Another gentile year has gone by. 2017 has certainly not been uneventful or insignificant in regards to locations, peoples and powers mentioned in latter-day Bible prophecy. In this, our last 'Bible in the News' of the year, we take a look back on some of the key themes and events which connect with Bible prophecy and which are heralding the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven. This is Matt Davies joining you.
The coming Kingdom of God
Before beginning, it might be worth outlining our understanding of God’s purpose with the earth.
2000 years ago, Jesus Christ, the son of God died and rose again from the dead. His followers watched as he ascended up into heaven. At this time two angels appeared and stated:
“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11
Bible believers, therefore, are expecting the return of Jesus to the earth from heaven. This, the Bible tells us, will happen and Jesus will return, to sit on the throne of his father David in Jerusalem (Luke 1:32).
We read that when he does return he will conduct a resurrection of those who are responsible and accountable and a judgment will be conducted (Rom 14:10, 1 Thess 4:16, 1 Cor 15:52). The divinely stated basis for acceptance at this judgment will be based on a firm belief in the gospel and then the demonstration of this belief in baptism and a life of humble service (Rom 1:16, Eph 1:13, Jam 2:20-26, Rev 22:12, Mark 16:16).
Those who are accepted will be given eternal life (Phil 3:21, 2 Peter 1:4) and will live and reign with Christ for a 1000 years in his Kingdom when the earth will be filled with peace and righteousness (Rev 20:16, Psa 72:2, Rev 5:10) after which all will be given up to the glory of God (1 Cor 15:28).
Having a part in this coming Kingdom is the very essence of the truth of the hope contained in the Bible and which Jesus and the apostles preached (Matt 4:23, Acts 8:12, Act 28:31). This true gospel is predicated on the promises to the Fathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and is Jewish in its constitution (Act 28:20, Isaiah 2:2-3, Mic 4:8). The gospel message also shows how that men and women can have their sins forgiven and become acceptable to God through the work of Christ (Col 1:14, Eph 1:7, Gal 3:27-29).
This coming Kingdom of God then is going to come upon the earth. It will be a new era in the history of mankind.
But what of this current era? Is the Bible silent on what we can expect in our days? Absolutely not. The Bible gives us a clear vision of what the world will look like just before the Lord Jesus Christ returns. This time period is called in the prophets “the latter days”.
Prophecies such as Ezekiel 38, Daniel 11, Joel 3, Zechariah 14 and Rev 16:12-16 all harmonise to tell us of the uniting of the nations to battle against Israel in this period. The ancient names are given for the territories of Russia, Iran, Northern Africa and Europe as being the nations which unite together in a war against Israel (Ezek 38:1-9). We read of how a few nations are not part of this grouping - those associated with Britain (Tarshish) and the Gulf States (Shebah and Dedan) see Ezek 38:13. The prophecies tell us that it is at this time when Jesus Christ appears on the world stage with his immortalised followers resurrected from all eras of time (Zech 14) and that they save Israel and establish God's Kingdom.
These prophecies are neither vague nor are they based on fantasy. We have already seen the restoration of Israel to their land in 1948 and then in 1967, the Jews took back control of Jerusalem. These key events are required by the prophecies. This year was significant in terms of anniversaries. It has been 100 years since the famous Balfour declaration which officially began the process of the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It was also 50 years since the Jews captured Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
So let us consider what has occurred in the last twelve months in relation to these groupings of nations and the locations which the prophets direct our attention towards.
January - The Trump Era Begins
We suppose that the man who has had the most impact on global politics this year has been Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America.
On Januar, 20th 2017 Trump was sworn into office after winning the election against all odds. This businessman is not a trained career politician and he has certainly not gone about his duties in a polished way. However we know from the scriptures that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Dan 4:17) and so as Bible students we know God will have a purpose with Trump.
Of interest is the supportive stance he, and members of his cabinet have towards Israel. In fact, it was with great surprise that at his inauguration as president many Jewish settlers were invited to attend.
Also of interest in his early months of office was the first official visit of a leader from a foreign country. In the case of Trump, it was British Prime Minster, Teresa May. During their visit, there was much discussion over the potential for a favourable trade deal to be done between the two countries.
In Ezekiel 38 we read that Tarshish, who we believe is an ancient name for the power of Britain, has associated with it what the scriptures call “young lions”. In nature, young lions grow up from being whelps to be independent from their mother lion (you can see this being described in Ezek 19:5-6). Therefore those nations who came out of, but are now independent from, the British Tarshish power would answer*** to these in the prophecies. America, of course, was once a group of colony of Britain before the war of independence in the 1780s - after this war it became independent of it’s mother lion and became a young lion power in it’s own right. Therefore it is interesting that we are witnessing the potential for great economic trade ties between Britain and America.
Trump certainly has been busy in his first year as we shall see in our review of events later in 2017.
February - Rumours of the end of the two-state solution
In February Paul Billington, editor of the Bible Magazine and regular contributor to the Bible in the News reported on his attendance of a conference in Israel entitled “Realising the Zionist Vision.” With Trumps rise to power and his promises to help Israel find peace, the Israeli press was full of expectation of how this could occur. The Jerusalem Post newspaper on February 8 ran an article entitled "Will 2017 be the year we annex the West Bank?" Many commentaries were written on the failure of the idea of a two state solution and what Trump might do. As events panned out in the year these things were not without significance.
Also in February there was international outrage at North Korea who tested a ballistic missile across the Sea of Japan - and this escalated throughout the year. Although not directly mentioned in Bible prophecy this reminded us of the need for the return of Christ to solve such tensions.
March - United Kingdom officially begins detachment from the EU
In March the United Kingdom triggered Article 50 starting the Brexit process. This event has been long expected in the Bible in the News and in the Christadelphian community. In Ezekiel 38, the British Tarshish power is not part of the invading forces of Russia and Europe and therefore it’s ties to the EU had to be severed. God has mapped out another set of trade partners it would seem - that of the young lions and also the states of the Gulf (the “Shebah” and “Dedan” of Ezek 38:16).
April - Evidence of the Papacy riding the European Beast
In April the EU celebrated 60 years at an EU summit in Rome. The British Prime minister was not present. One man who was present was Pope Frances which reminds us of the power of the Papacy and its influence on Europe.
In the prophecies in Revelation, in particularly in Revelation 17, we read of a symbolic political “beast” which sits on the territory of the Western Roman Empire. This beast answers to the United territories and powers of Europe - each nation giving up its sovereignty to give this beast life as we read in the prophecy in verse 13 which states that the kings of the earth “have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.” We are told that these kings make war with Christ, symbolised as a lamb, in the next verse which states: “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called and chosen, and faithful.”
The beast, we are told, has riding on it a symbolic woman whose name is “Babylon the great” (Revelation 17:5). Women in Bible symbology represent a grouping of people - for example, the true followers of Jesus are described as a “Bride” (Revelation 21:9) which as a faithful “virgin” are united to Christ when he returns (2 Corinthians 11:2). In the prophecy of Revelation 17 though, at the time of the end, the woman riding the beast is not faithful. We read in the prophecy that she has compromised the truth and is called “Mystery, Babylon the great, the Mother of Harlots” (v5). In verse 2 we read that “the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” This woman then has left the truth and is flirting and fornicating with the leaders of this world. She is seen to be riding this political beast system, helping to steer it in the direction she would have it go - all the while compromising on the truth she proclaims to uphold.
The EU summit in Rome reminds us of this. The Catholic church and its papacy is indeed sat on the European beast steering it in the direction it requires.
May - 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem
In May the Whitehouse openly celebrated Israel independence day for the first time in history. US Vice president Mike Pence gave a memorable speech where he quoted the Bible.
Later that month Trump visited Israel, stopping to pray at the Western Wall. His visit was timely as it occurred a day before “Jerusalem day” - the day in which the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the city was celebrated.
During this time we were reminded of the amazing victory Israel had 50 years ago in 1967. Against all the odds, and only in six days, not only did the Jews successfully defend themselves against the Arab aggressors but they also capturing territory. Significantly they gained control of Jerusalem allowing us to see a connection with the words of Jesus when he stated 2000 years ago that the Jews of his day, living in Jerusalem would:
“fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)
This destruction of Jerusalem occurred in AD70 by the Romans and for nearly 2000 years Jerusalem was indeed trodden down of the Gentiles. However, the words of Jesus were emphatic - this was not to be a permanent state of affairs. He says the trending down would continue “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” With the Jews having control over Jerusalem again in 1967 we have confidence we are indeed living at the end of the Gentile era.
June - Protestant Christians become Kingmakers of United Kingdom
In June the United Kingdom held a general election. The results shocked many across the UK and the world because Prime Minister, Teresa May’s party, the Conservatives, lost the majority in the British Parliament two weeks before Britain was due to start negotiating Brexit. Interestingly this led to a coalition being formed with a small Northern Irish party called the DUP. The DUP are a committed Christian group who are anti-Catholic and anti-EU.
We noted in the Bible in the News how amazing the work of the angels is - ensuring that the “Kingmakers” of Britain are Protestant Christians who will hold the government to account in its dealings with the EU. A further wedge it would seem between the Tarshish power and the powers of Europe (Magog and Gomer) mentioned in Ezekiel 38.
July - September - Terror attack in Jerusalem
In the summer we saw a horrible terrorist attack on the Temple mount which caused it to be closed down. This prompted mass protests by the Arab population and reminded us that we should indeed “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.
Also in this period, we saw the power of God revealed in terrible hurricanes and natural disasters making us realise the weakness of man.
October - Northern and Southern Nations gather
In October we noted that Syria and Iran had pledged to join together to “counter ‘Zionist-American schemes’.” We noted that Russia was a keen supporter of Syria and that the alliance of the North which we would expect from the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 is gathering momentum.
Also in this month, we noted the gathering unification of the Southern Gulf states as they share concerns over the power of Iran. As Iran’s influence grows these Gulf states are viewing Israel more and more as an ally rather than a foe. This division of North and South is exactly what we would expect in relation to the territories mentioned in Ezekiel 38.
November - 100 years since Balfour
November saw significant developments in the Syrian civil war with key cities declaring liberation from ISIS. It would appear that the Islamic state is now on its last legs and is all but beaten. One recent report has stated that since Trump took office Isis has lost 98% of its territory due to an American push this year against the group. This conflict has indeed pulled in all the major powers to the Middle East - significantly the military might of Russia to help Syria.
Also in this month Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister travelled to Britain to meet Teressa May. The purpose of this visit was to attend a dinner which celebrated the Balfour Declaration of 1917 - a statement that offered Britain’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” It was the first international recognition of the need for a homeland for the Jews and went on to form the basis of Britain’s mandate for Palestine in the 1920s. This then led ultimately to the declaration of Independence by Israel in 1948 -a huge sign of the times that we are living in the latter days for we read in Hosea:
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” Hosea 3:4-5
Indeed for many days, Israel did exist without any royal rulership or religious organisation - and this is still the case today. However, they have returned and will once again turn to God in the latter days. Their return heralds this destiny mapped out for them by God’s prophets.
December - Jerusalem at the heart of the controversy of the nations
To end the year it cannot be without significance that the nations of the world have had their attention drawn to Jerusalem. That man, president Trump has again been at the heart of things declaring American recognition of Jerusalem being the capital of the Jewish state on December 6th. He ordered the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The United Nations held an emergency session of the General Assembly and on the 21st of December “demanded” that all countries comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem - The burdensome stone & coming Kingdom of God
So as we draw our review to a close we leave the political scene in a state of tension and confusion. How will the situation with Jerusalem develop? The prophets (e.g. Ezekiel 38:11) speak of a temporary peace in Jerusalem before the northern invaders attack - how will this come about we wonder?
Whatever happens, we know we are living in the latter days and the time period just before Jesus Christ returns to the earth. The nations are slowly but surely being positioned just as the prophets of old who were moved by Gods power, predicted.
Jerusalem is indeed the focal point for the world's problems. We see the scene is set for the words of the prophet Zechariah to unfold:
“And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it… In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Zech 12:3 & 8-10
So we close the year here then waiting for Israel’s king to return to sit on the throne of his Father David in Jerusalem. For the time when “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh” (Numbers 14:21). For the fulfilment of the prayer that the Lord Jesus Christ taught his followers to pray to God when he stated “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Indeed, how we long for the time when the prophetic Psalm 122, a prophecy of the Kingdom age, will indeed be sung in the earth.
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: hither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.” (Psalm 122)
This has been Matt Davies with you for another Bible in the News. Join us again next year, God Willing, as we watch events unfold which herald the coming Kingdom of God.