Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why Is This Happening?

Much has been written over the past several months about the causes of the financial crisis. Estimates of blame have ranged from government interference with mortgage markets to lack of oversight by federal regulators to old-fashioned greed run amok. Fewer have looked deeper, however, to explore just why the financial crisis struck when it did, as our nation faced an external threat from a loose alliance of Islamic radicals who aim to spread their religion around the world as well as an election in which the country was asked to choose between a traditional moderate and a charismatic newcomer who aimed to remake America in the image of the European social democracies.

A key to understanding the full significance of the challenge before us is to look beyond the economic and geopolitical realities that are all that most people ever see. Author Joel Rosenberg refers to this as looking through a “third lens,” one that allows us to see the world in terms of scriptural and prophetic realities. The fact that these realities are not as readily apparent as economic and political concerns does not make them any less real.

Without full awareness of the fact, I have been looking through the third lens for most of my life. I was raised in a Christian family where discussions of faith were neither pressured nor discouraged. As I grew older, I did question the validity of the Bible and was able to confirm its authenticity to my satisfaction through books such as Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ and Werner Keller’s The Bible As History among others. The fundamental truths of the Bible, such as the fact that there is an unseen war between good and evil that rages around us, are not in doubt for me.

My study of the Bible included a look at Biblical prophecies, since, if the prophecies were inaccurate, I reasoned, the Bible’s validity would be suspect. In the course of reading the prophetic books of the Bible, I read the Revelation, the last book of the Bible. To me, it seemed that the book was nearly incomprehensible as it was filled with apocryphal (symbolic) language. In effect, much of the Revelation was written in code. As I read other books on the subject, I learned that much of the code could be broken by reading other parts of the Bible. Along the way, I prayed for enlightenment.

Over the past few years, I have incorporated much of what I have learned into my blog articles. As I studied, it seemed that many of the prophecies of Revelation, as well as other books of the Bible, seemed to be on the cusp of being fulfilled. A key prophecy was given by Jesus Himself in Matthew 24:34 when seemed to say that the generation that saw the rebirth of the nation of Israel would see the end of the age (http://captainkudzu.blogspot.com/2007/12/signs-of-times.html). I also noticed that many of the Bible’s prophecies of the end-times seemed to point toward a prominent Muslim role in the latter days (http://captainkudzu.blogspot.com/2007/10/islam-and-revelation.html).

About the same time, I became aware of Joel Rosenberg. Rosenberg wrote a series of novels, beginning with The Last Jihad that contained remarkably accurate predictions of events that happened in the real world almost simultaneously with the publication of his books. His predictions had included a terrorist attack on the US using hijacked airplanes, the death of Yasir Arafat, and a second war with Iraq. Rosenberg soon published a nonfiction book, Epicenter: How the Rumblings in the Middle East Affect Your Future that detailed where he got the inspiration for his fictional works (http://captainkudzu.blogspot.com/2007/10/joel-c.html).

It turned out that Rosenberg’s inspiration was a little known prophecy from the book of Ezekiel. In chapters 38-39 of Ezekiel, the Bible foretells a future war against Israel by a coalition led by Magog and Persia. While the identity of Persia is certainly Iran, most theologians believe that Magog is Russia (http://captainkudzu.blogspot.com/2008/11/who-is-gog-of-magog.html).

Over the past few years, we have seen the pieces for the Magog war fall into place. A few years ago, Russia was written off as a second-rate power. Now it is resurgent as military and economic power. Vladimir Putin has strengthened his control over the country and is now a de facto dictator, if not a latter day tsar, ruling from the behind the scenes. Russia’s desire for imperial expansion can be seen in its recent dealings with the Ukraine and its 2008 invasion of Georgia.

Iran has been in the news as well. Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been a source of international concern for years now. In February 2009, the UN acknowledged that Iran probably has enough uranium to create a nuclear weapon. Additionally, Iran has tested rockets capable of boosting satellites, or nuclear warheads, into orbit. Iran’s rulers have left little doubt that, if they acquire a nuclear weapon, their goal would be to eliminate Israel and the United States. Their belief in the Twelfth Imam calls for them to create chaos in order to have the Mahdi appear to usher in a worldwide Islamic caliphate.

The two nations have already begun forging ties. Russia is supplying reactors for Iran’s nuclear program as well as sophisticated air defense systems to protect them from Israeli or American attack. Russia has also used its position on the UN Security Council to prevent meaningful UN action against Iran.

The list of nations that Ezekiel tells us will join the coalition against Israel is long, but there are two notable absences: Iraq and Egypt. Both nations have taken part in the other major wars against Israel, but both have legitimate reasons for opting out of this future conflict. Egypt and Israel have been at peace since Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords in 1979. On the other hand, Iraq is still hostile to Israel, but its military was destroyed in the 2003 US invasion. It is currently more concerned with internal security than with liberating Jerusalem. Incidentally, Babylon, mentioned in Revelation as the seat of power of a demonic world ruler, is in Iraq and is currently being rebuilt.

Other factors that may point toward a prophetic event include a spiritual awakening occurring in Muslim countries in which people who have never heard of Jesus experience supernatural dreams and visions that convince them that Isa, the Arabic name for Jesus, is the Son of God (http://captainkudzu.blogspot.com/2008/10/visions-of-isa-muslim-converts-to.html). Although missionaries have preached the Gospel to Muslims for hundreds of years, it is only in the last twenty to thirty years that Christianity has seen explosive growth in these countries.

More circumstantial is the fact that the Magog prophecy is sandwiched between prophecies of the rebirth of Israel (Ezekiel 37) and the construction of a new Jewish temple (Ezekiel 40-48). There is currently no Jewish temple because its traditional site is located on the same spot as the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. To dismantle this mosque would touch off a holy war of worldwide proportions. If, however, the mosque faced divine destruction, the path would open for the Jews to rebuild their temple. Though Israel has controlled Jerusalem since 1967, the Temple Mount remains in Arab hands. A group of Israeli Jews, the Temple Mount Faithful, believes this will change one day soon and is prepared to start construction on a new temple in short order.

As I watched Rosenberg’s books come true in the pages of the newspaper, I made a few predictions of my own. Well before the Democratic primary was settled, I predicted that Barack Obama would become president, that the US economy would soon be in severe trouble, and that Iraq would become relatively peaceful and stable with the help of US troops, which would remain well into Obama’s presidency (http://captainkudzu.blogspot.com/2008/03/speculating-on-end-of-world-as-we-know.html). The basis for these predictions was a spiritual worldview that seemed to indicate that the stage was being set for a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. (To be fair, I also believed that either Israel or the US would attack Iran before Obama took office. I based this prediction on an assessment of George W. Bush’s character, rather than scripture, however) (http://captainkudzu.blogspot.com/2008/08/coming-war-with-iran.html).

My predictions were based on the belief that it was possible that God was preparing for fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Ezekiel indicates that Israel will stand alone against the coalition in order to show His power to the world (Ezekiel 38:22). The question then became one of what would prevent the United States, Israel’s most trusted ally, from either taking action in the United Nations to halt the attack or from providing military aid. The most likely answers were a shift in the US position to one that was less favorable to Israel or the possibility that the US was pre-occupied with some other problem.

In recent years, the public mood of the US has started to shift away from Israel, especially on the left. For example, news reports focus on the accidental deaths of Arab civilians while all but ignoring the terror bombings and a steady stream of rocket attacks that kill and maim Israelis, both Jewish and Muslim. This shift culminated in the election of Barack Obama, who claimed during the campaign to support Israel’s right to defend herself, but who nevertheless is rumored to have strongly pro-Arab sympathies and who is unlikely to commit more US troops to defend Israel in another Middle East war.

Additionally, the current deteriorating state of the financial system of the US and the world makes it likely that the US would be too inwardly focused to respond to a rapidly escalating crisis in Israel. The situation is similar to how the US focus on the Great Depression distracted us from the rise of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. With federal deficit ballooning under emergency stimulus spending, cuts in the defense budget are likely under Democratic rule. When the crisis comes, the US may have little support left to give.

An additional reason to believe that the United States has a difficult future is that we, as a nation, have been courting God’s judgment for years. The Bible says to flee from sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:18), but in America we have embraced almost every sexual perversion imaginable from pornography to infidelity to homosexuality. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the little children (Matthew 19:14), yet in America we kill hundreds of thousands of unborn babies each year. In many ways, modern abortion is akin to the ancient practice of sacrificing children in the fires of pagan gods. Finally, even though statistics show that a majority of Americans believe in some sort of God, we allow a vocal minority to force the removal of nearly all aspects of Christianity and God from public life. This is tantamount to a national rejection of God.

Throughout our history, Americans have typically believed that God was instrumental in our founding and that God had a special plan for the United States. From our nation’s inception, we saw ourselves as the possessors of a manifest destiny to spread the gospels of Christ and democracy around the world. Because of our special national relationship with God, many fail to believe that God will punish our nation. Such beliefs fly in the face of history. The ancient Jews of Israel and Judah believed that since they were God’s chosen people, the nation that watched over His temple, that they were immune from God’s judgment. In the end, however, both nations were annihilated by pagan powers, Israel by the Assyrians in 720 BC and Judah by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Israel then ceased to exist as a nation until AD 1947. The Bible repeats that God is slow to anger, but also states that He is unable to ignore sin and rebellion indefinitely (Numbers 14:18). As someone once said, if God fails to judge America, He owes Sodom and Gomorra an apology.

While it is by no means certain that my theories about God’s judgment on America and the fulfillment of the Magog prophecy are accurate, many of the details seem to fit together extremely well. Coincidences do happen, but at some point, it takes more faith to believe in coincidence than in God’s divine plan coming to fruition. With prophecies and signs from all three of the world’s major religions pointing toward a worldwide upheaval, the notion of a string of coincidences becomes harder to accept. If the theory of prophetic judgment is correct, what action should we take?

First, I do believe that God is forgiving. A passage of scripture that has become popular in recent years is 2 Chronicles 7:14 which states that “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

This belief is supported by the story of Josiah, one of the last godly kings of Judah. During Josiah’s reign, a lost copy of the scriptures was discovered in the temple (2 Kings 22-23). When Josiah read the scripture, he learned that much of what he thought he knew was wrong. He inquired of the Lord through a prophetess and learned that destruction of his country was imminent. Josiah went about removing the pagan cults from Judah and returning his people to worship of God. In the end, Josiah was successful in staving off God’s judgment temporarily. Tragically, after Josiah’s death, Judah returned to its idolatrous and evil ways.

On an individual basis, the most important thing is to entrust your life to Jesus Christ. Whether judgment comes tonight or a thousand years from now, we all must answer for our sins. My life has not been bad by human standards. I don’t have a history of crime, drug abuse, or some other sordid past like many who testify to how Christ changed their lives. However, in God’s eyes, even little sins are punishable by death if we do not choose to accept His forgiveness.

Additionally, another change that I have made as I realized the possibility of dramatic changes to come, is to move to a church that is more interested in evangelical outreach than my former church. (Incidentally, I don’t believe that I’ve heard my pastor preach on end-time prophecies at all. Hear his sermons on your Ipod at http://peachtreecc.org/). Regardless of whether we are living in the last days or not, people in this country and around the world can benefit from a relationship with Jesus Christ. The fact is that one of the few commandments that Christians face is the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” given by Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:19-20). This doesn’t mean to go out and beat people over the head with a Bible. It does mean to share the Gospel and what it means to us so that they can make their own decision.

If fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy does come to pass, the Russian-Iranian coalition will be destroyed as God intervenes to save Israel from certain destruction (Ezekiel 38:19-23). Following a great earthquake, fire and hailstones from heaven will destroy the attacking army. It will be apparent to the entire world that God not only exists, but is in total control. I hope that people reading this who choose not to accept Christ will remember reading this and remember that the entire event was written down almost three thousand years ago by a prophet of God.

2/27/09
Scottsdale AZ

1 comment:

matt said...

David,

I was impressed with your eschatological savvy! I would agree with you that just because we don't view things with Rosenberg's "third lense," doesn't negate the fact that we have to be watchful and on guard in these matters. I was surprised, although very happy, that you came to an understanding to view biblical prophecy in light of the scriptures. Many today run to the newspapers to find corresponding evidence of prophetic fulfillments.

In bible school, this would be called having proper hermeneutics. Scripture interprets scripture.
Concerning the recent Russian invasion of Georgia, many are sound asleep as to what this means to the U.S. and the world at large. The church is certainly asleep! I would like for you to share a little more concerning the 'Twelfth Imam' and the 'Mahdi.'

You were absolutely correct when you spoke of Israel being God's chosen people and the national pride that this caused. However, they were not immune from God's judgment when they rebelled against his commandments and walked in sin. God has no respect of persons. I am afraid that America is treading on thin ice and in danger of God's judgments to an even greater degree because of the truth that we have received.

Back to "End-Time" prophecy specifically. There are six different "lenses" through which the book of Revelation can be viewed. The first is the 'preterist' or past approach. This approach views the book as past events already fulfilled in the history of the Roman empire or the first century of the church with Nero being the Antichrist. The second view, Historical approach, views events of the present age such as the early persecutions, the barbarian invasions, the Dark Ages, the French REvolution, Russian Revolution, WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam war.

Thirdly, the Topical or Cyclical approach, deals with no events at all. Rather, general visions which teach of no future specific events, but which assert over and over merely the lesson that eventually God will win over Satan in every sphere of life. The God over Satan lesson is repeated in cycles or chapters.

Then, there is the Allegorical or Mystical approach. This view also views no events at all. The book being merely a long allegory or picture story with hidden themes of philosophy and love disguised under the external less important words of the book. Next, we have the Liberal or Modernisitic approach. This view includes only human guesses of what would happen to Nero, Rome and the new religion as time went on.

Lastly, we have the 'futuristic' approach. This approach views events still in the future which will occur in the seven-year future tribulation period called Daniel's seventieth week. (Dan. 9:27) The rapture will occur, the antichrist will be revealed and he will become a world leader. God will pour out judgments upon the earth which will culminate in the destruction of Antichrist's armies at Armageddon at the Revelation of Jesus Christ at the end of the seven years.

Believe it or not, this is a fairly new view which was developed by John Darby around 1830(This was the "lens" under which I was raised. Based on your writings, you share the same lens.) It would take too much space to explain the first view or the "preterist view" in this writing. I plan to send you a booklet on the subject. I researched various views on eschatology while in my master's program for several years. I believe you would be thoroughly interested. Thank you for all of the insight you have provided. I will pass this blog along to others. Excellent job!

Matt Cawthorn