What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
These promises either imply or clearly state large populations, large land surfaces, good geographical locations, good weather patterns, rich soil, and mineral wealth. Do not these promises indicate that Israel is to become a major force in the world?
In the prophecies of the Old Testament pertaining to the end-time and beyond, Israel is almost always the subject, and other nations, regardless of how populous and powerful, are mentioned only as they come in contact with Israel. His revelation is devoted almost exclusively to the end time, yet evidence of Israel's existence at that time is very sparse and vague. But as the time of the end has approached, what has God done? He has revealed to His church where Israel is. The rest of the world does not give a hoot, but to the church it means something. It has been revealed so that we can make a proper use of this truth. Indeed, Israel is large, and it is important. Its combined population is somewhere around 500 million people.
The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are given in the sense of the entire completion of God's purpose, when all of mankind will be included within the sons of Abraham—all converted, all part of the Family of God as well. We are in an important juncture today, but from the time Genesis 12 took place up until now—throughout all of history—God has been following through on all of His prophecies and promises regarding this.
We have reached a critical point at the time of the end when He has revealed where Israel is right now, and we know that Israel's combined population—the United States, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and so forth—is over 500 million people. Its combined economic, military, educational, religious, political, and geographic influence is unrivaled in the world. It is lopsided in almost any area one could research. For instance, 70% of the world's fresh water is in Israel, and most of that 70% is in the United States.
God has blessed the Israelitish people to such an extent there has never been a power on earth that can even begin to rival them. One can make any kind of comparison, whether it be the Roman Empire, or China at its greatest, despite its hundreds of millions of people, nobody can hold a candle to Israel. That is why the United States and Britain just blew Europe off in the lead-up to the recent Gulf War. There is nothing that they could do about it except yell at us and complain. So does God just write Israel off in the most significant end-time book of all, Revelation? Hardly. It is there, but it is prophetically hidden.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Three)
We live in a land today where sin is discussed and displayed daily. Some of our own major cities could easily compare to Sodom or Gomorrah because of their blatant depravity. Even some of our smaller cities and towns have homosexual mayors and commissioners who flaunt their perversions in public. "Gay rights" is a major social concern to those who practice such degeneracy.
Though sexual corruption is the sin most associated with Sodom, the people of that city displayed other evil traits. Ezekiel 16:49-50 lists some of their other sins:
Look, this is the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.
The Sodomites also resorted to violence quickly when they were crossed. In a December 3, 1995, article in The Charlotte Observer, Linnet Myers reported:
Within the Western industrialized world, the United States not only is the undisputed leader in murder, but in rape as well.
According to the International Criminal Police Organization's 1990 statistics, England reported 6.7 rapes per 100,000 population; France, 8.1; the Netherlands, 8.9; Switzerland, 6.2; Germany, 8.2; Poland, 5.9.
The United States reported 41.2.
Former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, author of the popular Book of Virtues, spoke of other shameful categories in which the U.S. leads the world:
But, during the same thirty-year period [1960-1990], there was a 560 percent increase in violent crime; more than a 400 percent increase in illegitimate births; a quadrupling of divorces; a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes; more than a 200 percent increase in the teenage suicide rate; and a drop of 75 points in the average SAT scores of high school students. . . .
Consider, too, where the United States ranks in comparison with the rest of the industrialized world. We are at, or near, the top in rates of abortions, divorces, and unwed births. We lead the industrialized world in murder, rape, and violent crime. (Imprimis, November 1995, p. 3)
Our society is certainly similar to the one into which Lot led his family. In his selfishness and greed, he purposely chose to expose his children and servants to the depravity of Sodom where Satan lay in wait like a hungry lion (I Peter 5:8). We, already living in Satan's world, are commanded, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4). God wants us to make strides to overcome the ungodly practices that we have absorbed from "this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4, KJV).
Ted E. Bowling
Remember Lot's Wife
Genesis contains two significant prophecies about the name of the Israelite peoples. In the first, Genesis 21:12, God tells Abraham to send Ishmael and his mother away, "for in Isaac your seed shall be called." Paul repeats this twice in the New Testament (Romans 9:7; Hebrews 11:18). On the surface this seems to mean that God would consider Isaac's progeny to be the true sons of Abraham, and this is true. But it means so much more! It also means that Israel would call itself by the name "Isaac" in later times.
The second prophecy concerns Jacob's blessing on the sons of Joseph. In his prayer he asks God to "bless the lads; let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac" (Genesis 48:16). This confirms God's words to Abraham, only this time it is specifically directed toward the birthright tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. The descendants of Joseph would bear the names of the patriarchs, particularly Isaac.
Amos, written less than a half century before Israel fell, uses the name "Isaac" twice to refer to Israel:
The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. . . . Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD: You say, "Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not spout against the house of Isaac." (Amos 7:9, 16)
Israel may have already been calling itself "the house of Isaac" or "the sons of Isaac" even before their overthrow and captivity.
After Assyria fell, ancient records tell of a new people living around the shores of the Caspian Sea. These people were variously known as Sakai, Sacae, Sagetae, Sakki, Scyths, Scythians, Scuths, Scuits, Scolotoi, and Scots. In his book The Tribes, Yair Davidy writes:
SACCAE was the contemporary Middle Eastern term for Scyth and the name is believed to be a derivative of 'Isaac'. The appellation 'Saxe' or 'Saxon' is a further development of the same name. (p. 128)
Sharon Turner, author of History of the Anglo-Saxons, agrees, "Saka-Suna or the Sons of Sakai abbreviated into Saksun, which is the same sound as Saxon, seems a reasonable etymology of the word 'Saxon'" (p. 87). It takes no great leap of reason to conclude that "Saxons" is a corrupted form of "Isaac's sons."
Where do we find the Anglo-Saxon peoples living in these last days? In the very same place the Bible tells us Israel would be: northwestern Europe and its colonies!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
He adds to the dust mentioned in Genesis 13:16: sand and stars, which are considered to be countless. We see here strength, power, greatness in number. And not only that, those who come from Abraham are going to sit in strategic locations like doors and gates, letting people in and out.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Three)
In the past we have correctly construed this to be a promise of national greatness for Jacob's posterity. The "company of nations" we know beyond a doubt to be the British Empire, currently, a commonwealth of nations. The single "nation" certainly refers to Manasseh, the United States. The "kings" coming from Jacob refer to the literally hundreds of monarchs who descended from him through his son Judah. These monarchs have populated virtually every royal house of Europe. Chief among them all, and enthroned to this day, is the British monarch, who is a direct descendant of king David.
But, there is an equally valid "spiritual" interpretation of this blessing. The "kings" descending from Jacob are those individuals who, like him, have overcome and will someday inherit God's Kingdom, the "land" they seek. They are a spiritual posterity, not a physical one.
If we can determine who the patriarchs' spiritual offspring are, we will be well on our way to understanding who the "kings" descending from Jacob are. Paul clearly establishes that Abraham's spiritual children are not necessarily his physical ones. He does this during a long discussion of God's reconciliation of Israel and the Gentiles in Romans 9 through 11, specifically in Romans 9:6-8.
In Galatians 3:29, Paul forthrightly tells us who these "children of the promise" are. They are true Christians: "If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Christians, then, are the spiritual children of Abraham. Spiritually understood, the descendants of Abraham, through Isaac (Romans 9:7), through Jacob (Genesis 35:11) will inherit the promises. They will inherit the "land" God promised Jacob in Genesis 35:12 (cf. Matthew 5:5).
The Israel of God
God Himself told Ephraim to mark their way so that they could return one day to the Promised Land: "Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel, turn back to these your cities" (Jeremiah 31:21). How were they to do this?
One of the main ways involves the prophecy of Jacob about the tribe of Dan. "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path" (Genesis 49:17). A serpent or snake leaves a mark behind it as it moves over the earth; some snakes, like rattlesnakes, leave very distinctive trails. So does the tribe of Dan.
Though Joshua had allotted land to Dan in Canaan, the Danites found it to be difficult to hold and settle because of its proximity to the Philistines. They began to look elsewhere for living space.
And six hundred men of the family of the Danites went from there, from Zorah and Eshtaol, armed with weapons of war. Then they went up and encamped in Kirjath Jearim in Judah. (Therefore they call that place Mahaneh Dan [Camp of Dan] to this day. There it is, west of Kirjath Jearim.) (Judges 18:11-12)
Finally, they came to the city of Laish, in the far northern reaches of Israel, and they took it. "And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born to Israel. However the name of the city was formerly Laish" (verse 29).
And thus they have been naming places after their ancestor ever since! A good map of Europe will show dozens of place names carrying the name of Dan within them. The Don, Dnieper, Dniester and Danube rivers all flow into the Black Sea. The Romans knew the Rhine and Rhone rivers as the Eridanus and the Rhodanus. Denmark (literally, "Dan's Land") and Sweden are both northwestern European countries. The English escaped from Dunkirk (literally, "Dan's Church") during WWII. One can find similar place names sprinkled heavily throughout England, Scotland, and especially Ireland, where dun means "judge," just as dan does in Hebrew!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The people of Joseph are a productive lot. To produce goods and services requires a vast amount of energy—call it zeal, enthusiasm, or drive. They live in a well-watered land that enhances agriculture and industry. The people are so driven that they extend their influence and zeal beyond the boundaries of their countries.
Historically, the people of Joseph have moved into other countries, taken the raw materials to make their products, built manufacturing plants, and influenced the native culture. When the British or Americans colonized, they brought their way of life and imposed it on the natives. Americans continue to introduce movies, television, rock music, household appliances, big cars, etc., to impoverished nations around the globe.
These things just typify the inherent drive of the people of Joseph, a proclivity to expand beyond the frontiers in every endeavor. They are an aggressive and innovative people in science, industry, education, government, and religion. This is generally beneficial and productive, but in one area, religion, it has profound repercussions. Satan has taken advantage of this characteristic, producing a religion that allows Israelites to think that they are Christian and yet still be free to explore the frontiers of religious thought.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption
In Genesis 49:22, within the chapter that records Jacob's final words to his sons, God prophesies that Joseph will be growth-oriented, restive, not content with the status quo.
This is a difficult passage, so many of its words having more than one meaning. Young, in his literal translation, renders the Hebrew this way: "Joseph [is] a fruitful son, a fruitful son by a fountain: daughters overstep the wall." Here certainly is a description of the fecundity of Joseph: both his immense population and his material abundance. Here too, however, is almost certainly a description of the inclination of Joseph's daughters—the modern nations of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States—to overclimb walls. Like an ivy plant not content to remain in its place, Joseph grows up wall and chimney, invading walkway and gazebo, re-rooting itself all over lawn and garden.
Globalism (Part Three): America Runs Over the Wall
Numbers 23:9—God's vision of Israel as spoken by the mouth of Balaam—sets us on the right path to finding Joseph's walls, the bounds of his habitations. God describes Israel as "a people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations." Clearly, God does not envision Israel integrated into the world. Rather, He has always wanted Israel to be separated from it. This vision has a number of applications, one certainly pertaining to the moral sanctification God intends Israel to display in the Millennium. God's vision for Israel is a people distinct from all others—His people, not partaking of the curses of this world's international intrigues, imbroglios, poverty, disease, etc. As we know, those days are yet to come.
Relevant to national Israel today, however, the passage likely has geographic significance. God fulfilled His vision of an isolated Israel by situating some Israelites in England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand—on islands. (Australia is a continent-sized island.) He located America and Canada in the New World, effectively isolating them from other major nations by vast oceans. By doing so, God insulated Israel from the world.
In other scriptures, God is more specific about modern-day Israel's boundaries. When he addresses Israel in prophecies that have clear, latter-day application, He refers to Israel as residing at the coasts (or coastlands) and in the isles. Additionally, Israel dwells in the north and west. Taking Jerusalem as the geographic starting point, Israel will reside to the north and west of the Middle East in the time of the end. Here are a few passages.
» Hosea 11:10: In context, God is prophesying about Ephraim's return—from the west—to his inheritance. (Often God uses Ephraim as an emblem for all Israel, much as the word Washington often refers to the United States as a whole.)
» Isaiah 49:1, 8-13: Again, God is describing His re-gathering of Israel. The "coastlands" and "people from afar" (verse 1) may refer to the lands of Israelites living in the southern hemisphere (see also Isaiah 41:1). Others will return "from the north and the west" (verse 12).
» Jeremiah 3:12: God tells Jeremiah to "Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say,
'Return, backsliding Israel. . . .'" This cannot refer to the ancient Kingdom of Israel, north of Judah, for it was already in captivity long before Jeremiah's day. God is telling Jeremiah to go further north and warn His apostate people.
» Jeremiah 31:7-10: God promises He will save His people residing in the north (verse 8). Those of His people in the "isles afar off" (verse 10) are probably those of New Zealand and Australia.
Joseph runs "over the wall" when he attempts to extend his influence beyond the isolated lands God gave him. This extension of influence can be cultural, economic, and even military. From a modern policy perspective, America stays within her walls as long as she follows a national policy of isolationism—remaining isolated from foreign nations as much as possible. When America follows a course of internationalism—the doctrine that it is proper to intervene (passively or even militarily) in other nations' affairs—she usually starts to overclimb the walls God established for her.
It is fair to see American history as a slow march from isolationism to internationalism. That is, America started out isolated, purposefully distinct from other nations. Ever so slowly, though, she began to take an internationalist stance, overclimbing the wall, until she finally became deeply entangled in the military and economic affairs of the world's nations.
Globalism (Part Three): America Runs Over the Wall
Genesis 49:22 predicts regarding Joseph, Jacob's son through Rachel, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall." Joseph, modern Britain and America, is prophesied to be an unusually prosperous people whose influence spreads far and wide beyond their home locations. At the end time, they have been at the forefront of spreading the "wine of the wrath of her fornication" by means of their cultural influences.
Meanwhile in their homelands, Satan has convinced most Britons and Americans that everybody, regardless of personal beliefs and conduct, is worshipping the same God, the God of true Christianity! What mass confusion and a horrific influence this has been. In doing this, they make God to be a sovereign over mass confusion, unconcerned about what people believe about Him or how they worship Him. They make Him into a God with no purpose for His human creation except a vague concept of somehow "saving" them, whatever that means!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character
God will remember His covenant because He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). Because He does not want His name to be profaned in any way, He is very concerned about those who bear it (Exodus 20:7). The covenant people, Israel, had profaned His name by their conduct among the other nations. Because God is holy and righteous, what He proclaimed to do against the heathen in the first chapter of Amos, He will also do to Israel—a people who had forsaken their covenant with Him.
Isaiah writes that Jerusalem, symbolizing all the tribes of Israel, will receive double for her sins because of her privileged position under the covenant (Isaiah 40:2). God will punish Israel for her failure to live up to her responsibilities within the covenant.
God's punishment, though, is never an end in itself, nor does He punish in wild anger or frustration. Rather, He punishes in the best way and at the best time to bring individuals to repentance. He has not forgotten His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but He will correct their descendants so that He can eventually save His people and give them the promises. The process will be painful but also effective; Israel will come to repentance (Romans 11:25-29).
Reflecting on the history of the British Commonwealth and America in the last two hundred years, we see two nations quickly rising to prominence along with unparalleled accomplishments. The British produced a great empire far out of proportion to their population, native wealth, and abilities. Through her commercial power, the United States became the single richest nation that has ever existed. American influence has since exceeded even that of Britain, making English the universal language of business and politics.
Thousands of academic, scientific, and engineering breakthroughs and inventions have sprung from British and American individuals, discoveries which greatly affected the rest of this world. Such power and influence have made both nations feel they have an unlimited reservoir of natural ability and wealth. They even feel a kind of invincibility.
Amos warns ancient Israel and her modern descendants, however, that no nation is so great that it can stand without God. He makes and unmakes nations (II Chronicles 20:6; Daniel 4:17; Acts 17:26). Their rise or fall is largely dependent upon His purpose for them and their significance in prophecy (e.g. Jeremiah 12:14-17; 25:15-32). If their moral and ethical foundation has eroded, the natural process of strong nations displacing weaker ones will take place (Leviticus 18:28; 20:22). It is this process that God often uses to punish His people for apostasy and immorality.
But though God punishes, there is always the hope of repentance and restitution:
"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God. (Amos 9:13-15)
Central to both the punishment and the restitution is loving and living the truth of God. This is the responsibility of those who have made a covenant with Him, whether the Old or the New Covenant. It is our part of the deal—a small part really but a difficult one that must be kept (Matthew 7:13-14). If we do not keep it, God must correct us.
But if we keep our part of the agreement, we will reap the benefits that flow with God keeping His. He promises good health (Exodus 15:26), prosperity (Malachi 3:8-12), children (Psalm 127:3-5), security (Psalm 46), and many other blessings besides His greatest gift, eternal life in His Kingdom (John 17:1-3; Romans 6:23)!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)
There are quite a number of serious sins exposed in this particular issue - perhaps the most serious being their lack of faith in God's promise. There they were, eating "angels' food," as Paul calls it - the very best nutrition they could possibly receive - and it was not good enough! They had to have something extra, just as all the people in the world do, and they were willing to go back into captivity to get it. Is that not compromising? Is that not a lack of self-discipline? Is that not wanting to be like everybody else around them? Is that not seeking after a variety of experiences?
God is interested in unity, in oneness. There is one way, one God, one religion, one set of commandments, statutes, judgments, and so on. But Israel wanted to be like everybody else. They had the best laws, the best country, the best God, the best Husband, but it is not enough. Whenever self-denial becomes an issue, she did not deny herself to serve and submit to her Husband, God. Is that not serious?
God promises to supply our every need, but in Israel's fearful and fickle discontentment, they did not seek Him to understand what He was doing, but instead, they sought something different from what He was providing them within their relationship with Him. We really need to be aware of this, because this drive for fulfillment in variety is still within the Israelitish people, and therefore in us. God shows us in numerous ways that His desire is for His children to be unified in one system, and that is why He told Israel: one God, one place of worship, one system.
They were permitted only one place to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. In my experience in the Worldwide Church of God, people in almost every congregation had to go to a different festival site every year. When we begin to see that this is immaturity, we realize that not everything that God makes available to us is a right choice for us. God shows this right at the beginning of the Book. In Genesis 3, Eve looked at that forbidden fruit and saw that it was good to eat. She could not deny herself the satisfaction of tasting that luscious looking fruit, even though God said not to.
We (especially those of us who live in America, which is far wealthier than any nation has ever been in the history of mankind) have so many things to choose that it is incredible. But what does God say is our responsibility? He says, "Choose life," and there is more to that word "life" than merely being the opposite of death. By "life," He means choose the things that will be good for eternal life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Six)
Clearly, these prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. To date, God has not actually scattered Israel among all nations. Historically, He did not use the Assyrians to scatter Israel so much as He used them to resituate Israel to locales south of the Caspian Sea, in what is now northern Iran. In process of time, God further resituated Israel through a number of migrations into rather localized areas of the earth, such as northern Europe, the British Isles (including Ireland), the North American continent, Australia, and New Zealand. Notice that these areas are isolated from the capitals of the Gentile world. The British Isles and New Zealand are islands; Australia is a continent-sized island. North America is separated from other northern hemisphere power centers by two large oceans.
These lands to which God led Israel were generally under-populated before Israel invaded them and displaced the aboriginal—Gentile—populations. These aboriginal peoples did not constitute the bulk of Gentiles. Far from it. The majority of the Gentiles lived, and continue to live, in areas isolated from the lands of national Israel. The Gentiles are concentrated in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Asian Subcontinent, and South America, as well as in certain areas of southern and eastern Europe. With the exceptions of the State of Israel and South Africa, Israelite migrations to these Gentile areas have generally not been extensive to date.
So today's world looks like this: The Gentiles are concentrated in certain areas of the world, while Israel is concentrated in other areas of the world. Relatively low numbers of Gentiles live among the Israelites, and, again in relative terms, even fewer Israelites live in Gentile areas, such as Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa. Clearly, those Israelites residing in South Africa make up an exception to the pattern. However, when God scatters Israel to all nations, the exception will be the rule. The present plight of Israelites living in South Africa will become Israel's commonplace plight everywhere.
To this day, God has not yet scattered Israel among the Gentiles en masse, not yet sifted them "among all nations." Today's demographic reality does not look at all like the population distribution of which God speaks in Deuteronomy 28, Ezekiel 20, or Amos 9.
This level of scattering is yet to come. A number of scriptures appear to connect this vast displacement of Israelites with Israel's fall and the time of "Jacob's Trouble." For example:
One-third of you shall die of the pestilence, and be consumed with famine in your midst; and one-third shall fall by the sword all around you; and I will scatter another third to all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them. (Ezekiel 5:12)
Does the scattering mentioned here occur before Israel's fall or after? As an approach to that question, it may be instructive to compare Matthew 24 with Ezekiel 5. Note, however, that the order in which the terrible events cataloged in them is not the same. Comparing the number of thens in Matthew 24 with the number of thens in Ezekiel 5 suggests another difference. Matthew wins out, with his ten to Ezekiel's two. As Herbert Armstrong so often pointed out, Matthew 24 is sequential—first this, then that, "immediately after" the other.
However, aside from the last clause of Ezekiel 5:12, where it is quite obvious that the sword will follow the third God has scattered "to all the winds," there is no explicit idea of sequence in the Ezekiel passage. Nothing in verse 12 (or in its companion, verse 2) argues for a sequence of events: first pestilence, then famine, then war, then scattering. Even though war is mentioned in this passage after pestilence and famine, the war of which God speaks could cause—and hence, precede—the pestilence and famine. Historically, this is not at all an unusual sequence. War comes first, causing famine.
So, it is possible, even plausible, that some part of the prophesied scattering could take place before the pestilence. It could even take place in a time of relative peace and prosperity.
Of course, none of this denies the fact that the final dissolution of the nations of modern-day Israel will not be accompanied by vast, involuntary migrations. That will certainly be the case. Yet, given the magnitude of the prophesied sifting/scattering, it remains plausible that God may at least begin to scatter Israel before her national destruction, using as His vehicle the widespread "open borders" established by a globalized international community. Such borders would facilitate easy migration from nation to nation (just as between Canada and the United States today).
Globalism (Part Nine): Running To and Fro
2 Kings 17:6
When the Assyrians conquered the northern ten tribes of Israel and dispersed her population in the lands beyond the Euphrates, only the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained in the Land of Promise. Though the house of Judah had not yet forsaken Him, God began to raise up prophets to warn the southern kingdom that she was headed for the same fate as her sister Israel.
Through these prophets, particularly Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea, God gives us directions by which we can find where Israel lives in the last days. Remember, all the following directions must be understood from the vantage point of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 3:12: "Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: 'Return, backsliding Israel,' says the LORD."
Jeremiah 3:18: "In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers."
Jeremiah 31:8: "Behold, I will bring them from the north country."
When Jeremiah prophesied—about a century after Israel went into captivity—Israel lived to the north, and even in the end time, the Israelites will still live primarily in the north. North alone, however, could be rather vague, so God adds more detail:
Hosea 11:10: "They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west."
Hosea 12:1: "Ephraim [the leading tribe of Israel] feeds on the wind, and pursues the east wind [the east wind travels west]." This scripture implies that Israel migrated westward. Though this verse has a primarily spiritual meaning, its value as a clue to Israel's whereabouts is confirmed by
Isaiah 49:12: "Surely these shall come from afar; look! Those from the north and the west. . . ."
A line stretching from Jerusalem to the northwest cuts through much of Europe from Greece to the North Sea. Where along this line should we look for Israelites? We know that the line of David would continually rule over some part of the house of Israel (Jeremiah 33:17).
Psalm 89:20, 25: I have found My servant David. . . . Also I will set his hand over the sea."
David's dynasty would rule over a sea power somewhere to the north and west of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 31:10: "Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him.'"
Isaiah 49:1, 3: "Listen, O coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar! . . . You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." (See also Isaiah 41:1, 8-9.)
Israel, headed by Ephraim, would inhabit islands and coastlands far from Jerusalem. This seems to eliminate any of the Mediterranean nations; they would be considered "near" to Jerusalem rather than "afar off." Now we are looking for a nation, dominating on the seas, living on islands and coastlands in the area of the North Sea. Are there any other clues?
Jeremiah 31:7: "For thus says the LORD: 'Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "O LORD , save Your people, the remnant of Israel."'"
In the end time, Israel is regarded as among the leaders of the world's nations. This narrows our search considerably. Yet, one bit of evidence still remains:
Genesis 49:22: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall."
Isaiah 49:20: "The children you will have, after you have lost the others, will say again in your ears, 'The place is too small for me; give me a place where I may dwell.'"
These verses hint very strongly at colonization of other lands because of burgeoning population and prosperity. Though many nations have colonized other lands in the past, only the nations of northwestern Europe have done it to a great extent.
Do any nations fit all these criteria? Only one: Britain! We should be able to find Israelites, primarily of the half-tribes of Joseph, the birthright tribes, in Britain.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
In his day Isaiah prophesied of a worrisome circumstance that would befall Judah. This prophecy certainly seems as if it is being fulfilled in the United States and Canada today: "I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them" (Isaiah 3:4). He means that their leaders would be people of immature minds, people without wisdom, self-centered, concerned mostly with "looking good" and being acceptable to the right people. Furthermore, these leaders would not really be concerned with principles or long-range effects of policies and decisions but very willing to pass on to the next generation the problems their policies create. When God gave this prophecy to Isaiah, He had more than governmental leaders in mind. The same types of people are influential in business, education, religion, the professions, and science.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Scourge of AIDS and the Sacrifice of Christ
Isaiah, Jeremiah, and especially Ezekiel and Hosea use this same metaphorical form to illustrate Israel's faithless relationship with God, connecting directly to the same usage in Revelation 17 and 18. Why is this important? Virtually the entire Bible is devoted to God's purpose for and relationship to Israel and the church. They are the focus of God's intention to reproduce Himself, beginning with His promises and then His covenant with Abraham. God went so far as to enter into a symbolic marriage with Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, revealing the intimacy He considered their relationship to have.
He did this with no other nation. Even when the time came to summon Gentiles into His purpose, the great bulk of those called into the church have been Israelites dwelling among fellow Israelites in Israelitish lands. A person even becomes a spiritual Jew when converted! God's pattern of focusing on Israel continues throughout the Bible to the end-time prophecies. We live in the end time, and God's concern in Revelation, the ultimate end-time book, does not turn from this pattern. God's purpose for the nation of Israel is not yet complete, as Romans 9-11 makes clear.
Thus Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, and the church, the Israel of God, Abraham's spiritual descendants, are still His major focus. Other parts of the Bible reveal that Israel has fully earned the title of "the Great Harlot Babylon" even as she has earned the titles of "Sodom" and "Egypt."
The Great Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18 is not a Gentile church or a Gentile nation because neither of these has ever qualified for that title by corrupting a covenant relationship with God as Israel has. Of this, God says in Amos 3:2, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Having done only what comes naturally without the revelation of God, the Gentile world will have its opportunity to have a covenant relationship with Him following Christ's return.
In defiance of God, Israel has rebelled against her responsibilities and played the harlot with the world. She has embraced its ways to such an extent that she has outdone the Gentiles in their manner of life, becoming appropriately named "Babylon the Great." In Revelation 17 and 18, God is describing the influence and character of end-time Israel. He depicts all of Israel in close relationship with the Beast, influencing it, but with the two Joseph tribes, America (Manasseh) and Britain (Ephraim), as the Woman's strongest components - and perhaps America is the one primarily described, as it is the most influential at the end.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible
The wording of verse 13 provides two possibilities. The first is that God, in exasperation, refuses to carry His people any longer, as one might put down a burden that is too heavy. The second possibility pictures a heavily loaded cart with a broken wheel that carves deep ruts in the road and throws its occupants into ditches. The context implies that the heavy load is the crushing burden of sins that impede Israel from staying on "the straight and narrow" (Matthew 7:14).
This second meaning seems to fit the best, as He proceeds to foretell Israel's destruction. Israel had reached the end of her greatest period of prosperity since the time of Solomon. The nation was rich, powerful, and well-armed, proud in her might, abilities, wisdom, wealth, strategic advantages, and courage. Who could stand against Israel? But God thunders the warning that all the nation's natural abilities (Amos 2:14), acquired skills (verse 15), and outstanding qualities (verse 16) would not help her.
Men see the strength of a nation in its wealth, population, armaments, technology, and knowledge. But where does God look? "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). The Bible reveals that the cause of the rise and fall of nations is moral and spiritual. As Amos shows, no nation can rely on its strength, power, and wealth to save it from the devastating effects of moral decay. Moral, ethical, and spiritual problems cannot be resolved by money, strength of arms, "Star Wars" projects, social programs, intelligence, or humanitarian goodwill.
Since Israel had forfeited her privileged status, God promised to destroy her as He destroyed the Amorites and the Egyptians (Amos 2:9-10; 4:10, 12). The people of Israel had gone so far that God expected no repentance from them. Like Ecclesiastes 3, Amos shows there is a time of opportunity and a time when opportunity is gone. Evidently, Israel's opportunity to repent had faded away. It was too late!
As He had fought their battles for them in the past, now God would fight against them. Whatever their courage or expertise, nothing would go in their favor. The things that had formerly given Israel strength in war would be turned against them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)
This statement of relationship is vital to Babylon's end-time identification. Only Israel of all nations has been coupled to God through a binding covenant likened to a marriage. A marriage covenant implies an intimacy limited only to those making the covenant. Israel alone of all nations has rightly earned the title "the Great Whore," as she alone came to know God through His revelation of Himself to her. In the biblical sense, a whore is a woman unfaithful to a covenant or to revealed standards. Israel alone had God's way of life so intimately revealed to her.
No other nation in all the history of mankind entered into a covenant with Him, vowing that all He said she would do. Thus, she alone of all nations was unfaithful to that exclusive union. God provides many proofs of her unfaithfulness and records of how He dealt with it in the prophetic and historical books. The biblical facts, when combined with the external evidence of history, point to end-time Israel. Most reading this article live in Israel and are commanded to come out of end-time Babylon, thus the concern over the Great Harlot's identification.
A number of times during the course of these articles, Babylon has been referred to as a "system." Babylon is a system, an anti-God way of doing things, but it is characterized most specifically in a particular nation. This nation, the focus of the Babylonian system and the one that most effectively influences other nations to follow it, is also identified as "Babylon." Thus, Babylon is both. Protestant commentaries, however, almost unanimously refer to Babylon as a system.
Some evangelical Protestant organizations focus a considerable amount of attention to biblical prophecy, but most of them are weak in several areas of understanding. Perhaps the most glaringly important is the identity of modern Israel - almost all of them say Israel is limited to the Jews. Their interpretations of prophecy, then, are slanted toward that tiny, New-Jersey-sized, Middle Eastern nation of less than ten million people. They overlook almost entirely that, at the time of the scattering, the twelve tribes of Israel were two distinct nations, each having its own land, capital city, and government.
The ten-tribed nation of Israel in the north, dominated by the Joseph tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, had its capital city in Samaria. It can be claimed that the name "Israel" belongs to these two Joseph tribes because Jacob ordained Ephraim and Manasseh to carry it (Genesis 48:16). To the south of Israel, the remaining two tribes, Judah and Benjamin - thereafter called the Jews - had their capital city in Jerusalem. II Kings 16-18 makes this two-nation fact clear. Both nations also had the priestly tribe, Levi, scattered among them, for the Levites were never given land to support themselves.
When God's time to act came in the eighth century BC, He strengthened and sent the Assyrian nation to conquer the northern ten tribes. The Israelites were taken into captivity, became assimilated amongst their conquerors, and migrated with them as time went on. Israel never returned to be reunited with the Jews. History combined with biblical clues places them in northern and northwest Europe, and also in the colonies the Anglo-Saxon peoples established in other parts of the world.
However, God dealt somewhat differently with the Jews. At the end of the seventh century BC, He raised up and sent the Babylonian nation to conquer and take the Jews into captivity. However, after 70 years, because of prophecies involving the coming Messiah to come out of Judah, a remnant of Jews returned to Judea, reestablishing themselves as a nation in Palestine.
Two thousand six hundred years later, at the time of the end, we find Israelitish people scattered all over the world and a small number of Jews back in the ancestral homeland God originally gave to all the tribes of Israel.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation
Verse 12 describes people wandering about in a vain attempt to regain the word of the Lord. Some of the people seem to realize that something is missing. They wander and even run "to and fro," but they do not find it. Part of the reason is that they are unwilling to look in the right place. Notice where they are willing and not willing to wander: They go "from sea to sea"—probably meaning from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea—so they will go from east to west. They will also go "from north to east." The only direction they will not go is toward the south. Why?
Amos prophesied to the northern tribes of Israel. Shortly after Israel broke from Judah, King Jeroboam of Israel feared that Israel would reunite with Judah, because Judah was where Jerusalem and the Temple were. He therefore devised his own religious system, leading the northern ten tribes into gross idolatry. He appointed his own priesthood, established his own feast days, and created his own centers of worship, removing the need for the northern Israelites to travel south to Judah.
The Israelites were willing to expend some effort in seeking the words of God, but they were unwilling to go where they actually needed to—where the Temple was. To a degree, they wanted the truth, but on their own terms. They were not so hungry for it that they would sacrifice for it. They wanted it, but not if they had to humble themselves and go to the Temple, where God was. As a result, they could not find the words of the Lord again.
This same process happened in the modern nations of Israel, particularly in America. Though America has never been a true Christian nation, at its founding God's Word was held in high regard, and biblical principles were considered to be essential to the success of the Republic. However, during the mid- to late-1800s, bits of secular humanism began creeping into the larger culture. As the nation prospered because of God's promises to Abraham, it acted out exactly what God predicted in Deuteronomy 32:15: It grew fat and kicked, and forsook Him.
Gradually, the words of the Lord were edged out of the picture, and each succeeding generation arose with a diminished regard for the Bible. This nation began with a President, George Washington, who wholeheartedly believed, and was willing to proclaim, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." Now, however, it is illegal to pray in schools, to speak warmly about Christianity or the Bible in a school or government office, and to post the Ten Commandments in a courthouse.
As the Word of God was neglected and rejected, it began to be replaced. What bits of truth this nation had are quickly falling out of favor. Even the worldly, syncretistic Christianity—with its Sunday-worship, Christmas, Easter, pagan trinity-god, and other false doctrines—is being rejected. It is being rejected, not because of its falsehoods, but because of the bits of truth within it that still call people into account, directly or indirectly.
Journalist and novelist G.K. Chesterton observed, "When people stop believing in God, they do not believe in nothing. They believe in anything." Something will fill the belief void. Even atheism is a belief system. To put it another way, a starving man will eat whatever is at hand—even if it is slow poison. Thus, we have seen rapid growth in secular humanism, Eastern religions, Islam, and Wicca and New Age religions. Apparently, an increasing number of people are even claiming "Jedi" as their belief system!
Nominal Christianity has become so weak that in Britain, more people attend each week in a mosque than in a church. God's words, even in a watered-down form, are not being heard, and while some may still be searching for truth, they are not willing to seek out the true spiritual Temple that can actually provide nourishment.
David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse
This is a very simple introduction. He does not say, "In the tenth year, in the tenth month of the reign of a certain king, Habakkuk the prophet, from a certain town, who was a Levite and a priest, saw a vision." He simply says, "This is what the prophet Habakkuk saw." We begin to see immediately some of Habakkuk's character. He removes himself almost entirely from the book. He is not worried about himself or his pedigree. His book is just a narrative of his conversation with God.
All we know about Habakkuk is that he was the prophet at the time. He is an obscure character, not appearing anywhere else in Scripture. In effect, there is nothing to learn except from what he says; the Bible contains no extraneous details about him. It is possible to extrapolate a few things about him. He may have been a Levite, one of the singers or musicians in the Temple, perhaps one of the sons of Asaph, because he writes a very fine song in the third chapter.
Even his name is uncertain. It seems not even to be Hebrew but foreign, an Akkadian word. Moreover, its meaning is disputed, the best guess being that Habakkuk means "embracer," almost like "hugger"—one who wrestles. In a way, that is what he does throughout the whole book. He embraces God, wrestles Him, for an answer—similar to what Jacob did—and he does not let go because he wants God to answer his troubling questions.
The date of the book is also uncertain. We know a general time, that it was probably written within twenty-five years of Jerusalem's fall in Judah, somewhere between 610-585 BC. This was right after Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612, and about the time that Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Tyre and before he came against Jerusalem. His first attack on Jerusalem occurred in 604, so the general consensus is that Habakkuk was probably written sometime during Nebuchadnezzar's seige of Tyre.
The awesome might of the Chaldeans was just one country away, and Judah itself was sinking further into sin. Josiah, one of Judah's best kings, had died, and his sons had come to the throne, and they had failed to hold the country together morally. Judah was beginning to fear that they would be next in the domino of nations that were falling, and they were terrified because word had reached them of what the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, did to those they conquered. Judah's day of reckoning was near, and so Habakkuk's cry to God is only a natural response of a man who loved his people and his nation.
We can see that Habakkuk's situation fits current circumstances quite closely. The fall of Israel is not too far off. This land is sinking further into sin, and no one seems to want to stand up to stop it. It could go quickly, even though we are the world's superpower. Just one terrorist who says he has a briefcase-size nuclear bomb could hold this country hostage, because no President would want to give up Houston, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, or any city in the United States to call the bluff of some terrorist group or some nation who decides that America needs to be cut down to size.
Not only that, things are happening in the church itself that make people ask questions, even of God Himself. "Why are you doing this, God?" "Why is the church disintegrating?" "Who are these people that have come in and destroyed the doctrines of the church?" "Why have You allowed it to happen?" Many of us have asked questions like these. They are the same questions Habakkuk was contemplating. He did not know what to think because what was happening did not seem to follow what he knew of God. "Why would God work this way?"
Like Habakkuk, we want to reconcile what we know of God with what is happening because we understand that He is sovereign. However, sometimes with God, it seems that two and two do not quite equal four, but with God two and two always make four. Our perspective is just not the same as His. So, we must go to God for answers when things do not seem to be going the way we expect them to. In this is the real value of this little, obscure book: It helps to answer some of these kinds of questions.
Notice that Habakkuk calls his message, his prophecy, a "burden." This is a very important word. Sometimes God's ministers, especially the prophets, had to deliver messages that people really did not want to hear. Often, speaking God's words is a burden because they are not always sweetness and light. Sweetness and light seem to come only at the end of the message, as a quick conclusion to the matter. What is so burdensome are the heavy, depressing terrible things that are the main part of the message. In addition, we all know what often happens to the messenger who bears bad news—sometimes he gets his head cut off! People who hear bad news too often take their wrath, their disappointment, their frustration out on the messenger. So it is no wonder Habakkuk says this is a burden! He bears a heavy load: He must tell his people something that they will despise, and because he says it, they will despise him. Thus, as he begins, Habakkuk says, "All right, here goes. You will not like what I have to say here, but read on." And so he presents his "burden."
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Today, there are between four and five hundred million Israelites on earth, and out of all of those people—Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the democracies of northwestern Europe—only a tiny remnant is really Israel!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Eleven)
Notice Paul says God "works all things according to the counsel of His will." This thought comes in the midst of a paragraph in which some commentators believe Paul reflects on how God arranged every detail to bring Israel out of a seemingly impossible situation in Egypt and into the Promised Land. It is perhaps most directly tied to Deuteronomy 7:7-8.
Consider Israel's roots, geographic location and history. They were a slave people in a foreign land, freed without a revolution, taken on a 40-year journey during which their needs were supplied, led to a stronger people's land and given it when they should have been easily defeated. This land, situated between stronger and larger nations, was constantly fought over, yet Israel somehow survived. Even today, they continue to exist, though the world thinks they have virtually disappeared!
Did all of this happen more or less accidentally? Paul is saying indirectly that even as Israel's history is no accident, and since the church has succeeded Israel as God's inheritance, God has a far grander purpose that He will just as surely work out in His sovereignty. Who can withstand what He wills to do? It is no accident that we are in the church because God has been working toward these events from the beginning, and what God wills is done. God is sovereign over His creation in all things.
Stretch that "all things" generally into other areas of life. It makes this subject very interesting in light of Jesus' statement that a sparrow cannot fall without God taking notice (Matthew 10:29-31). Perhaps we could make a case for saying that some things occur out in the world that are of no significance to God's purpose, but what about in His church, the apple of His eye, the focus of His attention? This is Paul's theme in Ephesians 1. Is God so unaware, so unconcerned about His children that things happen without His notice, without His scrutiny and His judgment about what He should do?
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction
Chapter 12 is another inset chapter, in which John sees another wondrous vision. Its events do not follow those in chapter 11 at all: Chapter 11 ends with the blowing of the seventh trumpet and the announcing of the return of Jesus Christ, while chapter 12 suddenly introduces a brand new vision. Rather, chapter 12 is a highly condensed history of the true church within Israel, the woman.
God begins the record all the way back in the time of Jacob. In Genesis 37:9, Joesph dreams that the sun, moon, and stars all bow to him. Revelation 12:1 borrows from that vision to help us understand that the true church has its roots in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. It is, first of all, an Israelitish church, but its real roots are in heaven—where the sun, moon, and stars are. God is figuratively, symbolically pointing in the direction of the origins of the true church.
Chapter 12 unfolds a highly condensed history of that church. It takes us through the rebellion of Helel (who became Satan) and Jesus Christ being born of the woman. We find the Dragon attempting and succeeding in killing the Child, who is, of course, Jesus Christ. However, He is resurrected, so no really serious damage occurs to the Child born of the woman—Israel.
In verse 6, the woman flees into a wilderness. This takes us in time sequence up through the Middle Ages—through the Inquisitions, Crusades, and tribulations of the times where the church hid in the mountains, hills, and Alpine valleys of central Europe. Then, in verses 7-12, the narrative digresses somewhat, showing us something yet to occur: a war in heaven between Satan and his demons and Michael and the angels.
At the end of the chapter, we find the church again experiencing another, far more intensive tribulation that will be not only intense but much encapsulated in time. One part of the church will be protected, and another part will undergo a great deal of persecution.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church
The nation of Israel is symbolically referred to throughout the chapter. In verse 1, Israel is described as a Woman clothed with the sun and moon and wearing a crown of stars. Tying the symbols to Joseph's dream in Genesis 37 confirms the Woman's identity. In the next verse, Israel is the Woman about to give birth.
In verses 3-4, the Child she is about to bear is the focus of the great red Dragon's—Satan's—murderous intent. Verse 5 identifies her child as the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the One born to rule all nations. In verse 6, the Woman who gave birth to Christ, Israel, flees to a place God prepared for her. That place is, I believe, where the Israelitish nations are located today.
Note that by verses 7-9, time has progressed to the end, when God throws Satan and his demons out of heaven for good. Verses 10-11 allude to the church by mentioning people overcoming the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb. At no time, however, is the Woman of the early verses of this chapter, Israel, indicated to be converted.
But where is the church located? Verse 17 provides a hint, mentioning "the remnant of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Verse 13, which follows the interlude involving the Dragon being cast to earth, clarifies the object of the prophecy up until verse 17: "Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child." The Woman who gave birth to the Messiah is specifically named. She cannot represent the church because the church did not give birth to the Messiah, but the nation of Israel did. Thus, the people of Israel are the object of the Devil's persecutions.
In verse 14, no break in the narrative occurs to indicate the Devil's focus changes. It is Israel, persecuted by Satan, who is given two wings of a great eagle to fly to her place from the face of the serpent. In the past, we have always applied verse 14 to the church, but there is nothing to indicate any change in subject has taken place! Again in verse 15, the serpent spews a flood from his mouth to destroy the nation of Israel. Likewise, the nation is helped by means of the earth swallowing the flood in verse 16.
It is not until verse 17 that the church comes directly into the picture, identified as "the rest of her [the Woman's] offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ," the Messiah born to the Woman in verse 5. Israel, the nation, does not keep the commandments of God, nor does it have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Even as the Messiah was born of the Woman and definitely kept the commandments of God, so also does the remnant of her offspring, who are now clearly distinguished from her.
Putting verse 17 together with verses 7-12, the church, the Woman's offspring, will undergo some measure of persecution within Israel before the Woman—Israel—flees in verse 15. Otherwise, why would verse 11 say they "overcame . . . by the blood of the Lamb" and "did not love their lives to the death"?
Verse 17 clearly states that the Dragon leaves the Woman who fled and heads toward some other geographical location to persecute those who keep the commandments. In other words, the Woman who fled and her offspring that keep the commandments are, at the time verse 17 occurs, at different locations.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Four): Where Is the Woman of Revelation 17?
In Revelation 17:1, the Woman sits on many waters; in verse 3, she sits on the Beast; in verse 9, she sits on seven mountains, symbolic of nations (Isaiah 2:2-3); and in verse 15, the "waters" are defined as peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The term "sits" appears more than 300 times in Scripture, and most of the time, it merely indicates a posture contrasting to "stands." However, sometimes it indicates qualities of far greater importance.
Proverbs 31:23 says, "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land." This is a common positive usage and implies a measure of respect and authority. In contrast, Psalm 1:1 reads, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful." Here, sitting is shown in a negative usage. Matthew 8:11; 23:2; and Acts 23:3 all show that "sit" indicates a position of prominence, authority, and influence for good or evil. One in this position is influential enough to teach, persuade, guide, or force another to follow, imitate, or submit.
This description of the Great Harlot "sitting" in Revelation 17 opens clues to help identify her among the nations: First, even as a person sits on a horse's back and influences it to go this way or that, walk, or run, the Woman teaches, guides, or coerces many nations, perhaps worldwide, to do her bidding.
Since the Beast is clearly an awesome, frightful entity, this fact suggests that her powers are vast. Adding to this evidence of strength, the Beast is described as consisting of peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The Beast is no pushover, yet at this time in the prophecy, the Woman is in control. Only the modern nations of Israel in the entire world possesses this combination of strength to control something as ferocious as the Beast. The Bible's description of the Beast having the strongest parts of several vicious, carnivorous animals adds to John's amazement over the Woman.
She is never described in any way as similar to the Beast. The Bible always depicts her as one unit. Because of this contrast between the Woman and the Beast, it is distinctly possible that God wants us to understand that the Woman in this end-time prophecy is one people, as contrasted to the Beast, which consists of many diverse, unrelated peoples.
Feeding this thought into present circumstances, God is describing all the nations of Israel in intimate association with the Beast. The world does not conceive Israel in this manner, but God does. It is an association of support, strong influence, and even control. Consider how entwined the nations of Israel are with Europe through political, trade, and military agreements. As the history of the last two centuries prove, the Joseph tribes—America and the United Kingdom—in particular, are the clearest end-time realization of the Woman.
Notice how God specifically mentions the tribe of Joseph in prophecies written in the last decades before Israel fell to Assyria in 721-718 BC:
[Woe to you] who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; who chant to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. (Amos 6:4-6)
Why single out Joseph, even though all of the ten northern tribes were about to fall? Because "Joseph" is used here to represent the entire house of Israel just as "Jerusalem" is used to represent the entire house of Judah. Ephraim and Manasseh were the leading and strongest tribes just before Israel fell, even as they are today. Judah was the leading and strongest tribe in the south, and today, though small, it is again fairly strong and, interestingly, located to the south of the bulk of Ephraim and Manasseh.
In Amos 5:15, God adds, "Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph." God may intend these prophecies for all of Israel, but He singles Joseph out because it was the leading tribe politically, economically, and militarily. Interesting, too, is the fact that most of the end-time church resides in Joseph.
Amos 6:1 adds yet another characteristic of Israel that helps identify her by revealing what some of her citizens were saying: "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria, notable persons in the chief nation, to whom the house of Israel comes!" In modern language, God is saying that the average, reasonably well-off Israelite boasted, "Look at the other nations. None are greater than we are." This arrogance echoed what their leaders, the notable persons, said. This boast was probably true, but beneath it, the cancer of their immorality and false spirituality was eating away at their vitals, and God would soon bring this powerful nation down. Amos paints a picture of a people so self-absorbed with pleasure, so self-confident in their power, that they feel free to indulge themselves, ignoring the fact that the entire nation is, in reality, walking on eggshells in every vital area of well-being.
Amos and Hosea, both prophets to the northern kingdom, were contemporaries during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel. Amos began preaching before Hosea, but Hosea preached for a longer time, ending his ministry just a few years before the northern tribes fell to Assyria. In Hosea, "Ephraim" appears 37 times, using it the same way Amos uses "Joseph." Sometimes, it is clear that God means all ten northern tribes, but at other times, He means Ephraim alone. Hosea 10:11 is typical: "Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh grain; but I harnessed her fair neck, I will make Ephraim pull a plow. Judah shall plow; Jacob shall break his clods." He means all of Israel here, but "Ephraim," the leading tribe's name, is used.
It is Israel, primarily the Joseph tribes, to which the Beast is currently submitting, but the time is coming when events will take a stunning turn, as Revelation 17:16-17 shows.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible
When people read this verse, their thoughts immediately turn to the Roman Universal Church of the Dark Ages. Indeed, that organization's record is a sorry one, but Israel's record against the people of God is not any better.
Jesus cries in Luke 13:34, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!" The Bible is replete with examples of the persecutions of God's people.
It is easy to read the histories of modern Israel over the last two hundred years or so and conclude that today's Israelites would never do such a thing. Since they are nominally Christian, one would like to think that they would never stoop to that. However, human nature never changes. All it takes is the right set of circumstances, and persecution will happen again in Israel, even as the book of Acts witnesses threats and murders occurring among Israelites in the first century!
One may perhaps think that persecution occurred then, but it stopped with the end of the first century. Not so! Many are familiar with Foxe's Book of Martyrs, which focuses on numerous persecutions, including martyrdom, that raged against Evangelical groups. Another book, Martyrs Mirror, as large as Strong's Concordance, contains a comprehensive history of 1,600 years of the persecutions, including martyrdom, perpetrated against Anabaptist groups.
"Anabaptist" is a name attached by the world at large to any professing Christian group that opposes infant- and child-baptism because the biblical requirements for baptism are repentance and faith, which no infant or child can meet. One must be an adult of considerable living experience to consider baptism seriously. The most prominent Anabaptist groups in the Western world are the Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites. Many of these and other, smaller groups were quite active even up to the beginning of the twentieth century.
The terms "Evangelical" and "Anabaptist" can and did include the Baptists and, most importantly for us, the church of God. Martyrs Mirror begins with the martyrdoms of the apostles because they were, by definition, Anabaptists. Religious persecutions periodically raged in Holland, France, and England, all Israelitish countries, during the Middle Ages. It waned only after the Protestant Reformation had been underway for a century or two, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation joined it.
Anybody who has read American history should know that many of the original settlers to this country came to escape religious persecution in northwest Europe. The Puritans and Pilgrims are prime examples. They fled England for Holland and then left Holland for America.
To think that the Israelitish people are somehow above perpetrating religious persecution is not historically accurate. The Bible clearly shows it happened before and will happen again. Just eleven years ago, the entire nation witnessed the Branch Davidian massacre in Waco, Texas. This is remarkable to us because the Branch Davidians kept the Sabbath.
Jeremiah 30:7 warns us that a horrific time of trouble lies just around the corner: "Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it." This period of trouble is greater than any before it. Persecutions of true Christians will happen again. Revelation 13:15?in this end-time book?confirms that persecutions are just beyond the horizon: "He [the Beast from the earth] was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed." This persecution is instigated by a religious figure, the False Prophet, who will arise and promote his competing religion so vigorously as to kill those who do not submit to his idolatrous, pagan brand.
Revelation 6:9-11 verifies that this persecution will be aimed directly at the true church:
When he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
The blood of the saints is already staining Israel's histories, and more will be added afresh to her descendants' despicable and hypocritical anti-God record.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible
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