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It's very difficult to prophesy, especially about the future.
My interest is in the future, because I'm going
to spend the rest of my life there.
Charles F. Kettering
HAVE YOU EVER DRIVEN DOWN a strange dark road in a blinding rainstorm? Every minute you wish you could see beyond the edge of the headlights to see what's ahead. If only you could know what was coming next-could intuitively know what's out there or predict what you'll find at the next bend in the road. We long to see ahead, to know, perhaps to avert disaster.
Can someone see what's ahead by intuition or a special gift? Can a prophet know the future because the path of our lives is part of a larger drama scripted ahead of time? This is what the prophets of the Bible claim. Can we know where we are in that pattern of events foretold by prophets, written in Scripture, or seen in apocalyptic visions of the future? That is what we'll explore in this book.
In the uncertain storm of the days in which we live, all of us yearn to see beyond the headlights-but can we?
THE TIME BOMB IN OUR POCKET
The terrorist bomb on a bus in Israel has jumped into everyman's life-the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, a subway in London, a train in Madrid, a hotel in paradise. No one is safe anywhere.
Four planes are hijacked. The World Trade Center is destroyed and the Pentagon attacked. The entire United States economy is thrown into a recession.
Hurricane Katrina hits the coast. Refineries stop. Ports are blocked. The price of gas soars. Oil companies report record profits. The economic cement of our lives is not cement at all.
These recent events have underscored a reality most Americans would rather ignore: We have vulnerabilities. One of the greatest is our dependence on foreign oil. The wheels of transportation that make capitalism possible depend on this oil-gas, diesel fuel, high-octane jet fuel. If the wheels stop, the economy will shatter. The supply line stretches across the world to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and the Middle East.
New industrial nations are exploding. The rocket of economic growth in China and throughout Asia demands more and more oil. The world barely has enough to supply present demand. The clash of economic engines demands more oil when supplies are nearing the breaking point. In this decade, economic growth alone will cause an "oil break point."
In 2001, Osama bin Laden plotted to overthrow the monarchy in Saudi Arabia and take over the oil the West needs so desperately. Then he could demand any price. Demand anything. In 2006, terrorists attempted to attack the heart of the Saudi Arabian oil and gas industry, the Abqaiq processing facility. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the failed attack. The New York Times called it the first attack on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure. In one day the story disappeared from the news.
Do these events signal what the future holds? What will happen when Islamic terrorists are willing to ignite chaos in the Middle East to destroy the Great Satan of the West? Is it possible to protect every wellhead, pipeline, processing facility, and tanker? Who will stop the sabotage, the trucks laden with explosives, the handheld rockets, the dirty bombs?
Terrorism exposes another vulnerability. The terrorist arsenal has been building for decades. Iran has purchased and supplied Russian and Chinese weaponry, which has passed through Syria into Lebanon. Before the Thirty-Four-Day War between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, the militant organization's arsenal included approximately 13,000 rockets and medium-range missiles. Israel was surprised at the state-of-the-art weapons used by the terrorist organization. During that one clash, Hezbollah fired approximately 4,000 short- and medium-range missiles into northern Israel.
Many still believe that weapons and high explosives stored in Iraq were carried out by the truckload before American troops arrived in March 2003-and that much of these are returning in the hands of terrorists. Tons of sophisticated explosives from a wide variety of sources are now in the hands of terrorists around the globe.
Missiles, nuclear warheads, and enriched uranium from the former Soviet Union have been bought and sold around the world to the highest bidder. In the late 1980s Abdul Qadeer Khan, the renegade Pakistani nuclear engineer, sold uranium enrichment technology to Libya, North Korea, and Iran. Although Libya has given up its nuclear program, it is now clear that both Iran and North Korea have used these designs to further their nuclear programs. North Korea has the bomb and is working to perfect the means to deliver a nuclear warhead as far as the United States. Public statements by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have led intelligence sources to believe that Iran will be able to construct powerful atomic bombs in the very near future.
Iran is hotly pursuing its nuclear program and has publicly declared its intent to obliterate Israel. Iran is fully aware that Israel might launch a preemptive strike on its nuclear production facilities, and it has financed and provided training for Hezbollah to amass thousands of rockets and build a terrorist army. In the summer of 2006 Hezbollah proved it could mount a sizeable threat to Israel's security.
By arming a proxy army in Lebanon, Iran is adding another dangerous card to the game. If Israel orders an air strike against Iran, Iran can immediately order Hezbollah to strike northern Israel from the ground and with rockets from the air. Many believe it will be difficult for Israel to launch a sustained air war in both Iran and Lebanon at the same time. As Hezbollah continues to grow in Lebanon, how can Israel threaten Iran with air strikes when its northern cities are not secure?
What's the next move? Will the United States or Israel launch a preemptive strike against Iran? Will the Israeli-Arab conflict go nuclear? Will Iran unleash nuclear jihad?
While Iraq's program to develop chemical and biological weapons under Saddam Hussein was not as sophisticated or successful as early intelligence estimates indicated, much of what was started there is now in the hands of terrorist organizations. Chemical and biological weapons are being developed in every corner of the world. Terrorists around the world download the knowledge necessary to create biological agents every day from Web sites that supply the critical information. Chemical and bacteriological warfare may be as big a threat to large populations as nuclear devices or even conventional nuclear warheads.
THE IMPENDING CRISIS
The rapidly increasing tempo of change in modern life has given the entire world a sense of impending crisis. Oil and terror, the two greatest issues facing the world today, are both centralized in the same part of the world-the Middle East. Since the oil and the terrorists are in the same location, it's easy to envision terrorist attacks that could damage or interrupt world oil production. The world crises at the top of almost everyone's list are the war on terror and maintaining an uninterrupted flow of oil.
The Middle East became the center of attention during the Gulf War in 1990-1991 and made many wonder whether that conflict was to be the final war of prophetic fulfillment. Although it soon became clear that it was not Armageddon, the entire world focused on the tense situation in the Middle East. The invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 seem only to have added fuel to the terrorist fire. The Middle East is a powder keg that could explode at any time.
How long can world tensions be kept in check? How long can the struggle between the West and Islamic terrorism be kept from becoming a global bloodbath? The ingenuity of man has devised means of human destruction that would have seemed incredible to a previous generation. With terrorist tactics ranging from dirty bombs and suitcase-sized nuclear devices to anthrax and smallpox used as weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the world appears to be moving toward a gigantic crisis. Can it be that the prophets of doom are right? Is the world racing toward Armageddon, the end of Western civilization?
THE VOICE OF THE PROPHETS
As alarming as these events are, they really are not surprising in light of the Bible's end-time prophecies. For centuries, people of religious faith have considered the message of true prophets to be God's revelation of His plan for human history. The Old Testament books record the lives and works of many great prophets-Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Micah, and others. These men predicted future events in vivid detail, including the rise and fall of every major world empire that left its mark on the Middle East. Some of their predictions came true within their lifetimes. Now it appears that many of their astounding prophecies could be fulfilled at any time.
Jesus Himself claimed to be a prophet and quoted from Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, and Jeremiah-many times adding interpretive comments and detailed predictions of His own. His words have been confirmed by the test of time. Jesus' prediction of the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20-24) was so vivid that the early church in Jerusalem was able to escape almost certain destruction by fleeing the city before Titus destroyed it in AD 70. As then, so now, crucial predictions about Jerusalem and the nation of Israel are, in fact, the key to understanding a carefully predicted chain of events that will mark the last days of our civilization.
Jesus predicted the persecution of the church, the fall of Jerusalem with the destruction of the Temple, the scattering of the Jews into all nations, and the amazing survival and growth of the church. Along with the Old Testament prophets, He saw a time when Israel would be re established as a nation (see Matthew 19:28; Matthew 24:15-20; and Acts 1:6-7). All this has been realized in history. But He also warned those who understood the Old Testament prophets to watch Jerusalem and the Middle East for signs of the approaching end of world civilization, the end of the "period of the Gentiles," also referred to in some translations as the times of the Gentiles. The Jews, He said, "will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end" (Luke 21:24).
Over five million Jews are now back in the land, the largest movement of Jews in history-far more than the two million who left Egypt for the Promised Land under Moses. Jerusalem, the city of dispute and negotiation, was won in 1967, only to become the object of a diplomatic tug-of-war. What is the future of the Holy City? If the period of the Gentiles is, in fact, nearing an end, what will happen next? What are the final events of world history as "the period of the Gentiles comes to an end"? Is there a sure word about tomorrow? Is this a word of hope or a warning of doom?
THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS
Modern man is asking questions about the future as never before. They are solemn questions; they are searching questions. The Bible is certainly the best place to look for answers. Many of the biblical prophecies cited in this book are coming true before our very eyes. Even the most skeptical person can put these prophecies to the test by noting the literal, precise fulfillment of past prophecies.
For this reason, biblical prophecy is being discussed more than ever before. In these prophecies it is possible to probe for clues to find where we are in God's program and the predicted events that may occur in our lifetime. Prophecies, which in the past were sometimes brushed aside as incredible, are now being studied again.
The study of prophecy has been plagued by two extremes. The one extreme is to disregard prophecy or to interpret it in a nonliteral sense. About half of the prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled. Studying these passages makes it clear that when prophecy in the Bible was fulfilled, it was fulfilled literally. The demonstrated pattern of fulfillment to date contradicts the skeptics' theories that prophecy should be considered metaphorically.
Another extreme, however, is to take prophecies out of context and interpret them to fit every headline. One prophecy isolated and out of context should not be used to interpret headlines or set dates for future events. The careful student of prophecy attempts to put all unfulfilled prophecies together into a chronology of events that is true to their literal meaning. Careful interpretation of prophecy reveals a chronology of events the Bible predicts will set the stage for the final act of world history.
As students of the Bible observe proper interpretation principles, they are becoming increasingly aware of a remarkable correspondence between the obvious trend of world events and what the Bible predicted millenia ago. In fact, 28 percent of the Bible was prophetic at the time it was written. Not surprisingly, then, people in all walks of life and of all religious faiths are asking the question-what does the Bible say the future holds?
NO VAGUE AND GENERAL PREDICTIONS
Unlike the self-proclaimed prophets of today, Jesus and the biblical prophets did not peddle vague and general predictions that could be adjusted to any situation. The prophecies recorded in the Bible are detailed and intricately interwoven. Although interpretation of minor points may vary, the overall picture is frighteningly clear.
The Bible does not simply speak of a final destructive world war but of a whole series of carefully timed events that are like signposts on the road to Armageddon.
Armageddon has come to describe anyone's worst fear of the end of the world. The prophets have described it more specifically as the final suicidal war of a desperate world struggle centered in the Middle East. It will be the final act in a terrifying series of events that are very much related to today's headlines. This final, history-shattering war will occur (1) on schedule, (2) at a specific time, and (3) in its predicted location.
The name Armageddon actually comes from a Hebrew word meaning "the Mount of Megiddo," a small mountain located in northern Israel at the end of a broad valley. This valley has been the scene of many military conflicts in the past and will be the focal point of this great future conflict.
Excerpted from ARMAGEDDON, OIL AND TERROR by John F. Walvoord Mark Hitchcock Copyright © 2007 by JFW Publishing Trust. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted April 24, 2011
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