The Current Scene
The mass suicide, and the murder of those who would not self-inflict their death, of some 900 followers of Jim Jones will remain a tragic memory for a long time. It is not necessary to repeat the gruesome details. More than enough has been publicized by photos and written reports. However, some facts from this macabre affair stand out. The leader came on the scene in sheep’s clothing. At first, he appeared to mouth the generalisms of Christianity. His particular type of personality appealed to the poor, lonely and gullible. Blacks registered high on the list. The work later took on humanitarian aspects. This won him the respect of the mayor of San Francisco and Governor Brown. They appreciated his counsel in helping the poor. At the same time a religious empire was built up in San Francisco and centred around the People’s Temple.
Jones then became a sort of prophet and dire phobias began to haunt him. Drugs cannot be ruled out. Fears of atomic destruction and government interference led him to act something after the fashion of the early Mormons. Jones decided to locate in some solitary corner of the earth and there be free to work out a new destiny with his followers. The sought out paradise in Guyana turned out to be a slave camp and completely under the heel of Jim Jones. News of maladjustments began to filter out and it was evident that U.S. investigations were under way. One public official about to enter the sacred domain was fired upon and killed. It appears that Jones with his addled mind had prepared himself for the worst should it ever happen to him. An over-supply of poison was on hand to eventuate a mass suicide.
Jim Jones commanded from his followers a complete surrender to himself. From now on he would do their thinking and take charge of their possessions. This shows how ready a considerable portion of the populace is willing to follow a pronounced leader, especially if he associates himself with some religious trappings. We judge Jones to have become a showman and added to this was a hynotic charm that would suggest demon possession. Here is a microcosm of the role of antichrist who is to come. He will be completely Satan-inspired. We read that he will “ascend out of the bottomless pit’ (Rev. 17:8). Where the human situation is desperate enough, circumstances are made to order for the rise of false messiahs. Hitler exploited a defeated and depressed nation and whipped it into all of the concepts that a master race could conjure up. Today we appear to be witnessing a trend toward situations beyond the power of popular governments to cope with. The restless, teeming masses of humanity await to hail and blindly follow this man of destiny who easily impresses them that he is the saviour of the world. A world that has rejected Christ as Saviour and Lord will naturally fall a prey to imposters. Our Lord’s prophetic words are specific in this matter. He said, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him will ye receive” (John 5:43).
To successfully cope with the problem of what is true and what is false, God has given us two built-in capacities. We are endowed with the ability to criticize and the ability to wonder. The first enables us to sift evidence. For instance, the Bible states that Jesus Christ arose from the dead. The many infallible proofs for this and the weak points of the deniers lead me to intelligently accept the Bible record as a fact. But, wait a minute, I know of no one who has ever seen a miracle of this nature. So, how can this be? My ability to wonder enables me to believe what I cannot explain. On the one hand, the dogma that the Virgin Mary ascended bodily into heaven and is now its queen, I reject for lack of proofs. To ignore one’s ability to wonder makes him a cold rationalist. On the other hand, the ability to wonder, if not checked and balanced with criticism, makes one open to superstitions. When one is born again, he receives the indwelling Holy Spirit who enhances his capabilities for discernment. After reading about the antics of Jim Jones, anyone using his God-given ability to criticize would soon mark him as a phony. One blatant offence of his while in the pulpit was to throw the Bible to the floor and label it a black idol. To further dramatize his contempt, he would spit and stomp on the sacred volume. This very Book speaks of the “mystery of iniquity” as ever working toward its consummation. Its working is ever expressed in outstanding exponents of sin until at last the “man of sin” will appear. On the principle that light rejected becomes darkness, God will send “a strong delusion” that men should believe the lie. What might that lie be? It will be a universal belief in the “man of sin,” “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan” (2 Thess. 2:8).
The Apostle John summarizes what we have been writing in this article when he writes in his epistle, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know it is the last time” (1 John 2:18).
* * *
Next to Palestine, Egypt has a bigger role in the Bible story than any other nation. It has, for the most part, been hostile to God’s ancient people, the Jews. Even when mutual alliances were made out of necessity, Egypt proved of little help. In a spiritual or allegorical sense, Egypt is often used as a type of this world (Rev. 11:8). Literally, it enslaved God’s people. When Egypt is looked at as representing the world, it enslaves sinners by its glamour and appeal to the flesh. As such, our Moses is Jesus Christ. In Him our deliverance consists of forgiveness of sins and freedom from sin’s bondage. The Bible-taught Christian knows that he is in the world, but not of it (John 17:14).
Egypt has been the object of God’s repeated judgment. Long after Moses’ bout with the Pharaoh of his clay, Nebuchadnezzar was given Egypt as a payment for his destruction of Tyre. Actually, he was fulfilling God’s purposes on both of these military exercises (Ezek. 29:18-20). From Nebuchadnezzar’s day until after World War 2, Ezekiel’s prophecy has held good: “Egypt shall be the basest of kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations” (Ezek. 29:15). True, Egypt has had some balmy days since Nebuchadnezzar, but they have been enjoyed by her conquerors, the Greeks, and later the Mohammedans. Until World War I, the Turks kept Egypt for 500 years a land of little significance.
Now all has changed. Egypt has gained complete independence and control of the Suez Canal. Nassar imposed a military dictatorship on the country and his present successor still enjoys the backing of the army. Simultaneous with the rise of Egypt has been that of Israel. The fact that Egypt has suffered two stinging defeats by Israel may have proved a blessing in disguise. It has brought the country to face the realities of independence. Its army now commands respect. Prime Minister Sadat in 1972 showed considerable muscle when he ordered the Russian technicians to leave the country. At this time of writing, Sadat, much to the consternation of his Arab neighbors, has sought some measure of accord with Israel. A treaty is now in the cards following the Camp David summit. Egypt, under its present leadership, has linked its fortunes with the West. Sadat has threatened to change all of this if Israel fails to meet his demands. The whole Middle East is a powder keg. If we were to leave God out, there is nothing forseeable but vicious hates, irreconcilable rivalries, coups and relentless wars. In the event that we are nearing the end of “times of the Gentiles” (and a few discerning people in or out of the Church are optimists), those of us who are now living have arrived at an impressive’ juncture in history. To all who will inquire, it will be found even by the most uninformed that Bible prophecy has a lot going for it. The mere fact that Israel and Egypt are making the headlines today reminds us that this is the area on which prophecy mainly focuses. True, Israel rightly gets the spotlight.
The resurgence of Egypt was seen by Isaiah (19:19, 22-25). It is a fairly safe thing to predict the downfall of a nation. That seems to be the twist of history. One is putting his prophetic gift on the line when Isaiah writes, in spite of millenniums that have witnessed otherwise, that the nation will be converted to the Lord. We read, “In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord.” And again we read, “In that day” there shall be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria. The blessing emanates from Israel which is in the middle of the two countries. In some sense, Israel is to be a third with equals. However, her preeminence is assured in the words: “and Israel mine inheritance.” Israel is the heir and shall inherit all of the territory vouchsafed to Abram (Gen. 15:18).
The altar “in the midst of Egypt” (v. 19) is not the Great Pyramid, as claimed by the British Israel sect. Nor are we to heed the early church fathers who witnessed how well Christianity was ensconced in Egypt. Biblical Christianity has no visible altar. It will be noticed that the phrase “in that day” occurs three times in the passage mentioned. The Pyramid is now; the altar “in that day” is still future. This is true of the highway and Israel in the midst as a blessing. As we look at all that Isaiah had to say about Egypt, we with hindsight and subsequent pages of revelation can check on that which has been fulfilled. The prophecies prefaced with “in that day” are still future. They are just as certain of fulfilment. Their day is coming. Certainly those of us who see present trends as heading in this direction are not without considerable warranted support. As Peter writes: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables” (2 Pet. 1:16).