Comfort for our troubled times

The story goes like this: The queen of England says to the butler, who is a Christian, "How can you prove to me that the Bible is true?" The butler replies respectfully, "The Jew, madam, the Jew."

The Bible is the story of a nation, Israel, from whom comes the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. God describes himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In Genesis 14:13 Abraham was referred to as Abram the Hebrew.

Although Israel disobeyed God and rejected their prophets, and although they did not recognize Jesus as their Messiah, God yet has a plan for this nation. Their return to their native land was predicted throughout Scripture. There is no other race of people that have ever lost their country for more than two generations and returned to take ownership of it. Yet on May 14, 1948, having survived the holocaust and 1,900 years of persecution, the Jews returned to their homeland.

My wife and I have had the privilege of twice hosting tours of the Holy Land. It is miraculous. They say that two weeks in Israel is worth a couple of years in seminary. They are right. The Bible comes alive in living color. The Bible checks out historically, archeologically and prophetically.

More than that, however, Israel's contemporary existence is a signpost to us of the eminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation shall certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (Matthew 24:32-34).

While there may be different views of eschatology (the study of the last days), there can be no arguing that the fig tree is a reference to Israel (Micah 7:1, Hosea 9:10 and elsewhere).

Not only do the events of the Middle East confirm the Word of God, they are evidence to us that the Lord's coming is near. Many Christian evangelicals believe in a pre-tribulation rapture.

The word comes from "raptus" in the Latin Vulgate Bible, and is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This same word in Greek, "harpazo" means to be caught up or snatched away suddenly as if by the collar. A time of judgment is coming known as "The Day of the Lord," or the "Great Tribulation." Some Christians differ on whether the church will go through this great tribulation, but the one thing that can't be denied is that Jesus is coming again.

Just before going to the cross, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3).

Do you know the Savior? Have you asked Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you? If so, Israel's existence is a profound comfort and sign to you.

The "Arab Spring" and the nuclear threat from Iran - these things are all in God's hands. Make Jesus your refuge today and "stand up, lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28).

Roger Scalice, pastor and missionary for over 30 years, can be reached by e-mail at grow_ingrace@yahoo.com.