The Current Scene
The year 1987 is the 20th anniversary of the Six-Day War. At this commencement, the Jews were purely on the defensive, but the battles changed to phenomenal Jewish victories that resulted in land expansion, particularly the capture of the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights. Since then much pressure has come for Israel to restore the captured territory as the price for peace in the area. As to the likelihood of this an observer wrote, “The world is far too dangerous and hostile to expect Jews to give up power in return for promises.”
From the sack of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. to World War II, the Jew had an uneasy residence in many nations. The past 50 years have brought them to the attention of the world. Three monumental events are responsible for this. The Holocaust impressed them of their vulnerability. Next came the establishment of the State of Israel, followed by the Six-Day War, which declared the restoration of Jewish power to the stage of world history. Their superb air power has carried Israeli might to Uganda, Tunisia and Iraq. The Iraq raid destroyed that country’s possible atomic arsenal with pin-point accuracy. To the chagrin of her neighbours there is reason to believe she now has her own atomic potential.
Lately Israel has not been making the headlines. Politically they have almost a hung government. Their invasion into Lebanon was a necessity because of the P.L.O. buildup but was a marginal success. At present the nation is little more than an armed camp on account of the designs of her many enemies.
When the Bible is taken literally in its dealings with the Jews, who happen to be God’s chosen people, we conclude that God is yet going to make good His covenants and promises to Israel. This necessitates Israel’s national recovery and eventually their spiritual regeneration. At present we see the blossoming of the fig tree (Luke 21:29), meaning Israel at last back in their homeland. Among the several signs our Lord has told us will announce His near return, the current history of Israel is probably the most assuring. Some consider it a signal that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. At His first coming only a few were aware. The Lord raised the question when He returns, will He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:18)? In spite of “the midnight cry,” comparatively few answer to this exhortation, “and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Neb. 9:28).
The Persian Gulf
The situation in that part of the world continues to be a witch’s brew. If the Soviets were not in the caldron, matters would not be so fearsome. An artful bit of Oriental cunning leaves little choice for the United States but to insure the safety of the Arabian tankers. Along with this the Saudi’s had also requested similar aid from the Soviets. American interests are to keep the Russians out of that strategic area. If the U.S. does not maintain the sovereignty in the Gulf, the Soviets will eagerly fill the vacuum.
Another problem is the effectiveness of a proven missile to destroy or seriously damage a surface vessel. The disaster that took place on the USS Stark, killing 35 crewmen, gives grounds for a serious inquiry. A British warship was completely destroyed by a French-made Exocet missile in the Falkland Islands’ war. It is yet to be proven how safe surface ships are against the new technology devised for their destruction.
Here the stakes are extremely high because of the tremendous oil reserves which, for the most part, are essential for the survival of the free world. If endangered there is little doubt that the U.S. would use its formidable force, now in the area, hopefully as a deterrent, to keep the sea lanes open. The use of force could destroy the oil bases and bring upon us the wrath of the allies deprived of their oil. Another no win situation — bless you if you do, bless you if you don’t. The critics see plenty of danger in the present policies of the White House. One wonders if they had the responsibility how they would act. Remember, Iran heads a large assortment of Arabs who view the U.S. as their great Satan. There are fanatics who are deaf to dialogue, and any treaties made with them are worthless. Also, Russia is waiting with practiced eye to capitalize on any weakness.
There are two rather distinct theatres of Bible prophecy. The New Testament has much to say about the future of the revived Roman Empire. While a lot of the Old Testament sees Israel as having to do with Assyria, Babylon and Persia, their military invasions of Israel are used by the prophets as foreshadowings of the future hostilities against Israel (Ezek. 37-38). The West is seen as Israel’s protector and her danger will again rise from these areas with the added backing of Russia. Present trends appear to be adjusting toward the prophetic lineup. Just how the U.S. will fare in that treasure land of oil will be breathtaking to observe. Knowing the cupidity of man and nations, there is plenty to incite adventurers to fight for and sufficient reason to defend.
No Way Out
Recently 230 Americans and 200 Soviet citizens did a walk for peace from Leningrad to Moscow. Among them was William Mandel, a 70-year old scholar of Soviet affairs living in Berkeley, California. In his reflections he said, “In all previous times in human history, no matter how bad things were, you could always hope for a better day. (Now) for the first time, there’s a possibility of no day.”
Situations tend to reach a climax and get beyond human control. In Luke 21:25 we read, “and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity.” Regarding this word “perplexity,” Vine’s dictionary has this comment: “literally, at a loss for a way, finding no solution to their (the nations) embarrassments; papyri illustrations are in the sense of being at one’s wits end, at a loss, how to proceed without resources.” In Luke 21 our Lord is speaking of the signs that will announce His second coming.
Several nagging developments certainly fit into this word, “perplexity.” There is the new plague that has broken out practically worldwide, especially in Africa and the United States. We refer to the disease commonly known as AIDS. Despite billions being spent on research for a cure or vaccine to protect, nothing is in sight. The cost of caring for these patients is $1,000 a month for medication alone, which only prolongs life and adds to hospitalization, which is expected to amount to a $1,000 a day. With patients on the increase no medical program could long remain solvent. Says Dr. Paul Volberdinga, researcher and clinician of San Francisco: “The AIDS fight can be disheartening.”
This plague is the positive outcome of a most degrading sin. It reminds us of the iniquity of the Ammorites; when full it was to assure their doom. Our Lord prophesied that before His second coming “iniquity shall abound” (Matt. 24:12).
Another “perplexity” is that many of the world’s nations are in hock, with the United States being the biggest offender. The belt tightening that is essential for any approach to budget control is not in the interests of elected politicians. So things will go merrily along until a crash. Some cracks are already showing up such as bankruptcies.
An exploding world population is still another “perplexity.” This is paradoxical; the white races are hardly holding their own while minorities and third world nations are proliferating at an enormous rate, and the more impoverished the bigger the families. Landless masses, millions unemployed or unemployable are creating situations that will be a constant challenge to law and order. Rioters who cry for democracy only create sterner measures to suppress them. If successful, it will be found that they have only changed hats. The beast, the world’s last dictator (Revelation 13), rises out of the sea, the sea being a symbol for restless multitudes. Crime and prison overcrowding are outpacing the restraints of law and order.
Our Lord, in answer to His disciples’ question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming?” includes wars, famines, false messiahs and pestilences. True, such things have always plagued humanity. But toward the end they will accelerate. The faithful are not to be alarmed because the world does not improve. Theirs is to patiently await the consummation of our salvation which takes place at His promised coming.