Newsletter 106 Winter 2013
In the latest Israeli elections Binyamin Netanyahu suffered a setback with a reduced representation in the Knesset. Perhaps it is due to his wavering with regard to his father’s greatest contribution to the founding of the State of Israel. Benzion Netanyahu was largely responsible for drafting the ‘Palestine’ clause in the UN Charter for Palestine. Article 80 extended the guarantees afforded to Jews by the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. It guaranteed the right of Jews to close settlement throughout the land. That is all the land west of the Jordan. This clause has never been repealed. Therefore settlements in the West Bank are not illegal despite what the media constantly tell us.
Prophecy and Prayer
In the first year of Darius the Mede, Daniel had been in exile 67 years. By now he must have been over eighty years old. Memories of his home city belonged to the distant past. Jerusalem was now in ruins and desolate. What was to become of her? Jeremiah the great prophet, who had tirelessly warned of all the destruction that would come on the nation, was also a prophet of hope. Repeatedly he had taught that if the nation would turn from their sin, God would turn away His anger. God’s anger would not last forever. In fact Jeremiah had said how long Jerusalem would lie in ruins. From Daniel Chapter 9 it appears that Daniel had a copy of the scroll on which the words were recorded.
Through Jeremiah, God had said that when the seventy years were completed He would punish Babylon [Jeremiah 25: 12]. Babylon had now fallen. Therefore Daniel was faced with the question whether the seventy years were now nearly complete and the time for the return and restoration of Jerusalem drawing near. It might be expected that with the prospect of the judgment being at an end Daniel would be excited. This should be a time for rejoicing for soon his nation will be restored.
In Isaiah we read that, “I am God and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do My pleasure.” Isaiah 46: 9, 10. Therefore if God has spoken is there any more to be done. His counsel shall stand. We can sit back and let it happen.
This was not the approach adopted by Daniel. His response is a lesson to all of us. “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes”. Daniel 9: 3. Daniel knew that the time was nearly up but there was something missing. The message of Jeremiah was a call to national repentance. Had the nation repented?
Daniel opens his prayer with a confession that the nation had sinned. They had ignored the prophets. The judgment on them was just. The disaster which had fallen on the nation was all as set out in the Law of Moses. Yet the nation has not repented. Daniel recognizes that restoration is conditional on repentance and therefore takes on himself the responsibility of repenting for his people. He was prepared to stand in the gap on behalf of Israel so that God could accomplish His will.
There is a danger in the study of prophecy that we take God’s word as final. He will accomplish His will according to His word, of that there is no doubt. That does not relieve us of the responsibility to do our part.
The parable of the widow and the unjust judge ends with the words ”However when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth” Luke 18: 8. The parable is about persistent prayer with an assurance that God does hear and will answer those who are insistent on an answer.
The first article on the Great Anguish in the last edition of Trumpet Sounds made the point that there is flexibility in the fulfilment of many prophecies. This flexibility is one reason why there are strongly held alternative interpretations of end time events. Rather than be the cause of division the variety of opinion should encourage us to pray. We may have studied prophecy and drawn our own conclusions with regard to the pattern of end time events. Others reach different and sometimes more palatable interpretations. How should we pray?
We pray for the best and against the worst.
Many in the nineteenth century prayed for the return of Israel to her land. None foresaw the extraordinary chain of events which would lead to the fulfilment of prophecy. Although God has given some insights to guide us, there is much which He has kept hidden. Many things will become clear as events unfold.
Israel will soon be under threat of attack by nuclear missiles from Iran. Scripture does not give any hint of such an attack taking place. Can we just sit back thinking that it can’t happen. No. We are to pray for it may be that through the prayers of believing saints that such an attack is restrained. The Bible warns that there will be a time of great anguish before Jesus returns. Do we let it happen or pray that we will not be here when it comes? No. We recognise that the Bible indicates that this will be a time of harvest when many come to faith. It also seems that many will not accept the rule of the Man of Sin. Nations will be affected to the extent that his reign is restrained by believer’s prayer.
Answers in Prophecy
In February we begin a series of monthly seminars to be held at Crawley New Life Church, The Glade, Furnace Green, Crawley, RH10 6JL. The speakers will be Philip Wren and Jim Cottington. The sessions will run from 7.00 pm to 8.30 pm on Saturday evenings and generally be in two parts.
The first part of each session will be teaching from the Bible on a prophetic theme. The second part will look at world events in the light of scripture. There will also be a coffee break and time for questions.
The meetings are open to all and there is no need to book. Please let your friends who are interested in prophecy know about the meetings and extend the initiation to join us.
Dates Spring / Summer 2013
February 2 Isaiah 46: 9,10 an introduction to scriptural prophecy.
Topical Study – Are we near to the end of this age?
[no meeting in March]
April 6 Titus 2: 13 the blessed hope of the Christian.
Topical Study – Climate change in the Bible.
May 4 Matthew 24: 24 the danger of deception.
Topical Study – A seeker friendly gospel?
June 1 Matthew 24: 42 what does it mean to watch?
Topical Study – Islam and the end times.
July 6 Zechariah 12 & 14 why is Jesus coming back?
Topical Study – The conflict between Arab and Jew.
The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will soon take place. Are you ready and prepared? There is in general a lack of teaching in the churches on matters relating to prophecy. The return of Christ is a subject which is avoided and yet according to the Bible it should be our ‘Blessed Hope’. The prospect of His Second Coming should be the most exciting topic ever taught in church.
Many are put off the study of Bible prophecy seeing it as too confusing, complex, divisive or irrelevant.
Answers in Prophecy will teach prophecy in a way which is; simple, straight forward, uniting and very relevant. The focus will be on what the Bible teaches not on speculation.
Israel now = Israel then
There are a number of believers who have difficulty in equating present day Israel with the Israel spoken of in the scriptures. This is an attempt to dispel any such problems.
First we must acknowledge that the Jews have always been, and remain God’s chosen people. Miraculously, without a land or a language for 2000 years they have retained their racial integrity.
Abraham was given a promise in Gen 12 that he would be the father of a multitude: his descendants were also included in a promise that included all the land of Canaan.
“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger all the land of Canaan” Gen 17:7-8
Note that this promise mentions an everlasting covenant, made by God Almighty. There is no suggestion in scripture that that covenant has ever been revoked!
Jesus in Luke 21:24 speaks about the fall of Jerusalem into Gentile hands for a season. ‘Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled’. That season began in 70 AD when the city was taken by the Romans: after it was in the hands of the Mohammedans, then of the Turks.
Then in 1917 the Turkish garrison at Jerusalem surrended the city to the allies under General Allenby. But it was not until the six-day war in 1967 that the Jews finally took the city and were able to pray at the Western Wall. That marks a fifty year period – which OT scholars tell us was the jubilee when all land reverted to its original owner.
The Bible speaks of two regatherings of Israel’s exiled peoples – one is the return from exile in Babylon which Jeremiah and Daniel write about. But it is eclipsed by the far greater one which has taken place in our day. Several prophesies mention this return of the Jews to the land of Israel, which God has given them.
The first is from Isaiah 43:4-6
“Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honoured, and I have loved you; therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life.Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.”
Clearly the prophet was not referring to just Babylon which is to the north east of Israel. There are upwards of 130 nations represented in modern Israel.
The second scripture is from Jer 31:10
“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off [like Britain], and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.”
Again the prophet is telling us clearly that the regathering, like the scattering in AD 70 is by God’s Sovereign act.
The third scripture is Amos 9:13-15
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyardsand drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,” says the Lord.”
And this blossoming of the land leads to the Israelis sending tons of food every day to feed the hungry & starving in Africa. The last phrase should be put up in all the great assemblies of men, the UN, the EU and the Arab League – the land I have given them. In the Lord’s eyes there is no doubt who owns the land.
At the end of the Gog-Magog incident in Ezekiel 38-39 we have the triumphant passage
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid. When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God
The return of the Jews is still a work in progress, and it will culminate in a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit upon them. The Bible is, as always, clear and unambiguous.
The Great Anguish – Part 2 The Abomination of Desolation
In this series we are looking at the Great Tribulation or as it will be referred to in these articles the Great Anguish. The reason for substituting anguish for tribulation is to help us take a fresh look at this time which was foretold by Jesus.
In the previous article we proposed that taking scripture in context, the case can be made for the kingdom of the Antichrist not necessarily being global. Also the duration of the anguish is more likely three and a half years not seven. In future articles we will see that different groups of people are going to be affected in different ways.
These articles are based on the belief that Christians will still be on earth during the Great Anguish. Therefore we need to understand what lies ahead.
The beginning of Anguish
The time of anguish will start with an event described by Jesus. “when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.” Matthew 24: 15 – 16
“Let the reader understand”, what are we to understand? Jesus told those who were listening and through them, us as readers that we will recognise this event if we study the book of Daniel. The abomination of desolation is a reference back to Daniel 11:31 “Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.”
Daniel 11 describes a succession of events which correspond to the history of the Middle East in the fourth, third and second centuries BC. By following this series of events through, we conclude that the setting up of the abomination of desolation refers to the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanies. In December 168 BC he erected an altar to Zeus over the altar in the Temple. Later he added to the desecration by sacrificing a pig on that altar.
For the disciples this was the recent history of their nation. These events would have readily come to mind as they listened to Jesus. The people looked back to the glory days when, under the inspired leadership of the Maccabees, foreign rule had been thrown off.
Both the disciples and the early Jewish readers would have had no difficulty in understanding what Jesus was saying. The beginning of the future time of anguish would be marked by an event recognisably similar to the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus.
The destruction of Jerusalem?
Many commentators interpret this verse as a warning about the impending destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. If Jesus intended to point us to an event similar to that perpetrated by Antiochus, that interpretation is readily dismissed. In the period 66 to 70 AD there was neither a repeat event nor even a similar event which could be understood as fulfilling the Abomination prophecy.
The sign in the parallel passage in Luke’s Gospel was fulfilled. “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains”. Luke 21:20,21. In AD 66 the Roman armies under the command of Cestius Gallus did surround Jerusalem. They then withdrew, affording Christians the opportunity to escape. Incredibly and unexpectedly this prophecy was fulfilled exactly as described.
The Abomination of Desolation
The abomination of desolation standing in the holy place is the warning sign that anguish is about to begin. To exactly repeat the events of Antiochus’ reign would require the Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt and the sacrificial system reinstated. Many see the statement by Jesus that the Abomination of Desolation will be seen standing in the Holy place as endorsing this interpretation. The Jews referred to the sanctuary of the Temple as the Holy Place.
There are a number of verses which taken together appear to provide a strong argument for the Temple to be rebuilt prior to the return of Christ. According to 2 Thessalonians 2: 4 the Man of Sin will take his seat in the Temple. Later in Daniel there is another reference to the Abomination, “From the time that the regular is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up,” Daniel 12:11. Here the setting up of the abomination of desolation is connected with the abolition of the regular. Many translations insert the word sacrifice after regular, indicating that the sacrificial system will have been re-established.
There is a danger in being wedded to a single idea. If another interpretation was intended we may not recognise the sign when it comes. That is the trap the Jews fell into at the time of Christ’s first coming.
The Holy Place
Although the ‘Holy Place’ was used to refer to the sanctuary of the Temple, the term has a wider meaning in scripture. Three verses are quoted below to illustrate this:
“The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the Holy Place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation”. Leviticus 6:26 AV
“Stand in the Holy Place with a group of Levites for each subdivision of the families of your fellow countrymen, the lay people” 2 Chronicles 35: 5. NIV
“he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this Holy Place.” Acts 21: 28 NASB
The Holy Place can also refer to the Temple courtyards. Therefore the Abomination placed on the Temple Mount would fulfil scripture.
A focus of idolatry
In the Old Testament the word translated abomination is connected with idolatry. The desecration of the altar by Antiochus Epiphanes was part of his campaign to abolish the Jewish religion. He tried to unify his kingdom by forcing people to worship his gods. In a similar way the future abomination will be the centre of a final attempt to forbid the worship of the true God. In Revelation 13: 15 the false prophet makes an image of the beast which all are compelled to worship. This parallels the efforts of Antiochus to eradicate the worship of the true God. It is the intention rather than an exact repeat of the action which is significant.
In Daniel 8: 12 & 13 and Daniel 12: 11 most English translations of the Bible add the word sacrifice to the regular. Sacrifice is not found in the Hebrew. The word translated ‘regular ‘means continual, perpetual or daily but not necessarily sacrifice. The only place in the Old Testament where it is linked to sacrifice is Leviticus 6: 20. Here it is applied to the perpetual morning and evening grain offering. The grain offering is symbolic of consecration or dedication. Again we find a correspondence to the persecution under Antiochus who tried to end any outward sign of devotion to God.
The daily and perpetual prayers of the Jews at the Western wall in Jerusalem could be seen as the regular. This is where the Jews make known their dedication to God. The forbidding of prayer at the western wall would fulfil the prophecy regarding the suspension of the regular. The abolition of the regular will have much broader impact than locally in Jerusalem. Throughout his kingdom the man of sin will forbid any worship other than devotion to the object of idolatry he has set up.
The man of sin “takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God”. 2 Thessalonians 2: 4. The word translated here for temple is used by Jesus to describe His body, John 2: 19. It is also used by Paul to refer to the bodies of believers 1 Corinthians 3:17, 2 Corinthians 6: 16 and the church Ephesians 2: 21.
It is difficult to see how a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem could be referred to as the temple of God. The Temple and its worship have been superseded by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Would not God regard such a construction as an abomination for it would deny the effectiveness of the salvation offered by the beloved Son?
Therefore it is unlikely that it is a literal Temple in which the man of sin will take His seat. The emphasis of the verse is on his usurping the place of God. The man of sin will display himself as divinity. A human body will be Satan’s temple when he claims to be Jesus Christ returned in the flesh.
The purpose of this article is to distinguish between the definite and the may be of prophecy. The Man of Sin and the idolatry in Jerusalem is a definite. The rebuilding of the Temple and re-institution of sacrifices is a may be. We need to be wary of setting these as a precondition for recognising the Abomination of Desolation when it is set up.
When the Abomination of Desolation is set up those in the city should flee. Who will flee and where they go will be the subject of the next article.
What about the other faiths?
God is not unjust in His dealings with men. He has made provision for people who have never had opportunity to hear the gospel message e.g. for Moslems, Hindus, Bhuddists.
The Message, a paraphrase rather than a translation, has an illuminating word to say about Rom 2:14-16
When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.’
PW adds – Paul is contrasting those who know the law but fail to keep it with those who are ignorant but instinctively keep it. But the point made later in Romans is that none, even those who keep the law out of instinct, perfectly keep it. We all fail and therefore will be condemned unless our instinctive understanding of the law coupled with our recognition of failure causes us to cry out to God for a Saviour. I am encouraged by the many stories of Muslims in this situation. It appears that when they have sought God, He has appeared to them leading to faith in Christ.
Why hasn’t Israel attacked Iran?
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph last year Ehud Barak explained that an attack was averted when Iran quietly chose to use over a third of its medium-enriched uranium for civilian purposes, delaying the moment when it could have built a nuclear bomb
Iran needs about 250 kg of medium-enriched uranium to make a bomb. By August this year, Iran was closing in with a total of 189 kg. It was at that point that the country’s experts took 38 per cent of this stockpile and converted it into fuel rods for a civilian research reactor, thus putting off the moment when they would be able to make uranium of sufficient purity for a nuclear bomb.
Barak offered three possible explanations for this action.
- The possibility of Israeli or American military intervention
- A diplomatic move to avoid the issue coming to a head before the US
- An attempt to persuade the IAEA that Iran’s intentions really are limited to
According to World Net Daily, Israel faces a more immediate threat from Iran. A defector, who worked in Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, reported that there are 170 ballistic missiles some with chemical warheads currently aimed at Tel Aviv.
Following the elections in the USA and Israel change is inevitable. Barak Obama having won a second term is now less constrained in foreign policy. A clear signal of his intentions is the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Hagel is determined to cut back defense spending to pre 2000 levels or lower. Hagel is also a non interventionist who regards the open ended military missions of recent years as a disaster. Most worrying for Israel, Hagel would not support military intervention against Iran. He believes that American intervention in the Middle East over the last decade has failed to achieve any benefit for US security.
Meanwhile following the Israeli elections, Netanyahu is faced with a dilema. The Knesset is now divided equally between the right and left wing parties. Netanyahu now has six weeks to put together a governing coalition. He has not gained the hoped for increased support to strengthen his hand to respond to the impending crises of Iran and the turmoil in Syria.
In an attempt to stop the smuggling of Iranian arms into Gaza the US has accelerated the construction of a system of electronic security fences along the Suez Canal and northern Sinai. This formed a primary condition for Israel to bring in a cease fire in Gaza and avoid a land invasion last year.
Prophecy Conference 2013
Owing to circumstances beyond our control, we have had to postpone the Conference of 23 March until the autumn: chief among these is the fact that Gerald Gotzen, one of our speakers, has been called to an emergency in Ethiopia and will not be able to attend.
We are looking to rearrange the meeting and will let you know the date in a future Trumpet Sounds. We apologise for this postponement.
In the last edition of Trumpet sounds I was led to write that the Lord is allowing the redefinition of marriage as a judgment on the church. The church in general has already redefined marriage moving away from the intention as set out in scripture. If the church does not repent and return to the teaching of the Bible, the State will redefine marriage. Once the law is changed it will prove a rod of correction on a disobedient church.
The stage beyond the redefinition of marriage will be the pressure to compel churches, if they wish to retain the function of registering marriages, to offer that service to all who the State defines as eligible to marry. This will force many churches to withdraw from acting as registrars on behalf of the State.
The church could live with this. In many countries registering a marriage with the State is separate from any church service which may be held. But it would be a further step in the marginalising of the Christian church from public life. Not long ago nearly all weddings took place in church. For the established church marriage was one of the three points of contact with the community at large. Many faithful clergy took it as an opportunity to explain the Christian faith.
If the church is forced to withdraw, there are others eager to take its place. In Crawley, near to where I live, the Hindu Temple is offering what it describes as its ‘beautiful new building’ for weddings to those of any religion or none. Heterosexual or homosexual all are welcome. No doubt when people enquire they will be offered one of their Hindu initiation courses for outsiders. The Hindu religion is far more acceptable in a quasi tolerant age than the Christian gospel.
The Persecuted Church
Open Doors USA has published its World Watch List for 2013. For full details go to: http://www.worldwatchlist.us/
The list ranks the 50 worst countries for the persecution of believers. The list adopts a broad definition of ‘Christian’ including anyone who self identifies as Christian whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant.
Five distinct spheres of persecution are measured:
- Private Life – does a person have a right to freedom of thought and conscience? North Korea and Saudi Arabia are examples of countries where even private faith is denied.
- Family Life – For Muslim background believers, the family is often the toughest sphere for persecution.
- Community Life – Christians can be seen as not fitting in to the local religious or ethnic cultur,e becoming the target for persecution
- National Life – this tracks the invasiveness of central government. In Iran most persecution comes from the State not family or community.
- Church Life – is the freedom to gather as believers restricted?
Another sphere of assessment is the degree of physical violence experienced. Violence may occur in any of the above five spheres. States are assessed as a whole, although in some nations such as Nigeria persecution is much more prevalent in one part.
20 Countries with the greatest severity of persecution:
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia