To Clarify (from Sunday Feb 5)

On Sunday, February 5th during the sermon on Isaiah 55:6, I mentioned something the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the previous week. On Friday, February 3rd, several news sources ran articles citing Panetta as saying there was a high probability Israel would strike Iran’s nuclear facilities in the Spring of this year, April, May, or June.

I went on to say that IF Israel did stage such a strike, Iran would most certainly retaliate by attacking Israel within a few months. Such a retaliatory strike would in all likelihood be the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 & 39. I went on to say that many Bible students, myself among them, believe that the Rapture of the Church will be concurrent with the events of Ezekiel 38.  Following the Rapture is the Tribulation, which no one wants to be around for. All of this was meant to be illustrative of what Isaiah 55:6 says; “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.”

I need to clarify my remarks.

Leon Panetta is not someone given to wild or fanciful remarks. As a former director of the CIA and now the Secretary of Defense, his remarks are measured and careful. When he says something in public, we’re hearing the official position of the US Administration. So when Panetta says there’s a high probability Israel will strike Iran’s nuclear facilities in the Spring—there’s a high probability Israel will make a move against Iran’s nuclear facilities soon. And Panetta is saying so for some military or political advantage. What that is isn’t clear; but that is certainly the reason for the announcement.

Interesting that the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khamenei, also gave a speech last week. He renewed his oft stated threats against Israel. The speech was aimed at countering the sanctions the US has installed on Iran in an attempt to halt their nuclear program. In a typically fiery speech, Khamenei said all the sanctions would do was teach Iran self-reliance and renew their commitment to their nuclear program. During the speech, the Ayatollah repeated the call to remove the “cancerous tumor” of Israel and vowed to assist all those who worked to do so.

While world events are highly fluid and no one can predict with certainty what will occur or when, Panetta’s remarks, along with recent comments by political and military leaders in Israel, and Iran’s nuclear posturing present a pattern for how Ezekiel 38 could unfold.

That an Iran-Russia coalition attacks Israel in the end times is a certainty because Ezekiel 38 says so. Would retaliation for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities necessarily BE that foretold invasion? No. What if Russia joined Iran in that retaliation? Even then, there’s the possibility that it wasn’t THE fulfillment of  Ezekiel 38.  But, is that likely? Hardly. Here’s why …
Ezekiel 38 and 39 are all a set-piece prophetic picture that begins in chapter 36. The prophet foretells Israel’s being regathered out of the nations back into her land and rising to amazing prosperity out of crushing poverty.  The Iran-Russia led coalition described in Ezekiel 38 is said to attack that Israel; the one that’s been brought back from being dispersed among the nations and has turned the wilderness into lush fields. The time of all this is described as being “after many days … in the latter years.” (Ezekiel 38:7-9)

The current political scene is the first time in recorded history when Iran and Russia have been politically close. Until the last few decades, they were hostile toward  each other. But now the alignments are poised for the nations listed in Ezekiel 38 that form the coalition that attacks Israel to do so. Turkey is the last hold-out and is swiftly moving toward an alignment with Iran.

The point is this—Is it possible the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 and 39 could yet be decades out? Yes. But in light of the current world political situation, is that likely? No. If Iran retaliates for an Israeli attack on their nuclear facilities and Russia joins them, does that have to mean it’s a fulfillment of Ezekiel 38? No. But holding to a literal interpretation of Scripture, and understanding prophecy is a “normal” sense, is it reasonable to assume that such a retaliation by a Iran-Russia alliance is indeed the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy? Certainly!

In my opinion, the more significant issue is if the Rapture and Ezekiel 38 are concurrent. That is where far more potential for getting it wrong lies.

Here’s why some Bible students see the Rapture as taking place at the same times as the Iranian-Russian led coalition attacks Israel.

1) God’s redemptive focus is now on the Church. But according to Daniel 9, we understand God will shift that focus back to the geopolitical nation of Israel at some point for a final 7 year period. Since God has promised to never leave nor forsake the Church, He will Rapture them before turning His redemptive focus back to the Jews and Israel. Part of what happens in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is that when the invaders are miraculously wiped out, Israel is dramatically confronted with the realization God is real and they begin to turn to Him. It makes sense that this is the point His redemptive focus turns back to them; so the Rapture.

2) The Rapture is going to be a global phenomenon that sees millions of people disappear. If it were to occur right now while everything else was normal, it would deal a serious blow to the global consciousness. But if it occurred during a limited nuclear war in the Middle East that involved Russia and say, the United States – the world would be reeling from the political, military and economic fallout, to say nothing of the radioactive fallout. The Middle East Oil supplies would grind to a halt. The chaos would be global. The Rapture, as devastating as it was, would be just part of the blow to the Planet, and seemingly minor compared to the war in the Middle East. In 38:21, God says in judging the invaders of Israel, that He “calls for a sword against” them. This phrase is used in the Bible for when God uses one nation to judge another. What nation, an ally of Israel, has the capacity to oppose the massive coalition Ezekiel describes that attacks Israel in the end times? The US.

Going with this as the potential play out of Ezekiel 38, Russia, the US, and the radical Muslim states of the Middle East are removed from the scene as the Tribulation begins. The world is reeling, which provides the perfect stage for someone with amazing answers & and solutions to step forward with his agenda. Let me introduce to you the Antichrist. Out of the ashes and chaos he proposes a new political, economic, and religious system—all seen by what’s left of the world as necessary to keep such a disaster from happening again. And so we see what the Bible says constitute the 3 final power centers who move toward Armageddon; Europe, China, and Africa.

Just sayin’ …