The Armageddon War

The Armageddon War
Vol: 63 Issue: 30 Saturday, December 30, 2006

At dawn today local time, an ashen-faced Saddam Hussein stood on the gallows platform as a silk scarf was inserted between his neck and a heavy noose.

Despite his pre-execution braggadocio (as expressed via his lawyers) Saddam wasn’t smiling. The impossible was now reality.

He, Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s president and successor to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, was about to be publicly hanged as a criminal and then buried in an unmarked grave.

No more parades. No more fine cigars. No chance of reprieve. No last minute rescue. On the video, one could see Saddam’s eyes darting about the room, looking for a sympathetic face, absorbing the last sights his eyes would ever behold.

Literally thousands of Iraqis volunteered for the job as Saddam’s executioner, but there were already plenty of volunteers available through normal military channels.

Just before the trap door was released, one of the witnesses shouted, “Long live Moqtada al Sadr.” Saddam rolled his eyes and said, mockingly, “Moqtada al Sadr,” as the trap opened.

A split-second later, Saddam Hussein reached the end of his rope. Saddam died unrepentant for his crimes, declaring himself a martyr to Allah.

So be it.

Assessment:

The administration is hopeful that Saddam’s execution at the hands of his countrymen will help to stabilize the new Iraq. As long as he was alive, there existed at least a slim possibility that he might be coming back.

Saddam’s execution was therefore televised and still photos of his body were released to the media. Saddam is never coming back. But the consensus at the Pentagon is that Saddam’s execution is too little, too late.

According to the Pentagon Joint Staff briefing, al-Qaeda is still very much alive and has been evolving during the Iraq war, which has largely played out in their favor.

According to the Pentagon brief, al-Qaeda is “succeeding in making more connections around the globe, especially in Muslim-dominated regions where Islamists seek to re-establish a caliphate. These include North Africa, Southern Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Central and Southeast Asia.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Schissler is the deputy director of the war on terrorism within the Joint Staff J-5 strategy office. He said in the briefing that, “We see them reaching out a little more regionally and globally and you see groups that previously had not favored Al Qaeda in some cases joining up with them now.”

He cited examples of terrorist groups in North Africa that are now lining up to join al-Qaeda, saying al-Qaeda has exploited a frustrated populace, increased communications, and improved tactics to inspire a global movement committed to establishing extremists domination over much of the world.

The extremists believe that only through total extremists domination can the Ummah once again be prominent in the world, the briefing states, noting that Bin Laden has boasted that “the pious caliphate will start from Afghanistan.”

The Pentagon brief outlines al-Qaeda’s “Twenty year plan” to create an Islamist homeland in the Middle East. The mainstream media and the Congressional Left have all but convinced the American public that the war is lost and it is time to bring our forces home.

This is what al-Qaeda has planned if the Left has its way.

First, the plan is in seven stages, and is already well underway. It began with “The Awakening” on September 11.

The next stage of the plan is dubbed; “The Eye-Opening” and it went operational when the US toppled Saddam in 2003.

The next stage, “Arising and Standing Up” is slated to kick-off in 2007 as US troops begin to withdraw. The terrorists plan a new focus on Turkey and Syria for recruiting and turn their attention to Israel to draw the Jewish state more deeply into the conflict.

In 2010, Stage Four, “The Demise of Arab Governments” will go into effect. Once the governments of the Arab world have been crippled or toppled, Stage Five calls for the establishment of an Arab caliphate in the Middle East.

Stage Six is planned to commence in 2015 with the creation of an Islamic Army to begin a world-wide fight against the infidel world. al-Qaeda figures it will take until about 2020 before it can implement Stage Seven, dubbed, “Definitive Victory” when the Islamic world assumes global power.

This is what the Pentagon brief says is al-Qaeda’s twenty-year plan for our future. It also conforms — to the letter — to the outline of Islamic eschatology. al-Qaeda’s Stage Six anticipates the rise of the Mahdi to lead the Islamic Army to victory over the infidel.

al-Qaeda’s “Definitive Victory” is the opening of Islam’s ‘messianic era’ when all the world will live in peace and harmony under Islamic ‘justice’.

In a nutshell, al-Qaeda’s Seven-Stage plan, as outlined by the Pentagon brief, is the Islamic Tribulation Period, which they plan to bring to its conclusion by 2020.

Now, I don’t ascribe any credibility to Islamic prophecy, because only God can foretell the future. And the god of Islam is not the God of the Bible. But by the time Islam came along in the sixth century, Bible prophecy for the last days was already well-accepted doctrine among Christians and Jews.

Islamic eschatology was developed from the reading of Christian and Jewish apocalyptic Scriptures and therefore follows the same general outline. As such, while Islam may disagree with the Bible about how it all ends, it is pretty much looking for the same signs of when it all begins.

In other words, the Islamic version of the last days is pretty much the same as the Christian version, except that Islam positions itself on the other side. They believe the Mahdi is the rider on the white horse of Revelation 6:2. Christian eschatology says that the rider on the white horse is the antichrist.

What al-Qaeda has mapped out is nothing less than Islam’s version of the War of Armageddon. And it dates the beginning of that war to September 11, 2001.

Is this REALLY the War of Armageddon as we understand it from the New Testament? It could be. The “War of Armageddon” refers to the war that comes to its final conclusion on the plains of Megiddo at the Second Coming of Christ.

The war of Armageddon is described in Scripture as a war of extermination against Christians and Jews that reaches its conclusion when those weapons of war are turned against Jesus Christ Himself at His Return.

I don’t believe that Bible prophecy is going to follow al-Qaeda’s timetable, either. But I believe al-Qaeda intends to.

And I believe Jesus, Who tells us that, “when these things BEGIN to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)

Science and Scripture

Science and Scripture
Vol: 63 Issue: 29 Friday, December 29, 2006

“Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?” (Job 41:1)

The Book of Job is generally the first place Christians turn when they want to see how best to stand up to the trials and tribulations of life. I once knew a pastor who counselled his congregation about patience. He told them, “Before you pray for patience, read the Book of Job and find out how you get it, first.”

Good advice. Patience is learning to trust God to see you safely through the rapids of life. Being sinful, fallen creatures, it takes a couple of trips through the rapids to convince us, first. (In that sense, praying for patience is like praying for a slicker and a paddle.)

But the Book of Job is much more than a narrative about patience and reward. The Book of Job is rich with evidences of God’s Truth. In Job, God reveals much about science, nature, physics, astronomy and geography. Details that no single person living in the ancient times of Job could possibly know. Especially not someone living in the Middle Eastern desert.

For centuries, man believed that the earth was flat. Christopher Columbus was criticized for setting sail to the other side of the earth, they expected Columbus to sail off the edge of the earth.

But Job noted that “He walks above the circle of heaven”. (Job 22:14) The original Hebrew, using Roman characters, is, “Choq- chag `al- pney- mayim `ad-takliyt ‘owr `im- choshek.”

The word translated as circle comes from the Hebrew word “chuwg” which transliterates into English as ‘circuit’ or ‘sphere’ in addition to ‘circle’.

Early man thought Atlas, a huge turtle or elephants held up the earth. In the North sky within the millions of stars is a vast expanse of blackness.

Job 26:7 says the earth is suspended on nothing. The Bible was before the telescope so only God could describe it. Today we know it is gravity that holds the planets and stars in their orbits making them appears to be hung on nothing.

Job 28:25 says air has weight. Science confirms air is about 50 miles thick, exactly the right composition to support life. It’s perfect for our lungs. The air filters deadly rays. If the earth was 10% larger or smaller all would die. We are in a fragile balance before the sun between frying and freezing.

Job 26:10 says; “He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.” (KJV) The RSV translates it; “He has described a circle upon the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.”

In any case, it is clear Job knew the earth was round millennia before Columbus. Who told him?

Job 36:27:28 explains the hydrological cycle, the condensation and hydrology maintain life, provide evaporation, transportation, precipitation and run-off .

He describes the repeated cycle of precipitation, its evaporation, and condensation in the clouds.

In addition, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:6; The wind blows to the south and goes round to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits with wind returns.

It took modern science to document the direction of wind currents and wind paths. Who told Job and Solomon?

About 4,000 years ago, Job says; “Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;” adding, “It is TURNED as clay to the seal.” (v14)

Job paints a word picture here using a clay pot on a potter’s wheel as an analogy.

Job 38:16 tells us there are springs in the sea (this was not known until 1913 when they found underground rivers). So who told Job?

Job 38:22 mentions the treasures of the snow. Each flake is of perfect dimensions and all are different. The snow is beneficial for nitrogen for fertilizer. How often do you think it snowed in southern Iraq where Job most likely lived?

Water is heavier than air, and is transported in clouds. Dost thou know the balancing of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge? (Job 37:16)

Job lived in the Middle East some four thousand years ago. The Book of Job, chronologically speaking, is the oldest Book of the Bible.

“Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.” (Job 38:29-30)

Who told Job about ice and snow? How did a guy living 4000 years ago in the Middle East know about the permanent polar ice caps, ‘hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen’? An Eskimo with wanderlust? What would a desert-bound nomad know about ‘the deep’ in the first place?

Job 38:31 explains the solar system. The Hebrew speaks of a pivot or hinge. In the South-Southwest is the Pleiades, 7 stars making up the center of the solar system.

Amos 5:8 says the Pleiades consists of 7 stars. The seventh star was only discovered in the last century because with the naked eye one can see only 6.

Some time back, a series of 14 human footprints with at least 134 dinosaur tracks were discovered in the bed of the Paluxy River, near Glen Rose, Texas. Bible-haters have come up with thousands of explanations, but one explanation is no more reasonable than another.

According to Job, there lived in his day, a beast he termed ‘behemoth’. It is described in Job 40:15-24 as “eating grass like an ox” that “moves his tail like a cedar” — the Hebrew literally says; he lets hang his tail like a cedar. “Its bones are like beams of bronze . . . His ribs like bars of iron. . . He is the first of the ways of God. . . He lies under the lotus trees,In a covert of reeds and marsh. . .

Some translations translate ‘behemoth’ as ‘elephant’ or ‘hippopotamus’. A key phrase is, He is the first of the ways of God. This phrase in the original Hebrew implied that behemoth was the biggest animal created.

Then there is leviathan. The Bible describes ‘leviathan’ in Job 41 this way:

“Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?” (41:1) “Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants? Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?) (v6-7)

“None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before Me?” (v10)

Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about” (v14).

Sound like an elephant? Or a hippopotamus? Job describes the physical appearance of leviathan:

“His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal. One is so near to another, that no air can come between them. They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.” (v15-16)

“Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.” (v19-21)

“When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.” (v25)

THIS is a pretty convincing description. The ‘mighty’ ‘purify’ themselves by reasons of ‘breakings’ at the sight of leviathan. (We have a phrase for that in English, too)

Every culture is filled with stories of fire-breathing dragons. The first dinosaur bones were discovered in 1822 by Mary Ann Mantell. (The word ‘dinosaur’ was coined in 1841)

If the ancients had never seen a dinosaur, where did the fire-breathing dragons of old come from? And if Job had never seen one, who told him about them 4000 years before the first bones were discovered? (Even if dinosaur bones were common in Job’s day, paleontologists were not.)

The Book of Job teaches a lot more than merely how to be patient and trust in the Lord. It teaches that an itinerant nomad in the middle of the Arabian desert knew more about science four thousand years ago than science knew at the dawn of the 20th century.

Although Job told us that light was in motion, (Job 38:19) it took Einstein before anybody believed it.

As noted, Job is the oldest Book in the Bible, penned before Moses wrote Genesis and set historically almost a thousand years earlier than the Exodus from Egypt.

Job didn’t have access to large collections of books about natural science, geography, climatology or physics.

Neither did he have access to the writings of the prophets or the promises of the New Testament. Job had never been taught of the Rapture, the Resurrection or of a coming Redeemer in the last days. But he knew.

Job confidently wrote, “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the LATTER DAY UPON THE EARTH: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet IN MY FLESH shall I see God: Whom I shall see FOR MYSELF, and mine eyes shall behold, and NOT ANOTHER; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)

Who told Job all these things? The same One Who told you.

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Special Report: “Fixing” the Gospel?

Special Report: “Fixing” the Gospel?
Vol: 63 Issue: 28 Thursday, December 28, 2006

The other day, an OL member emailed me to ask what I thought was a question whose answer was complex enough and interesting enough to merit its own column.

She writes that she has no personal doubts that the Bible is the Word of God. “What,” she then asks, “do you say to an agnostic or young Christian. . . [who argue] that the latter writers simply read what the former writers said about the coming of Messiah and just made the prophecies “fit”?”

The problem, she continued, was that, “Somehow, saying “just have faith” doesn’t suffice, and that’s the only answer I’ve ever gotten.”

As I see it, the biggest problem lies in keeping an agnostic’s attention long enough to explain the answer. Its a long and complicated one, because there are actually several questions contained inside that question that have to be answered first.

The first question goes to the human authorship of the Bible and its subsequent preservation. It is a matter of undeniable, irrefutable archeological fact that the Book of Isaiah, including its multiple Messianic prophecies, was written at least 100 years before Christ.

In point of fact, the Book of Isaiah is universally dated by Jewish records as existing five hundred years before Christ, but the copy found in Qumron buried among the Dead Sea Scrolls is positively dated to 100 BC.

So even using the date of the oldest existing manuscript, the prophecies of Isaiah preceded the events they predicted by more than a century.

Isaiah predicted the Messiah would ‘despised and rejected of men’. Isaiah said He would be ‘wounded for our transgressions’ and ‘bruised for our iniquities’. The NIV translates Isaiah 53:4-6 “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows . . . and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah notes that He was ‘cut off from the land of the living’ for ‘the transgression of My people’.

That these are independently verifiable historical facts is indisputable. Roman custom was to crucify the condemned under a banner proclaiming the crime for which they were being punished.

Josephus and the Jewish Talmud confirm His execution under the banner ‘King of the Jews’. Pilate ordered that proclamation because Pilate found Him guilty of no other offense.

Jesus could not have engineered His own Death or arranged the crime for which He was convicted. It was so unique one had to be invented.

The Gospel of John records that Caiaphas, another verifiable historical figure, making his case to send Jesus to Pilate for execution, argued that, “it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:14)

And the Gospels were first circulated within living memory of the event. If they weren’t generally accepted as an accurate reflection of what the citizens of Jerusalem had personally eyewitnessed, the Gospels would never have achieved the level of respect accorded them.

I often use by way of analogy, a new history book that claimed John Kennedy wasn’t shot in Dealy Plaza in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, that it never really happened. There are two many living eyewitnesses to the actual event for the book to survive its first printing.

Isaiah said He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but with the rich His death.

Jesus could not have arranged to be crucified between two thieves and He was already dead when Joseph of Aramithea petitioned Pilate for His body, which was later placed in a rich man’s tomb.

And if it WERE possible to do so, why would He? That is a worthy question. If He were not Who He said He was, what would be the point? Wise man and prophet? Liar and Lunatic? Or the Son of Israel’s God, crucified as “King of the Jews.” as Israel’s King? Which logically fits the known facts?

The Book of Isaiah could not have been tampered with without attracting the attention of the Jews. And we have irrefutable evidence Isaiah’s prophecies are unchanged since the Isaiah Scroll found buried at Qumran was in circulation since 100 BC.

The Gospels could not logically have been tampered with after they were first circulated on the streets of Jerusalem, beginning around 45 AD with the Book of Mark. They reflected events of less than fifteen years before that took place in what was a small and very close-knit community of Jews.

If they didn’t reflect the facts as the eyewitnesses remembered them, there would be some record of their dispute, given that Jews boasted one the most literate and carefully documented societies of antiquity.

And if they do accurately reflect the events they record, then it is more than significant that there is no record of any serious contemporary dispute of the accounts of the dead being raised, sight being restored to the blind, paralytics being healed. etc.

The accuracy of the Gospel is as much a matter of logic as it is one of faith.

Is it even remotely logical to believe that the Gospels could have been altered in any significant way without attracting the notice of the early Church? To alter them after they entered the public record, considering the eyewitness factor already discussed, would be impossible.

And once they entered the public record, history shows they were so universally accepted as truth that Christians chose the lion’s den rather than to deny their contents.

The Gospels were in circulation by about 45 AD. The first documented persecution of the Christians was during reign of Nero. (37-68) So many of those who refused to deny Jesus were eyewitnesses to the events recorded by the Gospels.

The Roman historian Tacitus recorded in Book 15, Chapter 44 of his Annals of the History of Rome, “[Nero] falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated.”

If the Gospels were well-entrenched enough to inspire martyrdom within living memory of Jesus, then any subsequent alteration to make them ‘fit’ would not escape notice.

Then, we have the record of the Acts of the Apostles. Once again, we are relying as much on logic here as we are on faith to seek the answer to our questions from what is more or less undisputed historical fact.

We know that the Twelve were eyewitnesses to the events recorded by the Gospels from their own written testimony.

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His Majesty.” (2nd Peter 1:16)

Did Peter write the Gospel that bears his name? The people to whom he was writing believed he did — and they were in the best position to know.

His epistles were accepted as Divinely-inspired doctrine by the early Church, many of whom were ALSO eyewitnesses to His Majesty’.

Ancient records confirm that Peter was crucified for preaching the Gospel. Roman custom demanded he be allowed to recant. It is logical to assume, since he was crucified, that the Bible’s account of his refusal is an accurate record.

It was Peter that specifically noted that “prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2nd Peter 1:21)

If Peter didn’t believe it was true, it is illogical to believe he would have allowed himself to be crucified for a lie.

Then there are the rest of the Apostles. All met similarly gory deaths. None of the accounts are historically disputed. All had the opportunity to renounce Christ, all chose grisly deaths.

(Only John escaped death by martyrdom. He was banished to Patmos — after John survived an attempt by Nero to martyr him by boiling him alive.)

Logically, then, we have the undeniably prophetic passage in Isaiah, fulfilled in the life of Christ through a series of humanly uncontrollable events that led to His historically verifiable torture and execution to consider.

Then, we have the eyewitness factor and that the eyewitness accounts recorded in the Gospel were accepted within living memory of the events described.

That it was believed as absolute truth is testified to by the rivers of blood shed by Christians as early as the reign of Nero.

Finally, we have the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles, who were alive at the time the Gospels they published made them the undisputed leaders of the early Church.

For the Messianic prophecies to be the result of a later conspiracy to ‘fix’ them, given the known facts, is both a logical and historical impossibility.

It is illogical to conclude that the early Church, its persecution and the reams of historical evidence attesting to its faithfulness in the face of grisly death, was founded upon an easily-disproveable lie concerning events that occurred within living memory.

And it is illogical to assume they could have been subsequently altered without those who were willing to die for the truths contained therein noticing the changes.

There is a principle of logic dubbed ‘Occam’s Razor’, named for the philosopher, Sir William of Occam, who first published it. It states that; given a variety of explanations, the one that most closely fits the known facts is logically the most likely to be true.

Both logic and deductive reasoning demand the conclusion that the Gospel accounts MUST be true. Any other reading of history would be illogical. And, as Bill O’Reilly says on his TV program, it would also be ridiculous.

Special Report Part Two: Zechariah’s Puzzle

Special Report Part Two: Zechariah’s Puzzle
Vol: 63 Issue: 27 Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A nuclear Iran is the most dangerous enemy Israel has ever faced in her four thousand years of existence.

A nuclear strike ordered by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would almost certainly be met with a massive Israeli counterstrike, but Iran is a huge country. Vast expanses are sparsely populated and much of it shielded by mountains.

Ahmadinejad is betting his country could survive a single counterstrike. Tiny coastal Israel would not survive to strike a second time. Ahmadinejad believes it is his religious duty to destroy Israel, even at the risk of starting a nuclear war.

He believes Allah has tasked him with bringing about the return of the 12th Imam, Islam’s messianic figure. Ahmadinejad believes that once he starts a global war, the 12th Imam, or Mahdi, will return and lead Islam in a global conquest of the infidel world.

Ahmadinejad will not be deterred by American naval forces in the Persian Gulf. Nor will he be deterred by the risk of a nuclear response from Israel.

Ahmadinejad sees himself as Islam’s ultimate suicide bomber strapped with Islam’s ultimate suicide bomb. Ahmadinejad also shares the Muslim conviction that Jerusalem is the third holiest place in Islam.

So the most likely target of an Iranian attack would be Tel Aviv, on Israel’s coast, preserving Jerusalem as a prize for the Mahdi.

The Book of Zechariah dates from the early 5th century and is centered around Jerusalem. The majority of his prophecies are concerned with the future of Jerusalem, from the rebuilding of the Temple to the First Advent of the Messiah and through to His Second Coming at the end of the age.

Assessment:

Zechariah Chapter 13 addresses the First Advent of the Messiah, His rejection, and His betrayal.

“And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in thine Hands? Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends. ” (Zechariah 13:6)

Modern Israel could make the same lament. As the war with radical Islam goes on, more and more nations are reconsidering the price demanded of them for their continued support of the Jewish state.

At the UN, diplomats eagerly await another opportunity to distance themselves from Israel to appease their own militant Islamic populations back home. Even a war-weary US is slowly backing away from its former policy of unhesitating support for Israel.

The Iran Study Group recommended meeting with Israel’s enemies to discuss trading parts of Israel for parts of Iraq. It recommended Israel be excluded so negotiations wouldn’t be hampered by Israeli objections. And it is being considered as a viable option.

The US-backed land-for-peace initiative resulted in Oslo War that has already deeply wounded Israel.

Zechariah’s Messianic prophecy continues, “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” (Zechariah 13:7)

The Shepherd, of course, is Jesus. Jesus came first to ‘redeem the lost sheep of Israel.’ When Jesus sent the Twelve on their first missionary journey, He told them not to go to Samaria, or to the Gentiles, but instead, He commanded: “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:6)

“But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)

The lost sheep rejected the Shepherd, and a generation later, were themselves scattered by the Romans into a two thousand year exile. The Shepherd was smitten, and the lost sheep of Israel scattered, fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy to the letter. After that, the prophet predicted, God will return His attention to His lost sheep.

The next two verses of Zechariah weave it all together into a cohesive pattern: The burden of Damascus. The absence of Israel’s neighbors from Ezekiel’s enemies list. The Ahmadinejad nuclear factor. The missing alliances.

And, like the burden of Damascus, it is a yet future event. It is a bone-chilling scenario to consider, given the present circumstances in the Middle East.

“And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on My Name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is My people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.” (Zechariah 13:8-9)

Ahmadinejad is confident his nation could survive an Israeli nuclear strike and he is probably right. Indeed, Ezekiel’s List says that he is right, since Persia is on his list.

Syria, on the other hand, would not — and Ezekiel omits Syria from the Gog-Magog Alliance.

A nuclear strike against Damascus would certainly turn it into the ruinous heap envisioned by Isaiah, which would explain Syria’s absence from Ezekiel’s List.

Ahmadinejad’s religious ideology demands the destruction of the Jewish State. But Jerusalem’s status as Islam’s third holiest shrine ensures Jerusalem would not be targeted.

On the other hand, Tel Aviv is forty miles east of Jerusalem. Protected by distance and the mountains, Jerusalem would mostly probably survive a nuclear strike on Tel Aviv.

While Jerusalem is Israel’s most ancient and most religious city, Tel Aviv is its newest and most secular. Two thirds of Israel’s total population live within a few miles of Tel Aviv. The remaining third, including most of Israel’s religious Jews, live closer to Jerusalem and the West Bank.

An Iranian nuclear strike on Tel Aviv would therefore cut off two thirds of Israel’s population in a single strike. The surviving third therefore would consist mostly of religious Jews in and around Jerusalem.

Zechariah predicted the sudden ‘cutting off’ of two thirds of Israel, specifically noting the surviving third would be brought “through the fire”, emerging as “His people”.

Ezekiel predicted the restoration of Israel in stages; first as bone, sinew and skin, but “there was no breath in them.” (Ezekiel 37:8)

After Israel’s restoration, Ezekiel predicted that, from the four winds “breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.” (37:9-10)

The first stage of Israel’s restoration was the ingathering. It began with the First Zionist Congress in 1897 and the rush of early Jewish emigration to the Holy Land.

The second stage took place with Israel’s declaration of Independence and the five wars that left Israel in possession of one of the most powerful military machines in the world.

The third stage, Ezekiel says, is when God shall “put My Spirit in you. . .” after which:

“Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. (37:14a, 23)

Zechariah’s prophecy seems to indicate that final stage takes place following the destruction of secular Israel and the preservation of Israel’s religious community.

As I said, it is a chilling scenario. But no more chilling than the prospects now already facing Israel. But it is hard to imagine the current scenario unfolding any other way.

Admittedly, this a morbidly gloomy and admittedly speculative report. And there are no doubt some who think it pretty callous. But I am only quoting the prophet, not inventing the prophecy.

And I am anything but callous about the horror it portends. And I didn’t invent the horror, either. That is in the process of being invented by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

One needn’t consult Zechariah to arrive at the identical conclusions in the event that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is successful in his quest for the Bomb.

A nuclear strike on Tel Aviv would affect two thirds of Israel’s population. It is a fact that it would affect Israel’s mainly secular population. It is equally true that the surviving third would include the majority of Israel’s religious community.

Ahmadinejad’s war is unlikely to bring about his dreamed-of Islamic victory, however. A more likely consequence will be a global backlash against Islamic militancy and new resolve for develop a global government to prevent its re-emergence.

Iran would survive, without its nuclear program, more dependent than ever on its alliance with Russia.

What remains of Israel will be centered around Jerusalem, and it seems likely that the survivors of the world’s first nuclear sneak attack will enjoy some period of global patronage, similar to the outpouring of sympathy it received in the years immediately following the Holocaust.

The new Israel, centered around Jerusalem’s religious community, would have no need of a wall, and would enjoy some measure of peace and global sympathy for their situation.

Ezekiel’s Gog-Magog scenario calls for a land of unwalled villages, dwelling in apparent peace and safety, under the protection of the Western world. We aren’t there yet.

But Zechariah’s scenario would get us there in a blinding flash of light.

As I said, this is speculative. But Bible prophecy can be likened to assembling a jig-saw puzzle. As more pieces fall into place, the picture begins to get clearer and the puzzle pieces get easier to figure out.

Zechariah’s Scenario may well provide the next missing piece.

Special Report: Ezekiel’s List

Special Report: Ezekiel’s List
Vol: 63 Issue: 26 Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Over the course of the past few months, we’ve looked long and hard at events taking place in the Middle East and how they compare to the scenario outlined by the prophet Ezekiel for the last days.

The prophet Ezekiel foretold the rise of a great military alliance headed by Russia and including much of the Muslim Middle East. Ezekiel specifically names Persia, or modern Iran, as Russia’s principle ally.

According to Ezekiel, they mount a military invasion against Israel in the last days. Both Ezekiel and Joel predict that God will intervene on Israel’s side, destroying five-sixths of the invading army.

Judging from the political alignments now taking shape, the Ezekiel scenario makes perfect sense. Although certain difficult questions concerning the timing of these events suggest the stage is not yet fully set for the Ezekiel scenario to play out.

Bible scholars wrestle with the question of whether Ezekiel’s scenario plays out before the Tribulation, somewhere at the mid-point, or at a point near the end.

It is almost a foregone conclusion that at some point in the coming year, Israel will again face the combined forces of the Arab world in another all-out war aimed at their annihilation.

That is a horrifying statement, and one I don’t make lightly. But it is difficult to imagine what diplomatic miracle could occur at this late date that would stuff Pandora’s demons back into the box.

Ahmadinejad has no intention of giving up his nuclear quest. Iran continues to threaten Israel with total annihilation.

Hezbollah is rearming Lebanon, convinced it can repeat the successes of its recent conflict with Israel. Syria was emboldened by Israel’s poor showing in that same conflict.

The UN is unlikely to come up with a diplomatic alternative to war. The General Assembly’s antisemitism is openly displayed at every opportunity.

If the UN accomplishes anything, it will be assigning Israel the blame for being attacked.

But Ezekiel’s timeline is still somewhat out of synch with the situation on the ground. True, Russia continues to court and build close relationships that line up with Ezekiel’s timeline, but much of what Ezekiel forecast is still in its early stages of development.

Assessment:

I’ve been giving it a lot of study and prayerful consideration, and the result has been a re-thinking of my position.

First, let me share some of the problems with assigning a sense of imminency to the Ezekiel Scenario.

Ezekiel predicts the attack will come at at time when Israel is dwelling in peace and security. Israel is in the twelfth year of what Israelis called the ‘Oslo War’. It is ringed by enemies openly sworn to her destruction. Along their borders the Palestinian territories are about to explode into civil war.

It doesn’t fit Ezekiel’s picture.

Ezekiel says the invasion will take place when Israel is a ‘land of unwalled villages’. Israel is currently building a wall, not taking it down. So that doesn’t fit, either.

Ezekiel’s alliance includes much of modern Turkey. Although Turkey is an Islamic state and is trending toward the Islamic side, it is currently still and ally of the West. It doesn’t yet fit the Ezekiel scenario.

While everything seems to be coming together along the general lines of Ezekiel’s prophecy, there are still too many discordant notes for it to ring true at this point in the timeline.

Ezekiel carefully listed Israel’s major enemies among the Gog-Magog alliance. It is worth noting the nations that didn’t make Ezekiel’s list.

One glaring omission would seem to be Syria. Syria is among Israel’s most dedicated enemies and no effort to annihilate Israel seems complete without it. It is equally worthy of noting that none of Israel’s geographical neighbors make Ezekiel’s list, but we’ll explore that more shortly.

For now, let’s look at Syria, and in particular, her capital city of Damascus. Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth, tracing her history back almost five thousand years.

Damascus is unique among the cities of antiquity in that it has never been destroyed and rebuilt. In contrast, Jerusalem has been destroyed a dozen times or more thoughout her history.

But Damascus survived the ages intact. That is why its absence from Ezekiel’s list appears puzzling. The prophet Isaiah assigns Damascus another destiny. “The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap,” Isaiah writes in Isaiah 17:1.

This is an event yet future — as noted, Damascus has survived history unscathed to this point. But the unfolding war scenario almost certainly includes Syria, and it almost as certainly will involve nuclear weapons. Particularly if Syria deploys its non-conventional warheads in the fight.

It is worth remembering Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s warning a quarter century ago. “The Arabs can fight, and lost, and return to fight another day. Israel can only lose once.” Golda was alluding to the Israeli military contingency plan nicknamed, “The Samson Option.”

In the event of certain defeat, Israel will use ALL its weapons, including nuclear weapons, to ensure its survival. And if it can’t survive, it will take its enemies with them.

The nickname is derived from the story of Samson after he was defeated, blinded and chained by the Philistines. He pulled the two main pillars from the palace, bringing it down on his own head, but taking his enemies with him.

Tomorrow, Part Two of this Omega Letter Special Report: “Zechariah’s Puzzle” — does the Bible predict a nuclear strike on Israel? You won’t want to miss it.

‘For Thirty Pieces of Silver’

‘For Thirty Pieces of Silver’
Vol: 63 Issue: 25 Monday, December 25, 2006

The prophet Zechariah lived in the 6th century BC and was among those Babylonian exiles who returned to Judea after the seventy years of captivity prophesied by Jeremiah was completed around 536 BC.

The book bearing his name divides itself into two major portions. Chapters 1-8 deal principally with events contemporary with the prophet, while chapters 9-14 sweep across the centuries, reaching all the way to the second coming of Christ at the end of history.

It is the prophet Zechariah who prophesied that in the last days, the world would be focused on Jerusalem and would be united against Israel’s possession of the Holy City.

The prophet Zechariah also predicted that any nation who ‘burdened themselves’ with Jerusalem would be ‘cut in pieces.’ Portions of Zechariah’s prophecies for the last days are already in the process of being fulfilled in our day.

At the present time, Israel’s only ally is the United States. The United States is committed to Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, despite the policies of any sitting administration.

The Jerusalem Act, passed by Congress in 1995, has several key provisions that enshrine that commitment as a matter of law, rather than of foreign policy.

It notes that every country designates its own capital, and that Israel has so designated Jerusalem, the spiritual center of Judaism.

It states that since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, religious freedom has been guaranteed to all. And it recalls several previous Congressional resolutions calling for the city to remain united.

The Act then states what henceforth will be not Congressional preferences but the official policy of the United States toward Jerusalem: that it should remain a united city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected; that it should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and that the U.S. Embassy should be established there no later than May 31, 1999.

The Act gives the President the authority to suspend relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, but only for a period of six months at a time. To suspend the provisions of the Jerusalem Act, the President must report to Congress that implementing it at this time would not be in the best interests of national security.

The administration has to do more than just invoke national security, the Act requires him to give details explaining how suspending the Act for another six months is in America’s best interests. The Act had near unanimous support by both Houses and was overwhelming passed by the Senate (93-5) and by the House (374-37).

The United States is one of only three nations in the world that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Only two nations actually relocated their embassies to Jerusalem — Costa Rica and El Salvador. (The Arab world severed relations with them both. They subsequently relocated their embassies back to Tel Aviv.)

The United Nations issued a 1997 report entitled ‘The Status of Jerusalem’ that declares it an ‘international city’ that should remain divided along the armistice lines of the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement of April 3, 1949.

As a consequence, as Zechariah predicted, the whole world opposes Israel’s possession of Jerusalem, except for the United States.

It was US support of Israel that was cited by Osama bin-Laden in his declaration of jihad against America, and it was US support of Israel that prompted the September 11 attacks and the subsequent war on terror.

(While the US hasn’t exactly been ‘cut in pieces’ to this point, the war is ongoing and the nation’s biggest fear is terrorists getting their hands on a nuclear weapon.)

The prophet Zechariah also said that God Himself will stand with Israel, promising that, “he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David’ (Zechariah 12:8) and that, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me WHOM THEY HAVE PIERCED, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (12:10)

Assessment:

That is pretty amazing stuff, when you think about it. Here is a Jewish prophet, living five centuries before the First Christmas, discussing the second coming of the Messiah Whom the prophet acknowledges was ‘pierced’ by His Own people.

But for the most part, Zechariah’s prophecies for the last days remain unfulfilled. But they will be. Zechariah’s track record for specificity is unrivaled. Consider the following prophecy concerning the Lord at His First Advent;

“And I said unto them, If ye think good, give Me My price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for My price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” (Zechariah 11:12-13)

Zechariah, speaking on behalf of the promised Messiah, makes the following points.

Zechariah speaks of haggling over His price; “If ye think good, give Me My price; and if not, forbear.”

Matthew records Judas haggling over the price for betraying Jesus, saying, “What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.” The term covenanted (suntithemi) means to work out a mutually agreeable contract — a negotiated settlement.

Zechariah specified the metallic composition of the coinage by which the transaction would be made. It was neither gold nor copper, but rather, silver” and Zechariah predicted the precise number of coins to be paid.

Zechariah s prophecy indicated that the money would be returned to the Jewish leaders, the custodians of the house of God.

Matthew s record reveals that Judas, in a swoon of regret, brought back the coinage to the chief priests and elders. But they would have none of it. Instead, they used the money to buy a ‘potter’s field’ to serve as a burial place for strangers.

And, prophet indicated that in some way the silver coins were to be cast (thrown) into the house of Jehovah. Zechariah has perfectly depicted the act of the betrayer. Judas cast down the pieces of silver into the sanctuary (Matthew 27:5)

The detail, as already noted, is breathtaking, when one sits down to think about it. Now, here is where the dots connect:

The prophet who so painstakingly recorded the details of the betrayal of the Messiah two thousand years ago is the same one who provided the details of His Second Coming on the last Day.

In our day, so much of Bible prophecy seems to be on the cusp of its ultimate fulfillment that we tend to get a bit complacent about it.

Even among serious Christians with a love for His appearing, there is sometimes a sense of ‘so what’ that replaces our earlier ‘gee whiz’ attitude to the signs of our times.

Think of a cross country trip in which you are navigating by using a road atlas. You left New York, headed for Los Angeles, and have just crossed the California state line. Only a few hundred miles to go!

Do you then conclude the road map that got you this far is suddenly unreliable?

The Bible is our ‘road map’ for the last days. We started our trip on May 15, 1948 when the fig tree blossomed in Israel, and now, according to that same road map, we are almost home.

Is it possible that the last part of the ‘atlas’ is wrong? Maybe its further away than we think?

The Apostle Peter made a similar point, writing;

“Knowing this first, that there shall come IN THE LAST DAYS scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2nd Peter 3:4-5)

Peter goes on, writing;

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, BY THE SAME WORD are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (3:5-7)

The fact is, He IS coming back, and He IS coming back soon. This isn’t a case of wishful thinking, or a hopeful interpretation of the signs of the times. We are living in the final hours of human history, and we have been given an awesome responsibility.

Every person that we meet in the course of our day-to-day lives has an eternal destiny. Either it will be spent in unspeakable joy in the presence of Christ, or it will be spent in unspeakable horror in the lake of fire.

And for all any of us know, we may be the only hope they have of learning the truth. Before it is too late.

Don’t let yourself get complacent. The Bible is true and the Lord IS coming back — in this generation.

Merry Christmas.

Special Report: The ‘Christmas Religion’

Special Report: The ‘Christmas Religion’
Vol: 63 Issue: 23 Saturday, December 23, 2006

Every year about this time, the debate begins anew about Christmas. Does offering someone a greeting like “Merry Christmas” offend those who aren’t Christians?

Should we remember to keep the ‘Christ’ in Christmas? Is Jesus the reason for the season? Is observing Christmas an inappropriate endorsement of religion?

It is difficult to figure out, if celebrating Christmas as a ‘religious holiday’, exactly WHICH religion is being endorsed. Christianity is the only faith on earth that is NOT a religion.

Jesus Christ was the most anti-religious ‘religious’ leader who ever lived. Jesus came to dismantle religion and replace it His doctrine of faith and trust.

Jesus called the religious leaders of His day “a generation of vipers” and likened them to “whited sepulchers [tombs], beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, ‘filled with dead men’s bones.’

Religion is the antithesis of Christianity. Religion is man’s way of making himself acceptable to God. Christianity is God’s way of making man acceptable to Him.

Religion has rules and regulations that bind its adherents, with the promise of eternal punishment if those rules and regulations are violated.

Jesus taught the opposite; He said the truth would make us free and that salvation comes by faith alone that His sacrificial death and His subsequent Resurrection would save us, and not our good deeds.

Salvation doesn’t come by doing good works or attending church, or by being baptized or by believing in God. James 2:19 says; “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”

Believing in God is NOT enough — as James points out, Satan believes in God. The Book of Job tells us that Satan regularly comes to present himself before the Lord, but that won’t keep Satan from his appointment with the Lake of Fire.

Good works won’t save a person. Isaiah 64:4 notes that, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

Note that it isn’t just our sins that are as ‘filthy rags’ before the Lord. Even our ‘righteousness’ is filthy in God’s eyes. “God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1st John 1:5)

So to a pure a Holy and perfect God, ANY sin/darkness would naturally be alien and repugnant to Him, so — humanly speaking — it IS impossible for us to be saved. THAT is why God demonstrated His love for us by coming down in human form as the Lord Jesus Christ.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments for a single reason . . . to PROVE two things. The first is that we are ALL sinners — no human being who ever lived (with the exception of Jesus) ever kept all ten of them.

The second reason is to prove we ALL need a Savior. Since it is a human impossibility to keep the Commandments, it is humanly impossible, according to Scripture, for any person to be saved by his works.

James 2:10 reminds us that whoever “whoever shall keep the whole law and stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” A person who tries to live by the Ten Commandments will die by the Ten Commandments and will stand before the judge clothed in his own righteousness, or what the Lord refers to as ‘filthy rags’.

The celebration of Christmas has been declared, by the politically correct but overwhelmingly stupid, a religious holiday.

Note well who it is that objects the most to its celebration. Religionists.

Secular humanism is a religion. It meets all of the benchmark tests — it is man’s way of making himself acceptable to his god, which, of course, is himself. It has rules and regulations — you can’t believe in humanism and believe in God, it has its own doctrine (evolution) and it requires a tremendous amount of faith.

To be a humanist, you have to deny logic and accept a constantly-changing and unprovable ‘theory’ that says that everything we know about physics is true — unless you add the unprovable element of billions of years.

To a humanist, a frog turning into a handsome prince is a fairy tale. Unless you add a couple of billion years. Then it’s scientific evolution.

To a Muslim or a Jew, Christmas is offensive. To the Jew, it remains a standing indictment against his religion. The only way around that indictment is to deny that Jesus was the Messiah.

To the Muslim, Christmas is offensive because it is an acknowledgment that the Koran is wrong — it specifically denies the Deity of Christ and repeatedly tells its adherents that “God has no Son.”

Christmas finds great acceptance among Christian religionists, like the Catholic Church or mainstream Protestant denominations.

But it doesn’t do that well among non-denominational Christians, who point out that the early Church didn’t celebrate the birth of Christ and that Christmas is really a repackaging of the Babylonian religion of Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz.

Non-denominational Christianity teaches that its ok to celebrate Christmas if one wants to, and equally ok to not celebrate Christmas, if one wants to.

Religionists take one of two positions on Christmas. They oppose its celebration, because they find it offensive. Or, they oppose efforts to stifle its celebration, which they claim is offensive to them.

Paul writes; “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14: 5-6)

The Apostle reminds us, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13)

The religionists on each side of the Christmas controversy strain at one another, red-faced and angry, over whether or not it is a good religious observance or a bad religious observance, and in the end, everybody ends up taking offense — over the Birth of the Prince of Peace!

The Bible — the source of all that is known of God — offers the final word on the topic, but the Bible is the last place a religionist would think to look for answers about religion.

“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” (Romans 14:19)

I pray for each of you, that you have a wonderful, merry and peace-filled Christmas.

This column first appeared on Christmas Eve, 2005. I thought it worth repeating. I hope you agree. Merry Christmas to you all from all of us at the Omega Letter.