Discourse 29 - Are we living in the Last Days?




Are we living in the Last Days? / Article, Walter Hink 00 2001-01-28

Was Israel gathered together by God in 1948? / Reply Walter Hink 00, 2002-06-17

Anti-Discrimination Acts: The beginning of birth pangs? / Information service TOPIC 00, 2008-08-06

Do the acts of war in Syria have a prophetic background? /    Part 1  Discourse 113 

Does the Bible predict the Syrian civil war chaos for the Last Days? /    Part 2  Discourse 1132

The Great Tribulation - God’s third and last wave of destruction. /    Part 3  Discourse 1133




(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Are we living in the Last Days? / Article WH00, 2001-01-28 +))

The greatest day in the history of Israel’s new chronology was actually a night! It was the night between the 14th and the 15th of May, 1948, the 4th of Iyyar of the year 5708 in accordance with Jewish chronology. There was breathless silence in the Tel Aviv museum, as Ben Gurion, who later became the first Prime Minister of the new State of Israel, read aloud the declaration of independence. With deep emotion, he solemnly proclaimed to the ears of the astonished listening world the re-establishment of the State of Israel. Among other remarks, he said:

“For two thousand years we have waited for this hour, and now it has finally arrived. When the time is accomplished, nothing can stand against God.”

Prophecy becomes history, promises are fulfilled in reality. A fateful decision had been taken. The Jewish people, who over many generations had suffered endless tribulations, had passed from bondage into freedom. Believers who are familiar with the Word of God will see in this, beyond all doubt, the fulfillment of prophetic indications of the return of Israel to its own land. (...)

Israel became a productive agrarian economy. Its internal food production covers its requirements for the most part. Since the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, agricultural production has increased more than sixfold. For many years citrus fruits and stone fruits have been exported to many countries of the world. Israel’s Jaffa oranges and grapefruits are world-famous, and you are bound to have come across them.

When the disciples of Jesus asked their Master to tell them of “the signs of his coming and of the end of the age” (Mt 24,3), he gave them this indication:

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that it is near, right at the door” (Mt 24,32-33).

All the signs of the times, in connection with Israel’s renewal, reconstruction and replanting, point us in the direction of this parable of the fig tree. Israel is literally blossoming – not just its countryside, but also in political terms. So the summer must be near. This is not a seasonal summer, but a summer of world history. So it is by no means just a fanatical enthusiasm for the Last Days, but an expression of our knowledge of the Bible, if we now conclude, in view of the way the nation of Israel has been raised to new life:

We are living in the Last Days! We are truly living in the time shortly preceding the return of Jesus Christ to earth!

+) This extract is taken from the article “Israel’s significance in the Last Days”, on the website of Urchristen - Christadelphian [Primitive Christians – Christadelphian].

(http://www.christadelphian.de/ )



Here we again have to do with the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the relation of this event to the gathering and return of the people of Israel prophesied in the Bible.

When Ben Gurion is quoted in the above passage as saying, “When the time is accomplished, nothing can stand against God,” of course we can only give our unreserved assent. The question only remains to be put whether this was the point at which the time was accomplished.

If we compare all the prophecies relating to the gathering of Israel in the Last Days, we will find that none of the promised signs, such as for instance

-  the conversion of the Israelites to the Lord their God (Hos 3:4-5),

-  their being purified of all their sins (Eze 36:33),

-  the Spirit of God being poured out upon them (Isa 32:14-15; 44:1-5)

-  their walking with the statutes of God and keeping his ordinances (Eze 11:19-21)

-  of every one’s being called holy who is ordained to live in Jerusalem (Isa 4:2-3)

-  of Israel’s being the chief among nations (Deut 28:1; Jer 31:7-9)


have been fulfilled, either at that time or today.

The people of Israel today, as it is already stated in Rom 11:25, has become hardened. And will be, until such time as “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in”. So long, then, as God’s plan of salvation for the non-Jewish nations has not been accomplished, so long will the people of Israel refuse to be converted, and consequently also they will be unable to return to their own land as God has promised them.

What has been going on in Israel since it was established as a state? The people has been brought together, and it is human will and human endeavor that has sustained and brought about this result. The people of Israel today is in no way distinguishable from the nations of the Gentiles. It was not and it is not the Lord, their and our God, who has been their leader (Jer 16:15, 31:8; etc.). The Almighty has no influence or significance for Israel’s politics today, or for its business – or even, in some respects, for its religion.

Many of the Jews living in Israel today are Jews in terms of their origin, certainly, but not in terms of God’s promise. More than this, it is a fact that a great proportion of the population of Israel – especially the great mass of Russian immigrants – is without religion. Here, then, those other Old Testament passages also have application – those that see the land of Israel in the Last Days as being inhabited, but complain that the people dwelling in Jerusalem are unwilling to acknowledge the Lord their God, and instead worship idols (the idols of politics, business, finance etc.).

And so it is not surprising to find that this “gathering together” since 1948 bears no resemblance to the prophecies of scripture. This return of the people was accomplished by Theodor Herzl and his Zionists, who promoted this project – and with every success. The gathering together of the people of Israel in the Last Days, however, will be managed by another person altogether.

Christ will bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to His God

Isa 49,1 Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. 49,2 He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. 49,3 He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory.” 49,4 But I said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity; Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the LORD, And My reward with My God.”

49,5 And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), 49,6 He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isa 49, 1- 6;


This passage from Isa 49,1-6 tells us who will bring Israel together and gather it as a people to its God. It is Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah, who has not just become a light to the Gentiles, but who also, in these final days, will become the redeemer of those of the people of God who come of Israel. He will reestablish the fallen booth of David, and rebuild it as it was in former times.

The most apparent sign demonstrating that this return of the Jewish people in the time since 1948 is not the gathering together promised by God is the circumstance that Israel from the very beginning has had to fight for this land against the Palestinians, and thousands of people have been killed on both sides, in a war that has now lasted for fifty years! This cannot be the will of God, nor is it the will of God as expressed in the Old Testament promise, relevant in this connection, that we find in Hosea 1,7:

But I will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen.

Hos 1,7 “But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the LORD their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen.” Hos 1, 7;


This gathering together of the Jews, which their God has promised them, will not take place on the basis of combat and war – and above all, it will not go on for half a century.

A more detailed disquisition on this point may be found in Discourse 08, and especially in Chapter 09.

(See also Discourse 08: “The gathering of Israel: already since 1948, or not to happen until the Last Days?”)

(See also Chapter 09: “The return home of the redeemed.”)

And now the author of the article quoted above cites the admittedly notable accomplishment of the Israelites of today, who have increased agricultural production more than sixfold since 1948, and in particular have made themselves world-famous through the export of citrus fruits and stone fruit.

He then adduces these facts in connection with a statement made by the Lord in Mt 24,32-33.

So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that it is near, right at the door.

Mt 24,32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 24,33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that it is near, right at the door. Mt 24,32-33;


And he concludes from this that in consequence the “summer” – that is, the close of the age – is near, and opines:

“We are living in the Last Days! We are truly living in the time shortly preceding the return of Jesus Christ to earth!” 

We would like, then, to examine the entire context of this saying of our Lord’s, in order to have a better comprehension of the background, and to understand all its implications. Let us start from the questions put by the disciples at the outset of this passage, in Mt 24,3:

What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?

Mt 24,3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Mt 24, 3;


They wanted, then, to know the signs which might be recognized as pointing to the Second Coming of the Lord and the “end of the age” – that is, to the end of worldly kingdoms and the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom of peace.

And then the Lord tells them of some of the signs of this time:

But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Mt 24,4 And Jesus answered and said to them, See to it that no one misleads you. 24,5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.

24,6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 24,7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.

24,8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Mt 24, 4- 8;


Thus, the following worldwide events are the signs for the beginning of the Last Days before the Return of the Lord,

-  Many will come, in the name of Christ, to lead the people astray.

-  We will hear of wars and rumors of wars.

-  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

-  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.


But all this is not yet the end: it is only the beginning of the birth pangs, as the Lord says in Mt 24,8. After these events, the Lord foretells a difficult time for believers.

Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you.

Mt 24,9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 24,10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 24,11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 24,12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 24,13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 24,14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Mt 24, 9-14;


-  As Christians, they will be hated by all the world, delivered over and killed.

-  There will be many collaborators who will betray them.

-  Many false prophets will come and lead people astray.

-  As lawlessness has become a norm, people’s love will grow cold.

-  And yet the gospel will be preached until the end.


So it will be a time of tribulation for the faithful, and there will not be many who will be preserved until the end of this time. But then, as it appears, there will be yet another addition to their afflictions. When the abomination of desolation stands in the holy place (here the Temple in Jerusalem is probably meant), the “Great Tribulation” will begin.

For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world.

Mt24,15 Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 24,16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 24,17 Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 24,18 Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 24,19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 24,20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 24,21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 24,22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 24,23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24,24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 24,25 Behold, I have told you in advance. 24,26 So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 24,27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 24,28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. Mt 24,15-28;


-  The abomination of desolation will stand in the holy place.

-  There will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred ever before nor ever will.

-  The faithful will have to flee in great haste.

-  False Christs and false prophets will perform great wonders.


(See also Chapter 03: “The Great Tribulation.”)

And the Lord warns the faithful of these final times that they should not let themselves be misled when people tell them that Christ has already come. When the Lord comes, it will not be either in the wilderness nor in the inner rooms: as lightning in the heavens, so then will the coming of the Son of Man be. But it is not yet the time of his coming. After this tribulation, there will first be a great darkness over all the earth, and the powers of this world will totter.

The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.

Mt 24,29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Mt 24,29;


That is,

-  The sun will be darkened and the moon cease to shine.

-  The stars will fall from the sky.

-  The powers of the heavens will be shaken.


And only then will the sign of the Son of Man appear, like lightning in the sky.

They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky.

Mt 24,30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 24,31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Mt 24,30-31;


-  The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.

-  People will see the Lord coming on the clouds of the sky.

-  All the tribes of the earth will mourn.

-  He will send his angels forth to gather in his elect from the whole world.


These, then, are all the events which will occur – from the beginning of the birth pangs until the Second Coming of the Lord. And because maybe the disciples stood looking at him, speechless and fearful, and perhaps because they were expecting a more specific statement of the date, the Lord now gives them an indication.

So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that it is near, right at the door.

Mt 24,32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 24,33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that it is near, right at the door. Mt 24,32-33;


He tells them that just as they can recognize the approach of summer from the tender and sap-filled branches of the fig tree in springtime, so too will believers in the Last Days be in a position to recognize, from the progression of these events, that the Second Coming of the Lord, and their redemption, is close at hand.

This is what is meant by “all these things”, in this saying of the Lord: “so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that it is near, right at the door.”

As we can see, these are not statements relating to

“Israel’s renewal, reconstruction and replanting”

nor to the fact that

“Israel is literally blossoming – not just its countryside, but also in political terms”

- it is rather the case that Israel, in fact, is not mentioned here at all: instead, it is precisely these world-wide events of the Last Days which the Lord has foretold to us that we should observe, in order to be in a position to recognize whether these final times have dawned upon us or not.

This passage from Mt 24,32-33, which refers to

-  wars, famines, earthquakes

-  hatred amongst the nations

-  persecution of Christians

-  a great tribulation, such as has never been seen before


has therefore nothing at all to do with the economic development of Israel over the last 50 years as represented by the article cited above. The interpretation of these sayings as referring to Israel has its foundation not in the biblical context, but solely and exclusively in a willfully symbolic view of the fig tree as “Israel”.

Now it may well be the case that in some passages Israel is represented as a fig tree. But here, in Mt 24,32-33, the fig tree is quite simply a fig tree and nothing else. This – as we have seen – can be very simply established, just by reading the 31 preceding verses.

And there we can recognize as well that, in that generation which will experience the Second Coming of the Lord, in the Lord’s eyes there will be two groups of people. On the one hand the faithful, who according to the passage quoted from Mt 24 will be living in such a terrible state of affliction as we today can hardly imagine – let alone see anything in our own time remotely resembling it.

And on the other hand, the unbelievers, who would do well not to wish for the coming of this day, as we can see from the following scriptural passages:

But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?

Mal 3,2 But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3,3 He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. 3,4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. Mal 3, 2- 4;

When the Lord has purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment.

Isa 4,2 In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel. 4,3 It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy – everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem. 4,4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, 4,5 then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. Isa 4, 2- 5;


This statement of the author’s, then, that we are living “... in the time shortly preceding the return of Jesus Christ to earth” is not an expression of his knowledge of the Bible, but rather of fanatical enthusiasm for the Last Days. If however we have regard to the prophecies of the Lord with reference to the fate of Christian believers in this future time, and on the other hand likewise take into account the seriousness of the above two texts from the Old Testament, we must be thankful and relieved that we are all – both Gentiles and Israelites – still living in the time of grace, in which the Lord is patient and merciful with us, and in which many of us may yet be converted to the Lord.

It is undoubted that the time of the Last Days will be the conclusion appointed by God of all human power here on earth. But as Paul tells us in 2The 2,1-4 below, we should be careful of crediting those people who make out the coming of this day before the appointed time. They do not know, what they would cause to them and to their children.

Let no one shake you by a letter as from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

2The 2,1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2,2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2,3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 2,4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 2The 2, 1- 4;




Conclusion

Making out that this time of the end is here is on the one hand a speculation on the attractiveness of this theme, while on the other it bases itself for the most part on mere textual hints (the “fig tree”), rather than subjecting the thesis to a thoroughgoing textual analysis. So long as we as Christians are able to act so freely and with so little hindrance as at the present time in proclaiming the gospel in most parts of the world, we are surely not living – thank the Lord – in the Last Days. But one might expect, of those who think that this epoch of history has already dawned, that they should promulgate to their fellow human beings, in the short time that is left, the message of salvation through the redeeming sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, rather than the message of their imminent destruction.




(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Was Israel gathered together by God in 1948? / Reply WH00, 2002-06-17)

You begin your negative comments with the following statement: “If we compare all the prophecies that relate to the Last Days, we can definitely assert that none of the promised signs (as indicated for example in Hosea 3,4.5; Ezekiel 36,33; Isaiah 32,14.15; Isaiah 44,1-5; Ezekiel 11,19-21; Isaiah 4,2.3; Jeremiah 31,7-9) has taken place, either in the past or up to the present day.” At no point in my article did I claim that any of the biblical prophecies you mention has already been fulfilled for the people of Israel. You thus begin your commentary by attributing to me opinions that I do not in fact hold. Is this fair? I am well aware that the biblical prophecies cited above will only be fulfilled when the people of Israel acknowledges Jesus Christ as its Messiah when he returns to earth once more (Zech 12,10). And because Jesus has not yet returned to earth, the people of Israel as a whole cannot yet possibly be in a state such as you expect on the basis of the biblical passages cited. This, however, is an error of yours, and not a misinterpretation on my part, seeing that I did not make such a claim anywhere in my essay.

But what has to take place before Jesus Christ returns to earth? Could he, for instance, have returned 100 years ago, when there was no state of Israel with Jerusalem as its capital yet in existence? Of course not! This is because Jesus is to return to Israel, specifically to the Mount of Olives, in order to be on the side of Israel in the last great world war. Please just take the time to read carefully God’s prophecies through the mouth of the prophet Zechariah in chapters 12 to 14. - Before Jesus returns to earth, then, there has to be a people of Israel dwelling in the land of Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital. In your eagerness to criticize me, can it be that you overlooked this point? I referred to the land of Israel’s becoming a fertile agricultural region, although before 1948 this stretch of territory consisted only of desert, barren mountain and swamps, and to the rebuilding of the cities of Israel in keeping with the promise made by God; and you further assert that my remarks have nothing to do with God’s prophecies. - Now, have you never read Ezekiel 36? Here the return of the people of Israel to its homeland is described (Eze 36,24), and the planting of the land of Israel (Eze 36,8.9.29.30.34.35) and the rebuilding of the cities of Israel (Eze 36,33) are likewise mentioned. And it is also stated why God is doing this: not because Israel has already become a holy nation - by no means! It is for his holy name’s sake, and in order to keep the oath that he swore to the forefathers of the house of Israel, that God is bringing all these things about (Eze 36,22.32). You assert that this gathering together of the Jews, the recultivation of the land of Israel and the rebuilding of the cities of Israel would not go on for fifty years. But where, I ask you, do you find this in Scripture? How long does one need to make a land fruitful once more, to rebuild cities? One thing is certain: God has a lot of patience. He also has time - plainly more patience and more time than you! As for the pouring out of the Spirit of God on his people Israel, all the biblical passages I have cited leave no doubt that this will only happen after the great world war for Jerusalem, at the time when Jesus has already returned to earth and has been recognized by Israel as its Messiah. Please read Ezekiel 39,25-29 for proof of this point.

In refusing to recognize the return of the people of Israel to its homeland as God’s work, before the eyes of the generations that have lived from 1948 to the present day, you throw away the best trump that God has given us for our proclamation of the gospel today. In the return home of Israel in our own time we have the best - because the most obvious - proof that the Bible really is God’s revelation of his intentions and so is true! You write: “What has happened in Israel since the foundation of the state of Israel is a coming together that has been carried and impelled by human will and human effort.” So it may well appear to your superficial view. Regrettably, you then go on: “It was and is not the LORD, Israel’s and our God, who has directed this operation.” On this point, at any rate, we are of a completely different opinion from you. Without God’s help - that is, on the basis of Jewish effort alone - there would be no state of Israel and no nation of Israel living in the land of its fathers today.

1. It was the Almighty who through his instrument Theodor Herzl in 1897 planted the idea in Jewish hearts that, after a worldwide diaspora lasting almost 2000 years, there might once more be a homeland for the Jews. So Zionism was founded, regarded today by Israel’s enemies as a form of racism. In our opinion it is the fulfillment of the word of God, according to which he will send “many fishermen” to fish the Jews out from among the peoples of the world, in order to restore them to the land of Israel (Jer 16,16).

2. It was the Almighty who through the First World War created the possibility that not Uganda in Africa would become the new settlement area for Jews, as the UNO proposed, but rather that the country called Palestine - as a result of the British mandate - would come under their influence. Thus it was that the English Lord Balfour formulated his famous Declaration that the former land of Israel should once more become a homeland for the Jews.

3. It was the Almighty who cruelly drove the Jews out of Europe, as a result of the Second World War and Hitler’s persecution, so fulfilling God’s word where he says that he will send “many hunters” to hunt the Jews (Jer 16,16). Prior to this the German Jews lived in affluence and comfort, as Germans in Germany. They were subjected to a cruel terror, six million of them were brutally murdered and the remainder saved their lives by flight, some to Israel and the majority to America.

4. It was the Almighty who so richly blessed the Jews in America that they were able to give financial support to their poor relations in the land of Israel, above all for the purpose of procuring weapons with which to defend themselves against the attacks of their overmighty - because over-rich - Arab neighbors.

5. It was the Almighty who stood by Israel in the five wars that have since then taken place. Have we already forgotten in what a wonderful way God helped Israel to survive in 1948, in the war of independence, and in the Sinai war of 1956? Without God’s help the overmighty Egyptians, of whom there were 500 million, and the rich Arabs would indeed have thrown the Jews - of whom there were just 4 million, and those ill armed - “into the sea”, as Nasser at the time loudly threatened to do. It was the miracles of God that enabled this small bunch of Israelis and their newly acquired land to survive. Since the Jews have once more been permitted to dwell in their own land, they have been dwelling “in safety”. Safety is a relative concept, above all for Jews. In their own land they could finally save their skin and defend themselves. That is the meaning of safety! For two thousand years, as long as they were living among other peoples and were regarded as unwelcome aliens, political zealots could drag them brutally from their beds in the middle of the night and treat them in any way they pleased. They were helplessly exposed to such attacks. Hardly anyone made an attempt to defend them. It all happened exactly as God foretold (Deut 28,64-67)! If you ask the Jews whether they feel safer now, in the land of Israel - in spite of Palestinian terrorism and the wars that have taken place to date - than they did when they were scattered abroad among the nations, they will emphatically answer in the affirmative.

Before Jesus Christ can return to earth and finally save the Jews from their enemies, it was necessary that the Jews should once more dwell in their own land and Jerusalem once more be their capital, as indicated by Ezekiel 37. How otherwise could God’s prophecies in Zechariah 12,1-6 and Zechariah 14,1-5 be fulfilled? Your observations are certainly interesting, and provide food for thought. But if a person has thoroughly read up on the history of Israel from the beginning, and has followed the last 100 years with particular attention, he will find that our view of the word of God is more convincing than what you suggest. Since the First World War so many instances have piled up of the Jews’ being visibly directed by the hand of God and of the decisions of political leaders being influenced by God’s Spirit, that it is no longer possible to speak of coincidence or the work of man. In spite of all the dissension in the Middle East - which can be seen as just the “birth pangs” for the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom of God - God still stands on the side of Israel. One who is unable to recognize that is closing his eyes to a miracle of God, and what is more serious still, he is denying God’s saving plan for his people Israel, the plan that God is carrying out as a testimony before the eyes of all the nations of the world (Ezekiel 36,23; Eze 38,16; Eze 39,23-29!). Incidentally, this clear sign of the last days given by God, in his gathering the people of Israel together again, is not just a case of my speculating with attractive ideas (another overweening imputation on your part), nor is it alarmism or fanaticism - rather, the recognition of this sign of the last days should warn us that the time for deciding to accept God’s offer of salvation in Christ through faith and baptism is running out. Once Christ returns to earth, the time of grace is over! Please read, in this connection, 1. Thessalonians 5,1-11.

Walter Hink: Walter.Hink@t-online.de /http://www.christadelphian.de/nord/who.htm



It would undoubtedly be wearisome to the reader if I were once more to advance all those arguments which have already been offered above, in the commentary on the article. Anyone who has read this commentary knows the answers already. According to Scripture, the gathering of Israel promised by God will not take place before the coming of the Lord, as Walter Hink claims. It is precisely the other way around: the Lord must come first, and it is the Lord who will then gather Israel into its own homeland.

Two things should be pointed out here all the same, because of their demonstrative character. On the one side there is the statement by the prophet Isaiah, that it is the Messiah, Jesus Christ - not Theodor Herzl - who is to bring back Jacob to his God and gather Israel to himself:

To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him.

Isa 49,5 And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), 49,6 He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Isa 49, 5- 6;


And here is a related saying of our Lord himself:

From now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’

Mt 23,37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 23,38 "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 23,39 "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’" Mt 23,37-39;


If now W. Hink, in his reply above, very properly states -

“I am well aware that the biblical prophecies cited above will only be fulfilled when the people of Israel acknowledges Jesus Christ as its Messiah when he returns to earth once more” -


the background to this, as we know, is that the people of Israel absolutely refuses to acknowledge this same Jesus Christ as its Messiah, and still less as the Son of God and its Lord. But we have, in this connection, the saying of the Lord in Jn 14,6:

No one comes to the Father but through Me.

Jn 14,6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. 14,7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Jn 14, 6- 7;


Inasmuch as all Israelites who believe in the Law of Moses refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and even as their Messiah, they have - according to the Lord’s statements just quoted - no chance of coming to God in the time between the Lord’s death and resurrection and his return to earth. Only on the Second Coming of the Lord, when they will look on him whom they have pierced and weep bitterly over him, will the people of Israel once more be reconciled to its God.

They will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son.

Zech 12,10 "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. Zech 12,10;


Seeing that the Lord Jesus himself says “I am the Truth”, it follows that any interaction between the people of Israel and its God, of whatever nature, up to this point in time is ruled out on scriptural authority. The most evident proof of this is the destruction of the temple, and with it of the altar in Jerusalem, almost two thousand years ago. Since then Israel has lost any chance of coming to its God, other than through conversion to Jesus Christ. The Father will not act in such a way as to go against the statements made by His Son, seeing that He has handed over all things to the Son, as the Lord tells us in Mt 11,25-27, quoted below. It follows then that since that time God has not had a care of the people of Israel either. Everything that is here interpreted as “God’s actions with the people of Israel” has a different origin entirely.

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father.

Mt 11,25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 11,26 "Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 11,27 "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Mt 11,25-27;



Israel in the light of the Bible.


Based on the Old Testament

God has completely taken away his compassion from the house of Israel (Hos 1:6). They are no longer his people (Hos 1:9). Only the house of Judah will be saved by the Lord. Not by war, however, but by his Spirit (Hos 1:7). And only in the Millennium, when the Son of God has entered on his thousand years rule on earth (Hos 1:10; 2,18 Eze 34:25; Isa 2:4), will the Lord once more accept Israel as his people (Hos 2:23; Jer 31:27-28).


Based on the New Testament

It is God’s will that we should listen to his Son (Mt 17:5). This same Son of God has told us that anyone who rejects him rejects God as well (1Jn 2:23; Lk 10:16; Jn 5:22-23. 15:23). The people of Israel today deny the Son of God and abuse him as an impostor and blasphemer. As a result of this denial of the Son, Israel has also rejected the Father and so is a God-less people. (Jn 8:24)


The "Friends of Israel" in the Christian congregations are thus selling their birthright as Disciples of Christ for the lentil stew of a vicarious agent of godless impostors. – For Israel there is no spiritual conversion to their God, and no return to their homeland willed by God, unless they convert to Jesus Christ!! (Mt 23:38-39; Gal 5:4) - (See also Discourse 111)



Finally in answer to W. Hink’s argument quoted earlier -

“If you ask the Jews whether they feel safer now, in the land of Israel - in spite of Palestinian terrorism and the wars that have taken place to date - than they did when they were scattered abroad among the nations, they will emphatically answer in the affirmative” -


the question suggests itself whether the Jews really enjoy safety in their homeland, when they are now being forced to erect, right across their land, a defense wall that is 350 kilometers long and 8 meters high, at an estimated cost of 350 million dollars?


0



The politicians in Israel know, at all events, where it is safest for their children - namely abroad, and for preference in the USA. Among others, the children of former Premier Barak, the Minister for Industry Milo, Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer, the former minister Arens and ex-President Herzog are all now living in the US. The grandson of Ben Gurion, the founder of the nation, is living in New York.

(See also Discourse 08: “The gathering of Israel: already since 1948 or not to happen until the Last Days?)



Antidiscrimination legislation: the beginning of the birth pangs?

In the above summing up, dating from the year 2001, it was asserted that “So long as we as Christians are able to act so freely and with so little hindrance as at the present time in proclaiming the gospel in most parts of the world, we are surely not living – thank the Lord – in the Last Days”. If that was accurate at the time, today – seven years later – the situation has evidently changed in certain respects. Antidiscrimination laws have become increasingly prevalent worldwide. The professed objective of these is to protect minorities, but actually they represent an attempt to silence – as it were by the back door – unpopular contemporaries. And it is worth remembering that our Lord Jesus Christ prophesied, in his eschatological discourse, that we Christians would be counted members of this class of undesirables in the Last Days.

You will be hated by all nations because of My name.

Mt 24,6 "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 24,7 "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 24,8 "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 24,9 "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 24,10 "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 24,11 "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 24,12 "Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 24,13 "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. Mt 24, 6-13;


Ulrich Skambraks reports in his TOPIC postings about some court judgments which make altogether apparent the approach of the “lawlessness” foretold by the Lord above:


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Canada: critics of Islam and Christians in the juridical pillory / Information service TOPIC 00, 008-08-06)

“When it comes to the protection of free speech, Canada has now become a joke!” This sobering but also alarming conclusion was recently uttered by Australian law professor James Allen of the University of Queensland.

Some recent cases show how right Professor Allen is. Journalist Mark Steyn currently finds himself accused before the “Human Rights Tribunal” of the Canadian province of British Columbia. Steyn had written an article pointing out that in view of the superior birth rate of the Islamic faithful, Islam can be expected to overwhelm and take over the prosperous but less prolific west. Moslems prosecuted the journalist for slander before the “Human Rights Tribunal”, and the case is not yet closed. A prosecution of this kind is not without consequences. A court case before the “Human Rights Tribunal“ overturns all the principles of justice. While the plaintiffs have all their legal costs paid by the state, the defendant – even if he wins the case – must pay all the court costs himself. In connection with Canadian antidiscrimination legislation, this measure is designed to contribute to the prompt silencing of critics of certain sexual orientations (e.g. homosexuality) or other world views.

So it appears that anyone in Canada who utters a critical remark risks prosecution before the “Human Rights Tribunal”. For example, in November 2007 youth pastor Stephen Boission was condemned for making criticisms of homosexuality in a letter to the newspaper. The Tribunal came to the conclusion that the letter was stirring up “hatred and contempt” of gays, fined the Christian pastor Boission 7000 Canadian dollars and forced him to write an apology to the paper.

Even if from a German point of view these two cases are a long way away in distant Canada, there are definite implications for our own country. This is because the strict antidiscrimination laws of the Anglo-Saxon countries – the USA, Canada, England etc. – set an example for antidiscrimination policies in Europe.

(Source: friend’s letter of Evangelische Allianz Deutschlands [Evangelical Alliance of Germany] 6/8)


Great Britain: small children subject to racism controls

The British child protection authority The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has now issued a 366-page catalog of measures designed to combat racism in connection with small children. If a three year old child in kindergarten reacts to spicy food with “Ugh” or “Yuck”, this could be a racist utterance inciting the rejection of foreign foods. Educators are specially enjoined to pay attention to small children’s use of racist terms of abuse. Kindergartens are asked to notify the authorities of “as many incidents as possible”, the NCB catalog declares.

(Source: Spiegel online 08.07.08)

(Taken from the TOPIC information service / published by Ulrich Skambraks, Kreuztal bei Siegen)



As the author of the first paragraph quoted above rightly fears, these cases definitely do have “implications for our own country”. In a report commissioned by the Arbeitskreis Religionsfreiheit der Evangelischen Allianz [Working Group for Religious Freedom of the Evangelical Alliance] and published on www.publichrist.de, the legal expert Thomas Zimmermann writes about “The Antidiscrimination Act and its Consequences” in the following terms:

-  The regulations of the antidiscrimination legislation being discussed in Germany represent an intervention against private autonomy. Christian communities could also be affected.

-  Taken all in all, the Antidiscrimination Act is the model example of a law in which ideology has been given priority over justice and expert knowledge.

-  We see in the light of this law to what extent the legislative sovereignty of the EU states has already been restricted, with its legislature being determined by EU committees.

-  Antidiscrimination laws may become means for restricting the freedom of opinion, belief and conscience of Christians.

-  An antidiscrimination act was introduced in Sweden in the fall of 2002, whereby any negative utterance about homosexuality or homosexuals could make the speaker liable to four years’ imprisonment. This should apply as well when homosexuality is classed as a sin with reference to the Bible. The law has already had results: when the pastor of a Pentecostal church, Ake Green, referred in the course of a sermon to homosexuality as a “cancerous growth” in society, he was prosecuted and condemned in the first instance to a month in prison. On appeal, he was then released by the Supreme Court of Götz, on the grounds that a sermon based on religious texts could not be construed as incitement against sectors of the population. The judgment, however, is not yet final – and moreover, influential political groups are planning to make the law more stringent. Then it would no longer be possible for Christians to call sin by its own name, without being exposed to criminal and civil law penalties.


These antidiscrimination laws include provision for penalizing critical statements about other religions and the rejection of foreign customs. But since from a worldly point of view religions are in principle no different from ideologies, we cannot of course exempt other ideologies – fascism, Marxism, Communism etc. etc. – from this ban on discrimination either. So someone who makes critical remarks about fascism would be just as liable to penalties for discrimination against a political minority as someone who describes Islam as a terrorist religion.

And seeing that these antidiscrimination laws also and above all provide criminal penalties for the “criticism of sexual orientation”, it will no longer be possible in future – and this has vehement support in the highest political spheres – to bring criminal prosecution for “sexual orientations” such as the sexual practice of sadism, masochism, sodomy and above all pedophilia and child pornography or to bring the offenders to book for such offenses. This means that the world is descending into a swamp of sexual perversion and the unrestricted satisfaction of sexual instinct. So here we are in Sodom and Gomorrah – with the attendant consequences.

But first all those who criticize this instinct and condemn it as unbiblical will be persecuted and punished in accordance with this legislation. And it will not just be the godless and the non-Christian sectors of the population who will take part in this persecution of Christians for the sake of the word of God – it will also be those “faithful” in the congregations in whom the “seed was sown on rocky places”. They will swiftly change sides and help to hand over their former brothers and sisters in faith to the authorities.

When affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

Mt 13,20 "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 13,21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. Mt 13,20-21


And Christians will even find that their enemies will be members of their own household. But whoever denies his faith and his Lord before men, will also be denied by the Lord before the Father.

A man's enemies will be the members of his household.

Mt 10,32 "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 10,33 "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. 10,34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 10,35 "For I came to set a man against  his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daugther-in.law against her mother-in-law; 10,36 and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. 10,37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 10,38 "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 10,39 "He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Mt 10,32-39;


This then is the message to all preachers of the gospel of affluence, who promise healing, prosperity and family well being to the brethren in the congregations in their sermons and lectures, and spread the belief that the “next major event of world history for the faithful will be the Rapture”, before any of these tribulations take place. They are the blind leading the blind, and sad to say, very few among the brethren are prepared to check these statements in the light of scripture and to realize the truth. In fact we are faced, Christians and non-Christians alike, with the biggest catastrophe that humanity has ever experienced or will ever experience, with worldwide national wars, earthquakes, drought disasters, famines, epidemics and billions of deaths – the Great Tribulation, in short, under the dominion of the First Antichrist.

(See also Discourse 71: “Is the next major event of world history for the faithful the Rapture?”)

For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.

Mt 24,21 "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 24,22 "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 24,23 "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24,24 "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 24,25 "Behold, I have told you in advance. Mt 24,21-25;


This is the truth of the “next major event of world history”. As no human being would be able to survive this, the biggest catastrophe of all time, the Lord will shorten the days in order to save the elect who abide steadfast in faith through this tribulation. And then – but only then, after this tribulation – the Lord will come for the Rapture to gather his elect.

But immediately after the tribulation of those days they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky:

Mt 24,29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 24,30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 24,31 "And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Mt 24,29-31;


We would be well advised, then, to keep a very close eye on developments in the world and to look to see whether we can find grounds for seeing them as the fulfillment of scriptural prophecies. But as the old proverb says, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. As already mentioned earlier, the founding of the state of Israel in the year 1948 has been seen by some as the fulfillment of the prophecy about the gathering together of Israel by God, without any regard to the accompanying circumstances and conditions associated with this promise.

Likewise in the late thirties of the last century, many biblical interpreters saw Hitler as being the Antichrist. And they had plenty of arguments on their side. As Rev 6,2 prophesies, he went out conquering and to conquer. Within a very short time German troops had conquered and occupied the whole of Central Europe – in some cases even without a fight, as the countries in question surrendered, like Belgium. As Rev 6,4 says, peace was taken from the earth – at least in Europe, and after the alliance with the Japanese, in Asia as well. And part of the struggle then also took place in Africa. As Rev 6,4 says, people slaughtered one another. As many as sixty million people died in the Second World War. And finally, the dominion of the Nazis also lasted around seven years. But as we know today, all this was just perfectly normal hunger for power on the part of humanity, and only a fraction of that which we actually have to look forward to.

So when Mt 24,6-13, and the parallel passage Rev 6,4-6, foretell worldwide national wars, earthquakes, drought disasters, famines, epidemics and billions of deaths as concomitants of the Last Days, we must observe and assess the effects of the antidiscrimination laws here being discussed – if such measures do actually become law in German-speaking countries – but they do not yet constitute proof that the Last Days have begun.

Here again it is equally important to have an eye to all events worldwide, such as wars in Africa and Asia, earthquakes and tsunamis all over the world, a possible financial and/or global economic crisis with a rise in the price of foodstuffs and famines in some countries, and last but not least the progression of global warming, which likewise could result in increasing drought for countries around the equator and so to famines and wars.

When the disciples asked the Lord when the Last Days would come and what signs would herald it, Jesus gave them an interesting indication. He compared the Last Days with the summer, and the events that would precede it with the trees putting forth their leaves – with the spring, in other words.

So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.

Lk 21,29 Then He told them a parable: "Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 21,30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 21,31 "So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 21,32 "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. Lk 21,29-32;


Even if advocates of the “1948 Gathering of Israel” have chosen to understand this parable as referring to Israel, on account of the fig tree, the Lord does not mean the “fig tree” Israel in this context but is speaking purely and simply – as he actually tells us – about all the trees. When they put forth their leaves, we know that summer is near. And then, he goes on, when you see these things happening, you can recognize that the kingdom of God is near. With that mention of “these things” which we will see happening, the Lord is referring to the events on earth that he has prophesied earlier.

See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near’ .

Lk 21,8 And He said, "See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. 21,9 "When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately." 21,10 Then He continued by saying to them, "Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 21,11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 21,12 "But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. Lk 21, 8-12;


And here we again have the wars, earthquakes, famines and epidemics referred to above, but also – and this is often overlooked – there is the warning in Lk 21,8 against false prophets; and then in Lk 21,12 we find a prophecy which admittedly comes at the end of the catalog, but the indication “before all these things” gives us to understand that in temporal terms it actually comes first, and so must be seen as coming right at the beginning of the events of the Last Days. The very first sign of the Last Days, then, will be on the one hand false Christs who will try to lead the faithful astray, pretending that the Last Days have already begun and they themselves are the true Christ. But the second unmistakable sign of the beginning of the birth pangs is then the persecution, arrest, condemnation and imprisonment of Christians because they are Christians (for my name’s sake). So we can assume that the Last Days have begun when we, as true Christians, are condemned and imprisoned by the supreme government authorities on that very account, for being Christians.