Converging Destinies: Jerusalem, Peace and the Messiah
For decades the Middle East has been the most volatile area on earth and trends do not suggest peacemaking prospects are getting any better. Sadaam Hussein’s tyrannical regime was removed 6 years ago yet Iraq is still being torn by internal strife. Newly installed governments in Iran and Palestine have openly declared their hatred of Israel and their intention to continue a longstanding jihad against the Jews and to wipe her off the map. The dispute over the Holy Land is increasingly becoming the focus of world attention. Indeed, it is the main issue polarizing the pan-Muslim world against the West. Ironically, Israel’s disputed capital, Jerusalem, is predicted to be the central place from which peace will spread worldwide under the Messiah’s reign.
Over the last decade Israel has come under intense pressure from the international community to accept their ‘road map to peace’. Israel has compromised by withdrawing from Gaza and even promising to withdraw from many settlements in the West Bank. It is obvious that these steps are only a bandage over a deep, festering wound. The Palestinians emphatically reject these unilateral decisions to redraw the borders of Israel. Clearly there are hindrances on both sides to reaching the healing and peacemaking that is so desperately needed. But what has not been so easy to detect – until recently – has been the hidden agenda of many Arabs, especially radical Muslims, to eradicate Israel.
Deceitful Politicians Undermine Peace
Since 1948 most Arab nations have tried to destroy Israel in an ongoing “war of elimination and massive massacre” – the words of Azzam Pasha, then Secretary General of the Arab League. Arafat finally realized that the Palestinians were not winning the world’s sympathy with their bloody rhetoric of ‘destroying Israel’ so, in 1993, he cleverly devised a peace strategy for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
But it was not easy for Arafat to convince his fellow freedom fighters from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join him in this new peacemaking venture with the ‘Zionist enemy’. He had to show his comrades in arms that this approach was actually a stepping-stone to achieving their goal of recapturing “all” of Palestine.
When Arafat was in the spotlight of world media he spoke of peace and acknowledged Israel’s right to exist but when speaking to Muslims it was a different story; “after this agreement,” he said, “you have to understand our main battle is Jerusalem – ... it is not their capital. It is our capital ... This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Mohammed and Quraish. But Muhammad accepted it and we are accepting now this peace offer ... Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all out war.” (from a lecture by Arafat in a Johannesburg mosque, 10 May 1994).
How could Arafat speak of making a peace treaty and then promptly talk of ‘preparing for all out war’ and the ‘destruction of Israel’? You must realize that Muhammad took advantage of the treaty of Hudaybiyya to reopen hostilities at a more opportune time and ultimately gain victory over the Meccans. Using Muhammad's example as a precedent, the mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdel Aziz Bin-Baz, explained that “peace with Israel is permissible only on condition that it is a temporary truce, until the Muslims build up the strength needed to expel the Jews.” (IMRA, March 2002) The mufti speaks of “expelling the Jews” but Arafat bluntly calls for “the destruction of Israel”.
Shortly after Oslo, Arafat explained how he would accomplish this, “Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory we can of Palestine ... and use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.” (from an interview on Jordanian Television, as quoted in "The Threat Inherent in a Palestinian State" by Don Feder, Insight Magazine, 13 May 2003)
Speaking in Stockholm to a group of Arab ambassadors he said, “We plan to eliminate the state of Israel ... We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem.” (as reported to the Norwegian daily ‘Dagen’, 6 Feb. 1996).
Arafat’s real intentions were also evident in his repeated calls for “a million martyrs to march on Jerusalem.” A Palestinian comrade responded to this call by blowing himself up along with 24 Israeli teenagers at the Dolphinarium disco in 2001. European leaders pressed Arafat to make a statement condemning the attack. Shortly afterwards Arafat wrote a letter to the bomber’s family praising him as a "martyr" and "a model of sacrifice".
Arafat not only rallied his troops to march on Jerusalem, he signed into ‘law’ a declaration claiming ‘all’ Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine (2003). Perhaps this was a way of countering Ariel Sharon’s declaration, “Jerusalem is the indivisible capital of Israel for all eternity.” Opposing claims like these have only added fuel to the fire. Prospects for a peaceful settlement are more bleak than ever, especially since Hamas has been elected to power in a landslide victory (early 2006). Up to this point we have been examining the dispute in Israel from a political point of view. It is also important, however, that we understand the religious beliefs underpinning this conflict, especially since Hamas has come to power, with a clear intention of governing by Islamic Law (Sharia).
Deceitful Clerics Undermine Peace
Mufti Ikrama Sabri, the leading religious figure in Palestine, sanctioned Arafat’s claim to Jerusalem, saying, "There is not the smallest indication of the evidence of a Jewish temple on this place in the past. In the whole city there is not even a single stone indicating Jewish history." (in an interview in Jan. 2000 with the German paper Die Welt). Such blatant denials and lies have not gone unnoticed by other Muslim clerics.
Abdul Palazzi, Secretary General of the Italian Muslim Association (PhD. Al-Azhar University) noted,
The Palestinian Arabs deny that the Holy Temple ever stood on the Temple Mount. I was part of an international delegation that visited Israel in 2000. The Wakf took us to visit Al Aqsa. Right outside of the Dome of the Rock is a small chapel on the eastern side.
"What is this place?" I asked. "It is the place where Solomon stood to dedicate the Temple," was the reply. "Then why do you deny this?" I asked. With a smile I was told, "For political reasons.” (Source)
Palazzi rejects these lies saying, “Imam Tabari wrote, ‘Lives of Prophets and Kings’. He described the life of King Solomon and the Temple he built. Anyone who denies this not only denies history, but denies Islamic sources.” Such denials contradict a statement by the Supreme Muslim Council of Jerusalem (1930), The sanctity of the Temple Mount “dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s temple is beyond dispute.”
It is bad enough to become entangled in such a web of inconsistencies and lies, but notice also how some Muslim clerics are guilty of poisoning the minds of Palestinians with teaching that implies genocide, “The Last Hour would not come til the Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims kill them until the Jews hide themselves, and the stones and trees would speak up saying, ... There is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 40, #6985)
If we do not understand the religious roots of Muslim hatred against Jews and the deceitful schemes of so-called PA moderates (like Arafat and his successor Abbas) we will have unrealistic expectations about peace prospects. Generations of Palestinians have been fed on propaganda denying the legitimacy of the state of Israel and glorifying martyrdom. It is not surprising, therefore, that a clear majority of Palestinians continue to support suicide bombers. For nearly 10 years P.A. leaders have falsely promised to prohibit schools and the media from allowing inciting statements to be made against Jews. As a result a deep rooted bitterness has infected many Palestinians.
Israelis Undermine Peace
God-fearing Jews do not pretend their country is without fault. The prophet Malachi rebuked Israel for depriving non-Israelites of justice but it is important to see that this message was part of a prophecy about the coming of Messiah in the future. God-fearing Jews, like devout Muslims, see in current events, signs indicating the Messiah will come soon. It is precisely in this context of end-times events that the Israelites are rebuked because you “deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me.” (Malachi 3:1-5)1
Israelis are treating Arabs unfairly not only in Israel but also in Palestinian areas. Oppressive curfews, for example, have had devastating effects on Palestinians as a whole. Israelis have sometimes used excessive force and killed civilians. They have harassed and arbitrarily arrested many Palestinian young people, holding them without trial or consultation with a lawyer, for several days, sometimes up to 18 days. There is another ill-advised structure being built at great expense to the Israeli’s – the security barrier.
This fence raises another barrier to peace. Its builders trust this will make life safer. In the short term the Israelis seem to have succeeded in making their lives a little safer – they have lowered the death toll from suicide bombers. But according to one of their greatest wise men, King Solomon, “anyone who trusts in high walls invites disaster.” (Proverbs 17:19). Other factors undermining peace will be examined later.
Peace and True Spirituality
Regardless which side of the dispute one is inclined to sympathize with, it is not hard to recognize that the only hope of peace is Divine intervention. Whether one is Jewish, Christian or Muslim, we all share much in common – not only our past heritage but also a future hope. All three faiths acknowledge peace to be one of God’s attributes and we know God’s plan includes sending the Messiah in the end times to usher in an era of world-wide peace. This utopian vision may seem incredible, even impossible, but with God, all things are possible. Let us hold steadfastly to this hope. Let us also “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” as the Psalmist instructed. (Psalm 122) Perhaps these points of agreement could be a meaningful starting point for exploring the Messiah and his role in the peace process?
According to the prophets the Messiah is profoundly spiritual, thus qualifying him to bring genuine peace. In the Qur’an and the Bible, ‘Spirit of God’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ are intimately associated with Jesus Christ. The Messiah is, ‘filled with’ or, ‘empowered by the Holy Spirit’ (Luke 4; Surah 2:87,253). Muslims have traditionally ascribed to Jesus Christ the title, ‘Spirit of God’. Being such a spiritually endowed person, the Messiah perceives things deeper than just appearances and therefore can judge the real truth, as we see in this prophecy of Isaiah, “the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord ... He will not judge by appearance, nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited.” (Isaiah 11)
Messiah: The Powerful Peacemaker
The Spirit-empowered Messiah will wield unprecedented power such that weapons of war will be totally destroyed. As it is written, “[He] will settle international disputes They will hammer their swords into ploughshares. ... Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war any more. ... Your king will bring peace to the nations.” (Isaiah 2:4; Zechariah 9:10). It is not surprising, therefore, to read of the peace that prevails under the Messiah’s reign in these words, “the wolf and the lamb will live together ... The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.” (Isaiah 11:6-8) These last two details are echoed in authoritative Muslim Ahadith (Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah as quoted by Mufti Mohammad Shafi in ‘Signs of Qiyamah and the Arrival of the Maseeh’, p. 38, p. 78, Hadith #13)
Islamic sources confirm that the Messiah’s coming will abolish Jihad; “Sayyidina Salamah bin Nufayl has said that the messenger of Allah said, ‘The (command of) Jihad will not be abolished until the descent of Isa Ibn Maryam.’ (Seerat al-Mughlata', Musnad Ahmad)” (Ibid., p. 109)
Christians and Muslims share another belief in common. During Messiah’s reign, peace will fill the earth. Tragically, however, the Hadith says this peace will only last 7 years – in stark contrast to the scripture, which says, that Messiah’s “government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:7)
The Messianic King
Messiah’s worldwide impact suggests that his authority is not just spiritual, as though he were only a teacher of religion. He will be a king. The Hadith speak of him as one who will rule. The Qur’an also gives a clue confirming what the prophets said about Messiah being a king. We read in Surah 3:45, “Behold, the angels said: O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from him: his name will be Christ Jesus.”
Muslims know that Mary’s baby received a name from God himself, as revealed through the angel. Unfortunately the Qur’an does not spell out the significance of the name, Messiah, but commentator Yusuf Ali acknowledges it means ‘to anoint’. He explains in a footnote that it comes from the Old Testament practice of anointing “kings and priests to symbolize consecration to their office.”
The Peaceable Servant-King
The Jewish prophets foretold the Messiah would be king (Isaiah 9:6,7; Zechariah 9:9,10; Jeremiah 23:5). Wise men from the east came at the time of Jesus’ birth to pay homage to him as new-born king (Matthew 2). When Jesus reached manhood he clearly affirmed his royalty saying to Pilate, “You are right in saying I am a King.” (NIV, John 18:37)
The earlier prophets described Messiah as the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 49 & 52). It is no wonder, then, that Christ’s nobility was hidden by the humble way he served the downtrodden and needy. However, when he returns to earth in the future, as he prophesied, no one will doubt his kingly power. He foretold that “when the Son of Man comes in his glory ... he will sit upon his glorious throne ... All the nations will be gathered in his presence ... Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father ...’” (Matthew 25:31ff)
All three faiths who regard Abraham as a ‘father’ figure believe the Messiah will come in the end times as a mighty king. Before that day comes, we should ponder what it will be like standing before this awesome judge. Each of the three groups claim they honor the Messiah but all of them have widely divergent views about who he is. Will he tolerate people paying him false homage, tainted by disgraceful beliefs that arouse heated debate and even persecution?
On that day some will be ashamed to learn that they have underestimated who he really is because they viewed him only as a prophet. On the other hand, if he really is only a messenger, as Muslims insist, Christians will be shocked to find that they have overestimated him. But, if the Jews are correct, Christians and Muslims will be humiliated. Either way, the stakes on that day will be high – those who wrongly believed in him will face the consequences. Some indication of the consequences can be seen in a warning Christ gave to those who rejected him.
How Not to Welcome the King
When Messiah came the first time “the world didn’t recognize him … He came to his own people and even they rejected him.” (John 1:10,11) After the Jewish leaders rejected him, he felt sad, knowing the terrible judgment that was coming. Jesus saw the city and began to weep, “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long, your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.” (Luke 19:41,42)
Some readers might feel inclined to think the Jews deserved this. Others might reason that this confirms the grim picture painted in the Hadith of a massive massacre of the Jews in the last days. But this is not exactly what the prophets foretold. Yes, God’s plan does involve a time of "great trouble" for Israel but then the LORD will intervene and rescue them. Later we will see that Messiah’s peacemaking work is not permanently hidden from the Jews. The prophets foretold that the Israelites will eventually repent and be restored. Then they will experience safety and peace. More on this later.
Messiah Will Have A Unique Relationship With God
The scriptures, which Christians and Jews alike believe, and which the Qur'an also acknowledges as God’s Word, states, “‘For the time is coming,’ says the LORD, ‘when I will raise up a righteous descendant [Branch] from King David’s line. ... He will do what is just and right throughout the land.’ In that day Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.” (Jeremiah 23:5)
These words of Jeremiah reflect the original promise of God through Samuel to King David, “I will raise up one of your descendants ... and I will make his kingdom strong.... I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father and he will be my son.” (2 Samuel 7:12-14) Notice how God has a ‘father-son’ relationship with David’s offspring.
This relationship is a spiritual one, similar to the description in the Qur’an where Satan has human ‘progeny’. We read in Surah 18:50, “Iblis broke the command of his Lord. Will ye then take him and his progeny as protectors.” Yusuf Ali explains in a footnote, “Satan’s progeny: we need not take the epithet literally.” (compare the Injil – John 8:44 where Jesus speaks of certain people as being children of the devil).
Like the word ‘progeny’ in Surah 18, Jesus used the term ‘son’ in a non-literal sense when he urged his followers to “love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust, alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.” (Matthew 5:44-47)
It is clear that Jesus used the term ‘son’ in a non-literal sense. From these scriptures we can see that Muslims and Christians should have no problem with God being a spiritual Father to humans. The problem comes when Jesus is claimed to be a unique prophet sharing a special place of honor with God – above everyone else. The Muslim scripture affirms the Messiah’s virgin birth and says he is ‘among those closest to God’ but it does not go so far as to recognize the total uniqueness of Jesus.
Let’s consider the uniqueness of Jesus – starting with his goodness. Jesus taught his followers in Matthew 5 to imitate their Father God by being good to those who are not good to us. No one, however, is perfectly righteous and good, no one, that is, except the Messiah.
Jesus asked the Jews, “Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin?” (John 8:46) As much as they tried to find fault and trip him in his words they couldn’t prove him wrong in any way. Indeed the Qur’an itself leaves no room to even hint that Jesus Christ was a sinner, although it candidly admits the sins of other prophets. So Jesus is unique. He is the only human to live a morally perfect life.2 In this respect Jesus was perfectly like his Father.
The second characteristic which shows Jesus to be unique is the worldwide scope of his kingdom. He will rule as king over “all nations” and judge them, even as we read earlier in Matthew 25 and Isaiah 9:7. Has anyone else made such a claim?3
Others also prophesied that the Messiah would exercise worldwide dominion. The prophet Micah foretold this, saying, “But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Then Micah describes Messiah’s global reign, saying, “He will stand ... in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God ... for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.” (NIV, Micah 5:2,4,5)
This introduces a third quality which shows Jesus Christ to be unique: he was pre-existent. When the prophet speaks of the Messiah having ‘ancient origins’ we should not assume he had a specific starting point. The Hebrew word for ‘origins’ simply means ‘goings out’. Jesus clarified the meaning of this puzzling phrase when he said, “I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.” We see a further clue to this unique attribute of Jesus when he prayed to God, “Now Father bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” (John 16:28; 17:5) Did anyone else make such a claim – implying that he existed before the world began?
This prophecy of Micah reminds us of the peace that Messiah will bring. We recall that one of his names is, ‘Prince of Peace’. However, peace is not just a matter of how we relate to one another as humans. We also need peace on another dimension, i.e. with God. This raises the question, “Could the Messiah have a peace-making role between man and God?”
Messiah: Making Peace Between Man and God
The Bible recounts two instances where Jesus met individuals who were notorious sinners, one was a man and the other a woman. Both of them experienced peace with God through Christ’s influence. These stories are worth reading in their entirety, but for now will you please pay special attention to his concluding words to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven ... your faith has saved you, go in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50) To the man he said, “Salvation has come to this home today ... For the Son of Man, came to seek and to save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Can we doubt that in this situation reconciliation with God was in view? The onlookers in Luke 7 responded to Christ’s remarkable words, saying to themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” In Luke 5:21 (NIV) the Jewish leaders reacted in a similar way, saying, “Who does he think he is? That's blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins.” The Qur’an also affirms this, when it says, “who can forgive sins, except God?” (Surah 3:135)
Earlier we considered the Messiah’s claim to have a unique link with God by virtue of his sinlessness. Now we see another astonishing credential. Jesus exercised the Divine prerogative of forgiving people’s sins. Doing this, Jesus showed another similarity between himself and God – in keeping with the proverb, “like father like son”. Jesus placed great importance on the fact that he did what his Father did.
This is evident in an encounter with the Jewish leaders. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Upon hearing this the Jews wanted to stone him because, they said, "You, a mere man, claim to be God". Jesus answered them, “Why do you accuse me of blasphemy, because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.” (NIV, John 10:30-37)
When Jesus forgave people their sin he reflected one of God’s traits. Saving people from sin is a prerogative that belongs only to God, as it is written, “I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Saviour ... I – yes I alone – will blot out your sins for my own sake.” (Isaiah 43:11,25) Ponder whether any other man claimed to have the authority to forgive people’s sins. Having this kind of authority shows us yet another attribute (the 4th one) giving evidence that Jesus is, indeed, unique.
God alone is Saviour, but the scripture says he planned to save the world through his Servant the Messiah, “I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) Notice the special way God fulfilled this prophecy at the Messiah’s birth.
Shortly after Jesus’ birth, he was taken to be circumcised. A godly old man named Simeon took him in his arms saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations.” (Luke 2:30ff) These words correspond with Isaiah’s prophecy but there is another clue, which shows that God’s promised salvation came to earth through this unusual baby. This child was given a special name by God, as revealed through the angel. (Matthew 1:21; Surah 3:45)
Obviously God did not choose this name randomly, but purposely, in keeping with what he planned to accomplish through his Servant the Messiah. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the name Jesus means ‘God is salvation’ or ‘salvation of God’. A respected Mufti named Muhammad Imraan Ashraf Usmani acknowledges that, indeed, this is the meaning of Jesus name (p. 77, Islamic Names [revised and enlarged edition]).
In this connection, it is also significant to see what the Messiah, himself, said about his mission. When he grew to be a man he declared that he came “to save the world” (John 12:47). Is there any clearer way Jesus could have indicated that he was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy to “bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth”? Once again we see Jesus as unique among all the other servants and prophets of God. Did anyone else claim to ‘save the world’? This is the 5th attribute we’ve seen showing Jesus Christ to be the unique Son of God.
Earthquake in the City of Peace
Jerusalem is being shaken by human conflict but a day is coming when Jerusalem will be shaken by a great earthquake. “Therefore, the Lord says, ‘In my jealousy and blazing anger I promise a mighty shaking in the land of Israel ... All living things – and all the people on earth – will quake in terror at my presence. Mountains will be thrown down...” (Ezekiel 38:19,20)
We might ask, “What provokes God’s wrath?” One thing is clear – Israel has placed her trust in her military devices rather than in the Lord. Could God also be angry at seeing moral decline in Israel? For example, Israel has legalized homosexual marriages and abortion. Could God be angry at the way the Jews have been mistreating the Palestinians and other gentiles living in Israel? Or, is there something else that angers the Lord – perhaps in the world at large? If we look carefully at these prophecies we will see that God’s wrath will be unleashed not only against Israel but also the world (see Zechariah 12 & 13).
The earthquake Ezekiel spoke about is described in more detail, by the prophet Zechariah, where he tells how all the nations will be gathered to fight against Jerusalem, “Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations ... the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west ... for half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south.” (Zechariah 14:3-5; Revelation 16:18)
This prophecy has not gone unnoticed by geologist, Dr. Amos Nur, a Stanford University professor, who has studied earthquakes in Palestine. Nur notes that the direction of the predicted earthquake follows the natural fault line, “The most remarkable thing about this quotation from Zechariah is the clear description of a strike slip fault in which the part to the east moved to the north and the part to the west ... moved to the south. This is exactly the kind of motion that we know happens on the Dead Sea transform during earthquakes.” (Amos Nur & Chris MacAskill, The Walls Came Tumbling Down – Earthquakes in the Holy Land, Stanford, CA: ESI Productions, 1991).
Neither should this prophecy go unnoticed by us. God has left this fault line as a sign to remind us of the truthfulness of his word. Although there will be a massive multinational attack against Jerusalem in the last days, God will come to her rescue and “make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. ... never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure.” (NIV, Zechariah 12:3; 14:11)
God assures us he will rescue the remnant of his people but we should remember that this deliverance will come on a large scale only when the Israelites repent of their sin and trust in God's Messiah, as the scripture says, “They will look on me, whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a first-born son who has died ... All Israel will weep in profound sorrow.” (Zechariah 12:10-12) When they “look on [the one] they have pierced” then the peace that Jesus said was "hidden" because of spiritual blindness will be realized.
It is amazing that in Israel, today, there are already about 7,000 Jews who believe in Jesus as their Messiah. These Israelis confess that the Lord Jesus Christ died to bring them peace with God as Isaiah the prophet said in chapter 53. Doubtless this is a foretaste of Zechariah’s prediction. In the coming days we can expect many more Jews will repent at their longstanding rejection of the predicted Messiah-Savior.
In the meantime we expect that many Israelites will continue to reject the Messiah and consequently be disciplined by God. Scripture describes this discipline as follows, “In all history there has never been such a time of terror. It will be a time of trouble for my people Israel. Yet in the end they will be saved. ... I will not destroy you. But I must discipline you; I cannot let you go unpunished.” (Jeremiah 30:7-11)
Prospect for peace in light of current events in Israel/Palestine
The PLO governing in the West Bank are touted in the media as political moderates but we must be aware that they still glorify suicide bombers and they have never rejected Arafat's deceitful agenda involving taking over all Palestine by using a phased strategy. This does not bode well for peace.
Moreover, since mid 2007 Hamas has been in control of Gaza. Their determination to eradicate Israel has not changed though they agreed in 2008 to a temporary ceasefire which has essentially been a sham.
Another development which does not bode well for peace is the genocidal threats of Iran’s president. Mahmud Ahmadinejab has repeatedly and unashamedly proclaimed that Israel should be wiped off the map. He convened a conference in Teheran advancing his agenda to eliminate Israel and has been helping Hezbollah and Hamas to wage war against Israel with increasing amounts of weaponry and personnel assistance.
Considering that anti-Jewish feelings among Muslims around the world are continuing to deepen, it is not difficult to foresee a day in the near future when prophecy will be fulfilled: an alliance of half a dozen Middle Eastern countries will launch an all out attack against Israel.
The likelihood of such an attack grows as Lebanon and Turkey become more Islamicized. In fact, Islamists are constantly reminding their Muslim brothers that Al-Aqsa Mosque (as well as Jerusalem) once belonged to the Islamic empire. Their argument – based on Shariah law – is that Islam has a divine mandate to rule Jerusalem. And they are continuing to issue this rallying cry with renewed zeal. Furthermore there is a growing sense of prophetic destiny among Muslims relating to their belief in a kind of super-hero called Mahdi who will arise in the end-times. Emboldened by this sense of destiny Muslims will eventually be propelled into a climactic conflict over the Holy Land (as mentioned earlier in Zechariah 12 and Ezekiel 38).
The prospects for peace in the Middle East are very bleak indeed. However, we who believe in a God of miracles remain unshakably confident that he will fulfill his promises to bring peace through his Messiah.
The Jews of Esther’s day felt that they were doomed to be annihilated by evil enemies but at the very last minute, they were providentially saved. So also, in the last days, scripture indicates that a purged, Jewish remnant will be saved from the genocidal intentions of overwhelming enemy armies – at a time when everything will seem to be utterly hopeless.
A thought-provoking comparison
Earlier we noted that both Christianity and Islam teach that the Messiah will usher in a worldwide kingdom in which the lamb and wolf will live together peacefully. Therefore, in a sense, we could say that both faiths acknowledge Jesus Christ as the ‘Prince of Peace’. However, Islam has a radically different view of how Jesus brings peace and forgiveness The Bible says in Colossians 1:20 that the Messiah made “peace ... by means of Christ's blood on the cross” but Islam denies this and goes even further by saying Isa will break crosses (when he returns to earth). The contrast couldn't be clearer.
If you would like to study end-time prophecies as they relate to Islam you will find a helpful discussion here.
For more information contact the author.
Plans to Rebuild Solomon's Temple Gain Endorsement of Prominent Peaceloving Muslims!
We have noted how Palestinian leaders allege that Al Aqsa mosque and its precincts have no Jewish or Solomonic roots. However, Muslim scholars such as Abdul Palazi, Salim Mansur and Haroon Yahya boldly contradict this view (based on Islamic sources). Indeed, Yahya, who has 65 million books in circulation worldwide, recently endorsed the intentions of the Jewish Sanhedrin to build a temple on the Temple Mount.
One wonders if there will be a gradual growing acceptance among Muslims regarding the peaceful vision involving a plan to rebuild the Temple of Solomon? Maybe so, but probably not. In my opinion, a more likely scenario would be a traumatic event like the infamous Six Day War – this time, triggered by a pre-emptive Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear weapons facilities. Another plausible scenario would involve an earth quake that damages existing buildings on the Temple Mount.
If a Temple were to be built near (or on) the site of Al Aqsa Mosque, and if this radical venture was made possible because of 'peacemaking' efforts of Turkish leaders such as Haroon Yahya, we should not be surprised if a story of deception were to unfold, the likes of which are described in the biblical prophecy. As it is written,
For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed - the man who brings destruction. He will exalt himself ... He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God... For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8)
The warning of deception (as indicated by bold font) is also seen in other scripture passages which foretell the Antichrist (see Daniel 11:25; Mark 13:6,22; Revelation 13:4). Bear this warning in mind as you reflect on earlier examples of deception in the notorious Road Map to Peace in Israel.
We are seeing how Turkey is playing an increasingly key role in international affairs i.e. in terms of peacemaking initiatives, especially in relation to bridging the gap between the pan Muslim world and the so-called western world. Joel Richardson has written two excellent articles showing how this trend fits the picture of end times events as prophesied in the Bible (1, 2).