Friday, September 21, 2012

"The Coming Battle in the Middle East ..."

Ezekiel 38:1-5 describes a battle between the forces of evil and Israel.  The same people and nations are mentioned in Ezekiel 38:2-3, and Revelation 20:8:  "Gog and Magog."  The prophecy of Ezekiel was written several hundred years prior to John's revelation.  The people of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians and dispersed throughout the Assyrian empire around 722 B.C.  Now, as Ezekiel writes, the nation of Judah had been taken into captivity into Babylon (586 B.C.) because of God's judgment against them.  At the same time, God had promised that He would bring them back to the land after seventy years.  The Savior had to come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and for that to happen, along with all the other prophecies concerning the coming King, Judah had to be back in the land God had promised to the descendants of Abraham more than 1500 years earlier.

The fulfillment of prophecy is unique to the Bible.  Those who have not studied God's word remain blissfully (or not so blissfully!) ignorant of what has happened before ... AND of what will eventually, quite probably SOON, come upon the earth.  The reality of God's judgment will come upon the whole earth in due time; until then, God tells those in whom His Spirit is at work truth about the present and the future that you can find nowhere else but in His Word.  Every day we watch things like the gas prices and the stock market and other things in our economy and fail to understand that all of these things are tied to events going on in the world.  If you listen to the news, you quickly discover that the whole world is inter-related in a way that it has never been before.  There is now a global economy.  What happens in one place affects everyone.  The same is true to an even deeper level in the spiritual realm.

I am currently preaching a series of sermons on the theme of God's kingdom.  From the beginning, God's purpose is to establish His reign, His kingdom on the earth.  If you read the end of THE Book, the Bible, you find the consummation, the completion of God's plan.  Evil is destroyed and God Himself comes to dwell with mankind (with all who have believed in Him and who by faith trusted not in their own goodness, but in the Savior, Jesus).  God, in all of His glory, will reign over the earth ON the earth - a new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; II Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).  The knowledge of God will cover the earth.  All who have rejected the knowledge of the one, true God will perish in eternal judgment forever.  This is going to happen.  It is not a fantasy, it is not a probability, it is not a fairy tale.  God said it; it will be done.

But it's the HOW it will happen and what will lead up to it that people need to begin to see as we live in this world today.  Many people today believe we are swiftly drawing near to these events.  I would agree.  This is not a scare tactic or a ploy to get people interested in the church or a way to try to force people to take their spiritual lives seriously.  Books and videos and movies have become commonplace, talking about "end times" and "Armageddon" and the end of the earth as we know it.  How many people realize that the Bible gives rather specific details about what is to come on the earth - and most of it centers around Israel.

There is a lot of debate about whether the existence of Israel as a nation has anything to do with prophecy.  There are those who believe that the Church has replaced Israel in God's plans and that all of the mentions of the restoration of Israel in the future, made by the prophets, referred to the Church, Jews and Gentiles brought together as God's chosen people.  I don't have time in this post to get into all of the biblical proof that this is not the case, but it is clear from Scripture that God's plan for Israel, the Jewish people, plays a central role in the events leading up to the return of Jesus Christ to earth.  So let me get back to Ezekiel for a moment.

Ezekiel 38:1-5 mentions Magog, Gog, Messhech, Tubal, Persia, Cush and Put.  These are the nations who will come against Israel.  While some have tried to identify leaders like Alexander the Great and others, who led armies against Israel in the centuries following Ezekiel's writings, there is no clear and obvious connection that can be made to Ezekiel's prophecies.  God's Word is accurate  in every detail.  Ezekiel mentions these characters again in Chapter 39, a chapter that ends with the restoration of Israel.  It is important to identify these nations.  These names were associated with what is now Turkey, Asia Minor (south and east of the Black Sea), and Russia.  Persia is modern Iran, Cush is south of Egypt, across from Saudi Arabia, and Put is identified with Libya.  These are the nations that will come against Israel at a future time and who will ultimately be defeated.

Can you see that happening today?  Some think that people who believe such things are radicals and extremists, but God's Word is true.  There is a spiritual battle today between the forces of evil, of Satan, and the forces of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Every time you and I pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, ON EARTH, as it is in heaven," we are declaring that we believe this day will come and we anticipate the rule of God on the earth.  For that to happen evil must be and will be destroyed.  I will talk more about this in the future, but for today I encourage you to watch the news and to remember that there is more going on in our world than we can imagine.  Our comfort comes from knowing that the God who orders the nations and the rulers of the nations cares about each one of His children.  He calls us to trust Him, to love Him and to serve Him as we look forward to that day and "speed its coming!" (II Peter 3:12).

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