The earth at night with lights of developed areas shining up into the heavens. This image is actually a composite
of hundreds of pictures made by U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP).
In deference to the New Year that ends with the number “12” it seemed fitting to write about the end of this Age. Our future is fraught with dangers we already see—let alone those we don’t. But the end is unspeakably glorious. The teachings of the Bible are there to help prepare us for what is to come. So with that in mind, we broach the End of the Age.
There are prophetic voices warning the Euro will collapse, the dollar will devalue catastrophically and there will soon be a terrible war in the Middle East.
Certainly our 21st Century civilization deserves judgment. Of these specific events, only time will tell if these prophecies come to pass.
But for those whose destiny is heaven, the critical issue is that we recognize the signs now happening not in the future, but right now.
The Bible lists for us signs that will accompany the closing of this age. All of us know about the wars and rumors of war, of pestilences, earthquakes and even tsunamis (waves roaring), of great distress in the nations and persecution of believers and deceiving prophets and messiahs.
However, three times Yeshua the Messiah added a clear qualification. He said, “See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.Again He said, “These are the beginning [not the end] of sorrows.” He reassured us: “Your redemption draws near [however, is not yet here].”
These disasters are birth pangs that will grow in intensity and frequency, signaling the end is nearing. But the final events that will actually bring back the Messiah are not the above. On the contrary, Yeshua outlined three conditions He said would absolutely end this present age:
1. EVERY PERSON WILL HEAR THE GOSPEL
God has not sent His Son back to earth yet because the Gospel must first be preached to every creature. These were the Lord’s last instructions on earth.Did the Lord entrust his disciples with this mission in vain?
Even before His death the Messiah revealed to the Twelve that the Gospel would actually be preached as a witness to the entire world. But then came the bombshell when He added, “Then the end shall come.”
We must never forget for a moment that Satan will fiercely oppose the events which will usher in the return of the Messiah. Wherever the Gospel is preached or shared, Satan sends his hordes to abort the new birth. Nevertheless, God has emphatically promised in the last days He would pour out His Spirit on all flesh on everyone!
To many of us that promise seems so impossible. How can revival possibly come to the earth when wickedness, violence and corruption are increasing exponentially the same sins that caused God to wipe mankind off the map save the family of Noah?
Since the New Testament states that all Scripture is for our instruction and the judgments that came upon Israel “became our examples,” we can understand Israel was and is God’s model of the way He deals with the human race. We can read over and over again that when Israel suffered terrible tragedy, only then did the Jewish people turn back to God.
Likewise, it would seem that only through great calamity, tragedy and affliction will sinners of the 21st Century turn away from materialism and the flesh and seek God. In America, on September 12, 2001, the day after 9/11, the churches were jammed. According to the Bible, such a disaster is only the beginning.
When judgment comes, in whatever manner, many will turn to God. To their everlasting regret, many will not. But everyone must have a chance.
2. JERUSALEM WILL BE UNDER ISRAEL’S SOVEREIGNTY
Before the Lord returns, Jerusalem must be firmly in the hands of the Jewish people.
And they (the Jews) will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles [i.e., nations] until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
This Scripture conveys several obvious facts. For Jerusalem to no longer be in the hands of the nations, Israel will have to repossess the Holy City. In order to do that, the Jewish people have to be living in the Holy Land and have an army in order to secure Jerusalem as their capital.
Over the last forty some years, this is exactly what has happened.
Today ancient Jerusalem is a city in deep conflict. Israel claims both east and west Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians claim that the Old City on the east side is theirs. Not a single country in the world recognizes either side of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital! Yet today Israel physically possesses the entire city.
Around the beginning of the 1900’s, many Jews began to immigrate to Israel from Europe, joining the destitute community of Jews who had lived in the Holy Land for countless generations.
In 1948, Israel, by a miracle, was accepted by the UN as a sovereign state, and in 1967, Israel conquered the Old City of Jerusalem, taking it away from Jordan whose army attacked Israel. (Jordan had taken possession of the Old City 19 years before.)
Many Christians who have been taught to believe the Church has replaced Israel in God’s global plans clearly do not comprehend this incredible miracle that points to the time of the end of the Gentile nations.
They do not see the fulfilling of prophecy because they do not understand the faithfulness of the God of Israel in keeping His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Scores of Scriptures both in the Old and New Testaments confirm God’s sure covenant promise to Abraham.
Nevertheless, the UN, under the control of the Muslim core of nations, is doing everything in its power to seize the ancient city of Jerusalem and give it to the Muslims. Why? Because Satan, the god of this world, and therefore the overriding force in the UN, will fight with all his power to wrench Jerusalem out of Israel’s control. The prophet Zechariah wrote that Jerusalem will be the flash point that precipitates a world war.
But our point here is that today, according to a prophecy 2000 years old, we see Jerusalem back in the hands of the Jewish people. No matter how fragile the ownership, we know we are at this moment seeing the culmination of the times of the nations and will soon see the King of the Jews ruling from Jerusalem.
3. THE JEWISH PEOPLE WILL ACCEPT SALVATION THROUGH YESHUA
The sign of the Jewish people returning to their Messiah is one of the most dramatic and specific end-time signs of which Yeshua spoke.
In Mathew 23 the Messiah directly warned the corrupt and self-righteous Pharisees that great disaster would befall them and their city.
But then he spoke of a day when the relationship between these religious leaders and himself would be healed. He said, “You shall see Me no more until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
In simple words, the Pharisees who had rejected Yeshua as Messiah and Savior would never see Him again until they had repented and received the salvation purchased through His own blood. Nevertheless, that day will come when they do see Him and they will rejoice and bless Him as the One sent from the Father.
Forty-four years ago, when I arrived to live in this land, the number of born-again Israeli Jewish believers was a tiny handful. Today, it is estimated that there are some 15,000 born-again Jews who have either been born in Israel or emigrated from such places as Russia, Ethiopia or the West.
The return of the Jewish people to the God of Israel is as great a sign as the physical return of the Jews to the land of Israel.
There are even a few Orthodox Rabbis in Israel today who have come to believe in the authenticity of Messiah Yeshua. However, they are, for the most part, believing in secret because of the persecution that comes with accepting the Lamb of God.
Furthermore, as we have seen, whenever God’s promises begin to move toward fulfillment then the dark powers strategize to stop that fulfillment. However, because God’s Word will never fail, we know even the ultra-Orthodox (today’s Pharisees) will one day invite their Messiah into their hearts. But the battle will be fierce as Satan knows what will happen when they do. The Lord will return!
Even in the 1st Century, Peter was preaching to unbelievers in Jerusalem, confirming what the Savior had foretold. This was his message to his Jewish people:
“Repent therefore and turn, that your sins may be blotted out, so that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Yeshua the Messiah, who was preached to you before whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”
Do you see the connection between the Jewish people accepting their salvation, and the Father sending back the Messiah?
Do you see that Yeshua has to remain in heaven until the restoration of all things which were prophesied by the prophets?
Has the Lord yet poured out His Spirit upon all flesh? Has God’s dealings with the Jewish people concerning their spiritual and physical inheritance been finalized?
From these three signs, we can conclude that God intends for every creature to hear the Gospel, and as many as will, to receive eternal life. He intends for the Jewish people to gain back their land so that when the Messiah returns to the Mount of Olives, He will return to His own people, not to the people of Allah. And God intends for His chosen people, the Jews, to accept salvation through His Son, Yeshua.
This plan of God will progress as wickedness grows darker. Do we remember what the Bible says about the days of Noah?
“Every intent of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually.” And that was before Internet porn, TV, movies, magazines and electronic games, to name a few. God said of the people of Noah’s days, “All flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”
Yeshua said sin in the last days will be as in the days of Noah.
God’s purpose is to see as many people on this earth, both Jew and Gentile, receive Eternal Life. On the other hand, Satan’s intention is to destroy the earth and everyone in it. His goal is to sabotage God’s plan for the future of this planet and God’s beloved creatures, you and me.
The Lord himself revealed how dangerous these last days will be. While the harvest of souls is being gathered into the Kingdom, the devil intends to bring great tribulation and death upon the earth.
It is a race against time God working through his people to bring all mankind to Himself, and Satan working through his people to destroy mankind. These grand strategies of God and of Satan are almost too colossal to comprehend.
EXTINCTION IS POSSIBLE
Never before in the history of man until 1945 have there been weapons capable of destroying every human being on the planet. Mao Tse-tung murdered an estimated 70 million, Hitler 11 million, Stalin, perhaps 20 million. Even though they murdered with all their might, they had no weapon that could destroy the entire human race. Not so today. Today it is possible.
Today, there are an estimated 22,000 nuclear weapons in the possession of eight countries the US, Britain, France, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and China. Several are rogue states, with others antidemocratic states who own large numbers of weapons capable of destroying the earth. The fanatical Islamic Imams of Iran are racing to join the club. Israel is believed to have such weapons but has never confirmed or denied it. Pakistan could be taken over by fanatical Islamists at any time. Saudi Arabia has announced that because of the multiplication of such weapons in her neighborhood [i.e. Iran], she too is looking into going nuclear. Then Egypt and Syria are next in line to acquire nuclear weapons. This could mean in a short time five extremist Islamic nations could have the bomb.
There are another 30 plus countries with weapons of mass destruction.
It seems clear to me that Satan, the great deceiver, is so full of pride that he himself is deceived; he believes that He can win this war against God.
But Yeshua let us know that is just not going to happen.
Before the devil will be able to extinguish life, the Lord will close the age. The race will be over and the victory will be with the saints, the redeemed of the Lord.
And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
The coming days will be both times of tribulation and times of harvest. God is calling on us to partner with him for the precious souls in all nations. But at some point, God will say, “Enough.” No more weeping. No more sorrow. No more violence, corruption and evil. An eternity beyond imagination.
Undoubtedly, there will be some wondering when the rapture will take place in all this. Yeshua made it clear that no one knows exactly. However, as Moses said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things revealed belong to us and to our children.” (Deuteronomy 29:29) We are not held accountable for secrets known only to God. However, the things He has revealed to us is to enable us to carry out our part of God’s plan.
The longing of every Israeli Messianic leader is to see his ministry reproduce and multiply.
As the generation of early pioneers in the Messianic movement becomes older, the longing to see new young leaders on fire with commitment, passion and vision grows ever stronger.
Furthermore, as the Messianic movement grows, new congregations have sprung up all over Israel with new leaders who do have the vision and call of God, but who are looking for more understanding of how to grow their congregations and reproduce more leaders.
Pastors Dennis and Colleen Rouse, of the 10,000 member Victory World Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and close associates of John Maxwell who is founder of the leadership EQUIP Conferences, committed themselves to six leadership-training EQUIP Conferences in Israel over a three-year period.
At this second conference, 213 Messianic leaders sat under the Rouse’s mentoring for two days.
They described and analyzed the purposes of God’s testing before his promotions tests of character, motivation, stewardship, credibility, ability to forgive, ability to stand in times of adversity.
They taught us how to identify our own insecurities and weaknesses which can hold back our ability to raise up new leaders.
They drew from their own experiences of delegating tasks, developing people, creating an effective team and much more.
The senior pastors of 34 congregations plus many leaders-in-the-making look with great anticipation to put into practice the wisdom that flowed from Pastors Dennis and Colleen.
These Equip Conferences, cohosted by Maoz, are without doubt of untold benefit to the Body of Messiah in Israel.
We are grateful to Victory World Church and to our Maoz partners for making these leadership conferences possible!
It’s been 32 years since Israel and I met for the first time. My mother tells me the doctors on the delivery floor said the nurses on the next floor could hear me scream and joked that I would be a singer. And did I mention the earth shook upon my entry? Yes it did. A rare earthquake shook Israel the day I was born in 1979—5.3 on the Richter scale. I’m sure it was because of me.
Actually, the late 70’s in Israel were as much about the birthing of the modern Messianic movement in Israel as anything else. Not that there wasn’t a remnant of Jewish believers throughout the 2,000 years of Jewish exile. But the Jewish belief in Yeshua had gone into a figurative exile as Jewish people lived in literal exile. This all began to change once Israel was reborn.
Some of the most devoted hippies of the 1960’s were abruptly captured by the heart of God during the “Jesus movement” of the 1970’s. Come to find out, an astounding number of newly transformed hippies were Jews. Not only did they become born again, many of them answered the call to return to the home of their ancestors—Israel.
When the cultural revolution of the late 60’s took place in America, my mother had already moved to Israel. At the time there were only a dozen or so Jewish believers that she knew of scattered throughout the land and they had emigrated from different countries. Some locals began embracing the message of the Gospel, but Jewish believers in Israel were up against the obstacle of Israelis being a pre-reached people group. It is one thing to come into a culture and have the privilege of announcing the name of Yeshua (or Jesus) for the first time. It’s a completely different experience proclaiming that name to a people who have been warned against Him.
On the extreme level, Jews have been warned that the name of Yeshua inspires the killing of Jews. On the benign level Jews have been told that belief in Yeshua is simply a non-Jewish belief. In other words, Jews can’t believe in Jesus.
With that party line solidified in exiled Jewish culture, Messianic Jewish believers would have to learn both the blossoming Israeli culture while simultaneously carve a secondary culture that would place Yeshua at the center of their lives. There was no model to follow. In the spiritual sense, Israel was uncharted territory.
One of the noteworthy phenomena of the late 1970’s early 1980’s in Israel was the worship music that came out of that period. Musically skilled Jews had immigrated to Israel, learned modern Hebrew and began writing worship songs in Hebrew—for the first time in 2000 years. These weren’t the simple “I love God” songs of today. They were anthems and creeds, and they made the Bible come alive. You could actually sit in on a worship session and hear the entire Gospel a few times over. And 30 years later many of the songs are still sung in congregations across the land.
WHO SAID PIONEERING WAS EASY?
It was difficult to get together with fellow believers in those early years because everyone was so spread out. So, the best way to solve that problem was simply to bring friends to the Lord already living in the area. Believers began to pray for friends and families they wanted to see come to the Lord. They also prayed God would work supernaturally in peoples’ lives as a testimony of the truth of Yeshua. A few significant healings, some word of mouth testimonies and small groups began to flourish.
As the believing community in Israel grew, a steady stream of Jewish believers from all over the world began trickling into the land. Their reason for moving to Israel was the same as non-believing Jews—an unshakeable urge to come home. An urge only explained by the prophet Zechariah,
“When I whistle to them, they will come running, for I have redeemed them. From the few who are left, they will grow as numerous as they were before.”
As with Yeshua, the established religious authority in the land saw Messianic Jews as a threat to their rule over the people. Messianic Jews respected the rabbinical authority as cultural icons, but not as mediators to God. Throughout history, the most atrocious status a Jew could receive for the worst forms of idolatry or criminal activity was that of an “apostate Jew.” Messianic Jews, however, were so evil in the eyes of the religious powers of the land, they were downgraded to the status of non-Jew, a status they wouldn’t have even been granted by Hitler.
But name-calling wasn’t good enough for the religious authorities. Action had to be taken to “save” Jews from Yeshua. Religious intolerance organizations popped up that busied themselves with raising money to pay people to harass believers. The idea behind the activism was that the average Jew lacked the wisdom (aka intelligence) required to understand Scripture on their own. Therefore, they needed to be protected from people like us who would have them read the Bible without rabbinical oversight. Due to the shady activities of these organizations Israeli believers lost their jobs; some were kicked out of their homes and a few were even forced to leave the country based solely on their refusal to deny Yeshua. There were even isolated incidents of violence, but thankfully that was rare.
Communication as it was even 20 years ago made it hard to establish where there were believers living in the land. Many went underground which made it harder to build public congregations. As a child my family interacted with many Israeli believers, a good number of whom we called “secret believers.” These were Israelis whose lives would drastically change if word got out to their friends and families that they believed in God’s New Covenant.
Some of these “secret believers” came from strict Orthodox Jewish backgrounds where their exposure would face violence and excommunication. This was particularly hard on people who had lived their entire lives within the religious community and had little or no idea how to survive outside of it.
Progress in building up the Body in Israel was steady but slow and as a child I had only two believing friends that I can remember. One lived an hour away and the other lived two hours away, so our fellowship was limited to a few times a year during holidays. This, of course, was before computers and cellphones could bridge the distance between us.
In grade school, I was very open about my love for God. I told everyone in my class that I was born again as best I knew how. The problem was that with no context for the Gospel in Hebrew, phrases like “born again” translated into “born twice.” This didn’t go over very well with my teacher who sent me to the principal’s office to explain myself. But none of that fazed me—I was used to the confused look on people’s faces (and my parents taught me to rejoice).
By the mid 1990’s things were changing. There was still no believing youth movement per se, but many of the children who had grown up with pioneering parents were now coming of age—teenage that is—and with that came new needs.
Israeli youth culture is a force to be reckoned with. When you’re in, you’re in and when you’re out, you’re not even in the building. With so many young believers being the first generation to come from non-Messianic parents, there was limited advice they could get from their families on how to deal with certain dynamics. The answer? Get the believing youth together with other believing youth to encourage each other.
The first major conference that I remember took place in 1994 where dozens of youth were gathered from around the country. However, this milestone did not go unnoticed by the powers of darkness.
The conference took place at a secular kibbutz. Believers often sought out secular places to meet so they wouldn’t have to deal with religious persecution. But one of the head guys in the kibbutz was religious enough to dislike what was going on in the meetings and called in a reporter from a leading newspaper. The reporter came to the conference smiling and even claimed to have had a spiritual experience in the place. She interviewed several of the youth and leaders and went home to write one of the most scathing articles ever written about Messianic Jews in Israel.
Because of Israel’s strict laws in regards to minors and religion, my parents, who headed up the conference made sure every minor had written parental consent to be there. Yet, the reporter laid into the conference leaders with allegations the children were being indoctrinated in secret. This type of stigma of believers in Israel would be very damaging, so my parents fought back and won an apology from the newspaper, and the reporter was no longer found writing articles for that newspaper.
With that victory behind them, believers pressed forward in the vision to see their youth strengthened, and summers were then dedicated to that purpose. Unexpectedly, youth from the U.S. embraced the fledgling Israeli youth movement and spent many summers mentoring and encouraging us to reach out to our fellow non-believing Israelis.
It was the first time I can remember that outsiders were looking at the local Body. Christian tours and conferences would blow in and out of the country with testimonies of salvations and healings without noting the fact that these miracles were happening to people in their tours, not to the local Israelis.
We knew in order to see Israel changed, we had to impact Israelis. And in order to impact Israelis we would need to use—Israelis.
The new millennium came around and with it came the second intifada. The Oslo Accords signed by Israeli Prime Minister Itzhack Rabin and PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat had done much damage to the Palestinian economy and Israeli security. People were afraid and uneasy. This insecurity forced people to come face to face with the reality of death and eternity—and unconventional questions began rising to the surface.
Interestingly, it was during this time that a wave of new music came from the believing youth. After more than a decade of Messianic music trickling in, new songs were being written at lightning speed. When it was all said and done, dozens and dozens of new songs had been penned by the native-born Israelis, and a wave of salvations followed. Suddenly, I could no longer say I knew every believing young person in the country. But, that was a great problem to have.
MEDIA ABOUT FACE
The next shift began subtly and not without challenge, but as the rift between the oppressive Orthodox Jewish community that controlled the government and the secular left that controlled the media began to grow, Messianic Jews began to see the first hint of an outstretched hand from the media. Perplexed by the hatred from the religious community towards believers the “live-and-let-live” journalists began to investigate.
While the religious community was being tainted by scandal after scandal, the Messianic community became known for integrity and honor—among those who knew them. “You pay your taxes, you serve in the military, you are simple, honest people—why are you so despised?” retorted journalists. Suddenly, believers who had been used to being portrayed as an evil cult were being portrayed as—well—just different. It was one more step in the right direction.
As a Body, we have experienced hate from anti-Semites because we’re Jewish. We’ve stood strong when some Christians rejected us as their brethren because we are Jewish believers. We’ve survived rockets fired by terrorists who hate our forefathers. And we’ve survived rocks thrown by the ultra-Orthodox who don’t want to hear about the only way to the Father. We have licked our wounds together as a battle was lost and gotten up to fight the next one.
We have gone months and years without seeing much visible fruit to our labors. And then watched as foreigners with big productions and good intentions trample our years of work because they don’t understand our culture. But, we have also experienced foreigners who come and encourage and build us up so we can better reach our people.
At any one time there are several hundred Messianic Jews serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Many of the youth of the 90’s are now raising their own families. Israeli-born believing children are everywhere. Their “born in Israel” status creates a very different dynamic than the “immigrant” status their predecessors had. Today’s Israeli believers were raised with our proverbial “chutzpah” and have the courage to speak of their faith. The number of “secret believers” has drastically decreased as people have made the bold step to go public, believing God would ultimately take care of them.
The cultural ground the previous generation conquered now serves as a springboard for their offspring. Israeli society is slowly shaking off the shackles of religious oppression they accepted while in exile. Every year we see signs of more Jewish people looking to know God in a way only dreamed of 30 years ago. With us on God’s side, it only gets better from here as the best is yet to come!
Reprinted from website. See Shani’s video blogs on www.yeshuaisrael.com Her new video of the song “Garden of Secrets” is coming out in January. Shani and her husband Kobi live in Jerusalem with their four children.
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