Storm Chasers and First Responders

Last week I attended what were entitled a series of “Impartation Meetings,” because the intent was to impart God’s knowledge, His blessings and His anointing upon each participant.   One speaker in particular reignited a flame that burnt brightest for me shortly after I made a commitment to Jesus Christ some thirty years ago.  About that time one of my new Christian friends gave me several cassette tapes that spoke of the “End of Days.”  Some were based wholly on the prophetic Word of the Bible, while others were more conspiratorial in nature.  I’m sure it was not my friend’s intent; but, as a new believer, I got caught up looking for signs of a one-world government and a one-world religion under every rock and in every rainbow symbol in a children’s story or on a storefront.

 See, I have the mentality of a Storm Chaser.  That was the case before I became a Christian, and I brought that attitude and its behavioral effects along with me.  If I observed what I perceived to be a wrong, I’d jump in with both feet, to save the day, before I’d ask if help was either needed or desired.  Fortunately, I survived being battered against walls a number of times by tornados that made a sudden sharp turn my way.  And I learned to rein in my Storm Chaser mentality and became more of a First Responder.  Unfortunately, that also poured some cold water on my interest in the End-of-Days message.

Last-week’s speaker reignited that flame.  For as he said, the End-of-Days message was intended to open the eyes of the people of God, to enable us to see the brevity of time for reaching the lost and to encourage us to act on the urgency of the situation, to quarterback that two-minute drill before the game clock expires.  Jesus never intended the message to instill fear or worry in the believer, or to turn us into conspiratorial freaks.

Although I believe much of Jesus’ message was to teach the Church to be First Responders, to preach the Gospel to the lost, to lay hands on the sick, to cast out devils, even to raise the dead; He still had a lot of Storm Chasers in his merry band of twelve.  Not only did He pick a man whom the locals called Simon the Zealot, but even His three closest friends, were extreme.  The brothers James and John were known as “Sons of Thunder” because they were just as apt to suggest that God send fire to strike down people who rejected their message as to pray for them.  And Peter was always the first to speak his mind, to make promises he couldn’t or wouldn’t keep, or to volunteer to die along-side Jesus – even the first to draw his sword and attack one of the temple guards in the garden the night of his Master’s arrest.

But years later, it was Peter who advised believers to be prepared to be scoffed at whenever they spoke of the End of Days.  “Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days, scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.'”

As I pulled out my old notes from the mid-80’s, I decided to research the internet to bring them up-to-date.  I was amazed at how much has occurred in recent years which lines up with prophesies two and three thousand years old – prophesies that seemed outlandish and unlikely even two and a half decades ago.   I shouldn’t have been the least surprised, for the Book of Revelation tells us that “the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus,” and I’ve long placed my trust in Christ and the authenticity of His written Word.  So I guess I was more in awe than surprised.

So what are some of the signs that Jesus and many of the prophets of old spoke of that we’ve already seen come to pass in just the last century?  The signs that relate to the nation of Israel are the most important of all, because the Jews are God’s prophetic time clock.  What I mean by this is that the Holy Scriptures will often tie a prophesied future event with something that will happen to the Jews.  We’re told to watch the Jews, and when a prophesied event concerning them occurs, we can be sure that other related prophesied events will also occur.

An example can be found in the 21st chapter of Luke’s Gospel where Jesus prophesied that the Jews would be dispersed from Jerusalem and be led captive among the nations.  Of course many of the Jews had been dispersed centuries earlier when the Assyrians and Babylonians invaded that little stretch of land along the Mediterranean Sea that we now call the Holy Land.  Thousands of the Jews were transplanted to other parts of the known world, so they could not rebel against their conquerors.  But this time Jesus was referring to the new destruction and dispersion that the Romans would inflict in 70 AD, forty years after his death.  While He was making this dire prediction, He then added that one day the Jewish people would return to re-occupy Jerusalem, and that when this happens, the End of Days events will occur that will lead to His return.

Well this and many other prophecies concerning the Jews in the End of Days did begin to be fulfilled in the 20th Century, right before the eyes of the secular and religious worlds.  This worldwide gathering of the Jews back to the Holy Land which Jesus spoke of was actually first predicted by the Prophet Isaiah, and is recorded in Chapter 11.  It’s noteworthy that the entire Book of Isaiah was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls in the middle of the 20th Century.  In fact, all those discovered documents, written on papyrus and bronze, have been verified as authentic and dated to between the 4th and 5th Centuries BC.

Yet, at the start of the 20th Century, there were only 40,000 Jews in Palestine.  In fact, barely one hundred years ago there was not one single, tangible, measurable sign that indicated we were living in the season of the Lord’s return.  The first sign to appear was the Balfour Declaration which was issued by the British government on November 2, 1917.  This Declaration was prompted by the fact that during World War I the Turks sided with the Germans. Thus, when Germany lost the war, so did the Turks, and the victorious Allies decided to divide up both the German and Turkish empires.  The Turkish territories, called the Ottoman Empire, contained the ancient homeland of the Jewish people — an area the Romans had named Palestine after the last Jewish revolt in 132-135 AD.  In 1917 Palestine included all of modern day Israel and Jordan. In the scheme the Allies concocted for dividing up the German and Turkish territories, Britain was allotted Palestine, and this is what prompted the Balfour Declaration.  In that document, Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, declared that it was the intention of the British government to establish in Palestine “a national home for the Jewish people.”

The leading evangelical in England at the time was F. B. Meyer. He immediately recognized the prophetic significance of the Declaration, for he was well aware of the Isaiah prophesy that the Jewish people will be gathered again to their homeland right before the return of the Messiah.  Meyer sent out a letter to the evangelical leaders of England asking them to gather in London in December to discuss the prophetic implications of the Balfour Declaration.  In that letter, he stated, “The signs of the times point toward the close of the time of the Gentiles… and the return of Jesus can be expected any moment.”   Before Meyer’s meeting could be convened, another momentous event occurred.  On December 11, 1917 General Edmund Allenby liberated the city of Jerusalem from 400 years of Turkish rule.

A second key prophecy concerning the Jews is a natural consequence of their gathering again.  Isaiah 66 speaks of the re-establishment of their nation “in a single day,” which occurred on May 14, 1948.

In spite of the Balfour Declaration, Jews who had been scattered throughout the world over 2,600 years ago, seemed to have no interest in returning to the Middle East.  Yet, the prophet Ezekiel, recorded in his Book’s 37th chapter, had foretold these events:  “Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones – all hope is gone.’ Now give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord.”   The bones represent the Jewish people.  Following the first century Roman conquest of the Holy Land, the Jews were banished from the land of Israel. The Romans renamed the area Palestine, and exiled its people to the farthest corners of the Roman Empire.

But God didn’t just promise to restore their nation.  He promised to do so by opening their “graves” at a time when the Jews felt that “all hope is gone.”  Satan attempted to prevent the prophesy of Ezekiel from being fulfilled by using Hitler to kill millions of Jews in the WW II Holocaust.  And he came close to nearly destroying an entire race of people.  By the time the war ended, countless survivors had been drained of hope.  It created the very conditions described by Ezekial.  And on May 14, 1948, the nation of Israel reappeared in fulfillment of not just this prophesy, but countless other Old Testament prophecies.

By the end of World War II the number of Jews in Palestine had risen to 800,000.  Today, there are more than 6 million who have come from all over the world.  There are now as many Jews in Israel as died in the Holocaust.  The prophet Jeremiah twice says that when history is completed, the Jewish people will look back and conclude that their worldwide gathering again was a greater miracle than their deliverance from Egyptian captivity.  See Jeremiah, chapters 16 and 23.

One related but often ignored prophesy is Zephaniah chapter 3: “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, My dispersed ones, will bring My offerings.  In that day you will feel no shame because of all your deeds by which you have rebelled against Me; for then I will remove from your midst your proud, exulting ones, and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain.”  Before 1984 it was estimated there were approximately 250 Ethiopian immigrants in Israel.  Many more tried to make the trek over land and died.  A cooperative effort in 1984, between unusual partners consisting of the Israel Defense Forces, the CIA, the US embassy in Khartoum, mercenaries, and even some Sudanese Muslims and secret police of Sudan facilitated the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews out of Sudan.  The covert airlift brought 15,000 Jews who had fled to refugee camps in Sudan to escape starvation.  Over the next fifteen years, another 23,000 were transported directly from Ethiopia by paying off the dictator-led government.

There’s a similar Prophesy is Jeremiah 23 that relates to Russian Jews.  “Therefore behold, the days are coming declares the Lord, when they will no longer say, as the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt, but as the Lord lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I have driven them.  Then they will live on their own soil.”  In the 1970’s and 1980’s there was a mass exodus of Russian Jews out of Communist Russia.  In 1999 the Associated Press even reported the dramatic increase in the number of Jewish immigrants from Russia.

Other key prophecies, including one in the 8th chapter of Zechariah relate to the re-occupation of Jerusalem.  In 1967, in “The Six Day War” the Israelis took Jerusalem in the midst of miraculous after miraculous events that were reported by the secular press and in several books.

The Prophet Zechariah also warned that in this same generation, Israel would become a burden to the nations of the world.  Prior to 1948, world diplomatic leaders rarely mentioned Israel or Jerusalem; but today all nations, including the United States, oppose Israel on control of Jerusalem.  The Vatican wants the city put under its control.  The United Nations wants it to be internationalized.  The European Union is demanding it be divided between the Arabs and the Jews.  The Arabs want all of it.  This was foretold in the 12th chapter of Zechariah: “I will make Jerusalem and Judah like an intoxicating drink to all the nearby nations that send their armies to besiege Jerusalem.  On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world.  None of the nations who try to lift it will escape unscathed.”   The division of Jerusalem and ownership of the Temple Mount in particular, have been a source of countless U.N. resolutions, diplomatic crises, and calls for war.  The struggle over the “Peace Process” in the Middle East is the stated number one priority of world diplomats, and Jerusalem resides at the center of discussions about “land for peace.”

Still another prophetic subject concerns the Hebrew language.  Prior to the restoration of Israel in 1948, Hebrew was a dead language.  Throughout history, many cultures and languages have come and gone; but there is no record of a dead/lost language being restored – until now.  In the 7th Century BC, Zephaniah prophesied, “For then I will return to the people a pure language that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.”  Today Hebrew is once again spoken throughout Israel.

There are still some prophesies concerning the nation of Israel that remain to be fulfilled before the End-of-Days.  And they too seem unlikely, given current circumstances – but no more unlikely than the prophesies already cited above.  These unfulfilled prophesies concern the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and the restoration of Temple worship, including animal sacrifices.  These are spoken of in both the Books of Revelation (Chapter 11) and Daniel (Chapter 9).

There are many groups already working on preparations for the new temple.  The blueprints are already done, and there have already been unsuccessful attempts to lay the cornerstone of the temple.  These will all be accomplished in God’s timing – not man’s.  The only thing standing in the way of the construction of the new temple is Islam’s third holiest site, the Dome of the Rock and government support for such an undertaking.   Unless it’s determined that the site of the first two temples is actually south of the Dome of the Rock, as some archaeologists believe.

Likewise, the temple garments have been made.  A group in Israel called the Temple Mount Faithful have obtained most of the clothing, instruments and other equipment required for temple worship and are actively preparing for the laying of the third temple’s cornerstone.

According to the Lord’s guidance for animal sacrifices, as found in Numbers 19, a red heifer will be required to be used in the process of purification.  Amazingly, in May 1997, the first Red Heifer was born in 2000 years.  Another red Heifer was born in Israel in March of 2002.  So things are indeed coming together.

Of course, Jesus, His disciples, the prophets all gave us other signs to watch for and prepare.

Signs of society: “Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” 2 Timothy 3:1-4  This passage sounds like a typical evening newscast!

And according to Jesus, there are three specific things to watch and observe: famines, earthquakes and wars.  “Don’t let anyone mislead you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah.’  They will lead many astray.  And wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic.  Yes, these things must come, but the end won’t follow immediately.  The nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.  But all this will be only the beginning of the horrors to come.'”

The first two are Signs of nature:   Natural signs have always been the least respected, even among believers.  The mere mention of natural disasters as a sign of the approaching End-of-Days usually evokes a sneer accompanied by the words, “Come on, what else is new? There have always been earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes.”  But those who have this attitude forget that Jesus said the signs would be like “birth pangs.”  That means they will increase in frequency and intensity the closer we get to the Lord’s return.  And that is exactly what has been happening over the centuries.

According to a Wikipedia list of famines, the past 600 years have witnessed an increase in the frequency of famines: from a mere six in the 15th Century, ten in the 16th, 24 in the 17th, 28 in the 18th, 30 in the 19th and 44 in the 20th.  And look at some of those 44.   They were extremely deadly.  The 1921 famine in Russia killed more than 5 million people; the 1928-1929 famine in China more than 3 million, the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine, close to 10 million; the 1932-1933 famine in Kazakhstan, about 1.5 million; the 1936 famine in China more than 5 million; the 1942-1943 famine in China more than 1 million; the 1946-1947 famine in the Soviet Union more than1 million; and in the 1959 to 1961 Great Chinese Famine as many as 36 million people died.  The first decade of the 21st Century has already witnessed 12 famines, putting humanity on course for 120 famines over the next one hundred year period.

And what about earthquakes?  Every time there’s a major earthquake, the news media are quick to say there have always been deadly earthquakes, as if they’re trying to silence the End-of-Days message before it can get any traction.   So let’s turn to an independent source again.  According to a Wikipedia list of earthquakes, the past 600 years have witnessed the following number of earthquakes described as a magnitude 7.0 or greater: 15th Century – 2, 16th Century – 3, 17th Century – 7, 18th Century – 13, 19th Century – 29, 20th Century – 123.  The first decade of the 21st Century has already witnessed 144 earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater, putting humanity on course for 1,440 such earthquakes over the next one hundred year period!

Some of the increases may be due to our modern scientific methods which have improved mankind’s ability to collect and report information around the world.  However, a person would have to be a fool to deny that each of these categories of natural disasters indicate a significant increase in intensity.

Signs of Wars:  Here we see similar increases in numbers over the centuries, a phenomenon the Bible refers to as “birth pangs” leading to an expected end.   15th Century – 29 wars, 16th Century – 59 wars, 17th Century – 75 wars, 18th Century – 69 wars, 19th Century – 294 wars, 20th Century – 278 wars.  And the first decade of the 21st Century has already witnessed 55 wars, putting humanity on course for 550 wars over the next one hundred year period.

The list of the signs and their linkage to prophetic statements in the Bible goes on and on, and I just don’t have the time to recite them all, except in very general terms.  But I encourage you to do your own research.  The evidence is readily available.  These include:

The exponential growth of travel, knowledge, communication and technology,

The re-emergence of the Roman (European) Empire,

The rise of the Gog/Magog alliance, which will mobilize a coalition in the last days.  [For those unfamiliar with the Biblical description of this alliance, it consists of the following nations: Magog, Meshech, and Tubal which are now modern day Russia; Persia is now Iran; Cush is Ethiopia; Put is Libya; Gomer is Turkey; and Beth-togarmah is now parts of modern day Turkey, Armenia, and the Turkish-speaking people of Asia Minor.  Throughout human history, there’s never been a cooperative military alliance between the nations of Russia and Iran – until now.  Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, a cooperative diplomatic and military alliance between Iran and Russia has formed and slowly expanded, ultimately leading to Russia’s assistance in providing Iran with the necessary support to make the Bushehr nuclear power plant operational in 2010.]

The rise of global government and monetary systems,  [With each passing day more and more nations are ceding their sovereignty to larger institutions such as the European Union, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Court.]

The rise of Godlessness and Apostasy,

The increase in spiritual signs of power in the Church.

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