Friday, October 29, 2004

CHRISTIANITY AND FUTURE OF ISRAEL

THE CHRISTIAN BELIEF AND THE FUTURE OF THE HOLY LAND

By Rev. Lai Zhun Duo

* Yellow shaded regions ------ unsure words or sentences

In this session, we would like to discuss the enlightenment we have received relating to our study of the Holy Land, as we enter into the 21st century. I believe that we, as sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father, would certainly hold different opinions from others in the way we look at a particular issue. Also, for those of us who have been faithfully following Dr. Tong’s exposition of Hebrews and Romans, we can hold firmly to the belief that when we view matters through the enlightenment of the bible, our opinions will be very different from that of worldly people.

This morning, regardless of the issue or topic brought up for discussion, be it economics, current affairs, modernism, etc, I do believe that we hold very different opinions from worldly people. Similarly, our study of the Holy Land, which is based on the records of the Bible, is also different from that of worldly people.

What is the Holy Land? There are some who think that it is the birthplace of the Virgin Mary, and there are others who regard it as the place where Christ was crucified. Actually, the Holy Land is the land of the bible, or to phrase it in English, “Bible Land”. The Bible Land covers a large geographical area. If we are familiar with Scripture, we can say that it covers the five following geographical areas:

(a) the land of Canaan which Abraham entered;
(b) the land which Moses travelled through after leaving Egypt;
(c) the land which Joshua divided amongst the twelve tribes of Israel;
(d) the places which Jesus had covered during his lifetime; and
(e) the places which Paul had preached the gospel.

So, looking at this afternoon’s topic “The Future of the Holy Land” from such a point of view, we can observe that our discussion of this topic is not just a discussion of the current state of affairs of Israel, or merely the Holy Land, which we readily identify as a tourist attraction today. I believe that a lot of people have travelled to the Holy Land in Israel and are familiar with it, and perhaps some brothers and sisters may even have a more profound knowledge of the Holy Land than I do.

The geographical areas mentioned in the Bible can be of great help to our Christian beliefs, which is why I always recommend that during our lifetime, we should visit the Bible Land at least three times. Our first journey into the Bible Land can be made by entering Israel from Jordan. Now, this will geographically cover Abraham’s entrance into Canaan. The second journey into the Bible Land can be effected via a trip to Israel from Egypt. Through this, we can understand the circumstances under which Moses led his people out of Egypt. The third journey into the Bible Land is to leave Israel for Turkey. By doing so, we can understand the route or path through which the early churches were established.

During marital counselling, I would always advise the sisters: “If your husband is shy in nature, bring him to the Sea of Galilee and tell him that it was here that Jesus asked Peter whether he truly loved him. Likewise, ask your husband whether he truly love you.” I am sure the husband would not even need to refer to the Bible to say yes! Of course, a sister should not try to question her husband if he is a pastor, for he would surely answer, “ I love the Lord!” Small wonder why pastors hardly ever return home when they have to preach, just like myself. If a husband is tricky and disobedient, bring him to Turkey, where the early churches were established, and tell him: “You have forsaken your first love!” or “You are neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out!” to serve as a warning to him. As you see, being familiar with the geographical locations in the Bible can prove useful in our lives.

Strictly speaking, in this century, which is the 20th century, our study of the Holy Land has greatly surpassed that of any of the previous nineteen centuries. Actually, an understanding of the following five aspects can help us have a better overall comprehension of the truths in the Bible:

(a) biblical history and geography;
(b) Bible-related archaeological findings;
(c) biblical customs and culture;
(d) the development of modern Israel; and
(e) the chaotic development of events in the Middle East.

Our interpretation and understanding of the truths in the Bible now is totally different from that of Christians in previous ages; for example, 19th-century Christians and 19th-century Bible study texts. For instance, we can see modern Israel from the political map. However, when we are referring to Israel as depicted geographically in the Bible, we cannot follow the modern political map. Instead, by analysing information obtained from human satellites, we can create a picture of the geography of Israel during Jesus’ era, including the location of the Jordan River and a partial geography of Israel, two or even three thousand years ago, which can no longer be seen now.

Hence, the utilisation of military satellite has really changed the way we comprehend the term “Holy Land”. The Jews’ idea of the geography of the Holy Land is completely different from that of Christians’ nowadays, who are influenced by the western method of indicating directions, i.e. the arrangement “north-south-east-west”. However, the Jews take the east as the upper direction, which is totally inverted from our concept, and so to them it is “east-west-north-south”. When you study the Old Testament, you will notice that the Jews ascertain directions using the “east-west-north-south” concept.

As you see, our comprehension of the Holy Land for the past hundred years of the 20th century has greatly surpassed that of the previous nineteen centuries. For example, today we are able to know precisely the roads and pathways that were used by the Romans during the time of Jesus and the Roman Empire. The information from satellites indicates clearly even the major roads that were used in other Middle East countries during Jesus’ era.

Are human satellites really that reliable? This morning, Dr. Mochtar Riady himself had described human satellites as almost indispensable, which speaks volumes for its reliability. With the usage of human satellites, archaeology is no longer a field of science that depends solely on sheer fortune or a spade for digging as it used to be in the past. Human satellites can pinpoint to us precisely what we want via scientific methods. They are accurate to the extent that they are able to show us the major roads and castles that were used 3,500 years ago. In fact, many archaeological discoveries in China were also accomplished with the help of human satellites.

Many archaeological findings in Israel in the past century, especially since the 1970’s, have totally changed our concept and knowledge of Israel during Jesus’ era, which is also the era of the New Testament. For example, quite a number of us may be aware that archaeologists have confirmed that there was a city called Cyfluoris near Jesus’ birthplace. They have also confirmed that Cyfluoris was the capital of Galilee during Jesus’ era. Many humanist researchers have indicated that it is highly probable that Jesus’ father, Joseph, who was a carpenter, might have been working as an artist in Cyfluoris. This is based on the fact that the Romans required a variety of different artists when they built a city, mainly comprising sculptors, carpenters and painters, who were very large in numbers. Carpentry was not a lowly profession that we imagined it to be, but one that was highly regarded. Without doubt, archaeological findings are gradually changing some of our concepts of the Bible. Archaeologists have unravelled the fact that when Cyfluoris was at its most prosperous period, the quantity of wood used for construction there was significantly higher than that of other Roman cities in Israel.

Hence, from all these, we can conclude that our study of the Holy Land during the 20th century has made greater strides compared to that of previous centuries, or in other words, there were simply insufficient data in the previous centuries to provide a clear and original depiction of the accounts in the Bible. Of course, from a strictly theological point of view, we are well aware that archaeology is not just about accidental discoveries, but instead behind the scenes, God is actually unveiling a vast amount of evidence in an age where men are sceptical and require evidence that can be seen by the naked eye in order to prove the reliability and inerrancy of the Bible, which is the word of God to men.

We are now living in a so-called post-modern age, where men generally receive greater enlightenment from hard tangible evidence than they do from logical and philosophical thinking and argument. It is pertinent therefore that during these end times, a great number of truths that were laid buried in the past are gradually being revealed and unveiled to us – believers and unbelievers alike – so that the reliability of biblical truths may be made known to us all.

Some people find it hard to believe that Jesus actually caught fishes, especially non-believers who questioned Jesus’ ability to swim, because Jesus fell fast asleep when he was on a boat in the Sea of Galilee during a terrible storm. It was believed that those who had no fear of storms at that time normally did not know how to swim. This resulted in liberal theologians stating in their liberal theology textbooks that Jesus did not know how to swim. They were even led to the conclusion that since it must have been risky for Jesus to walk on water, he must have been only walking along a shallow beach.

When I was attending Bible classes during high school, I found it hard to believe in the Bible as the teachers were always interpreting it based on their personal opinions. And so I thought then that Jesus must have been just walking along a beach instead of walking on water. Years later, when I happened to have the opportunity to work in Israel, I discovered that the Sea of Galilee was actually located at the mouth of an ancient volcano and there was hardly any inch of shallow beach!

From this incident, you can see how seriously mistaken we have been, including my former teachers and pastor, as a result of our belief in the interpretation of the new theology. This is because men have a tendency to want to explain a miracle. But if a miracle can be explained, how can it be called a miracle any longer?

Actually, how did Jesus teach his disciples to cast their nets into the water and catch fish? Archaeologists have discovered a fishing net, which was used about 100 years after Jesus Christ’s birth. From the computer’s analysis, the fishing net had two obvious uses, that is, to haul fish in the shallow beaches and secondly, to be thrown in the deep sea. So, the fishing net can either be hauled or thrown.

The Bible gave only a brief account of Jesus asking his disciples to put out their boat a little distance from shore and then cast their nets into the water. Archaeology has confirmed without any doubt, that there were indeed nets, designed for deep-sea casting. A lot of people doubted the fact that 2,000 years ago, men already knew how to cast their nets to fish in the deep sea or at the centre of a lake.

As you can see, many times when we are spiritually down, God would unveil, item by the item, the miracles he had performed, and show it to believers and non-believers alike in the end times. For people like us, who read the bible frequently, we may ask: “Why did Jesus spend so much of his lifetime serving the people of Galilee? Why not Jerusalem instead?” I believe such suspicion or doubts are many and frequently occur in our minds. For the past two decades, we can see that more and more of these questions have been answered.

During Jesus’ time, many or most traditional Jews reside in the province of Galilee, because it was ruled by a king who loved his subjects. However, Jerusalem was ruled by a cruel king whom Jews were afraid of. Due to this, more and more Jews migrated to Galilee. Archaeological discoveries have shown that there were Jewish synagogues in more than 16 places in Galilee, while synagogues were few in numbers in other places. Such a high concentration of synagogues indicate that the people residing in Galilee were very devoted and traditional Jews. Thus, it is hardly surprising that Jesus spent so much time doing his work among the people of Galilee.

A lot of these archaeological evidences have allowed us to deduce and comprehend the reliability and precision of the Bible. Now, strictly speaking, after the 20th century, we can boldly claim that most of our doubts and suspicion regarding the background, geography and history of the Bible have been answered. Amongst the Bible study tools in the market, there is a particular type known as the Bible background study book. Although Chinese interpretations of it have yet to be published, a lot of Western publications have already been released.

From all these, we know that God is really merciful to the people of this age. A lot of doubts and suspicion, which frequently occur in our minds, are gradually being answered. Of course, God may not answer all our questions now. Nevertheless, we know that all of it will be answered once we come face to face with him when we ascend to heaven.

Another question we may ask is why is it that the east of the Sea of Galilee is not a sanctified place, but instead it is one where exorcism frequently occurs. There were even evil spirits called ‘legion’, which actually means Roman army. The evil spirits were named ‘legion’ because at that time, the people were ruled by the Romans. From such studies, we are able to know that the recordings in the four gospels are very precise and reliable. Even the minor details in the Bible are found to be highly precise.

When the present-day Israeli government took control of the area east of the Galilean Sea, more commonly known as Golan Heights, they give the impression that they remained reluctant to return its ownership to the Arabs, although it is no longer as important to the military as it was in the past.

Golan Heights has always been an unsanctified place that a holy Jew would never go. This fact is strongly supported by archaeological evidence. Nonetheless, it is remarkable that Jesus was willing to serve the people there during his lifetime. This is similar to the work that we are doing today, even to the extent of sharing the gospel and pioneering churches in remote areas.

The more we study the evidence of Jesus’ work, the more we feel that Jesus’ work had really set an example for generations to come. If we look at the Bible in this manner, the geographical, archaeological and historical facts in it have really concluded, in our study of the Holy Scriptures in the 20th century, that God is really doing his good works. Our Lord is a Lord who works, and a God who works in the heavens. He is not one who sits idly and does nothing; He is really doing his work in us. Even in an age where believers are weak in faith, He continually and gradually provides us the knowledge that we need to know.

When we study the Bible, there are 3 issues that we need to discuss. They are:

(a) the restoration of Israel as a nation
(b) the gathering of the twelve tribes of Israel
(c) the war in the end times

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is going to come again. I personally hope that Jesus will come back as soon as possible. However, the problem is this. What should I do before Jesus’ second coming? In his opening speech, Dr. Tong said, “Knowing that Jesus’ second coming is near does not mean that we can just sit there and do nothing but wait.” This is definitely not a theological option, neither is it revelation gleaned from the Bible.

That is why from the above three issues, I will attempt to guide you into the enlightenment that we have received regarding our study of the background of the Bible in the 20th century, hence, giving you a direction in which to follow when studying the background of the bible in the 21st century.


1. The restoration of Israel as a nation

Everyone knows about the resurrection of Israel as a nation. Very few people do not know of this. However, there is a matter here that we, as the many sons and daughters of our God, should be very thankful for. When Israel was reborn in 1948, it did not just last for three or four years, and then end up being conquered by the Arabs. If it did, I believe we would not even be here discussing this matter. Christians may not even want to bring up this matter.

On the contrary, from 1948 until now, the rebirth of Israel endured for five decades. During these 5 decades, there has never been the slightest inclination or probability (becoming increasingly improbable) that Israel would be conquered by the Arabs. In other words, we have become the witnesses of history. We have also become witnesses of the word of God because God’s word is definite and unchanging. During these 5 decades, men have exhausted all means, in their attempts to force the Jews out of Israel but have failed.

But we should not forget that we have also become witnesses of the great prophecies in the Bible. It is especially emphasised in the Bible that although the Jews are God’s chosen people, God had prophesised that they would lose their country, and be abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth. This is very pitiful.

During Jesus’ era, under the Romans’ reign, the Jews were given freedom of religion, education and tax that led to the false belief that the Jews could return to Israel and rebuild their country. But it was not to be as Jesus prophesised that Israel would be destroyed and indeed, it happened immediately after the time of Jesus. In AD 70, when General Tyro attacked and destroyed Israel, the temple was completely destroyed and not even one stone was left on another. Strictly speaking, since the time of the Old Testament prophecies right up to 1948, Israel had never been restored. The word of God will not remain unfulfilled.

Today, in the year 2000, as we sit here, we really need to rise up, because we have accomplished a mission of uttermost importance, witnessing the fulfilment of God’s word. God’s chosen people, after being abhorred by all the kingdoms of the earth for over two thousand years, were restored to their homeland, which is today’s Palestine, with God’s consent. But make no mistake of this. During the last fifty years of Israel’s restoration, God had never left her; rather he had consented to the restoration of the country in their homeland.

What does the Bible want to convey to us through this? What is God’s message to us all? Of course, the Jews do not believe in Jesus Christ and their hearts are hardened. I believe that, just as most people say, the Jews would rather crucify Jesus again than believe in Him. Anyway, that is just the way they think. The Bible contains God’s own message for us. We must view this matter with uttermost discretion. The Jews find it hard to believe that God destined them to be exiled from their homeland and be abhorred amongst the nations for two thousand years. But we as Christians are only aware of the fact that God never fail to keep his promises.

If one of God’s prophecies was fulfilled, and backed by true facts, would you believe the second prophecy? Would you believe the third prophecy? Would you believe in the word of God in the Bible? This is the enlightenment that our discussion on the message, which God wants to convey to us through his prophecies, is based on.

The restoration of Israel is not as simple as we think. Before the Second World War, there were several major proposals to restore Israel. One plan was to restore Israel in Uganda. Well, we all know where Uganda is, don’t we? Why restore Israel in Uganda? Another suggestion was to place the Jews in Scandinavia, so Norway may have been one of the options. Some Arab countries also offered their opinions. Even the Sahara Desert was mentioned as a possible allocation site! The British, however, proposed Uganda.

If we were to follow the thoughts of mankind, the power of politicians, the understanding of Jewish capitalists, the Jews were not going to restore their country in Israel. They were even considering the South Africa of today, of all countries! The Zionists throughout the world were rooting for the restoration of Israel, but it was not the wish of them all to restore it in Canaan Land. Nonetheless, God’s promise and righteousness in the Bible was to be fulfilled.

We are living in an age in which not only have we witnessed Israel restored, we have also witnessed Israel restored for five decades without any sign of it weakening. Do we have any reason not to believe in the word of God? As believers of Christ, we have more reason to believe in the authority of God’s word and should be more capable of grasping the purpose of God’s word in the Bible than non-believers.

In 1942, the spots on this map here are the areas in which the Jews reside. Now, you may ask, were there actually any Jews residing there before the Second World War? The answer is yes, although the number of Jews was small. According to the original wishes of the then United Nations (UN), if the Jews wanted to return to Canaan, there was no obligation to return any of the surrounding land to them, which included the important site, the West Bank, which is the Jerusalem of today. So, the land of Jerusalem was not to be given to the Jews under the original plan of the UN. The leading nations in the world then were reluctant to do so. But it is stated in the Bible that Jerusalem would be recovered, and without much difficulty, the Jews claimed back Jerusalem as its own in a war against the Arabs.

Of course, Jerusalem is now the focal point of the whole world, which will be discussed along with the war at the end of the age afterwards. But we are faced with the questions. Why will the war at the end of the age be in Israel? Why will it happen in Jerusalem? Those who have been to Jerusalem may find it just a small and dark place with nothing out of the ordinary. “How can the war happen in this place?” many people ask.

Brothers and sisters, if you believe deeply in the Bible, the word of God, then you will know that we have to open our hearts to face the challenges in the 21st century. We want to be witnesses of the word of God during our lifetime, for God’s prophecies are materialising and being fulfilled gradually in this lifetime. Yes, indeed, my brothers and sisters, we are living in such a crucial age. We are different from the saints of the past. Our predecessors lived by faith but did not see too much of God’s revelation, yet we have been able to see God’s prophecies being fulfilled.

In 1948, when Israel was just restored, the West Bank did not belong to the Jews. Another renowned place, the Gaza Strip also did not belong to them. It is a strange fact that all these years in exile from their country, the Jews have not been extinguished. The ancestors of the Palestinians in the Gaze Strip are not Arabians. Palestinians today also insist that they are not Arabians. This claim is supported by historical facts, as they have retained their own unique customs, culture and traditions for thousands of years.

Let us not forget that during King David’s era, the Gads had already resided in the Gaza Strip. Never in history had the Gaza Strip been conquered by any empire, including Alexander the Great, the great Egyptian Empire, and even the modern empires of Great Britain and Germany. Throughout all these attempts to conquer them, the people in the Gaza Strip have always managed keep their racial identity intact.

It is a wonder indeed that today, Israel has such a major problem in her own backyard. When Israel announced her intention to shift the nation’s capital from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, the so-called Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also made a similar statement, claiming they want to build their country with Jerusalem as the capital. In addition to this, they claim that they have more historical and political backing to justify the selection of Jerusalem as their capital.

We know that the Jews do not recognise Jesus Christ as their saviour. If they continue to believe only in the Old Testament and refuse to recognise Jesus as their saviour, they cannot comprehend God’s intention. These are the two main differences in the way we view the development of events in Israel.

The two main players in the Middle East conflict in Israel are the Palestinians who are followers of Islam and the Jews who are followers of Judaism. Our enlightenment is very different from these two and they cannot see what we see. This is because we are looking at events from God’s point of view from the heavens. What they can see is only the background of their own history and the hatred between themselves. They cannot comprehend things from God’s point of view, that all these is just the beginning of the war at the end of the age, the coming of God’s judgement.

The restoration of Israel is itself a very touching story. I seldom disclose it, because it can bring me to tears. The Jews are a people that we find hard to understand. I do not know how many brothers and sisters come into contact with Jews in their daily lives. The last few years, there is a burden in my heart for the Jews and have started to support efforts to spread the gospel to them.

David Ben-Gurion is the father of Israel. Israel has even named her international airport, the Ben-Gurion international airport, in memory of him. In terms of appearance, Jews look horrible. In history, no Jew has ever won an international beauty pageant contest. The year before last, a lot of people were very surprised when they discover that Miss Israel is actually an Arab. The common Jewish woman has very small shoulders. She can neither straighten herself nor lift her chin up. The way she walks is also different from the common person. Despite all these, they are indeed God’s chosen people. I was very shocked when it came to my knowledge. Before I accepted Christ, this matter did not trouble me much; I even shared the same dining table and had contact with them. But after I accepted Christ, I questioned myself, “These are God’s chosen people?” But God said, “These are my chosen people.”

Every Jew is chosen by God and their blessings are far more than that of the pagans. Even when Jesus comes again, the number of people chosen to be with God will be based on the number of Jews, not according to the number of Chinese, Caucasians or other races. If God’s word had already prescribed as such, then we have to understand why God allowed such a small nation of people to be preserved for so long and let their nation be restored.

A lot of great Jewish figures are not what we imagined them to be. One notable person is Madame Mayed. During Israel’s most difficult period, she held talks with a lot of Arab leaders. Arabs are known to look down on women, yet she was able to summon them for talks which was why that was a very splendid achievement. The reason we do not have full comprehension of God selecting the Jews as his chosen people is because we lack understanding of the Jewish people.

Although there are starting to be reforms among the Jewish community and Judaism, Jews are still relatively conservative. In fact, we have such a shallow understanding of the Jews, which is probably the reason we fail to understand their concept of nationalism, religious beliefs and their current development. Some of us may claim that modern Jews are quite open in their ways. The past few days, the Israeli government has started to launch a psychological war. During CNN interviews, they allowed a few female military officers to be interviewed. This is just a smoke screen. The female officers introduced are too beautiful to be soldiers at the front line; most probably they are desk officers of some sort in the military.

The way Jews handle a matter is totally different from that of Westerners or us. A lot of ministry workers in the West, especially professors and doctors in the universities, also agree on this point: That the Jews are just too sophisticated and intelligent for us to comprehend. This fact is vividly illustrated by the following example. There was a very important painting of a beautiful 16th century Jewish woman by a French painter in an art gallery. This painting incited the protests of the Jewish community. They complained that the nose of the woman was not that of a Jew’s. The French painter must have drawn a nose of a French instead.

When God created the Jews, they were not that good-looking. Now, there are a lot of Arab movies in Malaysia. You will notice that the Arabs in the movies are much more beautiful than the Jews. Nevertheless, God still chose the Jews. This is God’s own plan. Jews are very sensitive and conservative. They have their own ideas of how a woman should look like to be considered as beautiful. If you go to Israel, you will rarely find any woman swimming. If you do find a woman swimming, then she is surely not a Jew. You may find a few females clad in bikinis, but I can bet that she is an Arab. Be it the Jews of old or modern ones, they are all still conservative. In the early 20th century, a Jewish painter released a painting of a naked Jewish woman in New York, which stirred up controversy among the Jewish community in America. To us Chinese, she looks so horrible! But to the Jews, they cannot accept any sort of portrait of a Jewish female. Whether it is a thin or a fat one, it is still taboo.

We thought that Jews nowadays are very open. The truth is that Jews understand ‘open-mindedness’ differently from us. We look at the Jews and think that they are very relaxed. The soldiers you see in the streets of Jerusalem also look relaxed, so different from the military in Malaysia and Singapore. But, do not forget that the Israeli army is ranked 7th out the ten top militaries in the world. The Israelis are not convincing outwardly, but inwardly they possess depth of strength.

In the 20th century, following the restoration of Israel, we are starting to have a realisation of the uniqueness of the chosen people of God. Although it is not stated in the Bible, we can see that throughout the past 2,000 years, they still managed to retain their original culture and identity, enabling us to have a true understanding of the Jews in the end times. We are living in an age where we find it difficult to understand the Jews due to their small population, especially in our part of the world in Malaysia and Singapore. If you live in New York or certain parts of America or Europe and have the opportunity to come into contact with Jews, you will really find it hard to comprehend them. No wonder we are losing the battle to win their hearts with the gospel.


2. The twelve tribes of Israel

Now, let us talk about the twelve tribes of Israel. The stretch of land divided among the twelve tribes seems to cover a very large area. At the back of every Bible, there is a map which illustrates the land that was divided among the twelve tribes. When I first accepted Christ, I was studying the book of Joshua, my Sunday school teacher would always skip the passages mentioning the land allocated to each tribe. He finished the book of Joshua in two weeks! I found out later that one of the most important truths is contained in the book of Joshua.

Do you all still remember how Joshua divided the land among the twelve tribes? Before crossing the Jordan River, Joshua had already assigned to the two and a half tribes their inheritance. The remaining nine and a half tribes were assigned their inheritance after crossing the river. There was a tribe called Dan and they were given the Salon Plains. However, they had difficulty taking possession of the land, and finally settled in the area known as Golan Heights today. The Jews insistence that the Golan Heights is their rightful inheritance is based on this portion of the Bible. Do you understand now? The land divided among the twelve tribes of Israel is very important in Israel’s foreign policy today. This is something which the Arabs, the Christian world and followers in the church cannot see.

The Jews have their own way of explanation. So, I will explain their thoughts with another map here. What is shown here is what Bible researchers have determined to be the area controlled by the twelve tribes of Israel. Not all the plains were conquered by the Jews. The tribe of Dan held control of the Golan Heights. The Jews even believed that the area east of the Jordan River is rightfully theirs. This is the reason why the Jordan government is slowly calling for the retreat of its army from the Golan Heights in order to prevent a potential war with Israel on this piece of land, which was once under the control of the tribe of Manasseh and Gad.

The Jews’ view on the current political development is based on the Old Testament and their policy on foreign diplomacy is strongly based on the book Joshua. This is what we have been neglecting all this while when trying to comprehend the developments in the Middle East. The Jews are very biblical when it comes to explaining their military movements and their foreign policy. You may have a better understanding of these matters after I mention the following example. Do you still remember the war in which Israel took control of the Sinai Peninsular? The Egyptians were very infuriated over the matter. Oddly, just when the Egyptians thought it was hopeless to regain the Sinai Peninsular, the traditionalistic Jews pressured the Israeli government to return it to the Egyptians. This is because the Sinai Peninsular is not part of the inheritance of the twelve tribes.

Also, from a historical point of view, Egypt has always been a provider for the Jews. When the Jews lacked food, they turned to the Egyptians. Two of their ancestors had even served as Prime Ministers in Egypt. This is why they enjoy a good relationship with Egypt. So, their way of interpreting history is also biblical. From this kind of enlightenment, the Egyptians realised that when it comes to dealing with Israel, they need to refer to the Bible. This is something that we would not realised by watching the television.

Students of Judaism are now conducting their researches in the western plains. Why? We need to know. Looking at the conflict in Israel as a whole, we can see that the conflicts in Jerusalem in the Gaza Strip also follow a biblical pattern. The Jews have never refused the claims of the Palestinians for the Gaza Strip. In fact, they generously allowed the Palestinians to use the Gaza Strip, and even aided them in building an international airport there. But, when it comes to Jerusalem, the Jews will say ‘hands-off’, without the slightest flinch.

Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, has requested Israel to allow the Palestinians to build their capital in East Jerusalem. Surrendering East Jerusalem does not simply mean drawing a line through the middle of Jerusalem, splitting it into east and west because East Jerusalem is in fact the mountain where the Holy Temple was built. Do you think this solution is possible? Definitely impossible. When the Jews refer to the Bible, this piece of land was actually bought by King David. And where is King David’s land lease? It is in the Bible! Well, I do not know if President Clinton has studied his Bible. I suppose not, or else his talks with Israel and Palestine would not be going from bad to worse. If he wants to be a good president, he should really study the Bible. I believe it can be of great help when dealing with the Arabs and Israelis.

The concept of the division of the land of Israel among the twelve tribes deeply influences the Israeli Cabinet, the army and the people of Israel. Brothers and sisters, this is why in this age, we can no longer take Bible stories lightly. These stories are not just for kids to read during Sunday school classes; they are actually the precious words of God which have been preserved throughout the past thousands of years to serve as an indication of the Lord’s coming in these end times.

When you study the Bible, the division of the land among the twelve tribes is a very serious matter. Even when the twelve tribes were taking stones across the Jordan River, they were walking behind the ark. The ark was in front, and the twelve tribes with their stones were behind. In the Jewish concept, the stature of the twelve tribes is comparable to that of the ark. Today, we cannot see the ark physically, and we have no clear idea of how to describe it, but we know the geography of the land inherited by the twelve tribes still exists. And that explains the situation in Israel as it is now.

Let us not forget another matter. Is the Jordan government going to return the area east of the Jordan River to Israel willingly? Do you think it is possible? Many do not understand. If you have studied the history of the Middle East, you will know that Jordan is willing to do so. They would prefer to hand over a barren land rather than to wage war. This is the wisdom of the Arabs. Historically speaking, the Arabs rarely wage war, but on the rare occasion that they do, they win, except when it comes to fighting against Israel. In addition to this, these two nations share a good diplomatic relationship due to the fact both were nurtured under the governance of the British Empire.

It is very probable that in our lifetime, we will witness Israel returning the Sinai Peninsular to the leading Islamic nation, Egypt. If Israel is willing to do so, why should Jordan, as a subordinate nation to Egypt, be reluctant to return Golan Heights to Israel? Furthermore, that piece of land is of no military value to Jordan. For instance, if you have visited Mount Nebo before, you are bound to notice that it has no value whatsoever. The ownership of this piece of land may bring about very interesting political developments between these two countries in the near future. If it continues like this, the possibility of an alliance between Israel and Jordan is very high.

When we read the Bible, there are several very important verses that we must take notice of. In the book of Matthew, Lord Jesus Christ said: “You who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Take notice, it is not ‘us’ or ‘I’ only, but those who have followed the Lord, the sons and daughters of God. All of these have the privilege to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

The book of Luke says: “So that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” In the book of Acts, it is mentioned: “This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night.”

Why was it that during the establishment of the early churches, such concepts were also mentioned? This concept has never changed throughout the passage of time, right up to the book of Revelations. The book of James says: “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.”

Regardless of the aspect from which we interpret this matter, be it spiritually or from the background of the Bible, all these remain a reality: The promise of the twelve tribes will not go unfulfilled when the Lord comes again. This is because in Revelations 7, it is stated that the total amount of people gathered from the twelve tribes will be 144,000. Some people interpret this as meaning that there will be 144,000 Jews who believe in Christ at that time. While the interpretation can be considered, I believe we will never fully understand the mystery behind figures like this until we appear face to face with God in heaven. The reality for us now is that we should not take the gathering of the twelve tribes of Israel lightly because God himself has said, and even his son has told us, that we will be judging the twelve tribes.

In what sense do we view Israel differently from others? We are looking at Israel from a heavenly viewpoint from God’s word whereas others see only a conflict between two nations. Dear brothers and sisters, as we look at Israel and Palestine from God’s point of view, we realised that they can fight as much as they want but when the Lord comes again, they will all be judged in front of his throne. Amen?

Today, we discover that the enlightenment from which we view the 20th century is very different. Not only this, we also know that there are twelve gates in heaven. The name of each tribe of Israel is clearly imprinted on each of the gates. Will the twelve tribes really return to Israel? If so, where are all these tribes now? Not only can we observe from history that many Jews are returning from Russia to Israel, there are even ‘black Jews’ (as they are so called) in Ethiopia returning to Israel.

Today, we know that the Israeli government is secretly aiding the return of Jewish descendants in Africa to Israel. All these military actions have really amazed us. What does all these signify? Today, there are about 4 million Jews in Israel whereas other races do not even add up to 1 million. Do you think it is possible to accommodate so many people in Israel? Does the Israeli government plan to do so? I believe most of us rarely take notice that lately in the last few years, the Israeli government has started preparations to build two man-made islands near the coast of Israel. The estimated cost of the islands is about US$ 1 billion. Why build these islands to accommodate all the Jews?

If the Gaza Strip, Hebron and all the other so-called ‘Palestinian lands’ are to be returned to the Palestinians in exchange for peace, how can the safety of the Jews be guaranteed or ensured? The only answer is to build man-made islands near the coast of Israel. Construction is already beginning. This is a development that we rarely notice in news reports. Why are they doing this? It is part of their preparation to receive all the scattered tribes back to Israel. This is something that only the people of this age can see. I believe that the people of the past could not have imagined this.


3. The war at the end of the age

God will let the saints be defeated in a war at the end of the age. The defeat of the believers does not mean the defeat of the kingdom of heaven. For the prophecies in the Bible have frequently shown us that the war at the end of the age will happen in Israel. It is written in the book of Isaiah: “So the Lord Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion.”

Will all the minor conflicts happening now in Israel lead to war? If you have studied history before, you would discover that World War I was preceded by minor conflicts. The same was also true of World War II. All major wars are always preceded by minor conflicts. We deeply feel that we are living in a very crucial age. Although we cannot determine when Jesus will be returning, one thing is undeniable. We are getting closer and closer to the Lord’s second coming.

I do not have time to explain specifically other wars which may occur. But I would like spend a little more time to draw my conclusion. We need to realise that nuclear weapons may not necessarily be the determining cause of World War III. Of course Professor Chan mentioned earlier that it may be triggered by an economic war. That is one possibility and I also agree with it. However, we need to know if everyone is in possession of nuclear weapons. If so, then nuclear weapons may not be the decisive factor in the final war.

Historically, when did man know that World War I was actually World War I? It was only after the end of World War II that we knew that World War I had actually occurred. When will we know that World War III has actually occurred? I believe we will only know when we look down from the Father’s throne in heaven. Regardless of the perspective from which we attempt to explain the war at the end of the age, we believe that the possibility of this war happening is increasingly greater.

Hence, the saints of this age must grasp the significance of the following events from such enlightenment: The restoration of Israel, the probability of the reunification of the twelve tribes of Israel, and also the fact that Jews from all over the world have been actively trying to return to Israel during the past five decades.

Before I end, there is an important matter, which I need to share with you all. The Jews only see the restoration of Israel, yet they do not see the gathering of the twelve tribes. The reason for this is that they only believe in the Old Testament, whereas the prophecy of the gathering of the twelve tribes is recorded in the New Testament. Similarly, they do not anticipate the war at the end of the age. In the Judaistic belief, there is no war of Armageddon. This is very unfortunate indeed.

Although Israel is the place where all these things will take place, the irony is that her people are unaware of two of the three events that I have outlined today. The Jews may also fail to realise that the restoration of Israel is merely a fulfilment of God’s prophecy. If so, our study of the Holy Land has reached a very complicated and sophisticated level. The Jews and Muslims may be privy to these three events, but their knowledge of the Holy Land lies in stark contrast to ours. Instead, our knowledge of the Holy Land is derived from the revelation of God for we accept a whole and complete Bible, which has both the Old and New Testament. The New Testament has enabled us to see that the Jews will finally reunite in Israel, and that a final war will happen there.

I am not a prophecy researcher, neither am I interested in it. My wife always tells me, “Since the Lord is coming, please place your toothbrush and toothpaste together, don’t make a mess of the whole house.” Very often, I feel that she is my theology professor. The message of the Lord’s coming should be firmly implanted in our daily lives. As Professor Chan shared a moment ago, it is good if we can use our money as a tool to benefit mankind by spreading the gospel. A lot of people have money and knowledge, but yet they are treated only as means of personal enjoyment in life. Very few would utilise it to the optimum before the Lord’s coming.

If the Lord is really going to come, how much time do we have left? Not only do we have to place our toothbrush and toothpaste nicely, we also have to immerse ourselves in the Bible everyday while waiting for his coming. It would be a most wonderful thing if we could give the best period of our lives to be utilised by the Lord.

There are some who question whether another war is going to break out in the Middle East. I cannot tell, neither can I simply present my opinions. I believe that it is in the heart of every Christian, that Christ can come anytime. How tense is the situation in the Middle East now? I can tell you, all the Israeli soldiers are at full alert, and all the Israeli generals whom I know personally have also been summoned back. There are even some generals who are prepared to return to Israel from the United Kingdom and the United States (US).

The Israelis are prepared for war. It is already a public fact that the American armies stationed at the Mediterranean Sea and in the Pacific have also been mobilised. Two battle carriers have already been dispatched to Israel. Right after President Clinton returned to the White House, a summit meeting was held between Arab leaders. The summit meeting was a failure, as nobody wanted to become the leader. The factions that wanted to cause chaos have planned to invite Saddam Hussein to act as their leader. From this, we can see that they have already violated the restriction of both the UN and the US by restoring Saddam Hussein to the front line.

I personally feel that we are living in an age where not only our beliefs and our personal moral values have to be constantly rebuilt, but there are also a lot of aspects in our lives that we have to work hard to improve. Just as Dr. Tong said in his opening speech, “There is an element of time in our religious belief. There is a sense of urgency in it.”

Our study on the prospect of the Holy Land has revealed to us that the coming of the Lord is imminent. As a result, we work hard in our ministry to serve him. No matter what his calling to us is, no matter how high the price we have to pay, we still say to our Lord: “ Lord, here I am, please use me.”

Let us bow our heads and pray together.

Father in heaven, we give thanks to you for gathering all these brothers and sisters this afternoon. If not for your great love, how could we come together? During these past few days, you have shown to us that your presence and authority are present in every respect. We have seen the changes and developments in the economy of the world, and we have seen the corruption and turmoil of man’s nature.

Lord, you have also enabled us to realise that we are living in an age when you will come back soon. Lord, please use us. Let our wealth, knowledge and our lives be used by you everyday until the day we stand face to face with you at your throne. Lord, it is a surprise to us that we are actually going to judge the twelve tribes of Israel together with you at your throne. Lord, how can we forfeit such a glorious privilege and blessing? This is why in our lifetime, we have to work hard to study the Bible, and equip ourselves with the knowledge of it. We are also willing to spread the gospel to every tribe, people and nation.

Lord, we urgently pray for the Jews. We especially like to uphold the ministry workers in Israel. During the past few years, ministry workers who have been spreading the gospel in Israel have been killed or persecuted every month. But we give thanks to you because from only a single known Christian in Tel-Aviv in 1980, we now have about a few thousand Christians there. We know that the number of people will be filled up one day because your promises never return empty. We know you are going to come.

I pray that God will teach us to be mindful of the salvation of the Muslims and the Jews. We do not want to be concerned only for our own interest. Instead, we want to think about your kingdom, because in front of the court of judgement, all our interests will come into conflict with your kingdom.

Lord, do come quickly. Please touch our hearts before we leave this conference for our respective homes. We want to see a revival in our church, in ourselves, and in our family. We want to offer all this to you to glorify you until the day you come. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home