The End Times; what I DO believe
Stan Goodenough - Jerusalem Watchman - January 16, 2007
The End Times – What I DON’T believe (November 30, 2006) provoked an extraordinary number of responses. Most the comments disappeared when we were hacked, but I do have copies of some, which I will respond to separately in point form.]
While recently interviewing former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, American talk show host Bill Maher put this question to him:
“Does it not make you a bit uncomfortable that the Christian Right here in America, which backs Israel fervently, really does so because they think Jesus is going to return …to whence He came. And what He’s going to do when He gets there basically is convert all the Jews or kill them?”
To Netanyahu’s credit, he would not be drawn into criticizing Israel’s supporters. However, like many Jews, he knows that this is the eschatology (End Times theology) of a substantial number of those friends.
It holds that, after God has restored all, or most of, the Jews to their land, they will go through further terrible suffering, worse than anything the nation has experienced, including the Holocaust. Millions of Jews will be consumed in the inferno, and the minority who survive will become Christians.
Just before this final genocide, the Church will be “raptured” into heaven for a reunion with Jesus. Seven years later (some say 3 ½), the Christians will return to earth with Jesus, who will establish His Kingdom and reign for a thousand years.
While I understand how scriptures and scenarios can be strung together to paint such a picture, in my reading and study of the Bible I see something very different ahead.
Earlier I wrote about how I was challenged by an orthodox Israeli who, upon learning that I am an Evangelical Christian, said matter-of-factly:
“Oh yes, I know what you believe; that more massive death lies ahead for us, that two thirds of the Jews who have come home will be destroyed by armies that hate Israel, and that those who survive will become Christians and join you.”
“I believe nothing of the kind,” I told my new friend.
“I do not believe for a moment that God has brought you back to see you mass-murdered in your own land.
“To the contrary, He says repeatedly through the prophets that when He returns you from exile – for the third and final time, which this is – it will be to do you good. Your very return is a sign that your time of trouble as a nation is ending. He calls the Diaspora “captivity.” Your restoration to Eretz Yisrael spells the end of that captivity ergo: your freedom!
“During the tribulation of the past 2000-plus years, Israel has surely received from the Lord’s hands ‘double for all her sins.’ But now, God has a wonderful future in store for you. He has brought you back home to bless you. And in your blessing, all of the nations of the world will be blessed.”
I spoke intensely, holding his gaze with my own. His eyes widened, but I wasn’t quite done.
“My family and I have made Israel our home because we believe that your people are poised to enter an astonishing new chapter in their history. We want to go with you as you head into it, because we see that God is with you.
“What’s more; it may take some time, but I believe God is working to prepare the hearts of millions of Christians to come alongside you, to stand with Israel to the end.
“Whatever awaits you, awaits us too. We believe it is something very, very good.”
I have to admit that I was struggling to communicate this in my not very good Hebrew, so what I recount here is more what I was trying to say than what actually came out. Furthermore, time did not permit me to continue just then, but if it had, and had my thoughts been clear and my command of Israel’s resurrected tongue somewhat better, this is what I would have wanted to say to him.
It is what I want to say to all the Jewish people:
“We know you have been through some very difficult times in the just-recent past. We have experienced a few of them with you: visiting the Galilee last summer as the Katyusha rockets rained down; teaching our children to don their gas masks and enter their sealed room against Saddam’s threatened SCUDs; counseling them after their school caretaker and a fellow student were blown up in buses near our home; frequenting restaurants that were subsequently bombed to the north and the south of us…
“Of course, you have hardly known an easy day since your homeland was reborn in 1948. And clearly there are more hard times ahead.
“But soon, very soon, you are going to witness the awesome intervention of your God. We already see how His mighty arm has been at work; protecting Israel against overwhelming enemies, and holding back the building worldwide wall of hate.
“And He is going to do more, far more. For once He has restored you to your land as a nation, He has promised to restore you, as a nation, to Himself!
“Until that day, as the clamor increases for you to give away your land and, eventually, to vacate the Middle East; as the mass media that portrays Israel as a nation of occupiers, expansionist land-thieves, human rights abusers, warmongers and war criminals, further fuels the detestation of your nation and ultimately drags the gentiles into direct confrontation with you; as you stand increasingly alone against this God-hating – and therefore Israel-hating – world, I believe it is very much in the will and purpose of God that all true Christians stand with you. For those who hate your God hate our God too.
“We will stand with you against our homelands, challenging the antisemitic policies of our governments, and be prepared to renounce our citizenship if they actively come against you.
“We will denounce the unjust anti-Israel resolutions of the United Nations, its International Court of Justice and newly-spawned Alliance of Nations; the European Union and the International Criminal Court. We will speak out and condemn the actions of the Islamic states, the Arabs and jihadists. We will condemn every voice that rises up against you in judgment.
“We will decry their injustice and gainsay their efforts, and as far as we are able we will shout from the rooftops for Christians everywhere to hear: that the international community’s land-for-peace process (Madrid, Oslo, Geneva, Road Map, Two State Solution – take your pick) is a devilish conspiracy aimed at foiling (as if it could) the very redemption purposes of God.
“And when you are too tired or feel too hopeless or too resigned to battle on and, (as many of you now do,) you start to echo the world’s lies: that this land is not yours; that whether or not it is yours you have to give it up for the sake of the ‘Palestinians’ or for the sake of Middle East peace or for the sake of world peace – we will embrace you to strengthen you and remind you that: ‘No! This is not true!’
“The key to peace does not lie in you giving up your land. It does not lie in ‘taking risks for peace’ or making concessions to the Arabs. Israel is not the party that holds the key to peace, although we know you have been ready to give away what is most precious to your people if only it would bring you that peace.
“The key to peace lies with the Arabs. It lies in them giving up their claims to a country that has never been theirs, renouncing the threats and violence and terrorism they have employed for close to a century to drive the Jews out of this land in order to steal it for themselves. And it lies in them welcoming Israel as a legitimate, Jewish, state in their midst.
“We know they will never do this, and that in the end the entire, aggravated international community will conclude that Israel is the crux of the matter, the heart of the issue, the core of the problem: Israel has to go.
“That day is almost upon us. For some world leaders, it is already here.
“Nonetheless, when all the nations finally come against you, they will come against us too. For the time ahead will see us increasingly positioning ourselves ‘on the walls of Jerusalem’ alongside you and, where necessary, between them and you.
“We will stand with you to the end. We will encourage you to ‘stand and see the salvation of your God.’ We will see eye-to-eye with you, the Lord restoring Zion.
“Do not be afraid, dear Jewish people. There is no more holocaust. You will not face defeat while your enemies cry ‘Allahu akhbar.’ It will not be hundreds of thousands of Jewish bodies littering the coastal plain and the hills of Samaria and Judea. That fate God has reserved for your foes.
“No indeed. What is coming your way will cause us to cry out to you:
“Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)
“Israel, behold your God!
“Until then, this is our ‘End Time’ commitment to you:
“Where you go, there we will go; where you stay, there we will stay; your people will be our people, and your God will be our God. And if, God forbid, some of you have to die, then some of us will be willing to die too. But there are no more holocausts awaiting you. There will be no more genocide.
“God is bringing you home to do you good.”
This, then, is a large part of what I believe concerning the End Times. (My thoughts on other issues will follow.)
The clearest sign that they are upon us is what we see: that the Jews are being brought home by God because their time of national trouble is drawing to a close. They are being brought home to meet with Him, to be reunited as a nation with Him. He is bringing them here to do them good; to rejoice over them “with all His heart and with all His soul.”
His command to us Gentile believers is that we, too, should do them good; speaking comfort to them; showing them tenderness; loving them; reminding them of His love and faithfulness towards them; and encouraging them with this truth: a wonderful and glorious future lies ahead.
Their long night of suffering is passing away. Their Light is dawning, rising, and will soon be shining over them and their Land.
Read again with me God’s restoration pledges to Israel. Note how they brim with promises of hope and security, and an end to fear and suffering. As I read them, I rejoice in anticipation with Israel His glory (all emphases mine):
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11-12)
“Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the LORD your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)
Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.‘ (Jeremiah 32:36-41)
“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
And declare it in the isles afar off, and say,
‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
And keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
And ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.
Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,
Streaming to the goodness of the LORD.
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd ;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.
‘For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD.
They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid. I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore. Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people,” says the Lord GOD.’” (Ezekiel 34:27b-30)
Sing, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away your judgments,
He has cast out your enemy.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
You shall see disaster no more.
In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
“For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.”
‘Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,’ says the LORD,
‘Nor be dismayed, O Israel;
For behold, I will save you from afar,
And your seed from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet,
And no one shall make him afraid.
I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the LORD your God.
The Bible says it – again and again, and again and again.
I believe it.
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