The world is heading for disaster on an unprecedented scale. Describing apocalyptic events shortly before His second coming, the Lord Jesus said that a remnant in Israel will be uprooted from their country and forced to flee to the mountains in great haste to escape the fury of the false messiah (Matt. 24:15-20). That will be followed by worldwide calamity: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matt. 24:21-22).
The great tribulation will not only be the consequence of the false messiah’s ruthless dictatorship but also a time of divine judgment. Old Testament prophets refer to the end-time outpouring of God’s wrath as the day of the Lord. Isaiah says, “Behold, the day of the Lord comes! Fierce, with wrath and raging anger, to make the land and the whole earth a desolation, and to destroy out of it its sinners” (Isa. 13:9; Amplified Bible).
God only judges sinners, i.e. wicked people who despised His blessings and saving grace which are offered to them through His Son, Jesus Christ. The great culmination of end-time prophecies is the second coming of Christ: “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). He will bless and glorify the saved ones but judge and destroy the wicked. The destinies of all people can only be correctly understood in the light of their relationship to the Lord Jesus. He is either the Savior of repentant sinners to redeem and bless them, or He will be the Judge of all the willful sinners to condemn them because of their wickedness.
Despite all the revelations and divine interventions of God in the history of mankind the vast majority of people remain evil in their hearts: “And this is the condemnation, that the light [Jesus Christ] has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Most people prefer a false, man-made religion as a substitute for serving the true God: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3).
When things go utterly wrong in the lives of such people they either blame other people or hostile nations for their calamities or they blame God for not blessing and saving them. The Bible says their problems will only intensify until they bow before the One who is the only Savior of the world (Acts 4:10-12). This basic spiritual principle equally applies to Israel and the Gentile nations. Unless people discover their own spiritual and moral depravity and repent to God through Jesus Christ they can only expect more trouble as well as divine retribution because of their unbelief.
It will be of no avail for sinners to keep on blaming others for their hardships when the Prince of Peace still does not yet reign in their hearts. This is the vital message which Israel and the nations should very clearly hear during these critical times shortly before the outpouring of God’s wrath upon a wicked humanity.
The time of Jacob’s trouble
Israel should once more be boldly and explicitly confronted with the biblical facts about Jesus as the promised Messiah. He offers them life from the dead (Rom. 11:15) as well as everlasting peace and joy. A dark future awaits them if they keep on rejecting this offer.
The following are excerpts are from the book, The Holocaust – Where was God? An Inquiry into the Biblical Roots of Tragedy, by Art Katz, published in 1998. Quotations used with permission of Art Katz Ministries (www.artkatzministries.org).
“The misappropriation of the sufferings of Messiah as being our own is inevitable for a Jewry that refuses a consideration of Him and is yet required to find explanation for our own historical sufferings. If we reject Messiah as the fulfillment of Isaiah chapters 52:13–53:12, who ‘was so marred more than any man,’ and then substitute Israel in His place, we are then brought to an inevitable place of collision. This ultimate logic of rejection forces us not only to be opposed to the Messiah if He were to come, but of necessity to envy His place – to be as the Messiah, to be ourselves the Suffering Servant, to be deified, to be the Messianic hope, and to be the civilization that is the answer for all” (p. 30).
“Why do men prefer some kind of a religious form that is not the knowledge of God in truth? Why is there this instinctive and deep aversion of the knowledge of God and a preference for a religious substitute? It is, I believe, because religion is that human amalgam of practice and thought that gives men the form of something in which they can engage themselves to their own satisfaction and, at the same time, shields them from the obligation that the true knowledge of God brings. Why do we not rush to the knowledge of God in truth if it is available? Why do we prefer Judaism, or Catholicism, or Protestantism, or even an occultic alternative, to the knowledge of God in truth? Is it because the true knowledge of God brings requirement? To know God in truth is to know the requirement of God in truth – and that is not convenient for man. That is a profound reason why God is circumvented, and why we prefer a god of our own choosing who does not make demands. Even the Living God can be lost to us if we seek ‘convenience’ rather than the truth, as even contemporary Christianity testifies. What had happened to our God-given, biblical faith by the time the One who came as Messiah-King two millennia ago? It had become a hardened system, and His very presence threatened its perpetuation (see John 11:47-50!). If the system was to continue, then He, of necessity, had to perish, rather than be allowed to live to threaten it. We defended our calcified religious system unto death. We sought to keep it alive and perpetuate it rather than allow it to come to that end and new beginning for which Israel’s very God was calling. This is the tragic re-enactment of self-perpetuating ‘religion’ through all generations” (p. 39).
“In refusing to rightly interpret the Holocaust of God in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth as the judgment for all sin, we, by that refusal, set in motion the very circumstance which made our own Holocaust inevitable. By refusing to interpret our catastrophes rightly (catastrophes that we set in motion), we make ourselves subject to the next. Such is the tragic continuum until the end” (p. 40-41).
“We suffered at the hands of the very nation we had esteemed. We lacked the understanding of the inherent depravity of all human nature. Therefore, we could not anticipate the evil that man could do – inhuman, if not bestial things, done to us by the very people who were the projection of our own concept of man in his exalted state. We had projected onto the German civilization our own lofty and idealistic view of ourselves – a view, I suspect, despite the tragedy of the recent past, we still essentially hold! We are a people given to a self-exaltation and self-congratulation in our own self-assessment. It pervades our religious services and our cultural life. So impressive are we in our own sight that we are blinded to that corruption inherent in the very nature of man as man, a corruption that is deeper than the issue of German civilization itself. That is to say, what we are as men in ourselves is yet to be recognized. We have not yet learned the lesson” (p. 46).
“God has a controversy with us concerning our alienation from Him. We have been unwilling to face the meaning of our own history, and to consider the horror that was the result of that alienation. The unhappy fact is that the interpreting of catastrophe as the consequence of (and judgment for) sin is totally incompatible with contemporary Jewish self-assessment. It is outside our consciousness and consideration. We have a sense rather of our own innate self-righteousness and goodness” (p. 78).
“Catastrophe, as judgment fulfilled, is God’s penultimate provision to bring an awareness unto repentance to those who would otherwise have no consciousness of that need. The failure to interpret catastrophe in that way, and the failure to see the hand of God in our judgments, must necessarily result in our seeking to place the blame on men. We will find the fault as being with the Germans and Hitler. This is not to say that they were blameless, but we are stopping short of seeing the greater truth. In the last analysis, those who blame men end up blaming God. If we will not see ourselves as the factor for the judgments that have come, then we will inevitably come to the place where God Himself becomes ultimately the evil one. God is judged and found wanting. If man will not accept himself as being the root cause of his own judgments, ironically, God is the one who ends up being condemned for inherent defect in His creation seeing that He was apparently ‘unable’ to intervene in preserving Jewry from calamity. We have a much greater facility to find fault with God than with ourselves. That in itself sums up how lamentable our condition is… How important, then, to rightly interpret our tragic past. We would be fools not to receive the benefit of that past and to anticipate what is to come again if its root causes are not recognized and dealt with repentantly. If our judgments are in direct proportion to our sins and the magnitude of our judgments indicate the magnitude of our sin, then we need to be awakened to something of which we are not personally and subjectively aware. It is for the lack of this consciousness that God gives us calamity in order to evoke the questions that we ourselves would never have thought to ask. On the contrary, so smugly satisfied are we with our condition that we think we represent the standard to which the whole world would do well to aspire. We would do better to understand our condition, not in the light of our own subjective fancy, but in the light of the scriptural judgments that we are catastrophically required to experience… [God] stretches Himself and extends His mercy, and He sends His messengers, which messengers we have historically rejected. In our resiliency, we somehow find a way to recover from our calamities... finding a way to remove the onus of its true meaning as judgment, not seeing it in terms of our national sin” (p. 79-81).
“It is remarkable how much the interpretation of the Holocaust, as being the judgment of God, radically explains God as God, and brings with it a fear of God as Judge. This fear of God is painfully lacking in our modern consciousness. We have grown up without the sense of the awe of God and the fear of Him. This is one fruit of the unanswered questions raised by the Holocaust that we have chosen not to ask” (p. 7-8).
“We do not have a perspective of God as Judge. Consequently, we have paid a high price for the loss of the understanding of God, both in judgment and in mercy, in severity and in goodness. God’s dealings with Israel (past, present and future) are absent from our consideration or awareness, and we have therefore voided the most profound revelations of God given us in Scripture… There is something about God in judgment that reveals God as He is not to be seen in any other way. Yet, it is the one aspect of the attributes of God from which we instinctively shrink. We cannot reconcile the God who is mercy and love, just and righteous, with a God who would be the Judge to bring affliction of this magnitude on mankind – and particularly on Jewish mankind. If our God does such things, then the most distasteful, the most painful, and the thing most calculated to destroy our own religiosity, becomes the most precious and true revelation of God. Is it not in this contradiction, if we would see it through, that the deepest revelation of God is to be found?” (p. 9).
“Could it be that we cannot understand the Holocaust from God’s perspective unless we bring eternity into view? Only eternal consideration makes the calamity of the Holocaust in any way intelligible… It is only in the hope of averting another fire, one that is inextinguishable and eternal, that makes this fire, in any way, comprehensible. If the one will teach us and save us from the other, then it makes supreme eternal sense…. To omit eternity from our consideration is to disfigure reality itself” (p. 9-10).
“I once had the privilege of meeting the distinguished author, Elie Wiesel, a Romanian Jew and famed winner of a Nobel Prize. He himself is a survivor of the Holocaust, and is probably one of the greatest spokesmen on the subject of the Holocaust… At the conclusion of his public address, I asked him privately: ‘Mr. Wiesel, to what degree would you be willing to acknowledge that the sufferings that we have experienced as Jews, in all of the calamities of our history and especially the Holocaust, are the fulfillment of God’s judgments forewarned prophetically in the concluding chapters of the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy?’ He looked at me for a moment in a kind of shocked silence and then answered: ‘I refuse to consider that.’ Has that statement been echoing and reverberating up in the heavenlies ever since? Is it not in effect a summation of man’s very self-exaltation over God? It begins significantly with the word ‘I.’ In this instance, it is not so much the matter of whether what is being stated is right or wrong, but that there is something higher than God’s Word – the ‘I’ who can approve or refuse it! Is it human arrogance exalting its opinion, its thought and its will above God Himself? To refuse to consider the Word of God is to exalt ourselves above the Word of God and, by implication, denounce the Word and effectually reject it. Is this not in effect what we have done historically to the prophets sent to us?” (p. 11-12).
“We have a greater obligation than the Gentiles do because we are the ‘people of the covenant.’ We are the ‘chosen ones’ and have had the advantage of the revelation of God, of the Law given at Sinai, and of everything else that came to us first as His witness people. Upon us, therefore, comes the greater judgment. In what way are we Jews of today any different from the Jews upon whom God’s judgments fell historically? The mere passage of time has altered nothing. To say, therefore, that present-day Jews do not deserve judgment is to presumptuously declare that the earlier, historical judgments were equally undeserved and invalid. To annul the validity and justice of those judgments is to, in effect, annul God. The God of wrath, fury, and judgment then, is yet God now. He will again express His wrath in fury and judgment before the age ends, and for the same reasons for which they came before. That is why He is calling us to repent now of our independent self-will, notions and opinions, and surrender before the Holy One of Israel while we can. His mercy is to call us to repentance before the fulfillment of what is apocalyptically prophesied in His word (see Isaiah 13:6; 65:6-7; Jeremiah 30; Daniel 12:1; Joel 2; Amos 8:8-10; Zephaniah 1:12; Zechariah 14:1-5)” (p. 88).
“I have a sense that these things are impending and near, and that the only thing that restrains them is the hand of God. Is not everything positionally in place and could explode in a moment? The weight of our Jewish unbelief and unrelatedness to God must bring us down. When He takes His hand away, then we will slip, slide, and fall into destruction and devastation in a moment. We are already under the sentence of condemnation until that condemnation is lifted by the receiving of that One whom God sent to bear it, namely, the Messiah of Israel – Jesus of Nazareth. In the continuing rejection of God’s gift, all Israel stands under this sword of judgment, hovering over our heads, waiting for the moment when God simply takes His hand of restraint away. I would rather be proven false, but I believe that this present generation of Jews is going to suffer devastation on a world scale that will eclipse the Nazi era” (p. 89).
“We are going to be viciously hated and pursued, suddenly uprooted, losing everything in a day, having to flee with only what is on our back and in panic not knowing where we are going… We are going to suffer double for our sins but our God has said, ‘I will restore.’ How urgent, then, to believe that the God who promises judgment and fulfils it is also the same God who promises restoration and will also fulfill it… Not to believe God’s judgment as the fulfillment of His word now is to nullify all hope of believing for His future intervention then. This is the scenario for the last days, namely, the restoration of Israel by the unmitigated grace and mercy of God – so totally undeserved. We Jews are the epitome of what man is. We are the statement, in our humanity that should forewarn men everywhere. God has chosen to use us as the witness people to demonstrate Himself, if not by our virtue, then by our vice” (p. 90).
“The nations are unconsciously waiting for our restoration to God, for we have a theocratic destiny as a ‘kingdom of priests’ (Exodus 19:6) and ‘a light to the Gentiles’ (Isaiah 42:6)… God is waiting for us to own the death of our Messiah, and, by that acknowledgement, set in motion our salvation. But if we plead exemption in any measure, then we are lost without hope. The power of our deception needs to be broken, as well as our self-justification that opposes God, so entirely summed up in our continuing rejection of Jesus of Nazareth. This same God is going to give us a historical opportunity to recognize our pathetic and dismal failure. Those who survive the tribulation shall never again fail, because God will give us a new heart” (p. 92; end of quotations from the book by Art Katz).
Correct interpretation of end-time prophecies
Israel strongly features in end-time prophecies, particularly those related to Middle East wars, the appearance of the false messiah, the tribulation period of seven years (Daniel’s 70th week), the coming of the true Messiah, the destruction of Israel’s enemies, the salvation of the remnant in Israel, and the establishment of the Messiah’s thousand-year reign of peace. Different scenarios of end-time events are published on various websites and circulated worldwide. Some of these presentations often tend to become very “technical” and complicated, making it difficult to resolve exactly how end-time wars and other calamities will follow one another. There is a real danger of Christians becoming so caught up in a study of end-time events that the Lord Jesus is no longer foremost in their thoughts and conversations, His commission of world evangelism is sidelined (the work that we should be doing while the night of God’s judgments is nearing), and many of them may neglect preparations to appear before the judgment seat of Christ after the rapture, where they will have to give account of their lives (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10-12).
So many of the eschatological experts hardly ever give their testimony of salvation and sanctification, and they become so preoccupied with analyzing secular news events and military maneuvers that may trigger the war of Ezekiel 38-39 or Psalm 83 that they fail to interpret the signs of the times spiritually. Whatever happens to people or nations should always be related to their spiritual standing before God.
As for Israel, it is certainly not correct to elaborate on how they will obliterate all their enemies and as “the Chosen People of God” will always be on the winning side because of their military skills, advanced weaponry, and the blessings of God bestowed on them. The fact is that the vast majority of Jews are strongly opposed to the Messiahship of Jesus and are heading for the time of Jacob’s trouble (cf. Jer. 30:7; Ezek. 22:19-22).
The same spiritual waywardness applies to the Gentile nations; consequently the whole world is heading for a “great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world” (Matt. 24:21). Israel and the nations will suffer under the judgments of God. But man in his spiritual and moral depravity still exalts himself and trusts in his own virtues and military strength, oblivious of the impending outpouring on a world-wide scale of divine wrath.
We should earnestly exhort our own people to escape the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). Israel should be warned against the serious consequences of their continued rejection of the Messiah, rather than unconditionally promising them resounding victories in all the coming wars in the Middle East. Instead of expanding their territory they will end up as refugees in the wilderness during the great tribulation (Matt. 24:15-22; Rev. 12:13-16), at the end of which only a remnant will be saved. In the foregoing excerpts from the book by Art Katz, an esteemed Messianic Jew who died in 2007, the roots of tragedy in Jewish history are explained while stern warnings are extended to the Jewish people against the coming wrath. Unsaved members of the Gentiles will similarly be the objects of God’s wrath.
I am pleading that those of us who are trying to convince others about the nearness of the rapture and of the outpouring of divine wrath during the subsequent tribulation period would uphold a high standard of holiness in order to be ready to meet the Lord in the air. We must have a deep spiritual compassion for the millions of Jews and Gentiles who will be subjected to God’s wrath and the Antichrist’s religious deception and military dictatorship during the tribulation. We should guard against the inclination of discussing only superficially, for the sake of sensation, the signs of the times.
As believers we will be judged by Christ in terms of the spiritual standards (personal holiness, doctrinal purity and evangelistic zeal) which we have achieved while serving Him during the church dispensation and not for trying to know the exact time or circumstances of our departure to be with the heavenly Bridegroom. I nevertheless take a keen interest in the signs of the times as they motivate me to increase my efforts of proclaiming salvation to the lost (it may be the last opportunity to many), while these signs also help me to correctly assess spiritual trends during this time of great falling away from the truth. Furthermore, this knowledge is important as it helps me to remain spiritually on the right way lest I, as a preacher of the second coming, should remain behind when the Lord Jesus comes! (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27).
May the Lord help us all to put first things first and of course to always expect His sudden coming! If Jesus Christ, His saving grace, the promise of His second coming, His command to holy living, and all the events associated with His coming are not central in our thoughts, discussions and writings about the end-time world in which we live, we are missing the most vital perspective of our lives and future. In Him alone is eternal life, and He is also the Judge of the lost (Acts 17:30-31). Every knee shall bow before Him.
Arrogance of an end-time humanity
Human self-exaltation against the Word of God, and therefore also against God Himself, does not only occur in Israel but is also very common in the Gentile, Protestant world (including South Africa). Increasingly statements such as the following are heard: “I don’t believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; I don’t believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, neither in his deity, the meaning of his crucifixion or his resurrection from the dead; I don’t believe in the devil or in hell; I don’t believe in the rapture, the Antichrist, the great tribulation or in any of God’s judgments; I don’t believe that Christianity is the only way to God; I cannot be rejected by God since I am good enough just as I am…” The list grows longer almost daily, mainly as a result of the influence of apostatized theological seminaries and the media, causing people to be increasingly agnostic.
This lamentable situation inevitably results in more people despising the saving grace of the Lord, thereby compelling Him to judge them. All indications are that this very judgment soon will fall. But even when severe judgments would befall them most people will still not come to their senses but will continue to blaspheme the name of the Lord (Rev. 16:9). Instead of honoring God they will follow and worship the Antichrist (Rev. 13:3-4,8).