What is the world coming to?
Tumultuous events have been a feature of our world so far in 2011:
- January – Tunisian government falls
- February - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigns; 6.3 earthquake - Christchurch, New Zealand
- March - 9.1 earthquake and tsunami - Japan. Over 15,000 killed, 8,000 missing. Emergencies at four nuclear power plants; Libyan uprising, no-fly zone
- April - Royal Wedding (a bit of light relief!)
- May - Volcanic ash from Grímsvötn, an ice cap in Iceland, disrupts air traffic
- June - Syrian uprising brutally repressed; Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu visits the White House
Are these events just part of the normal and mundane run of the mill happenings that have no significance beyond themselves? Or do they form part of a bigger story?
Earthquakes - literal and political!
Large physical earthquakes were a feature of the first six months of the year – New Zealand and Japan being two of the most notable. But there was also the ‘Arab Spring’ - political earthquakes that rocked the governments of various countries to their foundations – including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Of course earthquakes have always been a feature of our world. But are they getting more frequent, or bigger? The US Geological Survey (USGS) publishes statistics on the number and size of earthquakes every year. These suggest that the frequency of earthquakes is not in fact increasing. Both the sophisticiation of earthquake monitoring methods and the means to communicate earthquake impacts increased hugely during the last century, and doubtless this in part accounts for the perceived increase in the public awareness of earthquakes. It would appear that is not the whole story, however. A recent analysis suggested that while the frequency of earthquakes may not be increasing, the size and impact of earthquakes is (see this article from Testimony magazine). On the evidence of this survey, over the last 30 years it is a clear the number of large earthquakes each year is increasing.
How does this relate to the Bible?
The Lord Jesus made specific predictions about future events. Some related to days shortly after his own, while others stretched into the future. It’s valuable to investigate these in considering the events of our world. Herod’s Temple was built in Jerusalem between AD 20 and 64. Archeological investigations have revealed the scope and size of this building was very considerable. Yet even before it was completed, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of its destruction in the most violent way imaginable:
Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, he said, “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:5,6 NKJV)
We note that, according to Strong’s Concordance, the word ‘desolation’ here means ‘to ruin, lay waste’. But this was only the start of the Lord’s predictions. According to Luke 21:4, Jews were to be led away into every nation under heaven. Jerusalem was to be trampled by Gentiles - that is it would no longer be under the control of Jews. But this circumstance would not continue for ever: there would come a point when ‘the times of the Gentiles’ would have run out. The implication of Jesus’ words is that at some future point, Jews would once again be in control of Jerusalem. So, to summarise, in Luke 21 Jesus predicts:
- Jerusalem to be ‘a desolation’
- The Temple to be destroyed
- Jews to be killed or exiled to other nations
- Jerusalem to be under the control of non-Jews (“Gentiles”)
- “Until…”: there would be an end to Gentile rulership of Jerusalem.
It’s fascinating to consider what happened following the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus. Jerusalem to be a desolation and the Temple destroyed: in AD70, the Roman armies led by Titus invaded the city. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, although he had ordered the Temple be preserved, a series of events led to it being burned to the ground in any case – just as Jesus had foreseen. The Romans ploughed up Jerusalem and just to make the point, called it by a new, Roman name, Aeolina Capitolina. The Arch of Titus in Rome serves as a visual record of Jews being ‘led away captive’ from their land – together with various implements from their Temple. In AD135, the Roman Emperor Hadrian made this a law, proclaiming that there should be no more Jews left in the Land.
The simple facts of history are that the Jews became a scattered, wandering people, persecuted from one nation to another across the face of the earth (see Martin Gilbert’s Jewish History Atlas [http://www.amazon.co.uk/Routledge-Jewish-History-Historical-Atlases/dp/0...). To this day, Jews are still to be found in just about every country of the earth. In the centuries that followed, Jerusalem was in the hands of a succession of non-Jewish rulers: But this was not to continue: it was only ‘until’. During the 19th century, Jews were still prohibited from returning to the Land of Israel. During that century, certain moves were made towards returning to the Land: in 1856 the Sultan of Turkey allowed a limited number of Jews to return specifically for agricultural purposes. The Zionist movement led by Theodor Herzl provided a catalyst for a movement to return to the Land. Slowly the picture began to change, with specific moves forward being made in 1917 by the Balfour Declaration and the liberation of Jersualem itself from Turkish hands. But it was not until 1948 that the State of Israel was actually proclaimed, and not until 7 June 1967 that Jerusalem was once again under Jewish control. The Bible had been proved right! Against all the odds, Jews had not only survived, actually returned to the land of Israel and finally regained Jerusalem.
What would happen next?
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Luke 21:25,26 NKJV).
Our world is in turmoil. The stage is set for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of God's Kingdom. That is what the world is coming to.