Beliefnet
Is it the End of the World?

In the Bible’s book of Daniel, a fascinating bit of information is conveyed. Daniel was a Hebrew prophet at the time of the Babylonian exile, in the sixth century B.C. His book is heavily prophetic, and for generations scholars and students have disagreed over key points, such as whom Daniel was writing for in the future.

Among the future events Daniel predicted: the rise of Alexander the Great, a few hundreds years in the future, and discussion of the antichrist at the time of the very end of human history.

In Chapter 12, we also read the following:

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

Some point to the period beginning in the second century B.C., the time in which the famed Maccabees would overthrow foreign rule and establish Jewish sovereignty for a couple generations (before the Romans would once again put down Jewish “rebellions”). One intriguing piece of evidence is that God told Daniel to write all this down and “seal it” in a book, to be opened at a select time in the future.
clay envelope

Today, archaeology provides us with wonderful practical examples of what might have been meant by sealing the book. In ancient Mesopotamia, the “cradle of civilization” and the home today of countries like Iraq and Syria, nations used cuneiform writing—pressing symbols in soft clay and then baking it so that letters and other communications could be preserved.

Many such clay “envelopes” have been found, revealing messages inside.

However, there is a school of thought that places this “time of the end” to a far distant time. The idea is that technological and other innovations will greatly increase human knowledge and understanding.

If ever there was a time for that, we are living in it.

Whatever the correct interpretation, it is fascinating to note that the Bible’s writers wrote with precision, often reflecting elements of the day in which they were writing.

Such artifacts help bring the Bible alive!

Times change.

They sure do.

Recently a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was interested in visiting the Holy Land. Most of us know what that refers to: Israel. The land of the Bible.

My friend is a good man, but it’s not the only time he’s referred to Israel as “the Holy Land.” In fact, I’ve never heard him say “Israel,” except in the context of a Bible passage, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures.

The “Holy Land” is often a way for American Christians to avoid saying “Israel.” Israel, you see, is controversial. Israel oppresses the Palestinians, or takes too much annually in aid from the U.S. Or…well, there are so many excuses.

From Zechariah 2:12:

“And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.”

So there is a biblical precedent for using the term, and I don’t have a problem with it. I really don’t.

Billy Graham can still say it.

Billy Graham can still say it.

I do have a problem with Christians who can’t form the word Israel when talking about the modern incarnation.

It’s been my experience that mainline Christians primarily say Holy Land rather than Israel, but it is increasingly becoming the rage within Evangelicalism. It is jarring today to hear a Southern Baptist or even a Pentecostal stick a tongue to the roof of his mouth to avoid saying Israel.

On the one hand, it’s a political issue. A “politically correct” issue. But on the other, more important hand, it’s a spiritual issue. If Christians are loath to say “Israel,” then I loathe their distaste for the name.

Intolerance for modern Israel is a growing spiritual sickness in the American church.

It is an unholy thing.

As spring approaches, travel plans are made for the coming year. One of the best decisions you can make this year is to visit Israel. I have several times and plan to do so again.

In my small hometown here in the States, I walked out of the post office the other day and was glad to hear birds singing, their songs echoing off the stone walls along the street. It reminded me very much of Jerusalem, Jaffa, and other exotic locales in Israel. There, flowers, bird song, fresh air, and swirling history are among the things that make a visit to Israel truly one-of-a-kind. I say this as an American Christian.

People often ask me about visiting Israel. Is it safe? Isn’t it expensive? Lots of questions and I’m happy to answer all of them. I feel safer in Israel than I do anywhere else, except for perhaps my back deck, which looks out on a forest, deer, and other of God’s creatures. Israel is very good at security, and I know personally you and yours would be safe there.

A trip abroad does have some significant cost, but it’s not doing to destroy your budget, and you might think of it this way: in order to have a real trip-of-a-lifetime, can you do without that new big-screen television this year? Can you wait until next year and continue to watch your two-year-old TV? I can tell you from much personal experience that visiting Israel is not as expensive as you might think. I have stayed in hotels ranging from the affordable (and wonderful!) Christ Church Guesthouse, just inside Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City…to the fabled King David Hotel and the equally plush American Colony Hotel. My bank account survived all in fine shape.

Perhaps you have a shot at just one trip in this life to Israel. Perhaps you are considering taking your first (of many) trips there. Whatever situation you are in, I say: GO!

You will never regret it.

The lush northern Galilee (credit: Israel Ministry of Tourism)

The lush northern Galilee (credit: Israel Ministry of Tourism)

As we close out another tumultuous year, half of America is hopeful and half is committed to Alinsky-style political harassment.

Barack Obama stands in the middle of all of it.

For too long, American conservatives hoped against hope that Obama’s nasty attitude toward Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu was simply an anomaly, and that he didn’t really dislike Jews or Israel.

Such hope ignored Obama’s radical background, steeped as he is in Marxist thought and, for our purposes here, a decidedly pro Palestinian bent.

The Muslim Quarter, Jerusalem's Old City.

The Muslim Quarter, Jerusalem’s Old City.

Yet his recent order to abstain from voting on UN Security Council Resolution 2334—which condemns Israeli “settlements”—is considered breathtaking, even as he prepares to leave office in three weeks.

The truth is, Obama wishes to significantly weaken Israel, and this is obvious even to the user-friendly media he has relied on for eight years.

Jake Novak of CNBC notes that the eyelash-size country in a sea of mammoth Muslim nations commands a great deal of attention from world powers:

“It’s safe to say that for a tiny nation the size of New Jersey, Israel commands an unjustified amount of the world’s attention. It can even be called an obsession.”

The supreme irony here is that while Obama & Friends (international political leaders, diplomats, religious figures, media hacks) would laugh at the idea, their obsession with the Jewish state is a direct fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Zechariah 14:1 speaks of a coming time when Israel and Jerusalem will become an obsession for the international community:

“A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.”

We are at a seminal moment in history. Pro Israel forces battle with pro Palestinian forces, and on any given day, each side seems to grow stronger. But for those of you with a mind open enough to consider that Bible prophecy is legitimate, hear the sad words of the prophet Jeremiah (30:13,14):

“There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you.”

We are not there, yet. Israel still has friends in high places.

But the Day is coming. The Normandy invasion of World War 2 was called “The Day of Days.” However, the true Day of Days—the great Day of the Lord as spoken of in Scripture—is still future.

It is coming. And fast.