Matthew 24:3


Why is a fledging country (Israel) with a population of slightly more than seven million and a total land space hardly larger than New Jersey mentioned in the nightly news more than any other nation except the United States and why is Israel important in prophecy?


For answers we must turn not to the evening news or the front page of the newspaper, but to the Bible.


Israel's story begins with God's sovereign purpose revealed in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.  Apparently God finds Abraham and his descendents to be of enormous importance.  The very proportion of the coverage tells us something about the importance of Israel.  Only two chapters are given to the whole story of creation.


One chapter records the fall of man.  Eight chapters cover the thousands of years from creation to the time of Abraham.  Then we find that fully thirty-eight chapters deal with the life stories of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob-the progenitors of the Jewish race.


Israel is important because the fulfillment of God's covenant with its founder Abraham greatly affects every one of us.  The playing out of prophetic events concerning Israel places us in the last days of history's timeline.  The miraculous survival of God's covenant people, the Jews, demonstrates God's providence and His ability to accomplish His purpose in the face of what seems to human minds impossible odds.  The existence of Israel today is exhibit A in the lineup of convincing evidences that the Bible's prophecies concerning the future will be fulfilled.  To this day, the issue of who controls Israel, the Promised Land, is the most volatile in international politics.


 Genesis 15:18, Ezekiel 48:1, 48:28


The land promised to Abraham covers much more area than what the present nation of Israel occupies.  Genesis 15:18 tells us that it stretches all the way from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Euphrates River on the east.  Ezekiel fixes the northern boundary of Israel at Hamath, one hundred miles north of Damacus (Ezekiel 48:1), and the southern boundary at Kadesh, about one hundred miles south of Jerusalem (v. 48:28).


Today, Israel is one-nineteenth the size of California and roughly the size of our third smallest state, New Jersey.  It is 260 miles at its longest point, 60 miles at its widest, and three miles at its narrowest.


When you look at a map and locate that tiny strip of land that Israel now claims, you can see that she does not now, nor has she ever, fully occupied the land that was described to Abraham in God's covenant promise.  If Israel were currently occupyinmg all the land promised to her, she would control present day Israel, Lebanon, the West Bank of Jordan, and substantial portions of Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.+




The prophet Isaiah asserted that it would happen.  He prophesied that the Lord would "set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left" (Isaiah 11:11).  God also addressed the issue through Ezekiel when He said, "I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land" (Ezekiel 36:24).


The fulfillment of those prophecies was set in motion on May 14, 1948, when the U.S. recognized the new state of Israel.  On the evening of that announcement, popular radio commentator Lowell Thomas said in his broadcast that 
Americans in every part of the country would be turning their Bibles for historical background enabling them to understandi "this day in history."  And indeed, as prophecies found in  Isaiah, Ezekiel, Matthew, and Revelation show, both the Old Testament and the New Testament pointed to this day when the Jews would return to the land promised them and initiate fulfillment of the ancient prophecies.


The Israeli government established the State of Israel, thus fulfilling the twenty five hundred year old prophecy recorded in the Bible.




The answer is no!  What is happening in Israel todaay is primarily the result of a secular Zionist movement, whereas Ezekiel wrote about a spiritual return of God's people to Him when he said:


For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land......Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;....I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.  You will live in the land that I gave to you forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God (Ezekiel 36:24 - 28 ).


The return of Jews to the newly reffounded nation of Israel is the first stage of that regathering, but it certainly does not fulfill the requirements of a spiritual return to the Lord.







Israel has been attacked over and over since its founding, sometimes in all-out wars and incessantly by terrorists.  The Jewish people have survived by remaining vigilant, but they long for peace.  According to the Bible, a future leader will fulfill this longing by brokering a seven-year peace deal with Israel's enemies.  But Scripture also tells us that this peace plan will be broken, and Israel will be attacked again, this time as never before.  Countless armies will amass against the boxed-in nation, leaving it with no human hope of victory.  Only Christ's return, His judgment, and His reign will finally bring true peace to Israel.


It is then that God's covenant with Abraham will reach its ultimate fulfillment.  The Jews will return to the Lord and, as Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesied, they will ber His people and He will be their God.  The borders of the land will expand to the dimensions described in Genesis 15 and Ezekiel 48.  Christ return will also fulfill the prophecy of Jeremiah that God would gather the Jews: "Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them... I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely.  They shall be My people, and I will be their God" (Jeremiah 32:37 - 38).  


Ezekiel makes it clear that this gathering means God will return every single living Jew back to their land.  For he writes that the Lord said He would gather them again to their own land "and...none of them (will be) captive any longer (Ezekiel 39:28).


Today we see this prophecy being fulfilled right before our eyes.  In 2006, for the first time in nineteen hundred years, Israelbecome home of the largest Jewish community in the world, surpassing the Jewish population in the United States.  From the 650,000 who returned when the Jewish state was found in 1948, the population of Israel has swelled to aproximately 5.4 million, and it is expected to exceed 6 million by 2020. 




Oil explains why the Bible focuses it end-time attention on the Middle East, and, more than any factor other than the nation of Israel oil, holds the key to the prophetic events of the future.


Few would question the fact that oil has become the new basis for our world economy.  It is now the stuff of life, the commodity most highly valued by the industrialized and emerging nations of the world, the blood that flows through their economic veins and gives life to prosperity in today's global economy.  The greatest source of that lifeblood is now in the Middle East, and so that is where the eyes of the world are focused.


What does this tell us about coming events?  In Luke's gospel, Jesus contrasts our ability to discern weather signs with our inability to understand the more important signs of the time; "You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it that you do not discern this time?" (Luke 12:56).  Surely the world's fascination with oil - a highly valuable commodity with a source in lands hostile or borderline hostile to Israel and to us - qualifies as a "sign."





Oil is found all over the world, even under the ice of the Arctic and Antarctic.  That means forests and abundant vegetation once covered the world until destroyed in a vast global cataclysm (such as a worldwide flood).


The geophysicist went on to say that the earth's richest, deepest, and largest deposits of petroleum lie under the sands of countries just to the east of Israel in the location prinpointed in the Bible as the garden of Eden.  Eden was a teeming expanse of forests, foliage, and gardens with rich fertility unparalleled in human history.


Barren sand and blazing desert now exist where once grew a garden flourishing with dense, lush flora, the likes of which the world has not seen since.  It was destroyed in some disastrous upheaval and has decayed into the largest deposits of oil in the world.  Just imagine, the gasoline pumped into your car might be the ruined remains of the rich, vast foliage of the garden of Eden.


It's ironic to think that Satan may finance the Battle of Armageddon at the end of human history with revenues generated from the garden he spoiled at the beginning of human history.







Since there are no substantive oil deposits in Israel today, we must continue to deal with the reality of a world in which oil remains in the possession of countries hostile to us and to Israel.  For example, Ezekiel foretold a time when Russia would attack Israel.  In detailing how the military aggression would take place, the prophet listed a coalition of some of the nations that would join with Russia in the attack.  "Persia, Ethiopia ande Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet (Ezekiel 38:5).


Until March 21, 1935, Persia was the official name of the country we now call Iran.  Not once in the past twenty-five hundred years has Russia formed a military connection with Persia/Iran-until now.  But now these two nations have formed a military alliance that continues to be strengthened by the political situation in our world.  Russia recently signed a billion-dollar deal to sell missiles and other weaponry to Iran.  And the connection is even broader, as Joel C. Rosenberg, former aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, points out:  "Over 1000 Iranian nuclear scientists have been trained in Russia by senior Russian scientists."  Here is an endtime alliance that was prophesied twenty-five hundred years ago, and in the last few years it has become a reality.  Obviously, the stage is being set!


Oil is the new gold in the world economy and holds the key to the prophetic events of the future.





No specific mention of the United States or nay other country in North or South America can be found in the Bible.  One reason may be that in the grand scheme of history, the U.S. is the new kid on the block.  As a nation, it is less than 250 years old-much younger than the nations of Bible times that are featured in biblical prophjecy.  In fact, the Bible makes no mention of most nations in the modern world.  The ancient prophets were primarily concerned with the Hold Land and its immediate neighbors.  Areas remote from Israel do not figure in prophecy and are not mentioned in the Bible.


John Walvoord posited one theory that suggests, "America will be in the mix of the political realignments that foreshadow the end of time through our nations of origin.  Most citizens of the United States have come from Europe, and their sympathies would more naturally be with a European alliance...."  And we can see signs of such realignments taking place today.


With the usual presidential fanfare in April of 2007, President Bush welcomed European Union Commission President Joe Barroso and the serving President of the European Council, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the Rose Garden of the White House.  These three leaders signed the Framework for Advancing Transatlantic Economic Integration between the United States of America and the European Union.  Less than seven months after its signing,  the Transatlantic Economic Council held its first official meeting in Washington, D.C.  In a joint statement it was announced, "Since April , the United States and the European Union have made substantial progress in removing barriers to trade and investment and in easing regulatory burdens.


On the surface there seems to be nothing ominous about such an agreement; it appears to be simply about freeing up economic trade between nations.  But a similar, less publicized meeting was held in March 2008 at the State Department, which focused on linking the U.S., Mexico and Canada in a "North American community with the European Union" in anticipation of the "creation of a 'Transatlantic Economic Union' between the European Union and North America."  One participant-whose identity is protected by the Chatham House Rule, which permits information to be disseminated without attribution to guarantee confidentiality-made this revealing statement:


North America should be a premiere platform to establish continental institutions.  That's why we need to move the security perimeters to include the whole continent, especially as we open the borders between North American countries for expanding free trade."


Statements such as this reveal an intention toward union that has implications far beyond mere economic trade.  And considering the speed at which leaders are pushing union between nations, it appears that it will not be long before we se such a union instituted.





More than two thousand years ago, God gave His servant Daniel a vision of the future that we recognize as the most comprehensive prophetic insight ever given to man .  Through Daniel, God gave a composite history of the remaining days of the world.  The first kingdom was Babylon, which was followed by the Medes, Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the last world kingdom which would make up from a restored Roman Empire.


According to Daniel, there is to be yet another division of the Roman Empire.  He foretells a time when the Roman Empire will consist of ten kingdoms or leaders (Daniel 2:41; 7:7, 24).  We know this ten kingdom prophecy remains in the future because not only has the ten leader form of the Roman Empire never existed in history, but neither has such a kingdom been suddenly crushed as prophecy indicates.  Daniel 2 states that the Roman Empire in its final form will experience sudden destruction.  The Roman Empire of Jesus' day did not end suddenly.  It gradually deteriorated and declined over many centuries until the western part, the Holy Roman Empire, fell in AD 476, and the eastern part  the Byzantine Empire fell in AD 1453.  You can hardly imagine a more gradual slide from glory to oblivion!  We must conclude, then, that some form of the Roman Empire must emerge in the end times, and according to Daniel , it will be in place prior to the coming of Christ to rule and reign over the earth.  The unification of Euurope is really the reunification of the Roman Empire.  Today the concentration of power in the European Union signals the beginning of a new world order. 





According to Daniel's prophecy, a supreme leader will rise from among the ten leader confederacy in Europe:  "And another shall rise after them; he shall be different fromm the first ones. and shall subdue three kings.  He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend change times and law.  Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time" (Daniel 7:24 - 25).  This leader will become the final world dictator.  We know him as the Antichrist.  The new European Union is one of the conditional preludes to the coming of the Antichrist.  As Arno Froese, executive director of Midnight Call Ministries writes:


The new European power structure will fulfill the prophetic predictions which tell us that a one world system will be implemented.  When established, it will fall into the hands of the Antichrist.





In the ninth chapter of Daniel's prophecy, he tells us of a treaty that wil be signed between God's people and the world leader who will head the realigned Roman Empire:  "Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering" (Daniel 9:27).  Daniel tells us here that Israel will sign a treaty with the Antichrist , and that his treaty will be forge to last for a "week", literally in prophetic language, a "week of years," or seven years.  This treaty will be an attempt to settle the Arab-Israeli controversy that today focuses the world's attention on the Middle East.  After three and one-half years, that treaty will be broken, and the countdown to Armageddon will begin.


The prophecies of Daniel show us what time it is: the hands on the prophetic clock are moving toward midnight.  The warning has been sounded, and we will do well to heed it.





On January 29, 2002, in his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush used the term Axis of Evil for the first time.  He identified Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as "states...(who are) arming to threaten the peace of the world...These regimes, "he said, "pose a grave threat and growing danger.  They could provide these arms to terrorist, giving them the means to match their hatred."  On May 6, 2002, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton gave a speech titled, "Beyond the Axis of Evil" in which he added three more rogue states to the axis: Libya, Syria and Cuba.  Today the Axis of Evil includes all six  states.





One nation on this Axis of Evil list is of special interest to us because we find tht it is also on God's list.  That nation, Iran, and that list are found in the 38th and 39th chapters of Ezekiel.  These chapters, written some twenty-six hundred years ago, give us one of the most important and dramatic prophecies in all Scripture.  It is commonly referred to as the prophecy against Gog and Magog, and it is the most detailed prophecy concerning war in the entire Bible.  The prophecy predicts an invasion of Israel in the last days -  an invasion comprised of enormous masses of troops from a coalition of nations led by Iran and Russia.


This invasion will occur shortly after Israel signs a covenant with the new leader of the European Union.  Because of this agrement,  Israel will be at peace with her Islamic neighbors.  The people of Israel will believe that the European powers will protect them from any outside invader...especially Russia, which will have joined forces with Iran to develop weapons for the purpose of utterly destroying Israel.


The events unfolding in today's world are ominously threatening to unsettle institutions, reorder national political alignments, change the balance of world power, and destabliize the equitable distribution of resources.





Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying.  "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, "Thus says the Lord God:  "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.  I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords.  Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops - many people are with you.  Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them" (Ezekiel 38:1 - 7).


As you can see, Ezekiel's prophecy begins with a list of proper names.  Many of these names identify certain grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Noah who were the fathers of nations that for a time bore their names (see Genesis 10).  These nations, which today no longer bear their original names, will ultimately form a coalition that will march against Israel.  As we identify these nations by their present names and locate them on today's world map, we can see how the stage is being set for this predicted Russian/Islamic invasion of Israel.


Gog is an exception on Ezekiel's list.  Gog is not one of the descendants of Noah listed in Genesis 10.  This name, however, is found eleven times in Ezekiel 38 - 39.  It is not the name of a nation, but rather the title of the ruler of Magog-the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal-the one who leads the invasion against Israel.  In fact Gog is an individual rather than a nation because God addresses him as such several times in this prophecy (Ezekiel 38:14; 39:1).  Furthermore, Gog is explicitlyt called a prince and a ruler in Ezekiel 38:2 and 39:1).





In October 2007, during Russian president Vladimir Putin's first ever visit to Iran, and Iranian newspaper reported that he "reassured Iran that the Bushehr nuclear reactor, a billion dollar energy project being built by Russia and dogged by delays would be completed."  The report went on to suggest "maybe the most important result of Putin's trip is to show the independence of Russia toward America and the West."  Putin made other first time ever visits of a Russian leader to the Muslim nations of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, and, most recently, Libya.  By all reports, his visits were successful financially, resulting in lucrative agreements and contracts for further joint efforts in the production of oil and the exploration of natural gas reserves.


Apparently the Russian president was successful politically as well.  In Libya, President Gadhafi and Putin agreed that the United Nations "needs to be reformed in order to face an "imbalance of forces" internationally, and especially "the Security Council" with which we can work together to resolve problems.  In other words, by working together they could remove the veto power held by the U.S. and be able to advance their mutual causes."







Ezekiel does not give a specific date for the invasion, but he does give us ways to identify the time when it will occur:  "After many days...in the latter years...."  (Ezekiel 38:8); "On that day when My people of Israel dwell safely..." (v. 14); "It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against  my land" (v. 16).


The prophet tells us that the invasion of Israel will take place sometime in the future "latter years".  It will happen at a time when Israel is dwelling in peace and safety and not invoved in conflict with other nations.


Has there ever been such a time in Israel's history?  No, there has not.  Is today such a time?  No!  When will there be such a time?  The only period in Israel's life that meets this requirement is the time immediately following the Rapture of the church when the Antichrist and the European Union make a treaty with Israel to guarantee her peace and security.  When this treaty is signed, the people of Israel will relax the diligence they have been forced to maintain since the founding of their nation in 1948.  They will rely on the treaty and turn their attention away from defense to concentrate on increasing their wealth.  Israel will truly be a land of unwalled villages.  Her defenses will be down, and she will be woefully unprepared for the invasion by the armies of Russia and the coalition.







There are 3 primary goals for the future invasion of Israel.  The first goal will be to seize her land.  As Ezekiel puts it, " to stretch out your hand against the waste places that are again inhabited" (Ezekiel 38:12).  The second goal of the invaders will be to steal Israel's wealth: "to take plunder and to take booty, to stretch out your hand...against a people gathered from the naions, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell in the midst of the land...to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder" (vv. 12 - 13).


And there is plenty of wealth to be plundered in modern Israel, as we can see by the following quote from a recent article in the Jerusalem Post:  "Despite a population of only slightly more than 7 million people...Israel is now home to more than 7,200 millionaires...Of the 500 wealthest people in the world, six are now Israeli, and all told, Israel's rich had assets in 2007 of more than $35 billion....Israel's GDP is almost double that of any other Middle East country.


According to one "prosperity index, "Israel exported goods and services of more than $70 billion in 2008 including $34.2 billion from the technology sector alone.  "Israel is the highest ranking Middle Eastern country in the index.


Finally, the invading nations have as their ultimate goal the wholesale slaughter of Israel's people:  "I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates...to stretch out your hand...against a people gathered from the nations...You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land." (Ezekiel 38:11, 12, 16).  The accumulated historical hatred for the Jews will drive these armies forward with the assurance that, this time, the people of Israel will not escape death.





To understand what is going on in the war and destruction dscribed in Ezekiel's prophecy, we must first consider the sovereignty of God's plan.  Even in the most devastating of times.  God is still in control.  In fact, He often orchestrates events to bring about His purposes.  He tells us what He will do to Israel's enemies in no uncertain terms:  "I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen"  (Ezekiel 38:4); "It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against  My land." (v. 16); "I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel" (Ezekiel 39:2).


The Old Testament, especially, is intended to show that God is the sovereign ruler over all.  Even though men try to thwart His plan and wreak great destruction, God's purpose will always win out.  When Ezekiel says that God will bring the enemy against His land, he is simply saying that God will bring these nations to the doom which their wickedness inevitably demands.  Everyone accomplishes God's will in the end.  Those who conform to His will accomplish it willingly; those who do not conform accomplish it inadvertently as an unwitting tool in His hands.


God's purpose in the cataclysmic battle of the last days is very clear and very simple.  God intends for people to recognize Him as the Lord God of heaven whose name is holy, whose glory fills the universe, and whom men must recognize as sovereign if they are to find the peace and joy He desires for His people.


As Ezekiel shows us so vividly, God's destruction of the Axis of Evil in the last days will accomplish the salvation of His people, the nation of Israel.  By identifying this Axis of Evil as modern nations who are unwittingly bent on fulfilling this devastating prophecy, we can clearly see how present events will lead to the ultimate accomplishment of God's purposes.





The name Islam literally means "submission."  A Muslim is "one who submits to God."  According to conservative estimates, there are about 1.5 billion Muslims in our world today.  Approximately 1.4 million live in the United States, which is about 6 percent of the U.S. adult population.  While we usually associate Islam with the Middle East, the largest Muslim populations are actually in Asia.


While the majority of the world's 1.5 billiion Muslims want no part of the deadly violence and attempt to live in peace with their neighbors, the number of radicals who preach violence and tedrror is mushrooming around the world.





According to Islamic tradition, the found of Islam, Mohammad, was born in Mecca (in present day Saudi Arabia) in AD 570.  Mohammad's father died when he was six years old.  He was raised by his paternal grandfather, grew up to become a camel driver and then a merchant, and, at the age of twenty six, married a wealthy caravan owner named Khadija.


Mohammad worked in profgessions that brought him into contact with a number of Christians and Jews who cause him to question the religion of his own people.  He was forty years old and meditating in a cave outside Mecca when he received his first revelation.  From that moment on, according to his testimony, God occasionally revealed messages to him, which he declared to the people.  These messages, which Mohammad received throughout his life, form the verses of the Qu'ran, which Muslims regard as the divine word of God.


In the seventh century Arabian world of Mohammad, the people worshiped over 360 different gods, one for each day of the lunar year.  One of these was the moon god, the male counterpart to the female sun god.  The moon god was called by various names, one of which was Allah, and it was the favorite go of Mohammad's family.


As Mohammad began to promote his new religion, it was only natural that he would choose to elevate the moon god Allah and declare him to be the one true God.  His devotiion to Allah was single minded and fierce, and in establishing and spreading his religion of Islam, Mohammad slaughtered thousands of people who resisted conversion.  As his instructions to his followers show, there was no subtlety in his evangelistic technique:  "Who relinquishes his faith, kill him...I have been ordered by Allah to fight with people till they testify there is no god but Allah, and Mohammad is his messenger."




Opposition in Mecca forced Mohammad and his followers to flee to Medina in AD 620, where he became the head of the first Muslim community.  In AD 631 he returned to Mecca, where he died the following year.  At his death the Islamic community became bitterly divided over the question of who would be Mohammad's successor.  Even today that division survives in the two Islamic sects, now known as the Shi'ites and the Sunnis.  Conflict between these sects is one of the major stress points in Iraq and throughout the Islamic world.


At the death of Mohammad, the group we know as the Sunni followed the leadership of Abu Bakr, opne of Mohammed's fathers-in-law.  The Sunni now comprise about 90 percent of the Islamic world.  They believe that Mohammad's spiritual gifts died with him and that their only authority today is the Qu'ran.  The Baath party of Saddam Hussein was part of the Sunni sect.


The Shi'ites maintained that Mohammed passed on as legacy of personal authority in addition to the Qu'ran as author Winfried Corduan explains:


The Shi'ites, on the other hand, identified with Muhammad's son-in-law Ali, whom they saw as possessing a spiritual endowment directly from the prophet.  The Shi'ites believe that thier leaders, the imams, have authority on par with the Qu'ran.  It is the Shi'ites that believe that the 12th imam went into concealment hundreds of years ago and continues to live there until he returns as the Mahdi....the Muslim Messiah!


Abu Bakr succeeded Mohammad, and he and his successor launched jihads, or holy wars, that spread the religion of Islam from northern Spain to India and threatened Christian Europe.  Christians resisted the threat, and a series of wars followed that drove the Islamic invaders back into the Middle Easter countries, where they still dominate.  Their zeal to have their religion dominate the world has not diminished, however, and it remains a threat to all who do not maintain vigilance.




The most frightening word associated with Islam is jihad.  Sometimes called the "sixth pillar" of Islam, jihad actually means "struggle."  The greater jihad is the inner struggle of each Muslim to submit to Allah.  The lesser jihad is the outward struggle to defend the Islamic community.  This is the jihad that strikes fear in the heart of Islamic enemies. Militant Muslim take jihad to mean more than just passive defense of Islam; to them it authorizes the expansion of the Islamic religion even by means of deadly aggression.


The overt hatred for the West expressed in jihad has already spawned many deadly attacks, and the fanaticism that produced them has not not diminished.  In her book, completed only days before her assassination, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto wrote that one of the primary aims of the militants is:


to provoke a clash of civilizations between the West and....Islam.  The great hope of the militants is a collision, an explosion between the values of the West and what the extremists claim to be values of Islam.....The attacks on September 11, 2001, heralded the ......dream of bloody confrontation....If the fanatics and extremists prevail....then fitna (disorder through schism or division) would sweep the world.  Here lies their ultimate goal: chaos."


The hatred that the Muslim have for the Jews needs no documentation.  But the settlement of Israel into her homeland in 1948 took this hatred to a level of murderous fury.  The militants and radicals refer to Israel as "little Satan" and the United States as "big Satan", and they are determined to wipe both countries off the map.





We can easily see and resist the effects of jihad in militant terrorism, but we have trouble seeing and resisting the more subtle strategy that the Muslims call fatah.  Fatah is infiltration, moving into a country in numbers large enough to affect the culture.  It means taking advantage of tolerant laws and accommodative policies to insert the influence of Islam.  In places where a military invasion will not succeed, the slow, systematic, and unrelenting methods of fatah are conquering whole nations.  An illustration is:


A demographic revolution is taking place today in France.  Some experts are projecting that by the year 2040, 80 percent of the population of France will be Muslim.  At that point the Muslim majority will control commerce, industry, eucation, and religion.  They will also control the government, as well, and occupy all the key positions in the French Parliament.  And a Muslim will be president.





Other terms used to describe the Islamic goal of world domination are biological jihad or demographic  jihad, which describes the nonviolent strategy of Muslims moving into Europe and the West and having more babies than their hosts.  Within several generations they hope to repopulate traditionally Christian cultures with their own people, and they are certainly on track to reach that goal.  According to a Vatican report issued recently, the Roman Catholic Church understands this:  "For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top:  Muslims have overtaken us."





The answer to this is a resounding yes?  This Islamic hope surfaced in a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeni, the cleric who launched the successful 1979 revolution that turned Iran into a strict Islamic state.  In 2005, Ahmadinejad was called beforfe the United Nations Security Council to explain his continued determination to develop nuclear weapons.  He began his speech by declaring: "In the Name of the God of Mercy, Compassion, Peace, Freedom, and Justice...," and he ended his speeh with this prayer:  "I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace."  The "promised one" in Ahmadinejad's prayer was a reference to the Twelfth Imam, a figure in Shi'ite teaching that parallels the figure of Al-Mahdi in Sunni teaching.  In essence, both of these titles refer to the Islamic messiah who is yet to come.



Shi'ia Islam believes that the Twelfth Imam can appear only during a time of worldwide chaos.  This explains many of Ahmadinejad's defiant actions - why he presses forward with his nuclear program in spite olf world censure and why he is adamant about destroying Israel.  In his famous speeh of October 25, 2005, he said, "'Israel must be wiped off the map', and he warned leaders of the Muslim nations who recognized the state of Israel that they would face 'the wrath of their own people.'".  With these defiant and divisive actions, Ahmadinejad is formenting the chaotic environment that he believes will induce the Islamic messiah to come.  In a televised speech in 2008, Ahmadinejad reiterated: "what we have right now is the last chapter.....Accept that the life of Zionists will sooner or later come to an end."  On March 14, Ahmadinejad "swept the nationwide ballot with about 70 percent support."


The world as a whole does not seem to be taking Ahmadinejad seriously, but the people of Israel are an exception.  They understand that he is determined to destroy them.  And the words of the prophet Ezekiel back up that understanding.  He tells us that Iran's (Iran is now the name of the biblical Persia) hatred toward the Jewish nation will play an important role in a major end-time battle.





According to the dictionary, the word rapture means "an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion" and "being carriede away by overwhelming emotion."  But the Bible tells us it means that millions of people will disappear from the face of the earth in less than a millisecond.  And the purpose of that evacuation is to avoid horrific devastation.  This evaluation will remove God's people from the disastrous effects of coming earthquakes, fire, and global chaos.


The word Rapture is the Latin version of a phrase the Bible uses to describe the catching away of all Christians before the end times.  The Lord will descend with a shout and a trumpet of God.  All believers, living and dead, will suddenly meet the Lord in the air.


The focus of the Rapture is on looking at the event not from the viewpoint of those who remain, but from that of those who are evacuated.  Before the period of the Tribulation breaks out, all true followers of the Lord will be caught up from the earth and right into the presence of Lord.  The Rapture will fulfill the promise He made to His disciples in John 14:1 - 3:


Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father's house there are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you.  I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.


Followers of Christ who are raptured will be spared the trauma of death and the coming disasters that will occur when the Tribulation breaks out upon the earth.  That is indeed a cause for true rapture on the part of those who love the Lord and long to be with Him.


The New Testament indicates that the Rapture of those who have put their trust in Christ is the next major event on the prophetic  calendar.  In other words, the Rapture awaits us on the horizon....it could happen at any moment.  This is the clear message of the Bible, and it is a truth. 





A lot of misunderstanding comes from confusing these two events.  When we talk abou the signs that signal the return of Christ, we speak not of the Rapture, but of the Lord's ultimate return to the earth with all His saints.  According to the book of Revelation, this coming of Christ occurs after the Rapture and differs from it in at least two ways.


First, the Rapture will be a "stealth event" in which Christ will be witnessed by believers only.  His Second Coming, on the other hand, will be a public event.  Everyone will see Him: "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him: even they who pierced Him.  And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him" (Revelation 1:7; see also Zechariah 114:1, 3 - 5, Revelation 19:1 - 21).


Second, all believers are raptured.  Jesus will immediately take them back into heaven with Him.  But when Christ returns to earth seven years later in the Second Coming.  He is coming to stay.  This return, usually refered to as "the Second Advent," will take place at the end of the Tribulation period and usher in the Millennium - a thousand year reign of Christ on this earth.  So, first, the Rapture will occur seven years before the Second Advent.  At that time Christ will take us to ber with Him in heaven, immediately before the seven-year Tribulation period.  Then, secondly, we will return to earth with Him ast His Second Advent.


There is another important difference.  There are no events that must take place before the Rapture occurs.  It's all a matter of God's perfect timing.  


 As bad as things are becoming,

we can hardly overstate the

horror that will occur when

society loses the tempering

influence of Christians. 





In this passage Paul tells us all we need to know about the Rapture:


But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethern, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.


For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 18).


First, Paul wrote: "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope" (Thessalonians 4:13).  In this passage the apostle addresses the ignorance of the Thessalonianbs concerniing the state of those who had died believing in Christ.  The word he used to describe that state has great significance for every believer today.  Paul said that they had fallen asleep.  For the word translated asleep, he used the Greek word koimaw, which has one of its meanings "to sleep in death."  The same word is used to describe the deaths of Lazarus, Stephen, David, and Jesus Christ.


Lazarus:  "These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up" (John 11:11).


Stephen: "Then he (Stephen) knelt down and cried out with a loud voice 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin.'  And when he had said this, he fell asleep" (Acts 7:60).


David:  "For David, after he had served hgis own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption" (Acts 13:36).


Jesus Christ: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20).


This concept of death is emphasized in the wonderful word early Christians adopted for the burying places of their loved ones.  It was the Greek word koimeterion, which means "a rest house for strangers, a sleeping place."  It is the word from which we get our English word cemetery.  In Paul's day this word was used for inns, or what we would call a hotel or motel.  We check in at a Hilton Hotel or a Ramada Inn expecting to spend the night in sleep before we wake up in the morning refreshed and raring to go.  That is exactly the thought Paul expresses in words such as koimaw and koimeterion.  When Christians die, it's as if they are slumbering peacefully in a place of rest, ready to be awakened at the return of the Lord.  The words have great import, for they convey the Christian concept of death not as a tragic finality, but as a temporary sleep.


In the next part of the Thessalonians passage, we find Paul affirming their hope that their loved ones will live again.  He does this by tying that hope to the Ressurrection and the Rapture:  "lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).  Here Paul tells the Thessalonians (and us) that God's plan for our future gives us such a new perspective on death that when someone we love dies, we are not overcome with sorrow and despair, for on that day when those who are alive in Christ are raptured, those who died in Christ will be raised to be with Him.





Paul states in 1 Thessalonians, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God" (v. 4:16).  As you read these words, the Lord Jesus Christ is seated in the heavens at the right hand of the Almighty Father.  But when the right moment comes, Jesus will initiate the Rapture by literally and physically rising from the throne, stepping into the corridors of light, and actually descending into the atmosphere of planet earth from which He rose into the heavens over the Mount of Olives two thousands years ago.  It is not the angels or the Holy Spirit, but the Lord Himself who is coming to draw believers into the heavens in the Rapture.





Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "the dead in Christ will rise first."  As he indicates here, the call to resurrection at the Rapture will not summon all the dead, but believers only.  A time will come much later when all the dead will be raised to stand before the white throne in judgment.  Buit at this first call, our believing loved ones who have already died will arise to take first place in the program of ther Rapture.


Paul then explains the next event in the Rapture sequence.  "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up." (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  The words caught up are translated from a Greek word which has as one of its meanings "to snatch out or away speedily."  This word empahsizes the sudden nature of the Rapture.  Paul describes this suddenness in his letter to the Corinthians: "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:52).


Paul continues his explanation of the Rapture:  "Them (the believing dead who have arisen) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  Note that Paul begins here with the word then, which is an adverb indicating sequence.  It connects the previous even ts of the Rapture that we have already considered with this final event in a definite order of sequential reunions as follows:


*Dead bodies reunited with their spirits


*Resurrected believers reunited with living believers


*Resurrected believers and raptured believers meet the Lord


As Paul points out, the ultimate consequence of this reunion with the Lord is that there will be no subsequent parting.  After His return, our union and communion with Him will be uninterrupted and eternal.  This glorious fact alone shows us why the word rapture is an altogether appropriate term for this event.





When the Scriptures says, "The dead in Christ will rise," it is speaking of the bodily resurrection of all believers!  At this time, the spirits of believers will be united with their perfect and complete resurrection bodies.  "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first (no exceptions!).  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1Thessalonians 4:16 - 18).






After the Rapture, we will come before the Judgment Seat of Christ one by one (2 Corinthians 5:10).  The Judgment Seat is not about whether we will enter heaven - we'll already be there.  It will be a time to give an accouynt of the works we have done on earth, and we will be rewarded accordingly.  We'll be assigned places of authority in the coming Millennium based upon  our faithfulness to God when we were on earth, as well as the inflouence we left behind.







The fact is we cannot calculate the day Christ will return because God specifically chose not to reveal it to us.


When the apostles asked Jesus about the end times, He replied gently but firmly, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:7 - 8).  Only God knows what time it is, and only God knows when these times will run out.  God's calendar is the only one that matters (1 Thessalonians 5:1 - 2; Matthew 24:36, 42, 44. 50: Matthew 25:13).


Future truth impacts present responsibility.  It is the knowledge that His coming is soon that puts urgency into our step and determination into our service.






After completing his description of the Rapture to the Thessalonians.  Paul wraps up the passage with this practical admonition:  "Therefore comfort one another with these words"  (1 Thessalonians 4:18).


Here the apostle tells both the Thessalonians and believers today that it's not enough simply to passively understand what he has just explained about the Rapture, Christian death, and the Resurrection.  Our understanding should spur us toward a certain action - to "comfort one another."  And in the preceding verses He has given us exactly the kind of information that makes true comfort possible.  When believers suffer the loss of family members or dearly loved friends, we have in Paul's descriptions of Christian death and resurrection all that is needed to comfort one another in these losses.  Christian death is not permanent; it is merely a "sleep."  A time is coming when we and our loved ones will ge reunited in a rapturous meeting, when Christ Himself calls us out of this world or out of our graves to be with Him forever in an ecstatic relationship of eternal love.  That is why Paul tells us we should comfort one another with remindrs that, for Christians, what we call death is nothing more than a temporary sleep before we are called into our uninterrupted relationship with Chhrist forever.


Christian death is not permanent; it is merely a sleep.





First of all, Jesus could come tonight!  But you may hear people say that the Rapture cannot occur until the whole world has heard the Gospel; therefore, we need to preach the Gospel to every creature so that the "last person to be saved" is brought into the kingdom, at which time Jesus will return for His Church.  But this cannot be true.


If there is anything that has yet to happen before Christ's return, there is no such thing as the "imminent return" of Jesus Christ.  The command to take the Gospel into the whole world is certainly pressing upon every generation, but the condition of the Gospel going to the whole world is a condition not of the Rapture, but of the Second Coming of Christ.





To Allow Unrestrained Evil


The moment after the Rapture, the spirit of God will remove any restraining influence on earth.  As a result, life on earth will be relinquished to flourishing evil.  As the Tribulation progresses, evil will result in a climax of worsening conditions.  God's wrath will be displayed toward the wicked through the signs of His coming judgment.  Thankfully, those who believers at the time of the Rapture will be spared from this terrible time.


The hour-hand on God's time clock is wound up and spinning.  We are being swept along the path of history by a swift wind at our backs.  Our individual ability to weather the storm will come from our understanding of the Word of God.  We need only heed what has echoed through the centuries:  "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:22).


The Tribulation is a seven-year period described in Revelation 11 - 18.  Approximately the first three and a half years of that time, there will be the climax of worsening conditions, the anger of God against the wicked, and the signs of Christ's coming.  During the last three and a half years, the "{lawless one" - the Antichrist - will be empowered to sit at the center of the Tribulation's evil as he personifies Satan.





These ten events are the things we can expect in embryonic form in the days preceding the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation.  These ten things will continue to multiply and progress as the first three and one-half years of the Great Tribulation unfold.


* A Time of Deception - "Many will come in My name, saying, "I am the Christ,' and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:5).


* A Time of Dissension - "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars...Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (Matthew 24:6 - 7).


*A Time of Devastation - "There will be famines ..." (Matthew 24:7).


*A Time of Disease - "...pestilences..."  (Matthew 24:7).


*A Time of Disasters - "....and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:7).


*A Time of Death - "They will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name sake" (Matthew 24:9)


*A Time of Disloyalty - "Many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another" (Matthew 24:10).


*A Time of Delusion - "Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many" (Matthew 24:11).  It should also be noted that part of the delusion will be an increase in drug use.  One of the characteristics of the end times' false religion will be what the book of Revelation calls "sorceries" (9:21.  The word John uses is pharmakia, from which we get the word pharmacy.  It is an ancient reference to the ingestion of drugs.  The use of mind-altering substances such as narcotics and hallucinogens will be associated with false religions, doubtless with the approval of the government.


*A Time of Defection - "Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12).  People will turn away from God and from one another.


*A Time of Declaration - "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations" (Matthew 24:14).








The Tribulation, some believe will be a natural consequence of the Rapture.  You may think of the world today is degenerating into rampant greed and immorality, and indeed it is.  When all Christians are removed from the earth, the restraining minbistry of the Holy Spirit will be completely absent.  The result will be horrific.  Jesus Himself described what will happen next: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.  And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved" (Matthew 24:21 -   "What Will Happen In Heaven During The Tribulation?"





The Christians are in heaven.  God is seated on the throne, which is surrounded by a rainbow of emerald greens.  The twenty-four elders representing the church-age saints sit around the throne.  Before the throne is a sea of glass.  In the midst of the throne are the four living creatures, and giving praise aound the throne are the angels and the Church (Revelation 4:3 - 4, 6, 8).  This is the worship of the glorified Christ, the Creator of the world.  God is just about to dal with the physical earth in judgment, and before He does, the Creator of earth is worshiped by the Church in heaven.  Thunder, lightning, and voices signify the judgment which is about to fall on the earth.





Christians will escape the seven-year nightmare of the Tribulation.


The Bible clearly teaches that one of the coming great events in the fulfillment of prophecy concerns the Church.  This is the personal, bodily return of the Lord in the air to remove His waiting Church from the earth and to reward them according to their works.  This will take place before the Tribulation period during which time the judgments of God will be poured out upon the unbelieving world.


There are more Scriptures to support the imminent return of Christ for His Church prior to the Tribulation than during or after it: 1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 18; 2 Thessalonians 2:8 - 12: 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5 - 9.






The sun will turn black, the moon will turn red, and great earthquakes will be common.


Revelation 6:12 says, "Behold, there was a great earthquake."  It also says, "The sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood."  When Jesus died on the cross, the whole earth became dark at midday.  When Egypt was judged, there was a blackness of night.  When the Lord came down at Mt. Sinai, the mountain was shrouded in black clouds.  The prophets, as well, said darkness would occur at the beginning of the Tribulation period.


The stars will fall out of the sky.


"The stars of heaven fell to the earth"  (Revelation 6:13).  the word star here is the Greek word aster and it refers to luminous bodies in the sky other than the sun and moon.  Clearly these stars are not the distant stellar objects we know as stars but like group of asteroids.


The mountains and island will move.


"Every mountain and island was moved out of its place"  (Revelation 6:14).  When the asteroids hit the earth, the possibility is that the earth's crust will be so disturbed by the impact that great segments of it will actually begin to slip and slide ove the earth's mantle.  According to Dr; Henry Morris, those living in the regions above such shifting will observe the heavens appearing to move in the opposite direction, as if they are being rolled up. 


The ocean will become blood.


As Revelation 8:8 - 9 explains, a great mountain burning with fire will be cast into the sea.  One-third of the sea will become blood, and one third of all sea life will die.  There will also be the destruction one-third of all the ships.  The far reaching implications of these judgments are beyond our understanding.  Someone has reasoned that the oceans occupy about three-fourths of the earth's surface, so the extent of this judgment will be staggering.  The pollution of the water and the death of so many sea creatures will vastloy affect the balance of life in the ocean.  This will happen to one-third of the saltwater bodies of the world.


The water will become poisoned.


Then the freshwater supplies will be affected.  They will become bitter, with the result that many people will die (Revelation 8:10 - 11). The instrument of judgment will be a great star that is labeled "Wormwood."  This literal star or meteor hurtling through space will approach the earth.  Sweeping along the surface of the earth, it will turn one-third of the water of the earth into deadly poisonous liquid.  It will affect the rivers, springs, and wells.


This is the time of the greatest suffering and persecution the world has ever seen.

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Dispute Over Circumcision

Acts 15:1-35

  1. _____ and Barnabas decided that certain men should go to Jerusalem to discuss this question of circumcision. (15:2)
  2. Who said, "Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (15:7-10)
  3. Who suggested that they send a letter to the Gentiles? (15:13-20)
  4. To what city did they deliver the letter? (15:22)