The land of Israel is almost surreal.
I’m sitting on the terrace of the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem; 200 yards away – to the west – are the walls of the Old City, and the Jaffa Gate. It’s 5:30am, and in an hour, the sun will come up over the ancient skyline.
A few months ago, I invited you to be here with me; there are 36 of us here – on Day #7 of our 12 day adventure, and today we’ll be in Masada and the Dead Sea, with a stop in Jericho before coming back to this week’s “base camp,” here in Jerusalem. Tonight, we’ll see the Western/Wailing Wall before turning in. Wish you were here…
This year is the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel. That commemoration has increased the tourism as people come to celebrate what no one believed could happen. The Holocaust had been Hitler’s attempt to destroy the Jews; as of 1948, his Reich was in history’s dustbin, while Israel was back in the land God had promised them, 4000+ years before.
Though Israel was back in 1948, their national boundary did not include Jerusalem, their ancient capital. It remained a divided city, split between Jordan and Israel. Under Jordanian control was the Old City, and the Temple Mount…
The Six Day War in 1967 ended in an epic victory for Israel. The cherished portion of their beloved city was reclaimed, along with the still-disputed West Bank, establishing the borders that have been intact for 51 years.
That’s all history – ancient and modern. It’s what the tour guides repeat on buses as people discover that the Bible stories they heard in church – and the places they couldn’t adequately conceive from the maps behind their New Testament – involved real people in real places, experiencing a Real God who has made clear His plans for His Chosen People, in their own Promised Land.
Tom and JoAnn Doyle are leading our trip. Far more than tour guides, their ministry – Uncharted – works across the Mideast region bringing the Gospel to groups who are at war with each other, but are discovering peace with God as the ultimate solution. (Full disclosure: Uncharted operates today under our ministry umbrella).
Tourist visits to Israel focus on the past, and there’s lots of that here. Holy Land trips – usually organized by church groups or ministry enterprises – drive the same routes as the tourists, but add the future to the accounts of the past. The Bible isn’t just a reliable summation of history, it forecasts the future that really matters. The small print involves nations like the Roman Empire and the United Kingdom, Russia and America, and all of the other states who imagine themselves to be great. The large print – in God’s book – keeps the attention on Israel, and God’s inevitable direction for the future of the world, played out on the stage of this eternally strategic plot of land.
In the modern American church environment, prophecy is seldom the focus in the Sunday morning series. If Christians hear “Armageddon,” the term is more likely describing a massive correction in the stock markets than a future battle that will pit all nations (ours included, if we’re still around) against Israel the Underdog… who will be on the brink of defeat when the Army of Heaven – led by its King – arrives to declare His return and to establish the Kingdom that we’ve been asking for since the Lord’s Prayer was initiated.
The last few generations of American Christians have each had an author whose writings point readers toward the prophetic mysteries of the Scriptures. Hal Lindsey did that with The Late Great Planet Earth, nearly 50 years ago. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins created the fiction-based-on-Bible-prophecy Left Behind series that delivered 16 books over 12 years – beginning in 1995 – to rekindle fascination with the future, speculating on the placement of the key events that – together – frame the headlines of the days that remain between the often-difficult now and the incredibly-awesome then, which is the Second Coming.
Today, Joel C. Rosenberg is the voice-in-print calling the shrinking community of Bible believers in America to keep an eye on what’s happening in Israel. Moving the American embassy to Israel’s real capital – Jerusalem – is part of a much larger narrative that culminates with the “okay, now I get it!” declaration that the Revelation of John was tough to understand as a predictive narrative, but will become the road map for current events in the not-too-distant future. Joel has written both fiction (engaging) and non-fiction (scholarly) treatments of Bible prophecy; visit his homepage to explore them.
Is “Bible Prophecy” the class you skipped on the way to the “practical” parts of God’s word that helps you with your own daily demands? Do you stumble in ignorance to describe the nature of your eschatological understanding? Are you Premillennial, or Post? Do you view the 70th Week of Daniel as a past occurrence, or the future Tribulation? If you see it over the horizon, is it linked – in your beliefs – with Jesus’ return for His Church? If those certainties are lined up alongside one another, are you Pre-Millennial/Pre-Trib? Or, Mid-Trib? Or (God help us), Post? If you’re Post- or A-Millennial, does that make your lifetime mission a personal pursuit of the Dominion Mandate, or the Great Commission? Are we – the followers of Jesus – here to conquer, or convert?
We’re destined to meet here – in Jerusalem – in the not-too-distant future. If that will be your first visit, you’ll miss the speculation of end-times order and the drama related to the culmination of history that is available now.
Your faith is real, I don’t doubt that… but, inevitably, it is drawn in chalk and pastels as a “once upon a time” story that seems at times to involve fantasy. When you come to the Land of the Bible, you find yourself cast in the most fascinating story ever written. God allows the fools to flex their muscles in the palaces of power; He’s coming back to set the record straight and to establish His never-ending reign over the rebel planet that needed a Savior, and got Him when He came the first time.
Shalom; I’ll get back in my groove next Monday and write from American soil!