Zechariah, the sixth-century B.C. prophet, spoke words that pierce today’s ears in thunderous decibels:
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the peoples round about….
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though…gathered together against it (Zechariah 12:2–3).
Jerusalem is a city as ancient as any still in existence, yet it is as contemporary as today’s front-page headlines. It is destined to become the center of the world’s most volatile geopolitical conflict ever and, ultimately, the precise spot on the planet where God’s own foot will touch down to put an end to man’s genocidal madness.
The beginning of the end of human history is traceable to a general geographical area of the Earth, portions of which the world, in 1991, watched the United Nations Desert Storm coalition forces decimate with unprecedented military might. It has been termed “Mesopotamia” by the geographers and the “Cradle of Civilization” by historians and anthropologists.
According to the Bible, it is the region where the Garden of Eden was home for the first human beings. When Adam and Eve broke fellowship with the Creator by yielding to the serpent’s temptation, the end-time clock began ticking for the present Earth.
The first murder followed, setting in motion the blood-drenched record upon which we now look back. Such dynamics will produce the indescribable carnage and gore that are prophesied to take place during the last seven years of this dying, decaying age.
What Are the Signs?
Apocalypse and Armageddon loom just ahead. But, can we know if those long-talked-about, worried-over events will even come to pass—much less whether they will occur within our own lifetime? Haven’t doomsday prophets for centuries been predicting such things? Most have been saying that those end-time events would occur during their lifetimes. What makes predictors and predictions today any different from then?
Perhaps to begin answering such questions—good ones, at that—inquiries of another kind are in order. Why are you reading this treatment of the subject of the biblically prophesied Apocalypse and all it will entail of the matter of the building of the Third Temple, in particular? Something has piqued your ears, your eyes, your attention.
Why the suddenly increased fascination with things to come—with that once-hazy matter called Armageddon? Something has happened. Something drastic, almost irresistible, calls people to begin looking more seriously at what the immediate future holds for the world.
Jesus found Himself surrounded by a group of people who asked what the signs of His return to Earth and of the end of the world would be. As He always did, Jesus spoke to the heart of the subject with precision and truth, outlining the major signs that would immediately precede the Second Advent.
His followers asked in Matthew 24:3, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world?” Jesus gave them more than they asked for as He answered:
Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in various places.
All these things are the beginning of sorrows.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:4–14)
In these few passages, Jesus swept the entire panorama of world history from His time on Earth forward, using specific word pictures of things in the future. These signs are recorded in God’s Holy Word to be understood by each person of each generation that the prophecies involve. God’s Word has many levels of meaning. However, one must seek to know what is given. We do not simply absorb these truths as a sponge absorbs liquid, nor can we through osmosis assimilate God’s holy ways as a plant draws nutrients.
If we want to know God’s instructions, information, and truth, we must “know” the Bible for ourselves. This “knowing” begins with the heart of the gospel, John 3:16. To know God is to know Jesus Christ.
The Beginning of the End
Each of the signs Jesus expounded upon in the foregoing passages of Scripture are, of course, quite important. However, one sign is crucial to understanding where this generation stands on God’s prophetic timeline. We have been living a part of that sign since 1948, when the nation of Israel was born in a single day—May 14.
Of that time of Israel’s rebirth, Jesus—speaking in parabolic language to His disciples—said:
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. (Matthew 24:32–34)
Jesus was looking through the eras of future man; He spoke to future disciples, the generation that would be alive at the time of His Second Advent. The nation Israel, in symbolic language sometimes used in God’s Word, is likened at times to a fig tree, in that God intended the children of Israel to be fruitful and a blessing to all the world. (See Judges 9:10–11, Joel 1:7–12, and Habakkuk 3:16–17, for example.)
Jesus clearly used the fig tree parable to tell the last generation of believers that the re-establishment of the nation Israel would be a key sign of His nearing Second Advent as well as a sign of the end of the world system. All other signs given by Jesus would accompany this major sign as the end of the age approached. Since Jesus had told of the destruction of Jerusalem and implied the dispersion of the Jewish people just prior to giving the parable of the fig tree, He spoke most pointedly of the time when Israel would be regathered and begin to “shoot forth” its leaves. The golden summer of His millennial reign would be near when this came to pass. His return would be imminent.
First, however, the black winter clouds of Apocalypse would have to storm upon a world gathering to commit collective suicide.
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Possessing the Land
The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the Diaspora and rebirth of God’s chosen nation—the same nation that made the world tremble nervously in anticipation of its reaction to Saddam Hussein’s Scud missile attacks during the first Persian Gulf War.
And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them….
For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. (Ezekiel 36:19, 24)
God’s promises to this beleaguered, precariously perched nation, the nation most prominent in the process of pursuing world peace, are numerous throughout the Scriptures.
Consider the profound assurances given through Moses:
That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and will gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee….
And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it. (Deuteronomy 30:3, 5)
Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she bought forth her children.
Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord. (Isaiah 66:8–9)
The Exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union, since the supposed benevolent institution of glasnost and perestroika, has been staggering. The dissolution of much of Eastern Europe’s communist superstructure has freed many more to migrate to Israel. They have streamed from Ethiopia and from around the globe to the Land of Promise. We are witnesses to God’s promises to Israel in ways unthinkable a few years ago. God is indeed making manifest, through the Jews, His great prophetic truth in this generation!
Dry Bones, Live!
Put yourself in the prophet Ezekiel’s place for a moment. While you do so, consider the things you know about the Jews in the day in which we now live.
Think for a moment on the blowing sands of the Palestinian region and of the empty, desolate places, void of human life for the most part.
Now, remember the stark, black-and-white images of starving, dying people you’ve seen on documentary footage of the death camps called Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthasen, Sachsenhausen, and Treblinka. Remember the trenches, the bulldozers, the skeletal forms beneath loose, pasty-white skin. See again the corpses intermingling and meshing together, rolling over each other as the bulldozers pushed the bodies into the ditch-like common graves.
Recall the scenes of the Allied commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower, as he and his staff walked among the pathetic, stick-like, human figures following the liberation of the concentration camps. See again the German people—robust and well fed, even though bone weary of war. Picture them in your mind’s eye as they held handkerchiefs to their noses, some of them weeping, others retching, and still others trying to leave the lines in which they were forced to walk while viewing the rotting bodies of the dead Jews.
Remember all this as you put yourself, for one moment, in the place of God’s prophet, Ezekiel:
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
And he said unto me, Son of mart, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, 0 ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.
And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, 0 breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. (Ezekiel 37:1–12)
The Nazis would have built their Reich atop ground filled with the dry bones of God’s people of destiny. Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering, Reinhard Heydrich, Martin Bormann, and the other elitist, Aryan monsters of the Third Reich fired the engines of satanic, ideological hatred with the skeletal remains of more than six million of the house of Israel. The Final Solution, once and for all, would have rid the world of the despised Jew. Instead, Hitler’s ashes were scattered in the bloody soil of German shame. The bones of all the other Nazi diabolists are strewn in ignominy…who knows where. Yet, the Jew remains, thrives, and prospers in every facet of life from the arts to industry, medicine, science, and beyond.
God began His chosen nation’s restoration to Palestine nearly a century before the Nazi beast began its genocidal work. Migration, though a trickle at first, began about 1838. The revival of national Jewish life in that land started in earnest in 1878.
Then came the event that distinguishes it as perhaps the most important signal that Apocalypse is near, that Armageddon approaches. Jerusalem was reclaimed for the Jew in precisely the manner the prophet Isaiah had foretold more than 2,700 years earlier: “As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it” (Isaiah 31:5).
In 1917, General Edmund Allenby, commander of occupied Palestine for the British Empire, was ordered to take Jerusalem for the Jews. He found the city in possession of the Turks. To take the city by force meant risking initiation of hostilities that might so inflame the region as to cause a massive conflict to result. Bloodshed could have raised the indignation of the whole world.
Allenby, seeking advice from his government, was told to use his own judgment. He again contacted his superiors, who told him to pray, offering no further counsel in the matter. Allenby then ordered the commander of a fleet of airplanes to fly over Jerusalem. This action so terrified the Turks, who had never seen aircraft, that they surrendered the city without a shot being fired.
Isaiah’s prophecy was thus fulfilled: “As birds flying,” God “delivered” Jerusalem; the city was “‘defended” while aircraft “passed over.”
As a result of this action, the Balfour Declaration was signed on November 2, 1917, recognizing Palestine as the rightful homeland for the Jew. The regathering began to take on new dimensions. So, too, did the ugliness of anti-Semitism.
Hatred for the Jew seemed driven by dynamics that transcended reason, reaching fever pitch in Germany on the evenings of November 9 and 10, 1938. During these “Crystal Nights,” as they have become known, Jewish homes and businesses were ravaged and destroyed, and many Jewish people were brutally assaulted.
Nazi inner-circle members haughtily termed it the “Week of Broken Glass.” Hitler’s plan, taken from the pages of his prison-dictated writings, Mein Kampf, had taken root. The persecution had become full blown.
From the valley of dry bones—the crematorium/gas-chamber hells of Nazi Europe—arose a God-breathed spirit that screamed then and screams still, “Never again!” The crucible of Holocaust tempered a people for the rebirth prophesied almost three millennia earlier.
Modern Israel was born on May 14,1948. The Jews have miraculously prospered. From a people near extinction in 1945, they are today the focal nation of the world. Surely, Israel is the primary sign that God’s prophetic clock approaches the midnight hour.