As the Western world wobbles, rumblings of earthquakes are sending out worrying signals in Israel. The two are connected, I believe.
A quick succession of ’quakes have rocked parts of Galilee, significantly the region where Jesus lived and conducted much of his earth-shaking ministry which changed the world forever.
He warned that his coming again would be preceded by a number of signs including strange weather patterns – in particular an increase in earthquakes comparable to the onset of birth pains on a pregnant woman (Matthew 24.7f). As they become more frequent and severe, we will know his coming is near.
It so happens that a very big one is due in Israel, according to geologists. When a 6.5 magnitude ’quake struck Galilee in 1837, it killed up to 7,000 people.
The prophet Zechariah actually predicts that a devastating ’quake would accompany the return of the Messiah to Jerusalem. So we could be witnessing the closing stages of the present age. Are we ready to face the Judge of all mankind? Are we presiding over righteous laws?
Here in Britain, freedoms won at great cost are being jettisoned in favour of a new intolerance of those who hold the biblical views on which the country’s great institutions were founded.
You couldn’t make it up, but a man was arrested for reading the Bible outside St Paul’s Cathedral (apparently at the instigation of staff there) where, nearly 500 years ago, the Bishop of London burnt copies of the Bible in protest at the effrontery of William Tyndale in daring to translate God’s Word into a language we could all understand (i.e. not Latin). Tyndale was later burnt at the stake, with St Paul’s staff again implicated in this travesty of justice.
The man recently arrested was simply reading aloud the King James Bible, virtually the same as the one for which Tyndale was martyred – 80% of the King James New Testament is Tyndale’s work.
It would seem that this incident is related to a case in Bristol early last year concerning the arrest of a street preacher when a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer told magistrates that publicly quoting from the King James Bible “in the context of modern British society must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter”.
It is against this background that Christian charity Barnabas Fund is campaigning to ‘Turn the Tide’ against the erosion of religious freedom and calling for a new law to protect it.
Before returning from a visit to the capital earlier this week, I picked up a copy of the London Evening Standard and was greeted with the front page headline ‘How do we turn the tide?’ – referring to the latest teenage victim of the violence which has swept the city in recent months.
This is another sign of the end-times. For Jesus also said: “Just as it was in the days of Noah (which were marked by violence), so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” (Luke 17.26)
As the paper launched a special investigation into its causes, they are discovering – surprise, surprise – that its roots lie in what police call adverse child experiences (ACEs). In other words, in the home, which is what many of us have been saying for decades.
The home is the breeding ground either for good or evil, which is why it is so important for legislators to place the welfare of the family above all else. But instead the family is under severe attack from all sides.
But there is hope, according to a recent surveywhich found, among other things, that teenagers now enjoy spending more time with family. It certainly seems that they are crying out for meaning and purpose; for something bigger than themselves.
Suicide is another big killer among the young, fuelled in part by the superficial hedonism encouraged by the media which soon enough leaves its victims feeling empty and worthless. Violence is even perpetrated on a massive scale in the so-called interests of ‘health’ – nine million babies have been butchered before birth since the Abortion Act was passed more than 50 years ago. And we call ourselves civilized.
In addressing the protest against President Trump’s visit to Britain, Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I wish to live in a world of peace, not of war.” Quite apart from the hypocrisy of such a statement from someone who has referred to terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’ and has failed to effectively deal with anti-Semitism in his party, it betrays extreme naivety. After all, Mr Trump managed to get the world’s most feared dictator to the negotiating table. Was that not a gesture of peace?
Yes, we all want peace, and it is possible, but only through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Yet there is a paradox here which needs to be understood. Jesus came as the long prophesied Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9.6) who would ultimately bring war to an end at his second appearance when people “will beat their swords into ploughshares”. (Isaiah 2.4)
But he also came as one who divides. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10.34) This was a warning that choosing him would cause division even among families because he stands as the ultimate test of whether you are for or against God. He is God come in the flesh (Colossians 2.9). Those who are for God choose him; those who are against God reject him, leaving them as enemies of both God and his disciples.
And yet he has bridged the gap between sinful man and a holy God by taking the punishment for sin we all deserve. God the Father has heaped all our sins on him so that we can enter his presence free of sin, and at peace with both God and man.
In addition, the barrier of hostility between Jew and Gentile has been broken at the cross where Jesus died; that is where you will find true peace among men. It is no fairy tale; I have seen both Jew and Arab embracing one another in reconciliation through their common love for Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, after discovering what he has done for them at the cross. (See Ephesians 2.14-18)
Meanwhile, as Israeli residents – especially in Galilee – watch out for further ground movements with a degree of trepidation, we are reminded of what the prophet Haggai reports the Lord Almighty as saying: “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations _(the Messiah) will come, and I will fill this house with glory.”_ (Haggai 2.6f)
The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews reminds its hearers of this word, adding: “The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” (Heb 12.26f)
The world around us is tottering. But are we secure? Are we living in a world which cannot be shaken because of our absolute trust in the Lord?
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; and A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International