. It is not a quick read, but designed as an in-depth study seeking to reveal the biblical basis in a testable, but convincing way. Its view is unique, not seen before in print.

The Time is Near gives a very different perspective on the end times. The reason for this is that it is not based on the highly uncertain and controversial interpretation of Daniel 2, 7 and 9:24-27 on which most end time theologies rely. Rather it is based on new perspectives in understanding Daniel’s final vision in Daniel 10-12. This results in the following outcomes

1. Dramatic changes to the time element. The time, times and half-a-time in Daniel 7:25, 12:7 and Revelation 12:14 are symbolically 3.5, but literally not periods of 3.5 years, but periods in excess of 1,200 years. The biblical foundation for this (discussed in volume 1, summarized in volume 2) is very strong. This conclusion strongly challenges deeply entrenched views and radically alters the end time theology.
2. The two time, times and half-a-time in the book of Daniel are two contiguous time periods, not a single concurrent period. The one in Daniel 12:7 comes chronologically first spanning the periods from the Jews return from exile to the end of the Roman Empire, the one in Daniel 7:25 follows to the end of the age. The one in Revelation 12:14 equates to the one in Daniel 7:25. This means that Daniel’s prophecies focus on the first period of time and Revelation on the second.
3. Major difference. There is no final 7 years of tribulation. Instead the tribulation spans the church age with the worst period being near the return of Jesus.
4. Key result. The book of Daniel and Revelation merge into a single prophecy from the Jewish exile beginning in 605 BC to the end of the age and beyond. Many commentaries recognize the strong allusions in the book of Revelation to Daniel, but none go anywhere near as far as this book does.
5. Key result. The chronological fulfillment of the visions in Revelation is not the same as their written order, but rather they are concurrent and in parallel like the book of Daniel. This perspective invalidates many end time interpretations and is in accord with many idealist views.
6. Key difference. The open little scroll in Revelation 10 is the Daniel 10-12 vision which Daniel 12:4 says he closed and sealed and which will be opened in the time of the end and which from Daniel’s perspective begins during the Roman Empire (see volume 1). The seven thunders given to John were revelation he needed in order to be able write the book of Revelation, but are not needed by us since the fulfillment of the prophecies in recent times makes the meaning clear.
7. Key difference. The seven sealed scroll in Revelation 5 and opened by Jesus, is the content of the book of truth in Daniel 10:21 which was closed and sealed by the man in linen in Daniel 12:9. It could not be revealed to Daniel because the plan it contained was conditional on Jesus’ victory on the cross, His resurrection and His ascension.
8. Key difference. The net effect of this is that John is now equipped to prophesy again (Revelation 10:11) and reveal the rest of God’s plan. Therefore, Revelation 11 continues the rest of the plan for God’s people which began with Daniel 10-12. So Revelation 11 smoothly joins to Daniel 10-12.
9. Key difference. Revelation 11 is about God’ prophetic plan for His people (faithful Jews and Christians), who are called to witness in the power of the Spirit for a period of 3.5 years like Jesus; it is symbolically 3.5 years, but literally much longer. Then to suffer and die like Jesus. Then to rise after 3.5 days (like Jesus) and ascend to heaven like Jesus. This is an amazing prophecy which has been lost because of the controversy and confusion that surrounds the meaning of this passage.
10. Key result. The visions in Revelation 11, 12 and 13 run in parallel spanning the second time, times and half-a-time. They give different views on the way the dragon will attack God’s people, seek to destroy them and establish a world-wide civilization comprising two empires one theocratic the other democratic. The dragon (Satan) will appear to succeed for a short time, but will then be defeated.

We thus present a fully testable, modern perspective unlike any other, with very compelling biblical authority. It challenges every existing view. In terms of common terminology of views on the book of Revelation, it is a historicist with recapitulation, a-millennial view.

The Time is Near Volume 2

After one and a half years, I am excited to announce that volume 2 of this two-part series has now been published and is available from Balboa Press and all major online bookshops including Amazon and can be ordered from any bookshop. Currently (June 2016), the e-book is available from Amazon at $US5.90 and the softcover for $US37.99.

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Taking 812 pages, volume 2 is slightly longer than volume 1. It is not a quick read, but a serious study and reference book. It is a theological work which gives insight into history, God’s nature, plan and purpose and whose outcomes seriously impact our lives. It supplies a radically new, and complete end time theology completing what was started in Volume 1 by a thorough examination of the book of Revelation. Everything is laid out carefully and in detail, so that the understanding can be tested and the fundamental assumptions examined. The goal is to understand God and His ways as accurately as possible.

Volume 2 is complete in itself as it contains a summary of the findings in volume 1. However, you will need volume 1 if you want to thoroughly explore the reasons behind the conclusions that have been made for the interpretation of Daniel and how this harmonises with the teachings of Jesus and Paul in the New Testament.

The introduction to volume 2 summarizes the end time position in 32 statements which we have called theses. The first 8 statements are derived from volume 1. The rest focus on the book of Revelation. This book structure will enable the reader to quickly ascertain the end time position supported in these books. However, if you want to explore the reasons for this position then you will have to go to the details explained in the rest of the book.

Structured this way the reader can go through the book in order from the beginning to the end, but you can also go directly to the details of specific portions. In this way you can treat it as a book to read through or as a reference.

Building logically on the conclusions made for the interpretation of the book of Daniel leads to some unique perspectives on end time theology. We argue that the book of Daniel and Revelation are intentionally structured in a similar way and must integrate together to form a comprehensive prophetic picture of God’s plan from the exile of God’s people in the Promised Land in 605 BC to the completion of the formation of the eternal kingdom. This leads to the book of Revelation containing visions in symbolic form, but whose interpretation reveal history in chronologically parallel visions like the book of Daniel. The parallel vision structure has much in common with the idealist view of the book of Revelation, but the overall result is a historicist perspective with recapitulation which in our knowledge has not been seen before. In the past, historicist views have been rightly criticised because of the lack of compelling reasons to be sure that a particular historical association is a valid way to interpret the symbolic language of the book of Revelation. This is not true in this book, because the strong integration with the book of Daniel compels only a single, possible interpretation of the book of Revelation. This leads to many new insights as well as affirming some of the older ones.

So we would encourage readers to obtain this book to test both existing end time theologies and the new one presented here. We argue that most existing end time theologies rest on very shaky, biblical foundations. We argue that just as the view presented in these two volumes needs to be rigorously tested, so should the existing ones. We are open to be challenged with what we have written, but also sense that most existing end time theologies would not stand under careful biblical examination. Our burden is to see biblical teaching on the end times converge and the huge confusion and contradiction removed.

It is our conviction that a large number of end time theologies rest on highly controversial and rather doubtful interpretations of the book of Daniel and Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. In contrast, the interpretation presented in this book, rests on a far more compelling, but different interpretation of the book of Daniel. This leads to an integration of Daniel and Revelation not seen in the modern era. The two books merge together structurally and in content so that a single, unified prophecy emerges. This integration also overcomes ambiguities in the interpretation of the book of Revelation and also leads to a unique historicist perspective where the visions recapitulate like they do in the book of Daniel and in idealist views of the book of Revelation.

The Time is Near Volume 1

I am excited to announce that this book has now been published and is available as an eBook and in soft copy from all major online bookshops including Amazon and can be ordered by any bookshop. Published by Balboa Press it is available on their website http://www.balboapress.com as an eBook for $US9.99 and in softcover for $US33.99.

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Taking 686 pages, it is not a quick read, but a serious study and reference book. It is a theological work which gives insight into history, God’s nature, plan and purpose and whose outcomes seriously impact our lives. It supplies a radically new perspective and if read carefully will challenge aspects of every existing work on the book of Daniel. Everything is laid out carefully and in detail, so that the understanding can be tested and the fundamental assumptions examined. The goal is to understand God and His ways as accurately as possible.

Some of the posts on this website already present aspects contained in the book. However, the book will give you a comprehensive understanding of the root ideas in those posts. You will see the rise and fall of five civilisations who had authority over Jerusalem for substantial periods of time, but also see that the nation of Israelites, although small, survives them all sometimes through periods of suffering even until the present day just as Jeremiah had prophesied in his chapters 30-31.

You will see how Daniel’s understanding grew as his life unfolded and how influential he was in the courts of both the Babylonian and Persian Empires. You will see how prophecies he received about his own time were gradually fulfilled and therefore the prophecies he received about the future even until the end of the age carry compelling authority. You will see the precision in his understanding and how all the visions he received were anchored in the present that he knew. It is a book that gives remarkable insight into those ancient times.

Then you will see how Jesus understood the book of Daniel and how this understanding informed His prophetic words in the New Testament. Then you will glimpse how The apostle Paul was informed by Daniel too. To appreciate how Daniel influenced the book of Revelation you will have to wait for Volume 2, but this website does give snippets of understanding.

If you have studied the book of Daniel, you will be familiar with the phrase a “time, times and half a time” which occurs in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 and also in Revelation 12:14. As well as being a symbolic phrase meaning 3.5 and a period of time which is trying to complete by reaching 7, but is cut short, it is almost universally believed to be 3.5 years. The conviction that it is 3.5 years is so entrenched in our thinking, but rarely questioned. We show that the two “time, times and half a time” in Daniel are two consecutive periods of time forming a symbolic complete period of 7 and that both are literally in excess of 1200 years in a way which we believe will be very hard to refute. When combined together they span the whole of history from the return from exile to the end of the age. This perspective devastates existing end time theologies as strongly as Copernicus devastated the idea that the earth was flat and revealed how the earth moved around the Sun about 500 years ago.

Overall, one of my goals is to see end time confusion in the world wide church resolved. Since that confusion correlates with the ambiguities in the Hebrew text and English translations of Daniel 9:24-27, the famous seventy sevens prophecy I have hope. This is because this book shows how the better foundation for end times understanding is in Daniel’s final vision in his last two chapters. This final vision is narrative prophecy and is so historically accurate that some scholars believe that it must have been written after the events described. This book shows why this is not possible. The beauty of basing our end time understanding on this vision is that it is not hard to understand like his earlier visions which are written in an apocalyptic style, and so should have fewer interpretive difficulties.

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.

The Structure is Key Part 2

This is the second of what was going to be six posts on the structure of the book of Daniel and Revelation and continues the post written for Christians interested in end times theology.

Instead of completing this content as six separate posts, the whole content is now available as a single PDF file on the download page of this website. The reason for this change is its technical complexity and some difficulties in formatting some of its content.

The Structure is Key Part 1

This is another post written for Christians interested in end times theology. It is the first in a six part series of posts on the structure of the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation.

I have hesitated to put these posts in the public domain. The reason being they are of special interest only to Christians and even then their technical nature will, I suspect, discourage many from a thorough reading. I really would prefer a wider readership of this web side than just the Christian Community. The contrary argument is their importance. I am firmly convinced that end time theology is severely compromised by an inadequate understanding of structural issues in interpretation, especially of Hebrew text.

In our view, the importance of structure in the prophetic books, especially Daniel and Revelation is severely underestimated. It is often assumed that for each scholar to come up with their own structure for the book of Revelation is the norm. In our view, John must have written Revelation with a structure in mind and that for correct interpretation we need to determine what that structure is.

Our understanding is that the book of Revelation records the visions John received in the order they were received. There is little disagreement with this in the literature. However, it’s the follow on two key questions which are crucially important

1. Does the fulfilment of the visions occur in the same order as they are written?

2. If the answer to question 1 is no, then what is the structure of the visions?

Our observation would be that those who strongly emphasise that the interpretation should be literal, often assume that literal interpretation implies the chronological ordering of the fulfilment of the visions. In fact, there is no necessary connection between literal fulfilment and a requirement for chronological order. In fact, when we examine the content of the visions, a literal interpretation strongly suggests that some of the visions are chronologically in parallel. This is most evident when we see that a literal interpretation of the vision of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven plagues and Revelation 12-14 would seem to lead us to conclude that they all finish at the end of the age, suggesting that these passages describe visions that are fulfilled chronologically in parallel not sequentially.

Most interesting and very important is the outcome of comparing the structure of the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation. No one that we know disputes that the visions and dreams in Daniel are fulfilled chronologically in parallel. We note that there are four of these when we exclude the seventy sevens prophecy in Daniel 9 which is uniquely different. These are

1. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 which pictures 4 earthly kingdoms which we interpret as the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman Empires followed by a spiritual kingdom which God will begin to set up during the Roman Empire, but will eventually replace the others and last forever.

2. In Daniel 7, Daniel had a dream depicting the same 4 earthly kingdoms followed by the leader of a fifth one whose kingdom will last to the end of the age, but which will eventually be destroyed and be replaced by God’s eternal kingdom.

3. In Daniel 8, Daniel had a vision of the Medo-Persian and Greek Empires followed by a leader who emerged out of the region of the Greek Empire. This leader we are told, starts off small, becomes great and will be very successful until destroyed at the end of the age, so he must be the end of the age ruler.

4. In Daniel 10-12, Daniel had a final vision depicting the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires which is cut short at this point because the it was closed to Daniel and sealed until the “time of the end”. In fact, this vision is incomplete and as we will see it is completed by John’s vision in Revelation 11. An earlier post showed that the time of the end begins with the Roman Empire and extends to the end of the age, roughly corresponding to the period of the book of Revelation.

Further examination of the structure of the book of Daniel shows that it divides into two halves. All scholars agree on this, but the majority make the division between chapter 6 and 7 and recognise that chapters 1 to 6 are history and chapters 7 to 12 prophecy. When divided this way, the events in chapters 1 to 6 are written in chronological order and the visions in chapters 7 to 12 are also recorded in the order they were received. However, there is another, more hidden and very informative way to divide Daniel into two, which leads to two balanced, halves. The first half from Daniel 2:4 to 7 was originally written in Aramaic and the rest in Hebrew. Each of these two parts are framed by two visions with a centre part revealing the persecution and suffering of God’s people.

Daniel’s preparation (1) (605 BC)
———————————————————
I. Gentile Focus: in Aramaic from 2.4b to 7
A Four Empires (2) (603 BC)
B The present affliction of God’s people (3-6)
A’ Four Empires and a little horn to the end (7) (552 BC)
———————————————————
II. Jewish Focus: in Hebrew (8 to 12)
A Two Empires and a little horn to the end (8) (550 BC)
B The future affliction of God’s people (9) (538 BC)
A’ Three Empires (10-12) (535 BC)

We will see that the book of Revelation, very naturally, contains the same broad structure, although it is substantially more complex. We will argue that John deliberately structured the book of Revelation to be like that of Daniel. We believe what Daniel is to the Jews, Revelation is to all God’s people, Jews and Christians alike. We argue that the book of Daniel smoothly merges into Revelation to form a complete prophecy; Daniel fits into Revelation like a hand in a glove. For these reasons, it is impossible for the fulfilment of the visions in Revelation to be in chronological order. We argue that when this structure is recognised, the ambiguity in the interpretation of Revelation disappears since only one interpretation becomes possible. We argue that this is so clear that many previously plausible interpretations are ruled out and the understanding converges to a single, unified interpretation. We argue that confusion is removed when this is done.

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.