Gas Field Confirmed Off Coast of Israel-December 30, 2010


December 30, 2010

JERUSALEM — Exploratory drilling off Israel’s northern coast this week has confirmed the existence of a major natural gas field — one of the world’s largest offshore gas finds of the past decade — leading the country’s infrastructure minister to call it “the most important energy news since the founding of the state.”

Houston-based Noble Energy, which is working with several Israeli partner companies, said that the field, named Leviathan, whose existence was suspected months ago, has at least 16 trillion cubic feet of gas at a likely market value of tens of billions of dollars and should turn Israel into an energy exporter.

“If it acts correctly, levelheadedly and responsibly, Israel can enjoy not only the benefit of using the gas, but it can also turn into a gas supplier in the Mediterranean region,” the infrastructure minister, Uzi Landau, said in a statement. “The large reserves of natural gas will enable Israel’s citizens to enjoy the benefit of clean and inexpensive electricity, as well as the expected profits for the state.”

The find means that Israel, with a long history of dependence on foreign energy, and hostility and boycotts from many of the biggest energy powers, could find itself in a much more advantageous position in the coming decade.

But the find has been accompanied by a heated debate over how much in taxes and royalties Israel will charge. A state-appointed committee headed by an economist at Hebrew University, Eytan Sheshinski, is planning to recommend substantially increased profit taxes, opposed by the companies and some on the political right.

Gideon Tadmor, the chief executive of Delek Energy and Avner Oil Exploration, partners in this venture with Noble, said the taxes could make the project prohibitively expensive. “The gas may stay in the ground because we will not succeed in obtaining from banks around the world the tens of billions of shekels for developing the reservoir,” he said in an interview.

He said that this new find could impel neighboring countries, including Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria, to explore and possibly develop their potential gas fields, and warned that Israel needed to move quickly to be the first to export its gas. Delek estimates that if it moves aggressively, it could begin producing gas from Leviathan in five to six years.

This year, the United States Geological Survey estimated that more than 120 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas reserves, equivalent to 20 billion barrels of oil, lay beneath the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. That would put it in the same league as the Alaskan North Slope (about 22 billion barrels) but far short of Saudi Arabia, which has proven reserves of 262 billion barrels.

In reaction to the Israeli announcement, Lebanese politicians said they would move more quickly in exploring their country’s gas potential.

Professor Sheshinski said that Israel had among the very lowest energy tax rates anywhere and that it was time to update that.

“We have proposed a profit tax to be imposed after the firms earn an adequate return on their investment,” Professor Sheshinski said in an interview. “We have checked with the banks and we will be well within world averages. Anyone who knows the numbers can be assured of a proper return.”

Professor Sheshinski said that his report, due out on Monday, had already been endorsed by the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer; the International Monetary Fund; and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which Israel recently joined. He said that the profit tax rate recommended by his committee would be 55 to 60 percent and that the O.E.C.D. average was 62 percent.

The committee’s recommendations require government and parliamentary approval.

Sever Plocker, an economic columnist for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, said in a commentary on Thursday that it was far from clear that the new discovery could be developed profitably. Gas prices could fall, the techniques needed to extract the gas were likely to be complicated and expensive to develop, and exporting natural gas required enormous investment for pipelines or the means of transforming the gas into liquid to be moved on tankers, he said.

“Creative thinking is our great natural resource, not gas,” he wrote. “It is our obligation to guard it with utmost care.”

OBEDIENCE – begins with humility


2 Kings 5:
9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the or of  Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” 11 But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.
 13 But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the
prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” 14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself  seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child’s, and he was healed!
 15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”
Naaman, a great hero, was used to getting respect, and he was outraged when Elisha treated him like an ordinary person.  To wash in a great river would be one thing, but the Jordan was small and dirty.  To wash in the Jordan, Naaman thought, was beneath a man of his position. 
But Naaman had to humble himself and obey Elisha’s commands in order to be healed.
Obedience to God begins with humility.
We must believe that his way is better than our own.  We may not always understand his ways of working, but by humbly obeying, we will receive his blessings. 
We must remember:
1. God’s ways are best.
2. God want’s our obedience more than anything else.
3. God can use anyhting to accomplish his purposes.

OBEDIENCE – you’re not the only one obeying God


 

1 Kings 19:
 10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” (New Living Translation)
Elijah thought he was the only one left who was still true to God. 
After experienceing great victory at Mount Carmel, he had to run for his life.  His resulting loneliness and discouragement made him feel sorry for himself. 
Elijah had seen both king’s court and the priesthood become corrupt.  In his discouragemnet, he forgot that others had remained faithful in the midst of the nations wickedness.   
When you are tempted to to feel you are the only one remaining faithful to a task, don’t stop to feel sorry for yourself – self-pity will dilute the good you are doing. 
Be assured, that even if you don’t know who they are, others are faithfully obeying God and carrying out their duties.

OBEDIENCE – can lead to miracles


1 Kings 17:
 13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”
 15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. (New Living Translation)
When the widow of Zarphath met Elijah, she thought she was preparing her last meal.  But a simple act of faith produced a miracle. 
Faith is the step between promise and assurance. 
Miracles seem so out of reach for our feeble faith.  But every miracle, large or small, begins with an act of obedience. 
We may not see the solution until we make the first step of faith.

OBEDIENCE – developing consistency in


1 Samual 31:
13 Then they took their bones and buried them beneath the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted for seven days.
2 Chronicles 26:
21 So King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house, for he was excluded from the Temple of the Lord. His son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land. (New Living Translation)
Saul’s death was also the death of an ideal – Israel could no longer believe that having a king like the other nations would solve all their problems.  The real problem was not the form of government, but the sinful king.  Saul tried to please God by spurts of religiosity, but real spirituality takes a lifetime of consistent obedience.
Heroic spiritual lives are built by stacking days of obedience one on top of the other.  Like a brick, each obedient act is small in itself, but in time the acts will pile up and a huge wall of strong chraracter will be built – a great defense against temptation.  We should strive for consistent obedience each day.
For much of his life, Uziah was “a good king in the Lord’s sight.”  But Uzziah turned away from God and died a leper.  He is remembered more for his arrogant act and subsequent punishment than for his great reforms.  God requires continuous obedience.  Spurts of obedience are not enough.  Be remembered for your consistent faith; otherwise you, too, may become more famous for the punishment you received than for the faith you lived by

OBEDIENCE – when you must decide between obeying God or man


 

1 Samual 31:
3 The fighting grew very fierce around Saul, and the Philistine archers caught up with him and wounded him severely.
4 Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.” But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it.
Acts 5:
29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” (New Living Translation)
The Philistines had well-earned reputation for torturing their captives.Saul no doubt knew about Samson’s fate and did not want to risk physical mutilation or other abuse.

When his armor bearer refused to kill him, he took his own life.

The apostles knew their priorities.

While we should try and keep peace with everyone, conflict with the world and its authorities is sometimes inevitable for a Christian. There will be situations where you cannot obey both God and man.

Then you must obey God and trust his Word.

Let Jesus’ words encourage you: “What happiness it is when others hate you and exclude you and insult you and smear your name because you are mine. When that happens, rejoice! Yes, leap for joy! For you will have a great reward awaiting you in heaven.” (Luke 6:22-23)

OBEDIENCE – better than sacrifice or ritual


 

1 Samuel 15:
22 But Samuel replied,
  What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.
Psalms 50:
16 But God says to the wicked:
Why bother reciting my decrees
and pretending to obey my covenant?
17 For you refuse my discipline
and treat my words like trash.
18 When you see thieves, you approve of them,
and you spend your time with adulterers.
19 Your mouth is filled with wickedness,
and your tongue is full of lies.
20 You sit around and slander your brother
your own mother’s son.
21 While you did all this, I remained silent,
and you thought I didn’t care.
But now I will rebuke you,
listing all my charges against you.
22 Repent, all of you who forget me,
or I will tear you apart,
and no one will help you.
Romans 12:
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (New Living Translation)
Was Samuel saying that sacrifice is unimportant? No, he was urging Saul to look at his reasons for making the sacrifice, rather than at the sacrifice itself.A sacrifice was a ritual transaction between God and man that physically demonstrated a relation between them. But if the persons heart was not truly repentant or if he did not truly love God, the sacrifice was a hollow ritual.Religious ceremonies and rituals are empty unless they are perofmed with an attitude of love and obedience.

“Being religious” is not enough if we do not act out of devotion and obedience to God.

Some people glibly recite God’s laws, but are filled with deceit and evil.

They claim his promises, refuse to obey his laws.

This is sin, and God will judge people for it.

We too are hypocrites when we do not live what we believe. To let this inconsistency remain, shows we are not true followers of God.

When sacrificing an animal according to God’s law, a priest killed the animal, cut it in pieces, and placed it on the altar.

Sacrifice was important, but even the Old Testament God made it clear that obedience from the heart was much more important.

God wants us to offer ourselves, not animals as living sacrifices – daily laying aside our own desires to follow him.

We do this out of gratitude that our sins have been forgiven.

OBEDIENCE – God uses delays to test us


1 Samuel 13:
11 but Samuel said, What is this you have done?
  
   Saul replied, I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. 12 So I said, “The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!” So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.” (New Living Translation)
One of the most difficult times to trust God is when you feel your resources slipping away.When Saul felt that time was running out, his impatience caused him to act against God’s will. Thinking that the ritual of sacrifice alone was enough to help, he confused the sacrifice with the God of the sacrifice.When you are faced with a difficult decision, make sure that impatience does not drive you to do what is not in agreement with God’s Word.

When you know what God wants, don’t go against that plan regardless of the circumstances.

God often uses delays to test our obedience and patience.

OBEDIENCE – do what is necessary


Judges 6:
37 prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.  (New Living Translation)
Was Gideon really testing God, or was he simply asking for more encouragement?In either case it is clear that Gideon’s motive was right (to obey God and defeat the enemy).

OBEDIENCE – obeying God out of love not fear


Joshua 22:
5 But be very careful to obey all the commands and the instructions that Moses gave to you. Love the Lord your God, walk in all his ways, obey his commands, hold firmly to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul.  (New Living Translation)
Here Joshua briefly restated the central message Moses gave the people in Deuteronomy: obedience should be based on love for God rather than fear of God.Although the Israelites had completed their military responsibility. Joshua reminded them of their spiritual responsibility.Sometimes we think so much about what we are to do that we neglect thinking about who we are to be.

We must not let daily service crowd spiritual growth out of our lives.

OBEDIENCE – one aspect of life we can control


Joshua 11:
15 As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua. And Joshua did as he was told, carefully obeying all the commands that the Lord had given to Moses.  (New Living Translation)
Joshua followed every detail of God’s commands to Moses.It is usually difficult to complete someone else’s project, but Joshua stepped into Mose’s job, building upon what Moses had started, and brought it to completion.

A new person starting a new job usually usually brings a new style and personality to that job. But, the church or any other organazation cannot work effectively if every change of personnel means starting from scratch. True servants will step in and continue or complete good work that others have started.

Joshua carefully obeyed all the instructions given by God. This theme of obedience is repeated frequently in the book of Joshua, partly becuase obedience is one aspect of life the individual beleiver can control.

We can’t always control understanding because we may not have all the facts. We can’t always control what other paople do or how thay treat us. However, we can control our response to life’s situations when we choose to obey God.

Whatever new challenges we may face, the Bible contains relevent instructions which we can choose to follow.

OBEDIENCE – sometimes brings opposition


Joshua 9:
1 Now all the kings west of the Jordan River heard about what had happened. These were the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who lived in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far north as the Lebanon mountains. 2 These kings combined their armies to fight as one against Joshua and the Israelites.
3 But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, 4 they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. 5 They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy.
2 Chronicles 18:
5 So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Micaiah Prophesies against Ahab
9 King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah, dressed in their royal robes, were sitting on thrones at the threshing floor near the gate of Samaria. All of Ahab’s prophets were prophesying there in front of them. 10 One of them, Zedekiah son of Kenaanah, made some iron horns and proclaimed, “This is what the Lord says: With these horns you will gore the Arameans to death!”
11 All the other prophets agreed. “Yes,” they said, “go up to Ramoth-gilead and be victorious, for the Lord will give the king victory!”

12 Meanwhile, the messenger who went to get Micaiah said to him, “Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.”

13 But Micaiah replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, I will say only what my God says.”

14 When Micaiah arrived before the king, Ahab asked him, “Micaiah, should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

Micaiah replied sarcastically, “Yes, go up and be victorious, for you will have victory over them!”

15 But the king replied sharply, “How many times must I demand that you speak only the truth to me when you speak for the Lord?” (New Living Translation)


When you want to please or impress someone, it is tempeing to lie to make yourself look good.
Ahab’s 400 prophets did just that, telling Ahab only what he wanted to hear.

They were then rewarded for making Ahab happy.

Micaiah, however, told the truth and got arrested.

Obeying God doesn’t always protect us from evil consequences. Obedience may, in fact, provoke them. But it is better to suffer from man’s displeasure than from God’s wrath.

If you are ridiculed for being honest, remember that this can be a sign that you are indeed doing what is right in God’s eyes.

OBEDIENCE – first step to understanding God’s plan for you


Joshua 6:
14 On the second day they again marched around the town once and returned to the camp. They followed this pattern for six days.
15 On the seventh day the Israelites got up at dawn and marched around the town as they had done before. But this time they went around the town seven times. 16 The seventh time around, as the priests sounded the long blast on their horns, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the town! 17 Jericho and everything in it must be completely destroyed[a] as an offering to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and the others in her house will be spared, for she protected our spies.

18 “Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. 19 Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the Lord and must be brought into his treasury.”

20 When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. (New Living Translation)

It must have seemed strange to the Israelites that, instead of going to battle, they were going to march around the city for a week. But this was God’s plan, and the Israelites had a guaranteed victory if they would follow it. As strange as the plan sounded, it worked.

God’s instructions may require you to do things that don’t make sense at first. Even as you follow him, you may wander how things could possibly work out.

Like the Israelites, take one day at a time and follow step by step. You may not see the logic of God’s plan until after you obeyed.

WHAT IS THE “WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG”?


”Current Events In Light of Bible Prophecy”

WHAT IS THE “WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG”?
Part One
May 9, 2011
by Joel C. Rosenberg

[Tuesday, May 10 update: Today Israel celebrates her 63rd Independence Day. May the Lord bless and protect all Israelis and draw them close to His heart. May the Lord also bless and protect the Palestinian people and give His mercy and grace to both sides of this painful conflict. Jesus said, "Love your neighbor" and "Love your enemy." Not easy, but the only way forward.]

Let’s start by defining

  •  who “Gog” and “Magog” are,
  •  when this prophecy will take place, and
  •  what countries will be participating in the coalition against Israel:

The Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel lived in Babylon (Iraq) more than 2,500 years ago and the Lord gave him a vision of events that would take place in the future.

Ezekiel 38:16 specifically tells us these events will take place in the “last days” — that is in the End Times before the Messiah comes to set up His kingdom on earth.

Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37 set the stage for the “War of Gog and Magog” by describing that:

  •  Israel will be reborn as a country in the last days,
  •  the Jewish people will come back to the Holy Land from exile all over the world,
  •  the Jewish people will rebuild the ancient ruins and make the deserts bloom again.

These things have all happened, and this suggests we are getting closer to the fulfillment of the next set of prophecies.

Ezekiel 38:2 tells us that the war will be led be someone known as “Gog.” This is not a personal name. We’re not looking for someone named David Gog. Or Ahmed Gog. Or Dmitri Gog. Rather, “Gog” is a title, like a “Pharoah” or a “Czar.” Through the prophecy, this Gog is described as a military leader, a political leader, and a coalition builder. In Ezekiel 38:10 he is described as developing an “evil plan,” we know this is an evil man, a tyrant.

The Hebrew prophet gives us more clues. This “Gog” is going to be from the “land of Magog.” One has to do some historical detective work to determine what Magog is, but it is possible. Flavius Josephus, the first century Roman historian, wrote in his famous book, The Antiquities of the Jews, that the people of Magog are the people whom the Greeks called “Scythians.” This is a critical clue because we know from history that the Scythians were a people group that migrated from the Middle East northward and settled north of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the region we know today as Russia and the former Soviet Republics.
There are other interesting clues, as well. Ezekiel 38:15 says that Gog “will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north.” Ezekiel 39:2 says Gog will come “from the remotest parts of the north” and come “against the mountains of Israel.” The country that is farthest to the north in relation to Israel is Russia.

Thus, we can determine that a Russian dictator will build a diplomatic and military coalition to surround and attack the State of Israel in the End Times.

The question then is what other countries will be part of the coalition?

In Ezekiel 38:5, we learn that the first ally Russia will have is “Persia.” Until 1935, of course, Persia was the legal name of the country we know today as Iran. So we know that Russia and Iran will build an alliance in the last days to attack Israel.

Ezekiel tells us that another country in the alliance will be what many English Bibles translate as “Ethiopia.” The Hebrew word, however, is “Cush” and Cush is the upper Nile region that we now know as Sudan. While the current state of Ethiopia may also be involved in the war, the focus is really Sudan, which today, of course, is a radical Islamic Sunni state closely allied with Iran and Russia and deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

Next, Ezekiel says a nation called “Put” will be part of the alliance. Josephus identifies “Put” as “ancient Lybios” — the territory that today we call Libya and Algeria. Interestingly, both countries today are deeply hostile to Israel and closely allied with Russia.

The next country mentioned is “Gomer.” When one does the historical detective work, one learns that Gomer is what we now call Turkey. For much of the past 80 years, it didn’t make sense that Turkey would turn against Israel. Why? Because Turkey was a NATO ally, and a friend of Israel, the U.S. and the European Union. But in the last few years, the Turkish government has swung dramatically away from the West, towards Russia and Iran, and become deeply hostile towards the State of Israel.

The next country Ezekiel mentions is “Beth Togarmah.” This is the Turkish-speaking peoples that spread out from Turkey across the Caucasus, and across Central Asia. We can’t be certain precisely which modern nation states from this area will join the anti-Israel alliance, because these are almost all Muslim countries with close links to Russia and Iran.

Interestingly, Egypt is not mentioned by Ezekiel as part of the Russian-Iranian alliance against Israel. This is interesting because Egypt has been such an historic enemy of Israel and the Jewish people. That said, perhaps Egypt’s non-involvement in the War of Gog and Magog could be explained by the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979. This treaty is now in danger of unraveling, but at least for the near term Egypt is still unlikely to be in a position to strategically threaten Israel.
Iraq — whether under its biblical names of Babel, Babylon, Babylonia, Shinar, or Mesopotamia — isn’t mentioned in the prophecy either, yet it, too, is an historic enemy of Israel. Still, given the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the subsequent violence, and the rebuilding now going on, Iraq is not likely to be a threat to Israel in the near term.

Syria and Lebanon are not mentioned by name in the prophecy either. However, Ezekiel tells us repeatedly that the main military force that will be coming against Israel will be coming from the north, which means they will be coming through Lebanon and Syria.

WHAT IS THE WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG?
Part Two
May 11, 2011

(NOTE: As we honor Israel’s 63rd modern Day of Independence, are there signs this prophetic war is close at hand?

The subject is timely. As nearly eight million Israelis are celebrating this week the 63rd birthday of the modern State of Israel, there are real questions in the region about how much longer the Jewish State can and will survive. A growing number of Radical Islamic leaders are declaring that Israel will soon be “wiped off the map,” and are vowing to assist in that effort. Iran is feverishly trying to build nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Hezbollah in Lebanon has built up a force of more than 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel. The bloodthirsty regime in Syria is slaughtering opponents of the regime while buying weapons systems aimed at Israel. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is rapidly rising in power and the current presidential candidate front-runners in Egypt are speaking with growing hostility towards the Jewish State. Fatah has chosen to make peace with the Hamas terrorist organization rather than with Israel. Meanwhile, a growing number of Orthodox rabbis in Israel believe recent events are indicators that the “War of Gog and Magog” is coming soon. A growing number of Christians around the world think the “War of Gog and Magog” is coming soon, as well. Are they right?)

Let’s look at what the Bible teaches.

The Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel describes a Russian dictator (Gog) who will form a military coalition with Iran, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Turkey and a group of other North African, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries in “the last days” (Ezekiel 38:16). In the days of Ezekiel, of course, there was no Islam. Today we know that most of the nations Ezekiel mentions are majority Muslim countries, and Russia is about 20% Muslim and increasingly allied with Radicalized Islamic countries.

The Bible explains very clearly that the target of this military coalition in the End Times will be Israel.

Ezekiel 38:8 says “in the latter years, you [Gog and his coalition] will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations and they are living securely, all of them.”

Ezekiel 38:16 says that the coalition “will come up against My people Israel” and that “it shall come about in the last days that I will bring you [Gog] against My land.”

Ezekiel 39:2 says that Gog will come “from the remotest parts of the north…against the mountains of Israel.”

Clearly, then, the main pre-requisite for this prophecy regarding the “War of Gog and Magog” to come true is that the State of Israel has to be prophetically reborn in the last days. Indeed, this is what the prophecies of Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37 describe in detail.

The Lord showed Ezekiel that Jews would be living in exile, scattered throughout the world because of sin and disobedience to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ezekiel 36:16-21).

But solely because of His grace and mercy, the Lord promised to re-gather the Jewish people to the land of Israel.

The Lord promised that “I will cause men — My people Israel — to walk on you and possess you” (Ezekiel 36:12).

The Lord said that the Jewish people would rebuild the ancient ruins and the ”waste places” (Ezekiel 36:10).

The Lord said that the land and “mountains of Israel” at that time would “put forth [their] branches” and bear fruit for “My people Israel.” (Ezekiel 36:8)

The Lord said that first the physical restoration of Israel and the Jewish return to the Land would be set into motion (Ezekiel 37:4-8)

After the physical restoration of the State of Israel began, then the spiritual restoration of the Jewish people would be set into motion (Ezekiel 37:9-14).
Then, once Israel was reestablished as a State, and the Jewish people were being re-gathered to the Land, and the Lord was drawing the Jewish people back into a relationship with Him, and Israel was living securely in the Land (Ezekiel 38:8) with a degree of prosperity even (Ezekiel 38:12), then — and only then — would the Russian-Iranian coalition be set into motion to rob, kill and destroy Israel and the Jewish people.

It should be noted that Ezekiel does not describe Israel having “peace.” Rather, twice Israel is described as “living securely” (Ezekiel 38:8 and 38:11).

I recognize that these verses can be difficult for some Palestinian Arabs and some Israeli Arabs to read, whether they are born again Christians or nominal Christians (raised in churches but without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ), and especially if they are Muslims. The Bible indicates that Jews will be a sinful people when they are brought back into the Land. Only after they return, the Bible teaches, will the Holy Spirit be poured out upon the Jewish people in an increasingly significant way (Ezekiel 39:29 and Joel 2:28-32 — or Joel chapter 3 in Hebrew Bibles). Then, a growing number of Jewish people will repent and return to a personal relationship with the Lord. Meanwhile, Jesus said in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 that there would be “wars and rumors of wars” and “revolutions” and “lawlessness” in the last days. Certainly, the rebirth of Israel — while prophetic and God-ordained — has come with wars, rumors of war, revolutions, sins, and even crimes committed by some Arabs as well as some Jews. The Bible doesn’t teach this period of the last days will be easy, and the Bible is right.

That said, we would not be honest to the Word of God if we were to ignore, deny or try to explain away the plain meaning of these verses. The Bible told us well in advance that Israel would be reborn and the Jews would come back to the Land, and this has come to pass. Genesis 12:1-3 tells us that the Lord will bless those who bless the children of Abraham, and He will curse those who curse the children of Abraham. Those who have cursed Israel have, sadly, found themselves facing great pain and suffering. Sometimes Bible truths are difficult to accept, but they are true nonetheless and we must accept them by faith.

But while the Bible clearly explains that the Lord will bring the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel and allow them to reclaim their God-given ownership of the Land, nowhere in the Bible are Jews (or any group of people) given a license to commit injustice. To the contrary, the Bible teaches Israel to love her neighbors (Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 19:19). The Bible also teaches Israel to love her neighbors and pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44). The Jews do have rights to the ownership of the Land, but they also have responsibilities to govern justly and compassionately, in accordance with the Scriptures. In Leviticus 19:33-34, for example, the Lord says: “When a stranger [non-Jew] resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ need to teach sound Bible doctrine regarding Israel and the Palestinians. We need to love both, bless both, pray for both. Moreover, we need to stand with and encourage our brothers and sisters in the Messiah whether they are Jewish or Arab. The Bible gives us no freedom to ignore, deny, or oppose our brothers and sisters on either side. Rather, Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). We need to be pro-actively building relationships with Israelis and Palestinians and being ambassadors of Christ and agents of reconciliation whenever and wherever possible.

We do not have to agree with everything that our brothers and sisters believe — especially if those beliefs are unscriptural — but we are commanded to love them unconditionally and sacrificially. After all, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Now, back to the prophecy and its analysis:
It could be reasonably argued that Israel is living more securely today than at any other time in its 63 years. The Israeli Defense Forces are widely considered the strongest and most effective ground fighting force in the Middle East. The Israeli Air Force is widely considered dominant in the skies. Israel has peace treaties with two major neighbors, Egypt and Jordan (though the future of the treaty with Egypt is increasingly in question). Yasser Arafat is gone. Saddam Hussein is gone. Osama bin Laden is gone. Palestinian suicide bombings are not a daily part of Israeli life since 2004. Rockets are occasionally fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians living in the south, but this is not nearly as bad as it was prior to Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. Moreover, Israel has just deployed a short-range rocket defense system called “Iron Dome” that is very effective. Meanwhile, Israel has submarines, ballistic missiles, and first rate intelligence services in her defense. Israel has also enjoyed decades of a close strategic partnership with the United States, has a strong and vibrant economy, and is widely believed to have defensive nuclear weapons, though the government maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the subject, neither confirming nor denying the existence of those weapons.

Could Israel currently be secure enough to fulfill this prophetic prerequisite? Honestly, I am not sure. Perhaps events soon will lead Israelis to being and feeling even more secure. But there is no question that even with emerging new threats on the horizon, Israelis feel more secure today than ever before its modern State’s existence.

Given the fact that the major End Times prophecies of Ezekiel 36 and 37 have essentially come true in our lifetime, does this mean that we will see Ezekiel 38 and 39 come true in our lifetime as well? To me, it is too soon to say so definitively. Certainly we are seeing geopolitical events unfold in recent decades and in recent years that are strikingly consistent with what the Bible describes as preparations essential for the “War of Gog and Magog.” So we should be ready. We should be prepared — not caught off guard — if events accelerate in the near future. But we must also remember that the Lord in His sovereignty could also decide to delay events for quite some time for His own purposes.

That said, it should be noted that when the Russian dictator finishes building his military coalition in Israel and begins to move his forces to surround Israel in the “last days,” Ezekiel gives us no indication that any country will come to Israel’s defense. There are not indications that the United Nations, or the European Union, or NATO will defend Israel. Nor is there any indication that the United States will defend Israel. Rather, Israel will be — and will feel — all alone in the world.

WHAT IS THE WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG?
Part Three
The Good News
May 12, 2011

As the forces of the Russian dictator (Gog) and his military coalition — including Iran, Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Turkey and other key Islamic nations — converges against the State of Israel in the last days, the Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel tells us that at the last moment, when there seems to be no hope for Israeli Jews, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is going to supernaturally intervene.

Ezekiel 38:18-19 — “‘It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,” declares the Lord God, ‘that My fury will mount up in My anger. In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.”

Ezekiel tells us that this earthquake will shake the entire globe and “all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence” (38:20).

The enemy forces will become so frightened and disoriented that they will turn and start fighting each other (38:21).

Terrible diseases (pestilence) will start to spread through the enemy forces (38:21).

As God judges these enemies of Israel, the text says He “will rain on him [Gog] and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire, and brimstone.” (38:22)

The Lord also says “I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coast lands in safety.” (39:6) In other words, parts of Russia and other enemy countries will be devastated by fire from heaven.

The Bible does not tell us exactly how this will happen, but it clearly describes a supernatural judgment. This is not a war started by the Israeli Defense Forces. These are not missiles from the Israeli Air Force. There is no evidence in the text of Israelis defending themselves. Perhaps they are engaging in diplomacy. Perhaps they are hoping for the U.S. or the U.N. or other nations to intervene. Whatever the case, the God of Israel steps in and defends Israel Himself, raining fire and brimstone down on the enemy forces and utterly destroying them.

Why does the Lord act? The Lord tells us directly in 38:23, “I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.” The nations have forgotten that God does love the Jewish people. He does love the nation of Israel. They are not perfect, but He loves them and has made promises to them, and He intends to keep those promises. And He wants the rest of the world to know there is a God in Israel.

The devastation is so horrific that chapter 39 tells us it takes the Israelis seven months to bury all the bodies of the enemy forces (39:12-16).

Ezekiel tells us it would probably take longer than seven months but the birds of the air and the beasts of the field eat many of the bodies (39:17-20)

Sin has consequences. God said in Genesis 12:1-3 that those who bless the children of Abraham will be blessed, but those who curse them will be cursed. God is patient. He is slow to anger. But when pushed too far, He will act against those who hate the Jewish people and seek to rob, kill and destroy them. Let the nations be warned.

There is more to the story, however. Not only will the “War of Gog and Magog” be a day of great judgment; it will also be a day of great mercy. The Bible says that the militaries of these enemies will be destroyed. There are hints here and in other texts (Jeremiah 49, for example) that the governments of these countries will be judged, as well. But God is not going to wipe out all the people of these enemy countries. To the contrary, He wants them to see His glory and His mercy.

Ezekiel 39:21 — “I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them.”

Did you catch that? “All” the nations will “see” God’s glory and judgment. Today, we are living in the first generation in human history where because of the miracle of global satellite television technology people in every country on the planet will be able to watch the prophecies of the Bible come true before their very eyes.

As a result, I believe Ezekiel 38-39 describes the end of Radical Islam — and effectively the end of all of Islam — as we have known it. When the God of Israel destroys the forces of Radical Islam supernaturally while Muslims watch on Al Jazeera, how will they wake up the day after and believe that the Quran is true and that Muhammad is a true prophet? The vast majority of Muslims will abandon Islam. Many will turn to faith in Jesus Christ. Not all, of course, but many will because they will have seen the Word of God come true right in front of them. And the Word was God and the Word is God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and His name is Jesus the Messiah. (John chapter 1)

Israelis will feel very afraid and very much alone right up until the Lord shows His mighty hand. But then even those who are secular will know there is a God in heaven.

Ezekiel 39:22 — “And the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward.”

Ezekiel 39:25-26,28 — “Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. They will forget their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid….Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land and I will leave none of them there any longer.’”

On top of all this, the Lord says He will no longer hide His face from the Jewish people and, in fact, will pour out His Holy Spirit upon them. “I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Lord.” (39:29)

As a result, many Jews will come to faith in Jesus as Messiah, for that is the role of the Holy Spirit–to reveal the true identity of Jesus to people. Jesus said in John 14:26, ”The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Not all Jews will come to faith in Jesus at that time, but many will because the Father will pour out His Holy Spirit on the house of Israel.

While we know these events will all happen in the “last days” (38:16), we cannot determine whether the “War of Gog and Magog” will happen before the Rapture (when the Lord suddenly snatches born again believers in Jesus off of the earth, prior to the Tribulation) or not, because the text does not tell us one way or the other.

That said, I believe it is very possible — not certain, but very possible – that these events will unfold within this generation, and possibly quite soon. We are certainly seeing geopolitical events unfolding in a way consistent with Ezekiel 38-39.

Therefore, the most important question we must ask is this: Since the Lord in Ezekiel 38:7 told Gog, the enemy of Israel, to “get ready, be prepared,” then what should Israelis themselves and friends of Israel be doing?

Shouldn’t we, too, get ready and be prepared — spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially, and in every other possible way?

These prophecies are some of the most interesting and important descriptions of End Times events in all of the Bible. Unfortunately, too few people in the world are aware of them, or have read them, much less studied them carefully.

May the Lord bless you and reveal Himself and His heart to you as you get yourself ready for the prophecies coming.

VIOLENCE ERUPTS IN THE EPICENTER AS RADICAL ARABS MARK “AL-NAKBA” DAY


Posted: May 15, 2011 by joelcrosenberg in Uncategorized

(Jerusalem, Israel) — As The Joshua Fund held the first of two days of our 2011 Epicenter Conference teaching through the Book of Joel and how to live in light of the fact that “the Day of the Lord is coming,” violence erupted in and around Israel. The reason: Radical Arabs were marking “Al-Nakba” day, or “the catastrophe”, as they see it, of Israel’s prophetic rebirth in May 1948. Just before lunch time I got a report that an Arab Israeli had just driven a truck into a crowd of Jewish Israelis in Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounding 17 others. My colleagues and I immediately prayed for God’s mercy on all those involved and for healing for the injured and for the Israeli security forces to be able to effectively defend the country’s borders and streets. As the day progressed, we learned from a Reuters reports that “violence erupted on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday, leaving at least eight dead and dozens wounded.” Thousands of Radical Muslims tried to penetrate Israel’s borders, but eventually were repulsed by IDF forces. Please keep praying for peace, and for the Lord’s grace and favor on the conference as we try to put current events in the context of the Bible.

HAMAS LEADER CALLS FOR PRAYER FOR AN END TO ISRAEL


Posted: May 16, 2011 by joelcrosenberg in Uncategorized

(Jerusalem, Israel) — “Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh spoke to Muslim worshipers on Sunday morning, telling them to pray for an end to Israel,” reports the Jerusalem Post. “‘Palestinians mark the Nakba with great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine,’ Haniyeh told 10,000 people at Gaza City’s al-Omari mosque, AP reported. ‘To achieve our goals in the liberation of our occupied land, we should have one leadership,’ he reportedly said, praising the recent unity accord between Hamas and Fatah. Haniyeh added that Hamas would not recognize Israel.”

In that context, the Day 2 of the 2011 Epicenter Conference has just begun with the blowing of the shofar and Jewish and Arab believers leading the conference participants in worship to our Lord Jesus. In a moment, I will lead the conference in prayer for the Lord to protect Israel and bring great blessings to the people of this precious Land. Then we’ll begin a discussion on “Assessing the Threat of Radical Islam in the Epicenter.”

Please watch the messages at www.epicenterconference.com.

WARNING TO THE NATIONS: DON’T DIVIDE THE LAND OF ISRAEL


Posted: May 19, 2011 by joelcrosenberg in Uncategorized

UPDATE: The President made an enormous mistake this week in calling for the Land of Israel to be divided and Jerusalem to be divided along pre-1967 borders. This is in direct defiance of the Bible. It won’t work, and it will bring judgment to the U.S., according to Joel chapter 3. Please pray that the President changes his heart and changes course very soon.

ANALYSIS: NETANYAHU GOES TO WASHINGTON TO DISCUSS “EPIC BATTLE” IN THE EPICENTER


Posted: May 25, 2011 by joelcrosenberg in Uncategorized

(Jerusalem, Israel) — Will it work?

That’s the key question as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu finishes his high-profile trip to Washington, meeting with President Obama, addressing 10,000-plus pro-Israel activists at the AIPAC Policy Conference, addressing a Joint Session of Congress, and doing a flurry of major media interviews. Will his passionate case that Israel is America’s best friend, the only solid and secure democracy in the Middle East, endangered by Iranian nukes, and in need of unwavering American friendship and support in tumultuous times fully convince the President, the Congress and the American people to stand with Israel through the darkest of times that are steadily approaching?

I would like to believe this will be the case, but Bible prophecy says otherwise.

The Hebrew Prophets such as Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Joel tell us again and again that Israel will be all alone in the last days of history. All the nations will eventually turn against her. All the nations will work to divide the Land of Israel. Jerusalem, too, will be divided. The New Testament reconfirms this. Indeed, the Scriptures indicate that the only hope for Israel is for her to turn fully and completely to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As the “time of Jacob’s troubles” approaches — as the Day of the Lord approaches — the Bible tells us that the nations will betray the Jewish people. Only the Lord will be faithful. The question is, when the dark times come will Israelis turn their hearts to the Lord?

The Hebrew Prophet Joel warned us that the Lord is going to judge “all the nations” because “they have divided up My Land.” (Joel 3:2) Yet Joel doesn’t call Israel to political activism, to international diplomacy, to military adventurism, or any other human endeavor. The Lord says through the Prophet Joel, “‘Yet even now, return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments’…Now, return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.” (Joel 2:12-13) And if Israel does this, Joel tells us: “Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and will have pity on His people.” (Joel 2:18, 27)

The Prime Minister’s speech to Congress was excellent in many ways. He rightly described the “epic battle” underway in the epicenter. He described a great shaking going on in the Middle East. He rightly warned that Iran and her nuclear program is the greatest threat, that Hamas is the new al Qaeda, and that in all of the Arab world, only Israeli Arabs have true safety, security, and fully protected human and civil rights. I’ve included some important excerpts from the speech below. However, it should be noted that Netanyahu never cited the Bible, never called on the name of the Lord, and never called the Jewish people to trust fully and completely in the God of Israel, but rather promised to divide the land of Israel as a concession to the Palestinians, even while promising never to divide Jerusalem. These were mistakes. He wasn’t the first Israeli Prime Minister to make them. But he is making them nonetheless. He was right to thank the U.S. for all our help and support of Israel over the years, and he was right to seek continued help and support from the American people and government. But neither he nor Israel should become dependent upon American help because the Bible tells us it won’t be there for long.

The Bible is clear: only the Lord will save Israel. It is time for Israelis to consider this very carefully. For time is short. “The Day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near.” (Joel 2:1)

Excerpts of PM’s speech to Congress:

  • “An epic battle is now unfolding in the Middle East, between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The tremors have shattered states and toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting….”
  • “These extraordinary scenes in Tunis and Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet as we share their hopes, we also must remember that those hopes could be snuffed out as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then. The brief democratic spring in Iran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. This same tyranny smothered Lebanon’s democratic Cedar Revolution, and inflicted on that long-suffering country, the medieval rule of Hezbollah. So today, the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads…”
  • “Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We’re proud that over one million Arab citizens of Israel (Note: Israel’s total population as of 2011 is approximately 7.7 million) have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel! This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East….”
  • “When I last stood here, I spoke of the dire consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out, and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons. Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. I have no doubt that it will ultimately be defeated. It will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. But like other fanatacisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact a horrific price from all of us before its inevitable demise. A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world. I want you to understand what this means. They could put the bomb anywhere. They could put it on a missile. It could be on a container ship in a port, or in a suitcase on a subway….”
  • “Now the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads in the sand. Less than seven decades after six million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state….”
  • “The Ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. That same year, Muammar Qadaffi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons. As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself….”
  • “Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state. I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace. This is not easy for me. I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land….”
  • “So now here is the question. You have to ask it. If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us?   Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved?  Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it. You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli Prime Ministers, to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War. They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees….”
  • “My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said: ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say: ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’….”
  • “As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found….”
  • “Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’. Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior. Now again I want to make this clear. Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda. So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state! And if you do, I promise you this. Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so….”

Headlines to Track


ISRAEL, PROPHECY AND THE “DAY OF THE LORD”: Understanding the Book of Joel


(Note:  I prefer to post the scripture that we are studying so that you can read and have the Holy Spirit interpret it for you.)
Joel 1
(New King James Version)

 1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
The Land Laid Waste

    2 Hear this, you elders,
      And give ear, all you inhabitants of the land!
      Has anything like this happened in your days,
      Or even in the days of your fathers?
       3 Tell your children about it,
      Let your children tell their children,
      And their children another generation.
       4 What the chewing locust[a] left, the swarming locust has eaten;
      What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten;
      And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.
       5 Awake, you drunkards, and weep;
      And wail, all you drinkers of wine,
      Because of the new wine,
      For it has been cut off from your mouth.
       6 For a nation has come up against My land,
      Strong, and without number;
      His teeth are the teeth of a lion,
      And he has the fangs of a fierce lion.
       7 He has laid waste My vine,
      And ruined My fig tree;
      He has stripped it bare and thrown it away;
      Its branches are made white.
       8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth
      For the husband of her youth.
       9 The grain offering and the drink offering
      Have been cut off from the house of the LORD;
      The priests mourn, who minister to the LORD.
       10 The field is wasted,
      The land mourns;
      For the grain is ruined,
      The new wine is dried up,
      The oil fails.
       11 Be ashamed, you farmers,
      Wail, you vinedressers,
      For the wheat and the barley;
      Because the harvest of the field has perished.
       12 The vine has dried up,
      And the fig tree has withered;
      The pomegranate tree,
      The palm tree also,
      And the apple tree—
      All the trees of the field are withered;
      Surely joy has withered away from the sons of men.

Mourning for the Land

    13 Gird yourselves and lament, you priests;
      Wail, you who minister before the altar;
      Come, lie all night in sackcloth,
      You who minister to my God;
      For the grain offering and the drink offering
      Are withheld from the house of your God.
       14 Consecrate a fast,
      Call a sacred assembly;
      Gather the elders
      And all the inhabitants of the land
      Into the house of the LORD your God,
      And cry out to the LORD.
       15 Alas for the day!
      For the day of the LORD is at hand;
      It shall come as destruction from the Almighty.
       16 Is not the food cut off before our eyes,
      Joy and gladness from the house of our God?
       17 The seed shrivels under the clods,
      Storehouses are in shambles;
      Barns are broken down,
      For the grain has withered.
       18 How the animals groan!
      The herds of cattle are restless,
      Because they have no pasture;
      Even the flocks of sheep suffer punishment.[b]
       19 O LORD, to You I cry out;
      For fire has devoured the open pastures,
      And a flame has burned all the trees of the field.
       20 The beasts of the field also cry out to You,
      For the water brooks are dried up,
      And fire has devoured the open pastures.
Footnotes:    Joel 1:4 Exact identity of these locusts is unknown.
    Joel 1:18 Septuagint and Vulgate read are made desolate.

Joel 2
The Day of the LORD

 1 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
      And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
      Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;
      For the day of the LORD is coming,
      For it is at hand:
       2 A day of darkness and gloominess,
      A day of clouds and thick darkness,
      Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains.
      A people come, great and strong,
      The like of whom has never been;
      Nor will there ever be any such after them,
      Even for many successive generations.
       3 A fire devours before them,
      And behind them a flame burns;
      The land is like the Garden of Eden before them,
      And behind them a desolate wilderness;
      Surely nothing shall escape them.
       4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses;
      And like swift steeds, so they run.
       5 With a noise like chariots
      Over mountaintops they leap,
      Like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble,
      Like a strong people set in battle array.
       6 Before them the people writhe in pain;
      All faces are drained of color.[a]
       7 They run like mighty men,
      They climb the wall like men of war;
      Every one marches in formation,
      And they do not break ranks.
       8 They do not push one another;
      Every one marches in his own column.[b]
      Though they lunge between the weapons,
      They are not cut down.[c]
       9 They run to and fro in the city,
      They run on the wall;
      They climb into the houses,
      They enter at the windows like a thief.
       10 The earth quakes before them,
      The heavens tremble;
      The sun and moon grow dark,
      And the stars diminish their brightness.
       11 The LORD gives voice before His army,
      For His camp is very great;
      For strong is the One who executes His word.
      For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible;
      Who can endure it?
A Call to Repentance
    12 “ Now, therefore,” says the LORD,      “ Turn to Me with all your heart,
      With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
       13 So rend your heart, and not your garments;
      Return to the LORD your God,
      For He is gracious and merciful,
      Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
      And He relents from doing harm.
       14 Who knows if He will turn and relent,
      And leave a blessing behind Him—
      A grain offering and a drink offering
      For the LORD your God?
       15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
      Consecrate a fast,
      Call a sacred assembly;
       16 Gather the people,
      Sanctify the congregation,
      Assemble the elders,
      Gather the children and nursing babes;
      Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
      And the bride from her dressing room.
       17 Let the priests, who minister to the LORD,
      Weep between the porch and the altar;
      Let them say, “Spare Your people, O LORD,
      And do not give Your heritage to reproach,
      That the nations should rule over them.
      Why should they say among the peoples,      ‘ Where is their God?’”
The Land Refreshed
    18 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land,
      And pity His people.
       19 The LORD will answer and say to His people,      “ Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil,
      And you will be satisfied by them;
      I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.
       20 “ But I will remove far from you the northern army,
      And will drive him away into a barren and desolate land,
      With his face toward the eastern sea
      And his back toward the western sea;
      His stench will come up,
      And his foul odor will rise,
      Because he has done monstrous things.”
       21 Fear not, O land;
      Be glad and rejoice,
      For the LORD has done marvelous things!
       22 Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field;
      For the open pastures are springing up,
      And the tree bears its fruit;
      The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
       23 Be glad then, you children of Zion,
      And rejoice in the LORD your God;
      For He has given you the former rain faithfully,[d]
      And He will cause the rain to come down for you—
      The former rain,
      And the latter rain in the first month.
       24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
      And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
       25 “ So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
      The crawling locust,
      The consuming locust,
      And the chewing locust,[e]
      My great army which I sent among you.
       26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
      And praise the name of the LORD your God,
      Who has dealt wondrously with you;
      And My people shall never be put to shame.
       27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
      I am the LORD your God
      And there is no other.
      My people shall never be put to shame.
God’s Spirit Poured Out
    28 “ And it shall come to pass afterward
      That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
      Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
      Your old men shall dream dreams,
      Your young men shall see visions.
       29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
      I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
       30 “ And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
      Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
       31 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
      And the moon into blood,
      Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
       32 And it shall come to pass
      That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
      Shall be saved.
      For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
      As the LORD has said,
      Among the remnant whom the LORD calls.Footnotes:    Joel 2:6 Septuagint, Targum, and Vulgate read gather blackness.
    Joel 2:8 Literally his own highway
    Joel 2:8 That is, they are not halted by losses
    Joel 2:23 Or the teacher of righteousness
    Joel 2:25 Compare 1:4

Joel 3
God Judges the Nations

 1 “For behold, in those days and at that time,
      When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem,
       2 I will also gather all nations,
      And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
      And I will enter into judgment with them there
      On account of My people, My heritage Israel,
      Whom they have scattered among the nations;
      They have also divided up My land.
       3 They have cast lots for My people,
      Have given a boy as payment for a harlot,
      And sold a girl for wine, that they may drink.
       4 “ Indeed, what have you to do with Me,
      O Tyre and Sidon, and all the coasts of Philistia?
      Will you retaliate against Me?
      But if you retaliate against Me,
      Swiftly and speedily I will return your retaliation upon your own head;
       5 Because you have taken My silver and My gold,
      And have carried into your temples My prized possessions.
       6 Also the people of Judah and the people of Jerusalem
      You have sold to the Greeks,
      That you may remove them far from their borders.
       7 “ Behold, I will raise them
      Out of the place to which you have sold them,
      And will return your retaliation upon your own head.
       8 I will sell your sons and your daughters
      Into the hand of the people of Judah,
      And they will sell them to the Sabeans,[a]
      To a people far off;
      For the LORD has spoken.”
       9 Proclaim this among the nations:      “ Prepare for war!
      Wake up the mighty men,
      Let all the men of war draw near,
      Let them come up.
       10 Beat your plowshares into swords
      And your pruning hooks into spears;
      Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’”
       11 Assemble and come, all you nations,
      And gather together all around.
      Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD.
       12 “ Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
      For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
       13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
      Come, go down;
      For the winepress is full,
      The vats overflow—
      For their wickedness is great.”
       14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
      For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
       15 The sun and moon will grow dark,
      And the stars will diminish their brightness.
       16 The LORD also will roar from Zion,
      And utter His voice from Jerusalem;
      The heavens and earth will shake;
      But the LORD will be a shelter for His people,
      And the strength of the children of Israel.
       17 “ So you shall know that I am the LORD your God,
      Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain.
      Then Jerusalem shall be holy,
      And no aliens shall ever pass through her again.”
God Blesses His People
    18 And it will come to pass in that day
      That the mountains shall drip with new wine,
      The hills shall flow with milk,
      And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water;
      A fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD
      And water the Valley of Acacias.
       19 “ Egypt shall be a desolation,
      And Edom a desolate wilderness,
      Because of violence against the people of Judah,
      For they have shed innocent blood in their land.
       20 But Judah shall abide forever,
      And Jerusalem from generation to generation.
       21 For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted;
      For the LORD dwells in Zion.”Footnotes:    Joel 3:8 Literally Shebaites (compare Isaiah 60:6 and Ezekiel 27:22)
———————————————————————
June 7, 2011 by joelcrosenberg

This week marks the 44th anniversary of the Six Day War, the historic reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish control, and the dramatic retaking of the Biblical heartland known as Judea and Samaria by the prophetically reborn Jewish State. It is a week of celebration for Israeli Jews, but a week of mourning and violent protests for Israel’s Arab neighbors. As I write this, Iranian leaders says the End of Days has come and the Twelfth Imam will emerge from occultation very soon. They are calling for the annihilation of Israel, sending an Iranian submarine to the Red Sea, and a new report says Iran could build nuclear weapons in just two months. Meanwhile, violence is spiking on the Syrian-Israeli border and the Egyptians have just legalized the Muslim Brotherhood as a political party.

A growing number of Muslims, Jews and Christians believe we are living in the last days of human history as we have known it. Are they right? Are the tumultuous events and trends underway in the Middle East and around the world signs that the Messiah is coming to Earth soon to judge and to rule and reign from Jerusalem? What is the “Day of the Lord”? What are the “last days”? What does Bible prophecy teach about such things? And how should we live in light of such prophecies?

Answering these questions was the focus of the 2011 Epicenter Conference, which took place in Jerusalem on May 15-16. One Day One, a group of internationally renowned Bible teachers and I taught through the Old Testament “Book of Joel” verse by verse, chapter by chapter. We then had a panel discussion on lessons for Israel and the Church drawn from the Book of Joel. One Day Two, we had a series of panels where highly-regarded Israeli, Palestinian, American, Iranian and Indian pastors and Bible teachers explored the implications of these Bible prophecies for Israel and the Church in more depth in light of current events.

I believe God wants all of Israel and all of the Church to turn our attention to the Book of Joel in the weeks and months ahead. There is a critically important message there that is on the Lord’s heart and it is deeply relevant for our time. Over the next few days, I’m going to share with you my own personal study and message notes from the Book of Joel. I hope you will find them helpful as you study the writings of this important minor prophet and teach them to others.

Let’s begin today with an overview. What follows are the notes I used to deliver the first message of the 2011 Epicenter Conference.

THE DAY OF THE LORD IS COMING: An overview of the Book of Joel

  1. The focus of this year’s Epicenter Conference is the Book of Joel. Today, we will go through the Book of Joel verse by verse, chapter by chapter. We’ll observe, interpret and begin to apply. What does this fascinating ancient text say? What does it mean? And what does it mean to you and I today whether we live in Israel or anywhere else around the world?
  2. Tomorrow, we will take the next step. We’ll explore a range of threats facing Israel and her neighbors and consider these threats – and how to respond to them – in light of what we learn from the Book of Joel and the rest of the Holy Scriptures.
  3. The question that might reasonably be asked is, “Why?” Joel is not a particularly popular book of the Bible. Some pastors refer to it. Some teach through it. But most don’t. Why, then, should we? It’s a good question and one I’d like to address before we dive in with our blessed line up of internationally renowned Bible teachers.
  4. Let me start by saying it’s not because it’s my favorite book of the Bible, though it is and it has been since I was in high school — and yet I have never taught the Book of Joel before today or ever attended a church or conference where I heard it taught cover to cover.
  5. And it’s not because my life verse comes from the Book of Joel, though it does, again since high school – Joel 2:11….The Lord thunders at the head of His army; unlimited are His forces, and mighty are those who obey His command. The Day of the Lord is great and dreadful. Who can endure it?”
  6. And it’s not because my friend, Pastor Ray Bentley, called me one day a few years ago and said we really need to have an Epicenter Conference that teaches through the Book of Joel, though he did, and I thought He was right, and have been praying about it ever since.
  7. All these are contributing factors. But the reason is more simple and far more profound: the Lord told us to proclaim in 2011 in the message He proclaimed through the Prophet Joel thousands of years ago, and we are being obedient to that heavenly command. There is a message here that is relevant for our time. There are warnings here that we dare not ignore. There is a sense of urgency in the heavenlies we need to share. This is a book that is near and dear to the heart of the Father…there is a fallen world that is not listening…and a Church that by and large is not proclaiming. May we purpose in our hearts today to change course while we still can.

Basic Background

  1. WHO: The author is the Hebrew Prophet Joel (1:1)
    • “Joel” means “Jehovah is God” or the “Lord is God”
    • Joel was the “son of Pethuel” (1:1), which means: “vision of God”
    • We don’t learn much about the life and ministry of the Prophet Joel in this book or anywhere else in the Bible. Why? Because the Book of Joel isn’t about Joel – it’s about the coming of the Day of the Lord and God’s call on Israel and all men and women everywhere to repent, turn away from their sins, and get ready to meet the Lord face to face, before it is too late.
  2. WHAT: This small book of the Bible (three chapters in English; four chapters in Hebrew) is a book of End Times prophecy.
    • The Lord speaks to Israel, to the Church, and to all the nations through the Hebrew Prophet Joel, telling us details about the future and sharing His heart that all men and women everywhere would choose to turn to the Lord and let Him change and restore our lives.
    • The Book of Joel is referred or alluded to numerous times in the New Testament. A few notable examples:
      • The Apostle Peter quotes “the prophet Joel” directly in Acts 2:16-21
      • The Lord Jesus refers to Joel 2:10, “the sun and the moon [will] grow dark and the stars lose their brightness” before the Day of the Lord, when He describes the signs of the last days in Matthew 24:29
      • The Apostle Paul cites Joel 2:32, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved,” in Romans 10:13
      • The Apostle John alludes to Joel 2:10 when he describes events of the Tribulation in Revelation 8:12
      • The Apostle John alludes to the Book of Joel and language of the locust invasion in Revelation chapter 9
  3. WHEN: Unlike many other books in the Bible, the Book of Joel provides us with no clear, definitive time references regarding when it was written.
    • Some scholars say around in the 9th century B.C.
    • Some say 6th or 7th century B.C.
    • Some say in the 5th century, B.C.
    • The fact is, we simply don’t know for certain
    • Why doesn’t the Lord want us to know precisely when the book was written? Because the Book of Joel wasn’t written to get us focused on the past. It was written to get us focused on the future and the coming of the “Day of the Lord” and to get our hearts ready for that Day
  4. WHERE: The events described in these prophecies take place in Israel, Jerusalem, Judah and Zion
    • Israel is mentioned 3 times in the book
      • 2:27
      • 3:2
      • 3:16
    • Jerusalem is mentioned 4 times in the book
      • 3:1
      • 3:6
      • 3:17
      • 3:20
    • Judah is mentioned 6 times in the book
      • 3:1
      • 3:6
      • 3:8
      • 3:18
      • 3:19
      • 3:20
    • Zion is mentioned 7 times in the book
      • 2:1
      • 2:15
      • 2:23
      • 2:32
      • 3:16
      • 3:17
      • 3:21
    • The “fig trees” of Israel are referred to 3 times in the book. [NOTE: Figs and fig trees are often used throughout the Bible as symbols of the nation or state of Israel. In Matthew 24:32-33, the Lord Jesus referred to the “parable of the fig tree” to tell us that the State of Israel would be prophetically reborn in the last days and that in the last days the Jewish people would prophetically return to the Holy Land after centuries of exile. Other examples of Israel connected to fig trees can be found in Jeremiah 24....1 Kings 4:21-26 (“So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon”)....and in Habakkuk 3:16-17, to name a few.]
      • 1:7
      • 1:12
      • 2:22
  5. WHY: The Book of Joel was written for several reasons. Among them:
    1. To serve as a “wake up call” to the people of Israel, Judah and Jerusalem to prepare for and repent ahead of the coming “Day of the Lord,” judgments that would be similar to but far worse than the devastating plague of locusts Israel once experienced.
    2. To serve as a “trumpet call” to all those who love the Lord and His Word and profess to be the Lord’s followers to prepare for and repent ahead of the coming “Day of the Lord.”
    3. To serve as a warning to the nations that in the Day of the Lord they will face judgment for sins they have committed against Israel and the Jewish people.
    4. To highlight the importance of the “Day of the Lord.” Joel mentions the “Day of the Lord” in each chapter and five times in total (1:15, 2:1, 2:11, 2:30, 3:14). The “Day of the Lord” – and similar/related Biblical references such as “the day” and “that day” and others – are mentioned more than 70 times in the New American Standard translation of the Bible.
    • What is the “Day of the Lord” and is it different from the “last days”? 
    • The “last days” is the Biblical term describing the period of time filled with prophetic events of signs and wonders that lead up to the Rapture of the Church, the period between the Rapture and the Tribulation, and the Tribulation itself, all of which build towards the Second Coming.
    • The last days – characterized by:
    •  wars, rumors of wars,
    • revolutions,
    • natural disasters,
    • the rise of false messiahs/prophets/teachers,
    • apostasy,
    • lawlessness,
    • persecution of the believers,
    • the spread of the gospel to all nations,
    • the rebirth of Israel,
    • and similar signs described in the Bible – are a time of great trauma for the world as well as God’s mercy, for the Bible indicates that many will come to faith in Jesus Christ during the last days.
    • The “Day of the Lord” is the Biblical term describing the culmination of the last days of world history as we have known it — specifically, it refers to the actual, physical, literal Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the time when Jesus Christ wins the Battle of Armageddon and the Battle of Jerusalem and then His feet literally touch down on the Mount of Olives, splitting the mountain into two, as foretold by the Prophet Zechariah. The Day of the Lord is described throughout the Scriptures as a day of darkness, gloom, distress and judgment for the nations. The Day of the Lord sets into motion the setting up of the Millennial Kingdom in which Jesus Christ will reign from a new Temple in Jerusalem for a literal 1,000 year period, as described in the Book of Revelation.
  1. “The Day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near” – “Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near.” (Joel 2:1) As we studied the biblical Book of Joel from the Old Testament verse by verse, chapter by chapter, each of the keynote speakers noted that “the Day of the Lord” is a the major theme. The Hebrew Prophet Joel mentions the phrase five times and explains some of the details of the coming series of divine judgments that are coming and the gravity of the apocalyptic future that is rushing towards us. In my introduction to and overview of the Book of Joel (which is the first 15 minutes of  the on-line video on Joel chapter 1 with Anne Graham Lotz), I noted that the biblical phrase of the “last days” refers to the signs and wonders and events that lead up to throughout the Rapture and the seven-year Tribulation, also known from the Prophet Jeremiah as the “time of Jacob’s distress.” The biblical term “Day of the Lord” refers to the culmination of the “last days.” It is a time of judgment for those who reject the Lord and refuse to follow Him, and also the time of the actual, physical, literal return of Jesus Christ to the Earth when He will win the Battle of Armageddon, win the Battle of Jerusalem, His feet will touch down on the Mount of Olives (splitting the mountain in two), and Jesus will set up His literal 1,000 year reign over all the Earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom.
  2. “Return to Me,” says the Lord — “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.’ Now return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.” (Joel 2:12-13) Given that the Day of the Lord is coming soon, the Lord says through the Prophet Joel to anyone who will listen to repent and implore God for mercy and forgiveness of their sins before the judgments begin and the Lord comes back. Each of the conference speakers discuss the urgency of turning our hearts away from sin and back to the Lord, and several spoke about the process of repentance in very personal terms.
  3. Do not divide the Land of Israel — In my message about the final chapter of the Book of Joel, I explained the warning to the nations that the Lord gives. I focused in particular on Joel 3:2 (which is 4:2 in the Hebrew Bible) in which the Lord says, “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.” The Bible is very clear: the Lord is going to judge all the nations for dividing up the Land of Israel. Let the United Nations and the United States and the European Union and the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government itself be warned. What appears like wisdom to the world — carving up the State of Israel like a Thanksgiving turkey — is direct disobedience to the Word of God and will trigger the most severe divine judgment. This is a hard truth for many to hear and to hold, particularly for Palestinian Arabs and others in the epicenter. But we do Israel’s Arab friends and enemies no favors by denying, obfuscating or trying to explain away the clear teaching of the Lord found in the Scriptures. We must teach the truth. We must do so gently and lovingly, but we must also be clear and firm.

On this last point, we had a special guest on Day 2 of the Epicenter Conference. I interviewed Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and we discussed the Iran threat, the latest violence in the region by Palestinian Arabs, and the future of the peace process. During our conversation, I drew his attention to these Scriptures and urged him not to divide the Land, and to share these verses with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

>> Anti-Israel leader and his party win elections in Turkey

Record breaking natural disasters keep happening around the world. The global economy remains in serious trouble. Millions are sinking into poverty. Islam is spreading around the world. Rumors of new wars in the Middle East are mounting. New threats to Israel are metastasizing. Yet as the world is being shaken and serious new threats and challenges are rising, so much of the world seems to be asleep. Alarm bells are going off, yet so much of the Church seems to be asleep as well, intoxicated by the pleasures of the world and unable or unwilling to respond to the call of God to pray, fast, and repent despite the fact that, as the Hebrew Prophet Joel wrote in the Bible, ”the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near.”

“It is time to wake up.” 

As we read in Joel 1:14-15,“Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near.”

 I hope you will find these notes helpful as you study the writings of this important minor prophet and teach them to others.

Joel Chapter One: “A Wake Up Call”

  1. The first 13 verses of chapter one reference an actual, historic disaster, a literal plague of locusts that has just so devastated the “inhabitants of the land” of Israel that it will be remembered for generations to come. (1:2)
  2. The Hebrew Prophet Joel does not begin by describing a prophetic or metaphoric event. He is referring to an actual historic event. The Lord is saying to all the current inhabitants of the land of Israel, “Has anything (else) like this happened in your days or in your fathers’ days?” (1:2)
  3. The Lord is saying through Joel that the devastation that has been wrought foreshadows a future apocalyptic disaster coming to Israel in the End Times.
  4. Locust plagues are classic forms of God’s judgment in Scripture, both in times past and in End Times prophecies yet to be fulfilled.
  5. The Lord used Moses and Aaron to bring a plague of locusts as the 8th plague against the Pharoah and the Egyptian people during the events of the Exodus (Exodus 10:1-20)
  6. The Lord used Moses to warn the children of Israel to obey Him fully when they enter the Promised Land or one of the judgments they will suffer will be plagues of locusts who will consume their fields (Deuteronomy 28:15,25,38)
  7. King Solomon prayed to the Lord, asking if a plague of locusts ever came upon the children of Israel as a judgment and they should repent and pray and come back to the house of the Lord – the Temple that they were dedicating that day — that the Lord would hear from heaven and forgive them and heal their land (1 Kings 8:37-40)
  8. The Lord responded to Solomon’s prayer and said that if there were a plague of locusts due to judgment and the children of Israel repented of their sins and turned back to the Lord and truly prayed and sought His face that He would hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)
  9. The Lord used the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation to warn Israel and the world that during the terrible events of the “Great Tribulation” when the 5th of 7 trumpets of judgment sounds, He will unleash a plague of demonic locusts and bring about a terrible devastation. (Revelation 9:1-12)
  10. In the Book of Joel, chapter one, the Lord speaks through the prophet to various groups of people in Israel who have been devastated by the actual, historic locust plagues:  “Elders,” who are supposed to hear God’s Word (1:2); ”All inhabitants” of Israel, who are supposed to listen to God’s Word (1:2); ”Drunkards,” who are supposed to wake up (1:5); ”Wine drinkers,” who are supposed to wail (1:5); ”Virgins,” who are supposed to wail (1:8);  ”Bridegrooms,” who are supposed to wail (1:8); ”Priests,” who are supposed to mourn/wail/lament (1:9, 13); ”Ministers of the Lord,” who are supposed to mourn/wail (1:9, 13); ”Farmers,” who are supposed to “be ashamed” (1:11); and “Vinedressers,” who are supposed to wail (1:11)
  11. Interesting are some of those not mentioned: No mention of a king (the words king/kings/kingdom/etc are used 2,597 times in the New American Standard Bible, but not here);  No mention of government leaders of any kind; No mention of prophets (the word prophet is used 461 times in the NASB, but not here)
  12. Perhaps the most important verse of chapter one is verse 5 is “Awake!”
  13. This chapter is a wake up call for Israel, who should know better than to live in such sin because they have been given the Holy Scriptures and the prophets….and for the Church — people who say they are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ – who should know better than to live in such sin because they have the Holy Scriptures to teach and guide them
  14. The question is: Will we wake up?
  15. Do we see how far we are from the God who made us and loves us and is jealous for our love and affection?
  16. Do we realize how drunk we are — with alcohol, with illegal drugs, with legal drugs, with entertainment, with the “things of this world”?
  17. Do we realize how blind, deaf and dumb we are to what the Lord is trying to say to us through His Word?
  18. Do we realize that if we don’t turn around quickly, the Lord is going to come and rock our world, shake our world, devastate our world, until we choose to curse Him, or until we choose to fall at His feet and give Him the worship He so richly deserves?
  19. The good news is that the Lord tells the people through the Hebrew prophet what to do:
  20. First, we must wake up from our drunken, intoxicated stupor (1:5)
  21. Second, we are to consecrate a fast (1:14)
  22. Third, we are to proclaim a solemn assembly (1:14)
  23. Fourth, we are to gather the elders (1:14)
  24. Fifth, we are to gather all the inhabitants of the land (1:14)
  25. Sixth, we are to cry out to the Lord (1:14)
  26. What should we say when we cry out to the Lord? The rest of the Bible teaches us to cry out in repentance and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive us, to help us, to heal us, to save us, to cleanse us, to adopt us into His family, to fill us with His Holy Spirit, and to teach us to walk in His ways. In John 1:12, we read, “But as many as received Him [Jesus, the Messiah], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” In John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
  27. The Hebrew Prophet describes the urgency of getting right with the Lord — because the “Day of the Lord” is coming (1:15)
  28. It is near and will come as destruction from the Almighty
  29. There will be a horrific famine (1:17)
  30. There will be a horrific fire (1:19-20)
  31. Animals will suffer (1:18)
  32. People will suffer (1:19)
  33. Therefore, we should turn to the Lord now, before all these End Times judgments are unleashed.

Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament teach that in the “last days,” severe military threats will mount against the State of Israel, yet the Jewish state will become more and more isolated internationally. Ultimately, the Bible indicates that no country will come to the defense of the Jewish people when the major prophetic battles unfold and Israel’s enemies attack. Rather, Israel will find herself all alone in the world. This makes recent headlines all the more troubling, for international pressure against — and isolation of — the modern State of Israel seems to be intensifying this year. Consider the latest key stories from the epicenter from just the past few days and weeks:

In light of such disturbing trends, I am posting some of my notes covering chapter two of the “Book of Joel.” In his second chapter, the Hebrew prophet gives us so much vital information about the future of Israel and how to live in the last days that I won’t be able to cover it all in one posting. But I hope you will find these notes helpful as you study the writings of this important minor prophet and teach them to others. I would also encourage you to watch the message delivered at The Joshua Fund’s 2011 Epicenter Conference by Pastor Ray Bentley, who taught on Joel 2:1-17. In a few days, Lord willing, I will post my notes covering the rest of chapter two.

Chapter Two: “A Trumpet Call for Israel and the Church”

  1. As the “Day of the Lord” approaches in the last days, those who know the Lord, follow the Lord, listen to the Lord, study the Word of the Lord, and teach the Word of the Lord are supposed to do a series of things:
  2. Understand that danger is coming and thus  ”blow a trumpet in Zion” and ”sound an alarm” on God’s holy mountain — that is, call people to action (2:1)
  3. We are to alert “all” the inhabitants of the land of Israel that the “Day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near” (2:1)
  4. We are to let Israel know that the “Day of the Lord” will be a day of judgment, “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness”
  5. We are to let Israel know that that the Day of the Lord will be historic….”there has never been anything like it” – even the previous apocalyptic plagues of locusts described in Joel chapter one – “nor will there ever be again after it” (2:2)
  6. We are to explain that the Day of the Lord will come with devastating fire that consumes everything in its path (2:3)
  7. We are to explain that the run up to the Day of the Lord will be traumatic — the land of Israel will suffer an invasion unlike anything in its history….the text indicates that the land of Israel will be completely overrun and will suffer serious devastation, far beyond the locust invasion that described in chapter one.
  8. What’s interesting is that in the first 24 verses of chapter two, the word “locust” is never mentioned. Rather, we have images that are similar to a classic locust invasion, but far more devastating.
  9. The appearance of the invaders is “like” the appearance of horses (2:4)
  10. And “like” war horses (2:4)
  11. They run “like” mighty men (2:5)
  12. They climb the wall “like” soldiers (2:7)
  13. So the invaders aren’t exactly locusts – they’re “like” locusts
  14. The invaders aren’t human soldiers – they’re “like” human soldiers
  15. Over the years, some Bible expositors have suggested that what we are seeing play out in the Book of Joel is the “War of Gog and Magog,” as prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39. There are several reasons for teachers to suggest this:
  16. The Hebrew Prophet Joel describes events that will happen in the last days, as does Ezekiel
  17. Joel seems to describe a land of Israel that is fertile and fruitful, like a Garden of Eden (Joel 2:3), and Ezekiel describes a land that has essentially recovered from devastating wars and is secure and prosperous (Ezekiel 38:8, 12)
  18. Joel describes a threat to Israel that is unprecedented in her history, as does Ezekiel
  19. Joel describes the Lord saying, “I will remove the northern army far from you” (Joel 2:20), and Ezekiel 38-39 describes the main threat to Israel coming from the north but destroyed by the Lord
  20. Joel describes the Lord pouring out His Spirit after defeat of the enemy (Joel 2:28-29), as does Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:29)
  21. I certainly believe that the”War of Gog and Magog” described in Ezekiel 38-39 is real, serious, and coming sooner that many people think. That said, despite some similarities, I do not see the primary prophetic events described in the Book of Joel as being focused on Ezekiel’s ”War of Gog and Magog.” I say this for several reasons:
  22. The Hebrew Prophet Joel describes Israel as being fully invaded and completely overrun by enemy forces, like a locust invasion; this is not, however, what is described in Ezekiel 38-39 where the enemy comes against the mountains of Israel but is then supernaturally destroyed, unable to completely invade and overrun the land.
  23. Joel describes the land of Israel being devastated by fire (from the enemies), whereas Ezekiel describes the enemies of Israel being devastated by fire (from heaven)
  24. Joel describes the judgment of “all the nations” (3:2) occurring after the enemy is defeated, whereas Ezekiel describes a limited coalition of nations being judged during their defeat.
  25. Joel singles out Egypt for such severe judgment that the text says “Egypt will become a waste” (3:19), whereas mention of Egypt is noticeably absent from Ezekiel 38-39.
  26. Joel also singles out Edom (See note below) for such severe judgment that the text says “Edom will become a desolate wilderness because of the violence done to the sons of Judah in whose land they have shed innocent blood” (3:19), whereas mention of Edom is noticeably absent from Ezekiel 38-39.
  27. To understand the End Times events that the Hebrew Prophet Joel is foretelling, we need to study the prophecies of Revelation 9:1-12 and the events that occur after the 5th of 7 trumpets are blown during the Great Tribulation. Consider the following points:
  28. In the Book of Revelation,we read that out of Hell (“a bottomless pit filled with the smoke of a great furnace”) “came locusts upon the earth” (9:2)
  29. But the Bible indicates that these are not ordinary locusts — they have power like scorpions to injure with their tails (9:2, 5,6,10)
  30. These creatures are “told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree” (9:4)
  31. These creatures are designed to attack mankind “who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads,” that is, those who are not born again followers of the Lord Jesus Christ (9:4)
  32. These creatures cannot kill but rather torment men for five months (9:5)
  33. Their appearance is “like” horses (9:7)
  34. They have faces “like” men (9:7)
  35. They have hair “like” the hair of women (9:8)
  36. They have teeth “like” the teeth of lions (9:8)
  37. They have armor “like” soldiers who have breastplates of iron (9:9)
  38. They sound “like” many horses rushing to battle (9:9)
  39. They have a king over them, “the angel of the abyss” whose name in Hebrew is “Abaddon,” and in Greek is “Apollyon”
  40. These are not really locusts, or human soldiers, though they are like both – these are demonic creatures ruled by a Satanic king
  41. They will come “upon the earth” with “power” (9:3)
  42. The Book of Revelation does not say these creatures will exclusively attack those in Israel – their attack will be global
  43. But the Book of Joel does indicate that such creatures will specifically invade Israel and bring great trauma and devastation — as Joel 2:11 says: “the Day of the Lord is indeed great and very terrible; who can endure it?”

(Note: What is Edom’s name today?

The country of Edom was founded by Jacob’s brother Esau. He picked up the nickname “Edom” or “Red” when he sold half of his massive inheritance for a simple bowl of red bean stew.

Edom was located in the region to the southeast of Israel. Mount Seir was a notable landmark in this region.

Edom and Israel, the people who descended from Jacob, never got along with each other. Skirmishes between the people happened often. Edom never got over its hatred of Israel. “Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, who said, “Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation!”” (Psalm 137:7). In other words, Edom was cheering the Babylonians on. When Israel fell because of their sins, Edom rejoiced at its fall and took the opportunity to raid the country. They even helped the Babylonians collect the stragglers left from the war (Obadiah 10-15).

God made several prophecies against Edom (Isaiah 35; 63:1-6; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Amos 1:11; Obadiah; Ezekiel 25:12-14; 35). However, the one that tells us what happened to Edom is found in Ezekiel 35.

In delivering punishments to various nations, we learn that God often turns the sin against the sinner. Edom rejoiced at the emptying of Israel and five years later, Nebuchadnezzar swept through again, destroying several nations and emptying their lands — including Edom. Here is what God promised Edom:

Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O Mount Seir, I am against you; I will stretch out My hand against you, And make you most desolate; I shall lay your cities waste, And you shall be desolate. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. Because you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, when their iniquity came to an end, therefore, as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you. Thus I will make Mount Seir most desolate, and cut off from it the one who leaves and the one who returns. And I will fill its mountains with the slain; on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines those who are slain by the sword shall fall. I will make you perpetually desolate, and your cities shall be uninhabited; then you shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 35:3-9).

God promised that travelers would no longer pass that way; the country would be so litter with slain that people would avoid the stench. But most importantly, God states that the country would never be rebuilt. Just as Edom had perpetual hatred for Israel, their country would remain perpetually empty.

The country of Edom would remain perpetually desolate.

That has remained basically true. Various countries have controlled the territory that was once Edom, but Edom as a nation disappeared. When the edict was made allowing people to return to the homelands, Israel and many other countries rebuilt, but Edom never did. During the time of the Greeks and Romans, the region was known as Idumea, which is the Greek transliteration of Edom. The territory is currently controlled by Jordan.”He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 17:5).    See: http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVanswers/2005/09-24.htm)

Talk is cheap. In a time when economic, religious and geopolitical threats are rising….a time when so much of the world is turning against God…a time when so many have forgotten God in their daily lives….a time when so many think the Church is irrelevant and/or hypocritical….and a time when many have turned against Israel and God’s Chosen People, what we need are leaders at every level of society who are serious about crying out to the Lord for mercy and redemption. I’m not talking about a bunch of religious hot air  — slogans, bumper stickers or platitudes. What we desperately need is a bold and sincere and solid and revolutionary faith that moves us to action, that moves us to know God more deeply and serve Him more faithfully before the Day of the Lord arrives.

As we read in the New Testament Book of James, “faith, if it has no works, is dead” and “faith without works is useless” (James 2:17 and 20).

This is one of the reasons I love the Old Testament Book of Joel and why I’m grateful we studied it together at the 2011 Epicenter Conference — because it is a powerful call to action. Skip Heitzig, a dear friend and senior pastor of a wonderful Bible-teaching congregation of some 14,000 people in New Mexico, taught at the conference on Joel 2:18-32 (Joel 2:28-32 in English is actually divided as Joel chapter 3 in the Hebrew Bible) and did a powerful job. I would encourage you watching his message — and the other messages — for free on-line. Today, I’m posting Part Four of my personal study notes on the Book of Joel. I hope you’ll find them helpful as you seek a faith that changes your life and moves you to serve the Lord with more passion and conviction than ever before.

PART FOUR:

The Hebrew Prophet Joel indicates a day of severe and unprecendented judgment is coming upon the world. The question is: How should mankind in general – and the people of Israel in particular – prepare for such judgments before they come? Beginning in Joel 2:12, the Lord is very clear and specific. His people are to:

  • Blow a trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm on His holy mountain in Jerusalem
  • Consecrate a fast
  • Proclaim a solemn assembly
  • Gather the people
  • Sanctify the congregation
  • Assemble the elders
  • Gather the children and the nursing infants
  • Gather brides and bridegrooms
  • Urge the priests, the Lord’s ministers, to weep and ask the Lord to spare His people and not let them be a byword among the nations
  • Return to the Lord with all our heart
  • Return to the Lord with fasting
  • Return to the Lord with weeping
  • Return to the Lord with mourning
  • Rend our hearts and not our garments
  • Return to the Lord because we believe He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil
  • This is not just a call to a generic, run-of-the-mill prayer meeting — this is a call to get on our faces and beg and plead with the Lord to have mercy on us as individuals, as families and as nations

Two observations:

  • It’s interesting to me that the specific sins of the people are not enumerated — the Lord is concerned about all sin, not just a few certain types
  • It’s also intriguing to say that nowhere in the text is there a call to take up arms and fight against the enemy invaders — this isn’t to say Israel or America or other countries shouldn’t defend themselves against enemy nations or terrorist organizations; but when it comes to sin and judgment, there is no political or military solution; our only hope is to turn away from our sins and seek the Lord’s forgiveness; He will save us when we ask with humble, repentant hearts, and He’s the only One who can

Clearly, chapter two of the Book of Joel is a trumpet call — a call to action

  • To Israel – a national call to turn back to the Lord
  • To the Church – a global call to turn back to the Lord
  • To all of mankind — a personal call to repent, to get right with the Lord, before it’s too late, before judgment comes

The bad news: the Scriptures are clear that a terrible time of judgment and devastation is coming, worse than at any other time in human history.

The good news: The Scriptures are also clear that when individuals repent and return to the Lord – and by God’s grace when the nation of Israel repents and turns back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – then…..

  • “the Lord will be zealous for His land” (2:18)
  •  The Lord “will have pity on His people” (2:18)
  • The Lord will send His people “grain, new wine, and oil” (2:19)
  • The Lord will defeat the enemies of Israel, notably attacks from the North (2:20)
  • The Lord will do “great things” (2:21)
  • Israel will turn green again (2:22)
  • The fig tree and the vine will yield its fruit again in full (2:22)
  • The Lord will send “the teacher of righteousness” (the Hebrew translation in 2:23)
  • The Lord will make up to those who have repented for the years the locusts have eaten (2:25)
  • Those who have repented (“My people”) “will never be put to shame” and they will know that the Lord is in the midst ofIsrael, that “I am the Lord your God, and there is no other” (2:26)
  • The Lord will pour out His Holy Spirit “on all mankind,” Jews and Gentiles alike (2:28)
  • Sons and daughters will prophesy
  • Old men will dream dreams
  • Young men will see visions
  • Men and women of all classes and stations will be able to receive the Holy Spirit
  • “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered” (2:32) – Jew or Gentile.
  • NOTE: this is another critical point in the text: in the last days (beginning with Pentecost/Acts 2 but accelerating as we get closer to the Day of the Lord), we’ll see the Holy Spirit moving more powerfully and publicly and personally and persistently than ever before in human history…..this requires us to develop a much better, deeper, richer Biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role, how He works, how to be filled with the Spirit, how to walk in the Spirit, how to be careful not to grieve the Spirit, how to be more discerning of spiritual deception, etc.
  • The Lord will display wonders in the sky and on the earth (2:30)
  • The sun will turn to darkness (2:30)
  • The moon will turn to blood (2:31)
  • All these things will happen “before” the “great and terrible Day of the Lord comes” – that is, before the final judgments of the Great Tribulation (2:31)
  • This judgment is sure and certain – it is coming, it cannot be stopped, and many will suffer horrifically if they are not followers of Jesus Christ with the seal of the Lord on their foreheads

That said, the Lord will use these terrible judgments to shake people all over the world – and particularly in Israel – and cause Jews and Gentiles to deeply reconsider what they believe and what they are following.

This is how God works at key moments in history – He literally and figuratively shakes the world

  • Haggai 2:6-7 – “….in a little while I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations….”
  • See also Haggai 2:21-22 – “….I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations….”
  • Many will come to faith in Jesus during these times. Whoever will repent, whoever will return to the Lord, whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
  • Why not make that decision today, before these traumas come?
  • Yes, Jews are the Chosen People. But according to the Scriptures, it is not enough that the Lord chose the Jews — Jews must also choose the Lord.
  • Yes, God loves the Gentiles. But according to the Scriptures, it is not enough that the Lord loves Gentiles — Gentiles must also love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and love their neighbors as themselves.
  • The Lord said through Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”
  • Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
  • Now is the time to call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

The Bible is crystal clear: the Lord Almighty will judge all nations who divide the Land of Israel.

In Joel 3:2, the Lord says: “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.” (3:2)

A MESSAGE OF WARNING TO THE NATIONS: Book of Joel, Chapter Three

The Book of Joel is a wake up call and a trumpet call to Israel and the Church. It is also a message of warning to the nations – and a very sobering message at that.

Joel 3:1 – “in those days and at that time” – what time?

  • The last of the last days
  • The time of the physical, literal, actual Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ
  • The end of human history as we have known it and the dawn of the Millennial Kingdom, the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the throne of David in Jerusalem
  • The time when God is going to fully and completely and graciously “restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem”
  • The time of the end of the nations crushing Israel and the Jewish people

Joel 3:2 – the Lord is going to gather all the nations – not some of the nations….not a few of the nations….the text says “all” of the nations….true, the Lord singles out a few specific nations with whom He is angry…..among them:

  1. Tyre and Sidon (Lebanon)  Joel 3:4
  2. Philistia (Gaza) 3:4
  3. Greece 3:6
  4. Egypt  3:19
  5. Edom  3:19

But let there be no doubt – He is going to judge “all” the nations…He will gather them to the Valley of Jehoshaphat….the valley of judgment…what we know today as the Kidron Valley right here in Jerusalem….“Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance Israel whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.” (3:2) 

 The Lord is going to judge the nations for at least six reasons:

  1.  For scattering Israel and the Jewish people among the nations (Joel 3:2)
  2. For dividing up the land of Israel, which the Lord describes as “My land” (3:2)
  3. For selling the Jewish people into slavery (3:3,5)
  4. For engaging in sex trafficking (3:3)
  5. For stealing treasures from the Lord (perhaps from the Temple), and from Israel (3:5)
  6. For murdering Jews and shedding Jewish blood (3:19, 21)

Some of these are atrocities that various nations and empires have committed against Israel and the Jewish people over the centuries. Yet some of these are atrocities that will be committed against Israel and the Jewish people during the “time of Jacob’s troubles” (30:7), also known as the Tribulation.

  • The Bible teaches us, for example, from the Book of Daniel that the Antichrist will invade the Beautiful Land and set up his reign of power here in Israel. (Daniel 11:41-45)
  • The Hebrew Prophet Zechariah tells us that under the reign of the Antichrist and his global, one-world, tyrannical government that two-thirds of the Jewish people will be murdered. (Zechariah 12:8-9)
  • As horrifying as this is, Jews will not be the only ones to suffer terribly during under the Antichrist’s global reign of terror. Anyone who resists the Antichrist will suffer. Many will perish. Indeed, the Bible reveals that this includes people who have become followers of Jesus Christ during the Tribulation and refuse to bow to the Antichrist. They will be beheaded. They will be martyred. En masse. [Read Revelation 6:9-11 – how long, O Lord, until you avenge….]

The good news is that Joel tells us a day of reckoning is coming….the Day of the Lord is coming….surely it is near.

  • “I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, for the Lord dwells in Zion.” (Joel 3:21)
  • Psalm 9:11-12 – “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion; declare among the peoples His deeds. For He who requires (or avenges) blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.”

 Amen.

And then comes more good news – the Millennial Kingdom….during this time:

  1. The Lord will make Jerusalem holy and pure…..there will be no “strangers” there, Joel tells us in 3:17….only those who have been born again and made righteous by the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross for the remission of sins….only those who have been adopted into His family by receiving Jesus as the Messiah
  2. The mountains of Israel will drip with sweet wine (3:18)
  3. The mountains of Israel will nourish cattle who flow with milk (3:18)
  4. The land of Judah will always flow with springs of water (3:18)
  5. A spring will actually burst forth underneath the Temple and flow into a river down to the Dead Sea, which will be resurrected (3:18 – see also Ezekiel 47)
  6. Israel/Judah/Jerusalem will be inhabited forever (3:20)
  7. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself will dwell in Zion (3:21)

The Hebrew Prophet Joel gives us a great hope…that God is sovereign and He will reign from this city and make all things new and beautiful by His grace and power.

There is so much richness to each and every verse of chapter three. I’ve taken most of the last year to study it and I’m still finding treasures I didn’t see before. But given the moment that we are in I want to focus on verse two.

“I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.” (3:2)

Consider these words carefully and completely….and let the United Nations be warned….let the United States be warned….let the European Union be warned….let the Arab League be warned….let the Palestinian Authority be warned….let Hamas be warned….let the Government of Israel, too, be warned.

It may look like a brilliant idea to divide the City of Jerusalem….to divide Judea and Samaria – a.k.a., the West Bank – away from the State of Israel….to give away the Golan Heights….as it seemed brilliant to some to give away the Gaza Strip in 2005….but let there be no mistake: the Word of God warns us in no uncertain terms that judgment is coming for all who divide Israel….and divide Jerusalem….and scatter, oppress and mistreat the Jewish people.

As I say this, the United Nations is preparing to hold a vote in the next few months to divide Jerusalem and the rest of Jerusalem and unilaterally declare a sovereign Palestinian state. For many, this seems wise and fair and just…..but willfully disobeying the Word of God is never wise….never fair….never just….and it comes with consequences.

I recognize that these Scriptures can be difficult for many Palestinian Arabs and many Israeli Arabs to read and accept, especially if they are Muslims and nominal Christians without a personal relationship with Christ….but even if they are born again brothers and sisters in the Lord. Most Palestinians long for a sovereign state of their own…many have been deeply hurt during the rebirth of the State of Israel and throughout the past 63 years….I am sympathetic with this pain and this longing.

The Bible indicates that Jews would be a sinful people when they return to the Land in the last days. Only after they return, the Bible teaches, will the Holy Spirit be poured out upon the Jewish people in an increasingly significant way (Ezekiel 39:29 and Joel 2:28-32 — or Joel chapter 3 in Hebrew Bibles). Only then will a growing number of Jewish people will repent and return to a personal relationship with the Lord. Jesus said in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 that there would be “wars and rumors of wars” and “revolutions” and “lawlessness” in the last days. Certainly, the rebirth of Israel — while prophetic and God-ordained — has come with wars, rumors of war, revolutions, sins, and even crimes committed by some Arabs as well as some Jews.

The Bible doesn’t teach this period of the last days will be easy, and the Bible is right…..that said, while these are painful facts, they are facts nonetheless…..and each one of us must be true to the revealed Word of God….we do not please the Lord — or do our Arab brothers any favors, or do the nations any favors — if we ignore, deny or try to explain away the plain meaning of these verses, that Israel would be prophetically reborn and the Jews would come back to the Land that the Lord promised Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendents. 

Genesis 12:1-3 tells us that the Lord will bless those who bless the children of Abraham, and He will curse those who curse the children of Abraham. Those who have cursed Israel have, sadly, found themselves facing great pain and suffering. Those who have tried to divide the Land again and again have found themselves both causing but also experiencing great pain and suffering.

For many, these are not easy truths to hear or to hold…..but God in His love and fairness puts us on notice that there are consequences to rejecting these truths. 

At the same time, we who accept by faith what the Bible teaches about God’s divine love, plan, purpose and Land for Israel and the Jewish people must remind ourselves and each other of two other truths:

  1. First, how we communicate Biblical truth – how we say what we say in light of the Word of God – matters to God.
  2. Second, how we live out Biblical truth – how we do what we do in light of the Word of God – also matters to God.

What do I mean? Allow me to explain. 

First, our communication – consider John 12:49 (NIV), where Jesus said, “the Father commands Me what to say and how to say it.” What we say matters to God….but so does how we say it. It’s not enough just to communicate what is Biblically true….we must also examine how we communicate it….are we speaking the truth in love?….are we being gentle?….are we being humble?

  • Proverbs 12:18 – “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  • Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
  • Proverbs 15:28 – “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer”
  • Proverbs 21:23 – “He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles.”
  • Proverbs 25:11 – “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Yes, the Day of the Lord is coming….Yes, God is going to bless and save the nation of Israel….Yes, the nations are going to be judged for dividing the Land and shedding Jewish blood and for committing atrocities against the Jewish people….These are truths….they are from the Lord….they are just and true….But we must be careful in how we communicate these truths because they are so difficult for so many to hear…..especially our Arab brothers and sisters….Let us be wise and humble and respectful in how we teach what we teach lest we inadvertently sin with our callousness or insensitivity….lest we cause additional pain or even create a new stumbling block to our listeners being able to hear and truly receive the truth.

Second, our actions — Are we living out the fullness of the implications of Biblical truth, especially when it comes to the Book of Joel? Today, those of us who believe in the Abrahamic Covenant that God gave the Land of Israel to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants as an “everlasting possession” and who agree with the Apostle Paul that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29) are at risk.

At risk of what?

At risk of being outflanked on the justice issue….at risk of being – and/or being perceived around the world as being – insensitive to the charges that we are blind to or callous towards injustice suffered by the Palestinian people….“Justice” can be a politically loaded word…..and it can be wielded for unscriptural ends. But it is a Biblical word….it is an important word….and we must embrace it and passionately pursue its true Biblical meaning.

As the Hebrew Prophet Micah taught us, “He has told you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) 

You and I are passionate advocates of justice for Israel because of what the Bible teaches. We must also be passionate advocates of justice from Israel because of what the Bible teaches. This does not mean Israel should divide the Land. This does not mean Israel should ignore her real and serious security needs. But too often, Christians who love Israel are not aware of — or sufficiently concerned about and responsive to — the plight of the Palestinian people, and particularly the struggles of the Palestinian believers.

  • Are some of the political, moral and historical charges of the Palestinians against Israel overblown? Yes. 
  • Is some of the rhetoric of the Palestinians against Israel, Jews and Christians who love Israel hyperbolic and unfair? Yes.
  • But are the Palestinian people struggling in real and very painful ways? Yes – the truth is they are. And we should care because Jesus cared.
  • Much of this struggle has been caused by the unwise and ungodly choices of their leaders….and their Arab and Islamic allies in the region….and by the terror groups in their midst.
  • But is some of this pain sometime caused by – or exacerbated by — Israeli mistakes….excesses….and even sins?  Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Again, this does not mean the Land should be divided…That does not mean a sovereign Palestinian state should be created….It does mean that followers of Jesus Christ should care about justice and mercy – for the Jews and for the Palestinians, and for all of Israel’s neighbors who are suffering in this fallen world….After all, while the Bible clearly explains that the Lord will bring the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel and allow them to reclaim their God-given ownership of the Land, nowhere in the Bible are Jews (or any group of people) given a license to commit injustice.

  • To the contrary, the Bible teaches Israel to love her neighbors (Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 19:19).
  • The Bible also teaches Israel to love her neighbors and pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44).

The Jewish people do have rights to the ownership of the Land, but they also have responsibilities to govern justly and compassionately, in accordance with the Scriptures.

  •  In Leviticus 19:13, for example, the Lord says: “You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.”
  • Leviticus 19:15 — “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”
  • Leviticus 19:33-34 — “When a stranger [non-Jew] resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to  you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
  • Exodus 22:21-24 – “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry and My anger will be kindled….”

Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ need to not just preach but also to practice sound Bible doctrine regarding Israel and the Palestinians….We need to love both….bless both….pray for both….We need to stand with and encourage our brothers and sisters in the Messiah whether they are Jewish or Arab….The Bible gives us no freedom to ignore, deny, or oppose our brothers and sisters on either side….Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

We need to be pro-actively building relationships with Israelis and Palestinians….we need to be faithful ambassadors of Christ….we need to be true agents of reconciliation whenever and wherever possible….We do not have to agree with everything that our brothers and sisters believe — especially if those beliefs are unscriptural — but we are commanded to love them unconditionally and sacrificially….We are commanded to see struggle and suffering and respond in love and compassion, whether it’s a Jewish person in pain or an Arab.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) 

Jesus loves the Jews….Jesus loves the Arabs….Jesus loves the Iranians….Jesus loves the Druze, the Bedouins, and all who live in the epicenter….Jesus died for all….Jesus rose again for all….Jesus is coming back again to this city for all…The Day of the Lord is coming….surely it is near….Joel teaches us that the Day of the Lord is a day of great sadness and judgment for those who reject the Lord and disobey His Word….But Joel also teaches us that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”

Which leads me to my final point.

In addition to praying for Jews and for the Palestinians….

In addition to seeking real and practical ways to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus….

In addition to providing food, clothing, medical supplies and other humanitarian relief to the poor and needy on both sides of the security fence….of caring for widows and orphans….of caring for Holocaust Survivors and victims of war and terrorism….We need to make sure everyone from Tel Aviv to Tehran hears the good news of God’s amazing love and grace as revealed through Jesus Christ.

Let those of us who love Israel also love Israel’s neighbors and enemies enough to make sure they hear the gospel….to strengthen the Church in the Arab and Iranian world….to help them train pastors and plant churches and fulfill the Great Commission.

Precisely because the Day of the Lord is coming….surely it is near.

As the Apostle Peter taught us, “the Day of the Lord will come like a thief” and “the Lord is not slow about keeping His promise , as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:10,9)