by Marty Purvis
"When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."(Luke 21:28 ) The recent destruction of the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and related events cast a shadow over the daily decisions that people make. While the terrorist acts resulted in the deaths of just .0001 percent of the world’s population, the majority of the world’s citizens has been affected in some way by these evil acts. An even smaller number of people have contracted anthrax, but the results of these deaths have had a psychological effect on other people that far exceeds the direct impact of the attacks themselves. In this respect, the terrorists have already achieved their goals. The primary goal of any terrorist act is to create uncertainty in people’s hearts that outweighs the actual harm delivered. That is why they are called terrorists in the first place. They are either unwilling or incapable of mounting a direct assault on their enemies, so they attack areas where they believe their enemy is weak or that will cause the most fear. Their successful strategy is to create uncertainty in the four "W’s." Who: We do not know who they might strike next and we really do not know much about who the terrorists are. What and Where: We do not know what or where they will strike next. When: Vague security alerts raise awareness, but they do little to calm shattered nerves. Why: Within a civilized society, it is nearly incomprehensible that someone could hate us so much that they would want to destroy this nation that has done more for other nations than anyone else.
Shortly after the events of September 11, friends of our family contacted us from around the world to express concern about our well-being. During the holiday season of 1999/2000, we had two Korean girls (ages 9 and 11) spend time with us. About 4:30 A.M. on the morning after the attack, we received a call from the youngest Korean girl. She was calling to make sure that we were fine. I do not think she understood that we lived more than 500 miles from New York City.
Last month’s Day Star gave several religious and political reasons for the clash of cultures, so we do not need to review them this month. But perhaps the most often asked question we have received in the Wake Up America Seminar’s office since September 11 has been, "What are the prophetic implications of the terrorist events?" Our answer has been that we see no specific relationships between apocalyptic prophecy and the attacks. However, the developing coalitions between nations may have future apocalyptic implications. For sure, this has been a practice run for nations around the world to practice achieving a worldwide coalition in times of stress. It is much easier for us to now imagine how a global government can develop when the seven trumpets begin. Recently, the United States enacted legislation in an attempt to thwart future terrorist attacks. The legislation may prove to be successful as law enforcement investigates terrorists, but the additional restrictions placed on U.S. citizens cannot help but reduce civil liberties. However, most people are willing, even anxious, to reduce their freedom if it will result in more safety. The cry of "peace and safety" (1 Thessalonians 5:3) is on many minds today.
Current events provide an excellent backdrop for prophetic study, yet we must be careful not to follow the risky approach of attempting to interpret Bible prophecy through the lens of current events. Many times, news from the Middle East renews interest in the Bible because evangelical Christians believe that events in Israel have end-time significance. Many prophetic expositors attempt to ride this wave of prophetic interest when political events cause people to ask Bible questions. Instead of focusing on the political events, the serious Bible student needs to go back to the Bible and study to understand what is written there.
What will be the Sign?
When the followers of Jesus began to understand that He was going to leave them in a short while, the question that burned in their minds was, "When is He coming back?" They asked Jesus the question
" ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ "(Mat. 24:3) Jesus responded with a key point,"Watch out that no one deceives you."(Mat. 24:4) With the abundance of religious opinion and immediate access to the news media, Jesus’ warning is especially valid today. A rumor can go around the world almost instantaneously. Did the Taliban shoot down a helicopter or did it just crash in a snowstorm? Did a helicopter even go down? How many civilian casualties have there been? When in history has a conflict been so evaluated, analyzed, and televised? Jesus referred to these issues in the following verses:You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.(Mat. 24:6,7) Note what Jesus says about the rumors. Do not let these wars and rumors alarm you, because the end will come later. In almost the same breath, He speaks of nations and kingdoms rising against each other. Jesus must have had a reason to refer to both nations and kingdoms in the same sentence. In fact, I believe he had a very specific reason. The Greek word that has been translated "nation" in almost all Bible translations is ethnos. The word "ethnicity" has the same Greek word as a root. It becomes clear why Jesus used this phrase, because He knew there would be ethnic wars, as well as wars between kingdoms.
While many people hope that ethnic wars will not remain a part of modern society, ethnic hatred continues to cause battles both within and between nations. In recent history, the genocide in Rwanda illustrates that this hatred can overwhelm cries for peace and safety. While the United States government is doing its best to represent the battles in Afghanistan as not ethnically based, on the other side of the world, the Taliban is attempting to spin this war as a battle between the evil West and the Arabic culture. These representations are a reflection of some of the stark cultural differences between Arabic and Western thought. The United States is based on a wide separation of religion and government (church and state), but for the conservative Muslim mind this is not necessary. Instead, the government becomes very useful in enforcing religious practices. Countries like Iran and Afghanistan combine religion and government, then when a country like the U.S. attacks Afghanistan, many people within that environment perceive it as also an attack against Islam. This difference in perception reflects a cultural divide (ethnicity) that causes two people to consider the same issue and come to entirely different conclusions.
Wars are Inevitable
The Middle East contains a cauldron of unresolved issues, any of which may cause a terrorist or government to act. Use of bombs, missiles, biological warfare, nuclear weapons, or even human bodies as weapons, could cause any present coalition to splinter. Political leaders are just as frightened as the citizens about terrorist attacks. They know a well-planned terrorist could cause war on a global scale. However, Bible students who love God do not have to be afraid. Consider again what was written in Matthew 24:6. Conflicts will happen, but the end is still to come. Over the past twenty centuries, one item has remained constant. Humankind will always find another war to fight. No wonder Jesus issued this caution – His comments are even more striking today. We should not base our prophetic conclusions on wars or rumors of wars. When God’s appointed time has come, we will have no doubt that He is moving. A global earthquake followed by asteroid impacts will certainly do more to wake people up to their spiritual need than a few terrorist acts.
Satan is an extremely intelligent being. He knows if he can fill our souls with anything that opposes goodness and light, he is winning the battle. It is all too obvious that Satan is winning when we recognize a heart full of sinful characteristics, like pride, selfishness, addiction, jealousy, adultery, or deceit. Yes, these are just a few of Satan’s front line attacks. But Satan uses many more insidious ways of filling the heart to the exclusion of goodness and light. If he can get to us through busy lives, leaving no time for God, he has succeeded nearly as well. Wars and rumors of wars often cause concern, fear, or complete terror, depending on whether the individual affected is observing, participating, or receiving the impact of war. One element that the "War Against Terrorism" and the "Great Tribulation" share in common is the ability to cause a Christian to be frightened. When Earth shattering events occur, it is perfectly reasonable for any person to be fearful. In fact, a certain amount of concern in times of stress can be productive. However, Satan’s objective is to move that stress right into our hearts, causing us to be unsettled and filled with abject terror.
Paul writes,"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace."(Rom 8:6) So, a mind under the control of the Spirit has peace. It seems obvious then, that if Satan wants to fill our mind, he would do it with something that is the opposite of peace. A word with an opposite meaning of peace is war, but it is difficult for me to imagine a literal war within the mind. Instead, within the recesses of a sinner’s mind fear reigns instead of peace. If the Spirit fills our minds and souls with peace, then Satan accomplishes his goals by filling the mind with fear.
Love Drives Out Fear
How can the committed Christian accomplish the dual purpose of eliminating improper fear from the heart and allowing the Holy Spirit to instill peace? The Bible gives one answer in 1 John 4:18,"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."On an emotional basis, a symbiotic process is necessary. Symbiosis is a close relationship between two different elements that result in mutual benefits. The first step in the process is to develop our love for Christ. As this love begins to grow, the fear begins to ebb. As the fear begins to leave the heart, Jesus sends the peace of the Holy Spirit, which lingers and dwells in the willing heart."Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."(John 14:27) He fills the heart with peace and joy that comes from having the stress of a heart of fear relieved. This can only cause our love for Christ to grow, which completes the cycle. Like the process of photosynthesis, there is not a beginning or ending point in the cycle. However, if one of the elements of the process, such as love or peace (like carbon dioxide or light) is removed, the cycle comes to an abrupt end. Satan can then come and reclaim territory in our heart. This must be developed before times of great stress arrive.
Faith is another key element that ensures the process continues through wars or tribulation. Faith is like the rain showers that keep the plant growing. Without the showers, the plant will die and photosynthesis will stop. Faith must be developed in the spring of the year when growth takes place so the plant will survive the cold winter months. In like manner, the peace/love/anti-fear process has to develop when the stress level is low for it to survive in the dark periods of a person’s life.
Despite all of the unexpected events that could cause concern, God is still in control. Most of the global population today is not nearly as vulnerable to terrorists as the early American settlers were to either war or infectious diseases. Our sinful human tendency is to become inwardly focused when events like September 11 strike. By consciously changing our perspective outward to think of others, we reduce the opportunity for Satan to work in a heart of fear. The holiday season is a time of joy and if we use them to share our joy with others, then our own burdens will be lifted! A new year will soon be here and let us resolve in our hearts to share Christ’s love with other people.
Attacks on innocent people are never justified. Innocent victims have also felt the results of the bombings and the resulting war in Afghanistan. Remember their families in your prayers too. We should strive, even in the most negative situations to find ways to glorify God. If the terrorist attacks allow us a chance to develop a relationship with Christ that allows the Spirit to move in our hearts, we can be exceedingly thankful. God is using these events to call people to Himself. A horrific situation often causes people to reconsider their relationship with Christ. Jesus calls all people to"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."(Mat. 11:28) He says,"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."(Rev. 3:20) He has given us the invitation. Open the door and let Him in, give Him your love, and He will give us His peace. Remember David’s psalm,"When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?"(Psa. 56:3,4) With Jesus filling our hearts with peace, we can sincerely sing the song "Anywhere with Jesus, I can safely go. . . ."