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.

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.

End Time Uncertainty

An emerging debate in the world wide church concerns the history that will unfold leading up to the return of Jesus. There is no debate within the church about the fact of His return.

Many Christians are expecting an acceleration of God’s work around the world and there is much evidence that this is happening. Some are looking forward to a coming revival. It is very exciting to be living now! I am firmly convinced as a Christian, that I can live victoriously with Jesus and that churches that follow God intimately are and will live victoriously too. There is no room for “doom and gloom” thinking when we have such wonderful and certain expectation of the hope that lies before us in God’s coming kingdom.

What concerns us in this post is the widely divergent understanding within the church of how this will happen. In some respects, the different views are opposite to each other. How can this be when we all love God, love His word and regard it as totally accurate and an authoritative guide?

I would suggest the reason is obvious. We are basing our end time theology on portions of the Bible which have many different and controversial interpretations and on basic assumptions that are not verified. The main ones are (1) the seventy sevens prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27, (2) the interpretation of “this generation” in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 24, (3) the understanding about the time, times and half a time and the 3½ and 7 years and (4) the assumption that literal interpretation of a passage implies that what is described will occur in the chronological order in which it is written.

Because of this, it is my guess that the vast majority of end time theologies are of the order of only 50-70% correct.

In summary form, the major viewpoints are as follows.

1. On one side there are those Christians who see the church growing so that most nations become largely Christian enabling God’s kingdom to be set up on earth before Jesus returns. In theological terms, these usually hold to a “preterist” or “partial preterist” view, are usually “post-millennial” and may adopt some form of “dominion” theology. The number who hold to this view seems to be growing.

2. On the other side are those who see the church entering into an end time revival followed by the rise of the antichrist, world wide persecution of the church and a world wide time of trouble before Jesus returns. After Jesus returns, His kingdom is set up on earth and He will reign for 1,000 years – the millennium. Some of these believe that true Christians will be removed from the earth seven years, 3.5 years or just before Jesus comes back. In recent times, there is an emerging, growing group of Christians who see the kingdom of the antichrist as being Islamic rather than emerging from within Europe (the revived Roman Empire). Overall, I get the impression that the number in this group is declining as they shift to the opposite view reflected in 1.

3. There is then a third group who adopt a “safer” interpretive approach so that their understanding of the end times is less assertive and less specific. Only general conclusions are made which calls into question why much of the relevant passages were ever written especially as they seem to provide a lot of detail, but the interpretation is unable to say what it means other than in general terms. Some of these have partially overcome this by adopting parts of views 1 and 2.

4. Then there are a huge number of Christians who are confused and don’t know or who avoid looking closely because the uncertainty is unedifying and a waste of time for them.

I believe most of us would agree that this is a most unsatisfactory situation, because God intends that we will be prepared for what is coming on the world. Currently, this uncertainty results from the last major area of unresolved Biblical theology, perhaps representing 20% of what the Bible teaches.

In my view, there are many plausible interpretations especially for apocalyptic literature, but we have to find the best one. The best interpretation will meet the criteria of unifying the whole Bible, cause passages which were previously ambiguous to become clear, explain previously obscure passages and not be founded upon passages whose interpretation is controversial and unclear. To achieve this, the end time theology must not only explain all relevant passages, but it must also show why the alternative interpretations are less suitable or incorrect. Very few existing works, if any, do this.

My own view is closest to the second viewpoint above, but has many differences. I believe we are already in the final revival and have been for more than 100 years, but that there is an acceleration of the outpouring of God’s power. The antichrist will be Islamic and will emerge soon in a world in deep distress because of huge economic decline, water and food security problems and the impact of global warming. The whole church will come under persecution and will be refined and forced underground. We will see amazing things and experience the glory of God and have all things in common like the early church.