Who will bring peace to Israel?
On Monday 14 May the US embassy in Jerusalem was opened as President Trump fulfilled his promise to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “What a glorious day,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Remember this moment. Today, the embassy of the most powerful nation on earth, our greatest ally, the United States of America, today its embassy opened here. You can only build peace on truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been and will always be the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish state.”
Jared Kushner, the presidential adviser tasked with helping secure a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, said the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital, would help the peace process, rather than hinder it. He said the US remains committed to brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. However the Palestinians denounced the move, describing it as a war crime and a theft of Jerusalem.
On the Gaza border Hamas sent thousands of its supporters to demonstrate against Israel in what it termed ‘The March of Return’. The violence that ensued resulted in 60 deaths and around 2,200 injured by gunfire or tear gas, with pictures of dead and wounded Palestinians being beamed around the world and Israel castigated in the world’s media and the UN for alleged war crimes. Israel responded by showing that the Hamas-led riots, which had originally been described as non-violent, involved rioters attempting to tear down the border fence with Israel, with the aim of invading Israel and killing or capturing Israelis.
The United Nations showed its usual bias against Israel when the General Assembly voted on 13th June overwhelmingly in favour of condemning Israel for the violence on the Gaza border, but refused to do the same for Hamas. The resolution slammed Israel for “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate” use of force in dealing with the mass infiltration attempts along the Israel-Gaza border. The motion passed with 120 nations in favour, 8 opposed and 45 abstaining. Just before the vote, US Ambassador Nikki Haley proposed an amendment that would have also held Hamas responsible for the volatile situation, which was rejected.
Following this the US announced that it was withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) while citing its virulent anti-Israel activism. Nikki Haley called the UNHRC “an organization that is not worthy of its name.” Haley noted that the US had given the UNHRC “opportunity after opportunity” to make changes, having warned repeatedly that it would leave the UN body if it did not make reforms and stop its attacks on Israel. She lambasted the council for “its chronic bias against Israel,” calling it a “cesspool of political bias,” and lamented the fact that its membership includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The UNHRC is infamously biased against Israel, with nearly half of its resolutions focused solely on Israel, while it ignores war, strife and atrocities committed around the globe.
The crisis on Israel’s border with Gaza continues as the Palestinians launch incendiary kites into southern Israel. These have destroyed several thousand acres of fields, forests and farmland, endangering the lives of Israeli residents. On 20th June Gaza-based terrorists fired some 45 rockets at Israeli communities, causing damage to cars and buildings, and sending thousands of civilians running for cover. There are fears that the current escalation could lead to another round of war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
While conditions in Gaza deteriorate, Jared Kushner has met with Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem and leaders of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, to provide details of the US-sponsored peace plan. The Palestinians have refused to refuse to talk to the Americans about peace since the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and declared Kushner’s plan was “a waste of time and is destined to fail.”
Details of the peace plan have not been published, but a leaked report in the Israeli newspaper Maariv said it would give Israel continued control of most of the settlements (towns in the West Bank / Judea and Samaria). Israel would hand over control to the Palestinian Authority of four Arab majority districts in the east of Jerusalem where they could set up their capital. Under this plan the Old City of Jerusalem would be recognised as ‘international territory.’ This would be too little for the Palestinians, who want Israel to withdraw to the pre 1967 borders (i.e. remove all the settlements and hand over all of East Jerusalem as its capital). It would also be too much for the Israelis who have declared Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel.
On its northern front, Israel and Iran lurched closer to an all out war on May 10th after Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets at Israeli held positions in the Golan Heights and Israel responded by striking around 50 Iranian military bases as well as Syrian regime air defence batteries. Israel claims Iran’s war assets in Syria have been knocked out and its ability to launch an attack on Israel set back by one year. However Iran has supplied around 150,000 missiles aimed at Israel to its proxy Hezbollah, which won victory in parliamentary elections in Lebanon in June.
Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman accused Iran of seeking to wipe out Israel and said they will continue to respond to this threat. Iran’s Defence Minister Amir Khatami threatened Israel, saying it should stop its “dangerous behaviour” and vowing that the “Iranian response will be surprising and you will regret it.” To date there has been no Iranian response, which has pleased Israel.
Israel is making representations to Russia to curb Iranian activity in Syria. Prime Minister Netanyahu informed the Israeli cabinet that he had held a telephone conference with President Putin, in which he said, ‘Iran must leave the territory of Syria. Secondly, we will be taking measures and we are already taking action against efforts to establish the military presence of Iran and its satellites close to the border with Israel and deep in Syria. We will act against these efforts in any part of Syria.’
So far Russia has been surprisingly accommodating to Israel. The Kremlin news service described this telephone conference as cordial, saying, ‘The two leaders “expressed readiness to bolster coordination on Syria, including the issues of countering international terrorism.” Commenting on this, the Jewish News Service wrote, ‘As long as Russia’s assets in Syria are not threatened, Moscow will likely continue to take a backseat in the ongoing confrontation between Iran and Israel.’ One thing which could change this would be a devastating attack by Israel, which does material damage to Russian assets or the Syrian regime itself. Amir Tsafarti, an Israeli Messianic Jew put forward the possibility in one of his updates that an Israeli raid causes massive destruction in Damascus, as prophesied in Isaiah 17.1, which then sets off the War of Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38-9.
There is a view that it is Turkey, not Russia, that will be the leading force in the War of Gog and Magog. Turkey’s Islamist leading President Erdogan has just won the election in Turkey giving him another term of five years in office with greatly increased powers which make him a virtual dictator. He has already moved Turkey from being relatively friendly to Israel, to becoming extremely hostile. On the day of the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the riots in Gaza, he accused Israel of genocide and being a terrorist state. He said, 'We will not allow today to be the day the Muslim world loses Jerusalem.’ He has had a meeting with the Pope to discuss their joint opposition to Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city.
He ordered the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Turkey and held a meeting of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul. This meeting called “for the international protection of the Palestinian population, including through dispatching of international protection force”. Such a force would be an extreme danger to Israel. According to Israeli security sources, SADAT, a Turkish military company, is already involved in aiding Hamas, and seeks to assist – with funds and military gear – the creation of a “Palestine Army” to fight Israel.
The Turkish daily Yeni Şafak, which is close to President Erdoğan and his ruling AKP party, published an article calling for the formation of ‘an Army of Islam against Israel.’ The article urged the 57 member states of the OIC to form a joint Army of Islam to ‘besiege and attack’ the state of Israel. An interactive map on its website provides information on military forces stationed in various locations and the role they can play in the potential joint Muslim attack on Israel.
So what chance of peace?
At the moment the strength of Israel’s armed forces and its deterrent capability is keeping its enemies at bay. The conflicts within the Arab Muslim world also make it difficult to form a ‘joint army of Islam’ to attack Israel. Israel’s main enemy today, the Islamic regime in Iran, is in deep trouble, with protesters on the streets demanding that the government stops its military adventures in Syria and Lebanon and uses its money to help the Iranian people, suffering from poverty and food shortages. Senior officials in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have expressed interest in the US sponsored peace deal, even if Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will not cooperate.
So could it all work for peace?
According to some, one of the reasons why there is no way to peace, is the support of Israel and the Trump administration by evangelical Christians who believe that the establishment of the State of Israel with Jerusalem as its capital city is a fulfilment of Bible prophecy. At the time of the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem there was much criticism of ‘Christian Zionists’ who supported the move to Jerusalem.
At the opening of the embassy Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, prayed, thanking God ‘for President Donald Trump’s courage in acknowledging to the world a truth that was established 3,000 years ago — that Jerusalem is and always shall be the eternal capital of the Jewish people.’ Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist, prayed: ‘I believe I speak for everyone of us when I say I thank you every day that you have given us a president who boldly stands on the right side of history but more importantly stands on the right side of you, O God, when it comes to Israel.’
Tom Leonard wrote in the Daily Mail (16/5/18): ‘Why on earth should these Texan evangelical preachers make such a song and dance about the U.S. acknowledging Jerusalem as the Israeli capital? Strange as it may seem, the reason is that they — and millions of evangelical Americans like them — believe it will help bring about the fulfilment of fire and brimstone prophesies from the Bible that are central to their very literal interpretation of Christianity. … Some evangelicals believe war between Jews and Arabs is part of God’s plan, involving a period of destruction called the Great Tribulation. … They hold that Jesus Christ will return to Earth when all the Jews are reunited in Israel and it becomes an exclusively Jewish state. According to Revelation, once the Jews are reunited, an epic battle between good and evil will break out in Israel and good will finally triumph.’
He is saying that Christian support for Israel is based on the belief in Bible prophecies concerning Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ and is helping to bring about conflict in the Middle East. Speaking as an evangelical Christian, I do believe that the restoration of Israel is a fulfilment of biblical prophecy. I also believe that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and that He is coming back again to Jerusalem. As a Christian concerned for the welfare of Jews and Arabs, I would like to see a genuine peace settlement so they can live together in the land, but I do not believe it will happen before the return of Jesus. Instead there will be a time of trouble, not because of the actions of evangelical Christians, but because of the refusal of Muslim and Arab nationalist forces to accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish homeland with Jerusalem as its capital. There will be a continued opposition to Israel’s existence until the return of the Messiah, who will finally bring peace to Israel, the Middle East and the whole world.
Here are some of the scriptures that support the view that God is behind the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and the events that follow:
‘Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.” 耶利米书31.10
‘For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries and bring you into your own land (Israel). Ezekiel 36.24.
The status of Jerusalem will be an issue not just for Jews and Arabs, but also engaging the whole world:
'Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; and all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.' (Zechariah 12.2-3)
The Bible speaks of a continual hostility to the existence of Israel from the surrounding nations:
‘They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”’ Psalm 83.3-4.
Despite this God will preserve Israel even when they are attacked by more numerous forces, as He has already done in the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973. He will do this once again in the War of Gog and Magog, when a force will come down from the north against Israel. Present day developments in Syria, where Russian, Iranian and Turkish forces are stationed could well be preparing the way for this event:
‘Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army … Persia, Ethiopia (Hebrew = Cush), and Libya (Hebrew = Put) are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you. … In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely. You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.’ (Ezekiel 38.1-9)
This army will be supernaturally defeated by the Lord on the mountains of Israel, with ‘a great earthquake … flooding rain, great hailstones, fire and brimstone.’ As a result the nations will know that the Lord has done it. Ezekiel 38.18-23
At some stage in all of this, the Bible prophecies indicate that a world leader will make a ‘covenant’ involving Israel. In Daniel 9 we read about a seven-year covenant made with Israel which breaks down halfway through the seven years and leads to the final time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30, Daniel 12). At the present time we do see the attempt to make a peace covenant with Israel and the Palestinians, which is continually failing. The end time scriptures indicate that the successful peace covenant will take place when the one known as the Antichrist or the Man of Sin reaches his seat of power. The peace agreement will break down halfway through the seven-year Great Tribulation period (Matthew 24.15-31) and lead eventually to the final battle for Jerusalem, which will be the occasion for the return of the Lord Jesus to the earth.
The final conflict will be the gathering together of the armies of the world (Armageddon) which leads to the physical return of Yeshua / Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords:
‘And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew Armageddon.’ (Revelation 16.14-16)
This time Jesus will not come as a Suffering Servant but as King of kings and Lord of lords, with all power at His disposal to rule and reign over the earth. When the armies of the world gather together against Jerusalem to battle, God will reveal Yeshua, Jesus as the Messiah of Israel:
‘And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son.’ (Zechariah 12.10)
Following this, Zechariah says:
‘Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. … And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.’ (Zechariah 14.3-4, 9).
These scriptures point to one who has been ‘pierced’ as the one who saves Israel in the last days. Who could this be? Yeshua / Jesus, the One who is revealed in the Gospel as the only Son who has been ‘pierced’, dying by crucifixion, in order to redeem the world, and who will come the second time to judge the world according to how we have responded to His message. He will then set up His Messianic kingdom, bringing peace to Israel, the Middle East and the world and fulfilling the words of Isaiah 2.1-4:
‘Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.' (Isaiah 2.2-4)
Then there will really be peace for Israel, the Middle East and the whole world.
Does God love us? Bishop Curry’s sermon at the royal wedding.
Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at Meghan and Harry’s wedding was a passionate piece of oratory on the power of love, watched by 2 billion people worldwide. It is a message that God is love, that God loves us unconditionally and that if we could just love each other we can change the world. Many people were moved by his message, with some well known atheists saying it made them think about God in a new way. But there were some dissenting comments, among them this one from Gavin Ashenden:
‘The world is rightly talking about Michael Curry’s wedding sermon. It was a ‘tour-de-force’. He is very good at preaching. But it also offers us all an insight into the dramatic difference between the two kinds of Christianity that are at odds with each other in the Anglican Communion. We will call them for the moment, ‘Christianity-max’, and ‘Christianity-lite’. Credit where it is due. ‘Christianity-lite’ can be very appealing. It reaches out to where people are hurting and it encourages them. It reaches out to where they are longing for good change, and it promises them that change can come.
It speaks continuously of love and hope. Everyone likes to hear of love and hope. But it has three serious flaws. It doesn’t define love, and it never delivers on the hope. It isn’t what Jesus preached.’
I agree with this analysis and offer these thoughts on the subject. I appreciate that Bishop Curry only had a limited time to speak and that the things I am going to say here would not be appropriate to say at a wedding service. However as Gavin Ashenden says this message of ‘Christianity-lite’ is very much part of contemporary Christianity, not just in the Anglican Church, so we need to know why it is inadequate.
Bishop Michael said, ‘There’s power in love. Do not underestimate it. Anyone who has ever fallen in love, knows what I mean. An old medieval poem says it: “Where true love is found, God himself is there.” The Bible, 1 John 4 says it this way: “Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; Everyone who loves is born of God. Whoever does not love does not know God for God is love.”’ (1 John 4:4-8)
Surely we can’t argue with the fact that God is love and that we should love one another? No, but we do need to understand that there is a condition to us receiving this love, and it is this aspect of the ‘God is love’ message which is missing. When we look at the context of the quote ‘God is love’ which he makes from 1 John 4.8, we see that receiving this love is dependent on our response to the message of the cross, that Christ died for our sins, was buried and raised from the dead. The verses which follow 1 John 4.8 define that love and tell us, 'In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins,'
God’s love is shown to us and given to us by the Lord Jesus coming into the world and being ‘the propitiation for our sins.’ Propitiation means to appease the anger of someone by making an offering which will satisfy that person. This means that at the cross Jesus bore the anger of God against sin on Himself, and offers us pardon by taking the punishment Himself. To receive this pardon and know God’s love we must repent of our sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
Until we do this the cross does not benefit us. In fact the Bible says we are ‘children of wrath’ ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ and objects of God’s anger against sin (Ephesians 2). Only when we receive Jesus as Saviour do we become children of God, as John 1.12-13 makes clear: ‘As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’
Bishop Curry said, ‘The way of love is the way to a real relationship with the God who created all of us, and the way to true relationship with each other as children of that one God, as brothers and sisters in God’s human family.’ The implication of this is that we are all children of God as a result of being born, and therefore brothers and sisters in God’s family. God accepts everybody, we are loved and affirmed as we are, therefore we must accept and affirm everybody as brothers and sisters in God regardless of their behaviour and religious or moral practice.
This message fits in with the diversity agenda. We must not be judgemental, we must accept every lifestyle and say that everyone is accepted by God as they are. Bishop Curry is the presiding head of the US Episcopalian Church, the American branch of the Anglican Church. This ultra liberal church has accepted the right of homosexuals to marry in church and has altered the words of the marriage service to remove any use of the terms “husband” and “wife” so as not to offend same-sex couples they marry. His Facebook page shows him giving a homosexual kiss to Louie Clay who is described as being a ‘queer poet and religious activist throughout the Anglican Communion.’
The New Testament teaches us that at the cross the Lord Jesus took the anger of God against sin on Himself, and offers pardon to the person who is facing punishment for their sins on condition that they repent and believe the Gospel. Until they do that they are the objects of God’s wrath. When God looks down on the earth and sees a world torn apart by violence, children abused, people being enslaved, drugs and pornography wrecking lives, religion being abused and used as an instrument of hatred or greed, does it make Him feel good about the human race? Does He say, ‘Aren’t they lovely? How much I love and accept them and respect their right to do these things?’
Psalm 7.11 says, ‘God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.’ Romans 1.18-19 tells us, ‘The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.’ It goes on to specify one particular sin which rouses the wrath of God, homosexual practice:
‘For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.’
The chapter concludes with words of warning to those who know ‘the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.’ That means that those who affirm practices which God calls sinful, even if they do not participate in them, are under the judgement of God. That includes those who preach such things from Christian pulpits, as does Bishop Curry and the American Episcopal Church.
This leads us to question another statement he made in his sermon: ‘One scholar said it this way: “Jesus had founded the most revolutionary movement in human history: a movement built on the unconditional love of God for the world and the mandate to live that love.” (Charles Marsh’s The Beloved Community).’
Did Jesus really found a revolutionary movement built on the unconditional love of God for the world? The most famous verse in the Bible does tell us that God does indeed love the world. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ John 3.16. But it also tells us that there are two possible responses to this love, one that leads to people perishing and the other to having everlasting life. Avoiding the bad option (perishing) and receiving the good one (having eternal life) is conditional on believing in Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
Those who receive the salvation God is offering us in Jesus, by repenting of sin and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, move out of darkness into the light of God’s favour and receive eternal life. Those who reject the Lord remain in spiritual darkness, and under the condemnation of God as the verses that follow John 3.16 show:
‘For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. … He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3.17-21, 36.
This whole side of the Gospel is missing from the ‘God is love’ message. Everybody is loved, accepted and a child of God because of Jesus’ death on the cross. We have a similar message in the hugely popular book, ‘The Shack’ which became a bestseller in America and has now been made into a film. This book preaches a message of universalism, that everybody is reconciled to God because of Jesus. God does not condemn or judge anyone. The ‘God’ figure in this book says, ‘I am not who you think I am. I don’t punish sin. Mercy triumphs over justice because of love. I am now fully reconciled to the world. Yes. In Jesus you are not under any law. All things are lawful. In Jesus I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me.’
All of these statements are untrue. The Bible consistently shows that God does punish sin, that God forgives the sins of those who repent and believe in Jesus, but that those who reject the salvation He is offering us are not reconciled to God.
James De Young, a New Testament language and literature professor at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, asserts that “The Shack” promotes a heretical idea of “universal reconciliation,” the concept that all people will be saved in the end. “The danger from all of this is to distort the gospel, to give people a false hope of being able to change their destiny after death and to distort the meaning of Christ’s death. Indeed, the need for Christ to die a sacrificial death for people’s sins is dissipated and eventually erased. But the greatest danger is that universal reconciliation redefines who God is by insisting that the attribute of God’s love trumps his other attributes of justice, holiness and righteousness. Love limits his other attributes. In so doing, some attributes are not fully expressed or perfect. In this way God ceases to be God. Instead we have a man-created, man-centred god.”
One implication of saying that God accepts everybody no matter what they believe, no matter how they behave, is that we should accept them as brothers and sisters in God’s family. God accepts all religions and life styles, including sexual infidelity, homosexual practice and transsexualism. So should we. In fact if you don’t go along with this and you say there is something wrong with these you are being judgemental and may find yourself discriminated against by the state, especially if you do so in the name of Jesus the Messiah.
But the Bible says there is a judgement. ‘It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.’ Hebrews 9.27. The sinner who does not repent is not reconciled to God and faces eternal judgement. That is why we must preach the Gospel, and show that there is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus, who died once for our sins and rose again for our justification and opened the way into the kingdom of God for us.
Bishop Michael concluded his message with a call to change the world by the power of love. ‘This love, this is the way of Jesus. And it’s game changer. Imagine our homes and families when this way of love is the way. Imagine our neighbourhoods and communities when love is the way. Imagine our governments and countries when love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when this love is the way. Imagine our world when love is the way. No child would go to bed hungry in such a world as that. Poverty would become history in such a world as that. The earth would be as a sanctuary in such a world as that. We would treat one another as children of God, regardless of differences. We would learn how to lay our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. There would be a new heaven, a new earth, a new world. A new and beautiful human family. The very dream of God.’
The way of Jesus is to love the world. All you need is love. The problem is it doesn’t work. No matter how much you love some people, they will continue to choose evil. The majority of people in the world will continue to make the wrong choice because as 1 John 5.19 tells us: ‘The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.’
The wicked one or Satan has been voted out of existence in the ‘love’ theology. But he carries on the business, tempting people to sin, using all kinds of demonic influences to fuel human wickedness. Jesus said of days before His return, ‘Because wickedness is increased most men’s love will grow cold.’ Matthew 24.12.
Violence, sexual immorality, drug abuse, spiritual deception will be more and more in evidence as we go into the last days of this age. In Revelation 9.21 we read that when the judgements of God are falling on the earth in the Great Tribulation period, ‘the rest of mankind … did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.’
There is only one way out of the judgement that is coming on the earth, repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, resulting in new birth. Jesus said ‘Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.’ Matthew 7.13-14.
The present world system is like a sinking ship. It has so many holes in it that no matter how hard we try we will not fix it. What we can do is get on the lifeboat of salvation in Jesus and encourage others to join us. Sadly the Bible indicates that only a minority will find their way to salvation and respond to God’s gift of love to the world, the Messiah, Son of God dying on the cross in order to take the sins of the world on Himself, in order that those who repent and believe will find salvation and eternal life.
At some point He will take those who believe in Him to Himself, in the event we call the rapture of the church, when one shall be taken to safety and one shall be left. Those who are left behind will face the time of tribulation which is coming on the earth because of human sin and rebellion against God. (Luke 17.26-37, 1 Thessalonians 4.16-18)
After the Great Tribulation, the prophetic vision of a world without poverty, war, and corruption will come to pass, but only after the return of Jesus the Messiah. He will then judge the world in righteousness according to how we have responded to the Gospel and set up His Messianic kingdom, reigning from a redeemed Jerusalem over the earth (Isaiah 2.1-4, Zechariah 14, Revelation 20).
In the meantime we are to love God and our neighbour, as the Lord commanded. In Colossians 3.12-15 Paul tells us
‘Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.’
This is the high standard to which God wishes us to live. We all fail, but by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as a result of the new birth we can aspire to this. When we fail, we can repent and know God’s forgiveness in Jesus. But only in Jesus. And only in Jesus can we have a glorious hope for our own future and the future of this earth.
The earth has wobbled. Startling claim by Inuit elders and its effect on the environment.
The elders of the Inuit people (Eskimos) who live in the Arctic regions of North America have reported to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) that the earth has ‘wobbled’ or shifted on its axis and that the ‘sky has changed.’ They declare that the sun rises at a different position now, not where it used to previously, and that the position of the stars from their point of view has changed slightly.
Living in such a precarious region, generations of Inuit have developed ways of accurately observing the seasonal changes in the rising and setting of the sun and the position of the stars in the night sky. This has become vital to their survival. They have concluded that in recent years the earth has tilted slightly on its axis, causing the sunlight to strike the Earth from a greater angle. They say this change accounts for their longer daylight as well as changes in the wind direction and temperature.
NASA has agreed with their conclusion on the shift in the earth’s axis, but said that this has been caused by climate change. The Inuit have come to a different conclusion, that the tilt itself is causing climate change and is something humans have no control over.
Whoever is right about the causes of the changes taking place, there are strange things happening to the environment in the Arctic region. The permafrost of the tundra is melting, causing the foundations of buildings to crack, roads to sink and the ground to erode. In Siberia there are places where the ground has started bubbling and become squishy under the locals’ feet like jelly. Giant bubbles are appearing, then exploding, creating sinkholes and releasing methane into the atmosphere. The methane increases the local temperature, causing the process to accelerate. One study estimates that by 2100, up to 205 billion tonnes of carbon emissions will be released by permafrost if this trend continues.
There are other strange things happening to the earth. Deep crevices in the ground have been appearing across the East African Rift Valley. One such crevice has cut across a major highway in Kenya. Scientists say that shifting tectonic plates beneath the earth’s surface are causing this phenomenon and that eventually (in a few thousand years) it will cause Africa to split in two. The geologic rift that runs through the eastern side of the continent will cause the ocean to flood into the rift valley, stretching from Ethiopia down to South Africa. As a result much of what we now know as east Africa will become a separate island.
At the same time we are seeing an increase in seismic activity, volcanoes and earthquakes. Rivers of lava have been pouring out of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii for weeks, and an earthquake of 5.5 magnitude struck near the volcano, followed by 500 smaller earthquakes around the island, an all time record for seismic activity. A massive eruption of Mount Merapi in Indonesia shot volcanic ash 38,000 feet into the air, and rivers of lava have poured out of Guatemala’s Fuego Volcano, killing at least 62 people and injuring thousands.
There are around 25 volcanoes currently erupting, many of them in the Far East, but also in Central and South America around the so-called “ring of fire.” Many major cities in North America, South America and Asia sit right along the “Ring of Fire”, and if the shaking of the crust of our planet continues to intensify, it is only a matter of time before major natural disasters begin to hit some of those cities. Yellow alerts were just issued for Mexico’s Mt. Popocatepetl and Alaska’s Great Sitkin volcano. Popocatepetl is close to Mexico City and about 25 million people live in its vicinity.
The ‘Steamboat’ geyser on Mount Yellowstone, USA, has shot boiling hot water hundreds of feet into the air eight times since February. This is very unusual and is awakening fears that the caldera under the Yellowstone super volcano may be waking up. A full blown eruption on Yellowstone would have catastrophic consequences for North America and beyond. Hundreds of cubic miles of ash, rock and lava would be blasted into the atmosphere, and this would likely plunge much of the northern hemisphere into several days of complete darkness. Virtually everything within 100 miles of Yellowstone would be immediately killed, and hot volcanic ash, rock and dust would rain down on places within 600 miles of Yellowstone. Experts project that such an eruption would dump a layer of volcanic ash that is at least 10 feet deep up to 1,000 miles away, and approximately two-thirds of the United States would suddenly become uninhabitable.
A UN backed report has announced that the world will run out of food and water at the present rate, because of the way the planet’s natural riches are in stark decline as nature’s contribution to economies and livelihoods is being impacted by mankind’s activities. It warns that fish stocks could run out in the Asia – Pacific region by 2048 due to overfishing and pollution of the oceans.
It also states that a quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa face hunger and malnutrition while huge areas of land have been degraded by overexploitation of natural resources, erosion, salinisation and pollution, resulting in significant loss of nature’s contributions to people. Even greater pressure will be placed on the continent’s environment as the current African population of 1.25 billion people is set to double to 2.5 billion by 2050. This could lead to increased migration from Africa into Europe, a continent where people are already consuming more renewable natural resources than the region produces.
Nearly a third of the continental United States was in drought as of April 2018, more than three times the coverage of a year ago. Adding to America’s water insecurity is a decades long decline in groundwater resources, which supply half of the nation’s residents and nearly all of its rural population, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Cape Town, a city of nearly four million people, came near to running out of water completely before the winter rains arrived, but the situation there remains perilous. Iran’s meteorological organisation says that nearly 96% of Iran suffers from some level of drought. Iran’s Environmental Minister had warned that “50 million Iranians could be forced out of their homes due to environmental damage.” India is facing its worst-ever water crisis, with some 600 million people facing acute water shortage. A government sponsored report warns that 21 cities are likely to run out of groundwater by 2020. This would also threaten food security as 80% of water is used in agriculture.
UN experts say further economic growth and sustainable development requires governments to act to tackle the degradation of the environment and the earth’s ability to provide for human need. This is not happening now and requires ‘far-reaching change in policies and tax reforms at global and national levels’.
At the present time the UN lacks the power to make such changes. It does have its plan to address this problem, known as Agenda 21, which it wants to put in place by 2030. According to its website, Agenda 21 is a ‘comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organisations of the United Nations system, government, and major groups, in every area in which humans have impact on the environment.’ Critics of this plan say its aim is a one world federal government, backed by socialist and extreme environmentalist principles, which will take away human freedom and cause the de-population of the earth. Some have tied this up with the prophesied antichrist government of Revelation 13.
Whether this comes to pass remains to be seen. At present we have President Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change agreement and other major governments paying scant heed to its requirements. The world clearly is in deep trouble regarding the only planet which humans can live on. This lines up with the prophecies of the Bible concerning the last days of this age and the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the book of Isaiah we have a prophecy of a time of great shaking coming on the earth. Some kind of shift in the earth’s axis appears to be a contributor to this situation:
‘Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants. …. The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left. …. For the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly, the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut.’ Isaiah 24.18-20.
The last part of this quotation from Isaiah connects this prophecy to the news from the top of the world, concerning the Inuit elders and the shift in the earth’s axis. This could cause changes in the climate as well as stress on the earth’s crust leading to an increase in seismic activity, volcanoes and earthquakes.
On the subject of the shifting tectonic plates affecting Africa’s Great Rift Valley, it is significant that this geological feature reaches as far as Israel. The Rift Valley passes through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba up to the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley, ending at the Golan Heights. In the light of biblical prophecies of the great earthquakes which will take place in that region at the time of the end, one wonders if something is stirring beneath the earth’s surface which will lead to these events taking place.
Ezekiel 38.19-20 describes a great earthquake taking place in the land of Israel at the time of the War of Gog and Magog in the last days of this age. In Revelation 11 we read of an earthquake affecting Jerusalem at the time of the end and in Zechariah 14 we read of the Mount of Olives being split in two at the time of the Second Coming of the Messiah:
'And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You.’ Zechariah 14.4-5.
If you travel down from the Mount of Olives to the east, you soon come to the Jordan Valley.
Jesus spoke of the time before His return when
'There will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. … And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21.11, 25-28.
In the beginning God gave to humanity the task of caring for the earth:
‘Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1.26-28.
Instead of caring for it, the human race has defiled the earth. As Isaiah says, ‘The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.’ One translation of this verse says, ‘the earth lies polluted under its inhabitants’. Paul describes the creation as being ‘subjected to futility’, waiting to be ‘delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.’ Romans 8.18-24.
One of the reasons why the Lord Jesus has to return soon is to save the earth from destruction and to recreate the earth as God intended it to be in His Millennial Kingdom. The prophetic scriptures describing the conditions on earth after His return are as wonderful as the description of conditions in the days immediately before His return are terrible:
‘They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’ Isaiah 11.9. ‘The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. … Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.’ Isaiah 35.1-7.
Only the Creator can bring about these changes to the earth, reversing the disasters which will strike it in the final period of this age, the great tribulation. This Messianic Age will come to pass when the Messiah returns, showing Himself to be the Lord God, Creator, Redeemer and Judge of all the earth. To be ready for this we must accept the salvation He is offering us when He came the first time as the Suffering Servant Messiah to bear the sins of the world upon Himself and make it possible for us to be redeemed by His sacrifice, so that we can have a place in His coming kingdom of righteousness. If we make the choice to accept Jesus as our Saviour and Lord now, we can have a sure and steadfast hope for the future, even as we see the world heading for disaster as a result of human sin and rebellion against God. As Jesus said, ‘When you see these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads because your redemption draws near.’ Luke 21.28.