Prophecy Update Newsletter
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
The End is Nigh: Ten Reasons Why - Pete Garcia -
While it is impossible to know the day or hour of the Rapture of the Church (Mark 13:32), it is however, possible to recognize the season of His return and our subsequent deliverance (1st Thess. 5:1-3, Hebrews 10:25). For those who would assert our ability to even wonder when Christ could return as soft date setting, just remember that Christ chastised the Pharisees' and Sadducees, as well as the city of Jerusalem, for not recognizing the season of their visitation (Matt. 16:1-4, 19:43-44).
We are to be actively watching and waiting for the Lord's soon return (Luke 12:37). This does not mean we sell all of our belongings and move to a mountaintop to idly wait, but to live our lives recognizing that our departure is soon at hand. We are to hold loosely to the things of this life, and to understand the temporary nature of our current existence. When we do this, we renew and sustain our hope and faith in Christ, whilst living in a world that is aggressively falling apart.
With that, I have put together ten definitive signs that point to the very soon return of Christ for His Church. However, there is a bit of a divine-paradox going on here. The Rapture of the Church is the only sign-less event noted in Scripture. Every other prophetic event has either signs for, or other things that lead up to it. The Rapture does not.
So how can see evidence for an event that has no preliminary evidence?
The Bible plainly teaches that the Rapture happens before (or pre) Daniel's 70th Week (aka...The Tribulation or the time of Jacob's Trouble). There are two primary purposes for the Tribulation: 1) to discipline Israel and bring her back into relationship with God, 2) to destroy all the Christ-rejecting nations of the world in their current state (Jeremiah 30:7-11). Since the Church was not present in any of the first 69 Weeks of Daniel, we can confidently conclude that we are likewise not in the 70th Week of Daniel.
Furthermore, the 70 Weeks of Daniel were exclusively determined for the Jews, and Jerusalem. As members of the Church (i.e., the multi-membered, corporate, body of Christ), we are beneficiaries (through Christ) of the six must-happen things listed in Daniel 9:24;
Since national Israel still largely rejects the Messiahship of Jesus, we know that this last week of years must still be future. Besides, if we are already seeing signs for events that happen after the Rapture, naturally, the Rapture must then be all the sooner. Therefore, since we cannot look for signs of the Rapture itself, we must look for signs of Daniel's 70th Week.
1. Israel. Clearly, the super-sign of the end times is the rebirth of the nation of Israel. The reason we can be certain it is the super-sign, is because there is no other explanation for the supernatural hatred for her amongst the nations. Not even the most egregious and tyrannical nation on the planet, North Korea, evokes as much vitriol from the leftists, godless, socialists, and Islamists. The world has not seen this level of Anti-Semitism since the pre-World War II days in Europe. Unfortunately, this demonic hatred is not only at the geopolitical level, but also even within Christendom. Movements like Reformed and Covenant theology, as well as eschatological positions of Amillennialism, Preterism, and Post-Millennialism, were all designed to discredit Israel's legitimacy as both a nation, and as the rightful heirs of the Genesis 15 endowment. Deuteronomy 30:1-10, Ezekiel 37
2. Jerusalem. The fact that Jerusalem is back under Israeli control, especially in light of how she reacquired it, is simply miraculous. And since 1967, the world has furiously tried to wrest control of Jerusalem back out of Israeli hands. However, as of December 6th, 2017, President Donald Trump became the first gentile world leader (in over 2,000 years) to officially recognize her as the sovereign capital of the nation of Israel further enraging anti-Semites around the world. Zechariah 12:3, Luke 21:24
3. Damascus. Isaiah 17 predicts this Syrian city's ultimate and total destruction as a city. The fact that the Arab Spring has largely blown over and subsided around the rest of the Middle East, but has continued to linger in Syria, speaks to the prophetic nature of the circumstances there. Not only that, but it became the casus belli to draw in the major players mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39.
4. Gog and Magog. The fact that we are seeing this coalition form before our very eyes over Syria is a sure sign that the Rapture of the church is extremely near. Never before has Russia, Iran, and Turkey (all formerly competing empires) ever collaborated economically, militarily, and politically with a common goal in mind. Listed by their ancient names, modern day Russia, Turkey, and Iran have formed an anti-Israel/US alliance that are currently building their forces literally tens of miles from the Israeli border (to her north). They are not there because they care about Basher Assad, or his regime. They are there because of its proximity to Israel and wealth (spoils). Two things about this stand out to me:
Israel's allies are either unable or unwilling to help (Ezekiel 38:13)
God defeats this coalition so spectacularly, that spiritual Israel finally awakens, and the people finally demand to rebuild their third temple (Ez. 39:22, 28-29)
For the past two-thousand years, Jesus has been actively building His body the Church (i.e., the corporate, multi-membered, universal body of Christ- as noted in Matt. 16:18, Col. 3:8-11). The reason this event (Ezekiel 38-39) indicates that the Rapture is near, is that this war is the event where God returns His full attention back to My land Israel and My people the Jews (Ez. 38:16). The Church is no longer in play on the earth, which makes sense. Again, the Church was not in play in the first 69 Weeks of Daniel's 70 Weeks, why should we be in the 70th? It seems to me that Gog/Magog serves not only as the weathervane event, but also as the transition period into the final 70th Week.
5. The Kings of the East. While Russia, Turkey, and Iran are inescapably drawn toward Syria, the US is being inescapably drawn to the other side of the world because of the threat from the East. North Korea has been a thorn in the side of US foreign policy since the 1953 Korean Armistice. However, things have been turned on its head with the election of President Trump and his stubborn unwillingness to play politics as usual. Due to a number of factors including nationwide malnutrition and starvation, growing corruption and an escalation of desperation, the status quo of the past is no longer an option. Only three outcomes are possible for the Kim regime of North Korea:
All of these are unacceptable outcomes for the Chinese regime. The Chinese prefers the status quo, because it gives them a measure of leverage over the United States. They also realize that after 17 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military (in its present state) barely has the capacity, resources, or manpower to conduct itself simultaneously in two major theaters of war as we once did in World War II. The Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia are all key US allies that require our immediate protection should China engage any of them (or us) militarily. This would require the US to shift most or all our assets around the globe to meet the Chinese military threat. Our unwillingness to come to Israel's aid in a Gog/Magog scenario may be because we are fully engaged elsewhere and cannot respond.
6. The Pace of Modernization. The new arms race is not nuclear, it is digital. Nations around the world are racing to corner the market on artificial intelligence (AI), crypto-currency, quantum computers, genetic editing/cloning/modifications, data collection and mining, surveillance, lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), and many more. In fact, technological advancements are moving so rapidly today that an inevitable breakthrough in any one of these areas could upend the current geopolitical balance of power. Of particular note is CERN's experiments (dimensional portals, teleportation, etc.) in Europe, which could rapidly change the balance of power in their favor. Furthermore, AI opens the possibility for demonic entities to inhabit inanimate objects (as opposed to people). If demons can use Ouija boards, imagine what they can do with autonomous (or "sentient") system and robot.
7. The Inescapable Threat. The world currently faces numerous, seemingly unsolvable crises (real or perceived) that demand their attention. Issues like: Climate change, economic instability, exploding population growth, weaponized immigration, the decline of fiscal currencies and other 20th century legacy institutions, increasingly hybrid forms of terrorism and crime, cosmic threats (comets, asteroids, solar storms, etc.), global travel and pandemics, and natural disasters (super-volcanoes, tsunamis, 9-10.0 earthquakes, etc.). Even the threat of these have caused tremendous anxiety amongst the world's leaders and populations. Luke 21:25-26
8. Peace and Safety. The more destabilized the world becomes, the more the people will clamor for peace and safety. People will willingly trade their liberty for security, which is what globalists have wanted all along (i.e., the Hegelian dialectic). Although this has been the case for the last thirty-years or more, the call for it has only intensified as the world has increasingly become more unhinged. While this is a passive sign, it is however, the one phrase Paul told us to listen for that would precede immediate the destruction caused by the Rapture. 1 Thess. 5:1-3
9. Godlessness. The Apostle Peter remarked that in the last days, scoffers would come mocking that Christ had not yet returned (2 Peter 3:3-4). Paul wrote that in the last days, perilous times would come (2 Tim. 3:1). Paul's definition of perilous interestingly enough, did not include war or natural disasters, but how treacherous and wicked men would become. Jesus stated that in the last days, because lawlessness abounded, the love of many would grow cold (Matt. 24:12). Furthermore, Jesus stated that the days surrounding His return would be similar to Noah and Lot's day, both of which were noted for being exceedingly violent and wicked (Luke 17:26-30).
The rise in godlessness and the general lack of fear/respect for God began back in the 19th-century when man first began to progress in both science and technology. Many humanistic philosophies were simultaneously being developed. Existentialism, Marxism, Darwinism, Secularism, Socialism, Eugenics, Higher and Lower Criticism, etc., were all devoted to either doubt, reinvent, or dismiss God and the Bible. Either through coercion, deception, or manipulation into the public and higher education systems (even seminaries), these humanistic doctrines became the new modern dogma of the left. While I believe that all of God's attributes are limitless, there is one, which I suspect, is not. That is His tolerance of evil. God is longsuffering, but that longsuffering will not go on indefinitely. At some point, God will have to bring judgment upon this earth because His righteousness demands it. Ruth Graham (Billy Graham's wife) was quoted as having once said that if God does not punish America soon, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Since the left dominates the media and the government (both state and federal), it has wide platforms for these humanistic philosophies to grow; the intent being to stamp out true, biblical Christianity being its first and foremost priority. Why such fierce opposition to Christianity, as opposed to Islam or communism, both of which have long, sordid, proven track records of death and violence? The answer is that Satan is currently managing this planet, and will tolerate anything and everything, except for the truth. In fact, we have arrived at such a time now that the godless are mentally, spiritually, and physically unable to distinguish right from wrong, up from down, or male from female, etc. Luke 4:5-7, Romans 1:18-32, Ephesians 2:2, 1 Peter 5:8
10. Convergence. While each generation could claim one or two from this list, none but ours could claim all of them. The sad fact is that this list is hardly comprehensive at all. There are so many more things pointing to the soon return of Christ that written space here does not allow for. Daniel was told that the end would come as a flood, and a flood-indeed it is (Daniel 9:26). However, it is not only the convergence of signs that is noteworthy; there is also the convergence of believers all coming to the same conclusions.
At no point in church history, has so many believers from so many spectrums all been so convinced that we are living in the last days. I believe this speaks to the Holy Spirit's witness to us all who are awake and watching. Granted, most of the mainstream and aberrant churches and movements (Emergent, Hebrew-roots, Social Justice Gospel, Prosperity Gospel, Seeker-Sensitive, etc.) are sound asleep, the watchers are not. We may disagree on some of the finer points of eschatology; we all generally agree that these are what the Bible describes as the last days.
Even So, Maranatha!
The Real War in Syria - By Matt Ward -
Just hours after the West's unilateral strike in response to the horrendous chemical weapons attack in Douma, President Donald Trump took to Twitter, declaring,
"A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and fine military. Could not have been a better result. Mission Accomplished!"
This statement makes me feel deeply uneasy. Trump is not the first Commander in Chief to issue such a claim. Fifteen years before him, President George W. Bush, standing on board the USS Abraham Lincoln, announced that, "major combat operations have ended."
With a banner hanging above his head, touting the phrase "Mission Accomplished," it was a speech that would in time come to haunt him. To this day he is still ridiculed and mocked for it. Bush was there that day to declare an end to combat operations in Iraq.
Unfortunately for President Bush, most of the American military deaths in Iraq were still yet to occur, happening long after he had given this "Mission Accomplished" speech. The mission, for the American military in Iraqi, remained far from over.
Skip forward in time fifteen years and one has to wonder how much President Trump really understands about the quagmire that is modern-day Syria. This isn't over yet, despite his claims to the contrary. Russia, for their part and at the time of this writing, has not yet even responded to these allied airstrikes. And Russia will respond; of that we can be sure.
Most likely, this response will take one of a number of different forms. The British government, for their part, has been very vocal in recent days about their belief that Russia will certainly retaliate at some point in the near future. Boris Johnson, British Foreign Minister, when questioned on television last Sunday, warned that the UK must take "every possible precaution" to protect itself from Russian retaliation following the coalition air strikes on Syria. (1)
Johnson, when asked directly about the possibility of Russian "revenge" attacks, replied,
"You have to take every possible precaution, and when you look at what Russia has done not just in this country, in Salisbury, attacks on TV stations, on the democratic processes, on critical national infrastructure - of course we have to be very, very cautious indeed."
Indeed, intelligence officers at GCHQ and Britain's Secret Intelligence Services are on standby, not only for potential cyber-attacks, but also for a "dirty" campaign against the British establishment itself, using the "kompromat" tactics widely used at the height of the cold war. It is believed to be highly likely that Russian hackers will now target British, French and American politicians and VIP's, with the express aim of finding information that may compromise or smear them in some way.
Equally, it is also highly likely that Russia may launch a series of cyber-attacks on British or allied key infrastructures, like the NHS in Britain, transport or power networks. These attacks, if successful, could potentially bring Britain, or allies, to their knees.
More ominous, though, is what Russia's response means for the Jewish State of Israel. From a Western and Israeli perspective, the Russian response to the targeted bombings in Syria has been a disturbing one, with Russia immediately seeking to strengthen its ties with Tehran and beginning a rapid process of beefing up the Syrian military.
At the very same time that Western news media was full of stories of Russia's non-reaction to the Western bombings, Russia was repositioning its heavy strategic Tu-95 and Tu-22M nuclear bombers to bases in Iran, thereby cutting flight time to Syria from Russia by four hours.
At the same time, and in full sight of Western military observers, Russian freighters were landing cargoes of brand new Russia military equipment in Syria, bound for use by the Assad military that the West had just bombed.
Russia has also indicated that they will resume their discussions with Iran, Syria and other nations for the sale of their highly advanced S300 air defense systems, with the aim of protecting their allies against any future US military strikes.
All of this is extremely bad news for Israel. Unlike the West, who limited their attack in Syria to just chemical weapons facilities and associated storage sites, the Russians have made no such promises regarding the scope of their response or retaliation. Everything is fair game to the Russians.
Israel, quite understandably, feels increasingly threatened by Iran's growing military presence in Syria, and Russia now feels absolutely no inclination to check it, in any way. The US-French-UK airstrikes of Saturday, April 14th, did nothing to address any of Israel's growing strategic and security concerns in Syria. Indeed, Israel has now been left feeling increasingly isolated by the action, fearing that in the wake of these strikes they may well be left all alone in the event of an Iranian attack against them.
And Israel is right in assuming that Iran may be ready, for the first time, to launch a direct attack of their own against the Jewish State. Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah, summed up the strikes quite succinctly, along with the non-impact they have had upon Israel's enemies:
"Western strikes on Syria had failed to terrorize the army, help insurgents or even serve Israel's interests."
And this brings us to the heart of the problem in Syria, and where the real war is, because it certainly isn't between Russia and the West. The real war in Syria is between Israel and Iran. The recent joint Western strikes did nothing to address any of Israel's ongoing security concerns, nor did they in any way diminish Iran's rapidly increasing military presence or the threat they pose to Israel.
Indeed, when President Trump, shortly after the strikes, declared that he would leave Syria and the growing threats there "to others," Jerusalem determined this to mean that the US was telling Israel, and Jordan by implication, that they must face up to the growing Iranian threats on their borders on their own.
At the exact moment when Israel needs increased US support against Iran, Israel may well not get it. Iran, on the other-hand, is enjoying significantly ramped-up support from Russia because of the strikes.
It is time for a reality check. The Western strikes in Syria have not weakened Assad, nor have they diminished Assad's illegal chemical weapons arsenal. Neither have the strikes in any way deterred Russia or her allies. Indeed, the opposite is true; the Western strikes have served only to push Russia more deeply into the arms of Iran and her proxies.
Thus, we now reach a point where Israel's military is at its highest state of alert for years. Israel's forces on its northern border are at a higher state of readiness now than they have ever been in Israel's history. This is so because Israel is expecting an attack, at any moment, from Iran. Israel believes that Iran is now on the verge of launching a military operation against them as punishment for their bombing of the Iranian T-4 airbase within Syria just weeks ago, which left eight Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen and an Iranian Colonel dead.
If this does happen, it will be the first ever direct military clash between Israel and Iran. Israeli intelligence, as cited in national Israeli news publications - which are clearly trying to prepare the Israeli public for an imminent clash with Iran - relayed that various Iranian units in Syria seem to be gearing up for just such an attack.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Defense Minister, put it as follows:
"We are facing a new reality - the Lebanese Army in cooperation with Hezbollah, the Syrian Army, the Shiite militias in Syria and above them Iran - are all becoming a single front against the state of Israel."
Uncomfortable parallels exist today between the Middle East and Europe immediately prior to the outbreak of World War One. In 1914, it took only one small spark to light a fire that provoked the "war to end all wars."
The present-day Middle East is the modern-day equivalent of Europe in 1914. Amidst the background of an ever-developing nuclear arms race between Shiite Islam and Sunni Islam, we have the ruined nation state of Syria, which has developed without question into a proxy war between East and West, and which will likely soon culminate in a direct clash between Israel and Iran.
Syria is not a "mission accomplished" scenario, either for the West or for Israel. Indeed, all the signs indicate that the real chaos, between Israel and Iran, is about to begin.
Collision Course - By Daymond Duck -
It would be wrong for me to say or to infer that all Bible prophecy teachers agree on everything the Bible says about the future of Syria, Lebanon, Russia and Iran because they don't (some think Psa. 83 is a prophecy, some think it is a prayer, some think it is both, etc.).
But despite the differences of opinion, most of the Bible prophecy teachers that I know believe the aforementioned nations are on a collision course with God over Israel and that their defeat is getting close.
Most of the Bible prophecy teachers that I know agree that God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham to be Israel's God and to give him and his descendants all of the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:7-8).
They agree that Israel turned her back on God many times, but God will forgive Israel's sins and bring the nation into a right relationship with Him in the future (Zech. 13:1; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:24-27; Rom. 11:1, 26-27).
They agree that God will curse those that curse Israel (Gen. 12:3). Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Iran and others are on a collision course with God because of their treatment of Israel. At some point, He will set the hook, pull them onto the mountains of Israel (Golan Heights) and destroy them (Ezek. 38:4, 8, 18-22).
They also agree that some of these nations are mentioned by several prophets, not just one.
Lebanon (Gebal and Tyre) and Syria (Assyria) are mentioned in Psa. 83. Syria (Damascus) is mentioned in Isa. 17 and Jer. 49:23-27. Iran (Elam and Persia) is mentioned in Jer. 49:34-39 and Ezek. 38:5. Russia (land of Magog) is mentioned in Ezek. 38-39.
The fact that the future of these nations is revealed by one prophet and confirmed by another - plus the fact that current events are lining up with what these prophets said and not disputing any of them - is evidence that this collision course with God is rightly understood and near.
Consider the fact that God told Russia to "Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee" (Ezek. 38:7).
Know that Russia has prepared by moving jets, helicopters, ships, missiles, troops, submarines and more to Syria; that Russia has built bases in Syria; installed radar systems in Syria and more.
Know that Russia has prepared for her company (allies) by letting Iran and Hezbollah build bases, weapons factories, underground facilities in Syria and more.
Consider the fact that God told Russia to "be a guard unto them" (Ezek. 38:7) - and Russia has guarded her allies by sharing bases with them, hoping that no one would attack them for fear of killing Russians; that Russia has warned Israel to stop attacking targets in Syria; that Russia threatened to shoot down the planes and sink the ships of the U.S., England and France if they attacked Syria, etc.
In Apr. 2017, two U.S. warships fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military base where chemical weapons are made and stored. It was meant to be a warning to Russia and Syria to never use chemical weapons again.
On Apr. 7, 2018, Syria allegedly used chemical weapons against civilians in a town near Damascus.
On Apr. 9, 2018, two unidentified jets fired eight missiles at a Syrian base used by Russia, Iran and Syria.
At first, Russia blamed the U.S. The U.S. denied any involvement. Then, Russia blamed Israel.
Russia had previously warned Israel to stop attacking targets in Syria, and some believe this was a turning point for Russia.
The attack killed 7 Iranian officers and a disputed number of other people.
Iran said the attack will not go unanswered, and threatened to hit Israel.
Russia offered to join forces with Iran, retaliate against Israel, and jointly defend against a threatened attack by the U.S., England and France.
On Apr. 11, 2018, Israel said if Iran strikes Israel from Syrian territory, Pres. Assad and his regime "will disappear from the map and the world."
This is an interesting statement in light of the fact that Mr. Assad's palace is in Damascus, and the Bible says Damascus will cease to exist forever in one night.
Israel warned Hezbollah's leaders in Lebanon to stay out of the fight if Israel is attacked by Iran. Israel said their fate will be the same as Mr. Assad's, if they enter the war.
On Apr. 11, 2018, Israeli Prime Min. Netanyahu called Russian Pres. Putin. Their conversation was described as very angry.
Mr. Putin warned Mr. Netanyahu to stop attacking targets in Syria. Mr. Netanyahu warned Mr. Putin that Israel will not let Iran establish permanent military bases in Syria. The conversation ended with neither man giving in.
On Apr. 13, 2018, the U.S., England and France attacked Syria. There were several large explosions near downtown Damascus.
Russia, Iran and Syria blamed Israel's allies for attacking Syria. They said this attack by Israel's allies gives them the right to attack Israel.
Iran threatened to retaliate against regional (Israel) and international (U.S., English and French) targets.
On Apr. 14, 2018, it was reported that Russia was moving to strengthen its ties with Iran and Syria at the same time that the U.S., England and France were attacking Syria.
During the attack by the U.S., England and France on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, Syrian and Hezbollah troops backed by Russian mercenaries tried to cross the Euphrates River to capture territory that is held by U.S. troops. No information was given on what happened.
On this same day, at least two Russian freighters loaded with military equipment were spotted that were believed to be destined for forces in Syria. Don't worry. It takes a lot of weapons to build a fire that will burn for seven years.
On Apr. 14, 2018, it was also reported that four military bases in Syria were bombed and several Iranian soldiers were killed. Syria claimed that the bases were struck by Israeli aircraft.
On Apr. 14, 2018, the leader of Hezbollah, Sec.-Gen. Hassan Nasrallah, said Israel's attack on military bases in Syria that killed Iranian soldiers "opened the possibility of conflict between the two enemies." He said, "You are in a face-to-face confrontation with Iran."
On Apr. 16, 2018, Israel's Defense Minister said Syria's army, Lebanon's army, Hezbollah and mercenaries from foreign nations are being brought under Iranian commanders in Syria and forged into one military on Israel's northern border.
On Apr. 16, 2018, Israel's Defense Minister said, "Israel will not accept limitations on its 'actions' in Syria from Russia."
On Apr. 17, 2018, Israel released photos of five Iranian airbases in Syria; said Iran is flying troops and weapons into Syria (more bodies to bury and fuel for the fire) and building up her forces on Israel's border; Israel accused Iran of preparing to attack Israel; Israel strengthened her forces on her border with Lebanon and Syria; alerted her people of the possibility of a coming confrontation; and warned Iran that Israel will retaliate with great power.
On Apr. 18, 2018, it was reported that the commander of Iran's ground forces said, "The date has been set" for Israel's destruction.
It is impossible to predict what will happen in the next few weeks. Israel's enemies can launch a limited attack. God can pull them in or delay it, but when this happens the latter days and latter years are here and could bring dramatic changes on planet Earth (cry for world leader, peace treaty, affect price of oil, etc.).
I apologize for the length of this article. In the last ten days or so, significant things have happened almost daily (like birth pangs). This is very serious.
Prophecy Plus Ministries, Inc.
Daymond & Rachel Duck
Israel At 70: A Prophecy Fulfilled - By Pini Dunner -
In 1867, a young man named Samuel Langhorne Clemens set sail from New York, bound for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Clemens is better known by his pen name -- Mark Twain (although in 1867, he was still an obscure journalist who had somehow convinced a California newspaper to fund this spectacular trip abroad, in exchange for regular updates from different stops on his journey).
Twain's two most famous books, about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, were still many years away -- and much rested on the success of his travelogue. As it turned out, the five-month cruise was a gamechanger, and the resulting book, The Innocents Abroad (1869), sold 70,000 copies in its first year, and was Twain's best-selling book during his lifetime.
Twain carefully constructed his reports to reflect the reactions of an average layperson visiting exotic lands far away from home, and specifically a person who would not allow preconceptions and mythology to overwhelm the reality of what he saw. The result was refreshing, and highly unusual for the 19th century.
Lake Como in Italy was nice, Twain said, but Lake Tahoe back home in the United States, was nicer. Mount Vesuvius was unimpressive when compared to the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.
Although Twain was enthralled by the grandeur of Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome, he was disgusted by the vast economic gap between rich and poor in Italy, particularly as it was evident that all available resources had been invested in architecture and edifices, instead of the impoverished population.
The most important leg of the journey for Twain and his fellow passengers was their visit to the Holy Land, then known as Palestine -- at the time a minor outpost within the Syrian province of the Ottoman Empire. Most of the tourists on Twain's trip were devout Christians on their first pilgrimage to the land of the Bible.
Twain, who was brought up Presbyterian, was undoubtedly swept up by the excitement and anticipation of reaching the Promised Land, spurred on by his distaste for almost everywhere else he had visited along the way.
But just about every myth and expectation was dashed by the reality that Twain confronted when he arrived. "The word Palestine always brought to my mind a vague suggestion of a country as large as the United States," he began, "I do not know why, but such was the case. I suppose it was because I could not conceive of a small country having so large a history."
Unlike the grandiose palaces and churches that Twain had encountered in Europe, along with the teeming cities and towns of Turkey and Syria, the land of the Bible was not just a jarring contrast -- it was inconceivable in light of the rich history with which it was associated.
Western civilization owed itself to countless centuries of events that had occurred in this exact geographic location, and yet it was a veritable wasteland, whose inhabitants -- of all faiths and cultures -- were primitive and unsophisticated.
"Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes," he wrote. "Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies."
Twain described in vivid, unfiltered detail, the squalor and desolation that he witnessed in every place he visited across the country, and his description of Jerusalem, once the crown of Judea, is particularly disturbing: "Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and has become a pauper village; the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone."
The state of Jerusalem's inhabitants only underscored just how much this once glorious city had sunk into decline. "It seems to me that all the races and colors and tongues of the earth must be represented among the fourteen thousand souls that dwell in Jerusalem. Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt ... abound."
Twain was particularly struck by how barren the country was, and how few people there were. As he traveled through the Jezreel Valley, he noted that "there is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent -- not for thirty miles in either direction ... [and] one may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings."
With hindsight, this was hardly surprising. The population of Palestine in the 1860s was 350,000; compare that to today's 8.5 million.
Twain's conclusion was that the Land of Israel was a bitter disappointment. It is "desolate and unlovely," he wrote, although "why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land? Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred only to poetry and tradition; it is dream-land."
Twain's final analysis was that the Holy Land was a fantasy for religious dreamers looking for ghosts in a cemetery that was trapped in eternal damnation. But how wrong he was.
Approximately 2,600 years ago, the prophet Ezekiel prophesized (Ez. 36:8): "But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home." According to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) "there is no greater sign of the redemption than the fulfillment of this verse."
The Holocaust martyr, Rabbi Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal, in his seminal work Eim Habanim Semeicha, wrote that the desolation of the Land of Israel, as witnessed by Twain, is an essential component of that prophecy, a precursor to the flourishing renewal of the land in Messianic times.
Seventy years after the creation of the State of Israel, we have all personally observed the fulfillment of that prophecy. And as we contrast the highly-developed, prosperous country with the dreadful place described by Mark Twain, and even with the struggling Israel that marked most of its formative years, let us all be acutely aware that the fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy was highlighted by the Talmud as the greatest sign of imminent Messianic redemption.
Daily Jot: Accusing others of the evils you do - Bill Wilson -
The day after the final Presidential Debate on October 18, 2016, the news media was abuzz with stories, analysis, speculation and, quite frankly, aghast at candidate Donald Trump's assertion that he may not accept the results of the election if he lost. Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton stoked the firestorm on October 21 in Cleveland, Ohio saying, "We know in our country, the difference between leadership and dictatorship. And the peaceful transition of power is something that sets us apart." On October 24, she added more gasoline, tweeting, "Donald Trump refused to say that he would respect the results of this election. That's a direct threat to our democracy." The firestorm continued until she lost.
Into the wee hours of the morning after the election, Clinton refused to address her campaign supporters. Then finally, around 2:30 am, she called Trump and conceded. But she didn't accept the results of the election. Then Jill Stein of the Green Party (communist front) and the Clinton campaign, through Clinton's George Soros-financed attorney, challenged the election results beginning on October 26. By mid-February the Clinton-Stein coup attempt, which by the way, included a Russian voter machine hacking narrative, was put down by Pennsylvania District Court Judge Paul S. Diamond. Diamond said that Stein-Clinton presented "absolutely no evidence of any voting irregularities."
By January, the lame duck "president," the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee were baking the Russian narrative, accusing the Russians of hacking Clinton and DNC emails. The emails were damning evidence of the unethical, immoral, illegal chicanery practiced by Clinton and the Democratic Party. The lame duck "president" and Clinton claimed that the Russians hacked the computers and released the information on them to influence the election. Whoever hacked the computers (as it is still unproven), did America a great favor. First, they showed that Clinton and the Democratic Party were poor stewards of sensitive information and, therefore, too incompetent to hold the office of the Presidency. Second, they revealed the extent of the institutional graft and corruption of Clinton and the DNC.
Clinton went on a speaking tour blaming Russians, women, men--everyone but herself--for her election loss. Now the DNC, representing Clinton, Friday filed a civil suit against the Trump Campaign, WikiLeaks, and Russia, claiming the hacked (and very damaging) emails represented a far-reaching conspiracy to elect Trump. The people voted, Clinton lost, she tried to overturn the election on a recount, now the Democratic Party is trying to delegitimize the election with another lawsuit. Clinton and the DNC are refusing to accept the results of the election, and in Clinton's own words, "That's a direct threat to our democracy." 2 Timothy 3:13 says, "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." Evil always accuses others of what evil does itself.
Daily Devotion: Learning to Listen - By Greg Laurie -
"Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth." -John 17:17
There are different ways to listen. We can listen passively. We can choose not to listen at all. Or, we can listen intently.
If you were going skydiving, you would listen very carefully to your instructor. You would listen when he or she tells you how to use the parachute, where the ripcord is located, and when to pull it. Why? Your life depends on it.
If you want to hear God speak to you from His Word, it comes down to how you listen. You need to listen as though your life depends on it, because it does.
If you want to be a true disciple of Jesus, then you need to slow down and learn to listen. Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32 NKJV).
Sometimes that verse is taken out of context. We hear people using it to describe all kinds of so-called truths they want to pass on to someone else. But this verse is very specific. It isn't referring to just any truth; this is specific, absolute truth found exclusively in the pages of Scripture. The context is reading, studying, knowing, and living the Scriptures. That truth will set us free.
The truth we find in the Bible is the only absolute truth. Jesus prayed, "Your word is truth" (John 17:17 NKJV) and said "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6 NKJV). This is the only absolute truth we can be certain of. And when we understand what God is saying in His Word, it sets us free.
If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, then you will carefully read, study, and live according to God's Word.
FROM THE HEART
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