Is it the End of the World?

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. (Ezekiel 47:6-10)

In the latter of chapters of Ezekiel, we find fascinating glimpses into a future that will be glorious not only in the hearts of men, but also in the physical world. If one believes these are future prophecies (as opposed to being metaphor, or past fulfillment), then chapter 47 is describing a flow of water from the Temple in Jerusalem, which will end up in the Dead Sea, to the south.

The Dead Sea is a popular tourist destination.

The Dead Sea is a popular tourist destination.

At present, Israeli agriculturalists are reclaiming the moonscape known as the Judean Hills. The famous Dead Sea (the lowest spot on Earth) is so-named because of the high concentration of minerals in the water, which prevents any living thing from, well, living there. The Sea is a popular tourist destination, since one can float without sinking. Across the water are the equally famous Mountains of Moab, in the modern nation of Jordan.

At the moment, it’s a bit difficult to imagine a “Dead Sea” teeming with fish and other creatures, but we are told it will be so. Patches of palm groves dot the shores now, but in the Millennium Kingdom, the entire area will be reclaimed by the Lord and be lush.

The shores of the Dead Sea are encrusted with salt.

The shores of the Dead Sea are encrusted with salt.

So what do you think? Is this a prophecy still future, or was it fulfilled at some point in the past? Or…is it metaphor?

The Southern Baptists passed a resolution in support of Israel last week, during their annual convention. The resolution also condemned the BDS (Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions) movement, aimed at hurting the Jewish state economically.

I’ve written a lot the last five years about the encroachment of the so-called Palestinian Narrative into American churches. No denomination/association has been unaffected by this coordinated effort, which uses high-level networks to peddle a story that makes Israel the villain in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Even at the SBC gathering in St. Louis, a Palestinian pastor (now living in Phoenix) stood to denounce the resolution. He used classic language that claims Israel is a brutal occupier. Reports are that there was significant applause for this pastor’s comments.

Look close and you'll see that the folks running this small-town grocery store love Zion.

Look close and you’ll see that the folks running this small-town grocery store love Zion.

I maintain that unless a serious effort is made to educate congregants across the United States about the realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict (what Benjamin Netanyahu has called “The Battle for Truth”), the next several generations will be flipped to the Palestinian side. With the tidal wave of social justice talk among Millennials, the Palestinian Narrative fits hand-in-glove.

Yet there remains a significant number of Americans who stand solidly with Israel, and they aren’t usually the most visible. AIPAC and others, and a variety of Christian organizations, solidly back Israel and hold conferences.

But it is the grassroots that will tell the tale. All across America, one finds the signs—and the signs of the times—that reflect America’s enduring love affair with the Jewish state.

May it always be so.

The Southern Baptist Convention recently concluded its annual convention, electing a new president, Steve Gaines (of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis); he replaces Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church in Rogers, Arkansas.

Besides a resolve to denounce the Confederate flag, the convention made some news on the heels of the recent story involving a planned mosque in New Jersey.

Traditional Southern Baptists, those from the immediate past in particular, would be horrified that an SBC entity (in this case the Russell Moore-led Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) joined almost two dozen other groups in a lawsuit aimed at allowing a mosque to be built in Bernards Township, New Jersey. Moore has maintained that “religious liberty” must be the priority.

Russell Moore answering criticisms of his policies at the SBC convention.

Russell Moore answering criticisms of his policies at the SBC convention.

At the SBC convention, however, an attendee or two took to the microphones and questioned Moore about his defense of the New Jersey mosque. The scene then took a sad turn as Moore smugly dismissed the concerns. On some subsequent blogs, those few brave souls who took exception to an SBC entity helping build a mosque were mocked; one was even derided as perhaps being old (dementia?) and out of touch.

What is out of touch, however, is exactly what has happened: Moore is pushing through a fairly radical left-wing agenda to turn the Southern Baptist community into a “kinder, gentler” church.

The problem is, as the SBC continues to hemorrhage members (down 1.1 million since 2002, and 200,000 in the last two years led by Floyd), the world still will not tolerate even those positions Moore and his friends purport to resist, such as abortion.

In other words, “the world” won’t like you better because you come their way. It only makes them loathe you “more,” no pun intended.

The SBC leadership is scrambling for solutions to halt the exodus of members. Sadly, they are largely looking in the wrong places for those solutions. A return to biblical teaching, I believe, would do the trick. I don’t expect that to happen, as books like Jesus Calling and The Circle Maker pass for study materials today, in too many circles. They are infinitely poor substitutes for God’s Holy Word.

Prediction: the SBC slide will continue, culminating in cultural irrelevance.

Especially in light of the barbaric murders of Israeli Jews in Tel Aviv yesterday—by Palestinians—it was appropriate that my daily Bible reading landed on Ezekiel 36. In this lead-up to the great Israeli “Declaration of Independence” that follows in Ezekiel 37 (the famous “Dry Bones” prophecy), we find several critical pieces of information that explain God’s actions.

Interestingly, He goes to great lengths to make sure everyone understands that His restoration of the Jewish people to their homeland in the last days is not primarily for them. It is about making the nations aware of His glory, reserved for Him alone. In verses 22 and 23 we read:

“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.'”

For centuries, the nations where the Jews were scattered during their great exile have looked at them with contempt, and have had contempt for the God of their forefathers. After all, the thinking goes, even He could not “keep them in their land.”

That is a misreading of the situation, and a false perspective.

As God’s overall plan for mankind unfolds, we see Him working exactly as He promised He would. That we live in the moment in which He has restored the Jewish people is no small thing. In fact, we are witnessing one of the great events in history. It is even more than that: it is undeniable proof that God exists and the Bible is true.

Elsewhere in Ezekiel 36, God also explains that the long suffering of the Jewish people will come to an end. Attention will be turned instead to the crimes against Jewish humanity committed by the nations, or, as we would say today, the international community. In verses 6,7, and 15, we read what God has planned for them:

I speak in my jealous wrath because you have suffered the scorn of the nations. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I swear with uplifted hand that the nations around you will also suffer scorn.

No longer will I make you hear the taunts of the nations, and no longer will you suffer the scorn of the peoples or cause your nation to fall, declares the Sovereign Lord.

This is no small thing, either, and very soon the nations and all Israel’s tormentors will answer for the evil they have committed against the Jewish people.

The Mount of Beatitudes, northern Israel

The Mount of Beatitudes, northern Israel

One more proof that the Return of the Jewish people to their ancestral land has begun is the promise in Ezekiel 36 that the Lord will cause the land to bloom with fruit and vegetation, so that it resembles the Garden of Eden.

Truly, today, Israel looks that way. Even the moonscape of the south is being reclaimed with palm and date groves. From Jerusalem to the Golan Heights, Israel is indeed like the Garden of Eden.

So what is the point of this particular passage? It is that God keeps His promises, always and all the time.

The Jews are living proof of that.

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