Your word is a lamp
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for my path.
Psalms 119:105

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IN THE NEWS – The World Trembles as Iraq Unravels

The world is bracing for another Middle East conflict as Iraq unravels at the hands of Islamic extremists. The prophet Ezekiel foretold of the conflicts which would trouble all nations in the end times: “Every man’s sword against his brother." Ezk. 38:21

Iraq has ignited in turmoil as city after city falls into the hands of one of the most vicious radical Islamist groups to date — so vicious that even al-Qaeda has disavowed them as "too extreme." This most recent Islamic group is comprised of Sunni Islamist militants — the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. They have become one of the most deadly and more rapidly growing insurgent groups in the Middle East. And now, as the U.S. trained Iraqi military lay down their weapons and flee out of fear, such volatile weaponry in the hands of unstable radical religious factions is a global disaster waiting to happen.

The Cry of Jihad Striking Fear!

Truly, the cry of Jihad — holy war against all infidels — is setting the world at high alert! Radical Islamic fundamentalism is a relatively new and ominous foe, creating chaos and fear. Why? First, there is no behavior more irrational and brutal than that of religious fanaticism fueled by hatred and religious bigotry. And, second, terrorism is the primary implement of war used by these religious fanatics. There are no "rules of engagement," as seen in previous wars.

This worldwide terrorism is one of the signs of the end of the age. Speaking prophetically of this end time phenomenon, Joel expressed it well: “let the weak say I am strong.” (Joel 3:10) Jesus also spoke of this time: “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now — and never to be equaled again,” and “ will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world...” Matthew 24:3, 21, 22 NIV; Luke 21:26 NIV

Many in the Western world saw the "Arab Spring" as an exciting shift in power from arrogant dictators to a more democratic system of government. However, in reality, it has become the opportunity Jihadist radicals have been hoping for. Seeing a weakened and somewhat disorganized society, they enter in with unbridled force to take control. What will this mean for the world? At a minimum, it causes great distress among the nations, and at worst, it could precipitate another rigorous military response, drawing many nations into battle against a vicious and illusive foe which lacks any respect for life.

We have already seen what can happen when fear takes hold of normally peace-loving nations. After the 9/11 attacks upon this country, certain freedoms were abandoned for the sake of "keeping this country safe." Once a freedom is removed, it is very difficult to gain it back, and soon innocent individuals, who have no intent of malice, are jailed out of a paranoia caused by fear. A case in point was the concentration camps of the Japanese in this country during World War II. This is an event which nearly all regret, and yet, if we do not learn from history, it may well be repeated.

The Prophetic Symbol of Fire

Fire, as used in Scripture, is a fitting symbol of anarchy — complete lawlessness. There is nothing more destructive to society than anarchy. The prophetic description of anarchy which is to be visited upon mankind in the end time is found in Ezekiel 38:21: “Every man’s sword against his brother." While this sad prophetic statement of final anarchy yet looms on the horizon, brush-fires of revolution as seen in the "Arab Spring," and anarchy such as we see in these lawless radical movements have been flaring up around the world and getting worse.

Even with international intervention, as was utilized in Iraq, the fire often rekindles with a vengeance. Once the people topple the powers that be, a worse fate often rushes in to fill the void. As a worst case scenario, one need only look at Somalia, a country which has not been under the control of a single national government for over twenty years. Over 600,000 people have fled the country, escaping impossible conditions. Those who remain must fend for themselves, often resorting to piracy and other crimes of desperation.

The Gathering of Nations

Though world governments may quench the firestorms for a time, these struggles between the oppressors and the oppressed, will, as the Scriptures warn, eventually spread to anarchy worldwide. "Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy..." Zephaniah 3:8

Throughout history, there have been pockets of conflict, revolution and anarchy among men ever since Cain’s hand was against his brother Abel. So why have the past one hundred years been any more remarkable to indicate that we are now at the time period of Zephaniah’s prophecy? It is the gathering of nations that makes this prophetic statement quite unique to our time.

The world is interconnected — gathered — as never before in history. Today, what happens on a street in Syria can be flashed in seconds around the world via cell phones to millions of outraged on-lookers. A global marketplace is further contributing to the instability of the social and financial fabric of nations large and small. The world’s economies are now lined up like so many tottering dominos — anyone could bring the others down.

The Apostle Peter states that the “heavens shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt...” (2 Peter 3:7-13) These “heavens” and “elements” are not people—they are the oppressive systems that the selfish and power-hungry created. After these corrupting elements — political, financial, social and religious systems — are removed, mankind will see clearly the valuable lessons of the consequences of sin and selfishness.

God Only Wounds to Heal

Yes, God will “gather the nations” to pour out the “fire of His wrath.” And while all that sounds painful — there is hope beyond the trouble. As a surgeon who must remove a cancerous tumor, God only wounds to heal. Out of the midst of the turmoil surrounding the globe at this time, God has a plan which will bring healing!

Continuing in Zephaniah's prophecy, after the fire of that day, God will then "turn to the people a pure language that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent." (verse 9) The “pure language” is truth. Once the chastening hand of justice quenches the fires of anarchy, God turns this "pure language" to the people — which indicates they did not have it before. “The people” referred to will be the untold billions of mankind who have never heard the “pure language." And, because of the troubles they have experienced, they will now be ready to listen to God’s pure truth — untainted by the erroneous and evil doctrines of men. Mankind will learn to serve God with "one consent." The New American Standard puts it “shoulder to shoulder.” Instead of brother fighting against brother, mankind will learn to cooperate in building a peaceful society.

They Shall "ALL Call Upon the Name of the Lord"

The purpose of this apocalyptic fire at the return of Jesus is not to save a mere few and destroy the remainder along with the earth. The Scriptures say that the heavens retain Jesus "until the times of restitution"—the restoration of mankind to their Edenic-like home upon the earth. “… He [God] shall send Jesus Christ... whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:20-22) This restitution of all things will include all that Adam — and all of his children — lost: perfect life and home upon a perfect earth. “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” Matthew 18:11

Yes, the purpose of Jesus’ return, therefore, is not to destroy but to restore the earth in times of refreshing as is stated in Acts 3:19. This will be a time for refreshment and healing after more than 6,000 years of trouble. As Revelation describes these “times,” the “water of life” will proceed “out of the throne of God and the Lamb,” and the symbolic “leaves” will be for“the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2) Then, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9) This “knowledge” is the “pure language” of Zephaniah’s prophecy. Instead of the fire of anarchy—with every man’s hand being against his neighbor — earth’s billions will serve God “shoulder to shoulder,” hand in hand, heart to heart.


Used by permission from the Associated Bible Students of Central Ohio