Do not be distracted from

The BIG PICTURE

By Garner Ted Armstrong

Your daily news and mine is filled with dozens of distractions, alarming reports, warnings of terrorist activity, and the threat of impending war. The news is so threatening that millions of people prefer not to watch it or read about it. Many prefer to turn immediately to the sports sections, or to sit before their television sets, watching “sitcoms” and “soaps.” 

When one surveys the condition of this world, it is tempting to play the proverbial ostrich, or to simply shrug off and deny the bad news.

And bad it is:

ITEM: Resulting from the near miss of a Russian made shoulder mounted ground to air missile attack against an Israeli civilian jetliner in Kenya, the government has issued a stern warning to all airlines about the potential of such hand-held missiles being used against commercial jets. Warnings have been issued about the potential of “RPG’S” (Rocket Propelled Grenades) or “Stingers” which are no doubt in the hands of terrorists.

ITEM: The media has hyped recent Al Quaida broadcasts about potential attacks during the holiday season. Many are apprehensive about holiday travel; about theme parks, sports events, and big crowds -- prime targets for terrorists.

ITEM: Hundreds sick aboard cruise ships has caused much speculation about the possibility of sabotage.

ITEM: A sensational book recently published lays the huge numbers of Americans and other who have suffered respiratory diseases and many other ailments at the door of international terrorists.

ITEM: An unregistered ship is intercepted en route for Yemen with North Korean SCUD missiles aboard. Were they en route to Saddam? To Bin Laden?

ITEM: In Indonesia, arrests have been made as investigators sorted through the charred wreckage of the Bali bombing, for which Bin Laden’s Al Quaida organization took credit. They also took credit for the massive bombing in Kenya, which gutted a popular Israeli tourist resort, killing and maiming dozens.

ITEM: UN investigators begin sorting through voluminous documents from Iraq, purporting to prove Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. But previous investigators say much of the material is only a rehash of that which was compiled over ten years ago.

ITEM: Tarik Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s right hand man and Foreign Minister for Iraq, charges America wants to redraw the borders of the Mideast; wants to create three countries out of Iraq, give Turkey a slice in the north, and then invade Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, making all of them American “protectorates” so the US can exploit oil. Aziz says it is “all about Israel and oil.”

ITEM: American forces are deployed all over the Middle east; in Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and in Iraq itself.

ITEM: With “war games” being conducted in Qatar; with another US aircraft carrier battle group about to arrive in the Persian Gulf, we know that any “material breach” of the latest tiresome and usually useless “UN Resolution” might cause a sudden US attack against Saddam Hussein.

ITEM: Intelligence sources on the ground in Iraq claim that the ongoing bombing of Iraqi radar sites and air bases is really the beginning of the war; that special forces from America and Britain have been systematically seeking out and pinpointing targets all over the country which are scheduled to be hit the moment a war starts, and are gradually diminishing Saddam’s air defenses.

ITEM: Now, it is revealed that Saudi Arabia has intermediate missile capability as a result of purchasing missile technology from China.

ITEM: In the Philippines, Al Quaida operatives continue to pose a threat to US missionaries and other US personnel.

ITEM: Continuing bombings and sniper attacks plague Israel, as Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen continue to exact their horrible toll.

These items, and many, many more make up a hodge-podge of bad news, apprehension, fears and worries. Millions of Americans are kept on tenterhooks by a continual series of warnings of the possibility of terrorist attacks; war with Iraq is a daily item of discussion on every major television network, with time out for domestic turmoil over an alleged “racist” statement by Trent Lott.

Today, even a cursory look at these and other world conditions should convince even the most skeptical that the prophecies of Jesus Christ are unfolding before our very eyes!

Christ warned, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

“All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8).

We are surely living in a time of “wars and rumors of wars!” The potential of war looms in China, where some observers say the Chinese are only waiting until the US is enmeshed in a war with Iraq before they attack Taiwan. Others worry that North Korea may seize the opportunity to once again attack South Korea.

Remember, one full third of your Bible is PROPHECY! All prophecy focuses on the Middle East, much of it on Jerusalem. Bible prophecy says almost nothing whatsoever about the Orient. Many of the great wars of the past were not specifically predicted. Not even World War I or World War II were specifically predicted, any more than the war in Korea, in Vietnam, or the war against Iraq in the Gulf. Instead, the prophecies of the Bible concern themselves mainly with Jerusalem, and the general area of Palestine. Christ’s “Olivet” prophecy was delivered on the Mount of Olives, across the dry former watercourse of the brook “Kidron.” I have been on the Mount of Olives many times; have done radio and television programs from there; have stayed overnight in the old hotel which was operated by the Jordanians there.

Often lost in the hyperbole of frantic media warnings about terrorism and Iraq is the ominous fact that JERUSALEM, and the very existence of the nation of Israel, is the focal point of Arab and Islamic hatred! Time and again, I have written about this fact; how your Bible says Jerusalem is the location which will be critical in the horrific events of the Great Tribulation.

Christ went on to say, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

“Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

“Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

“Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.

“And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

“But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:

“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:15-21). 

The “Abomination of Desolation,” or the ugly, Satanic, abomination in God’s sight which CAUSES destruction and desolation is yet to be set up in Jerusalem! Anciently, Antiochus Ephiphanes, the bloody dictator of Syria, set up a statue of Jupiter Olympus in the Holy of Holies in the temple, thus desecrating the holiest site to God on this earth. Swine’s blood; the blood of an unclean animal, and thus abominable to the Jews, was sacrificed there. Also, following the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the armies of the Romans under Titus, the pagan Roman standards, which were regarded as objects of worship by the Romans, were set up there.

But these were merely typical forerunners of the end time abomination which is to be set up. Will it be set up in a literal temple? Paul predicted, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

“That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 1-4). Some muse that the “temple of God” indicates the church. But this prophecy seems not to be mere analogy, or metaphor. Its language is strongly literal. Furthermore, when it was written, the temple in Jerusalem still stood. It would be about fifteen years into the future before it would be destroyed by Titus’ armies.

Since no temple exists today, and since the prophecy seems to strongly indicate that a temple will be built, one must ask, where, when, and how?

The “where” immediately brings up a mind-boggling scenario of world conflict! As we have reported for decades, those groups in Israel who insist upon the building of a temple also insist upon its being built on the very site of the two Islamic mosques, the famed “Dome of the Rock,” and the “Al Aksa” mosque, which stand atop the temple mount. Every allegation about any Israeli interference in the “Harm el Shariff,” as the Arabs call it, brings about violent reaction. The current and ongoing “Intifada” with the many bombings and shootings began when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dared to visit the site with police protection. Also, when a long sealed tunnel was opened to allow tourists access into the old city, the Arabs accused the Israelis of deliberately weakening the foundations of the mosques, as if in preparation to tear them down.

The “Temple of the Mount Faithful,” headed by Gershon Solomon, who my son Mark interviewed for our televison program, advocated bulldozing down the mosques, and each year stages a symbolic “laying of the corner stone” complete with shofars, priests, and symbolic stone.

The WHEN is another huge question. As I have said many times, any massive loss of life COULD result in the Israeli government turning on the mosques in a frenzy of anger and retaliation, and COULD result in the government granting permission for the commencement of a temple!

IF the prophecy must be taken literally, it plainly shows that the great false prophet, who will be in collusion with the beast, will ensconce himself there, and, with the powers of Satan, produce great miracles which will cause millions to worship the Beast and his Image!  Paul said, “And then shall that Wicked [one] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

“Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

“And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10).

The final judgment against the beast and false prophet is described in Revelation 19:20. “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

As I have covered many times previously, the intricate prophecy of Daniel 11:40-45 shows the Beast power occupying Palestine, and “overflowing” even to the borders of Pakistan and India. The stage is being set for the emergence of the prophesied “King of the South,” a powerful Arab leader who will “push at” (an oil embargo?) The “King of the North,” or the Beast power which will consist of a huge coalition of powerful nations led by ten “kings,” or perhaps military dictators in EUROPE!

How SIGNIFICANT is it that ISRAEL and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA are the most hated nations on earth today? How significant is it that only BRITAIN dares to continually support the US government, while most of the world does not?

Yes, there will be “wars and rumors of wars.” But Christ told His disciples, “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

“Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:24-28).

It is long past the time when people should be distracted by minor doctrinal disagreements; by conspiracy theories; by arguments about words! It is long past time for people to be distracted, misdirected, becoming bogged down in completely irrelevant issues!

Clearly, “these things” of Christ’s prophecies are BEGINNING! Jesus Christ says it is time to LIFT UP OUR HEADS; TO LOOK UP because our redemption draws near!

But, sadly, He also said most will be preoccupied with their own daily pursuits!

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

“For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

“And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away...”

“Knew not?” But they had been WARNED FOR ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS! How like this generation which has been warned for OVER FIFTY YEARS about events in Europe and the Mideast!

Christ continued, “...so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

“Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:35-42).

It is incredible that the flood came upon millions of people who “knew not until the day Noah entered the ark!” Yet, there are countless people today who have been WARNED about what is coming upon this earth, yet continue to be heedless - like the “sleepy virgins” of Matthew 25! May God grant YOU are not one of those.

The BIG QUESTION is are we converted; are we deeply converted; are we zealously involved in God’s work; are we READY?

The BIG PICTURE concerns the events leading to the second coming of Christ! As John wrote, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

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