Let me start by wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year right off the bat, because I know that I will lose some of you the moment I reveal the subject I am writing about this year. Many people wonder where America fits in the events that will occur before the promised return of Jesus. Yes, I am talking about that Armageddon stuff, but more specifically, the events leading up to that time.

Still here? I have no intention of tackling any of the more controversial topics, such as the name of the Beast (666), who the anti-Christ might be, or the exact time the seven years of tribulation will begin. Jesus told us that only God can know the exact time, but he also said that by watching for the signs we will be able to know when that time draws near. My concern is where our nation will be when those events begin.

Holiday Inn sign

Unfortunately, like most subjects from the pages of the Bible, many people have already been influenced by Hollywood, false teachers, and cliches about the unreliability of God’s Word that get passed around like a bad cold in winter. I am not an authority on either the Bible or the subject I am tackling here, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. And, I have read and studied the Bible for many years. Except for one of its books that I have only read once.

I have to believe that Song of Solomon was God’s gift to women. Although I have never read any romance novels that many women appreciate, I have to think that Song of Solomon would also appeal to that same audience. Obviously, because I haven’t read any of those books, I could be very wrong about this. But, I won’t be reading any to find out, and I can promise that it won’t be the topic of any future letters that I may write.

Many people believe that Revelation, the Bible’s last book, and a few words by Jesus that are recorded in other books of the New Testament, are the only source of God’s prophecies concerning Israel and the end times, but this is not true. They can be found in 17 books of the Old Testament as well. About one third of the Bible is related to prophecy and all of those prophesies have either been correctly fulfilled or they will be.

It is also often said that because the book of Revelation is an apocryphal type of writing it cannot be reliably understood. Although there are some difficult passages and many symbols are used, such as the “seven stars,” and the “seven golden lamp stands,” their meaning is revealed shortly after. In this case, the seven stars are angels or messengers and the lamp stands are churches.

We learn from Revelation that the seven years of tribulation will occur before the second coming of Jesus and that the battle of Armageddon will then take place. During this time the rapture will occur, which is when those who have put their faith in Christ will be miraculously taken from this world. Some people doubt this event and wrongly argue that the word “rapture” does not even occur in the Bible. The New Testament was written in Greek and the word used in Thessalonians for “caught up” is “harpazo” but the Bible was later translated to Latin, the Latin Vulgate, and the word used there is “raptus” which became “rapture” in English.

“According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17

There is disagreement about whether the rapture will occur before the tribulation or at the end or even in the middle. I guess we will just have to wait. Now, let me get to the heart of why I am writing to you, which is, can we know when the tribulation will occur and, more importantly, if it should happen during your lifetime, what must you do to ensure that you will partake in the rapture? I considered saying, “not left behind,” but I don’t want to associate myself in any way with the “Left Behind” movies and books that are, quite frankly, more Hollywood than scriptural.

For 2,000 years people have tried to predict when the tribulation will occur, but one piece has always been missing. That piece fell into place in 1948 when Israel became a nation. To understand what is happening now in the middle east, we must first understand its past. Just like America’s current problem with Muslim terrorists, it is more than a political issue, it is deeply religious, and to choose the wrong side is to find yourself going against God. The story begins about 4,000 years ago when God chose a Gentile (non-Jew) to establish the Jewish community in Hebron.

         “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
         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.
         I will bless those who bless you,
            and whoever curses you I will curse;
         and all peoples on earth
            will be blessed through you.’
         So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.”                                            
Genesis 12: 1-5

Abram was 75 years old and his wife Sarai was 65 when God promised she would bear a child. Now, we need to jump ahead 10 years. It is a long scripture but I believe it can be helpful in understanding future events.

         “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 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. 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. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
        When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.’
        Your servant is in your hands,’ Abram said. ‘Do with her whatever you think best.’ Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
        The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’
        ‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered.
        Then the angel of the Lord told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”
       The angel of the Lord also said to her:
         ‘You are now with child
            and you will have a son.
         You shall name him Ishmael,
            for the Lord has heard of your misery.
         He will be a wild donkey of a man;
            his hand will be against everyone
            and everyone’s hand against him,
         and he will live in hostility
            toward all his brothers.’…
         … ‘So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.”
Genesis 16: 1-12, 15-16

The significance of the above scripture is that Abram and Sarai did not trust the Lord to fulfill his promise. Because ten years had gone by and Sarai had not conceived, they took the matter into their own hands. It was not uncommon in Biblical times for a barren woman to “bear” children to carry on the family line by using a maidservant, and those children had the same legal rights as children born of both parents. This act created a problem that we still have today because Ishmael became the father of the Arab nations. I should also point out that when Sarai died, Abram bought the cave of Machpelah in Canaan (Hebron, Israel) from Ephron the Hittite. This is where the Muslim shrine, the Mosque of Abraham, is located today. Abram and Sarai, along with their son Isaac and their grandson Jacob, are all believed to be buried below the Mosque. Genesis chapter 25 tells us that Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, but gave gifts to the sons of his concubines (Hagar & Keturah) and sent them away to the east. God kept his promise to Hagar, and her son Ishmael had twelve sons who became chieftains of tribes in Arabia.

         “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’
         Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
Genesis 17: 1-8

The above scripture is known as the Abrahamic covenant. The land of Canaan is the land that the Israelis and the Arabs are fighting over today. I have used quite a bit of scripture because I wanted to show that the land that was given by God to Abraham was first recorded in the book of Genesis that was written by Moses in approximately 1,400 B.C. Even if someone doesn’t believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, many historical facts have been verified by archeological discoveries in the middle east over the past 200 years that show evidence that the Jews lived there at the times recorded in the Bible.

         The plot thickens. Sarah (God changed her name from Sarai) bore Abraham a son named Issac, who had a son named Jacob. Jacob had a twin brother, Esau, who was born just before him, but Esau later sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. The descendants of Esau, the Edomites, are the Palestinians of today.

God renewed the promises he had made Abraham to Isaac and Jacob and to their decendants, but because of the disobedience of the Israelites, God banished them from the land three times. All three times had been foretold in scripture.

         The first time, the Israelites were in Egypt for 400 years and, of course, everyone knows how God performed great miracles to bring his people back to the promised land. Not as many people are aware of the fact that they were banished again during the time of the Babylonian Empire.

         Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Therefore this is what the Lord says: I am about to hand this city over to the Babylonians and to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will capture it.”
Jeremiah 32: 26-28

         But, God said that he would bring them back.

         “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”
Jeremiah 32: 37-38

         Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple in Israel that had been built by King Solomon, the son of King David, and dispersed the Isrealites. But, 70 years later, as predicted, during the reign of the Persian King Cyrus, God brought them back to Israel as he said he would. Then, the second Temple was built and it was later restored by King Herod the Great, about the time Jesus was born.

         Let me back up a little here. 3,000 years ago King David, the second king of Israel, captured from the Jebusites what is now the city of Jerusalem and built the City of David, which was just below the area known as the “Temple Mount.” He brought the Ark of the Covenant (think Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) back to the City of David where it was kept until after his son, King Solomon, built the first Jewish temple on the Temple Mount. King Solomon brought the Ark into the section of the temple known as the “holy of holies.”

         At this location today can be found the al-Asqa Mosque (Mosque of Abraham) and a Muslim shrine known as the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock sits on the same spot where both the first and second Jewish temples were located. This is the same spot where Abraham demonstrated his faith in the Lord when he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, but was stopped by an angel of the Lord.

         In about 33 A.D. Jesus predicted that the second Jewish temple, King Herod’s temple, would be totally destroyed. That happened in 70 A.D. under the Roman Titus and the Jews were scattered among other nations. This happened just as Moses had warned, as recorded in Deuteronomy. God said that he would bring his people back, but unlike the previous two times that the Jews had been sent away, this time it would be almost 2,000 years before they would return to the land that God had promised them. The Jewish people returned from 108 nations and became the State of Israel on       May 14, 1948.

         “Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other.”
Deuteronomy 28: 64

         “… I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.”
Ezekiel 34: 12-13

         There are over 200 settlements in Israel and the Palestinians want them all to be disbanded. I think that now would be a good opportunity to put a time line on some of the major events regarding this land of Canaan, which is only about the size of New Jersey. It won’t be perfect, but I’ll try to keep it as accurate as I can.

         God gave the land to Abraham approximately 4,000 years ago. The Exodus, when the Jews left Egypt and returned to Canaan after 40 years in the desert was approximately 1,400 B.C.

         King Solomon completed the first Temple in approximately 960 B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and the Jews were taken into captivity for 70 years. After their return, the second temple was built.

         In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed that temple and this began the third displacement of the Israelites. Since then, something remarkable has occurred. The Jews, unlike any other group of people in history that have been taken into captivity for an extended period of time, have retained their national identity.

         Palestinians claim that the Jews have occupied land that they (the Palestinians) have held for hundreds of years, but that doesn’t agree with historical facts. And, they would be hard pressed to produce any record of a Palestinian government from that time period.

         We know that from the early seventh century until about 1100 the land known today as Palestine was ruled by Arabs. For 200 years after that it was controlled by Christians (think Crusades) and then by the Mamluks (Muslims) until 1516. From 1517 to 1917 it was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and from 1917 until 1948 it was under British rule.

         In 1867 Mark Twain (Samuel Clemons) wrote the following in, “Innocents Abroad,” regarding his trip to the land of Israel:
         It is a desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds–a silent mournful expanse… We never saw a human being on the whole route… there was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere.”

         This was the condition of the land until the Jews started to settle there around the end of the 19th century. The change from barren to fertile land in Israel is a fulfillment of a prophecy from Ezekiel. Although only 20% of the land area in Israel is naturally conducive to agriculture, Israel produces 95% of its own food and is a major exporter of fresh produce. This is a fulfillment of what God said when he “spoke to the mountains.”

         “But you, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of men and animals upon you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the Lord. I will cause people, my people Israel, to walk upon you. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance; you will never again deprive them of their children.”
Ezekiel 36: 8-12

         On November 27, 1949, the United Nation’s plan to give one portion of the land to Israel and another to the Palestinians was rejected by the Palestinians and they still reject any two-state proposal. What many people don’t realize is that the Palestinians are only pawns used by the Arab nations who seek the total annihilation of Israel. At least two major terrorist groups are currently targeting Israel. Hezbollah, in Lebanon, supported by Syria and Iran, now has 40,000 rockets pointed at Israel. In Gaza, Hamas has fired 4,000 rockets into Israel since 2006 alone.

         Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, “Militant Islam rejects any territorial or political solution. It wants the dissolution of the State of Israel. And this is the problem; this is the source of the problem. This is why it’s becoming so dangerous, because how can you negotiate with someone who wants your destruction?

         There can be no peace in the middle east. To Muslim fundamentalists the basis for this war stems from a deep rooted belief in the teachings of Mohammed and the Koran. It is time for our politically correct government and mainstream news media to stop pretending that these religious zealots make up only a handful of Muslims. It is estimated that they comprise approximately 10% of all Muslims, and 10% of one and a half billion equals 150 million Muslims who want to see the destruction, not only of Israel, but of the United States as well. Their ultimate goal is a worldwide caliphate (a government under the rule of an Islamic leader) with everyone under Sharia law (code of law derived from the Koran.) Something few non-Muslims are aware of is that they also are expecting a Messiah. Many Muslims believe that their Messiah, the Mahdi, will set up this world government from… the Temple Mount.

         If the Muslims were to choose peace and destroy all their weapons today, there would be peace, but that can never happen. It is a tenant of Islam that once a land is under the rule of Islam, but then liberated, it is the sacred duty of all Muslims to never rest until that land has been reclaimed by the house of Islam. If, on the other hand, the Jews were to destroy their weapons today, by tomorrow they would all be dead. The only solution is for Jesus to return, and before that can happen there will be the rapture of the saints and the seven years of tribulation. I use the word “saints” in the Biblical sense, meaning all Christians, those who the Bible refer to as, “in Christ.”

         We know from the Bible which nations will attack Israel. Who those nations are can be determined by their geographical location in relation to the nations that are given in the Bible.

         From Ezekiel 38, we know that Magog is Russia today. Meshech, Tubol, Gomer and Togarmah are Turkey. Persia is Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Cush is Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan. Put is Libya.

         From Psalm 83, we know that the Ismaelites (the descendants of Ishmael) are now Saudia Arabia and Tyre is Lebanon.

         From Daniel 11, we know that the king of the north is Syria and the king of the south is Egypt.

         And, where does America fit in? Well, the past two years have seen a major change in our foreign policy concerning the middle east. The present administration has refused to sell weapons that had been promised to Israel.

         Unreasonable demands have been made on Israel and sanctioned by our government, including zero population growth, which requires someone to leave Israel if a child is born. And, president Obama bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia says a lot about where he stands. I can’t see America lifting a hand to defend Israel when the big battle begins. Can you?

         The good news is that all that matters is where you stand and if you are still with me, I’d like to add to that. This is a little “deep” but, if I can get it, so can you.

         “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
John 11: 25-26

         In that scripture, Jesus is telling Martha a deep truth. He is saying that those who believe in him who die before his return will be raised, and those who believe in Jesus that are still alive at that time will not have to die, “will never die.” This next scripture by the apostle Paul is a little tougher. Note that in this scripture “sleep” means to die.

         “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
     “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
     “Where, O death, is your victory?
      Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15: 50-55

         The bodies of those who are already dead, but “in Christ,” (born again Christians) are the perishable, and the mortals are those who are still alive and “in Christ.” What this all comes down to is the purpose for this letter. No one but God knows the time the tribulation will begin. No one but God knows if we will be here at that time, or will have already passed on. The only way to be sure that we will spend eternity with our creator is, as the Bible tells us, to be born again.

         All it requires to make that change in your life from mortal to immortal is to admit that you are a sinner and that you can do nothing to earn your salvation. You need to put your trust in the one who has paid your sin debt by dying for you on the cross, and ask him to come into your life. If you haven’t already done so, we ask that you make Jesus your Lord and Savior this Christmas, so you can also say,
         “Where, O death, is your victory?
            Where, O death, is your sting?”


                  Robert J Rani                                                                                  Mike & Sheri Rani 


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