“I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves” Zechariah 12:2,3 niv
Jerusalem an Immovable Rock
Consider the headlines! “Talks Crash on Rock of Jerusalem” (The Australian 27.7.00)—US President Bill Clinton has tried to put the best face on the failure of the Middle East summit, but nothing can hide the chasm between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the status of Jerusalem. Each accused the other of intransigence. Prime Minister Ehud Barak said he would never compromise on the unity of Jerusalem, while according to diplomatic sources President Yasser Arafat demanded Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem including the Old City, except for the Jewish quarter and Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall. There will now be a nervous countdown to September 13, when Mr Arafat has stated he will unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood… Just as “Next year Jerusalem” was a battlecry for Jews seeking an independent state after the horrors of the Holocaust, Palestinians living in defeat and exile have been promised by their leaders that East Jerusalem will be the capital of their state”. Look at Zechariah 14:1,2: “ I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it… half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city” (niv). Why does it say “half the city”? Could this be East Jerusalem?
There is so much to say about the issue of Jerusalem; the situation is changing every day and is continually being updated in our papers. However, we are introduced to the major players in the battle of Armageddon in Revelation 16:13–16. These are the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. Their influence has greatly increased in recent years, and it is these powers which we will now consider.
The dragon previously revealed itself in Revelation 13:2–4 where it gave military support to the Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe. The dragon symbolised the Eastern Roman Empire with its centre in Constantinople. It was the main military strength in the Roman Empire. However, it does not reappear again in the Apocalypse until Revelation 16:13, just as the nations are gathering for Armageddon. This is significant. While the Eastern Roman Empire was dismantled in 1453 at the fall of Constantinople, it is expected to reappear at the time of the end. This is why the Turkish Euphrates power drys up (16:12) to make way for another Eastern Roman Empire. Russia and Eastern Europe became democratic in the early 1990’s as the froglike spirit swept the continent, beginning in Poland.
The religion and character of the Eastern Roman Empire is reappearing today. In 1988 there were only fifty two churches in the Soviet Bloc (according to Time magazine). By 1995 there were over 14 000, while today there are well in excess of 20 000. The Eastern Church has regained its power, and is even now getting involved in the dispute over the holy city of Jerusalem. The Church dominated and manipulated Boris Yeltsin while he was in power, and it continues to do so under new Russian leader Vladimir Putin. For more information, read Milestones 1999 by Brother Pearce and his subsequent articles in the Bible Magazine.
So much could be said, but simply, things are really on the move in Russia. The whole region to the south of Russia is seething with terrorism and instability. Mr Putin “is trying to show the West that it needs Russia to guard key areas against this instability. The implication is clear: a partial rebuild of Russian military capability” (Macquarie Research 25.7.00). Also of significance, “Increasing Russian arms sales to China are one sign of a growing alliance between Moscow and Beijing aimed at undermining the US position as the sole superpower… Russian scientists also are reportedly assisting China’s development of laser weapons, space-based weapons, and nuclear submarines” (Washington Times 13.7.00). Thousands of Russian Scientists still remain in Iran developing nuclear and conventional weapons. Iran has just successfully test fired an upgraded version of a medium range ballistic missile with a range of 1300km, capable of striking Israel. This missile was developed with Russia’s help and test fired in early July 2000.
Meanwhile the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church has “blessed” the new Russian President at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin. Earlier this year we were told that “Putin puts his faith in close links with the Orthodox Church” (The Australian 18.3.00). The article said that “when Boris Yeltsin transferred power to Putin, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church attended the ceremony and it took on tones of a coronation. Putin then reportedly went one step further and specifically asked Patriarch Alexy II to bless him in his new role… Most Soviet leaders, including Boris Yeltsin, have sought close ties with the Church in a search for legitimacy in Russia’s still shaky democracy. But in his first months in office, Putin has shown a deeper personal faith”. Some are worried that “he will allow the Orthodox Church to play an even bigger role in state affairs…”. It is recognised in Russia today that “faith is becoming similar to party membership, only instead of a red card you have to wear a holy cross”. Who would have dreamt such amazing things just ten or fifteen years ago?!
This is the Beast of the Earth or Holy Roman Empire. Its historical background is given in Revelation 13:11–18. It is a union of Western European states. It is quite amazing that the Beast should even be mentioned here in the sixth vial, let alone in a position of power—gathering the nations to Armageddon! During the fifth vial period, the beast’s kingdom becomes “full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain” (16:10). The context of Chapter 16 is the French Revolution and particularly its aftermath, when Napoleon wreaked havoc throughout Europe, bringing judgments upon the Catholic Church and virtually sending it bankrupt. The Holy Roman Empire had lasted just over 1 000 years but now it has gone. But, lo and behold, it re-appears in the time of the sixth vial! We can therefore expect not only a revived Holy Roman Empire in Europe, but that a spirit of madness from this territory will help gather the nations to Armageddon in Jerusalem.
As we write, Mr Arafat is in France drumming up support with French president Jacques Chirac. Mr Chirac has been well known for his support of the Palestinian cause, and his utter frustration with Israel and their attitude over the Holy City. Just over two years ago, Chirac jostled with Israeli security guards as he visited the old city of Jerusalem. Chirac’s minders said that they had never seen the French President more angry. The European Union has had numerous nasty disputes with Israel over the Peace Process, most particularly when Mr Netanyahu was in government. The EU has continued to rally behind the Palestinian cause to divide Jerusalem in half.
In Britain, Tony Blair’s government is still hoping to go to a Referendum on the Euro Dollar after the next election. It appears however that they are in for a struggle: “Support in Britain for the European Union has plunged to unprecedented levels, a European Commission poll shows… Only 25% of Britains polled thought British EU membership was a good thing. In 1991, the figure stood at 58%. British support for joining the single European currency also has fallen sharply and stands at just 22% against 36% in 1998” (The Australian 26.7.00). Historically, Britain was never an integral part of the Holy Roman Empire (the beast of Rev 13:11–18). As the latter-day Tarshish power (Isa 60:9; Ezek 38:13) we would expect Britain to move further towards friendship with Israel and isolation from Europe, at least at the time of Armageddon.
The False Prophet
The false prophet here in Revelation 16:13 is clearly the prime religious power in the world. He is described in Revelation 19:20 as having “wrought miracles before him [the beast], with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image”. A reference back to Chapter 13 clearly indicates that this power is the Papacy in Rome, described in that chapter as “the image of the beast” but now in Chapter 16 as “the false prophet”. The Pope has been active in spreading forth the frog-like spirit of human rights, revolution and democracy to Eastern and Western Europe over the past fifteen years. The effects of this will be seen when the nations finally gather for Armageddon. Papal support for the Palestinian cause is clearly seen in the following article:
“The pope yesterday made an impassioned plea for a Palestinan homeland at the start of an historic visit to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. ‘No one can ignore how much the Palestinian people have had to suffer in recent decades. Your torment is before the eyes of the world. And it has gone on too long’, the Pope said at a welcoming ceremony alongside Palestinian leader Arafat” (The Australian 23.3.00). The Vatican and the Palestinians have been pursuing a goal for a number of years. Back in February, Arafat was in the Vatican to sign a 12 part agreement with the Pope. The preamble to the agreement called for “a peaceful solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which would realise the inalienable national legitimate rights of the Palestinian People.” It also declared that “an equitable solution for the issue of Jerusalem, based on international resolutions, is fundamental to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and that unilateral decisions and actions altering the specific character and status of Jerusalem are morally wrong and unacceptable” (L’Osservatore Romano 23.3.00).
The “international resolutions” referred to are clearly alluding to the fact that no country in the world recognises Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, taken from the Arabs in 1967, reflected in United Nations resolutions in that year. Israel in response slammed the agreement which “implicitly criticised Israeli policy in Jerusalem, warning that unilateral decisions on the status of the contested holy city were morally and legally unacceptable. Enraged Israelis have accused the Pope of being pro-Palestinian and supporting PLO claims to make eastern Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel after the 1967 war, the capital of a future Palestinian state” (The Australian 18.3.00). The Pope’s frailty adds another dimension to the Papacy’s role in power politics in the Middle East. The Australian (17.3.00) reports that “the Pope has lost control of the Vatican, which is increasingly being run by right-wing hardliners, a British author and academic has claimed…”. It is said that extreme ultra-conservatives are having a powerful influence, and are “manipulating” the Pontiff. We can expect the Papacy to play an increasing role in the issues surrounding Jerusalem as the call to “sanctify a war” approaches (Joel 3:9).
Society in the Year 2000
In an article headed “Young, gifted and amoral”, we are provided with an interesting summary of the spirit of the age: “If the 1980’s were the decade when greed was good, the 1990’s were the decade when greed became the norm. And in 2000, everyone wants a cut… Maureen Dowd, the Pulitzerprize- winning New York Times columnist, wrote recently that in her youth she used to go to church to confess all kinds of guilt. ‘Now’, she said, ‘I feel guilty about just one thing: not being a millionaire”” (Aust Fin Review 16.2.00).
A headline in The Australian (28.4.00) demands “Equal justice for gays, psychiatric help for homophobes” in an edited extract from a lecture by High Court Justice Michael Kirby at Monash University. He says, “Let us resolve that the new millennium will see an end to the ignorance about human sexuality. Instead, what is needed is the adoption of a proper scientific, analytical approach. An approach based on empirical data and good science, including social science”. He suggests that those religious people who have written letters to him “invoking Scripture” in their disgust at his homosexual lifestyle, “are the people who need the help of psychology and psychiatry today. These are the people mentally disturbed, beset by their mental devils… Those who cause these feelings, and not those whom they target, need the assistance of scientific psychology and psychiatry. Those who are their targets need the strong assistance, protection and equal justice of the law”.
The Churches of the world however are providing no answers because of their rejection of God’s Word. In an article headed “Most bishops doubt the Bible” (Illawarra Mercury 28.12.99) we read that “the vast majority of British bishops—Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists—don’t believe the Bible’s version of the creation of the world, according to a BBC radio investigation. Only three out of the 103 bishops questioned by the BBC said that the Scripture version of events—in which God created the world in six days—was the truth. Eighty of them doubted the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and a quarter of them did not believe that Jesus was born to a virgin”. The same paper reported one week earlier comments by the Reverend Gordon Bradbery of Wesley Church in Wollongong who says, “I believe that generally the church is not addressing the scratching of people’s itches and that is why they choose not to go… We have to find a spirituality which is relevant at the end of the 20th Century and not borrow the spirituality of others from the first century”. The itching ears of today’s Church goers and leaders do not want to hear what God has to say. Take the Word of God away and the world corrupts.
The corrupting influence of Hollywood was shown on the front page of the Illawarra Mercury (28.3.00) in an article headlined “Oscars shine on taboo subjects”, which said, “Once taboo sexual subjects, homosexuality [etc…] took centre stage at the Oscars as American Beauty swept the main awards…”. Much of what is glorified in this front page story is too disgusting to even mention, but is summarised by a woman who won the “best actress” award. She said, “I think this movie opens the door to letting people know what’s going on in society and putting an end to intolerance in the future…” Appropriately, the “best actor” and “best actress” are each shown holding a golden image, symbolic of the filthiness and arrogance of the Kingdom of Men (cp Daniel 3). Today, these films are thought of as being “normal” entertainment. Let’s wake up to the fact that society has had “its conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim 4:2). The entertainment industry today, with its violence and immorality, has its tentacles ready to snare any whose minds are not properly attuned to the mind of God. Because “their Watchman wickedness is great” the time is coming when “the name of Yahweh will come from far, burning in his anger” (Joel 3:13; Isa 30:27).
Vision of the Future
In contrast, what a wonderful vision of the future is presented in Revelation: “The nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy [mg corrupt] the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament… ” (Rev 11:18,19).