Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thes. 5:1-3)
The one time when people are sure to talk about peace and safety, is just after they’ve experienced the horrible effects of war. For example, I remember as a kid seeing movies of people dancing in the streets of New York when they learned that World War 2 had finally ended. Soon the military was all but dismantled and people everywhere expressed a joyous expectation of peace.
Of course this turned out to be only an illusion. A scant five years after the end of WW2 the US was at war again in Korea. But people have an amazing sense of optimism, even if it’s only based on illusion, something I think we’re about to have confirmed again in 2012. I think circumstances are ripe for a brief but intense war in the Middle East.
What Are You Talking About?
Let’s look at the current situation to see if my opinion is justified. What follows is a summary of recent reports from the NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, International Tribune and Debkafile during the months of December 2011 and January 2012.
US secretary of Defense Panetta says he believes Israel could act against Iran as early as April. Various news agencies speculate that Iran could be at war with Europe, Israel, the US or some combination this spring. In addition to stationing multiple aircraft carrier groups in the Persian Gulf, the US is currently moving 100,000 ground troops to islands off Iran’s coast.
Russia’s outgoing ambassador to NATO has warned Israel and the West that an attack on Tehran would be considered an attack on Moscow.
Iran has said a great event is coming that will put an end to Israel and the Great Satan (America). Some connect this to Israeli reports that Iran is developing a missile capable of hitting the eastern coast of the US, and also has EMP capabilities they could quickly position off the US east coast to knock out the power grid.
There are currently 200,000 missiles and rockets aimed at Israel from just across its borders. No location in Israel is out of reach, and no other country has ever faced such a threat to its existence. Israeli leaders have said they cannot tolerate this and will have to take action. They’ve also promised that the next time they go up against Hizbollah they won’t stop until the threat it poses no longer exists.
Having suspended work on their observer mission in Syria due to the danger involved, the Arab League monitoring committee has asked for a one month extension. So far they’ve failed to halt or even moderate the violence there. Opponents of an extension are demanding the committee refer Syria to the UN Security Council for action. Syrian Pres. Assad has repeatedly said if the UN demands that he step aside and allow the formation of a new government, he’ll start a regional war that will put all of the Middle East in flames.
As promised, Russia and China have now vetoed the UN Security Council resolution that makes such a demand, but the US and some European and Arab states (Britain, France, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar) are reportedly planning to bypass the UN and go after Assad on their own. They’re currently trying to find a general in the Syrian army who will lead a coup with their backing. For its part, Russia continues to send weapons to Syria and has moved a contingent of special forces into Black Sea bases to help defend the Syrian government as necessary. This is in addition to Russian naval forces already on patrol in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Some political analysts are saying the only thing that could take the American voters minds off the miserable state of our economy is if the US were to find itself at war in the lead up to the election. It wouldn’t be the first time politicians have used war to influence public opinion.
The Perfect Storm
This is beginning to look like the geopolitical version of a perfect storm. It’s hard to see how the world can avoid some kind of regional war. As one commentator put it, with all the military forces arrayed in such a confined space (the Persian Gulf) starting a war by accident becomes a real possibility. In 25 years of study I’ve never seen conditions quite so ideal for the fulfillment of prophecy as they are now.
The fact that the Mainstream media has begun to mention the possibility of war means that soon it could become a topic for the national dialog in the US as it is in other parts of the world. In Israel the discussion is about whether the leadership has already made the decision to attack Iran or not. In the Islamic world it’s whether Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, is really al Mahdi’s deputy on Earth as he claims to be and is therefore entitled to their obedience. In Europe it’s whether Iran will unilaterally end the shipments of oil it has contracted to supply them now, or wait till the embargo takes effect in July. (The Iranian parliament met on Jan. 29 to discuss this possibility.) And in Asia it’s how to evade the embargo altogether. India and China have already announced they won’t go along and are looking for alternate ways to pay for their Iranian oil, such as with gold or through bartering.
Students of prophecy are well aware that if this is not God’s timing, some way will be found to temporarily defuse the situation in a way that leaves things unresolved as has been the case several times in the past. But if it is God’s timing the world will soon suffer through a brief but intense regional war in the Middle East.
And after it ends, while they’re saying “Peace and Safety” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape (1 Thes. 5:3). (Remember, it takes a war to get people talking about peace.) The sudden destruction to which Paul referred will signal the beginning of the end of the world as we know it. I believe it will start with the Battle of Ezekiel 38-39followed by Daniel’s 70th Week which culminates in the Great Tribulation.
Where Does That Leave Us?
In 1 Thes. 5:4-11 Paul said this chain of events should not take the Church by surprise. When he called us children of the light, he meant we’ve been given the knowledge to understand what’s coming. We should rely on our faith in the Lord’s love for us like a soldier relies on his body armor. We should focus our minds on the hope of salvation we’ve been promised to protect us like a soldier’s helmet protects his head, and remember that God did not appoint us to wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord jesus Christ.
The symbolism here is remarkable. A soldier’s body armor protects his heart, which we symbolically see as the seat of our faith and the repository of the Lord’s love. His helmet protects his head, symbolizing the storehouse of knowledge in our mind. The Lord doesn’t expect blind obedience or baseless faith. He’s gone to great extremes to make us aware of His intentions. In Amos 3:7 He said, Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
His plan is to rescue the Church from His coming wrath (1 Thes. 1:10). The Greek word translated “from” in this verse means from the time, the place, and any relation to the event, which is the time of God’s wrath.
When the Council of Jerusalem met to discuss whether Gentiles had to convert to Judaism before they could become Christians (Acts 15:13-18) 483 years of a 490 year plan for Israel had been fulfilled. In effect James told them that Israel was being set aside for a time because first the Lord was taking from the Gentiles a people for Himself. He was referring to the Church. The Greek phrase translated “taking from” means to carry away, out of the time and place of His subsequent action. In the context of the passage His subsequent action is the remaining 7 years of His plan for Israel which includes the time of God’s Wrath.
Later Paul,who was there, wrote that Israel has been hardened in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25). He was talking about the Church being taken to its final destination, which is Heaven, before God turns His attention to Israel again for the final seven years of His plan.
This testimony, shared by a man who heard the prophecy of James with his own ears, prompted him to say we should encourage one another and build each other up when we see these things taking place (1 Thes. 5: 11). We can do this because they tell us our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28).