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Something biblical is going on with strange end times events happening worldwide week after week…
LATEST WORLD NEWS AND ARTICLES
07th JUNE 2018
WHEN DOES REVELATION 7 TAKE PLACE?
QUESTION: The 7th chapter of Revelation seems to occur before the last 3 1/2 years. At the beginning of the chapter, the 144,000 are sealed, which happens before the last 3 1/2 years. And in context, the remaining verses speak of those who came out of the great tribulation. If this is referring to the final 3 1/2 years, then this part of the vision will have to happen after the final 3 1/2 years. But it seems more likely to me that this whole chapter takes place before the final 3 1/2 years. Which is correct?
ANSWER: The sealing of the 144,000 on Earth and the heavenly arrival of the Tribulation Martyrs in Rev. 7 will happen before the beginning of the Great Tribulation between the 6th (Rev. 6:12) and 7th (Rev. 8:1) Seal judgments.
Rev. 7:14 threw me for quite a while because in English the verse seems to conflict with the chronological order of the book. Then I did a word study on the Greek version of the phrase, “These are they who have come out of the Great Tribulation” from Rev. 7:14. The phrase “out of” comes from a single Greek word that refers to both the time and place of the event being described. In effect it means they’ll arrive in Heaven before the Great Tribulation begins on Earth, having been removed from both its time and its place.
WHAT DOES REVELATION 7:14 MEAN?
QUESTION: Re: Rev 7:14. “And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” What does “out of” mean? Isn’t it the clear clue of when the multitude (the church/body of Christ)will be raptured?
ANSWER: The Greek word translated “out of” in Rev. 7:14 refers to both the time and the place of the event described, in this case the Great Tribulation. It means the multitude of Rev. 7 will arrive in Heaven before the Great Tribulation begins on Earth.
In addition to that, they cannot be the Church because they are not called kings, and although they will serve God in His Temple they are never called priests either. They are post rapture believers who will be martyred for their faith in the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week.
DOES THE GREAT TRIBULATION HAVE A SPECIFIED DURATION?
QUESTION: It has been common among talk of the end times to use the phrase “The Great Tribulation.” And it is assumed that this phrase is referring to only the last half of the final 7 year period before Christ’s return. This is assumed because of the word “The.” But when Jesus used this phrase in Matt. 24:21, He never included the word “The.” Without the word “The,” the phrase “great tribulation” is much less precise, and doesn’t specifically refer to a period named “The Great Tribulation.” This would allow the period to refer to the entire 7 years of the 70th week. I would appreciate your comments on this issue.
ANSWER: In Matt. 24:15-21 Jesus said a time of Great Tribulation would follow immediately after the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet. He was referring to Daniel 9:27 where we’re told it will take place in the middle of the 70th week. From the various time constructs in Daniel 12:7, Rev. 11:2, Rev. 12:6, and Rev. 12:14, it appears this time of great tribulation will last 3 1/2 years.
Matt. 24:29 says immediately after that time of tribulation the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky. Shortly after that, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of Earth will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds (Matt. 24:30). Based on these references, I’d say the Great Tribulation is quite well defined.
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WHAT CAUSED NOAH’S FLOOD? SHOCKING NEW BIBLICAL EVIDENCE SPOOKS RESEARCHERS
The Bible appears to indicate that several of the approaching end-time events will be similar to those in Noah’s day as Matthew 24:37 tells us “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man”. Perhaps the most significant event in Noah’s day was that which caused the destruction of the entire world by water commonly referred to as “Noah’s Flood”.
For centuries, churches have taught that the it rained for 40 days and nights, and by some miracle, this was able to flood the entire Earth over the highest mountains; whereas, scientific research claims that the math doesn’t add up – making this event nothing more than an ancient myth. The truth, and shocking to most Christians, is that the Bible clearly states that rain was NOT the primary reason for flooding. In fact, the scripture state that “…on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst open…” (Genesis 7:11). So, no longer is believing in the Great Flood a matter of faith, but is a matter of scientific fact – and the direct cause was something called a geographical pole shift which occured thousands of years ago! Geographic shifts are ones in which the entire planet is suddenly and dramatically moved from its axis; causing untold devastation on Earth’s surface. Of course, the Old Testament doesn’t use the modern day term of “pole shift” when describing the great flood; however, it provides enough detail about the Earth before, during, and after the event to prove to us that an Axial Pole Shift did indeed occur; according to research conducted by Brent Miller at Ingenuity Films LLC.
First. we are told in Genesis 2:6 that in the early days of man, it never rained upon the Earth and that the entire surface was watered from the mist upon it. During this period before the flood, there were NO SEASONS or storms and the entire planet would have existed at a temperate equilibrium with tropical vegetation – including at what we would call our current North and South poles. In fact, petrified tropical trees have been recently discovered under the ice in Antarctica proving this statement! Scientifically, the only way to achieve this temperate paradise would be if the geographic axis of the Earth was parallel to that of the Sun, or in other words, at zero degrees. Genesis then clearly states that AFTER the flood (for the first time) there was a rainbow seen by Noah in the sky (Gen 9:13) which is was only now possible since precipitation never fell from the heavens which causes the light refraction necessary for a rainbow.
Today, the Earth’s axis now sits at 23.5 degree which creates frozen poles, seasons, rain and violent storms as the uneven heating and freezing of the planet creates weather systems. But, let’s back up and address exactly what the “fountains of the deep” explained in Genesis were and how was it able to flood the entire planet in such a short period of time. Quite simply, the fountains of the deep were the oceans themselves which makes up 71% of the Earth’s surface. Basic physics models shows how the flood could have been caused by a shift in centripetal force and angular momentum exerted upon the oceans resulting from an axial pole shift – causing them to overflow their banks during the days and weeks the pole shift was occurring before the Earth stabilized into a new axial position.
Ours oceans have an average depth of 2.28 miles whereas the Earth’s dry land has an average height of less than 0.5 mile, so it’s easy to see that the entire planet could be completely covered by oceans many times over during such a catastrophic event. It would also take very little “shifting” of the planet to destroy virtually all life on Earth. During the shift, the waters would rapidly and violently erode the surface of the planet as unprecedented amounts of deep water flowed back and forth; covering mountain ranges with the force of thousands of pounds per square inch. We are told that the waters covered the world for 150 days before they began to recede. During this time most of the evidence for the existence population of the planet, including cities and roads, would be virtually entirely erased. Sites such as the Grand Canyon in the United States could have been formed by massive amounts of rushing ocean water in a matter of weeks or months rather than over millions of years as many geologists believe. This also explains why fossilized sea life and coral are found throughout the world’s deserts as well on top of our highest mountain ranges!
This is only the beginning of this story though, and Ingenuity Films continues to conduct research around the world; uncovering unprecedented evidence that is revealed through new courses and documentaries.
DRUGS AND THE END OF THE AGE
By Hal Lindsey – https://www.hallindsey.com/ww-6-5-2018/
Increasing drug use is one of the signs of the end times. Right now, in most of the world, drug use is at an all-time high. And it’s having a profound effect on all our lives.
The news media is willing to tell us about drug companies pushing their products on doctors and the public. That fits one of their preferred narratives-that big business is bad. They rarely mention the correlation between legalized marijuana and a general increase in drug use and traffic deaths. Try as they might, they simply can’t ignore the enormous number of overdose deaths. So they cover those numbers, but not with the kind of emphasis that such an epidemic deserves. And, according the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is an epidemic.
A 2017 Pew Survey found that almost half of US adults have a close friend or family member who has been addicted to drugs. But that number is likely low because addiction is not something people tell about themselves. Even close friends don’t always know, and family members are often intentionally left in the dark.
Whether you realize it or not, you almost certainly know an addict-probably several. And you encounter addicts almost every day. You drive with them on the streets, they are in line with you at the grocery store, they deliver your packages, work on your car, or sit near you in a pew at church.
I’m not saying that your church friend drives to the seamy side of town and buys packets of heroin from a nefarious pusher, though that is possible. More likely, the pusher was a well-meaning doctor. Your addict friend probably didn’t go to a dark, crime-riddled street to buy the drug, but to his local pharmacy. And he might not even know that he is an addict.
Drug abuse affects all our lives in many ways. For one, it kills. According to the CDC, more than 60,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2016 alone. That’s just overdoses. It doesn’t count the people who died because of damage to their bodies from long-term drug use. It doesn’t count the industrial accidents where the addict died or caused the deaths of others.
For comparison, 37,461 people died in car accidents in 2016. But there’s a problem with the comparison. Many of those auto accidents were also fueled by drug and alcohol use. According to the CDC, “In 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.”
Alcohol has traditionally been the major culprit in car accident deaths. But with increased legalization of marijuana, that changed in 2015. According Reuters, “US data has shown for the first time that drivers killed in crashes were more likely to be on drugs than drunk, with marijuana involved in more than a third of fatal accidents in 2015.”
These days, the news is full of people doing completely insane things. A parent murders his or her children. A person walks into a restaurant and randomly stabs one of the diners. And then there are the mass shootings. Drugs are not the whole problem in any of these situations, but they are often a big part of it. In many cases, drugs make the difference. They push people over the edge.
Godly values provide a restraint on this problem. But as those values decline, the problem grows. Many who think they’re looking for a buzz or an escape, are really just looking for comfort in their souls. They know drugs and alcohol provide only a temporary fix while magnifying the problem, but they do it anyway. In their desperation, they just want to survive the moment.
There is a better way. The Maker of our souls can redeem them. He can heal the addicted and the wounds that lead to addiction. A lifestyle directed by His word provides a powerful hedge against the evils of drug abuse.
Society, meanwhile, continues to move away from God and His ways. And that’s the problem. Spiritual voids will be filled. That’s why the demonic is so often associated with drug addiction. Revelation 9:21 gives a prophecy for the time just before the Second Coming of Jesus. It tells us where the problem is headed. “And they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.”
The word “sorceries” comes from the Greek word “pharmakeia.” That’s where we get the English word, “pharmacy.” This shows that rampant mind-altering drug use will be a fixture near the end of this age.
That’s why it’s so amazing to see it happening now at levels never seen before. It’s happening all over the world. And, most important, it’s happening in conjunction with all the other signs for Christ’s coming at the end of the age.
The late Adrian Rogers said, “The times are growing dark, but they are gloriously dark because the light of Christ shines brighter in the bleakest of times.”
In dark times, remember the words of Jesus in
Matthew 5:14-16. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
In these “gloriously dark” times, let the light of Jesus shine through you!
TOO MUCH BAD NEWS CAN MAKE YOU SICK
Bill Wilson – www.dailyjot.com
I’m sure you have heard someone, maybe even yourself, say, “All this bad news just makes me sick.” CNN, of all networks, is reporting that every news alert indicating the world is “pushed further and further into crisis” takes an increasing toll on “our mental health.” CNN reports, “The world has always been stressful, but experiencing acute events occurring thousands of miles away is a new and challenging phenomenon. On any given day, it feels like the world is falling apart.” Susanne Babbel, a trauma recovery psychotherapist, says constant exposure to bad news can “derail our ability to cope healthily…we might go numb or have an overactive fear response to the perceived threat.”
CNN says the 24 hour news cycle opens us up to hearing about problems all around the world, all day every day. CNN reports that news, indeed, is getting worse: “According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the United States experienced 16 weather and climate disasters last year, with losses exceeding $1 billion and total costs of approximately $306 billion – a national record. The United Nations’ disaster-monitoring system says that since 1970, the number of disasters worldwide has more than quadrupled, rising to about 400 per year.” CNN then poses the questions: “How can we brace for disaster and find the strength to withstand it? How will we adapt to our greater exposure to trauma? And will our mental health be sacrificed in the process?”
The answers are really two-fold: First, people can stop listening and watching so much news. I had to do that because it’s just depressing. Think of the impact it has on the mental state of those poor godless liberals who are covering and reporting the news? CNN is talking about its own staff when it is quoting a psychotherapist about overactive fear responses and being able to mentally cope with the news. Think of the frenzy in just covering the White House. These reporters have worked themselves up to the point of a near blood lust. Their mental health is clearly compromised. It’s visible by virtue of the nonsensical things they say. This translates to the public. My advice: Turn it off. Take it in small doses.
The second answer is really what the world needs. Jesus Christ told us what would happen in the latter days. He said in Matthew 24 that there would be wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. He said in verse 6, “see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” In answer to CNN’s questions, we brace for disaster and withstand it by embracing the Lord. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” We combat the bad news by accepting the good news of the gift of salvation. While the bad news can make us sick, the good news of Christ heals. As is written in Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
ELAM PROPHECY IN VIEW?
Terry James –
Israel, always in the news while planet earth closes in on Christ’s Second Coming, again is drawn into the center of stage-setting for prophetic fulfillment. I’m referring specifically to prophecy involving ancient Persia-modern Iran.
We’ve looked at the prophecies involving these end-times players over the past number of years. Dynamics generated from things going on in the region have increased in intensity as of late. It is therefore worthwhile to catch up with developments involving Israel and its biblically foretold enemies.
Iranian leaders are angered over the Trump administration’s taking the U.S. out of the “nuclear deal.” They are threatening the Jewish state and vowing that soon Israel will feel their wrath.
Development of nuclear weaponry is at the heart of the threat. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump have both vowed that Iran will not have nuclear weapons. However, it is known that they already possess missiles thought to be capable of carrying nuclear payloads. And, their centrifuges and nuclear laboratories, deeply ensconced within Iran’s mountainous regions, are beyond inspection by the people who came up with the “worst deal in history,” according to President Trump.
A primary reason Trump considered the “deal” as such is because the inspectors could neither “trust” nor “verify,” as President Ronald Reagan insisted in the case of dealing with the Iranian’s chief ally, Russia.
A Jerusalem Post article reports Israel’s present mindset.
Netanyahu said he spoke over the weekend with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and expressed Israel’s appreciation for the strong and determined position the US administration is taking against the Iranian nuclear agreement and the Islamic Republic’s aggression in the region.
“The regime in Tehran is the main factor undermining stability in the Middle East,” he said. “The campaign against its aggression is not over, and we are still in it.”
Netanyahu said that Israel is working against the Iranian regime on three fronts: preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons, working against its military entrenchment in Syria, and working against the transfer of game-changing weapons from Syria to Lebanon, or the manufacturer of that weaponry in Lebanon.
“Those weapons are intended for use against Israel, and it is our right – by virtue of the right of self-defense – to prevent its production or transfer,” he said. (Netanyahu says campaign against Iran ongoing on three different fronts, by Herb Keinon, Israel News – Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2018)
As mentioned, we have previously, and on several occasions, covered the threat to Israel from its prophesied enemy, Persia (Iran). That nuclear threat hasn’t gone away since we last paid attention in one of these commentaries. It has, as a matter of fact, progressed toward becoming not just a threat, but, possibly a real assault. The former U.S. presidential administration aided and abetted that ratcheting-up of Iran’s eventual achievement in producing atomic weapons. Israel’s military posture as of late, combined with Netanyahu’s elevated words of concern, illustrate, I think, just how near might be some action to neutralize Iran’s growing danger to not only the Jewish state, but to other nations as well.
I wrote the following in a commentary on June 14, 2014:
My friend, Bill Salus, has just released an especially fascinating book relative to our time. NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN IN IRAN: The Ancient Prophecy of Elam points to a particular prophecy in the book of Jeremiah that the author believes foretells a devastating blow to a certain part of Iran-the area of ancient Elam.
One of my own burning questions has been: Why does Persia (modern-day Iran) seemingly intend to attack Israel alongside Russia in the Gog-Magog attack of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 without apparent deployment of nuclear weaponry? -Thus, since Iran is obviously developing such weapons as fast as it can.
That prophecy that both Bill and I had and still have in mind is the following:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might. And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come. For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies, and before them that seek their life: and I will bring evil upon them, even my fierce anger, saith the Lord; and I will send the sword after them, till I have consumed them: And I will set my throne in Elam, and will destroy from thence the king and the princes, saith the Lord. But it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 49:35-39)
The title of Bill’s book-NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN IN IRAN: The Ancient Prophecy of Elam-might itself prove to be prophetic, as things wind up for the end of the age.
IN GOD WE TRUST, OR DO WE?
Steve Schmutzer –
I often tell the class that I teach each Sunday, “What God repeats, we should revere.” It’s my way of reminding all of us that we need to pay special attention to those elements of God’s Word which are divinely restated.
I’m not suggesting there’s a formula at play here – as in the more something is repeated the more important it is. After all, “born again” is only mentioned three times in the Bible (KJV), and that’s a pretty crucial concept! “Rapture” emerges only as an English derivative of an obscure Latin term, and “trinity” is never mentioned once. For that matter, “Bible” never shows up in the Bible.
This doesn’t mean that the Rapture won’t happen or that the concept of the trinity is untrue. The doctrines of the rapture and the trinity are both taught within the canon of Scripture we call the “Bible,” and the Bible remains complete and inerrant. I know of no responsible “born again” believer that has challenged the veracity of any of this.
But if God does choose to re-emphasize something in His inspired Word, I think chances are He wants us to take notice of it. At least that’s a safe bet by my way of thinking.
So why do we struggle with “trusting God” so much? Throughout the Bible we’re exhorted over and over to place our trust in God. It’s one of the most common themes in Scripture. It’s not possible to overlook this straightforward instruction apart from willful omission.
In the opposite respect, we are also warned against trusting in things apart from God – things like wealth (1 Tim. 6:17), people (Jer. 17:5), plans (Prov. 19:21), material goods (Matt. 6:19), and family and friends (Micah 7:5-6). For the independent and “DIY” types, we’re even warned against trusting in ourselves (2 Cor. 1:9). Many of these cautionary passages underscore the foolishness of placing trust in anything but God.
Point made. So why is it so hard to do the right thing?
I’ve been thinking a good deal about trusting God as of late. I don’t necessarily know why that’s the case, but it’s something God has placed on my heart for me to ponder during this season of my life. As I’ve done so, I’ve been reminded of the beautiful words of Proverbs 3:5-6 which state, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will direct your paths.”
These two verses constitute a command, not an option. They are charged with great insight, and they help us unpack the operative question as to why it’s so hard to trust God. Let’s look at some basic applications.
First, real trust is full trust. There is no such thing as partial trust. That’s like saying one is “partially pregnant.” You’re either pregnant or you’re not; there is no condition that is in-between those two points. Partial trust amounts to nothing more than mistrust.
Few of us trust God fully because we fail to know Him fully. Skepticism naturally wells up in any of us when we have exhausted our own means and we are forced to depend on something or someone we are unfamiliar with. Those situations spawn uncertainty and suspicion, and it’s no different with God. When we need to rely on an infinite God that we’ve chosen to define by finite measures, we’re going to have challenges trusting Him fully. That’s our problem – not His.
Secondly, it’s the heart that’s called into accountability here, not the mind. That’s an important distinction. A mind can accumulate a great deal of knowledge, but unless that person is properly applying that knowledge via the conduit of a heart that is yielded and obedient to God’s standards, they do not have wisdom. Because plenty of very knowledgeable people have their heart in the wrong place, it is impossible for them to fully trust God.
Therefore, the expression “all your heart” takes on special meaning here. This is our spiritual center. It’s the very hub of our emotions and desires, and there can be no reservations here. It’s not possible to ration one’s heart and fulfill this command to “trust in the Lord.” One cannot quarantine a portion of their heart from a right relationship with God and expect to discover what it means to fully trust Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 outlines an all-or-nothing proposition.
This ties directly into the next part of the passage which challenges us to get rid of our crutches. That’s a good way to think of the concept of “leaning on (our) own understanding.” If you take the crutches away from someone who needs them, they’re going to hit the floor. We depend on our crutches to hold us up, and God wants to be the one to support us that way.
Face it, we all need a crutch from time to time; a basic takeaway from these verses in Proverbs is we’re going to face the need to lean. That’s guaranteed. It’s not possible to be human in this sinful and fallen world and not need to lean – at least once in a while. The bigger query here is not when we lean, but rather on what we lean when we do.
Really – it’s who! The challenge Proverbs 3:5-6 lays out for us is our need to upgrade our crutches from all the “what’s” we have to a single “who.” Most of us have many crutches we depend on to help us get through life more than we would like to admit. There are just as many names for them, including, but not limited to: alcohol, pornography, money, tobacco, friends, prescription meds, “sick” days, pets, secret affairs, family, food, hobbies, jobs, experience, and education.
Our crutches can be good things and they can be bad things. In and of themselves, they can be vices and they can be virtues. Either way, Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us that they all have the capacity to occupy the affections of our heart and to numb our need to fully trust God.
If we are honest with ourselves, we like our crutches. They are familiar to us. We’ve formed habits and patterns around the crutches we employ, and part of our identity is formed around the ones we choose to lean on the most. The way we lean displays our values and choices Proverbs defines as being our “own understanding.”
The toughest part of this passage for me is the next one that instructs me to consciously place God front and center in every aspect of my life. The phrase “….in all your ways acknowledge Him” is easy to say but hard to do. I’ll be candid – I’m still figuring this part out.
I do know it’s much more than offering a trite prayer before every activity I undertake or before commencing with every decision I’ve already resolved to execute. It’s much more than wrapping an artificial enthusiasm around my unknowns or prescriptively stating “I’m trusting God” through clenched teeth.
Right now, I think it has much more to do with faithful obedience in one direction. It’s staying the righteous course when self-centeredness and integrity are clashing. It’s being consciously aware that the eyes of God are on me all the time as I put one foot in front of the other along the narrow path. It’s about finding contentment with God as my portion (Ps. 119:57), and it has everything to do with nurturing the hope I have in Him (Lam. 3:24). In basically every respect, it has something to do with not having the answers I want to have. These are the principles I am settling on as I refine my understanding of what it means to “acknowledge God in all my ways.”
And finally – all this leads to God “directing (my) paths.” It’s harder for me to appreciate those translations which say He’ll “….make my paths straight.” I’ve never really seen a straight path; even the good ones meander a bit. That’s why they are “paths” and not sidewalks.
My larger takeaway here is God will be the one doing the directing and not me. It’s my full trust in Him that enables me to see the situation for what it is and to stop striving against His sovereign will. It’s seeing the bigger picture and being convinced that this moment, too, is part of eternity. Again, my obligation is to faithfully do my part and to not worry about the elements which I cannot see or comprehend and which are out of my control.
My guess is most of us are learning what it means to live out the wonderful truths of Proverbs 3:5-6. That learning process is likely to be a life-long exercise, but my prayer for all of us is that God will extend His abundant mercy and grace to us as we diligently seek to trust Him, to lean on Him, and to acknowledge Him in all our ways.
TRUMP’S NORTH KOREA STRATEGY IS TERRIFYING IRAN
Caroline Glick – http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2018/06/04/caroline-glick-trumps-iran-strategy-is-terrifying-tehran/
The North Korean media reported Sunday that Syrian President Bashar Assad is due in Pyongyang for an official state visit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Much of the instant media commentary regarding the announcement claimed that it is nothing more than a testament to the deep, long-standing ties between the two isolated nations, whose rogue behavior has caused both to be shunned by the international community.
The problem with this interpretation is that neither leader is isolated.
With the planned summit with President Donald Trump back on for June 12, Kim is about to score North Korea’s greatest diplomatic achievement since the hermit kingdom was established in the aftermath of the Korean armistice in 1952.
Last week, Kim received a visit from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who invited him to come to a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this year. Kim has had two meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-In, and has had two meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in just the past three months.
Assad, for his part, just met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 17. His forces and their Iranian/Hezbollah/Shiite militia allies have retaken the outskirts of Damascus, and so largely ensured the survival of his regime. Assad has made clear that his next moves will be to seize southern Syria along the Israeli and Jordanian border regions of Quneitra and Daraa from rebel forces. He also has his sights on the U.S.-allied Kurdish held areas in eastern Syria.
In other words, things are looking good for both men. Why would they risk their newly held credibility by meeting with one another? Kim will certainly score no points with Trump for meeting with the man the president referred to recently as “a monster.”
The answer, in a word, is: Iran.
In September 2007, the Israeli air force destroyed a nuclear reactor in Deir Azzour in Syria. The reactor was constructed by North Korea and paid for by Iran.
The Israeli operation placed Iran’s nuclear cooperation with North Korea in stark relief. Many Israeli officials viewed the Syrian reactor as an extension of the Iranian program. Iran constructed the Syrian reactor, they told reporters, as a means to replicate and expand its own capabilities.
According to an Israeli official who was intimately engaged in discussions with the Bush administration regarding the Syrian nuclear reactor both before and after the Israeli airstrike, rather than use the revelations of Iranian-North Korean nuclear cooperation to pressure Iran and North Korea to come clean about their collaborative efforts, and the extent of their nuclear cooperation, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to silence discussion of the issue.
Rice, who opposed the Israeli operation in Syria, was engaged at the time in nuclear talks with both Iran and North Korea. Rice was not interested in highlighting either regime’s role in building the Syrian reactor, because she apparently hoped to appease both.
Due to Rice’s efforts, little attention has been paid publicly to the issue of Iran’s nuclear ties to North Korea. But the fact that those ties exist is an undisputed fact.
Consequently, with North Korea apparently actively engaged in discussions of its nuclear program with Washington, the Iranian regime is likely in a state of panic about what Kim and his representatives are telling the Americans about their work with Iran.
And that is where Assad comes in.
If the North Korean media report of his planned visit is accurate, and if Assad soon shows up in Pyongyang, he won’t be there to show the world that he has friends, too.
Assad will be in Pyongyang as an emissary of the Iranian regime, which wants to find out what Kim is planning – and hopefully, coordinate policy with him before his June 12 meeting with Trump.
Iran’s apparent effort to coordinate its operations with its longtime partner, and its fear that North Korea may be in the process of selling out to the Americans, is not happening in a vacuum. The Trump administration is implementing an across-the-board strategy to isolate Iran from its economic and strategic partners.
In some cases, like Trump’s diplomacy with Pyongyang, and the decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. is implementing its strategy directly. In other areas, the U.S. is using Israel to implement its strategy of isolating Iran.
If North Korea is Iran’s chief Asian partner, Assad and Putin are Tehran’s most important allies in the Middle East. Russia built Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor. Russia has sold advanced weapons systems to Iran. Since 2015, Russia has been Iran’s chief partner in preventing Assad’s defeat in Syria, and in winning back regions of Syria that rebel forces had successfully seized control over during Syria’s seven-year war.
But for the past several weeks, backed by air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, Israel has been leading a diplomatic effort aimed at Putin to convince the Russian leader to attenuate, with the goal of ending his alliance with Iran in Syria. As Dore Gold, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, outlined in a policy paper this week, Israel has been making the case to Putin that now that the Syrian war is petering out, with the Assad regime in control over wide expanses that were previously held by rebel forces, Iran’s plans and interests are no longer aligned with Russia.
Russia wants stability in Syria to ensure its continued control over the Tartus naval base and the Kheimnim air base near Latakia. Assad gave Moscow the bases in exchange for Moscow’s military assistance in saving his regime from destruction.
Iran, on the other hand, has made no attempt to hide the fact that now that the war is winding down, it expects to use its position in Syria, where it controls some 80,000 forces, to pivot to war against Israel. Israel has responded to Iran’s threats by attacking Iranian military positions in Syria. And Israel has also made clear that if it is forced to go to war against Iran in Syria, the government will order the Israel Defense Forces to destroy the Assad regime.
In other words, the Israelis are saying to the Russians: If you do not rein in Iran in a serious way, and block the chance of war, the Assad regime that gave you your port and air base will disappear, and you will need to hope that the next regime, whatever it is, will let you keep the bases. In giving full backing to Israel’s military operations in Syria, the Trump administration has signaled to Moscow that the U.S. will back Israel in the event of such a war.
Understanding that Israel is coordinating all of its actions with the Trump administration, Russia has given partial support to Israel’s position. Over the past two weeks, Putin and Lavrov have made a series of statements calling for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Syria, and stating explicitly that Russia expects Iranian-controlled forces to withdraw from the border area with Israel. The border areas, the Russians have said, should be manned only by Syrian regime forces. Moreover, they have said, Russia is willing to deploy police forces to the border areas to ensure that no Iranian-controlled forces are deployed in those areas.
Israel, while thanking Russia for its recognition of Israel’s concerns, has insisted that Russia demand all Iranian-controlled forces withdraw from Syria. The U.S. backs that demand, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated explicitly during his speech on the administration’s Iran policy at the Heritage Foundation last week.
So far, there is ample evidence that Russia is not speaking with one voice on Iran. On the one hand, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced Wednesday that Iranian and Hezbollah forces were preparing to withdraw from the border area with Israel.
On the other hand, while insisting that all Iranian-controlled forces abandon the border zones with Israel, the Russians are also telling Assad that as the “sovereign” in Syria, he has the power to decide whether foreign forces will operate in the country and where they will deploy. Shortly after Putin called for all foreign forces to withdraw from Syria, Russian and Iranian forces jointly constructed 17 fixed military posts around Idlib province.
And perhaps most damningly, on Thursday, Israel’s Hadashot news channel reported that Hezbollah forces along the border with Israel were sighted donning Syrian military uniforms.
But whether Putin is lying or telling the truth about his attenuation of his ties with Tehran, what is clear enough is that Russia’s warm embrace of Israel, including Putin’s decision not to block Israel’s air assaults against Iran’s military assets in Syria, is setting off alarm bells in Tehran.
Whereas a year ago, the Iranians believed their alliance with Putin was stable, today they are forced to worry that he will stab them in the back to improve his relations with Washington. And now, with Putin making at least an artificial separation between Syrian regime forces and Iranian-controlled Shiite forces, the Iranians also need to worry, if only at the margins, that Assad may feel he needs to distance himself from his Iranian sponsors.
The U.S., for its part, is doing everything it can both to reinforce this Iranian paranoia and to prod Moscow away from Tehran. The administration is working both indirectly, through Israel, and directly, through discussions of a summit between Trump and Putin.
It is far too early to know if the Trump administration’s strategy for isolating Iran and destabilizing its alliances will be successful. But both the announcement of Assad’s planned visit to Pyongyang, and the noises the Russians are making on Syria, indicate that Moscow is attenuating its ties with Tehran. Those are encouraging signs of progress.
JESUS IS NO LONGER THE ONLY WAY FOR MANY AMERICAN “CHRISTIANS”
For two thousand years, a core tenet of Christianity has been that, to paraphrase John 14:6, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life – no one comes to the Father but through Him. The eternal reward of Heaven is exclusively for those who repent, put their faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and asked to be saved from their sins.
Now even this bedrock belief of Christianity has been undermined by some ministers who preach, in the postmodern age of liberal theology, that there are many paths to God and Heaven.
One such “open-minded” voice is the pastor Michael Walrond Jr. who preaches at Harlem’s First Corinthian Baptist Church. Preaching to a portion of his 10,000 strong congregation, he is quoted as saying, “There was a time when you would see people in the pulpit say, ‘well, if you don’t believe in Jesus you’re going to Hell. That’s insanity in many ways because that is not what Jesus even believes.”
He did not bother to cite the precise verses of scripture where Jesus tells His followers that there are other paths to God and that He is not the only way or the only truth. But it is likely that he didn’t need to in order to sway his audience, because the pastor, and others like him, are tapping into a powerful in postmodern and liberal theology in which Christians no longer believe in the traditional view of Christ’s sacrifice and its value.
Ten years ago, in 2008, studies done by the Pew Research Center showed that more than half of American Christians no longer believed that Christianity was the only way to come to God and enter Heaven. Members of African American churches and evangelicals were the most likely to believe in the God of the Bible at 92 and 91%, far greater than the average.
Pluralistic notions of religious relativism and vague spirituality have resulted in a stark difference between traditional Christian doctrine and the now common belief that Christ’s sacrifice is just one method of salvation among hundreds. In a pluralistic society, the reasoning isn’t hard to imagine. After all, wouldn’t it be horrible if our Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and atheist neighbors, who are nice enough people, couldn’t go to Heaven with us? That just wouldn’t be fair, especially if they believed in their version of God.
Out of the 80% of Americans who profess a belief in a god, only 56% of the total believe in the God of the Bible. Muslims, Jews and Hindus make up a very small part of this difference, but much greater are those who hold a vague, spiritualist notion of what God is, while clinging to Christianity in name only, including 28% of Catholics, 26% of Protestants who, according to this survey, no longer believe in the God of the Bible.
What caused this shift? There are doubtless several factors at work here, such as a breakdown in family structures, an increasingly postmodern culture and media attacks on traditional Christianity. Institutions of higher education are among the chief culprits in this change, according to J. Lanier Burns, a senior professor of systematic theology at Dallas Theological Seminary.
According to Burns, “This is the agenda of the universities at the present time because it is felt that maybe it is religion that has generated all the wars and so maybe if we can get rid of exclusive religion we might have greater peace in the world.” Could he be on to something? Could seminaries and schools of theological studies be transforming religious belief on such a grand scale to fit their agenda?
The liberal bias in higher education, a self-reinforcing cycle, is especially pronounced in university religion departments. A recent study by Mitchel Langbert of Brooklyn College, found that, among 8,688 professors (with a Ph.D. and on tenure paths) from the 51 of the top universities, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a 10 to 1 ratio. But in religion departments, the ratio is an astounding 70 Democrats for every 1 Republican.
It is not difficult to conjecture that there may be some connection here between liberal politics and liberal religion, but it is also true that the same forces at work to create such a political imbalance have also worked to create and reinforce a trend toward increasingly liberal theology.
Langbert points out that “Political homogeneity is problematic because it biases research and teaching and reduces academic credibility. Even though more Americans are conservative than liberal, academic psychologists’ biases cause them to believe that conservatism is deviant.” Within the university setting, dare to defend Biblical beliefs and traditional Christianity in many divinity schools and you may suffer consequences.
Burns also points to a shift from finding truth in scripture to a view of truth as mere societal consensus, a sort of democratization of God in the postmodern age. “We are going wrong because we have moved the authority from Scripture to consensus. That’s where we are going wrong”.
Finally, as we seek to answer the question, ‘what has caused this shift?’, we need look no further than the church, itself, as suggested in the first paragraph of this article.
Men who have become popular or prominent within the church, seek to enhance their popularity (or offerings) by a watered-down Gospel. Having been seminary-trained to be CEO’s instead of Biblical proclaimers of the Gospel, many pastors are structuring their style to be ‘consumer’ oriented; to be ‘appealing’ rather than ‘demanding’. Some call this being ‘seeker sensitive’.
In an interview with Phil Donahue in 1984, Norman Vincent Peale said: “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine. … I’ve been to the Shinto shrines, and God is everywhere.” Donahue then exclaimed, “But you’re a Christian minister; you’re supposed to tell me that Christ is the Way and the Truth and the Life, aren’t you?” Peale replied, “Christ is one of the ways! God is everywhere.”
In an article in Christianity Today, Robert Schuller said that the most destructive thing that has been done in the name of Christ is the attempt to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition. He called it “crude” and “uncouth”. [October 5, 1984]
But Jesus Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: NO MAN COMES UNTO THE FATHER, BUT BY ME.” (John 14.6)
When Peter stepped out of the upper room on the Day of Pentecost, he preached Christ crucified and solemnly declared, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)
The apostle Paul, in meeting with the Ephesian elders, warned that men would arise within the church (“of your own selves”) “speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them”. (Acts 20.30)
It is the rampant deception that marks these Last Days, and it is being fulfilled among us, in spades.