Israel’s Prosperity: A Sign of Christ’s Return
How Will Christ Return?
Thursday, June 22, 2006
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Hello again! This is Paul Billington looking at the News from a Bible perspective--and therefore somewhat selectively, choosing news items that demonstrate the Truth that lies behind the headlines.
An interesting item of news this week--and one that doesn't make front page headlines in the newspapers--tells us of Israel's booming economy. According to an article in the JERUSALEM POST (June 21) Israel's Finance Minister, Abraham Hirchson said in a speech that the economy "was going through an especially good period."
"All indications show that the Israeli economy is marching in the right direction. The economy is growing at a yearly rate of more than five percent--a higher growth rate than most advanced countries."
The Minister explained that the growth was propelled by an increase in consumer buying in the private sector. He said: "If we act responsibly there is no reason this won't continue for some time."
A headline on ARUTZ SHEVA (Israel national News) declared: "NUMBER OF ISRAELI MILLIONAIRES RISES BY 12 PERCENT." The report said:
"Israel had 7,400 millionaires in 2005, an increase of 12%, according to the Merill Lynch and Capgemini's World Wealth Report, reports Globes.com. The number of multimillionaires increased by 20% to 84, a rate double the world average.
"The report defines a millionaire as someone with more that 41 million in liquid capital, and a multimillionaire as someone with over $30 million in liquid capital.
"The report includes 9 Israelis among the world’s 500 wealthiest people.
"According to merill Lynch Israel VP Ori Goldfarb, the main source of the Israeli millionaire's wealth is the rise in the world’s stock markets, an increase in foreign investment in Israel and record mergers and acquisitions and capital raising both domestically and internationally."
These news items are in line with what the prophet Ezekiel says of Israel in the latter days. We often just pass over the comment made in Ezekiel 38:12, that the people gathered out of the nations will "have gotten cattle and goods." When the time comes for Gog to invade the Land (as this chapter describes), those who dwell in the midst of the Land will be viewed as a spoil and a prey. The words describe a very prosperous situation--"cattle" relating to the things of agriculture, and "goods" the things of trade and commerce.
This idea is repeated at the end of verse 13. A spoil... a prey... silver and gold... cattle and goods--all amounting to "a GREAT spoil." The language is telling us in clear terms that there will have been an enormous concentration of wealth and prosperity at the time. So the things that we are noticing in the news reports about Israel’s economy and her millionaires, is a pointer in this direction.
But what might bring this increased wealth? What we are seeing right now is only a small pointer--we can expect a much greater development in the years ahead--but what will create the circumstances for this? The logical answer is that this prosperity will take off like a rocket when the "dwelling safely" condition comes about. This must happen. As Ezekiel says, a time will come when (verse 11) we shall see a Land of UNWALLED villages or settlements. The people will be "at rest...dwelling safely, all of them dwelling without walls, having neither bars nor gates."
This means that the situation seen today must change. HOW it will come about we do not know. When we look at what has happened following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, and how that area has become a terrorist base shooting Kassam rockets into Israel--it is virtually certain that if the present Israeli Government pulled out of the West Bank, the same thing would happen there.That could eventually lead to re-occupation and a massive clean-up by a future administration. We do not know, but by one means or another the present situation has to change so that the circumstances described by Ezekiel become a reality.
There is one other ingredient that most commentators today usually fail to take into account--and that is THE MANNER in which Christ will return to the earth. The common expectation is that Christ will return visibly and dramatically to the mount of Olives, DIRECTLY from the sky. That understanding is wrong. It will not happen like that at all. Erroneous conclusions about the second coming of Christ are the result of misreading and misunderstanding some Bible verses, and also failing to take others into account. This is a subject which requires considerable and careful study--and it certainly is not possible to go into it fully on this short programme. But if you look at the words of the angel recorded in Acts 1:11, he said that the same Jesus "shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
Now it ought to be obvious from this that we need to take particular note of how Jesus was taken up INTO heaven--because his coming again will be in exactly the same way, or "manner." In fact the Greek word used here, TROPOS, is defined in Vine’s Expository dictionary as "...fashion, manner, character..." So the CHARACTER of his coming will be the same as was his ascension.
Both the circumstances and the description of Christ’s ascension are simply and clearly stated in Acts chapter One. Certainly there was no dramatic departure. Apart from the few disciples at the scene near Bethany (Luke 24:50, 51) there were no other witnesses of the event. The text tells us that Jesus was parted (separated, stood apart) from them, and was carried up into heaven. Acts 1:9 says "a cloud received him out of their sight."
If we put all this into reverse, so as to describe Jesus coming in like manner, we should say that "the Lord HIMSELF" (AUTOS, he himself and no other-- emphatic-- says VINE); "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven" (1 Thessalonians 4:16) in a cloud--that is invisible--out of sight; unseen until the cloud clears. In other words, Jesus will be back on earth again before anyone knows it!
Furthermore, while Acts 1:11 tells us that he will come IN LIKE MANNER as he was seen to go, it does NOT require that he come back to the same location. The text does not say "come HERE in like manner." The words only refer to the character and mode of his coming. The location could be the same--the mount of Olives near Bethany--or it could be somewhere else. Often cited of course is Zechariah 14:4, "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives..." But notice the verse before this--verse 3. The LORD will already have gone forth to fight against the invading nations--so he must have come back some time before he stands upon the mount of Olives. The preceding chapters (Zechariah chapters 12 and 13) would indicate the same thing. The Lord will have been active for quite some time before he stands upon the mount of Olives. Thus, as far as the world at large is concerned, Jesus says in Revelation 16:15, "Behold, I come AS A THIEF." And the same idea is given to us in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3.
"For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."
Now if we take this ingredient into consideration, we may begin to see how Ezekiel's prosperity and "dwelling safely" comes about. It will probably be the result of the Lord's work--at first behind the scenes--causing Israel to overcome the present situation with the Palestinians. No doubt everything will appear to proceed upon natural lines, so that when Christ is revealed to take "vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel..." (2 Thessalonians 1:8); the nations of the world will be taken by complete surprise.
So a little back page news on Israel's flourishing economy may seem insignificant at first--but in the light of Bible prophecy, it is one more indicator which tells us to be prepared for Christ's coming at any time. There is much more that we could say on these matters, but I guess that will have to do for this week.
Join us again next week, God willing when we hope to consider more Bible in the News with you, and help to sharpen our awareness of God’s Hand at work, bringing about His purpose.
Printed: Thursday, June 22, 2006
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