**The following article was written in 1996, but certainly seems as relevant now as then.
Israel is the most important country in the world today. From a secular viewpoint, it is situated on the land bridge between the Asian and African continents, and it represents an island of democracy in an ocean of dictatorships. It is America's key ally in the Eastern hemisphere. Economically, it is quite a power for its size, having an economy ten times the size of that of Egypt, Jordan and Syria put together! Politically, it is front-page news almost every day. The unbelieving world is indeed interested in Israel.
But for believers, its significance is beyond measure. The premillennial view of Scripture reveals that all believers will spend a thousand years in Israel with their King, and this could happen seven years from today! In the Second Coming, our Lord will not return to just any country, but as a matter of fact, "his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east" (Zech. 14:4). He will reign on the throne of David from Jerusalem, ruling a world of believing nations. We who have trusted Him for our salvation will rule with Him. The Bride of Christ will become the Queen of the Kingdom to come.
But before all of those happy events, there is the day of God's wrath to contend with - "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7). Little Israel is involved in close to 100% of End Times prophecy.
The Tribulation period, the 70th week of Daniel, will transpire when the Antichrist makes a peace covenant with the nation of Israel. That simple statement has been uttered for quite a few years, but we happen now to live in a time when people are riding up on a constant basis with peace treaties for Israel to sign. This mere fact by itself is grounds to suppose that the time is very short before the entrance of the one who will ultimately betray Israel and the world. The improvement in the Antichrist's treaty, compared to today's peace agreements, is probably the guarantee he can give of Israel's security, presumably by his ten-nation confederacy in western Europe. He will be able to provide close-in land, sea and air defenses. Another attractive feature may be the seven-year span of the treaty, and possibly permission for Israel to rebuild its temple at last. Whatever the terms of the treaty, the Antichrist would be clearly recognizable to Bible readers by his lavish promises of peace on earth. This will be a false peace, of course, but are we not living in an age of false peace agreements? As we look at a world containing Chechnya, Bosnia, Lebanon, Ireland and South Africa, to mention a few smoldering fires, we hear of peace agreements being signed and abrogated all the time. It is actually rather remarkable to compare our times with the biblical descriptions of the Tribulation period. (This is to say nothing of the famines, pestilences, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, offenses, betrayals, etc., spoken of by the Lord in His Olivet discourse [Matthew 24], which is also addressed to Israel [see verses 13, 15, and 16].)
Where Israel is concerned, an uneasy peace will obtain for three and a half years, at which time the Antichrist will sense the Jewish people's suspicions of him, and will attempt to assert his authority. He will do no less than call himself the God of Israel, or in Paul's words, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thes. 2:3-4). Our Lord Himself, along with the prophet Daniel, foresaw the cataclysmic effects of this spiritual excess: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains" (Matt. 24:15-16). In all probability, the Jewish people will bolt, having mistrusted the Antichrist right along. (Some teach that the Israeli leaders will accept him as a Messiah when he first comes. I do not believe they are that credulous. Having had bitter experience with false Messiahs in the past, they are far more careful than that. And after all, when the real Messiah presented Himself, they largely did not accept Him either.)
To continue our schedule of Tribulation-period events, we have the mobilization of the world's armies, and particularly that of the King of the East and his force of 200-million men-at-arms, according to Revelation 9:16. It seems that the second half of the Tribulation is devoted to preparing for Armageddon, the world having heard enough of the Antichrist's peace plans. Perhaps when the Israelis bolt, the Chinese and the others who are watching come to the conclusion that the Antichrist is not God after all, but is actually quite vulnerable. Since he controlled the world, then those who defeat him might control the world as well. And so the fight commences as the King of the East's army literally marches to Armageddon, robbing, raping and pillaging as they go through the eastern hemisphere.
Where does a 200-million-man army march? Anywhere it likes. And so the Antichrist's forces from western Europe and theater nations designated as the King of the North and the King of the South, arm to meet this invader in that quiet, level valley in Israel surrounding the hill "called in the Hebrew tongue Har Megiddo (Armageddon)" (Rev. 16:16). The rest of the Tribulation period is the story of battles at Armageddon and Jerusalem, about which the Lord sadly observed, "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved" (Matt. 24:22).
The Lord's arrival at this point is, of course, the Second Coming, which initiates the thousand- year Kingdom in Israel. His first act is to judge the nations of the earth as to whether they are sheep or goats; that is, whether each citizen had a saving faith or not. He sets up a throne of judgment and utilizes as His standard - and note again here the importance of Israel - "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). Most intensively "my brethren" refers to the Jewish people, or at least to the 144,000 "of all the tribes of the children of Israel" of Revelation 7:4. Outlawed, they still testified of Christ in the world, despite the Antichrist's reign, and those who helped them, fed them, clothed them, visited them in prison, as the passage urges, demonstrate that they are sheep. Those who did not help them are goats and are bound with Satan for the duration of the thousand-year Kingdom.
If churches today who care little about Israel were put to the test of these Tribulation-period believers, one wonders if they would qualify as sheep under the Lord's standards. One can only hope that believers in this age of relative freedom, prevalence of Bibles in many translations, and no Antichrist in power to contend with, would at a minimum be able to meet the test of the Tribulation period believers.
When the sheep have joined with the Old Testament saints and the church, the Kingdom has its population and it begins in earnest. It will last a thousand years, and while there will be some sin and some mischief in the world, it will be an upside-down society compared with what we have today. To believe in the King, who may be seen in Jerusalem from year to year, at least on the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16-19), will be the choice of the vast majority of the world. The unbelievers in the Kingdom (the descendants of those who survived the Tribulation in their natural bodies and came directly to the Kingdom - the children of the "sheep," as it were), will be as those born of Adam. They will have a choice between belief and unbelief, but those who choose the latter will be bound by the onerous laws of the Sermon on the Mount: "If thy right eye offend thee . . . if thy right hand offend thee . . ." (Matt. 5:29-30). It is at that time that the meek shall inherit the earth, and those who mourn will rejoice.
With that summation of upcoming events, we can begin to consider Israel as we see it today: as a harbinger of prophetic fulfillment.
Writing about Israel at any given time is very difficult because that nation is in a constant state of change. Anyone who has visited the place will testify to the almost electrifying atmosphere in the streets, and the sense of spiritual forces, potential physical danger, and unmitigated energy that simply permeate the air in that unique place.
After thinking about this chapter for a full year and collecting notes, I realize that a book could well be written, rather than just a chapter, on this particular year in Israel. Three events, especially, seem to stand out as regarding prophecy. They are the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin; the sudden acceleration of terrorism in the spring of 1996; and the election of Binyamin Netanyahu, which seemed to surprise everyone but those familiar with the Israeli population and their concerns.
(The global news-media bias against Israel and in favor of various Arab schemes and causes has given many people a false picture of the Holy Land. The Arabs, 200 million in number, are cast as the underdog to the 4-1/2 million Israelis; and the Palestinians, the perpetrators of terrorism, are considered the victims in the press and electronic coverage. With the media, the U.S. administration, and almost everyone else rooting for Prime Minister Shimon Peres and the "peace process," the world was shocked when the Israeli population elected Netanyahu.
But this was easy to understand from the streets of Israel. The population was simply worried about giving away land to people who seemed to have no intention of making peace. The media was dishonest enough to call the election "razor-thin" and "hairline," when actually the Jewish vote put Netanyahu ahead 56% to 44%. The vote of the Israeli Arabs, a monolithic one in favor of Peres, made the election seem close in the pure numbers, but ought not to be taken seriously as valid balloting in a democracy. No Arab nation is now, or has ever been, a democracy, and Arab people pretty much vote as a bloc or as they are told to vote.)
Regarding the first of the history-making events of the past year, the Rabin assassination, I looked back at our ministry's coverage of that event. We were certainly asked a host of questions about what really happened and how we felt about it. I devoted my December 1995 personal letter to responding to those questions.
At this time, looking back on the assassination, it has seemed to militate toward the End Times in a very direct way. We might describe the subsequent chain of events as follows: Peres takes over the government and accelerates the peace process; the people of Israel polarize and the "right wing" is accused of causing the assassination; the Palestinians also divide, with those not in favor of the peace process heightening their terrorist activities; the bombing of buses in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv causes a majority of the Jewish population to swing toward the right; Netanyahu wins the election.
At the time of this writing, there is an uneasy silence in Israel, with both sides (the Israelis and the Palestinians) waiting to see what the policies of the new government really will be. The way in which this militates toward the Tribulation period is that the policies Netanyahu chooses to embrace could have the potential to bring on real conflict - a true shooting war. That is, if he refuses to go ahead with the peace process, the Palestinians will sooner or later escalate the terrorism until life in Israel becomes unbearable. They might also consider that they have enough of an excuse to attack Israel, with the help of Syria or whomever, and they would most likely have world opinion on their side.
World opinion is created by the aforementioned media bias, which is invariably anti-Israel these days.
If, on the other hand, Netanyahu goes ahead with the peace process and step-by-step gives Israel over to the Palestinians, the Israelis would find themselves on a relatively narrow coastal strip facing the populous West Bank high ground in the center of the country. The Palestinians would then be in a position to launch an attack against a much smaller Israel, which the Israelis might choose to repulse with nuclear weaponry.
Thus, in either case, the so-called peace process leads ultimately to war. Or then again, it might lead to the brink of war, giving the Antichrist his cue to enter the negotiations with his own "superior" peace plan. One can imagine the beleaguered Israelis, realizing that the use of nuclear materials in so small a space would be almost as dangerous to themselves as to their enemy, contemplating what to do and glad to have an alternative of a seven-year peace plan.
I am purely speculating on the scenario that will bring the Antichrist on stage at last, but the peace process in Israel is extremely suggestive of the administration of the Antichrist. It bears all his characteristics: it is anti-Israeli, it is a false peace, and it leads ultimately to war.
I have touched on the media bias that has given Israel an undeservedly bad reputation in the minds of today's generation. We must bear in mind that most of the people alive today did not witness the founding of Israel, nor did they live as adults through the period when a young and brave Israel of kibbutzim and defensive wars sustained itself and grew into the nation it is today. Rather, university-age students and even Baby Boomers are conscious only of a strong Israel and its opposition to the Arabs. That unfortunate opposition means that petro-dollars and Israel are on opposite sides of an ongoing debate.
Should we support our sister democracy with whatever blemishes it may have, or should we favor the Arabs and maintain an inexpensive, steady flow of oil to run our civilization? The media, like any other business, give their best customers the most courtesy, and they are utterly ruled by oil money. The advertising of cars, plastics, gasoline, cosmetics, and a thousand other petroleum products, supports the for-profit media enterprises we mistakenly assume are neutral in their reportage. Obviously, they follow an invariably pro-oil-money line. The Arabs have even gone so far as to purchase certain news agencies, including the United Press International, in order to more effectively manage the news we get.
I have personally had the experience of speaking to newspaper editors who would not even correct misreported facts in Arab-released news; they simply accused me of bias. I pointed out to the foreign editor of the Dallas Morning News that the paper had reported violence in Manger Square in Bethlehem in December 1994, while my tour group, which stood in the square the whole evening, had seen no violence whatsoever. I also commented that the Morning News was running an Arab news release from Cairo, and they might want to correct their errors. I was told that the editor understood my bias. I replied that it was not a matter of bias but of eyewitness testimony, and that the Morning News was not reporting the facts. I asked if, since they had an Arab writer, did they perhaps have any Jewish editors to look at the copy and see if it was at least accurate. To that, the editor answered, "I consider that a racist question."
David Bar-Illan, executive editor of the Jerusalem Post, reported that the New York Times, "the newspaper of record," reported an influx of 200,000 Palestinians from Kuwait into Gaza during the Persian Gulf War. Nothing of the kind happened at all, but that august newspaper refused to print a retraction or even look into the matter, and this important misinformation is now there to be read by future generations as presumably a reason why the Palestinians needed more land. The news on television networks is equally biased. I personally find very repugnant the reportage of Mike Wallace, Robert Novak, Anthony Lewis, Thomas Friedman and Bob Simon. They can all be counted on to criticize Israel virtually 100% of the time. They are also all Jews, though they might not like that fact to be generally known.
Jerusalem is a particular bone of contention right now, and that is how the prophets portrayed it in the End Times. Jerusalem is the most wonderful city in the world, not only in its beauty, but also in its significance. The prophets picture the Millennial House of the Lord there on Mount Moriah, where the old temples of God once stood.
The book of Revelation also continues the career of Jerusalem beyond the kingdom and into eternity: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:1-2).
But Zechariah also chronicles tougher times for Jerusalem before all that good news, and I'm afraid we are now living in that turbulent period. "And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" (Zech. 12:3). This is a case where what once was a prophecy to be interpreted, is now daily news that anyone can see. Jerusalem and, indeed, all of Israel are becoming the center of the earth and the focus of all nations. The current peace process, which is still on track even after the recent assassination, prophetically will lead to that "covenant with death and hell" (Isaiah 28:15) warned about in prophetic Scripture. The Antichrist will eventually arrive with his seven-year treaty, and that will be the beginning of the end.
An ironic and rather sad feature of the worldwide notoriety of Jerusalem and Israel is that a major part of the church, the body of believers who will live there during the coming thousand-year kingdom, is largely oblivious to the significance of ongoing events. The denominational churches see nothing of spiritual import going on in Israel. Only Bible readers are aware of the repercussions of recent events.
Indeed, Israel attracts violent reactions the way a lightning rod attracts lightning, and that is in keeping with prophecy. Practically the whole world is unified in its desire to force Israel to bow to this awful "peace process," and this shows the widespread lack of understanding of the times. False peace will be the theme of the coming Tribulation period, and we have obviously entered an era of false peace today. Yitzhak Rabin was a fine gentleman and a good soldier, but the peace agreement he set in motion will not last because it is not God's peace in God's timing. Ultimately, all the world's peacemaking will be done by that "Dark Prince," of whom Daniel, the clear-eyed forecaster of the End Times, remarks, "He shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many" (Dan. 8:25). Our times parallel such warnings in Scripture as those who cry "peace, peace; when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14), and "for when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape" (I Thes. 5:3).
In the interviews that our ministry collected in Israel for our Jerusalem 3000 television series, a number of spokesmen - believers and unbelievers, Jews and Palestinians - clarified all of the above. It is obvious from all that they told us that virtually no one believes in this "peace process" with all his heart. But according to their various motives, it is a means to an end for the Palestinians - the end of Israel - and for the Israelis it is a hope for the end of terrorism. For the American government, it is good PR, and for the United Nations, a sort of victory. For those who are Biblically informed, it is the end of the age.
Obviously, Jerusalem will remain in contention for some time to come. At the time of this writing, the Netanyahu government has ordered all Palestinian offices in Jerusalem to be dismantled, in accordance with the Oslo agreements. The Palestinians were never authorized to place government offices in the Jewish capital, but they did so anyway; and the Peres government, despite many well-publicized threats, never closed these offices. I, myself, with my TV crew interviewed Faisal Husseini, the "Palestinian Representative for Jerusalem," in the Orient House, an Arab mansion dating from the past century that had been refurbished as a Palestinian governmental headquarters for receiving foreign dignitaries, many of whom have visited. I counted 25 "plainclothesmen" (thugs in jeans and T-shirts) surrounding the building and in the streets on all sides. For me, seeing such an ominous personality as Husseini seated in state in such surroundings felt like an eerie prediction of the Antichrist entering the Temple and declaring that he is the God of Israel!
Israel, the Churches, and the Seminaries Besides the media bias, there is a kind of theological bias against Israel going on in churches and seminaries today. The liberal churches have always been a lost cause so far as biblical study is concerned, and they, of course, are blissfully unaware of the relevance of Israel in prophecy, or of prophecy in general, for that matter. But I refer to Biblically-based churches and seminaries, who over time have seemed to change positions concerning Israel. Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, and most of the other biblical seminaries admired the Israelis when they were heroes in the media in the great days of the Six Day War and the kibbutzim and so forth. But as the media bias turned against the Israelis, so it seemed did the seminaries and even some Bible churches. As I put it recently during a speaking engagement, my ministry started out explaining Israel to Christians, and now I'm having to defend Israel to Christians.
In reality, the Israelis have not changed, but some peculiar anti-Israel theologies have come down the road. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). If we are to expect teachers who will just tickle the ears, we have plenty now.
The ultimate scriptural error is replacement theology, which seeks to establish that the church has replaced Israel. This is the reason for the departure of all of the liberal churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, from sound biblical understanding. It is madness to try to replace Israel in the Scriptures with a miscellaneous group of Gentile peoples scattered around the globe. If the church has replaced Israel in all of God's promises and covenants, then Israel no longer has a role in God's future plan. This would make nonsense out of such Bible passages as Romans 11:25-26, which states "that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved." If Israel is out of the picture, that verse should read "and so all the church shall be saved," which would be ludicrous because the church is composed of people who are already saved.
The original replacement theology was Islam, which sought to replace both Judaism and Christianity and thus take over the religious world. As a matter of fact, that statement should not be in the past tense, since that process is still going on with the Moslems. But in the Western world, we should be more alert than to put our Bibles away and follow in error some pastor or professor with anti-Israel or simply anti-Semitic biases. We will not take space here to analyze a bunch of odd doctrines, but will simply say that the Antichrist's religion is the final replacement theology. It will seek to dominate the entire religious and secular world, and even replace Almighty God Himself! Such contemporary doctrinal errors as "Kingdom Now," in which we need to elect the right officials in order to bring in the Kingdom by human endeavor, and "Progressive Dispensationalism," a teaching that mixes up the Church Age and the Millennial Kingdom, are ways of simply cutting Israel out of the picture and thus making the whole Bible nonsense.
The fact is, God chose one people, Israel, and has dealt through them since Abraham and will continue that dealing through them in the future. Thus when we read of the building of the Tower of Babel and the godless ways of mankind early on in Genesis, in the same chapter we see Terah and the birth of his son Abram. God's solution to mankind's apostasy seems to be the invention of a single people through whom all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3). He continued to deal with them through the long period of the Old Testament adventures until the coming of the Messiah, a Jew, who chose twelve Jewish disciples and twelve Jewish apostles. And likewise, as we have seen, He will choose again from among the Jews in order to have testifiers to Christ in the Tribulation period to come, namely the 144,000. If we interrupt that elegant design of four millennia with the idea that some global Gentile organization will take this mantle upon itself, we obviously interrupt a plan of great magnitude. When we teach that we can bring on the Kingdom ourselves without prayer or reference to Israeli affairs, as in Kingdom Now doctrines, we simply depart from God's plan. When we teach that Christ is already ruling in the Kingdom at this time (even though the Messiah Himself entreats us to pray "Thy Kingdom come"), we confuse dispensations. We are not exactly getting the cart before the horse, but we are putting the horse inside the cart and cannot move forward. Bringing the Kingdom into the Church Age, as Progressive Dispensationalism does, goes in the direction of Amillennialism, a doctrine that utterly denies the thousand-year Kingdom in Israel.
The Bible is basically the story of one people, the Jewish people. All of its writers cover-to-cover are Jews, Old Testament and New. The Messiah is a full-blooded Israeli Jew whose genealogies on both sides are presented in Scripture. (To show the extremes to which Islam seeks to replace Judaism and Christianity, consider Yassir Arafat's claiming that Jesus was "the first Palestinian revolutionary." He made this extraordinary statement in Bethlehem in December 1995 as the birthplace of Jesus Christ was calmly handed over to Moslems while the worldwide church remained asleep. Or consider the amazing claim by Hanan Ashrawi (a member of Arafat's cabinet) on The MacNeil-Lehrer Report that "Jesus Christ was a Palestinian prophet born in Bethlehem in my country." When Ms. Ashrawi, who claimed to be descended from the first Christians, was told that the original Christians were all Jews and that Jews never turn into Arabs, she was a bit confused; but this did not prevent her from being celebrated by the Episcopalian Church as a good Anglican in an article in their publication. Such muddling of theological doctrine and historical fact will play into the hands of the Antichrist, who will ultimately make the most fantastic of all claims, as we have mentioned. We are receiving a great deal of practice at believing total spiritual nonsense.
The problem with writing about prophecy is that one is not really a biblical prophet and can only speculate about world events. Israel indeed is a lightning rod for more than prophetic developments; it seems that the whole world is focused on that very tiny nation. The North Koreans mutter that something must be done about Israel, although it is doubtful that many of them could find it on a map. In Japan, where there are virtually no Jews, the Jews are blamed for problems with the economy. And on it goes. Indeed, Israel is the center of the nations, and in the Kingdom it will take its prophetic place as the head of the nations (Zech. 8:20-23).
But to recap what I have said about Israel in prophecy, I believe that the present climate of a false peace process will lead us down one of several possible roads to a Tribulation period situation. As to when this could happen, it is difficult to say; but in view of the very complete fulfillment of all of the Lord's prophecies in Matthew 24, the Olivet discourse, we could hardly expect so tense a situation to continue for, say, another 50 years. World attention tends to shift from place to place, and since it is currently on Israel, I cannot help having the feeling that this would be an elegant moment to conclude this age. Everything seems to be in the right place except for the entrance of the Antichrist with his peace covenant of seven years. It is hard to think of any other piece of the prophecy puzzle that is not either in position for the End Times, or on the verge so that it could rapidly fall into place.
Thus, I think that the Antichrist is alive today and mature, and calculating his entrance. And I think that the present climate of concern over the peace process can lead us very directly to that day of an offered contract that will start the Tribulation period.