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We see so much in the news these days about the incessant conflict between Israel and the Arab nations surrounding it. It’s quite saddening to know that it is a simple issue but one that begs for a complex solution. The search for peace seems far-fetched amidst the stance taken by the parties concerned.
But what is more troubling is the fact that majority in the church are actually using the headlines as sermons pointing towards the end of the world and the 2ndcoming of Jesus. We have to research our end time ideologies in the light of what God accomplished in setting the New covenant.
Many are quick to quote random passages in the Old Testament and relating them to a rapture that will place soonest with a revelation of the Anti-Christ who is supposed to broker peace between Israel and Palestine. One of such passages is that heavily relied is Zechariah 14 which says “Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.
This scripture is actually a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. I would like for us to see it in context.
“Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.
Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.
You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one. ” (Zechariah 14:1–9)
Zechariah prophesied in 520 BC which is about the time Israel returned from Babylonian captivity. Just like other prophets they saw the end of an age that will see the Messiah come in judgment.
Jesus became king of the earth at his ascension in 30 AD. He sat at the right hand of the father and was declared in Revelation as the King of kings.
You will also notice that the language of Zechariah is almost identical to that of Matthew 24 which also is a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
“Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light.”
29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
In Matthew 24:32–33 “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; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. ” (Matthew 24:32–33)
This text has been greatly abused and applied to Israel becoming a nation again in 1848 AD when in fact, it is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
However since Israel became a nation in 1948 AD, many who believe in a soon-rapture got all excited and began to preach that the end would come within one generation (generally 40 years) of Israeli modern statehood.
Some few years ago, Harold Camping taught that exactly 40 years after May 14, 1948, that the “church age” came to an end and ordered everyone to leave their churches in 1988. He then went on to predict the end of the world not once, but twice in 1994 and again on May 21, 2011. Ronald Weinland predicted the end in 2008, then in 2012. All failed and it was based upon what modern news stories give.
Most “Rapture time charts” use the establishment of Israel as a nation in 1948 as the beginning of the countdown to the end, claiming it is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wonder if we ever learn to research and consider if we are missing it.
Paul said the hope of Israel was not physical restoration, but only in Christ:
“And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. “Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. ” (Acts 26:6–9)
“For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” (Acts 28:20)
This was Jesus warning to his disciples on what to do before the destruction takes place. Luke 21:20-24 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. “Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. ” (Luke 21:20–24)
Luke 21 like Matthew 24 prophecies the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by Roman Armies, not its restoration! This passage does not say Jerusalem will be restored or the temple will be rebuilt.
God doesn’t need us to expand the gospel of the kingdom based on the conflicts in the middle east as many are now using the headlines to exhort their brethren to live godly lives. The gospel of grace can do the job without the consideration of fear, death and war. The gospel is powerful enough to cause true transformation and not behavior modification. We must understand and embrace the fact that we are living in the new age of the new covenant. The glory of the kingdom will excel and increase as the days goes by.