Issue 80 Summer 2006
|Warm Christian greetings in the name of
the Lord - this issue deals with the two of the most dominant current
issues, sport and the future of Israel.
Sport - a national obsession
The End of Zionism?
Will Israel Survive?
Sport - a national obsession [KK]
We are again enjoying a great summer of sport. Cricket test matches, tennis at Wimbledon, the soccer world cup, golf at the Open, the Tour de France for cyclists have all found a place in the news bulletins. There is no doubt that the national psyche is substantially improved when the national team in any sport is doing well - you have only to remember the winning of the Rugby world cup in 2003, the Ashes victory last year and the last Olympic games when Kelly Holmes won two gold medals and the rowers again triumphed. We all felt better.
There is very little about sport mentioned in scripture. It is easy to see why. Sport is a leisure activity, the product of a settled, stable society, which was hardly the case in biblical times. The only remotely sporting activities were connected with prowess in war, throwing the javelin and swordmanship; Judges 20:16 speaks of 'seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair [breadth], and not miss.' Such proficiency does not come without a great deal of practice.
From 300BC Greek culture brought in the idea of a healthy mind in a healthy body. The Greek games included racing, jumping, throwing the javelin and discus, wrestling: sports with which we are familiar. Paul writing to churches which were surrounded by Greek culture brings two lessons which his readers would instantly identify with. To the Corinthian church he writes: 'Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.' [1 Cor 9:24-27]
And to Timothy his son in the faith: ''But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.' [ 1 Tim 4:7-8]
I offer three similarities and two differences between the Christian life and the life of a sportsperson.
(a) how you compete; strict training
Athletes set us an excellent example; you can of course take sport casually, but to succeed professionally sport has to be an all encompassing aim. We rightly admire the achievements of the Olympic games, but we only see the end product of years of dedicated effort. Matthew Pincent the rower spoke of his preparation as 'four years of tunnel vision', concluding with six months of intense self-discipline. There is no easy, instant way to an Olympic medal
Paul picks up this point in his words to Timothy: 'keep in training': 'take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit'. The Pakistan cricket team, of which ten are Muslims, is roused at 4 am for prayers. The seriousness with which the Muslims take their religious duties puts us to shame. David Pawson asked a gathering to raise their hands if they were involved in full-time Christian work. Only a handful did. David encouraged all of us who name the name of Christ to make all our time available to the Lord, in the modern jargon to be 24-7 Christians.
b) do's and don'ts
Anyone serious about sport doesn't smoke or drink or take drugs; they are
careful about what they eat, how they exercise, care for their bodies. It is the glory of our faith that we are delivered from doing in order to earn our salavation. ' For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast [Eph 2:8-9].
But if we are to grow to maturity as Christians, we do have to observe some rules for living. Our do's are summed up in what used to be spoken of as 'the means of grace' - bible reading, study, prayer, fellowship, the sacrament of Holy Communion, witnessing to the truth of the gospel.
We also take care with the dont's - or as Paul puts it avoid getting entangled with earthly matters. 'No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of [this] life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. [2 Tim 2:4-5]. The two things Paul would point to as dangers to avoid are materialism [compulsive shopping] and the media [especially the visual ones].
As Christians we are required to live different lives : like an athlete in training!
c) we both focus on the prize
The writer to the Hebrews [12:1-2] exhorts us to fix your eyes on Jesus. The Gk word is strong & carries with it the sense of 'turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something'. What are you looking at?
What is your top priority? Perhaps it's your family, your job, your possessions. Do you need to have something as well as Jesus?
(a) In the soccer world cup we had the anticlimax of the playoff for third place, but we perhaps forgot that Germany was 3rd in the world!
In 1953, when the Queen was crowned we heard on the same day that Hilary & Tensing had climbed Everest. By now hundreds have climbed the mountain, but we only remember & celebrate the first conquest. For Olympic gold medalists, there are a few hours, a few days of glory.
The wonderful difference about the Christian life is that we can all be winners: our gold medal is eternal life
'Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing' [2 Tim 4:8]
'Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.' [James 1:12]
(b) The second difference is equally wonderful. The Olympic symbol of 5 interpenetrating circles represents the five continents: in theory, all are free to compete. But there is such a thing as a qualifying standard. To be considered for a place in the 400 metres you must be able to run it in 43.5 secs!
There are qualifying standards in any sport; a level of performance that you must reach if you want to be taken seriously.
But anyone can be a Christian. You don't have to fill in application form, face an interview or qualifying examination, and you are not competing with other applicants.
Rev 21:17 tells us that 'whosoever will may come' - and come freely!
The End of Zionism? [PW]
The following quotes are taken from the lead article in the June edition of the magazine ‘Israel Today’.
“Every year on Independence Day, observant Israelis recite a prayer for the nation: “Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel the beginning of our redemption”. This year religious Zionists have altered the prayer by adding a few simple words: “that it will become the beginning of our redemption”. This little nuance shows that for the first time in the nation’s 58 year history, religious Zionist have begun to doubt that the establishment of the Jewish state marked a prophetic milestone in the Last Days leading up to the coming of the Messiah.”
“The settlers who believed that they were hastening the coming of the Messiah. by fulfilling the biblical commandment to resettle the Land, are now wondering if He will tarry”.
This disillusionment follows the Gaza pull out. To many the State, which was supposed to be the vehicle to bring about the redemption of Israel, is now standing in the way.
Ehud Olmert spelt out his vision for the land to the Knesset as follows. “I, like many others, also dreamed and yearned that we would be able to keep the entire land of Israel and that the day would never come when we would have to relinquish parts of our Land. Only those who have the land of Israel burning in their souls know the pain of relinquishing and parting with the Land of our forefathers….. I believe with all my heart in the people of Israel’s historic right to the entire Land of Israel. However, dreams and recognition of this right do not constitute a political program. Even if the Jewish eye cries, and even if our hearts are broken, we must preserve the essence. We must preserve a stable and solid majority in our state.”
Olmert’s vision is of a shrinking state seeking security behind walls and fences. At present Israel remains the strongest nation in the area. But can that last? How secure is Israel? Has a turning point been reached from which the nation will not recover.
I believe the return of the Jews and the establishment of Israel was a prophetic milestone in the Last Days heralding the soon return of Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah. But does that guarantee their security or even continued existence as a nation?
Will Israel Survive? [PW]
There are many Evangelical Christians who would give an emphatic Yes to the question of Israel’s continued existence. Both in sermons and books an assurance is given that God has promised that when He restores the Land Israel will dwell in safety and not be plucked up from the Land. Passages such as Amos 9: 15 and Isaiah 60: 18 – 22 are quoted in support of this interpretation.
I cannot reconcile such statements with my understanding of scripture. I fully believe that the return of Israel to the Promised Land in the 20th Century was in fulfilment of prophecy. It stands as a marker of the soon return of Jesus Christ and as an assurance that God is about to restore the Jews to a true relationship with Himself, a relationship through which all the millennial blessings will flow. But if my understanding of scriptural prophecy is correct the present nation will be destroyed.
As I write this article, Israel is warning the residents of Southern Lebanon to flee their homes to avoid being caught up in the fighting that is about to erupt. A very long time ago Israel was warned that times would come when they should flee their city and land to avoid being caught up in the judgements that were to fall on their nation. These warnings were delivered by Jesus.
The prophetic teaching of Jesus is central to any understanding of the Second Coming. His words are to be regarded as the defining prophecies. He warned of two separate occasions when judgement will fall on Jerusalem.
The first warning of judgement recorded in Luke 21: 20 - 33 refers to the time when Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies. This was fulfilled in the period 67 to 70 AD. The Christians recognising the warning sign as described by Jesus fled the city and were spared being caught up in the slaughter perpetrated by the Romans. After this prophecy Jesus inserts a time period in which the Gentiles will trample Jerusalem until their times are fulfilled (v24). Once this period is fulfilled He will return (25 – 33).
Jesus gave a second warning. It is recorded in Matthew 24: 15 – 31. He warned that immediately prior to His return there would be a time of trouble unprecedented in the history of the world, with its epicentre in Judea and Jerusalem. This time the warning sign is the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place. There is only one holy place to the Jews, the temple mount in Jerusalem. As in the previous warning all that will listen are warned to leave Judea as fast as possible or suffer the consequences.
Jesus makes reference both directly and indirectly to the prophecies of Daniel. In that book there are clearly two judgements to fall on Israel - the first for rejecting their Messiah, the second for rejecting their Saviour. The first judgement is now history. The second is to come. It will follow Israel’s acceptance of one who comes in his own name (John 5: 43) as her saviour.
A time of unprecedented distress
Daniel 12: 1 refers to this time of unprecedented distress spoken of by Jesus. It will be the worst time in the history of the nation of Israel, worse than Israel’s slavery in Egypt or captivity in Babylon, worse that the destruction of the nation by Rome or the attempted extermination of their race by Hitler.
Continuing in Daniel 12 we read: Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river, and the other on that bank of the river. And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, "How long until the end of wonders?" And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. Daniel 12: 5 - 7
The effect of this time of trouble will be to shatter the power of the holy people. It will last for a period of time, times and half; which is usually interpreted as three and a half years.
Has God brought the Jews back to the Land only to punish them further? No; He has brought them back to restore them to Himself. He loves them dearly and longs for them to return to Him. But first they must be broken. The props, which have given them hope over the last 2000 years, must be stripped away until they have nothing left but to cry out to their God and Saviour.
Trembling to the Lord
Hosea 3 is a chapter which describes the present state of the Jews. For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, and without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days. Hosea 3: 4-5.
For 2000 years the Jews have remained without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or teraphim. At the end of that period they will turn in repentance and seek the Lord. The Jews are back in the Land but as yet unrepentant. It is the process whereby God will bring the nation to repentance that we need to understand if our prayers for Israel are to be in tune with the heart of God in these last days.
Sprinkled with Clean water
Ezekiel 36 sets down the sequence of events in the restoration of the Jews that we are witnessing in our own day; "Therefore, say to the house of Israel, `Thus says the Lord GOD, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD," declares the Lord GOD, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. "And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God” Ezekiel 36: 22 – 28
First Israel is to be gathered from the nations. Then they will be sprinkled with clean water and cleansed from their filthiness.
Sadly Israel is as morally bankrupt as any western nation. Every sin which is dragging the West down is rife in Israel and probably more so. As I write there is much prayer and concern going up over the huge Gay Pride event planned for Jerusalem in three weeks time. Especially concerning are the events targeting children such as the planned Youth day at the Knesset. Regrettably it is reported that Olmert supports the holding of this event in Jerusalem. Israel will be cleansed from her sin but it is going to be a painful process. After this repentance and cleansing the nation will be born again, given a new heart and filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Day of the Lord
Joel 3 follows on from the description of the ‘Day of the Lord’ in the previous chapter. It speaks of the time when the Lord restores the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. At that time God will gather all the surrounding nations to the valley of Jehoshaphat to judge them (v12). Why is God judging them? It is on the basis of their treatment of Israel (v2). The surrounding nations have scattered Israel and divided the Land. They have traded a boy for a harlot and a girl for a glass of wine. They have sold the sons of Judah to the Gentiles in order to remove them far from the land.
The perpetrators of these crimes are not Babylon or Rome that would place the fulfillment of the Day of the Lord as past history. The ones held guilty are Tyre, Sidon, Philistia and especially Edom and Egypt. The surrounding Islamic nations which as every day passes are becoming more inflamed in their hatred of Israel.
Ezekiel 35 through to 36: 21 takes up the theme of judgement on Edom or as Edom is described in this passage, Mount Seir. At the time when all the world rejoices she is to become an everlasting desolation. The reason for their judgement which is repeated through out the passage: Because you have had everlasting enmity and have delivered the sons of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, at the time of the punishment of the end, Ezekiel 35: 5.
Whatever other forces are at work in the end times, it is Edom, the surrounding Arab nations, which take center stage in the final time of trouble for Israel.
The Fall of Jerusalem
Zechariah 14 describes a time when Jerusalem falls to her enemies and half the city is exiled. The time of trouble for Israel will continue until all hope is gone.
For 2000 years the Jews have retained their identity as a people, sustained by a belief that one day they will return to their land. In more recent times they have placed their hope in finally being free from unending persecution in their being a nation in the land. All this God is about to strip away. The nation will be destroyed, the land taken from them and the people scattered and enslaved. When all props have been stripped away. when trust in military strength has been crushed, when national identity has been extinguished - then they will repent and turn to the Messiah they once rejected.
Carried on the Wings of Eagles
Revelation 12 describes Israel as a woman who gives birth to a male child. This woman we understand to represent Israel. At the end time after Satan is cast down to the earth he persecutes the woman. She is described as being given the wings of an eagle and taken to a place of safety in the wilderness where she is nourished for a time, times and half a time.
I have often wondered where this place of safety will be. I will offer an explanation for you to weigh up. The only other reference in scripture to being carried on wings of eagles is to Israel’s flight from Egypt (Exodus 19: 4). Could it be that what is being described is a reverse of the coming out of Egypt. The time when Israel is taken back into slavery.
Thus says the LORD, "A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more." Thus says the LORD, "Restrain your voice from weeping,
And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded," declares the LORD,
"And they shall return from the land of the enemy, And there is hope for your future,"
declares the LORD, "And your children shall return to their own territory.
Jeremiah 31: 15 – 17
Seeing their children carried into slavery the mothers of Israel will weep giving them up for lost. God says to them do not weep for they will return. Although despised, rejected, treated as less than human by their captors in the place of slavery they will be secure. Once again God is going to turn apparent defeat into victory. The children who were lost will return.
The Last Trumpet
And it will come about in that day, that the LORD will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown; and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.
Isaiah 27: 12 -13
This is the trumpet spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24: 31 and also I believe by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 52. The Trumpet in Isaiah is referred to by the Jews as the last trumpet (this has been explained in a previous article). Those enslaved and perishing in Egypt and Assyria, and all the other places where they have been scattered, will be gathered back to their land. They will come trembling and repentant at last realising that their security, hope and salvation is only in Jesus Christ their Messiah.
Going back to the start of this article, I mentioned that those who assure Israel of her safety refer to passages of scripture such as Amos 9 or Isaiah 60. There is no passage in the scripture which promises security to Israel apart from the coming and acceptance of her Messiah. The only hope for Israel is Jesus Christ.
Making Aliyah (going up to the land)
A legitimate question is, If such a terrible time is in prospect how can we justify encouraging and helping the Jews to return? As I wrote at the beginning of this article; God wants Israel back in the land to bless them. I believe that those who are aiding the return are doing so in obedience to God.
To discourage their return is like a parent refusing to have children because there is a risk that the child will not accept Jesus as their saviour. We have children but in doing so we accept the responsibility of praying for them every day that they will accept the Lord and by our lives and witness helping them to understand the truth. So too in helping the Jews return we must accept the responsibility to pray for them and by our lives and witness to break down the barriers which prevent their accepting Jesus.
It is the Jews who have returned who will form the heart of the millennial kingdom. They are the ones who will pass through the refiner’s fire to come out as precious gold and silver.
I am more concerned for those Jews who don’t go back. Recently I watched a so called debate on the Islam Channel titled ‘Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism’ - not much of a debate as everyone participating including the panel, audience and chairman had clearly already made up their minds on the Issue. On the panel and in the audience were Jews who seemed eager to side with the Muslims in condemning Israel. Those Jews who stand aside or side with Islam during the time of Israel’s suffering will receive the same reward as Edom. They will be cast out to suffer with those who hate Israel.
Antichrist –Islam’s awaited Messiah
The first batch of books sold out quickly. I have a second batch and can still offer the book at the special price of £6.50 including p&p. Notably a number of people who have read the book have asked for more copies to pass on the friends. If you would like a copy please write to me enclosing a cheque for the required amount.
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