Divine deadline for destruction of Damascus?
Sunday, 07 December 2008, at 0252 hours
Central Time -- Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Even people that do not know God are beginning to wonder if the recent election of Barack Obama as president somehow fits into a divine timetable. My answer is a resounding "yes". The details of why I believe that are explained in my book, Tribulation: 2008. The main premise of that book is that The Tribulation — the final, seven-year period of human history on Earth — has already begun. (It began on the 29th of September, the Feast of Trumpets on the Hebrew calendar. The book was released about six weeks prior, after several months of research and writing. Events since then have confirmed key predictions in my book. One of those predictions was that Barack Obama would be elected, and that he would play a key role in End Times prophecy. (But, according to my analysis, he is not The Anti-Christ. Are you surprised?)
In the introduction of Tribulation: 2008, I explain that I owe a great debt to author Hal Lindsey. His first book, The Late, Great Planet Earth put the foundations under my pre-existing curiosity about Bible prophecy. I was 15 years old when I read the paperback version in 1973. I consider it one of the classic works of Christendom. Yet, also in the introduction of my book, I declare that I think Hal Lindsey was wrong about at least one key detail. (If you read this, Mr. Lindsey, don't worry. I still regard you as a man of great knowledge, insight, and wisdom.)
This column was sparked by Hal Lindsey's most recent column in WorldNetDaily. Lindsey's column, "Revisiting 'the burden of Damascus'", suggests that Israel will soon launch a surgical nuclear strike against her enemies. The primary goal will be to prevent Iran from launching an all-out nuclear strike against Israel. In the process of this Israeli attack, Lindsey suggests, the Syrian capital of Damascus will be utterly destroyed. I agree with his premise that Damascus will be destroyed, because the Bible passage that he quotes plainly states that it will. And, I agree that the timing — after Obama's election, but before his weak and anti-Israel foreign policies are put into effect at his inauguration — is on-target, so to speak.
But, I disagree with the method.
The premise of this column is that Damascus will be destroyed by a divine event, totally beyond human control. Why do I believe that? There are several reasons.
First, there is the strategic consideration of nuclear contamination. Any nuclear strike by Israel upon Damascus would result in lingering area contamination, plus downwind fallout contamination. I do not think that a "tactical" nuclear weapon, which could limit nuclear fallout to within Syria's borders, would be sufficient to utterly destroy Syria's capital. The use of a "strategic" nuclear weapon would surely enrage Syria's downwind neighbors -- primarily Jordan, and possibly Saudi Arabia. That, in turn, would trigger the type of regional war that Israel has been careful to avoid since 1973. And, a nuclear weapon of any size would render the area uninhabitable at a time when Israel's population is growing and her neighbors are becoming increasingly unruly. Why would Israel destroy "prime real estate" in such circumstances? If I can figure this out, then surely Israel's ministries of defense and intelligence have already considered it long ago.
Second, there is the foreign-affairs angle. This includes not only the "downwind neighbors", but also all of the nations in Israel's sphere of influence — whether positive or negative. The current policy of the United States is that our country is a staunch ally of Israel. (I suspect that will change in a hurry after the upcoming inauguration, when Barack Obama makes clear his meaning of the "58th state". If that happens, then we will quickly shift from ally to enemy of Israel. And, if that happens, then it will be too late to stop the falling of the Biblical "dominos".) In the world of foreign affairs, a large-scale Israeli strike against a neighbor (even if that strike is non-nuclear) could have negative repercussions in trade, economics, and other aspects of diplomacy. In the shaky transition between the Bush and Obama administrations' policies toward Israel, disrupting the foreign affairs situation could become a case of "he that makes waves gets wet".
Third, and most important, is the spiritual angle. It is not widely advertised, but there are Jewish scholars that study the Christian prophecies. And, it is becoming increasingly clear to even the most skeptical observers that there is complete integration between the Old Testament prophecies and the New Testament prophecies. (Hal Lindsey has made that abundantly clear for almost four decades. An increasing number of Jews agree.) I believe that the continued growth of the Messianic Jewish movement proves that Jews recognize that their Messiah is coming ... back. But, even those Jews that do not recognize Jesus as their Messiah are still coming to the realization that the Old Testament prophecies are lining up toward ultimate fulfillment. With that in mind, a nuclear strike against Syria or Iran might be viewed by some religious leaders in Israel as an attempt to do God's job for Him. Thus, I believe the religious leaders in Israel would discourage such an attack.
I believe that God will perform a strike of His own, and soon.
Why do I believe such a radical thing? There are many reasons. Some of the evidence is beyond human control. (Many of the proofs used in Tribulation: 2008 were "signs in the sun, moon, and stars", so that no one could claim that any form of human manipulation was used to create any sort of "self-fulfilling prophecy".) Just as I had predicted that the Bible's description of "blood mingled with fire" matches comet debris contaminating the waters of Earth (more about that soon), I believe that God has put signs in place to announce that He will soon perform a "divine air strike".
Hanukkah is coming. For those that do not study "religion", here is a brief explanation. The holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the "rededication" of the Hebrew Temple, after a group of God-trusting "insurgents" threw off the yoke of the occupying Assyrian governor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This cruel, pagan oppressor had defiled the Temple of God by sacrificing a pig in the Most Holy Place, and smearing the pig's blood onto the altar. (He did this to defile the Temple, in anticipation of building a statue of Zeus in the Temple of God.) God was not happy. So, He inspired the Hebrews to rebel; and, God gave them the strength to be successful against a militarily superior occupying army. (The Hebrew insurgents came to be known as the Maccabees, which means "hammers".) After defeating the oppressors (whose capital was in Damascus), the Israelites needed to cleanse and rededicate the Temple. But, there was not enough oil to keep the lamps lit. God caused a one-day supply of oil to burn in the lamps for eight days*, thus giving the Israelites enough time to press more olives to produce enough oil to keep the lamps lit. The Hebrew word "Hanukkah" means "dedication". (I did not know this linguistic fact, nor its significance, until a telephone chat late Friday afternoon with Messianic scholar Pastor Mark Biltz, whose research into the Biblical significance of celestial signs has now become world-famous.) My call to Pastor Biltz was prompted by the recent close-alignment of Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon. I inquired whether there was any celestial significance. It was only after that chat that I read Hal Lindsey's column. The combination of the two sparked this column.
*Keep in mind that, in Hebrew numerology, eight is the number of the Messiah. Jesus spent His last eight days in Jerusalem. Just as Hanukkah celebrates a "second chance" for the people of Israel, Jesus is the "second chance" for the entire human race. And, when He was asked directly if He was the Messiah, He answered the people directly at one point. The timing of that Q&A is very important. Read on.buckle your seatbelts
I use that introductory phrase a lot; but, it's even more true this time than usual. If my analysis is correct, then God has passed judgment upon Syria, and He is about to execute the sentence. And, as usual, God's timing is perfect. What a great Hanukkah present for the nation of Israel.
1868 German map shows Damascus well within Biblical border of Israel
(image source: Jewish National and University Library)
The map above shows the borders of the Kingdom of Israel as they existed under David and Solomon. In the northeast part of the kingdom, the border was the Euphrates River. Because of various territorial wars (which David mostly won), the borders at that time were somewhat larger than the original borders of the Twelve Tribes during the time of the Judges. Almost five centuries later, during the time of Jesus, the borders of Israel had shrunk under Assyrian and then Roman occupation. But, even then, Damascus was barely outside the border of Israel.
Yellow area shows Damascus barely outside the shrunken border of Israel
(different portion of same map as above; click for complete map in new window)
Now, here is where it gets really interesting. Israel had conquered those portions of the land of Canaan that God commanded. Thus, the land of Israel was carved out of the lands of several pagan nations. When the people and their leaders fell into sin and corruption, God raised up the Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezzar to sack Jerusalem and take Israel into captivity. When the people of Israel repented, God allowed them to return and rebuild Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. Then, they fell into sin again, and God sent the Assyrians to occupy and oppress Israel. Then, the Romans conquered that part of the world. Then, God sent His only Son to save first the people of Israel and then the rest of the world. When the leaders of Israel turned their backs upon Jesus the Messiah, and used the Romans to kill Him, then God used the Romans to destroy Jerusalem. That left a piece of unfinished business: the pig at the altar.
Fast-forward two thousand years to the present. Weapons now exist that can cause more death and destruction in an hour than the most powerful ancient armies could have done in a month. Certain nations, most notably Iran, have openly threatened to use weapons of mass destruction to "wipe Israel from the map". The chemical WMD stockpiles that were in Iraq before the US invasion were smuggled into Syria. Modern Syria is the historical descendant of ancient Assyria. And, given that chemical weapons were used against the Jewish people before (by Nazi Germany), it is unlikely that God would allow another nation to use such weapons against His people now that they have returned to their ancient homeland. And, even if God were planning to use another nation to rebuke Israel, the instrument that He would choose would not be the same nation that sacrificed a pig upon His altar.
In early October of this year, an asteroid struck Earth's atmosphere with such force that it produced an explosion equal to a tactical nuclear weapon. The explosion occurred high in the sky over the desert in Sudan, and was witnessed with the naked eye by people as far away as the coastline of Somalia. Although NASA is capable of accurately predicting the path of incoming asteroids, they also admit to potential uncertainties in such predictions. (And, sometimes asteroids can suddenly appear — shortly before a potential impact — that were previously undetected.)
During the eight days of Hanukkah this year, there are eight Near Earth Objects already in NASA's database. (As noted above, eight is the Hebrew number of the Messiah.) Of those eight, Asteroid 2008 EV5 is designated as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. It just happens to be scheduled to pass near Earth on the first full day of Hanukkah. As the column by Hal Lindsey noted, the Bible makes clear that Damascus will be utterly destroyed (Isaiah 17:1). Not only shall it be destroyed, but also verses 7-8 make clear that it shall be done specifically by a divine event, and not by human hands. (That is the point that I believe Mr. Lindsey overlooked in his recent column.) Verse 14 specifies that it will happen at night. (Interestingly, the Hebrew word used for "evening" in this verse is "ereb". It comes from the root word for "dark", which is "arab".) If an asteroid strikes a city at night, the resulting explosion will be visible from far away. It would have a devastating effect equal to a nuclear weapon, but without the resulting contamination. Verse 2 says that the destruction will reach beyond the borders of Syria, also destroying "the cities of Aroer" — the region near the River Arnon in modern Jordan. Nuclear destruction is ruled out by verse 2, because the area "will be for flocks" after the destruction "and none shall make them afraid".
If the area described above is destroyed in that manner, then two things will result. First, the land will become inhabitable by Israelis that have been displaced by that nation's compromising "peace" accords. Second, and more importantly, it would expand Israel's territory to its original Biblical borders. This is no small matter, because many of the End Times battles described by the prophet Ezekiel take place in areas that were part of Israel's territory during Bible times, but are not (yet) during modern times. Therefore, as we quickly draw closer to the return of Jesus, some event must cause Israel to reclaim its Biblical borders. The destruction of Damascus — along with large areas of Syria and Jordan, but without nuclear contamination — would be an event that corresponds to the Ezekiel scenario.Why on Hanukkah?
There are three main reasons why I believe that such an event could occur on this coming Hanukkah. First, it would be a clear sign of God's vengeance upon the Assyrians for having sacrificed a pig upon His altar. ("God is not slow, as some count slowness...") Second, given that such an event must happen in order to clear the way for the battles of Israel's coming war with "the Gog-Magog Alliance", causing that event to happen during Hanukkah would be God's clear "signature" for all to see. Third, and most important, by tying the event to Hanukkah, God will also make clear to the Jewish people that Jesus truly is their Messiah. How? Because, when the question came up to His face, it was during Hanukkah. (see John 10:22-23) Jesus was walking at Solomon's Porch, during the "Feast of Dedication" (Hanukkah). Just in case any skeptics try to claim that it was otherwise, verse 23 adds, "... and it was winter". Hanukkah is the only Hebrew feast that takes place in winter.but, wait, there's more
In order for a loving God to redeem His chosen people, even though they had previously rejected His Son as their Messiah, there needs to be convincing proof that Jesus really is their Messiah. The 10th chapter of the Gospel of John culminates in the answer that Jesus provided when the Jews standing nearby asked him plainly if He was the Messiah (the Christ). To paraphrase the dialogue, Jesus told the Jews that, if they would not believe His open answer that He is the Messiah, then they should believe the works that He did in His Father's name. Some accused Jesus of having a devil. Others questioned among themselves, "Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?" But, for the purposes of this discussion, the key historical point is that this dialogue occurred during Hanukkah.
Now, let's recap the situation in light of the facts discussed herein. Approximately 165 years before Jesus was born, the Maccabees successfully overthrew the occupation of Israel by the Assyrians. The Assyrians were led by Antiochus IV, who angered God by sacrificing a pig upon His altar. Later, when Jesus was in Jerusalem, a group of Jews openly asked Him if He was the Messiah. This occurred during Hanukkah. Jesus told them that they should believe the miraculous works that He did. Two thousand years later, Israel is threatened by the presence of chemical weapons hidden in modern Syria. Their capital is Damascus, which was also the capital from which Antiochus has ruled over Israel during his occupation. The Bible predicts that Damascus will be utterly destroyed. The method of destruction leaves the land safe for flocks of sheep, thus ruling out a nuclear strike by Israel. There is a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid expected to pass near Earth during Hanukkah. If an asteroid strikes, the explosion would parallel that of a nuclear weapon, but without the contamination. If such an event occurs during Hanukkah, it would be a "good work" for Israel. Thus, it would simultaneously complete both the vengeance of God upon the Assyrians (Old Testament) and the declaration of Jesus about His good works as the Messiah (New Testament). Such a simultaneous event would bridge the gap, thus proving to modern Jews that Jesus really is their Messiah. (That realization is necessary, so that many Jews can be saved before the terrible destruction during the seven-year Tribulation, which has already begun.) This event can only occur during the End Times, thus setting the stage for Israel's predicted war with Gog and Magog. That war eventually leads to the Battle of Armageddon, which is cut short by the divine return of Jesus to establish the one-thousand year Kingdom of God on Earth before the final Judgment Day.
When viewed in that light, it appears that God has set a divine deadline for the destruction of Damascus.