The Middle East and You
Have you been paying attention to the Middle East? If not, you should. It has exciting (and sobering) ramifications for Bible prophecy in general and our future in particular. How might current news events affect our lives in light of end-time prophecies?
1. For openers, it appears that Iran will have a nuclear arsenal. According to Ezekiel 38-39, Israel will battle against the invading armies of her enemies, including Iran (known as Persia in the Bible) and win decisively. Ezekiel gives us a curious note regarding the aftermath: a search party will go out to the battlefield, and where they find a dead body, they will set a marker. A second party will go out to those who are marked to bury the dead (39:14-15). This procedure is what you would expect to happen had the bodies been affected by radioactivity, such as with a nuclear warhead. They will take seven months burying the dead (39:12). I can’t imagine Israel using a nuclear warhead against her enemies where conventional warfare could do the job. But with her enemies are committed to her destruction and possessing nuclear technology(1), the danger is greater – and the door is opened a crack for the fulfillment of this prophecy.
2. Israel continues to be in the news. She continues to be hated by all her neighbors. United States Presidents come and go, trying their hands at Middle East peace treaties. All have failed. Isn’t it interesting that thousands of years ago the prophets talked about Israel in the end times being in existence and surrounded by enemies (Zechariah 12), and that a man will make a treaty of peace with Israel? All the other major civilizations spoken of in the Bible have all bitten the dust. Yet this tiny land continues to soldier on like the Little Engine that could. Because of the persistence of its enemies, Israel requires conscription of able-bodied males to defend itself. Israel has two more wars ahead of itself. The war mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39 is one. In the next and final war, the battle of Armageddon, Israel will be overrun by enemies, at which point the Messiah comes and the Israelites will see Him (Zechariah 12).
3. As if satellite television was not enough, we have Twitter, the iPhone, and cell phones which can rapidly transmit audio, pictures, and video around the world. As we have seen with the Iranian election and its aftermath (2), news spreads instantly. No matter how hard the Iranian government tried to shut down the airwaves (as China also attempted in one of its uprisings (3) ), Twitter accounts withstood the onslaught and the bloody truth came out. The Bible tells us that two witnesses will warn the world of the judgment and demonstrate miraculous signs before getting killed themselves (Revelation 11:1-14). Their bodies will lie in the street and the whole world will see them there and rejoice and send gifts congratulating themselves of having rid themselves of them (11:9). How could the whole world witness these events without today’s technology quickly blanketing the earth with the news?
4. Are there any updates regarding the Mark of the Beast? When the Antichrist figure comes on the scene, he will require all people to receive a mark in the right hand or forehead so that they may buy or sell goods (Revelation 13:16-18). No mark, no groceries. Actually, a form of people-marking and tracking is already in progress. Such a device has been inserted in military personnel, the elderly, and inmates (4). So it’s not hard to conceive of using an implantable device with the latest technology of linked banks around the world. This device won’t be used merely for convenience, tough, but to get more control over the people. Just look at what President Obama is doing during just the first few months of 2009 alone: seeking to control banking, insurance, health care, limit pay for CEOs, and regulate the auto industry – all in the name of controlling runaway inflation (5). It will probably be for this reason that people will take the mark in the future. As we see how speedily Obama has taken over these functions in a time of national emergency, we see too how quickly the Antichrist may come into charge and make sweeping policy changes across the board. And there’s nothing we can do change that fact. Actually, there will be something we can do. We can take the mark and suffer horrible sores later (Revelation 16:2). Or refuse it and die (Revelation 13:15) – and be rewarded by the Lord.
5. The book of Revelation repeatedly mentions Babylon, Iraq, as a major player in the years leading up to Christ’s return. Did you know that the U.S. is helping Iraq to rebuild Babylon? (7) Once again Bible prophecy is being formed in our lifetimes, too.
What should believers do in light of these prophecies? If you believe that the entire church will be raptured before the above dangerous events take place, you will go about your daily business as usual. If you believe that only some believers will be removed in the beginning and some left behind for a period of time (6), the Bible warns us how we can be ready.
In Luke 21:36a, Jesus tells His disciples to “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things.” This indicates that the possibility exists that some will not be ready. Those who are not ready include people whose hearts are “weighed down” with the “cares of this life” (Luke 21:34b). Have we made the world’s concerns of greater importance than the will of God for our lives?
In Philippians 3:7-14, Paul rejected all those things in his life that he thought made him righteous before God so that his trust would be in Jesus alone. In this place alone did Paul have assurance that he would make the resurrection from the dead, which would occur for him at the Rapture of the church, in which the dead shall rise first (1 Thessalonica 4:16). What are we trusting in to make us righteous before God – our church affiliation, our family’s religious heritage, a ritual, rules of good conduct, or Christ? If we can reject all for Christ, then we are on sound footing.
In Revelation 3:10-11, Jesus commends one of seven churches because it has “kept My command to persevere.” Therefore, “I also will keep you from the our of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” This passage does not commend the church because it is the church, but because of the work of its individual members – they were continuing, persevering, in faith no matter what – exactly what Paul determined to do. As we do not claim the faults or blessings for the entire church in any of the other letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, we can’t do the same for this instance. Will we persevere in our faith, or be too concerned with the cares of this life to give it much heed? Will we esteem Christ and a relationship of faith and obedience with Him as the most important factor in our lives?
Clearly, the Bible has forewarned us what we can expect to occur just before Christ comes. Events in our own lives are foreshadowing these very events. I don’t know the day or the hour of Christ’s coming, but I do know what signs will happen first. I am not all certain of the order of events, but I do know that “in all things, He [must] have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18b) in my life.
My book, Ready for a Reward (8), covers several biblical traits that Jesus wants to develop in His church for when He comes.