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The Christadelphian | November 2015

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Building God’s House
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday Morning “By this all men will know …” | David Caudery
  • Psalm 71 In the Lord God’s might | Peter Heavyside
  • Archaeology in focus Egyptian chariot wheel hub | James Andrews
  • 100 years ago
  • The Genesis account of Creation Seeing God’s signature | John Pople
  • Towards better Bible study (1) Articles for the ordinary Bible student | Greg Palmer
  • An A-Z of discipleship ‘E’ for Exalt | Amy Parkin
  • CIL Birmingham Gatherings | Richard Austin (Secretary)
  • 50 years of Rathmines Bible School | Paul Jamieson
  • Signs of the times The Gogian invasion | Michael Owen
  • Israel and their Land Golan oil find | Roger Long
  • Faith Alive! Riding on a donkey | David Simpson
  • Epilogue Even as he was | Robert Tarrant
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Signs of the times

The Gogian invasion

Events have been moving with such speed that students of prophecy have been treated to one exciting development after another in recent weeks.

As always, the focal point for the most arresting happenings has been the Middle East. For years Christadelphians have drawn attention to the power from “the uttermost parts of the north” that would descend on Israel, as foretold in Ezekiel 38. Moscow is directly north of Jerusalem and “Meshech” may well be a reference to the city that became ‘the Third Rome’, after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. No other power to the north of Israel has the links with Catholic Europe as well as with Persia in the east that would satisfy the clues in both Ezekiel 38 and Daniel 11 about the Gogian power.

We have seen the Russian bear in action in Crimea – occupying the area with calculated ruthlessness. The relative weakness of the West’s response was like a green light to Russia. Next, when President Obama encouraged a nuclear deal with Iran that gave Iran most of what it wanted with little in return, President Putin saw his opportunity to strengthen Russia’s presence in Syria, not far from the huge deposits of oil and gas he would like to get his hands on.

Russia in Syria

When in September Russia sent the largest submarine in the world to its facility in Syria, followed by fighter aircraft and combat helicopters, Europe and the USA did nothing much. Next Russia delivered a calculated insult to America by sending a three-star Russian general to the American embassy in Baghdad to give a couple of hours’ notice of planned Russian airstrikes. This was within forty-eight hours of a meeting between Putin and Obama in New York!

Since then, Russia has tested the reaction to its violations of Turkish airspace, fired thirty cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea into Syrian targets and agreed to send 150,000 conscripts into Syria, ostensibly to see off the ‘terrorists’ threating the regime of President Assad. All this is in support of the Syrian and Iranian forces trying to recover lost territory and to fend off Islamic State expansion. The Diplomatic Correspondent of the BBC commented on Russia’s strategy:

“Ultimately, Russia and Iran have secured their position in Syria. Assad or no Assad, the West will have to deal with Russia directly, and most likely as an equal, in settlement to the Syrian conflict.”

A phony peace

Ezekiel 38 tells us that at the time of the final invasion from the north, Israel will be a “land of unwalled villages”. While some students have surmised that this state of affairs may be after the return of Christ, the view that it describes a phony peace (see 1 Thessalonians 5:2) before the return of Christ is still convincing.

Might it be that Russia will take advantage of its strong presence in the region, to broker a peace-deal that would enable it to get more ready access to the oil and gas reserves there – the “spoil” of Ezekiel 38? The Western powers will look on, as now, rather than confront Gog.

“Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all its leaders will say to you, ‘Have you come to seize spoil?’” (Ezekiel 38:13)

“Togarmah of the north quarters”

What of Turkey? Slowly, Turkey is being circled by Russian influence and, while it is a member of NATO, there does not seem to be much support in Europe for the dictatorial style of its Muslim president, Recep ErdoÄŸan. Relationships with Russia have been strained by the violations of its airspace by Russian fighter planes, but there is still a strong dependence on Russia’s natural gas supplies. If we conclude that “Togarmah of the north quarters” (Ezekiel 38:6) is Armenia, south of Georgia and east of Turkey, then it sits on the route between Russia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Jewish writers in the past have identified Togarmah as ‘the Turks’. Brother John Thomas wrote of the “Constantinopolitan Autocracy” as a revived Russian Orthodox influence on Europe, coming from Turkey. The image of Daniel 2 is to stand again, with its two legs – placed in Rome (Europe) and Constantinople / Byzantium / Istanbul (Turkey).

If the Western powers are forced to settle with Russia in a resolution of the Syrian conflict, then it is not hard to see that Turkey might restore friendly relations with Moscow. A military route for Russia over Armenia and Turkey, whether in the air or on the ground, could be an outcome and Turkey might take the opportunity to flex its muscles alongside Russia. It would provide an opportunity to deal with the Kurdish separatists as well as the threat from ISIS.

The time of the end

Whatever developments lie ahead, it is fascinating to see the growing presence and influence of Russia in the Middle East and the line-up of powers to the north and powers to the south (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf States). The great prize is the oil and gas resources still being discovered in the region. The recent find in the Golan Heights is a case in point.

Israel might be tricked into a false security that would increase its self-assurance. If support from the US is weakening, perhaps friendship with Russia is desirable. But the tensions right now in Jerusalem and the prospect of another intifada is a reminder of how quickly a situation could flare up. That could provoke Russia and its Muslim allies to try to subdue Israel – and Zechariah 12 would fall into place.

Israel has to be humbled by “the time of Jacob’s trouble”, so that its cry will go up to God, as in the days of dark oppression in Egypt. They will then once more be a witness to God’s abounding grace and faithfulness, when a remnant will “call upon” His name and He will recognise them as His people (Zechariah 13:9).

By then, the saints will have been brought before the judgement seat of Christ. The door of opportunity will be closed. Now is the time to ensure we are ready, with oil in our lamps.

Michael Owen

 

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