(Washington, D.C.) — “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that the result of the current negotiations between Western nations and the Iranian regime must be nothing less than ‘the full dismantling of Iran’s military nuclear program,'” reports NBC News.
“Last week in Geneva, Western diplomats held two days of talks with Iran on the nuclear weapons question,” noted NBC. “They called the talks detailed and serious, although no agreement seems imminent. The next round of talks will take place on Nov. 7 and 8. Netanyahu responded to a report last week in the New York Times that the Obama administration is considering a proposal to ease economic sanctions on Tehran by giving it access to billions of dollars in frozen funds if the Iranians take steps to curb their nuclear weapons development program.”
“I think the pressure has to be maintained on Iran, even increased on Iran, until it actually stops the nuclear program, that is, dismantles it,” Netanyahu said. He warned against “any partial deal could end up in dissolving the sanctions” since there are many countries around the world who are “just waiting for a signal to get rid of their sanctions regime” against Iran.
He made the analogy with Syria’s commitment to get rid of its arsenal of chemical weapons, which international weapons inspectors are now beginning to carry out.
“Suppose Syria said, ‘Well, you know, we’re going to dismantle 20 percent of it….’” and then expected other nations to ease sanctions because of that. “Nobody would buy that,” the Israeli prime minister said. “That’s exactly what Iran is trying to do. They’re trying to give a partial deal that they know could end up dissolving the sanctions regime and would keep them with the nuclear weapons capabilities.”
As to Iranian assets held outside that country that are now frozen, Netanyahu said they were frozen for three reasons. “One, Iran’s terrorist actions; two, its aggressive actions particularly in the (Persian) Gulf; and three, its continued refusal to stop the production of weapons of mass destruction. You know, if you get all three done and they stop doing it, well then, I suppose you could unfreeze them,” he told NBC’s David Gregory.
Also on Meet the Press, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said it was premature “to be talking about the easing” of sanctions against Iran. “I think the sanctions were working and that’s why the discussions (in Geneva) have started. But we need to see what they’re going to actually do. We need to see rolling back their nuclear program. And I can tell you that when the time comes, when those movements come, any changes will have to be proportionate.”
He added, “We need to see real, tangible evidence of it, and that we will not make moves in the sanctions until we see those kinds of moves.”
(Washington, D.C.) — The Church lost a great pastor, disciple-maker, Bible expositor, church planter, and friend of Israel this month. My team and I are so grateful he is now at home with the Lord Jesus in heaven, but he will be deeply missed.
“Chuck Smith, the evangelical pastor whose outreach to hippies in the 1960s helped transform worship styles in American Christianity and fueled the rise of the Calvary Chapel movement, died Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, after a battle with lung cancer,” reports Christianity Today. “He was 86. Diagnosed in 2011, Smith continued to preach and oversee administration at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (California), where he’d been pastor since 1965. In 2012, he established a 21-member leadership council to oversee the Calvary Church Association, a fellowship of some 1,600 like-minded congregations in the United States and abroad. Smith was known for expository preaching as he worked his way through the entire Bible, unpacking texts from Genesis through Revelation and offering commentary along the way. Yet it was his openness to new cultural styles, including laid-back music and funky fashions of California’s early surfer scene, that helped him reach young idealists and inspire a trend toward seeker-sensitive congregations.”
“As Pastor Chuck fought this dreaded disease, he still maintained a very full schedule of preaching and serving the Lord to the very end,” noted Pastor Greg Laurie, who was discipled by the Calvary Chapel founder. “I can’t help but think of the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.’ (2 Tim 4:7-8) Rarely does a man come along that impacts a generation, but Chuck Smith was that man. He certainly impacted my life. Chuck is now in heaven and he will certainly hear the Lord say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Now enter the joy of the Lord!’ (Matthew 25:23).”
I was personally blessed by Pastor Chuck and will cherish the lessons I have learned from him. His passion for the Word of God — and teaching it “line by line, verse by verse, chapter by chapter” — was so refreshing and encouraging. The men he trained and discipled and deployed to plant churches all over the country and all over the world are men of great character and love for Christ. Many of them — including Skip Heitzig, Ray Bentley, Joe Focht, Mike MacIntosh, Greg Laurie, Gino Geraci, Robert Furrow, and Brian Broderson, to name just a few — have become dear friends and faithful allies. What’s more, Pastor Chuck’s love for Israel and the Jewish people — and his commitment to teaching Christians what Bible has to say about God’s plan and purpose for Israel — was deep and sincere and impactful. I first had the honor of meeting him in September 2006 when he invited me to speak about Israel and Bible prophecy at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Less than two years later, The Joshua Fund team and I had the joy of developing the first Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem, together with Skip Heitzig. It was a defining event for me, and I can still remember him sharing with me stories of the first conference he had ever organized in Israel, which happened to be with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, back in 1983, I believe. How special to learn from godly elders who have so much life experience.
“Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa announced plans for a public memorial service for Pastor Chuck Smith, who died after a battle with lung cancer nearly two weeks ago, that include hosting the event at the more than 18,000-seat capacity Honda Center arena in Anaheim, Calif., on Oct. 27,” reports the Christian Post. “Additionally, more than 200 churches worldwide presently plan to show the tribute, live via webcast, to the man credited for being instrumental in both the Calvary Chapel and ‘Jesus People’ movements. Evangelist and pastor Greg Laurie is scheduled to give a Gospel message during the memorial, according to a Harvest Ministries spokesperson. Harvest, known for its large-scale Christian outreaches, is providing the staging and is facilitating the webcast for the event. Churches planning to show the event by webcast include congregations in Kenya, Haiti, Japan, Peru, U.S., and several other countries.”
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a thinly veiled defense of a possible Israeli preemptive strike on Iran during a Knesset commemoration Tuesday of the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War,” reports the Times of Israel. “In a speech to MKs [Members of Knesset] about the war, in which Israel was surprised by a coordinated Arab invasion on the northern and southern fronts, Netanyahu explained that IDF soldiers who fought in the bitter battles of that war ‘saved us from paying the price of complacency.’ In the end we won a great victory, but the lessons of the war have stayed with us these 40 years,’” Netanyahu said.
“The first lesson is to never underestimate a threat, never underestimate an enemy, never ignore the signs of danger,” Netanyahu said. “We can’t assume the enemy will act in ways that are convenient for us. The enemy can surprise us. Israel will not fall asleep on its watch again.”
“The second lesson, he added, was that ‘we can’t surrender the option of a preventive strike. It is not necessary in every situation, and it must be weighed carefully and seriously. But there are situations in which paying heed to the international price of such a step is outweighed by the price in blood we will pay if we absorb a strategic strike that will demand a response later on, and perhaps too late.'”
Netanyahu added: “A preventive war, even a preventive strike, is among the most difficult decisions a government can take, because it will never be able to prove what would have happened if it had not acted. But the key difference between the  Six Day War and the  Yom Kippur War lies first of all in the fact that in the Six Day War we launched a preventive strike that broke the chokehold our enemies had placed on us, and on Yom Kippur the government decided, despite all warnings, to absorb the full force of an enemy attack.”
“The prime minister is engaged in a blitz of international meetings and interviews warning against any slackening of international sanctions directed at the Iranian regime over its nuclear enrichment program,” the Times reported. “Netanyahu has openly threatened that Israel would unilaterally attack the Iranian nuclear program if it was allowed to advance to the point where Iran was able to develop a nuclear weapon. Sources close to the Prime Minister’s Office suggested the Tuesday speech was directed at the Iranian issue. Netanyahu also offered hints at Israel’s negotiating position in peace talks with the Palestinians.”
“The third lesson” of the war, he said, “is the strategic importance of buffer zones. [Israel’s] control of the Golan [Heights] and the Sinai Peninsula [in 1973] prevented an enemy penetration deep into the country” in the first days of the war.
“Press reports sourced to leaks from the peace talks with the Palestinians have suggested in recent days that Israel seeks to retain security control over the Jordan Valley as a buffer zone to the east,” noted the Times.
And, Netanyahu said, “there is a fourth lesson: Peace is attained from a position of strength. In the Yom Kippur War, despite the enemy’s excellent opening position, they learned they could not best us with weapons. Five years later, [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat and [prime minister Menachem] Begin signed a peace deal, and later [peace accords were signed] with Jordan. Now we are engaged in a serious investment in [making] peace with the Palestinians. Peace was achieved when our neighbors understood we are powerful and will not disappear.”
It was absolutely fascinating conference and the messages are rich in Biblical content and quite thought-provoking.
Here is a list of the speakers and the messages they presented, and a link to the specific video of their presentations:
Dr. Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries,giving the conference introduction. WATCH THE VIDEO.
Panel discussion on the current dynamics in the Middle East. WATCH THE VIDEO.
Pastor David Epstein, senior pastor of the historic Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan, giving a powerful and moving presentation on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel and the Local Pastor.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Hormoz Shariat, president of Iran Alive Ministries, and whom I call “the Billy Graham of Iran,” sharing his testimony of how he turned from by a radical Shia Muslim in Iran to a follower of Jesus Christ, and someone who understands and appreciates God’s love and plan for Israel and the Jewish people. WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Michael Rydelnik, professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel as Evidence for the Truth of Scripture.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Michael Brown, scholar, speaker and author of 22 books, including The Real Kosher Jesus, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel and Traditional Jewish Expectations.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost, as well as professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel and Hermeneutics.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Eugene Merrill, distinguished professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, speaking on “The People, The Land, The Future of Israel According to the Torah.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Robert Chisholm, department chair and professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel According to the Prophets.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Michael Wilkins, dean of the faculty and distinguished professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel According to the Gospels.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Darrell Bock, senior research professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel in Luke and Acts.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Michael Vanlaningham, professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel According to the Book of Romans and the Pauline Epistles.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Craig Evans, distinguished professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College/Acadia University, in Nova Scotia, Canada, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel According to the Book of Hebrews and the General Epistles.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Mark Saucy, professor of systematic theology at Talbot School of Theology, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel: A Necessary Theme in Biblical Theology.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. John Feinberg, chair of the department and professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel: An Eschatological Necessity?” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel and Jewish Evangelism.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Michael Vlach, associate professor of theology at Master’s Seminary, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel in Church History.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr. Barry Leventhal, distinguished professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, speaking on “The People, the Land and the Future of Israel in Light of the Holocaust.” WATCH THE VIDEO.
Joel C. Rosenberg, author, speaking on, “Will There Ever Be Peace For Israel & Her Neighbors?” WATCH THE VIDEO.
On Saturday, October 5, 2013, I delivered the closing address to a conference in New York City on “The People, The Land, and the Future of Israel.” The following night, I delivered a variation of this address at a conference of Korean Christians in New Jersey.
It was an honor to hear the messages of some of the world’s leading Biblical scholars and experts on what the Scriptures teach about Israel and the Jewish people, and I’m grateful to have been invited to participate.
In my remarks, I noted that Americans increasingly fear for the future of our country. Today, nearly 8-in-10 Americans believe the country is on the “wrong track,”and they’re right. Families are imploding from adultery and divorce. We have chronically high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and skyrocketing national debt. We are facing high rates of crime and drug and alcohol abuse, tragically high suicide rates among our young people and armed forces. And then there is the most haunting number — 55 million babies who have been aborted in 1973. Soon, if this is not changed, we will reach 60 million babies murdered. For these and many other reasons, America is in grave danger. Unless we repent and plead with the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive us — and give us a Third Great Awakening — we face not only the possibility of the Lord removing His hand of grace and favor on us, but bringing judgment to us, as well.
But I noted that we face another dangerous moment, as well. What if, on top of all of our other national sins, America turns against Israel and the Jewish people?
The Lord God Almighty said clearly in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3), “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” At this critical moment in American history, do we want God’s blessing, or will we invite His curse?
Unfortunately, U.S.-Israel ties have been more strained in recent years than at any other time since 1948. A large and growing number of Israelis feel like they are increasingly alone in the world, and that their long-time faithful ally the United States might not be there for them when the next big crisis hits.
A new poll published by the Jerusalem Post, for example, notes that “two-thirds of Jewish Israelis believe U.S. president Barack Obama will fail to keep his promise to prevent Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.”
The situation has gotten so serious that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu felt compelled during his recent U.N. speechto say, “Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.”
How serious is the possibility that America will eventually turn against Israel? What should Christians do?
This is the cover of the paperback version of Implosion.
(Washington, D.C.) — Is America heading towards fiscal and spiritual implosion? Two new national polls find the vast majority of Americans believe the U.S. is on the “wrong track.” What’s more, Americans’ anxiety and pessimism about our nation’s future is rising rapidly.
The new WSJ/NBC News poll finds 78% say the U.S. is on the “wrong track,” and only 14% say we’re on the “right track.”
The new Rasmussen poll finds 76% of Americans believe the U.S. is on the wrong track, and 17% believe we’re on the right track.
The Rasmussen survey notes that “the number of voters who believe the country is heading in the right direction has fallen 11 points over the past week to its lowest level in nearly two years.” The survey also notes that “76% of voters think the country is heading down the wrong track, up 13 points from last week and the highest level of pessimism since November 2011.”
“Nearly eight in 10 Americans say the nation is on the wrong track, the highest number since the worst of the recession in 2008, according to new poll results released on Thursday,” reported Newsmax. “The Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey of 800 adults conducted Oct. 7-9 found that 78 percent said that America was on the wrong track. That compared with 14 percent who responded that the nation was going in the right direction. Overall, survey respondents gave the Republican Party its lowest marks since the Journal began conducting surveys in 1989….’What is stunning about these results is just how hard and how quickly public attitudes have landed on the shutdown,’ said Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster who worked on the survey, told the Journal. ‘Hart conducted the survey with another Democratic pollster, Fred Yang, and Republican pollster Bill McInturff. Hart noted that the survey underscored ‘a broad disgust for the political system.'”
(Washington, D.C.) — “Two-thirds of Jewish Israelis believe U.S. president Barack Obama will fail to keep his promise to prevent Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, while only 27 percent believe he will succeed,” reports the Jerusalem Post. “This according to the monthly Peace Index poll taken by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, which was released on Thursday.”
“The survey of 601 respondents constituting a representative sample of the adult population of Israel was conducted last Monday and Tuesday, the days that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Obama in Washington and delivered his address to the United Nations General Assembly,” noted the Post. “The headlines in the days ahead of the poll were about the Iranian charm offensive at the UN and the phone conversation between Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.”
Asked whether the US was projecting weakness on Iran, affirmative answers were given by 60% of Israelis, including 64% of Jewish respondents and 40% of Arab respondents. Only 22% of Israelis said the US was projecting power, including 20% of the Jewish respondents and 31% of the Arab respondents.
When asked the same question about Syria, the results were similar.
Sixty-three percent of Israelis said the US was projecting weakness.
Among Jews, 66% answered affirmatively and 49% of Arab respondents said yes. Twenty-three percent said the US was projecting power on the issue, including 22% of Jewish respondents and 28% of the Arabs surveyed.
Israeli Jews and Arabs differed starkly in their opinion on whether Iran was really changing its position.
Eighty percent of Israeli Jews said they believed that Rouhani’s UN speech calling for an agreement with the West was merely a change in rhetoric and not in Iran’s goals.
Only 14% of Israeli Jews said they believed that it does constitute a real change. Among Israeli Arabs, 47% said a real change was under way, while 42% believe that only the rhetoric has changed.
Seventy-seven percent of Jewish Israelis said Netanyahu was right to continue warning the world of the danger Iran poses, while 14% said he should leave that job to American and European leaders.
On the Palestinian issue, 61% of Jewish respondents and 88% of Arab respondents are in favor of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, while 34% of the Jewish respondents and 8% of the Arab respondents are against the talks.
When asked about the chances of the current talks leading to an agreement, 81% of the Jewish respondents and 64% of the Arabs believe the chances are low that they will lead to a significant agreement, while 14% of the Jewish public and 20% of the Arab public believe the chances are high.
(New York, New York) — “The first major survey of American Jews in more than 10 years finds a significant rise in those who are not religious, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish — resulting in rapid assimilation that is sweeping through every branch of Judaism except the Orthodox,” reports the New York Times.
“The intermarriage rate, a bellwether statistic, has reached a high of 58 percent for all Jews, and 71 percent for non-Orthodox Jews — a huge change from before 1970 when only 17 percent of Jews married outside the faith. Two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue, one-fourth do not believe in God and one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year.”
“It’s a very grim portrait of the health of the American Jewish population in terms of their Jewish identification,” said Jack Wertheimer, a professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary, in New York.
“The survey, by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, found that despite the declines in religious identity and participation, American Jews say they are proud to be Jewish and have a “strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people,” noted the Times.
While 69 percent say they feel an emotional attachment to Israel, and 40 percent believe that the land that is now Israel was “given to the Jewish people by God,” only 17 percent think that the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s security.
Jews make up 2.2 percent of the American population, a percentage that has held steady for the past two decades. The survey estimates there are 5.3 million Jewish adults as well as 1.3 million children being raised at least partly Jewish.
The survey uses a wide definition of who is a Jew, a much-debated topic. The researchers included the 22 percent of Jews who describe themselves as having “no religion,” but who identify as Jewish because they have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish, and feel Jewish by culture or ethnicity.
However, the percentage of “Jews of no religion” has grown with each successive generation, peaking with the millennials (those born after 1980), of whom 32 percent say they have no religion.
“It’s very stark,” Alan Cooperman, deputy director of the Pew religion project, said in an interview. “Older Jews are Jews by religion. Younger Jews are Jews of no religion”….
In a surprising finding, 34 percent said you could still be Jewish if you believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
Here is the text of the address I gave on Saturday night in Manhattan, as prepared for delivery. On Sunday, I delivered a variation of this message to a conference of Korean Christians in New Jersey.
WILL THERE EVER BE PEACE FOR ISRAEL & HER NEIGHBORS?
Address to “The People, The Land, and The Future of Israel Conference,” Calvary Baptist Church, New York City, October 5, 2013
Tonight, I have been asked to do three things.
First, frame what we have learned over the last several days in geopolitical context.
Second, answer the question, “Will there ever be peace for Israel and her neighbors?”
Third, not keep you here until midnight.
The State of the Epicenter
Let’s begin by putting this conference in context.
We have gathered from all over the country to consider “The People, The Land, And The Future of Israel” in light of the Word of God.
This could not be a more timely subject, for the people of Israel, the land of Israel, and the future of the State of Israel today face extraordinary peril – existential threats – on a magnitude equal to, perhaps greater than, any the Jewish State has faced since 1948.
In Egypt, we have watched:
Millions of Egyptians take to the streets calling for Revolution
the dramatic fall from power of the Mubarak regime
the terrifying rise of the Muslim Brotherhood — and its leader Mohammed Morsi — to power, determined to impose Sharia law and end the peace treaty with Israel
And then a stunning reversal — 22 million Egyptians signing a petition calling for the end of the Morsi regime, historic unrest in the streets, and then the military arresting Morsi, removing the leadership of the Brotherhood, and seizing power for itself.
In Syria, we are watching the tragic implosion of a modern Arab state.
110,000 Syrians are dead in a bloody civil war that has lasted more than 30 months – including men, women and children who have been gassed to death by their own government
2 million Syrians have fled the country
5 million Syrians are internally displaced – they have not fled their country but they have fled their homes and villages and are on the run for their lives
In Lebanon, we are witnessing a modern Arab, Sunni state steadily being hijacked from within by an Iranian, Shia-backed terrorist movement known as Hezbollah.
Then there is Iran.
the only state in human history ruled by an apocalyptic, genocidal death cult
a regime obsessed with Shia Islamic End Times theology
feverishly building intercontinental ballistic missiles
feverishly building the scientific and technological infrastructure to build not just one nuclear warhead, but an arsenal of several dozen warheads.
Defying one U.N. Security Resolution after another.
Working hand-in-glove with North Korea, which recently tested its third nuclear warhead
And yet Iran was appointed this very week to serve on the U.N. Disarmament Committee.
Thus, the stakes are high.
For if the Ayatollah Khamenei and his regime are able to build a nuclear warhead and attach it to a high-speed ballistic missile, Khamenei could do in about six minutes what it took Adolf Hitler nearly six years to do – kill six million Jews.
That’s how many Jews live in Israel today – and this is who the regime in Tehran has vowed to “wipe off the map.”
But Israel is not Khamenei’s main target. Israel, in Shia eschatology, is merely the “Little Satan.” The United States is the “Great Satan” for the mullahs. We are the ultimate target.
Yet most leaders in Washington and at the U.N. seem unable or unwilling to take decisive steps to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat.
This is the state of the epicenter today — and this is what makes this conference so important.
Understanding the people, the land and the future of Israel is not merely an academic exercise. It is vitally important for the Church – especially now.
God loves the Jewish people and the whole house of Israel. He has a plan and purpose for the people and the land. His Word explains exactly what those plans and purposes are. And prophecy gives us advance intelligence on some of the most dramatic and sobering days ahead.
Mitch, I am grateful to you and your team for loving Israel and the Jewish people and the Church enough to organize this conference and call together such fine scholars to consider these important issues from multiple angles.
The Prime Minister’s Declaration
Now, as you know, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in the U.S. last Sunday.
On Monday, he met with President Obama and Vice President Biden and their top advisors at the White House, and later with Secretary Kerry at the State Department.
Later that day, the Prime Minister met with top Congressional leaders, as well.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister delivered the final address to the leaders of the world gathered for the opening Fall Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
It was a powerful and sobering speech, focused primarily on the steadily rising Iranian nuclear threat and the inability of the world, thus far, to neutralize that threat. Mr. Netanyahu warned world leaders not to be beguiled by the election of the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whom he described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing. Mr. Netanyahu also warned that Israel would be willing to take decisive action against Iran alone, if necessary, to prevent the ayatollahs from acquiring nuclear warheads.
It was a fascinating speech, and at times quite personal.
But the Prime Minister concluded his address with a sentence I have never heard from coming from the lips of an Israeli leader in the modern era.
Let’s run the clip.
“In our time the Biblical prophecies are being realized.As the prophet Amos said, they shall rebuild ruined cities and inhabit them,” Netanyahu said. “They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine. They shall till gardens and eat their fruit. And I will plant them upon their soil never to be uprooted again. Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Israel have come home never to be uprooted again.”
How extraordinary. An Israeli Prime Minister has just declared to the leaders of the world that Bible prophecies are coming to pass in our lifetime.
How many pastors and theologians in our day even believe this, much less are proclaiming it to be so?
Mr. Netanyahu was correct. The miraculous rebirth of the State of Israel – and the dramatic re-gathering of Jews back to the Holy Land from all over the world – are central examples of End Times prophecies found in the Bible being fulfilled.
What’s more, the Prime Minister also alluded in his speech to the Biblical prophecies of a Persian king named “Cyrus” would rise up one day and set the Jewish people free from captivity.
“The Jewish people’s odyssey through time has taught us two things: Never give up hope, always remain vigilant. Hope charts the future. Vigilance protects it,” Netanyahu said. “Today our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction. But I want you to know, that wasn’t always the case. Some 2,500 years ago the great Persian king Cyrus ended the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people. He issued a famous edict in which he proclaimed the right of the Jews to return to the land of Israel and rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. That’s a Persian decree. And thus began an historic friendship between the Jews and the Persians that lasted until modern times.”
It was the Hebrew prophet Isaiah who foretold the rise of a great Persian king named “Cyrus” would emerge one day to bless the Jewish people, release them from captivity, send them back to the land of Israel, and rebuild the city of Jerusalem. (See Isaiah 44:28 through 45:13.)
Sure enough, a Persian king named “Cyrus” did, in fact, emerge to fulfill Isaiah’s startling prophecies, as we read in 2 Chronicles 36 and Ezra chapter one. Mr. Netanyahu’s interest in the Scriptures has been growing significantly in recent years, and is increasingly an element in his public statements.
At a speech at the Auschwitz death camp in 2009, for example, Netanyahu declaredthat the prophecies of Ezekiel 37 — the dry bones of the Jewish people coming back together miraculously to form the State of Israel — had come to pass in his lifetime.
“The most important lesson of the Holocaust is that a murderous evil must be stopped early, when it is still in its infancy and before it can carry out its designs. The enlightened nations of the world must learn this lesson. We, the Jewish nation, who lost a third of our people on Europe’s blood-soaked soil, have learned that the only guarantee for defending our people is a strong State of Israel and the army of Israel. We gave learned to warn the nations of the world of impending danger but at the same time to prepare to defend ourselves. As the head of the Jewish state, I pledge to you today: We will never again permit evil to snuff out the life of our people and the life of our own country…”
“[After the Holocaust,] the Jewish people rose from ashes and destruction, from a terrible pain that can never be healed. Armed with the Jewish spirit, the justice of man, and the vision of the prophets, we sprouted new branches and grew deep roots. Dry bones became covered with flesh, a spirit filled them, and they lived and stood on their own feet. As Ezekiel prophesied: ‘Then He said unto me: These bones are the whole House of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone; we are doomed.’ Prophecy, therefore, and say to them: Thus said the Lord God: I am going to open your graves and lift you out of your graves, O My people, and bring you to the land of Israel.’ I stand here today on the ground where so many of my people perished — and I am not alone. The State of Israel and all the Jewish people stand with me. We bow our heads to honor your memory and lift our heads as we raise our flag-a flag of blue and white with a Star of David in its center. And everyone sees. And everyone hears. And everyone knows – that our hope is not lost.”
The question for Israelis and for people everywhere now is this: If the prophecies of Ezekiel 37 have come to pass in our lifetime, isn’t it possible that other major Bible prophecies will come true in our lifetime as well?
“The first major survey of American Jews in more than 10 years finds a significant rise in those who are not religious, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish — resulting in rapid assimilation that is sweeping through every branch of Judaism except the Orthodox,” reported the New York Times.
The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.
Excerpts from the Times article:
The intermarriage rate, a bellwether statistic, has reached a high of 58 percent for all Jews, and 71 percent for non-Orthodox Jews — a huge change from before 1970 when only 17 percent of Jews married outside the faith.
Two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue.
One-fourth do not believe in God.
One-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year.
“It’s a very grim portrait of the health of the American Jewish population in terms of their Jewish identification,” said Jack Wertheimer, a professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary, in New York.
69 percent say they feel an emotional attachment to Israel.
But only 40 percent believe that the land that is now Israel was “given to the Jewish people by God.”
Perhaps the most striking finding of the survey, the Times reported, was that “34 percent said you could still be Jewish if you believe that Jesus was the Messiah.” That’s right, one-in-three American Jews believe you can believe in Jesus as Messiah and still be Jewish.
Out of an estimated six million American Jews, that’s some two million people who no longer think it is an act of betrayal to the Jewish people to embrace Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah and hope of Israel.
A Few Observations
In a world that is lost and dark and seeming to get darker, there are reasons for hope.
Yes, evil is on the march — but the Lord God Almighty is holy and sovereign. He, too, is on the move.
Yes, most Israelis do not know the Word of God, or study it, or have a desire to study the Word – but the Prime Minister of Israel is studying the Bible on Shabbat with his son, and having occasional Bible studies in his official residence, and citing the Scriptures in his speeches, and increasingly interested in the role of Bible prophecy in our current times.
Yes, there is much resistance to the Gospel in Israel and throughout the epicenter – but the fact the Lord is drawing more Jews and more Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ in the last few decades than in the last twenty centuries, and He is also preparing the hearts of many more to come to faith in Jesus as Messiah in the weeks and months and years ahead.
Yes, it’s true that many pastors and Christian ministry leaders in the U.S. and around the world do not understand God’s love and plan and purpose for Israel – but you have gathered to study and learn more about this vital Biblical subject, and I believe God is waking up a remnant here and around the globe to rediscover the purpose and power of Bible prophecy and all of God’s Word with regards to Israel, and the nations, and many other topics.
These are the times in which we live. This is the context of this conference.
Will There Ever Be Peace?
Which brings us to our second objective tonight – asking and answering the question: Will there ever be peace for Israel and her neighbors?
To find the answer, let’s begin by opening our Bibles and turning to Luke 12:51-56.
Here Jesus asks a question: Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on the earth?
It’s a simple enough question, and His Jewish audience would have considered the answer to be simple enough, as well.
Of course. The Messiah is supposed to bring peace on earth. Ergo, if you claim to be the Messiah, then you will bring peace on earth. After all, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah told us in Isaiah 9:6 — “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
The next sentence – the first part of verse 7 – reads: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace….”
Furthermore, the Hebrew prophets told us that the Messiah would bring judgment upon Israel’s enemies and establish a kingdom of righteousness, justice and security. Of course the Jewish people of Jesus’ day expected the Messiah to bring peace – that’s how the job description of the Messiah reads. He brings peace, pure and simple.
So how did the Lord Jesus answer this question?
Back to Luke chapter 12 — “‘Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son, and son against father, mother against daughter, and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ And He was also saying to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘it will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?”
Jesus surprises everyone by saying:
He did not come to bring peace on the earth.
He came to bring division.
He came to nations.
He came to divide families.
He will bring division so obvious everyone will be able to see it.
That’s not all.
In Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
In Luke 14:27, Jesus says, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
In Luke 14:33, Jesus says, “None of you can by My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
In Matthew 24, Jesus says, “you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars….nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes….they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many….”
This is the world Jesus promises.
So how can Jesus be Messiah? How can He possibly be the Anointed One? How can He be the Prince of Peace, if He brings division and war and tribulation and persecution?
Fortunately, the Bible clarifies this for us. The Scriptures define three kinds of peace:
Peace from God.
Peace amongst all people and all nations.
The Good News is that the Scriptures make it clear that Jesus came the first time to bring the first two kinds of peace, and He will come the second time to bring the third kind of peace.
Peace With God
First and foremost, Jesus came to bring us peace with God.
Ephesians 2:8-18 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast….Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace….And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.”
The Lord Jesus Christ makes peace between us and the Father.
By His death and resurrection, He has paid the penalty for all our sins – past, present and future.
He offers this forgiveness to us as a free gift, which anyone can receive by faith.
We can’t earn it. We can’t buy it. We don’t deserve it. But when we receive it, we have peace with God.
The Bible says we are transformed – we are born again – we are new creations. The old has gone. The new has come. We are adopted into God’s family. His Holy Spirit indwells us. He is not just Immanuel – God with us. Now He is Christ in us, the hope of glory. How blessed is the man who knows such peace.
But that is not all Messiah came to bring us.
Peace From God
Second, Jesus came to give us a supernatural peace from God – a peace that gives us a supernatural calm and a joy in a hostile and chaotic world that can only come from God.
John 14:26-27 – “[T]he 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. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
John 16:33 – “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”
Philippians 4:6-7 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
This is what Messiah Jesus brings us – a supernatural peace, a divine peace, a peace that doesn’t make sense, an inner peace and calm and joy that that the world cannot comprehend, an inner peace that even we cannot fully comprehend. This is the kind of peace of which the Hebrew prophet Isaiah spoke.
Isaiah 26:3 – “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on Thee.” (KJV)
Peace amongst all people and all nations.
What Messiah has not yet come is peace amongst all people and all nations.
We do not have global geopolitical peace – not yet. But the Scriptures promise that in the eschatological future the Messiah will eradicate war and establish peace.
As we read in Isaiah 2:2-4 — “Now it will come about in the last days….and He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation and never shall they learn war any more.”
This is what the Jewish people await. This is what you and I await. This is what the nations await. This is what the United Nations organization seeks to establish.
Consider this quote from the U.N. website:
“The United Nations garden contains several sculptures and statues that have been donated by different countries. One is called “Let Us Beat Swords Into Plowshares” and was a gift from the then-Soviet Union presented in 1959. Made by Evgeniy Vuchetich, the bronze statue represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand and, in the other, a sword which he is making into a plowshare, symbolizing man’s desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind.”
“I Will Shake The Nations”
Why then do we not yet have geopolitical peace?
When we study the “whole counsel of God” as revealed in the Scriptures, we can discern the answer. Establishing geopolitical peace may be our top priority – but it is not God’s. Helping men establish peace with God – and experience peace from God – is most important to the Messiah.
What’s more, God will allow wars and revolutions and persecution and natural disasters to intensify as we get closer to the return of Christ precisely in order to shake individuals and nations into realizing that they will never have true peace until they get right with the Living God through the Messiah, through the Prince of Peace.
In Haggai 2:6-7, we read: “For thus says the Lord of hosts, “Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake the nations.”
Then 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…”
In Amos 9:9, we read: “I will shake the house of Israel among all nations.”
Time and time again, the Hebrew prophets, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostles, warn us that God is going to shake the nations – and He will shake Israel – in the last days of human history.
To get our attention. To wake us up. To persuade us to let go of anyone and anything and any religion and any philosophy and any political ideology other than faith in Jesus Christ for peace in this world, or peace in the next.
Which brings us back to our central question: “Will there ever be peace for Israel and her neighbors?”
A careful study of the whole counsel of God from the Old Testament and the New reveals a sobering answer: Yes Israel and her neighbors will eventually experience true, full, comprehensive and lasting peace, but not in your lifetime, or in mine.
Will we have peace in the Millennial Kingdom? Yes.
Will there be peace in the new heavens and the new earth? Absolutely.
But can we hope for real and lasting peace in the near future? Unfortunately, we cannot.
The Hebrew prophet Daniel warns us that a false peace is coming for Israel. (Daniel 9)
The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah warns us that there will be false prophets saying, “‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)
The Bible teaches that overall, things are going to get worse between now and the Second Coming of Christ.
Like the birth pangs of a woman in labor, there will be “contractions,” and “release.” We will see occasional periods of “release” – but as mankind gets closer and closer to the Second Coming, we will see longer and more intense contractions, and shorter periods of release.
The prophets tell us of some of the contractions that are coming:
The War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39)
The destruction of Damascus (Isaiah 17 & Jeremiah 49)
The judgment of Elam/Iran (Jeremiah 49)
The judgment of Babylon (Isaiah 13-14, Jeremiah 50-51
The Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16)
The Final Battle of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12-14)
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul indicates that is during one of these “release” moments that the Rapture will occur.
The Lord will come for His Church “like a thief in the night” (I Thessalonians chapter four, and 5:2)
“While they [the people of the world] are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child…” (I Thessalonians 5:3)
But again, as the world marches closer and closer to the end of this age, the “contractions” will be getting longer and more intense, and the moments of “release” will become shorter and less frequent.
On the surface, that’s the bad news – wars, rumors of wars, persecution and trauma for as far as the eye can see.
The prophets and the apostles paint a particularly sobering picture for Israel, which will become more and more isolated in the last days.
But as we carefully analyze and prayerfully seek to understand the times in which we live, we must not let ourselves become fixated on the bad news.
There is also much good news: Yes, Satan is on the move. But the Lord is moving with great powerful and great effect.
The number of Muslim converts to Christianity is growing exponentially.
The number of Jewish believers in Jesus is growing steadily.
What’s more the openness of Jews and Muslims to hearing the Gospel is at an all-time high.
As I conclude, let me make three brief final points.
First, the leaders and the people of this world are going to isolate, accuse, and then turn on the Jewish people and the State of Israel in the last days. This is what prophecy teaches, and current trends are remarkably consistent with this Biblical truth.
Second, the leaders of the Church are called to embrace the Jewish people and the whole house of Israel, to love them with unconditional love, to bless them in every possible way, and do so in the name of Jesus.
Third, the leaders of the Church are also called to embrace the Arab and Persian and Kurdish and Turkish people, and love them with unconditional love, and bless them in every possible way, and do so in the name of Jesus.
This is the heart of the Abrahamic covenant – to be a blessing to all the families of the earth.
This is the purpose of the Great Commission – to go and make disciples of all nations.
Not every pastor and theologian and lay person understands this, but we must not lose heart.
Indeed, let us be filled with hope, knowing the Lord is coming to save His people and establish His kingdom. This is the blessed hope of Israel, and it shall come to pass. Let us teach the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit and with authority. Let us preach the Gospel without fear or shame. Let us live the Gospel by living lives of great love and compassion. Let us do so with patience and humility and gentleness.
And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time, by the grace of God, we will reap a great harvest. The Word is clear – we are heading towards a Romans 11:26 world. We are heading towards a time in which all Israel will be saved.
Let us be faithful in doing our part, that in the end we will all hear from our Savior’s lips, “Well done, My good and faithful servant. You were faithful in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
You must be logged in to post a comment.