The Current Scene
Signs of the Times
The Lord having fully disclosed to His disciples that He was going to leave them, it seemed natural to them to inquire, “Well, when will you return?” The disciples of the Lord Jesus were all Jews. As such they were finally convinced that He was their Messiah. Connected with a prophesied Messiah was the assurance of Jewish supremacy and universal peace [Isaiah 2:1-5]. It had been hard for them to adjust their thinking to a suffering Messiah. This is true of most Jews until this day. Yet the prophecies concerning a suffering Messiah are just as plain [Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 13:6] as those of Messiah’s triumph. They ignored the suffering which was to precede the glory [1 Peter 1:11]. This is also a common preference among many Christians who associate themselves with the Scriptures in which they are most comfortable.
The Scriptures depicting the suffering of Christ are now for our hindsight. They give us the clue as to how “the glory that should follow” [1 Peter 1:11] will be fulfilled. Obviously Just as literally as those related to the first advent. The questioning disciples that provoked the Olivet discourse had not the slightest problem with Israel’s glorious future. They plainly now realized a return of Christ [Luke 19:11-27] to fulfill the law [Old Testament] to every jot and title [Matthew 5:18). The disciples’ problem was what sign could be looked for to announce the second advent. The Jews require a sign—an allowance that seems to be granted unto them. As to the Rapture it has been defined as a “timeless, signless event.” However, the church cannot be forbidden the preliminaries that could eventually become tangible signs to the Jews during their “great tribulation.” Since the signs occur in the New Testament, present day Jewry is not impressed by them.
Let us review the signs our Lord gave to His disciples. The days of Noah are to be duplicated [Matthew 24:37] with wickedness and complete indifference to Noah’s testimony. Consequently, they knew not “until the flood came.” Our Lord included the situation in Sodom as a feature “when the Son of man shall be revealed” [Luke 17:30]. The brazen shamelessness of the Gay communities that have surfaced everywhere are openly demanding their rights to a normal place in society. In the wake of the Gays’ perverted life style has come a strange and fatal disease—AIDS. In spite of the best scientific endeavours no cure is in sight. This is another instance of divine displeasure in the area of immorality. Again we are reminded of the presence of pestilences prevailing ere our Lord returns to the earth. This in spite of the modern advancement of medicine. Then our Lord said, “and earthquakes in divers places.” The one in Mexico City and now in Armenia are graphic demonstrations of the vindication of our Lord’s omniscience. Also included are famines. It can be said that these calamities have always been so. Yes, but the present suggests an increase in their magnitude. The most impressive sign and of such recent origin is the establishment of Israel as a nation. The subsequent developments which are so impressive we generally note in our column of each issue.
Lifting the Lid
Russia in her 70 years of experiment with Communism has discovered some glaring flaws in the system. A semi-return to the old established principles of the free market appears to be in the cards. Their vibrant new leader, Michael Gorbachev, is staking his career on a return of some of the taboos of Communism. His key words to the new approach to his country’s economic problems are “Restructuring” and “Openness.” At the moment the success of such a drastic turnabout is a gamble. An empire that has been suppressed by dictatorship immediately becomes restless under new found freedoms and desires more and better. It is understandable for his own security that Russia has made Eastern Europe a buffer between herself and Western Europe from which she has suffered two invasions: one under Napoleon and the other under Hitler. This has necessitated robbing the countries of East Europe of their nationalism and economics. Unlike NATO in the West, Russia has created uncertain allies.
Back in the 20’s we can recall when the Bolshevicks were convinced that all was moving in their favor. The millennium of a classless society had captivated the workers’ and many intellectuals’ imagination. Now Gorbachev is making one abandonment—namely, Lenin’s dictum to respect only workers’ governments. All this along with scarcities is a tacit admission of the unworkability of a closed society.
While the democratic freedoms have been and are abused, it is not the system but man’s sinful condition that limits the fairness devised by the American founding fathers. The built-in checks and balances of democracy is a better means of getting the best out of man, as he is, than Communism’s unrealistic approach to human nature.
Christianity had developed into an authoritarian system until Martin Luther. It could only be maintained by the torture chambers and the stake. The religious liberties that have come in the wake of Protestantism leave much to be desired, particularly its proneness to divide. Any freedom is heavy stuff for fallen mankind who finds it natural to rebel even against God’s commandments. Yet, here again, religious freedom has been a stimulant for progress and moral stability. However, no one is really free who is void of the saving power of the gospel. That includes mastery over sin. Our Lord contradicted the Jewish leaders of His day who boasted to Him of their freedom and descent from Abraham. He replied, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” [John 8:32]. This paramount liberty is free to all who will believe the gospel and has promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
Can Israel Survive?
For its size this little nation captures considerable world attention. If the Philistines or Midianites had re-established themselves they would hardly excite the antagonism that the Hebrew state had created. Going back to another time when the Jews returned to their land under Ezra and Nehemiah, their first undertaking was to rebuild the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. Opposition from the neighbors was instant and for a while successful. If it had been a temple for Baal or Venus, that could have been tolerated, but not to Jehovah. Today the maintenance of a Scriptural testimony seems to get more of its share of problems to the extent it approximates the truth. Can we not attribute this uncommon amount of attention to a behind the scenes Satan? He knows where God is at work and where to direct his minions to frustrate the purposes of God. This explanation may help us to understand the hidden designs of Yassar Arafat’s double talk. With it he has gained sympathizers in the United Nations and world opinion. The Israelis know otherwise and their sole problem now is how to survive. Zechariah prophesies of a time “when all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem.” How could so many nations want to get in on the kill of Jerusalem apart from a mastermind diabolically controlling powers? We believe only Satan could bring about such a coalition. When that point is reached Israel will have been brought down to zero. Then appears their Deliverer, even Jesus. That nation is yet to exclaim, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The prophet tells us they are going to ask Him,” What are these wounds in thine hands?” Then He shall answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” Not until this point is the “nation to be born at once” [Isaiah 66:8].
At the present the Jews are back in their land God gave to Abram and his descendants. That in itself is to the student of prophecy a meaningful and spectacular wonder. It is the sign of the blossoming of the fig tree [Matt. 24:32,33]. They remain Christ rejectors and are compelled to resort to their own ingenuity. Behind this is an overruling sovereign God. This accounts for their 40 years stay in the land and we believe Arab hostilities will continue to be frustrated until the coming of the Lord. If, as the ammillennialist says, “God is through with the Jew and the church is now the ‘Israel of God’,” then from that viewpoint we see little prospect for the Israelis. However, they have a lot of unfulfilled prophecies in their favor that only the wildest imagination can apply to the church. In the Abrahamic Covenant God assumes all of the responsibilities, especially regarding Israel’s destiny [Genesis 15].
The recent election in Israel produced a political paralysis. However, the conservative party gained a slight edge. To gain a ruling majority Shamir leans toward accepting the ultra conservatives who in turn want to impose strict Jewish observances. In that case it would not be hard to foresee these “Fundamentalists” arguing for a return of the Levitical sacrifices. A look at Daniel 9:27 reveals a covenant made by the Roman prince [that shall come] for one week of years guaranteeing the many Jews the right to establish their temple worship. Then in the midst of the week he reneges on his covenant which occasions the ceasing of the sacrifice and the oblation. Obviously during the great tribulation much of Judaism will be reinstated. Certainly during the milennium they will be reinstituted to perfection [Ezekiel 43-44]. So our answer as to the survival of Israel in this dark scene is in the affirmative because our eyes are on the prophetic Word. It is important to distinguish between the destinies of Israel and the Church.
The reason we have headed this column with a question is because of the large sale of sophisticated arms, especially to Saudi Arabia. King Khaled put it bluntly: “When we build our military power, we have no designs on anybody, except those who took away our land and holy places.” Present Israel is the size of New Jersey and 90% of its population clustered in cities. It faces a colossal military machine of 17,265 tanks, 2789 combat aircraft and three million armed men from Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt. All this besides the present huge sales of military material from England and China now on the way. Surely God’s providence that has brought Israel thus far is not going to allow them another destruction and banishment. In a past dark hour the prophet Isaiah gave them this assurance—“Thus saith the Lord, it shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass” [Isaiah 7:7].