This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Israeli – Arab war that dramatically changed the map of the Middle East, initially tripling the land governed by the nation of Israel. The conflict in 1967 was preceded by months of escalation of tension culminating on June 5th by the Israeli Air Force destroying 400 aircraft of Syria, Jordan and Egypt; most of them on the tarmac. Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula after four days of battle, and when Jordan and Syria joined Egypt, Israel counter attacked. By June 7th Israeli troops had captured Jerusalem’s old city and had taken control of the entire West Bank. By June 10th both Jordan and Egypt had accepted a cease-fire, while Israeli forces had also captured the Golan Heights. Syria accepted a cease-fire by June 10th. The war left 679 dead Israelis and an estimated 21,000 dead among the Arab nations. Thousands of others were injured.
The mood among the Jewish population in Israel was euphoric as the sacred shrines, most prominently the Wailing Wall were now under Jewish control, and many believed that peace would come. Among many evangelical Christians there was a similar euphoria and preachers were heard declaring that the rapture of the church would occur before summer’s end. Though I was myself a young boy at the time I have personal memories of prominent preachers declaring that the end was upon us “within weeks, not months”.
Unification of Jerusalem under a Jewish government was a fulfillment of the prophecy that the Gentiles would no longer trample Jerusalem. After some time everyone realized that the rapture may not be imminent, but most at the time suggested an absolute rapture deadline of no later than June, 2007, in view of the commonly held idea that a generation is 40 years, and that the generation which sees Jerusalem unified would be the “rapture generation.” Let me assure you that I believe in the coming of the Lord and the rapture of the church. Here are however a couple of observations with 40 years hindsight.
First, there is no peace without the Prince of Peace. There is only one redemption for Jews or Arabs, namely what Jesus did on the cross, and as many as receive Him are saved. It is fruitless to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as if peace was a concept, separated from Him, who is the source of that peace. I encourage those, who are interested in making Jesus known in the Middle East to check the website of WAY OF PEACE, [www.wayofpeace.net], a ministry dedicated to Gospel Advancement in the Middle East.
Secondly, rapture prediction is a tricky, though commercially profitable, business. All along I have advised believers to be people-focused in their end-time eschatology. The end will not come until the Gospel is known among all people (Matt 24:14). The Gospel of Mark states, “And the Gospel must first be preached …..”. Paul writes that the fullness of the Gentiles must first be saved [Rom 11:25]. With about 2 billion, who have never heard the Gospel, we still have quite a job before us.
Finally, a little promotion! Why not plan now to join RoxAnne and I on our next Israel Tour in May of 2008.