A few weeks ago, on Bible in the News, we spoke about the historic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and what it could mean for peace in Israel – a prophetic requirement before the battle of Armageddon. This week we have seen further moves made among the nations, with Kosovo, another majority Muslim country, normalising its relations with Israel, and opening an embassy, not in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem – making Kosovo the first majority Muslim country to do so. In a joint agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, Serbia will also relocate her embassy to Jerusalem. These two countries join around six or seven other countries who are at this moment at varying stages of moving their embassies to Jerusalem. Only two days ago Malawi announced that for the first time they would send a diplomatic mission to Israel, and they are now due to become the first African country to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
The list of embassies in Jerusalem is steadily growing, only three years ago it was empty.
We read in Zechariah that God would make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people at the time of the end. We’re told that Jerusalem would be a political issue that causes problems throughout the world. The very fact that so many countries have been up able to recognise Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, when the city contains its parliament, government institutions, cultural and religious centres, shows that the nations around have had an issue with the city of Jerusalem.
In 1947, when the United Nations tried to draw up a partition plan for the land, they were unable to agree on where Jerusalem should be, and ended up trying to make it a ‘corpus separatum’ which is Latin for a separate entity. In the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, for the Israelis and the Palestinians to make any progress in the negotiations had to put the final status of Jerusalem to one side, to not be discussed, hoping it could be solved at a later time.
And so, when we come to today, and see some nations changing their position on the status of Jerusalem, it should be no surprise to us that we see reactions to this around the world. In response to the announcement by Kosovo and Serbia, the EU warned the two nations that the action could undermine their EU membership hopes, because “any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU’s common position on Jerusalem are a matter of serious concern and regret”. Serbia has been trying to join the EU since 2009. The EU has made itself clear that the status of the capital of a small Middle Eastern country is not something that they can agree to disagree on within their nation-states.
We know from Zech 14 that at the time of the end God will gather all nations against Jerusalem specifically to battle, and from Ezekiel 38 we know that the main parts of that confederacy include the states of the European Union, combined with Russia. So as we see the reality of the status of Jerusalem becoming more difficult for these nations to accept, we find ourselves approaching closer to the day of Armageddon, and the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peace in the Middle East, specifically peace in Israel, is something that has seemed impossible to imagine ever since 1948. Because of this, some have looked at the text in Ezekiel 38 which talks of Israel dwelling safely and have tried to fit it to the current situation. It is often argued that “safely” can also be translated “confidently”, and so this part of the prophecy is already fulfilled. The issue with this view is that, even if the translation of “confidently” is accepted, and also that this is an accurate description of the attitude in Israel today, there are still verses in the chapter that cannot fit with the situation in the land today.
In Ezekiel 38:11 we read that they not only dwell safely, but “all of them dwell without walls, and having neither bars nor gates”. In the context, this is talking specifically about the mountains of Israel which is the West Bank. These areas are the most dangerous areas in the land today, and every settlement is surrounded by a fence, with an armed guard at the gate. Ezekiel 38 tells us that “all of them” are without these defences, and this is certainly not the situation we see today. We know the word of God is true, we know that it endures forever and so although we can accept that some prophecies are yet to be fulfilled, we can be sure that in God’s good time they will be. Israel will be at peace, without walls, bars and gates – but we have to be patient. In the last few months and years, we’ve perhaps seen some of the first steps towards peace in Israel, and so we must continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, not just for us to see now, but for us to see in the Kingdom when the world is ruled in righteousness from Jerusalem and all nations flow unto it.
This has been Paul Barnes joining you for this week’s Bible in the News.