Sep 17, 2013

The Prophet said, "First the flesh...then later the Spirit!

         23I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
24“ ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. Ezekiel 36:23-24

      Ezekiel was given an astonishingly accurate prophetic vision about the rebirth of the nation of Israel that would occur in the spring of 1948, as detailed in chapter 3. He foretold that Israel would arise miraculously from the graveyard of the nations, where she was buried with the ruins of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 by the Roman army led by Titus. Incredibly, God promised that the Jews, after almost two thousand years of exile, would return to the Promised Land. The ancient prophets also foretold that the Jewish exiles would become "a mighty army" in her ancient homeland. In 1948, Israel triumphed against an invasion by six well-armed Arab armies. Israel's military forces consisted of a small, voluntary citizen army composed of unskilled farmers and scholars who were equipped with inadequate weapons, a few jeeps, and two small airplanes. Israel's armored force consisted of several vehicles captured from her enemies, including trucks with improvised steel plates. Yet, like David's miraculous victory over Goliath, God supernaturally intervened to allow a weak Israel to survive and prosper, defeating her Arab enemies against incredible odds.

The Valley of Dry Bones
1The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord5This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breatha enter you, and you will come to life. 6I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ”
7So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel.  Ezekiel 37:1-11 (NIV)

What an epic time in history, when David Ben Gurion, on international radio, announced on May 14, 1948 that the name of the Jewish homeland was "Israel".  Equally epic, was the fact that this was exactly 2,520 years to the day that Ezekiel had predicted this would occur.  Let's step back a bit further and review some of what this prophet was all about, and how significant he was/is on the world stage.  

Why review this?  Well one reason is that because as Canadian christians, we are for the most part "happy-go-lucky" in our approach to things beyond our borders.  We are not a country with a large military culture.  Living north of the 49th parallel, isolated by the "quietness of northern living" and protected by the giant country to the south of us, introduces notions that "they will take care of the global stuff, because we are so small in population".  We stay warm and are well-fed, and most of our everyday needs are fairly well taken care of.  Like the proverbial frog in the water, we seldom consider world events in the broader scheme of things.  We don't really get very involved in global things that seemingly don't directly affect us.  Perhaps we should develop a greater awareness of what is happening in the world and especially the middle east.  God is actively involved in Israel, who he calls "the apple of my eye" (Zech 2:8).   The bible speaks well of "the men of Issachar" who knew how to understand the times and know what they should do (1 Chron. 12:32).  It's getting harder to ignore some of what the prophet Ezekiel had to say about things that are being fulfilled in our lifetimes!  Let's start our prophetic awareness in the old-covenant book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was sent by God to wake up rebellious Israel.
4He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. 5You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel— 6not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. 7But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate. 8But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. 9I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.” Ez. 3:4-9

Noted bible scholar Chuck Missler explains it.   Ezekiel lay on one side and then the other side for a total of 430 days.  God told him each day represented a year, so what he proclaimed to Israel was that they were going to be judged 430 years.  When studying Ezekiel, the problem with these 430 days (years) is that the meaning of the number initially appears insignificant - it doesn't seem to fit anything in history.  Scholars have tried to figure it out, but nothing really works.  Only the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity are accounted for.  Where are the remaining 360 years?

4“Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the people of Israel upon yourself.a You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. 5I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel.
6“After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the people of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year. 7Turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem and with bared arm prophesy against her. 8I will tie you up with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have finished the days of your siege. Ez. 4:4-6

Missler continues.  The answers begin in Leviticus 26, where you read in four different verses in that chapter (v.18, 21, 24, & 28): "If ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins."  Some scholars say to themselves, "Gee, that's kind of interesting.  If you take seven times 360, that's 2520 years."  Some say this is approximately the number of years the Jews have been in the Diaspora.  My problem with this is that I don't believe the words "God" and "approximate" should be in the same sentence.  It either fits precisely or it doesn't.
No one that I'm aware of had applied what we learned from Sir Robert Anderson about the 70 weeks - that God deals in 360-day years.  On a 360-day basis, 2520 years is 2483 years, 9 months, and 21 days on our calendar.  So let's take another look at the situation.  We talked about Babylon, the first, second and third siege of Nebuchadnezzar and the Decree of Cyrus.  The Servitude of the Nation started at the first siege, and the Desolations of Jerusalem started at the third siege, which ended with the Decree of Artaxerxes.  What do we do with these 2520 years?  If you reckon the 2520 years from the Servitude of the Nation, it comes out to be May 14, 1948, when Israel was restored as a nation, the day when David Ben Gurion, on international radio, using Ezekiel as his authority, announced that the name of the Jewish homeland was Israel.  What a coincidence!  What happens if you begin the 2520 years from the Desolations of Jerusalem?  You come to the Restoration of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967, as a result of the Sixth-Day War.  Again, what a coincidence!

The Restoration of Israel
In chapter 37, Ezekiel related the famous vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, which he then interpreted as a vision of the restoration of Israel.  These bones came together and came back to life - at first, flesh without the spirit.  Later, breath was breathed into them.  But notice it's two steps: flesh first, spirit later.
Isaiah, incidentally, made an interesting remark, speaking of the same thing.  He said, "The Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people."  When was the first time?  After Babylon, when Cyrus gave the decree to build the Temple.  Isaiah was saying that when God would gather them the second time, it would be the last time.  What's exciting about this of course, is that it has been fulfilled in the first half of the twentieth century.  From the nineteenth century on, we have the move toward Zionism.  On May 14, 1948, all the debates should have ended.  Are these things literal?  Is Israel going to be restored?  Argue all you like until May 14, 1948.  From that point on, throw the old books out unless they agree with what Isaiah is saying because Israel is there.  They are in danger, but they are there.
They are being restored, but many people who study Ezekiel 37 fail to read Ezekiel 36.  Why is Israel to be restored?

22“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.23I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
24“ ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land  -Ezekiel 36:22-24

God is restoring Israel because His name is on the document.  He said He was, that's why He's going to do it.  Not because Israel deserves it or because of their foreign policy, but because He said He would.
The next nine chapters are about the millennial temple.  There's a description of it that is so highly detailed most scholars realize that somehow it is very specific and very literal.  What's interesting about it is that all nations will come to worship there, not just the Jews.  Offerings and sacrifices will be resumed.  And it will only be open on the Sabbath Day and on New Moons.
Author Joel Rosenburg, Epicenter

The Magog Invasion
When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign Lord19In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground. 21I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign Lord. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.’ Ez 38

Ezekiel 38 and 39 describe an event that will occur after Israel is restored, but before the  millennium is established.  The Magog invasion is well known for two reasons.  First, it describes the event in which God Himself will intervene to quell an ill-fated invasion of Israel by Magog and its allies.  Second, it appears to describe the use of nuclear weapons, even though it was written over 2500 years ago!
To identify the various countries involved from their ancient tribal designations, you have to go back to Genesis 10, to the Table of Nations, to sort it all out.  Who on earth are the Magog?  Hesiod, a Greek didactic poet who wrote in the 8th century B.C., described the Magogians by their Greek name, the Scythians. Heroditus, known as the "Father of History" in the fifth century B.C. wrote extensively about the Scythians, who terrorized the southern steppes of Russia from the 10th century B.C. to the 3rd century B.C.
Philio, Josephus, and other ancient writers clearly indentify the Scytians as the descendants of Magog; they called the Great Wall of China the "ramparts of Gog and Magog."  It was designed to keep the Magogians out.  The passage in Ezekiel describes Magog as coming from the uttermost parts of the north.  All you have to do is look on a globe, find Israel, and go north as far as you can and you come to Moscow.  They are almost in the same longitude
The allies of Magog are also well identified.  Persia, of course is Iran; Cush (translated "Ethiopia") settled south of the second cataract of the Nile, so it really speaks of Black Africa; Phut (translated "Libya") speaks of North Africa, and so on.

Why do we think the passage has nuclear weapons in view?  Because after God intervenes, the leftover weapons, the Scripture tells us, provide all the energy needed in Israel for seven years.  (The ancient commentators said it must be symbolic because nothing could burn for seven years, and we smile at that because we know today that nuclear energy can easily "burn" for seven years.)  Also, Ezekiel even describes how they hire professionals to clear the battlefield.  They wait for seven months before entering and then they clear for seven months.  They bury what they find east of the Dead Sea; that is, downwind.
Ezekiel was still not finished: he said that if a traveler finds something that the professionals have missed, he is not to touch it, he is to mark the location, and let the professionals deal with it.  These are contemporary department of defense procedures for handling nuclear, chemical, or biological warfare materials.
The more one knows about the details of the Ezekiel text, and the more one is informed on the global geopolitical situation, the more it appears that this classic passage could happen any time!  We are indeed living in exciting times!

-adapted from work by Chuck Missler & Grant Jeffries, noted bible scholars.

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