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Are You Ready For The Beginning of the End

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Are You Ready For The Beginning of the End

Matthew 24:32-39

Matthew 24:32-39 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree: When its branches become green and soft and new leaves appear, you know summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time is near, ready to come. I tell you the truth, all these things will happen while the people of this time are still living. Earth and sky will be destroyed, but the words I have said will never be destroyed. When Will Jesus Come Again? “No one knows when that day or time will be, not the angels in heaven, not even the Son. Only the Father knows. When the Son of Man comes, it will be like what happened during Noah’s time. In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving their children to be married, until the day Noah entered the boat. They knew nothing about what was happening until the flood came and destroyed them. It will be the same when the Son of Man comes.

We need to be aware of the situation in Israel and the Middle East when you ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We need to ask some questions about what is happening.

1. Who is Modern Israel? First they are almost exclusively Jewish. The vast majority of its people have returned to the area since 1948. And its biggest ally is the United States.

2. Who are the Palestinians?  They are primarily Muslim. They were the possessors and occupants of this area for centuries before 1948. Their biggest ally is the rest of the Arab world (Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria,  etc.). It is basically 3.6 million Jews who are surrounded by 200 million Muslims.

What is the land that they are fighting over? There Are Three Particularly Important Areas:

[For this section, we will use maps showing these areas.]

1. The West Bank.

The West Bank was not part of Israel in 1948. It was ruled by Jordan until 1967, when Israel was attacked by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. This area was captured by Israel during the six day war. The West Bank includes a large portion of Jerusalem. The West Bank is now divided between Palestinian Authority and Jewish settlement and military positions.

2. The Gaza Strip.

Gaza was not part of Israel in 1948. It was occupied by Egypt until 1967, when Israel captured it during the 6 day war. It is largely Palestinian-controlled, but with numerous Jewish settlements. It was the sight where recently an Israeli soldier was kidnapped by Hamas and where the Palestinian were rebelling against Israel under their newly elected Hamas government.

3. The Golan Heights.

Golan was not part of Israel in 1948, it belonged to Syria until 1967, when Israel captured it and occupied it. All three of these areas were recently given back to the Palestinians and Syrians as a part of the peace process by Israel.

Why Are These Three Areas So Important?

They were all won by Israel in the disputed military action known the Six-Day War of 1967. It is “disputed” in that Israel calls their actions “pre-emptive” while the Palestinians call Israel’s
actions “aggressive.”

Years before the war, hostilities between the Arab nations, and the Jews had already been at a high point. The Arab nations refused to accept the fact that Israel could be a Jewish state, and so, President Nasser of Egypt called for the destruction of Israel. At first, there were just occasional attacks on civilians, but the attacks became more and more ferocious, until it came to Israeli villages being heavily shelled by Syrian troops from the Golan Heights. Israel had warned Syria, but Syria came to Egypt for help, and by then, Egyptian forces were packed into the Sinai Peninsula. Nasser then closed down the Strait of Tiran, which was a very important trading link between Israel and the other countries of the world. Such an act was an act of war, but what they didn’t know was that Israel would react with its full force.

Israel was going into a battle against the Egyptians, the Jordanians, and the Syrians. Because of this, Israel decided it was going to fight in Arab territory rather than have the battles in Israeli territory. On June 5th the Israeli Air Force made the First Strike on Egypt. That strike caught 309 of the 340 combat aircrafts belonging to Egypt on the ground and destroyed them. Then, Israel completed the attack with their ground forces, leaving heavy Egyptian casualties, but minimal casualties for Israel. Israel’s 1st strike in the war was amazingly successful.

Israel had asked Jordan not to join in on the war, but President Nasser of Egypt called Jordan and told them that they had won the previous battle between themselves and Israel, although they really had not. Because of this, Jordanian troops attacked the Israeli half of Jerusalem. Israel didn’t have to worry about Egypt anymore, so they turned their attention on Jordan. By the next morning, Israeli troops seized the other half of Jerusalem that they did not yet own. Just one day had past, and already the Egyptian air force had been eradicated, as well as the Jordanian forces suffering heavy casualties. Israel continued its operations against Arab air force bases, raising the amount of fighters destroyed to 416! With almost total control of the skies, Israel’s fighters and bombers were able to protect the tanks and artillery on the battlefield below. They prevented Jordanian reinforcements from reaching Jerusalem, and at 10:00 AM, Israel had taken control of the Western Wall! By the next day, Jordanian forces were pushed back to their side of the Jordan River. That day, the Jordanians arranged for a cease-fire. The first group had surrendered.

On June 8, 1967 Israeli forces had reached the Suez Canal. After they had taken over the Siniai, Israel turned its forces on the Golan Heights, which is where the Syrians were shelling Israeli villages from. The next day Israeli soldiers began the difficult assault up steep terrain against the Syrian forces. The balance of power soon shifted in Israel’s favor, and by 6:30 PM, Syria had surrendered and signed a cease-fire. Israel controlled all of the Golan Heights. The war with the Egyptians didn’t formally end until 1979, when the two countries finally made peace.

Israel’s victory was extremely devastating to the Arabs, who expected victory for themselves. The fact that the war took only 6 days shows that God is with Israel. The Arab forces lost almost their entire air forces, and much of their armed weaponry. 10,000 Egyptians were killed in Sinai and Gaza alone, compared to the 300 Israeli casualties on that front. In all, Egypt lost about 11,000 troops, Jordan lost about 6,000, Syria lost about 1,000, and Israel lost about 700. Israel gained all of Jerusalem, The Golan Heights, Sinai, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.

But something strange happened after this incredible military feat. General Moshe Dayan placed the Israeli flag on the Muslim Dome of the Rock where the ancient Jewish Temple was constructed. This made the religious Jews very happy—but then he took down the flag in a political move to pacify the Muslim Arabs. If he would have demolished the Dome of the Rock Mosque it would have created a Holy War unlike the world has ever seen.

There are still Palestinians living in these areas, which have been for most of the years since 1967 “occupied” by Israel. The Palestinians feel they’re under foreign occupation, which leads to a situation that breeds resentment and anger.

How Did The Middle East Get To The Mess It Is Today?

The animosity goes back to Abraham. Genesis 16:1-4. Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

When Hagar had her son, Ishmael, and then Sarah had her son, Isaac, Sarah had her husband banish Hagar and Ishmael. Ishmael is the son through whom the Arabs were born whereas Isaac was the son through who the Jews were born. Both sides claim ownership of the same land.

This isn’t just any land, it’s considered holy by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the rise of the Zionist movement, which was the idea of restoring a Jewish state to the Holy Land, began to rise because the Jews had been exiled from their land for many generations. This idea was not met with immediate enthusiasm, but slowly did begin to win followers.

Toward the end of World War II, the British controlled and occupied the Holy Land. They tried to broker an agreement that would create separate Arab and Jewish states out of the Holy Land, but the Arabs rejected the proposal. So, with no political solution possible, the British forces simply withdrew on May 14, 1948. The Jews declared Israel a nation and the Arab forces invaded them. By November 1948, the better-trained Israeli military had prevailed. Israel had, during this war, increased its land holdings by one-half (compared with the original British proposal). - Israel considers this event a war of independence for the creation of their homeland. Palestinians call this Al Naqba (or, “The Catastrophe”), when more than 700,000 Arabs were driven from their homes. In 1948 the creation of the sovereign nation of Israel was granted by the United Nations. This happened largely due the holocaust slaughter of millions of Jews by Hitler.

 In 1979 The Camp David Accords took place and during negotiations led by U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Israel agreed to return control of the Sinai peninsula to Egypt in return for Egypt’s recognition of Israel.

In 1987 was what is known as the Intifada. This Arab uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied territories involved terrorist military activity by Palestinians, resulting in escalating tensions and more violence. Israel viewed this as Yassar Arafat choosing violence over peacemaking; however the Palestinians viewed this as an overdue response to twenty years of Israel building settlements in the occupied territories.

In 1993 there was the Oslo I Agreement. Israel agreed to withdraw its forces from Arab territories seized during the Six-Day War; Arab states agree to recognize Israel’s statehood and right to security.

In 1995 The Oslo II Agreement, Israeli forces agreed to withdraw from six Arab cities and 400 villages in the West Bank by early 1996. Both sides blame the other when it doesn’t happen. The Palestinian suicide bombings of innocent Jewish civilians is encouraged and praised by the Arabs as acts of martyrdom.

In 2000 and continuing now in 2006 the second Intifada is proclaimed as more Palestinian violence is met by a hard-line response by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In 2005 Syrian troupes were removed from Lebanon but the terrorist organization Hizbullha still remained active and dominant in Southern Lebanon.

In 2006 the terrorist militant organization Hamas was elected as the new Palestinian government in Gaza. Hamas two weeks ago kidnapped an Israeli soldier and killed some others. Hisbullha kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in the north near Lebanon and killed seven other soldiers. Then, Hizbullha began to launch rockets into Israeli cities. Israel has responded as they normally do when attacked with full military force. Thus the bombings and cutting off of all supplies to Gaza and Lebanon. This war is being promoted primarily by Iran and Syria who are using Hizbullha to attract attention away from Iran, so they can develop their nuclear capabilities. The missiles being used to attack Israel are supplied to Hizbullha by Syria and Iran.

Why Is There So Much Hatred?

1. Both the Arabs and the Jews consider Israel their sacred land.

2. The Palestinians are rapidly growing in numbers. In Israel (when you include all of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza), the Jews make up 51% of the population and the Arabs 49%, but these numbers are shifting as Israeli women on average are having 2.6 children while
Palestinian women on average are having 6.1 children per family. (stats from Newsweek).

This obviously serves to heighten tensions in looking toward where the situation will be in twenty years.

The two sides have very different standards of living. The average monthly wage for an Israeli in 2002 was $1,500; the average monthly wage for a Palestinian was $360. The Gross Domestic Product for the Palestinians is $1,680 per person; the GDP for Israel is $18,900 per person. This economic inequality obviously worsens the problem.

3. Both sides think God is on their side.

Why Are Christians Generally So Pro-Israel?

1. We believe God is currently working primarily through the church, but that Israel plays a key role in end-times prophecy.

Romans 11:1-2&25, says, I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. … 25  I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” In other words Israel will remain hardened to the Gospel of Jesus as Messiah until a certain number of Gentiles are saved. Other verses include Jeremiah 31:35-37; Zechariah 8:13; John 1:11.

2. We believe that, as part of those end-time events, the Bible speaks of a return of the Jews to their homeland.  Our Text… Jeremiah 23:7-8; “So then, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 8 but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.” 

Ezekiel 36:24 ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.

Because of that, the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in the Holy Land in 1948 was
considered by many to be the “sign of all signs.”

John Walvoord, who was probably the finest scholar of biblical prophecy that ever lived has said, and I paraphrase his words since they are a bit academic: “Of the many events that have to do with biblical prophecy in our generation, few of them can claim the importance of the return of Israel to the land. It is a key sign in preparation for the end of the age, the setting for the coming of the Lord for His church, and the fulfillment of Israel’s destiny as predicted by God’s Word. The restoration of Israel is God’s “super-sign” of the end times, is a clear indicator that the time is short.”

Therefore, rumblings in Israel raise expectations that we may be close to the return of Christ.

The “so what” here is: If modern Israel is biblical Israel, which it is, you want to be on their side. Genesis 12:2-3 I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Listen folks the fastest way for America to not be the safe and free country we are is to turn our back on Israel.

            Being Israel doesn’t give them the right to do wrong. We cannot suspend our ethical awareness and go along with everything Israel does just because they’re Israel.
- in the Old Testament, God’s blessing upon Israel was dependent upon their obedience - so even God did not unconditionally support Israel’s actions no matter what they did, but when they are fighting for their right to be a nation, to abandon them would bring a curse of God upon us.

Only God knows the timetable and all the prophetic details. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 1 Thessalonians 5:2; “for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

Here are some certainties in the midst of the Middle East crisis:

1. There will be peace in Jerusalem someday.

2. That peace will be established by Jesus at his Second Coming.

3. Until the end we are to be about building the Kingdom of Christ and reaching lost people for Him.

4. I want to be a part of it.

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