We all know, even if we cannot quote the words of Jesus:
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs (Matt. 24:6-8).
All ‘signs of the end’ and when war breaks out, as it has in Israel, the above Scriptures often are quoted. I am no expert in the conflict(s) that have gone on since the establishment of the state of Israel (1948) but am aware that there is among some of Israel’s neighbours a desire to remove Israel from the map. I see enormous significance in what is happenning there – but do not believe there is anything in Scripture that is ‘prophesying’ this conflict. That frees me to pray for justice, resolution and an end to conflict. The Jesus-path is demanding, but it is always ever so close. The path of love, love your neighbour, love your enemy is always just right there… and in a hot-bed of potential revolt that was soon to overspill Jesus proclaimed ‘repent and believe in me’ for in so doing the kingdom of God could be entered as it was ‘at hand’. Those words, by Jesus, were the words that Josephus (a wealthy Jewish historian) used when he travelled north to Galilee a few decades after the death of Jesus. He travelled there to persuade the hot-heads who had had enough of Rome’s oppression not to rebel but to lay down their arms and to follow the path that he was laying out. His message to ‘repent and beleive in me’ was not a call to come to the front to repeat the ‘sinner’s prayer’ but to ‘change their mind’ and follow another path. The Jesus-path is always there – the ‘third way’ in every situation. The Jesus’ call is transcendental / spiritual, but also deeply political in the sense of being non-nationalistic.
I am not proposing a simplistic solution, but that we start with an understanding that we can sow into the non-polarisation of our world. God is not for ‘us’ nor for ‘our enemies’.
The words of Jesus that I quoted at the beginning as with all Scripture is NOT written to us. Jesus was NOT speaking to us; he was not addressing the 21st Century, but inot the days that lay ahead (culminating in the intense brutal war of 66-70CE) for the ‘you’ to whom he was speaking. It is written FOR us and remains deeply instructive in every situation, but we will not hear what it is saying into our situation is we assume it was written directly to us.
Years ago while travelling in the USA I was approached by an enthusiastic young man (I too was young back then). In his hands he had a set of videos from a ‘prophetic teacher of the end-times’. I had not seen the videos but could see that at the heart of them was a ‘time-line’ approach. This person asked me along these lines: ‘You are from Europe, and the antiChrist is going to rise within Europe and might already be present there, how do you handle that?’. My reply was – you have seen the videos, I have not. I need your help in knowing how to respond. So if we begin with prayer… in the light of the videos should I pray against the evils of antiChrist but maybe feel a little guilty about resisting what has been pre-ordaiined; or should I pray for the success of antiChrist as it would be in line with prophetic understanding – and then feel somewhat guilty in partnering with antiChrist?
The answer – I guess you can work that out. He had the videos and all the information… and all it could lead to was paralysis. No Scripture leads to paralysis but to a ‘what then should we do / how then do we live’ type of response.
I am deeply concerned about the current situation. It is likely to escalate. I am also deeply concerned about the prophetic time-line approach as paralysis will abound, and only contribute to the escalation.
Wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes, floods, pandemics, famines, refugees, climate crisis – yes all signs of the times: the times being of a generation that is hell-bent on destroying what God has given to us. The current conflict though cannot be used to plot a time-line. It can be used to further provoke our listening to the cry of the land for liberation to what we have subjected it to (Rom. 8). Israel was subject to Pharoah and cried out, the land is now in bondage to our ‘lording it over’ and is crying out. Can we join our cry to the cry of the land, even when we do not know how to pray?
If we pull out (Old Testament) Scriptures in a way that the New Testament NEVER does we might well advocate violence, but I suggest that if we pray for resolution and shalom we will be much more in line with the New Testament. And if we do so, political outworkings might be closer to ‘the wolf lying with the lamb’… closer to the biblical hope than to any set of texts used to prove a position.
- I know that the situation is deeply complex; issues of war and ‘self-defence’ cannot be resolved simply… but, neither are conflicts solved by any rhetoric that dehumanises the ‘other’. My plea is that for us who feel powerless that we do not submit to texts being quoted that leave us with information about the future while, by any reasonable standard, justice can be ignored.
- I am currently working my way through videos and writings on eschatology – ever so important as Scripture is written for us… but we have to avoid the errors of history that have sidelined the body of Christ by feeding us ‘information’ and the ‘inside story’. Following Jesus demands a level of ignorance so that our ‘knowledge of him’ far exceeds any other kind of knowledge – I think the original sin narrative speaks deeply into that.
- I am hoping in the not-too-distant future to have a zoom evening with a Christian Arab Palestinian who is an Israeli citizen, to hear from her, be better informed – I am working on a suitable date and will let you know by posting here. dates will be posted here. She has been in touch with Amy Bell (Cádiz) and wrote from Jerusalem:
I’m shocked, scared but mostly super sad. I feel that people from all sides are dying just for nothing. and I was praying to be able to do something even if it is small. I would like to explain the situation here to people who want to know. It’s very complicated, and I truly believe that if you stand with one side and cancel the other, then you do not understand what is going really here. and since I believe that only real change can bring real peace, I would love to share about what’s happening here from my point of view. as a Christian Arab Palestinian woman living as an Israeli citizen.
I hope you can join us…