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For accessing rich treasures in His Word and for edification

We are oh-so-close…to the Zero hour!

Recently, the International media was agog with the News of Israel celebrating its 60th formation day. In my own favorite Newspaper The Hindu (now they have their own ideological stance on West Asian crisis, to which they are perfectly entitled) I remember reading an article “Israel at 60” on May 8th. Now what is that about Israel that interests all keen Bible students? The reason is as simple as it is profound. The World’s future events are not so much linked as inter-twined with Israel’s II birth, as it were. Take the Biblical prophecy for instance in Isaiah 11:11, which clearly foretold the formation or re-formation of Israel way back in 7th century BC- with its attendant implications (we shall attempt to study these “attendant implications” in light of other Biblical prophecies, later on in this essay) but first things first.

“In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people—those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia,and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands.”Isaiah 11:11 (NLV)

When I ponder on this prophecy especially on the light of what all happened just before the UN approved “Mandate of Palestine” in 1947 came to pass, I cannot but cry like a little child holding my Bible in my hands. At this stage, let me give an historical overview to the original creation of Nation of Israel and their subsequent “Blow hot, blow cold” relationship with their redeemer God (He redeemed them from Egyptian slavery- for greater understanding of what it “all” means to a Christian, you may browse my Daily devotional archives beginning with the link given below

http://www.jandsmministries.com/day1Jan08.asp). This is needed for us to understand the main reason behind their dispersion from the Land flowing with “milk and honey”, after having lived in it for nearly 1500 years.

According to the Bible, the great Patriarch Saint Abraham (revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike the world over) was brought by God from Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-4). This is thought to have occurred around 1800 BC. To his descendents who would be oppresed in Egypt for 400 years, the same God promised to give the Land of Canaan-the modern day Land of Palestine (Genesis 15:13-16). Note here that this Canaan, was promised to only those descendants, who would be oppressed in Egypt for 400 years, which clearly means that this Land was not guaranteed by Divine will to other descendants of Abraham most notably Ishmael. Yes, God promised to bless Ishmael descendants too because of Abraham (Genesis 17:20 /21:18) but the Land of Canaan was reserved for Abraham’s descendents, who would come through his promised son Issac (Genesis 17:1-21). At this point, it would serve us well to reflect on the material blessings showered upon Ishmael descendents too, as per the Divine promise. Their access to rich oil reserves, cannot be matched by anybody. Yet another fulfillment of Biblical prophecy? Absolutely!

Coming back to Israel and Canaan, just as it was prophesied the twelve tribes of Israel under the leadership of that great leader Joshua completed the Conquest of Canaan round about 1400-1450 BC (reading of the Book of Joshua would certainly help). Even before the Conquest, the good Lord through Moses had clearly spelt out His conditions of obedience to His Chosen nation (Deuteronmy 7:7-8). To comprehend the nuances of the Mosaic Law (Ten Commandments was an integral part of it – Exodus 20:1-17), reading the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Bible would defintely make matters easier for any genuine truth-seeker.

Did the people of Israel obey the Law whole-heartedly? Their obedience if plotted in a graph would reveal wild swings. A study of the Book of Judges for instance would reveal that ‘boom’ times of great manifestations of faith were invariably followed by times of ‘doom’ marked by trips down into ungodliness. Yes in latter times the reigns of King David (II Samuel) and to some extent that of King Solomon (I Kings 1-10) would constitute the “Golden age” of Israel’s history (approx 1000-900 BC), as the devotion of Jews to their redeemer God touched its peak, at that point of time in their poignant history. However after that “Golden age” came the “Dark age” (around 900 BC-600BC) beginning with the splitting of the Nation of Israel into 2 Kingdoms (10 tribes banded together to form the Northern kingdom of Israel and 2 tribes cohered to form the Southern Kingdom of Judah). This age witnessed the coming to power of Regents “whose hearts were not like their ancestor David”. While the Judean Kingdom, had at least in its ranks some God-fearing Kings like Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah, the Kingdom of Israel could not boast of a single King with a heart like David. Like Father, like Son? Well this phraseology can be stretched to… “Like King, like people”…with the people also rejecting their Faithful God, much like their wicked Kings during the Dark Age. Talk of an adulterous wife turning her back to a loving husband (Hosea 1:2) causing him unimaginable anguish. Here I would like to state that I am deeply touched by the Book of Hosea in Old Testament section of the Bible for it pictures God as a deeply emotional person, suffering immeasurably on His people rejecting Him, in the same way a faithful husband would, when his wife deserts him for other lesser men. Also I am compelled to add that the Bible is no sugarcoated Book hiding the stark unpleasant truths rather it presents history as it is, so that the present generation can be forewarned about the dangers that lie in making wrong choices (I Cor 10:11).

With sin rampant, warnings of imminent exile from the “Land of Milk and honey” trumpeted by diligent Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Ezekiel and Joel followed but sadly they fell on deaf ears. The chosen people chose their own sinful pathway of worshipping the created things, instead of their glorious Creator God (Ezekiel 8:8-18).

Through Prophet (Joel 1:4) for instance, the Almighty graphically (using the imagery of locusts invasion with each locust being symbolic of a ravaging army stripping the pleasant land bare) announced the coming judgement on His disobedient, stubborn people. This warning, which went unheeded, can be better understood by having a look at this picture below…

The Picture above depicts the veracity of fulfillment of prophecy (with historical proofs, may I add) recorded in Joel 1:4. While their punishment from 588 BC (resulting in exile to Babylon and subsequent return back to Palestine in 539 BC in batches) till 70 AD, can be termed as MILD (despite paying stifling taxes to their human conquerors, nevertheless by being in the Land of Palestine, they continued to enjoy the fruits of the Promised Land) that of dispersion from Jerusalem after the destruction of Temple in 70 AD, can be described as SEVERE (as they roamed around as landless, homeless people for nearly two thousand years). Before the devastating punishment arrived, did they not also brazenly call upon the fair God to judge them for spilling the innocent blood of Jesus (Matt 27:1-25), thus adding one more hideous sin to all of their other sins? Divine comeuppance was going to catch-up with them, sooner or later and it did in 70 AD, decimating them in the process. Need any further proof that God can be loving as well as be a consumming fire in His judgment (Heb 10:31/ 12:29)?

Now, after 2000 years of Divine indictment, if the Sovereign God in His Sovereign plan “FOR A SPECIAL PURPOSE” (I would focus upon it soon) forgives them and eventually brings them back to the Promised Land (in accordance with His promise to their ancestors) in perfect fulfillment of Isaiah 11:11, (permit me to quote it again)

“In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people—those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia,and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands.” -

should we not all be excited? The basic point that one more prophecy of the Bible has been fulfilled with pin-point precision should excite us, for it simply means, other unfulfilled prophecies are also soon going to be fulfilled. If a friends of ours, with a proven track record of always fulfilling his promises, gives his word on giving us a gift after a week, would we not take him at his word? Ditto this with our Promise-keeping God. Countless times, He has brought the Biblical prophecies to fruition. This begs a question. Now should we not believe Him, with regard to some prophecies, which are not yet fulfilled but would be fulfilled soon in His own perfect timing like the birth of His son Jesus was (Gal 4:4)?

I reiterate that when I ponder on this prophecy especially on the light of what all happened just before UN approved “Mandate of Palestine” in 1947, I cannot but cry like a little child holding my Bible in my hands. How true is this Grand ole’ Book! It leaves absolutely no room for speculation! Now this prophecy recorded eons back, is certainly not about the return of Jewish exiles from Babylon or for that matter from Assyria (Jews of Northern Kingdom of Israel were exiled to Assyria in 742 BC approx- II Kings 17:18). Kindly underscore the point that the above-captioned Scripture portion, while listing the names of Nations from which the Jews would return does not limit itself to merely mentioning Assyria or Babylon, but rather it even goes on mention somberly “DISTANT COAST LANDS”, as though to reserve the best for the last. Dear readers, do you know the process of formation of Modern-day Israel was triggered amongst others by initial settling of 4000 Jews brought by the Ship Knesset Israel from Yugoslavia (a country with a with a huge coast line) in November 1946? Then what about that Ship “EXODUS” captained by its legendary Captain Harel that captured International imagination in its epochal attempt to bring 4500 Jewish families in 1947 from the coastal city of Marseilles, France? In fact, Captain Harel in toto commanded four expeditions that took thousands of refugees to the shores of Palestine. Many of the Ship Exodus who were originally refused entry into Palestine, latter arrived there…from…you guessed it… yet another Island country…CYPRUS! As the import of these historical events register, oh Boy…oh Boy…I cannot help falling in love one more time with my oh-so-sweet, oh-so-perfectly prophetic Bible!!! Have a look at some of the relevant pictures comprising of a Newspaper clipping and Ship Exodus in 1947, along with the Map depicting Yugoslavia, Marseilles, Cyprus and Israel

The Historic Ship Exodus berthed at Haifa port in 1947

(You may enlarge the map above suitably- Marseilles is in the south-east coast of France touching the Mediterranean Sea, Yugoslavia has Adriatic Sea abutting it on its Western coastline and Cyprus is an Island off the Southern coast of Turkey)

Now coming back to my Essay…

Amazing thing about the Bible is that most of its prophecies get fulfilled with no accompaniment of “respledent laser show” or for that matter any glitz or chirpy cheerleaders, jumping up and down. Remember that prophecy that God’s Son will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)? None in that sleepy little village, realised that SOMETHING AWESOME was happening, right in their midst on the first Christmas night, when an exhausted Joseph brought his pregnant wife riding a mule amongst them. Worse! No one gave them a place to stay overnight! AMAZING IS OUR GOD, OH HIS HUMILITY IS STUNNING (his Son was not born in a magnificent palace but a lowly manger), to say the least but mind you…HE takes great pride in ALWAYS KEEPING UP HIS WORD!

Now coming to the “SPECIAL PURPOSE” (attentant implications, I spoke of earlier in the Essay) behind the II Birth of Israel. Before taking even one proverbial step forward, I would like to state that Israel has been likened to a fig tree in Old Testament (Jeremiah 24:1-10). Now consider this prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ about the rapture (when all christians would be taken away from the World) of the Church and His subsequent II Coming (separated by 7 years of horrendous tribulation ) recorded in Matthew 24:31-33, which reads thus…

“And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven. Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.”

(Now one needs faith to believe that this Rapture event would take place - Heb 11)

Now is not the Nation of Israel budding and sprouting? The answer is obvious isn’t it! Now consider the plight of those, who would not be raptured! Anti-Christ would soon appear after the rapture, now that the restraining power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (in all Christians presently) would depart with the rapture of all of them.

“For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way.”- II Thessalonians 2:7

The unfortunate “left behind” ones’ would be persecuted terribly, if they do not worship him and to compound their woes, they would be given miserable punishment by God, if they do so (I,e…worship him). Talk of being caught literally between the devil and the deep blue sea…

In conclusion (a vital portion of this essay), I would like to give a key-hole view on how things are proceeding in perfect fulfilment of Biblical end-time prophecies, recoded in the Book of Revelation (unless God annoits you, understanding that Book by yourself would be akin to trying to solve a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma). The chapters 6-22 onwards give a graphic description, of how events would pan out immediately after the rapture. Once again taking the help of an artist’s wondrous rendition of events described in Chapter 6 (please read that Chapter), I want to drive home a point…

“As I watched, the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll. Then I heard one of the four living beings say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked up and saw a white horse standing there. Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head. He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory.” – Rev 6:1-2

It must be stated here that Anti-Christ will be a master of deception (Dan 8:25). The Rider on a White (as if to convey his purposes are pure) horse, with a crown (as if to state his ways are kingly) and carrying only a bow (mind you, no arrows)-symbol of his bloodless victories- is the Anti-Christ.

He hailing from a pureblooded Jewish family but belonging most probably to Russia (as some Biblical scholars reason) would make all the smart moves. He would be “peaceful” in his methods to start with, when it comes to capturing the hearts of the people the World over. For instance He would broker a peace pact between Israel and Arabs (unthinkable at the moment-with each of them baying for the others blood), North Korea and South Korea, India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue and solve some pressing Global problems like the escalating inflation, soaring oil prices etc.

The peace pact between the Israel and Arabs would provide for the Jews to construct their own temple exactly (on Mount Moriah) where the Solomon’s temple was constructed (where today a Mosque stands). Oh what a Jew would not do, to have his own temple on Mount Moriah! This Grand task once completed (Mission impossible now) would lead them to believe that the Master deceiver is the Messiah (a temple construction or demolition can lead to extreme reactions-remember Babri Masjid issue, which is still not solved!). Jews, who even now do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah would mistake the Evil schemer for the long-announced Messiah for three and half years into tribulation time, after which he would sit in the temple and ask them to worship him (Dan 9:27). That is when their eyes would be opened to the truth…that they have fallen prey to the deception of the false messiah. When, they refuse to worship him, he would unleash terrible persecution upon them (akin to horrors of holocaust). This would lead to their national repentance (Zech 12:10-14) and acceptance of Jesus as their Savior (Romans 11:26), whom they had rejected two thousand years ago. Now the Anti-Christ would rally all the nations against Israel but Lord Jesus-His II Coming would take place then- fighting on behalf of his newly-saved people would defeat the Anti-Christ in the Battle of Armageddon (Zech 14:1-4/ Rev 16:16, 17:14). This would happen at the fag end of the 7-year tribulation ordeal.

In the interim period, events foretold in balance portion of Rev 6 would start happening.

When the Lamb broke the second seal, I heard the second living being say, “Come!” Then another horse appeared, a red one. Its rider was given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace from the earth. And there was war and slaughter everywhere.- Rev 6:3-4

The Second red horse with a sword-wielding rider is symbolic of the bloody wars that would soon break-out with the collapse of fragile peace-accords between Jews and the Arabs/the North and South Koreans (they would enter into the same with mutual trepidation and distrust) at Anti-Christ’s insistence. Want me to illustrate with an example? Remember soon after Zhou Enlai in his Indian visit shouted “Hindi-Chinni bhai bhai” (Indians and Chinese are brothers), guns boomed in the Sino-India border almost 50 years ago. Slightly closer to times, who can forget the failed mission of IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) in Sri-Lanka? Soon after our Late Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi inked a peace accord guaranteed to bring reconciliation in Sri-Lanka on the burning Ealem issue, all hell brooke loose, even before proverbially the ink on the Peace accord papers had dried.

At this point, with wars breaking out in many places, for all practical purposes, the agent of the devil would still seem to be on the side of the Jews.

When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the third living being say, “Come!” I looked up and saw a black horse, and its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice from among the four living beings say, “A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day’s pay. And don’t waste the olive oil and wine.”- Rev 6:5-6

With several Wars breaking out, in a closely –knit world can food scarcity problem be far away? If a mere surge in oil prices is impacting the World economy, then will not a cascading war situation leave it devastated? With warring nations hell-bent on bombing sensitive locations like food depots, using defoliants like Agent Orange (used in Vietnam war) which can destroy farm-fields in no time, food scarcity problem would be acute, to say the least.

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living being say, “Come!” I looked up and saw a horse whose color was pale green. Its rider was named Death, and his companion was the Grave. These two were given authority over one-fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and disease and wild animals.- Rev 6:7-8

In this era of Weapons of Mass destruction, does wiping out of 1.5 billion of the total 6 billion population, appear impossible? Not at all, on the contrary, it seems VERY MUCH POSSIBLE! With wars esacalating, food scarcity mounting, attention of the leaders pinned on the war-front, would proper attention be paid to sanitary conditions? Even in “peaceful” times, in developing countries epidemics like SARS, Anthrax, Chikungunia, Bird-flu are breaking out, then what would be the situation in those “chaotic times”? So severe will be the hunger pangs of many that they wouldn’t be able to stay away from eating even chicken infected with Bird flu thus adding to the mortality rate. Seen the movie “Papillon” where the hero in solitary confinement because of gnawing hunger pangs, starts “feasting” even on the crawling ants and cockroaches in his cell? Going to jungles in search of food would lead to the attack of wild animals.

The catalclysmic events, I have mentioned in my Essay so far, dear friends are only a tip of the Ice berg, as far as the whole “tribulation ordeal period” is concerned. When the Sixth seal would be opened and impending trumpet and bowl judgments follow (Rev 6:12-17/ Rev 8:6 to Chapter18), the suffering of the people would reach unmimaginable levels making them experience, as it were, Hell on Earth. Suicide would be a far more silly option to exercise at that time, for it would lead one straight to the Lake of fire. While seeking God with a contrite heart at that time in defiance of Anti-Christ orders’would bring one’s soul to heaven (Rev 6:9-11), albeit after terrible suffering on Earth, the question is why wait till that hour to repent?

Will not trusting Christ now save us from the tribulation hour? Dear reader, in case, you have not made a decision about Christ (you cannot be neutral about Him), here is a comforting promise to all those who accept Him as their personal Lord and Saviour (I did on 16th Oct, 1983)…

“I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.”- Rev 3:10

Now coming to a final crucial question. Why has the good Lord revealed the Book of Revelation to us Christians, who anyway would not experience the horrors of the tribulation period? Is it not to make us passionate in our exercise of reaching to our unsaved relatives, friends and acquaintances. If we truly love them, would we want them to drink from these terrible cup of woes? Yes, we need to plead with them earnestly to accept God’s Saving grace in Christ IMMEDIATELY, in the same way, Lot pleaded with his would-be Sons in law to flee from Sodom and Gomrorah, along with rest of his family members-the night before fire and brimstone rained upon those cursed cities (Gen 19:14).

Honestly, say some two hundred years before, Christians may not have been so persuasive in their efforts to save the unsaved but NOW THAT THE FIG TREE- ISRAEL- IS BUDDING AND SPROUTING (Matt 24:31-33), justifiably they are on fire to tell everyone about the II Coming of Christ. If this is not the last nano-seconds of the Grace age (when Salvation through Christ is still available), then what is?

(Suresh Manoharan)