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The Tide of Our Times

The world is again holding its collective breath. World leaders are asking: “Will the ‘Roadmap to Peace’ work this time?” The Palestinians insist they are willing to call off twenty months of hostilities and call a truce if Israel will proceed with its announced agreement to allow for the creation of a Palestinian state. The current intifada has claimed over 3,000 lives.

Ever since the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948, there has been a growing awareness among Christians that God’s timetable has been moving toward the great climax of biblical prophecy. The miraculous return of the Jews to their biblical homeland after 19 centuries cannot be dismissed as inconsequential in light of God’s sovereign plan for His ancient people. Theoretically, they could be driven out of the land of Israel and return again one day in the future. But this seems highly unlikely in light of the significance of their return after 1,900 years.

In the meantime, the renewed call for Palestinian statehood has raised speculation about the possibility of peace in the Middle East. Some see this as a necessary step to insure peace, while others see it as a dangerous compromise with those who have called for the annihilation of the state of Israel. The issue has been raised about whether or not the Bible predicts a Palestinian state. Others have wondered how all of this relates to the prophetic picture of the End Times, but the ultimate questions will revolve around the future of Israel and its place in biblical prophecy.

Keeping Israel in Focus

Dr. Randall Price has observed: “If we believe that God is active in the affairs of His world, directing people and events according to His plan, then we should be looking at the (Jewish) people and that place (Israel) where the fulfillment of these things will occur.”

There are only a handful of prophecies about the future of the Church. The Bible predicts the growth of the Church (Matt. 24:14), and the Rapture of the Church to Heaven (John 14:3; I Thess. 4:16-17).

The major focus of biblical prophecy concerns the nation and people of Israel. Prophetic passages dealing with the Tribulation Period (II Thess. 2:3-8), the signing of a peace treaty (Daniel 9:25-27), the invasion of Israel by Gentile forces (Zechariah 14:12-13), and the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:16) all focus on the nation of Israel and its significant place in the great End Times drama.

Interpreting Prophecy

Dr. Price provides the following guidelines for a proper interpretation of biblical prophecies:

  1. Interpret current events in light of the Bible, not the Bible in light of current events.
  2. Fulfillment of most prophetic events related to Israel will not take place until after the Rapture.
  3. Does the biblical text provide enough data to draw a correspondence with current events?
  4. Distinguish between the last days of the Church and the last days of Israel.

What Can We Expect?

The general picture of the future is clearly stated in biblical prophecy. What is not always clear is how the specific pieces of the prophetic puzzle will actually come together in the end. Given our present perspective, it may seem that certain current events will imminently fulfill certain prophetic predictions. But as time moves on, those assumptions may prove premature. Let me suggest several considerations:

1. There is no predicted event that must be fulfilled before the Rapture takes place. Jesus could come at any time to call His Bride home to Heaven. Our Lord’s commands to “keep watching” and “be ready” (Matt. 24:42-44) still apply.

2. There are, however, certain events that may yet unfold before the Rapture. There is no biblical limitation on such possibilities as nuclear war, international terrorism, a Palestinian state, or the rebuilding of the Jewish temple. These may not happen prior to the Rapture, but we cannot exclude that possibility on the basis of Scripture alone.

3. As time marches on, the prophetic picture continues to become more clear. We can see that some things that still seemed vague twenty or thirty years ago are now clearer, such as the development of a global economy or the rise of a world government.

4. We cannot predict the future based on current events alone. Our only clear guide to the future is biblical truth. World leaders will come and go. Soon there will be a whole new set of players giving rise to new speculations about their possible roles in the End-Times drama.

5. The Bible itself is the only clear guide to understanding the future. God has given us “great and precious promises” and “a more sure word of prophecy” to give us a certainty about the future (II Peter 1:4,19). True biblical prophecies are expressed by the Holy Spirit, to predict the future as God sees it. One of those prophecies warns us to beware when they say, “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11).

Ultimately, we know how the story will end. Israel will eventually agree to a peace treaty enforced by the leader of the Western powers (Daniel 9:26-27). The benefits of that peace will be short-lived. Satan will indwell the world leader and empower him to become the Antichrist of the Last Days. After three and one-half years, he will break the treaty, invade Israel, and demand that he be worshipped as God (II Thess. 2:3-4). This will launch the next three and a half years of Great Tribulation that will culminate in the return of Christ and the defeat of the Antichirst (Rev. 19:11-21).

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