All of us view circumstances in our lives and in our world through a unique set of lenses. To those of us who believe what the Bible teaches about the return of Jesus Christ to the earth and the events that will precede that return, we tend to interpret events in the world today —especially in the Middle East—as a prelude to Christ’s return.
Jesus was clear in Matthew 24:36 that no one can know the time of the His return. Nevertheless, even though we cannot know that exact time of Christ’s return, Jesus said we should be observant of the signs that could be signaling the end and live our lives accordingly.
Luke 21:28 says, “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The things He is referring to are associated with the Great Tribulation. When you see those events transpire, know that Christ's Second Coming is not far behind. And certainly if the Tribulation is about to occur, the Rapture which precedes it is even closer.
I don't believe in setting dates, but I do believe that the events happening right now in the Middle East are setting the stage for this period of time Jesus described in several significant ways.
These events . . .
1. Center our attention on Israel.
The final world conflict the Bible says will not be over Russia, China, Korea, or even the United States, but the final world war will center on this tiny country only about 200 miles long and 90 miles wide.
Why is there such animosity toward this tiny country? Why did Hitler feel compelled to wipe out six million Jewish people? Why are Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Muslims in Iran—as different as they are—why are they dedicated to eliminating the Jews from the face of the earth? The reason is God has chosen Israel for His purpose, and those who are opposed to Israel are those who are opposed to the plan of God.
2. Illustrate how a regional conflict-could escalate into a world war.
Some say there have always been problems in the Middle East. What makes now any different? Two words: nuclear weapons. Israel has nuclear weapons, China has them, Russia has them, and now the Iranians are working to develop them.
If indeed Iran sends a nuclear warhead to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv is there any doubt how Israel would respond? Or if Israel made a preemptive strike against Iran, it is easy to see how Iran would retaliate not just against Israel, but against her only real ally, the United States. A tiny spark of confrontation over there could quickly engulf the entire world into flames of destruction.
3. Prepare the way for the Antichrist.
According to Daniel 9:27, the event that will mark the beginning of this final seven years of tribulation will be when this great world leader known as Antichrist will sign a peace covenant with Israel.
I believe it will happen this way. I believe that there will be some worldwide disaster, some nuclear holocaust, perhaps that will coincide with the Rapture that will be the only explanation for the disappearance of millions of people. I believe this disaster will be precipitated by events like we are seeing today.
Out of this disaster will emerge a world leader who will ascend to power because of his ability to broker a peace deal with Israel and solve the Middle East dilemma. But halfway through that time, he will turn against Israel and then will come the events that lead to Armageddon and the end.
What should be our response as we see the seeds right now being sown for these events? Not fear, not panic. But we should be observant and most importantly we should be obedient.
"Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming day of God . . . " 2 Peter 3:11-12a