The Current Scene
A considerable portion of the book of Ezekiel deals with events that are to take place in the “latter days.” Remarkable details attend these prophecies. Two chapters concentrate on the rebirth of the nation Israel (36-37). At this future juncture in their history, they are to receive the Spirit and they are inviolate to hostile designs. Their particular enemies at this time are seen to be from the north — Russia and her satellites. They initiate a grand invasion of Palestine obviously to settle Jewish identity for keeps. These northern hordes, we are told, are under divine control. God says, “I will put hooks in their jaws.” In the final outcome, the Lord creates confusion in their ranks, for we read, “And it shall come to pass in that day, I will give Gog a place there of graves in Israel …” The prophet Daniel, a contemporary of Ezekiel, elaborates further on this invasion. We discover that its objective includes, “the land of Egypt will not escape” (Dan. 11:42), and it is added, “the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.”
All of this is interesting in the light of present happenings. One of the sons of Japheth was Magog (Gen. 10:2) whose descendants settled north of the Black Sea. By Ezekiel’s time they had stamped their name on the territory that they occupied. In the latter days, we gather that this area of the earth will produce a Fuhrer that will answer to the Gog of Ezekiel and the “king of the north” of Daniel’s prophecies. Martin Luther thought that the deep penetration of the Turks into Europe in his day was the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. He at least had given some attention to this prophecy. The dispensationalist today gives literal emphasis to the interpretation of prophecy. The Reformers were more inclined to allegorize prophecies relating to the Jews and Jerusalem. To us, when Gog invades Palestine, it is not to be equated with Christendom. The physical blessings promised to the Jews in the Old Testament are not to be spiritualized and then appropriated as the exclusive possession of the Church; the implication being that the Jew has no literal restoration. The center of the later day prophecies of the Old Testament rotate around the Jewish nation and not the Church. Both J. N. Darby and William Kelly brought forth this principle by a respected insight into Scripture, coupled with first class scholarship. Today, we are witnessing trends that strongly approve their teaching.
Now things are happening fast just where we should expect them; namely, the Near East. In 1850, Russia’s fondest dream was the mastery of Turkey and a presence on the Mediterranean Sea. Britain and France in the Crimean War checked that ambition. What do we behold today? Russia’s tentacles have penetrated deep into Angola. Until recently, she was calling the shots in Egypt; now there is a strong commitment to establishing a Communist regime in Ethiopia. In this area she falls astride the path that the giant tankers must negotiate to keep the free world supplied with energy. Says one commentator. “If the Russians get their way, they will have a federation of satellites around the mouth of the Red Sea, turning it into a Russian lake and threatening international shipping routes.” Another source states, “The Kremlin’s chancy strategy: Playing for big stakes.” To counter this threat, already military and economic assistance is pouring into Somalia from the United States, France, Britain, and Saudi Arabia. In reading the lengthy account under the caption, “The U.S.-Soviet Struggle to Control the Horn of Africa,” in U.S. News & World Report, it was not hard to imagine some pressing reasons that would occasion this northern penetration through the heart of the ancient Bible lands and farther south in Ethiopia.
Not forgetting that we see through a glass darkly at best, still certain things appear feasible in the light of prophecy. When this Gog does make his invasion southward, he will have a string of victories behind him all the way to Ethiopia. Then Daniel tells us, “But tidings out of the east (China) and out of the north (the Western forces have landed on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean) shall trouble him: therefore, he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and to utterly sweep away many.” Obviously, he is threatened with a pincer movement to detach him from his base. Thus “all nations” (Zech. 14:2) are unwittingly dragged into Palestine to meet their fate at Armageddon.
So far, one of the finest bulwarks for the preservation of a free society has been the freedom of the press. Now drastic changes have been and are taking place. The proliferation of newspapers that characterized our society 50 years ago is now no more. Costs, labor troubles, and the popularity of TV have occasioned many to liquidate or sell out to one of the three chains — the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. In this field it seems that the big get bigger and the small cease to be. These developments, say some of the critics, could degenerate eventually into Orwellian control. Note, it is not the premillennialists who are saying this, but the few stalwarts that are always to be found voicing their good judgment. Orwell, it will be recalled, wrote a novel where, from present trends, he saw a completely controlled society by 1984. We have so often noticed that the world’s seers or prognosticators foresee a worse doomsday than those of us who attempt to interpret prophecy in the light of today’s happenings. With us, we always point to the Refuge for all who have a mind to flee from the wrath to come.
Another change that we can expect is the quality of a newspaper’s contents. It is like reader, like paper. Editorials, analyses or anything that styles of heavy reading is not popular. The edtior of McCalls magazine blames the current attention spans and reading habits on TV. This trend is in evidence in the Christian world. Books that deal with what the Bible calls “strong meat” … commentaries and Bible doctrines … have been eclipsed by lighter material. Several of our fine magazines are no more. This, in spite of the plain command to study the Word of Truth. That study of the Scriptures is a self-discipline that requires cultivation. The reward for such is most gratifying.
Then too, the secular press has been accused of trivializing the news while majoring on the sensational and scandalous. The Washington Star prominently features a gossip column which is generally a peep into the private lives of famous people. Some good can come out of this if public officials realize that they are being watched and any misstep on their part will soon get into print where thousands of other eyes will feast on their misadventures. Better to be aware, however, of the all-seeing eye of God. Our depraved natures can take considerable pleasure in all forms of another’s dissolute behaviour. Some members of society are innocent of the overt acts that they relish in others. Paul appears to have a reference to this quirk when he writes, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but take pleasure in them that do them (Rom. 1:32).
“In the day of judgment, God will bring into account the secrets of men.” Further proof of this revelry in smut is the spectacular growth of sex-oriented magazines. At the same time, Editor Lewis H. Lapham of Harper’s magazine says, “It is hard to get people to read a general magazine that deals in ideas.” This magazine has experienced a circulation decline. A person’s reading and TV habits are likely to register considerably in his everyday behavior. To avoid this trend the Christian should give heed and find his delight in God’s Word and get acquainted with the great classics of the faith. Indeed, a drop of ink can make millions think for better or for worse. God has chosen to give a written revelation of Himself. If secular print deserves the following description and usefulness, how much more our Holy Bible.
Lee Hills, board chairman of the Knight-Rider chain, observes, “Print is referable, it is there to reread at your convenience. Print is preservable; you can clip, save and file it. Print is convenient, so you may read what you want, and when you want to. Print is portable … With print, the reader is in control. He can skip. He can go back. He can observe, he can turn the page or section. It is intimate communication.”
As critics see it, print does, indeed, have a special role to play as a disseminator of serious information.
As to our reading of the Scriptures, the late Dr. Harry A. Ironside has left us these guidelines: 1. Historically — “all these things happened” — they are real history. 2. We should read a passage typically and always ask, “What does the passage illustrate or prophecy about Christ and His work?” 3. Dispensationally we should ask, “To what age is the passage primarily addressed?”
At this time of writing, the visit of Anwar Sadat to the Israeli Parliament is just recent history, True, there have been no spectacular changes in that volatile area, yet we are inclined to think that the ground work has been laid for such. Egypt, perhaps, receives more attention in Holy Writ than any other one country except, of course, Palestine. Its idolatry and suppression of God’s people have, on several occasions, invoked divine displeasure. In spite of its ancient greatness and at one time amazing fertility (in the first century it was Rome’s breadbasket), that nation was to be reduced to the “basest of kingdoms” (Ezek. 29:15). Time and again Israel sought Egypt as an ally. Ezekiel tells us, “It shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel.” Typically, Egypt represents the world and its relationship with God’s people. In this dispensation, it will enclose them in the bondage of its principles. Or if its aid is sought to make spiritual gains, then Christian enterprises will be compromised and generally gravitate eventually to complete worldliness.
Although Egypt was to be judged, and our hindsight confirms this, it was not doomed to extinction such as Edom (Ezek. 35:9) and Babylon, but it is to enjoy restoration. This recovery is seen to be simultaneous with that of Israel’s, according to Isaiah 19:23: “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land.” There is not much risk in prophecying the downfall of most any nation. One only has to study history. It is another matter to say certain nations will rise Phoenix-like to even greater glories. These are the kind of prophecies often occurring in our Bible and impossible to associate with calculated or fortunate guesswork. Actually, Isaiah’s prophecy relates to the mellennial kingdom where again Jew and Gentile will be in sharp distinction. We, quite possibly, are witnessing the trends toward this goal.
Israel’s presence again in the land of Palestine gave birth to the rise of Egypt’s militarism. In fact, we are told she has fought the greatest tank battles, even rivaling those of Montgomery and Patton, and has indeed come a long way since the writer was there over 50 years ago. Until recently, the country has been under foreign exploitation since the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar.
The present vicious deadlock has been broken. It has made the Israelis, man for man the finest military machine now in the world, emulating their forebears, the Maccabees, who did exploits (Dan. 11:32). They are relieved of the burden of a two-front war. That is, of course, if all the fair speeches are reliable (Rom. 16:18). The leading Arab nation is the first to recognize Israel’s presence in Palestine, thereby breaking Arab unity. It also further assures Israel’s security, at least from the physical standpoint. Our eye is upon Gods’ assurance in this matter, Russia should be kept at arm’s length from the area and also not give that “king of the north” a pretext for invading Egypt until prophecy really gets into gear after the rapture of the Church.
Another observation is the wonder a man with bold imagination and charisma can create. How readily the world will go after such! A Leader could arise anywhere in the free world and give some evidence that he can solve its mounting problems and he would be acclaimed. This is just what will happen when the ten-horned beast of Revelation 13 arises out of the sea, which sea represents the welter of seething humanity crying for an answer to its bewildering frustrations.
Again, we notice that the U.N. was bypassed and Russia and the U.S. ignored. We are not ignorant of the several schools of prophecy that challenge our viewpoint. However, we do believe the pre-millennialists are passing a lot of confirming signposts these days. Our respect continues to deepen for William Kelly and F. W. Grant who have, perhaps more than others, been this writer’s mentors.