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Ipswich Christadelphians

"Prove all things, hold fast what is good" 1Th 5:21

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We are living in exciting times, just as the Lord Jesus predicted. He said in Matthew 24:29 of the time just before his return...

29  Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

30  And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

And surely we are living in these times. Suns, moons and stars in Scripture usually represent the Political and Religious rulers. In Europe we see turmoil, in the Middle East unrest and in both the shaking of the political ‘stars’; rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen having recently been ousted. Meanwhile in America, there are violent storms in the Eastern States and Wild fires in the West. Yet among all this turmoil, one nation stands out for special notice and that is Syria.  A long term enemy of Israel, Syria and her capital Damascus has always been a thorn in the side of Israel and the Prophets. Isaiah in ch.17 singled her out to feel the wrath of God’s anger and prophesied the complete and final destruction of Damascus.

Isa 17 1 ¶  The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.

This is a significant prophecy because,while almost all of God’s  prophecies concerning cities and nations have clearly already come to pass, ( eg Babylon - Isa 13:19 ‘ And Babylon... shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.20  It shall never be inhabited’)  Damascus, one of the oldest inhabited cities known, has never been made a ruinous heap. It was conquered by Assyria and became part of it for a time. Yet the city has never been destroyed; but it will be, according to this prophecy, along with trouble for Israel itself which will ‘be made thin’

17:3 The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts.

4  And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.

Syria, long standing enemy of Israel and still smarting today at the loss of the Golan Heights , was in time past the ‘King of the North’ described in Daniel 11:40  However, we may be seeing the last throes of Syria as a nation. The Scriptures show us that the role of King of the North is to be taken over by Russia (Gog), when she gathers the nations to converge on Israel (Ezekiel 38). As Syria is not mentioned among these nations, it is possible that the present strife will result in the complete destruction of Syria as a nation, with Damascus becoming a ‘ruinous heap’ before Russia invades.

 

Will there be peace?

The plight of the Syrians is constantly in the headlines. At present the United Nations is desperately trying to bring about peace. UN Peace Envoy Kofi Annan, recently announced an agreement among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that a transitional government should be set up in Syria. This would include both members of the present government and opposition but this doesn’t please all the members.

The US do not want Syrian President Assad to have any part of it; whilst Russia says there should be no stipulation as to who can or can’t be in this transitional government. Meanwhile, Mr Assad has said he won’t accept any solution to his country's crisis imposed from outside. He stressed that no amount of foreign pressure would make his government change its policy on internal security.

How it all started.....

Last year, in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings, protesters took to the streets of Syria's cities demanding greater freedom and political reform and were put down with great violence. Since then, at least 10,000 people have died. In April, the Syrian government reported that 6,143 Syrian citizens had been killed by "terrorist groups".

 President Assad, who has only just acknowledged that this is a civil war, contends that his enemies are actually terrorists from outside Syria. In reality, however, they are Syrian Sunni Muslims who though in the solid majority, have been repressed for years by the Alawite faction headed by the Assads; the Alawites are nominally associated with the Shia Moslems. The Shiites and the Sunnis, although “brethren” within their “faith” (Islam) resolutely hate each other.

The conflict in Syria, then, is actually between these two factions which will make the peace process much more difficult to achieve.  Also, United Nations attempts to pressure President Assad into a lasting cease fire, have been thwarted by Russia and China. China inscrutable as ever, must have her own reasons which are not too obvious, but it has been suggested that Russia has forestalled any actions by the UN for one of two reasons.

Reason No.1 …Follow the money

The first reason is economic. There is no doubt that if President Assad and his regime fell, Russia would suffer financially. In 2005, Russia forgave 75% of Syria’s debt for military purchases, in order to be able to sell them new weapons. Arms contracts this year are around US $4.3 billion. Also Russia leases the Syrian Naval base at Tartus which can now support up to 10 guided-missile cruisers, submarines and aircraft carriers. In a BBC interview  Ruslan Aliev, the head of information at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies  in Moscow, stated that Tartus was not a real naval base, just a place for replenishing supplies etc. He said " From a strategic point of view [Tartus] is insignificant".

However the commander-in-chief of the Russian navy, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov disagreed and was quoted by Russian news agency RIA-Novosti as saying: "This base is essential to us; it has been operating and will continue to operate."

The concept of a well equipped Russian Navy agrees with the view of Bible students. The Bible tells us that the King of the North , Gog (the Russian leader) will descend on the Middle East with his navy.... (Daniel 11:40)
‘And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. ‘

 Reason No. 2 ..Fear of Regime Change

Though this economic argument is strong, there are those who consider that Russia and possibly China are motivated by the fear of further regime change.  By standing up for Damascus, Russia may be telling the world that no group of countries can dictate who should govern another nation. The fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, the 2004 "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, and the 2011 Libyan crisis may have persuaded the Russian leadership that America and the EU are working to overthrow governments considered by them to be ‘unsuitable’. President Putin fears that this might eventually happen to Russia if it is allowed to continue unchecked.

The situation in Syria is very volatile and could easily affect the rest of the region. Who can say how it will end. Mr Assad wants to hang on to power, yet the antipathy between Sunni and Shia makes a return to a state of ‘peace’ difficult to imagine. We don’t know how this situation will be resolved in the short term but we can state that, before the Return of Christ, Damascus will be demolished and the nation of Syria brought low. At this time also, Israel will be weakened, possibly by being involved in a conflict with Syria. Ezekiel ch.38 tells us that Russia (Gog) will come down on Israel with a great army including Iran and Libya; possibly following this conflict and taking advantage of Israel’s weakened state.

Whatever, the cause, we know from Zechariah Chs.12 and 14 that Jerusalem will be a ‘burdensome stone’ to the Nations attacking her and when the Jews are brought to desperate straits they will call upon God, accept Jesus as their Messiah and be saved. (Zech 12:10).

Also, the last verses of Isaiah 17 reveal the fate of all the Nations who oppose God and His people Israel at the Return of Christ. 

V.13’ The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.’

-- And it will be a lightning war ---

14’ And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.’

It will be the Lord Jesus Christ who ‘chases’ the nations set on despoiling Israel. Then Israel’s fortunes will change.

Isaiah 51: 22 promises–“ Behold, I have taken out of thine hand (Israel’s hand)  the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again: 23 But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee” …

From the state of the world, so similar to our Lord’s predictions, we know that the end will come soon. Then the nations opposing the Lord Jesus will perish and God’s Kingdom on earth will be set up. The appalling situation in Syria appears to be a clear sign that the Return of Christ is very near. We cannot be sure when ‘the sign of the Son of man’ will appear, because no-one knows the Day or the Hour (Mt 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.). However, what we can be sure of is that in God’s good time, He will send His Son to save Israel and set up His Kingdom. So many Signs of the Times show that this cannot be far away. Even so come Lord Jesus.


Acknowledgements:

BBC News 30th June 2012  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18580029

BBC News 13th June 2012      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18420858

 

http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/02/12524029-on-the-road-with-syrias-rebel-motorcycle-army?lite

 

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