By Reggie Kelly
The situation in Lebanon is surely another installment along the long road of tragedy in the region. It is part of an insoluble impasse that has existed since the quarrel that began in the tents of Abraham. Ezekiel called it the “perpetual hatred” (Ezek 35:5). It is the historical culmination of a dilemma that is divinely intended to defy any human solution. “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which He hath made crooked?” (Ecc 7:13). “I will overturn, overturn, overturn, until he come whose right it is …” (Ezek 21:27)
Given what Israel represents to the eschatological vision of fundamentalist Islam, it is clear that nothing short of the complete annihilation of the Jewish state, if not the elimination of every Jew, could ever assuage this deeply religious form of hatred. The apocalyptic world-vision of Islamic fundamentalism views the very existence of Israel as an insult to Allah.
Since my earliest study of prophecy, I’ve been convinced that the scriptures make plain that the “ten nations” that the Antichrist will lead against Israel is not a so-called “revived Roman Empire” of the Western European common-market countries, but rather the modern equivalents of Israel’s ancient enemies described in Ps 83; Ezek 38 et al. These original descendants of Ishmael and Esau currently constitute the modern lands of the Arabic and Islamic world.
It behooves us to declare from the roof tops all that God has spoken by the mouth of His ancient prophets concerning these very days, and the impossible dilemma the will crowd the nations into the final crucible over Jerusalem. It is the final face-off between God and the demonic powers, the culmination of Satan’s age-long war against the covenant. It is destined to evoke all the great questions of God and history, discovering to the core the disposition of every heart towards the claims of God’s sovereign right and rule, His election and covenant.
The issue of the Jew and the Land is divinely calculated to reveal our deepest heart towards the nature of grace and the gospel. It is remarkable how profoundly the question of Jerusalem (“the controversy of Zion;” Isa 34:8; Jer 25:31) is bound up with ones understanding of God, the wisdom of His choice, and the glory of His purpose in history. Regardless of modernity’s distance and indifference to this ancient divine claim (the everlasting covenant), the nations are no less accountable, and will be held liable for their presumptuous defiance of it (Ezek 38:18; Joel 3:2 et al). Hence, the nations are ultimately tested by that age-old question: “Has God really said?” This is what is always at stake; and if you think about it, it is the essence of every test.
Regardless of which side your sympathies are with in any relative sense, to know the situation ‘after the flesh’ is death. In the natural, the issues are so multiplex that to mention any part of the equation in isolation from the bigger picture is to evoke righteous indignation from either side, and this is understandable, because no one part of this insoluble conundrum can do full justice to this subject. Its very design is to test us to the quick, and to eventually draw out every aspect of divine contention that has existed since the beginning. With Israel, it is “the quarrel of my covenant” (Lev 26:25; Micah 6:2) With the nations, it is “the controversy of Zion.” With the church, it is the issue of how one understands the nature of grace, as shown by the church’s historical tendency to “boast against the branches,” in costly ignorance of “this mystery.” Since the controversy of Zion will test all nations, what of the church? What of Peter’s warning that “judgment must begin at the house of God?” This will also sift the church.
Where this most current and particular resurgence of the “everlasting hatred” will lead in the immediate future, I do not know. But this much I can say: There is much still that must transpire before Jacob’s trouble can take place. The prophecy of Daniel provides the important details (let him that reads understand). There it is seen that certain preliminary conditions must be in place before Jacob’s trouble can begin. A careful comparison of the literal details and depictions of Daniel’s prophecy implies a dramatic contrast with the present political situation. Hence, a radical shift must come. But how? There are many formidable obstacles. What will it take to accomplish such enormous change?
It is difficult to conceive that anything less than a regional war of a serious magnitude, perhaps even threatening the near loss of the modern state, would be sufficient to bring about the kind of political changes necessary to provide for the conditions that precede and signal the beginning of Jacob’s trouble, particularly if these are to receive, as I expect, a very soon fulfillment. Therefore, I suggest that we will likely see a radical reconfiguration of the political landscape, and such change will most likely come as the result of war that Israel will survive (momentarily) in contrast to the final desolations of Jacob’s trouble. I’ve written briefly concerning this preliminary order of events in an email that Simon posted on our website under the title “Avoiding the False Alarms of Prophetic Speculation.”
If we are not to ignore certain clear scriptures that describe a definite set of events that mark the approach and signal the beginning of Jacob’s trouble, then we may well expect a regional war on a potentially tremendous scale, sufficient to affect the kind of radical changes implicit in a literal reading of prophecy. If so, then Jacob’s trouble is not an imminent event; other things must happen first. Jacob’s trouble (the ‘great tribulation’) awaits a political situation whereby the religious orthodox will have a controlling jurisdiction over Jerusalem. A league (Dan 11:23) or covenant with Antichrist (Daniel’s ‘little horn’ which I believe will be a regional neighbor) must be publicly ‘confirmed’ (sanctioned, ratified, approved, not created). Sometime shortly after the peace agreement with the Antichrist, the orthodox will begin restoration of the institutions of the ‘holy covenant,’ i.e., temple, sacrifice, etc.
This is not always a welcome interpretation because it seems to postpone the end, but it is the only interpretation that shows itself consistent and harmonious with the larger context of Daniel, particularly in chapter eleven where a number of events are detailed, intrigues, and regional conflicts, all depicted as preceding Jerusalem’s final desolations. Therefore, we can be certain that Israel will survive whatever comes until that time.
Unhappily, any momentary triumph over the Arab and Islamic threat will only contribute to an even greater presumption, as Israel enters into its ill-fated “covenant with death and hell.” This peace lie brings a momentary euphoria of false hope (“When they shall say ‘peace and safety’ ….”). It is the ultimate delusion that signals the imminent fall of Jerusalem to the ten nation confederacy of Antichrist (Dan 11:45; Rev 17:16).
According to prophecy, after 3 ½ years the momentary euphoria of presumed peace and security ends ‘suddenly’ in a flood of invading forces from many countries that make up the modern Islamic block of nations (Ezek 38). This will mean the unleashing of the full fury of the Islamic world on an unsuspecting Israel (Isa 28:15, 18; Ezek 38:8, 11, 14; 39:26; Dan 8:25; 9:27; 11:23-24 ASV; 1Thess 5:3). I personally believe we could begin to move rapidly into this last formation of events at almost anytime. However, as things stand now, it will require a considerable reconfiguration of the political and regional situation in order for the stage to be fully set for Jacob’s trouble, also called the ‘day’/ ‘time’ of Israel’s “calamity” (Deut 32:35; Ezek 35:5; Obadiah 13).
As for the current situation in Lebanon, I can only speculate. I do not know what Hezbollah hoped to gain by this (but it is certain that such a calculated provocation had much more in mind than the exchange of prisoners). I do not know where this stage of the conflict is headed. I only know that the prophetic scripture makes clear that there will be a false peace before the final war. But knowing you have close friends and loved ones in Lebanon, I will tell you what I count most important: That is the urgency by which we must guard our hearts in the days ahead. Jesus warned that “because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold.” Truly, there is nothing that more excites anger and hatred than ‘an outraged sense of justice.’ Therefore, if we permit the appalling scenes of injustice to prevail against our love, then regardless of the accuracy of our theology or political sympathies and ethical assessments, all is lost. The test will only get more impossible as time goes on, but that’s precisely where grace will be magnified the more (“Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound”). The whole situation and all the issues that it evokes are divinely intended to test the ground of our standing, whether our trust is in nature or grace (Hag 2:6-7; Heb 12:26-29).
As for what’s been said around here about this latest outbreak, really nothing very definite, but a sober sense that we are at another critical juncture and transition point (Art compared it to how he felt at the beginning of the intifada), as we see in all these things the inexorable approach of Jacob’s trouble. We simply pray; mostly with groans hard to articulate. In view of what must come first before the kingdom, the prayer for the “peace of Jerusalem,” like the prayer “Thy kingdom come …,” becomes a very costly prayer indeed (Acts 14:22).