Aug 23, 2010
More Birth Pangs: Floods, Drought, and Pestilence
One of the clearest indications of the progression of Bible prophecy is the frequency of end-time events. In Matthew 24:8, we are told that the last days will be the tail-end of an exponential curve of activity. Jesus mentioned a great variety of signs—spiritual, natural, societal, and geopolitical—and then He said that these signs will be like "birth pangs."
As the birth of a baby approaches, the birth pangs increase two ways: frequency and intensity. Thus, Jesus was saying that the closer we get to the time of His return, the more frequent and intense the signs will become. There will be more earthquakes and more intense ones. Likewise, things like famine, pestilence, and war will increase in frequency and intensity.
This year started out with monstrous earthquakes striking the nations of Haiti, Chile, and China. The death toll from the Haiti quake has now risen to more than 230,000. The Chile earthquake is in the record books as the seventh-greatest earthquake ever recorded.
In the past few weeks, there has been an upsurge in birth-pang activity. Three categories stand out:
Many have been struck by noteworthy flooding. In April, the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro had terrible flooding. But the most remarkable flooding has occurred in Pakistan, where the deluge has been of epic proportions: 20 million people have been affected, with more than 1,400 dead, 900,000 homes damaged, and 3.5 million children at risk for waterborne diseases. One-fifth of the nation is now under water, and the rains are continuing to fall.
A severe drought in Russia has devastated the nation’s wheat crop. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin banned all exports of grain until the end of the year. The ban has pushed prices to their highest level in two years in the United States. Russian grain exports totaled 21.4 million metric tons last year, about 17 percent of the global grain trade. The Middle East is heavily dependant on Russian grain. Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, is left to wonder whether current contracts with Russia will be honored. If we should have a drought in another country that is a key grain exporter, global famine could become a real possibility.
The World Health Organization called on health authorities around the globe to monitor a multi-drug-resistant superbug that surfaced in South Asia and spread to Britain. The WHO said a new gene enables some types of bacteria to be highly resistant to almost all antibiotics. With some bacterial strains, the death rate is as high as 30 percent.
In the U.S., there is a growing problem with bedbugs. The city of New York had 11,000 complaints about bedbugs last year. Bedbugs have been discovered recently in theaters, clothing stores, hotels, housing projects, and posh apartments. They have even been found in the Empire State Building.
This level of activity is amazing when you consider that the year is only a little more than half over. The Lord certainly seems to be trying to get man’s attention, but I can see that man's stubbornness is a huge obstacle. It amazes me to see how quickly historic disasters fade from memory.
Several news organizations are reporting that support for the flood victims in Pakistan may be suffering from donor fatigue. In the first two weeks of the crisis, the funds being pledged by rich nations are just 20 percent of the amount given for the Haiti earthquake. In the same way, there may be a birth-pang of fatigue at work. I have not seen prophetic awareness this low since the early 1990s.
God is very patient, but He is no fool. He is not going to send an endless number of warning signs. I would never say that apathy will force God to act, but it could be the calling card that the Almighty has decided to use to shake up our world.
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth" (Luke 21:25-26).
Israel Here to Stay?
My "In Box" and the news from Bible prophecy circles bulge with talk of Israel's almost-certain attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. The scuttlebutt has been coming hard and fast since 2007 or even earlier. Each summer was going to bring an assault by Israel, and all out Mid-East war was sure to ensue.
As I write this, the predictions are at fever pitch. John Bolton, former American U.N. ambassador, declared that Israel had until Saturday, August 21, to take out Iran's nuclear plants, or risk--by their bombing--the spreading of radiation contamination across the area and into the Persian Gulf.
The flood of emails proclaims that this is it. The region is going to go up in flames, with Russia coming to the aid of Iran, because the Russians are so heavily invested in the Iranian nuclear program. There will be Russian nuclear technicians installing the radioactive rods necessary to fuel and power up the facility. They will be in harm's way, and Moscow--from which Gog of Magog prophetic infamy will come--will not abide such an insult. The thought frequently conjectured: Could this be the beginning of Ezekiel 38-39--the Gog-Magog attack?
Israel cannot afford, the argument goes, to allow the facility to come on line. This, because the spent fuel rods will provide plutonium and other by-products to give Iran the materials from which they can produce nuclear weapons. That's a simplification of the matters involved, but should suffice, I hope, for purposes of making the point of this commentary.
This attack by Israel will be, the emailers apparently believe, prophecy being fulfilled. This preemptive attack by the Jewish state upon the land of ancient Persia surely will, the messages exclaim, instigate a chain reaction of events. These events will bring the Gog-Magog attack, and perhaps Isaiah 17:1 will also be fulfilled. Some even believe it will provoke the long-pondered-over Psalm 83 war supposed by many to be in the offing.
I could have waited until Saturday, August 21, had passed to write this piece, but chose not to do so. My reason for not waiting until after that time is primarily that I don't believe this is the time for the Gog-Magog War, or for the proposed Psalm 83 conflict, should it be an actual prophecy. Exigencies just aren't ripe for producing the horrific results such conflicts as the Gog-Magog, or even the supposed Psalm 83, conflagrations would inflict. At least, that's my view from my present perspective.
More than that, I believe that's the way it is presented from the perspective of Bible prophecy.
One thing I do think is an almost 100-percent certainty is that Israel isn't going anywhere. Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's promises to erase Israel from the face of the Middle East and the world are empty threats. It will never happen--not even with the help of the Gog nation, Russia.
Why do I say "an almost 100-percent certainty"?
This goes to the argument of those who say that it is possible that Israel could be removed from its land yet again. Then, all would have to again rearrange in order to get the prophetic indicators into place like they are now. God might allow Israel's enemies to again take the Jews from the Promised Land because of their unbelief.
Zola Levitt and I were once discussing the hatred of the Arab nations for Israel. I mentioned that the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee didn't think that the Jews being back in the land was necessarily a major signal of the nearness to Christ's return. My friend Zola, a very passionate man when it came to Israel, got pretty exercised, as I recall. He said that he and Dr. McGee "got into it"--as the southernism goes--over this subject.
Zola said Dr. McGee said it could be that Israel might yet be removed from the land of promise. Zola didn't like that at all, so they had a rather lively discussion on the matter, on camera. I said, "Well, Dr. McGee [who went to be with the Lord in 1988 at age 84] knows now, that's for sure." That seemed to calm Zola a bit.
Dr. McGee would no doubt agree that Israel is back in the land to stay, if he could have watched developments of the years since his leaving the planet. Israel being: the center of most all controversy so far as issues of war and peace are concerned; pressured by the international community to give up God's land; at the center of a forced, phony peace process, with Iran (ancient Persia) threatening from the north. How could he or anyone being privy to such facts say otherwise?
Whatever happened last Saturday--as you read this on August 23 or later--Israel isn't going anywhere. So, I'll change my "almost" to an absolute 100-percent certainty.
Although Israel--and the world--are in for some terrible times ahead, I am of the firm belief that we have the very Word of God about the current and future disposition of His chosen nation. Israel is here to stay.
"And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God." (Amos 9:14-15)