Is The IDF Ready For All-Out War?
- By Yaakov Lappin - www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=2891
The question of just how ready the Israel Defense Forces is for war has dominated Israel's headlines in recent weeks. The issue came to the fore following the stormy end to the 10-year tenure of the IDF Ombudsman, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brick.
Brick released a scathing report and multiple statements, claiming that the military's ground forces are grossly underprepared for conflict. He went as far as to say that "the IDF is undergoing a process of deterioration that has reached its peak in recent years," during an address last month to the Knesset's State Control Committee.
Brick's alarming assessments have been outright rejected by military chiefs, including the outgoing IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and the Commanding Officer of the ground forces, Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak.
While Eizenkot has ordered the military to examine Brick's claims, he has consistently affirmed that the IDF's war readiness has improved dramatically in recent years. Eizenkot has focused his four years as chief of staff on improving readiness, meaning that Brick's criticisms are being leveled at the heart of his efforts and legacy.
Dr. Eado Hecht, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a defense analyst specializing in military theory and military history, and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. Hecht also lectures at the IDF Command and General Staff College.
Hecht told JNS that in general, he agrees with Brick and other critical voices who think the IDF is unprepared, but added that this is not a zero-sum argument. "There are areas in which the IDF has done excellent work, and there is a reason why foreign militaries come here to learn from it," said Hecht. "On the other hand, there are areas in which the IDF is not good enough."
Neglecting ground forces in favor of 'high-quality intelligence and long-range firepower'
Hecht explained that the way in which Brick and military command measure war readiness is different, and to understand this difference, it's necessary to dive into the IDF's history. The Second Lebanon War of 2006, he said, was the second-lowest point in the history of Israel's military.
The lowest point can be found in the years 1950 to 1953. "The difference between these two points is that while in 1950 to 1953, the IDF did not know how to conduct routine security missions and did not know how to conduct major wars, in 2006, the IDF knew how to do continuous security in an excellent manner, and hence, it defeated the Palestinians in the 'Ebb and Flow' War [the Second Intifada of 2000 to 2006]," said Hecht.
However, it was during those years of the Second Intifada that new concepts were taking hold, regarding the future of warfare. The concepts held that there will be no "big, high intensity wars" anymore, and in the unlikely event that such wars do occur, they should be fought with high-quality intelligence and through the use of long-range firepower, mostly delivered by fighter jets, to destroy enemy targets.
As a result, "the IDF deliberately neglected the necessary requirements for ground combat," said Hecht. By the time Lt. Gen. (ret.) Dan Halutz became chief of staff in 2005, the ground forces had suffered major neglect, leading to significant failures in the war that erupted with Hezbollah the following summer.
The strategic gains that Israel received from that war came "despite tactical failures," noted Hecht. Those failures led the next chief of staff, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Gabi Ashkenazi, to demand a "return to basics" for the ground forces. They underwent a major upgrade during Ashkenazi's tenure. But then, under the leadership of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and chief of staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Benny Gantz, this trend was stopped, according to Hecht, and the older trend of focusing on airpower and intelligence, which dominated before the Second Lebanon War, made a comeback.
The current outgoing chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot "brought back Ashkenazi's trend," Hecht argued. "However, the reference point for Eizenkot and the general staff compares today's IDF to the military of 2006. Brick's reference points compare today's IDF to the military when it was at its peak, 40 to 50 years ago," he stated.
The bottom line, said Hecht, is that compared to its performance in 2006, the IDF of 2019 has "undergone a terrific improvement." At the same time, he warned, there is a need to take stock of the growing threat posed by Hezbollah, which today is equivalent to some five infantry divisions, in terms of relative power.
"Hezbollah is like the PLO and the Syrian army in Lebanon in 1982 combined. True, they [Hezbollah] do not have tanks, but they have many things that the Syrians and the PLO did not have then," said Hecht, pointing to powerful guided anti-tank missiles as one example.
"They are moving ahead with the fortification of southern Lebanon at a scale that did not exist before, and they are much more professional and skilled than the PLO was back then," he said.
According to public sources, in 2006, Hezbollah's forces in southern Lebanon were equal to perhaps two infantry brigades, and the organization was armed with far fewer anti-tank missiles, mortars and other powerful weapons. Hezbollah today is some six times more powerful than what it was in 2006, said Hecht.
Is the IDF's order of battle big enough for enemies on multiple fronts?
Crucial questions revolve around the IDF's ability to battle foes multiple fronts simultaneously.
"What will happen if the IDF needs to fight against more than only Hezbollah? If, for example, a rebuilt Syrian military faces it in the Golan Heights, backed-up by Shi'ite forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran? And, at the same time, Hamas begins bombarding our home front from the south? Does the IDF have a sufficiently large order of battle to deal with all of these enemies at the same time?
We would have to call up reserves against Hamas on its own. Against a smaller Hezbollah in 2006, we had to call up reserves. Since then, we have cut reserves very sharply--entire divisions and brigades have been cancelled," posed Hecht.
He cautioned that there were also open questions about how long it would take to get reserves to emergency weapons' storage facilities and the state of readiness among military vehicles in light of decreased maintenance personnel numbers.
While Eizenkot has placed a major renewed emphasis on the ground forces, "still, most of the focus is on increasing firepower. But is this firepower capable of giving the State of Israel the strategic reply it needs to force Hezbollah to cease firing and to prefer a ceasefire?" asked Hecht. "And until it does that, can this firepower decrease the quantity and efficiency of Hezbollah's [own] firepower on the Israeli home front?
The only way to effectively decrease Hezbollah's fire is through a large-scale ground offensive. To do that, the IDF needs to conquer a large hilly area, containing dozens of Shi'ite fortified villages and towns," said Hecht.
Each Shi'ite village, however, will likely have a Hezbollah force as big as one or two military companies, lying in wait.
"This is what the IDF's units will have to pass in order to reach the rocket-launch cells that are firing on the home front," added Hecht.
The IDF has greatly increased its war training, Hecht acknowledged, but according to Brick, these have not yet reached adequate levels, particularly among the Armored Crops and the Artillery Corps.
'We have made great improvements'
In one of his final speeches in uniform delivered on Dec. 23, Eizenkot gave an assessment of the situation. "At the end of 2018, the balance of Israel's national security is greatly improved," he said, while at the same time, an unstable region has created very high levels of explosiveness.
"Of course, this obligates us as a military to be at a very high level of readiness. We have made very big efforts to improve the IDF's readiness. The IDF is a very large military by any standards, especially when reserve forces are added to it. And there are very high costs for holding a military of this scale, particularly the ground forces, at a very high level of readiness."
Ultimately, stated Eizenkot, the IDF's capabilities have been greatly improved.
On Dec. 19, the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee released a report that followed its own investigation into the IDF's readiness. The report found that "the level of readiness in the IDF for war has significantly improved since [the 2014] 'Operation Protective Edge' [against Hamas in Gaza]."
The inquiry found that in almost every parameter, "there has been a dramatic increase in the level of readiness--whether in the number of training sessions, the ammunition inventory, replacement parts and others."
The report praised Eizenkot for leading a multi-year working program, dubbed "Gideon," which prioritized the building of combat divisions that can fight on any front.
Two days after that report, an inquiry launched by the IDF's own Comptroller, Brig. Gen. Ilan Harari, in response to Brick's scathing report, also found that the military's state of readiness has dramatically improved.
At the same time, the inquiry agreed with Brick regarding the need to make improvements in areas such as logistics, personnel, command and control systems, and the service of non-commissioned officers at war-storage facilities.
According to Channel 10 News, the inquiry called for an increase in the military's annual budget by 1.5 to 2.5 billion shekels ($400 to $667 million) to ensure that the ground forces remain in good shape.
"If the IDF is missing 2 billion shekels to complete its readiness in the list of aspects that it brings up, that means that Brick is actually correct," Hecht told JNS. "The IDF isn't ready."
Scary thing I have found but it might just be coincidence, is that if I think of buying something, it comes up in adverts on Facebook... Spooky isn't it!
Alexa, Stop Listening! - By Britt Gillette -
In millions of homes throughout the world, Alexa is listening. Many of you know who I'm talking about, but for those who don't, Alexa is the name of the famous voice behind Amazon's most popular devices, such as the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Spot, Echo Show, and others. Millions of homes around the world feature these devices. And millions of additional homes have similar products such as Apple's Siri and Alphabet's Google Home devices.
Speaking to Alexa has become a huge convenience for many people. But what most users don't realize is Alexa is always listening. And more importantly, Alexa is often remembering. That's right. While Alexa won't respond unless you call to her by name, by her very nature, she's always listening. Otherwise, she wouldn't hear when you call her. But when you do, Alexa does more than listen. She records. Amazon's Echo devices constantly listen for the "wake word" - usually "Alexa" or "Amazon" (although users can customize their wake word). Once a device hears the wake word, it records your voice and stores the audio file on a remote server. Why? Amazon wants to create a profile it can use to improve its recommendations and sell you more stuff. And more sales mean more profits. To build this customer profile, Amazon captures and stores everything you say when Alexa is awake. You read that right. It's not a misprint. When awake, Alexa records and stores everything you say. Don't believe me? Then just check out these recent news stories. Together, they show just how intrusive Alexa is.
Alexa, "Do You Promise to State the Whole Truth?"
In 2015, James Bates claimed he awoke after a night of drinking and watching football to find his friend, Victor Collins, floating face down in a hot tub. Bates claimed it was a tragic accident. The authorities claimed it was murder. To prove it, they called an unusual witness - Alexa. The prosecutor subpoenaed the defendant's Amazon Echo recordings to find out. Following a short legal battle, Amazon provided the audio files. Prosecutors hoped to find evidence among those audio recordings to prove their case, but they didn't. In late 2017, authorities dismissed the murder charges against Bates.
More recently, Alexa became a possible witness in the January 2017 double-murder of two New Hampshire women. The judge ordered Amazon to turn over any recordings from the Echo device found at the crime scene, stating "The court finds there is probable cause to believe the server(s) and/or records maintained for or by Amazon.com contain recordings made by the Echo smart speaker..." Regardless of whether or not the recordings lead to a break in this case, one thing is certain. Your devices are listening to you. And that means millions of people have voluntarily placed eavesdropping devices in their own homes. Think I'm exaggerating? Then you definitely need to read this next story.
Alexa, "Spy on my Neighbor"
In Frankfurt, Germany, a man received access to over a thousand recordings of someone else's conversations when he asked Amazon to send him his own recordings. Amazon emailed him 1,700 audio files of someone else's conversations. When notified, Amazon deleted the files from the link, but they had already been downloaded. Amazon said it "resolved the issue" and promised to "further optimize" their processes.
To my knowledge, no other cases have been reported, so in all likelihood, this was a rare glitch. You probably don't have to worry about your neighbor hacking into your Alexa to spy on you - either on purpose or by accident. But the story shows it's possible. And that means you do need to worry. Not about your neighbor, but about your government.
The Rise of the Surveillance State
Many people have long foreseen the rise of an intrusive government surveillance state. What many failed to foresee is the willingness of so many people to aid in their own surveillance. Of their own free will, people are placing eavesdropping devices in their own homes, sometimes in their own bedrooms - allowing corporations, governments, and hackers to record their everyday conversations. And this willingness to give up personal privacy isn't limited to Amazon devices.
The latest doorbells record everyone who comes and goes from your house. Depending on their placement, they're capable of recording everyone who comes and goes from every house in the neighborhood. On Facebook, people upload personal pictures, location data, lists of friends, and large amounts of other personal information. While they might do it to share it with their friends, corporations, governments, and hackers can see it as well. Even if you avoid Facebook, Alexa, Siri, and other such services and devices, you'll find it hard to escape their watchful eye. Other people can upload pictures of you to Facebook. And even if they don't tag or identify you, Facebook often will. Through its facial recognition technology, it automatically tags people. And even if you don't have Alexa in your home, if you're in someone else's home or within earshot of an Alexa device, you're at risk of being listened to and recorded. Do you trust all this personal and private information in the hands of a large corporation? Maybe you do. But what about your government? And what about foreign governments who will find it more than easy to hack into these home devices?
As technology advances, these devices will become smaller, cheaper, and far more powerful. Cameras and microphones will become ubiquitous. And ever powerful forms of AI will search those camera and audio feeds for patterns. A government in control of such a system will know everything you do and say.
The Global Police State
As the world's corporations further develop these technologies, they set the table for a totalitarian global government. The Bible says such a government will appear in the last days (Daniel 2:40). It will trample and devour the whole earth (Daniel 7:23). No one will be able to oppose it (Revelation 13:4), and it will have such total control over daily life, no one will be able to buy or sell anything without its permission (Revelation 13:7). One man will rule this evil empire. He's known as the Antichrist. And Alexa is just the latest warning of his impending reign.
Rev. Duncan Campbell Sermon - Action and Obedience www.youtube.com/watchLoading content, please wait.
The Palestinians' Uncivil War - by Khaled Abu Toameh -
The Palestinians' major ruling groups, Fatah and Hamas, are now saying they are done with each other: that the divorce is final.
Recent days and weeks have witnessed the two groups maligning each other beyond anything previously seen. Fatah and Hamas have reached a new level of mutual loathing. At times, it even seems as if Fatah and Hamas hate each other more than they hate Israel.
Many in the West say they would like to see Israel and the Palestinians return to the negotiating table. They want Israelis and Palestinians to resume the so-called peace process. They are hoping that Israel and the Palestinians will manage to reach a historic agreement that would end the Israeli-Arab conflict and bring real peace to the Middle East.
The region, however, does not need a "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians. It needs one of a different type. The "peace process" that the Middle East is crying out for is one between Palestinians and Palestinians, one that would end their bloody, internecine war.
Before pushing "peace" upon Israel and the Palestinians, it would be helpful if the international community first tried to help the Palestinians stop torturing each other. The Palestinians cannot make peace with Israel while they are busy killing their own people. The Palestinians cannot make peace with Israel when their leaders lead only themselves -- to money and power.
The political struggle between Fatah and Hamas is not a normal dispute between two rival parties in parliament. Rather, it is a rivalry between two large groups and governments that have tens of thousands of armed men at their disposal and massive arsenals of weapons.
The biggest losers from this internal bloodletting are the Palestinians living under these leaders in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is the dominant party that controls the PA. The PA has tens of thousands of policemen and security officers (in the West Bank) who are funded and trained by various Western countries, including the US and UK.
Similarly, Hamas has thousands of security officers and militiamen who help it maintain a tight grip on the Gaza Strip.
In 2007, two years after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Hamas overthrew the PA regime in Gaza. Since then, Hamas has been the unchallenged ruler of the Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million Palestinians. It took Hamas less than a week to remove Abbas's government from power and seize control of the entire coastal territory.
The dispute between Hamas and Fatah is not over who will bring democracy and a better economy to the Palestinians. Let us make this clear: they are not fighting over who will improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by building new schools and hospitals. They are not fighting over who will introduce major reforms to the Palestinian government and end financial and administrative corruption. They are not fighting over the need for freedom of expression and a free media.
Instead, this is a struggle over money, power and ego.
The Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, are furious with Hamas because it forced them out of the Gaza Strip 11 years ago. Abbas and his senior aides and advisers have yet to overcome the deep humiliation they suffered when Hamas militiamen overthrew their regime in the Gaza Strip and killed several PA and Fatah men. Abbas seeks to shame his rivals in Hamas. He seems to want Hamas to pay a steep price for expelling him and his regime from the Gaza Strip.
Abbas is also apparently disturbed because Hamas defeated his Fatah loyalists in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. The result of that vote, too, was humiliating for Abbas and his regime.
Last year, in the context of his hitherto unsuccessful effort to undermine Hamas and end its rule over the Gaza Strip, Abbas imposed a series of sanctions that included the suspension of salaries to thousands of civil servants living there. Abbas also stopped paying Israel for the fuel and electricity it had been supplying to the residents of the Gaza Strip.
These punitive measures, however, have backfired, further undermining Abbas's credibility among his people. He is now being accused by many Palestinians of being fully responsible for the suffering and misery of his people in the Gaza Strip. He is being accused of imposing a blockade on his own people and of being an Israeli "collaborator" for conducting security coordination with the Israeli security forces in the West Bank.
Hamas leaders have also called for bringing Abbas to trial on charges of "high treason" -- a crime, according to Palestinian laws and traditions, punishable by death.
Hamas says that Abbas is a dictator and traitor because of his refusal to share power with anyone and his "close relations" with Israel. Hamas leaders never fail to broadcast that Abbas's four-year term in office expired in January 2009. Abbas, the Hamas leaders correctly argue, is not a rightful or legitimate president. If Abbas were to sign a deal with Israel, people could come along later and say that he lacked the legal authority to do so; they would be right.
Recently, Hamas has been condemning Abbas for his decision to dissolve the Palestinian parliament, which, in any event, has been inoperative since Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip. This decision, according to Hamas, proves that Abbas is an autocrat and dictator, who presides over an authoritarian regime.
Hamas also claims that Abbas is a traitor because his security forces conduct security coordination with Israel and continue to arrest scores of Hamas supporters in the West Bank.
Abbas, for his part, has made similar charges against Hamas. He recently hinted that Hamas was working for Israel. Abbas, in a speech, referred to Hamas as "spies" (he used the Arabic word jasous) -- the word Palestinians use to label Palestinians accused or suspected of collaborating with Israel.
Hamas officials have responded by likening Abbas to Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan who came to power with the help of the US and Western countries. What they are saying is that Abbas is a puppet in the hands of Israel and the US.
Abbas was expressing outrage over the recent detention of some 500 of his loyalists in the Gaza Strip at the hands of Hamas. The men were reportedly rounded up by Hamas because they were planning to hold a big rally to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the launching of Fatah's first armed attack against Israel.
Abbas and his advisers have, in turn, repeatedly accused Hamas of being in collusion with the US and Israel to create a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip. According to Abbas and his representatives, US President Donald Trump's administration and Israel are working to establish a small and isolated Palestinian state there, thus permanently detaching it from the West Bank.
Fatah leaders are now saying that they have cut off contact with Hamas -- permanently. Hamas leaders, similarly, are saying that as long as Abbas remains in power, the dispute with Fatah will continue.
The leaders of Hamas and Fatah are making their mutual distrust unmistakably clear. They probably have good reason to believe that their suspicions are not misplaced; after all, they know each other better than anyone else does. If they are right, what is the point of presenting any peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians? Who is Israel supposed to make peace with? With the discredited 83-year-old Abbas, who will never be able to win the backing of a majority of his people for any peace agreement with Israel? Or with Hamas, which forever informs the world that it will never make peace with Israel because it cannot accept the presence of non-Muslims on what it perceives to be Muslim-owned land?
In order for any peace process to move forward, the Palestinians first need to stop attacking each other. Then, they need to come up with new leaders who actually give a damn about their people. As these two conditions seem rather unrealistic at this point, any talk about the resumption of an Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" sounds like nothing so much as a big joke.
Jesus is Coming Soon! - By Dr. David R. Reagan -
We are living on borrowed time
Many people believe there is nothing that can be known about the timing of the Lord's return because Jesus said He would return like a "thief in the night" (Matthew 24:42-44).
But Paul makes it clear in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 that Jesus' statement does not apply to believers: "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief..." He then proceeds to explain why: "for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober." Paul is referring, of course, to the light of the Holy Spirit who indwells all true believers and who can enlighten us through our study of Scripture to know the season of the Lord's return (1 John 2:27).
As a matter of fact, God is obligated by His character to warn the world of the imminent return of His Son. The reason is that Jesus is returning in great wrath to "judge and wage war" (Revelation 19:11), and God never pours out His wrath without warning.
God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should be brought to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, God always warns before He executes His wrath. He warned the world through Noah for 120 years. He warned Sodom and Gomorrah through Abraham. He sent Jonah to warn the pagan city of Nineveh, and He sent Nahum to the same city 150 years later.
Likewise, God is warning the world today that His Son is about to return. He is calling the world to repentance. The message of the hour to unbelievers can be summed up in these words: "Flee from the wrath that is to come by fleeing into the loving arms of Jesus now." Jesus came the first time as an expression of God's love; He came to die for the sins of Mankind. But when He returns, He will come in vengeance to pour out the wrath of God on those who have rejected God's love and grace.
The soon return of Jesus also carries with it a message for believers. Lukewarm Christians and carnal Christians are being called to commit their lives to holiness: "The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts" (Romans 13:12-14).
God's Method of Warning
God is alerting believers of the soon return of His Son through what are called "signs of the times." These are prophecies concerning world events that we are told to watch for, prophecies that will identify the season of the Lord's return.
The Bible is full of these signs. There are about 500 prophecies in the Old Testament that relate to the Second Coming of the Messiah. In the New Testament, one out of every 25 verses is concerned with the return of Jesus.
In fact, there are so many signs that it is difficult to grasp all of them. The best way I have found to do this is to put them in categories:
1) The Signs of Nature - We are told to watch for earthquakes, famine, pestilence, and signs in the heavens (see Matthew 24:7 and Luke 21:11).
This is the least respected category of signs for several reasons. For one thing, many people simply shrug their shoulders and say, "There have always been natural calamities, so what else is new?" Note that Jesus says these signs will be like "birth pangs" (Matthew 24:8) - that is, they will increase in frequency and intensity as the time draws near for His return. In other words, there will be more intense earthquakes and more frequent ones. That is exactly what is happening today.
Another reason these signs are given little respect is because most Christians are so rationalistic that they do not really believe in the supernatural, and they therefore find it difficult to believe that God speaks to the world through signs of nature. Yet, the Bible teaches this principle from start to finish.
God dealt with the world's sin through a great flood in the days of Noah (Genesis 6). He called the nation of Judah to repentance through a terrible locust invasion (Joel 1). In like manner, He called for the nation of Israel to repent by sending drought, wind storms, mildew, locusts, famine and pestilence (Amos 4:6-10). The prophet Haggai pointed to a drought as evidence that God was calling the people to get their priorities in order (Haggai 1:10-11).
The New Testament begins with a special light in the heavens marking the birth of the Messiah (Matthew 2:2). On the day that Jesus was crucified, there was three hours of darkness and an earthquake (Matthew 27:45-51). And when Jesus returns, the earth will experience the greatest earthquake in its history as every mountain is lowered, every valley is raised, and every island is moved (Revelation 16:17-21).
God has always spoken through signs of nature, and He continues to do so today. We had better pay close attention to them.
2) The Signs of Society - Jesus said that society will become increasingly lawless and immoral as the time approaches for His return. In fact, He said it would become as evil as it was in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:12,37-39).
Paul paints a chilling picture of end time society in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. He says it will be characterized by three loves - the love of self (Humanism), the love of money (Materialism), and the love of pleasure (Hedonism). He then points out that the payoff of this carnal lifestyle will be what the philosophers call Nihilism - that is, a society wallowing in despair. Men's minds will become depraved (Romans 1:28), and people will call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).
We are seeing these prophecies fulfilled before our eyes today as we watch our society reject its Christian heritage and descend into a hellish pit of lawlessness, immorality, and despair. Even worse, we are exporting our nihilism around the world through our immoral and violent movies and television programs.
3) The Spiritual Signs - There are both positive and negative spiritual signs that we are to watch for. The negative ones include the appearance of false christs and their cults (Matthew 24:5,11,24), the apostasy of the professing church (2 Thessalonians 2:3), an outbreak of Satanism (1 Timothy 4:1), and the persecution of faithful Christians (Matthew 24:9).
These negative spiritual signs began to appear in the mid-19th Century when Christian cults started forming. First came the Mormons, then the Jehovah's Witnesses, and then a great variety of spiritualist groups like the Church of Christ Scientists and the Unity Church.
The apostasy of the mainline Christian denominations began in the 1920's when the German school of higher criticism invaded American seminaries and undermined the authority of the Scriptures, teaching that the Bible is Man's search for God rather than God's revelation to Man.
During the 1960's Satanism exploded on the American scene and has since been exported worldwide through American movies, books, and television programs. Dabbling in the occult has become commonplace in the form of astrology, numerology, crystal gazing, transcendental meditation, and channeling. The whole trend has consummated in the appearance of the New Age Movement with its teaching that Man is God.
As society has secularized, true Christianity has come under increasing attack. Judeo-Christian values, once the foundation of Western Civilization, are now openly mocked, and those who still adhere to them are castigated as "intolerant fundamentalists" by the media.
The positive spiritual signs include the proclamation of the Gospel to the whole world (Matthew 24:14), a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32), and spiritual illumination to understand prophecies that have been "sealed up" until the end times (Daniel 12:4,9).
As with the negative signs, we are seeing these positive signs fulfilled in our day and time. Through the use of modern technology, the Gospel has been proclaimed throughout the world in this Century, and the Bible has been translated into all major languages.
The great end time pouring out of the Holy Spirit that was prophesied by the prophet Joel has also begun. Joel called it "the latter rain" (Joel 2:23), and he said it would occur after the Jews had returned to their land. The state of Israel was re-established in 1948. In 1949 God anointed two ministries that would have a worldwide impact - the ministries of Billy Graham and Oral Roberts. Then, in the 60's, came the Charismatic Movement which prompted renewal in worship and gave emphasis to the continuing validity of the gifts of the Spirit.
The acceleration in the understanding of Bible prophecy began in 1970 with the publication of Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth. It seemed to open up to popular understanding many prophecies that had been "sealed up" until the end times (Daniel 12:4, 9). Remarkably, it became the number one best seller in the world - with the sole exception of the Bible - for the next ten years!
4) The Signs of Technology - The book of Daniel says that there will be an explosion of knowledge in the end times and that people will move about quickly (Daniel 12:4). There are many Bible prophecies that cannot be understood apart from modern technology. For example, how can the whole world look upon two bodies lying in the streets of Jerusalem (Revelation 11:8-9)? Modern television satellite technology makes it easy. How can the False Prophet build an image of the Anti-Christ that appears to be alive (Revelation 13:15)? The answer, of course, is the science of robotics. How can the False Prophet require all people on earth to take the mark of the Anti-Christ in order to buy and sell (Revelation 13:16-17)? It would not be possible apart from computers and lasers.
Jesus said that the Tribulation will be so terrible that all life on earth would cease to exist if He did not cut the period short (Matthew 24:21-22). How could all life be threatened prior to the advent of nuclear weapons? Another reference to nuclear power is likely contained in Luke's statement that men in the end times will "faint from fear" because "the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:26). That certainly sounds like a reference to the splitting of the atom.
5) The Signs of World Politics - The Bible prophesies that there will be a certain pattern of world politics that will characterize the end time geopolitical map.
The focus will be the re-established state of Israel (Zechariah 12:2-3). It will be besieged by a menacing nation from the "remote parts of the north," the nation of "Rosh" - or modern day Russia (Ezekiel 38:2,6). There will also be a threatening nation to the East that will be capable of sending an army of 200 million - namely, China (Revelation 9:13-16 and Revelation 16:12-13). A third source of danger to Israel will be the Arab nations that immediately surround it. They will covet the land and will try to take it from the Jews (Ezekiel 35:10 and 36:2).
Another key player on the world political scene in the end times will be a coalition of European nations that will form a confederation centered in the area of the old Roman empire (Daniel 2:41-44, Daniel 7:7,23-24, and Revelation 17:12-13). This confederation will serve as the political base for the rise of the Anti-Christ and the creation of his worldwide kingdom (Daniel 7:8).
Other international political signs include wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6), civil wars (Matthew 24:7), and general international terrorism and lawlessness (Matthew 24:12).
6) The Signs of Israel - The signs related to the state of Israel are prolific and very important.
The most frequently repeated prophecy in the Old Testament is the prediction that the Jewish people will be regathered from the "four corners of the earth" in the end times (Isaiah 11:10-12). The Bible states that a consequence of this regathering will be the re-establishment of the state of Israel (Isaiah 66:7-8). The Scriptures say that once the Jews are back in their land, the land itself will experience a miracle of reclamation (Isaiah 35). The desert will bloom and people will exclaim, "This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden" (Ezekiel 36:35).
Another end time miracle will be the revival of the Hebrew language (Zephaniah 3:9). Most people are not aware of the fact that when the Jews were dispersed from their land in 70 A.D., they ceased to speak the Hebrew language. The Jews who settled in Europe developed a new language called Yiddish - a combination of German and Hebrew. The Jews who migrated to the Mediterranean basin created a language called Ladino - a combination of Hebrew and Spanish.
Other significant signs of Israel that we are told to watch for in the end times include the re-occupation of Jerusalem (Luke 21:24), the resurgence of Israeli military strength (Zechariah 12:6), and the re-focusing of world politics on Israel (Zechariah 12:3).
All these signs have been fulfilled in this century. The nation has been re-established, the land has been reclaimed, the ancient language has been revived, the Jews are back in Jerusalem, and Israel is the focal point of world politics.
Jesus says in Luke 21:28 that when these signs begin to happen, we should "straighten up and lift up our heads" because "our redemption is drawing near."
The Key Signs
The most important signs are the ones that relate to Israel because God uses the Jews throughout the Scriptures as His prophetic time clock. By this I mean that very often when the Lord is revealing an important event that will take place in the future, He will point to the Jewish people and state that when a certain thing happens to them, the important event will also occur.
A good example of this principle can be found in Daniel 9 in the famous "Seventy Weeks of Years" prophecy. The prophet tells us to watch for a decree to be issued that will authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem. He then says that the Messiah will come sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years) after that decree is issued to the Jewish people.
There are two key prophecies which relate the return of Jesus to events that have occurred in Jewish history since 1948. These two events clearly established the period in which we are now living as the season of the Lord's return.
The State of Israel
The first is the re-establishment of the state of Israel which occurred on May 14, 1948. Jesus singled out this event as the one that would signal His soon return.
His prophecy is contained in the fig tree parable (Matthew 24:32-35) which He presented in His Olivet Discourse. The day before He delivered this speech, He had put a curse on a barren fig tree, causing it to wither (Matthew 21:18-19). This was a symbolic prophecy that God would soon pour out His wrath upon the Jewish people because of their spiritual barrenness in rejecting His Son.
The next day Jesus reminded His disciples of the fig tree. He said to watch for it to bloom again. In other words, He said watch for the rebirth of Israel. He indicated that when the fig tree blooms again, He would be at the gates of Heaven, ready to return (Matthew 24:33).
Equally significant, He added an interesting observation: "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (Matthew 24:34). What generation? The generation that sees the fig tree blossom.
We are that generation. The fig tree has blossomed. Jesus is at the gates.
The City of Jerusalem
The second key event was prophesied by Jesus in the same speech, as recorded by Luke: "[The Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24).
The first half of this prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D., forty years after Jesus spoke the words. In that year the Romans under Titus conquered Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews among the nations. Jerusalem remained under Gentile occupation for 1,897 years - until June 7, 1967, when Israel won the city back during the Six Day War.
The Jewish re-occupation of the city of Jerusalem is proof positive that we are living in the season of the Lord's return. Jesus said it would mark the end of the Gentile Age.
A Call to Action
There is no way to escape the conclusion that we are living on borrowed time. The signs of the times are upon us, and they are shouting for our attention.
Are you ready? If Jesus were to return today, would He be your "Blessed Hope" (Titus 2:11-14) or would He be your "Holy Terror" (Revelation 6:12-17)? If you have never received Him as your Lord and Savior, now is the time to act. Repent of your sins, and call upon the name of the Lord that you might be saved (Acts 2:14-39).
And if you are a Christian, are you living as if Jesus might return any minute? Have you committed your life to holiness? Are you praying for the lost and witnessing for the Lord when you have an opportunity?
Are you yearning for the Lord's return? Can you say with Paul that you are a candidate for a "crown of righteousness" because you have lived your life "in the love of His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8)?
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1 Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.
2 He comes forth like a flower, and is cut down: he flees also as a shadow, and continues not.
3 And does you open your eyes on such an one, and bring me into judgment with you?
4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
5 Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with you, you have appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;
6 Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.
7 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
8 Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
9 Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
10 But man dies, and wastes away: yes, man gives up the ghost, and where is he?
11 As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decays and dries up:
12 So man lies down, and rises not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
13 O that you would hide me in the grave, that you would keep me secret, until Your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
14 If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
15 You shall call, and I will answer you: you will have a desire to the work of your hands.
16 For now you numbers my steps: do you not watch over my sin?
17 My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and you sew up mine iniquity.
18 And surely the mountain falling comes to nothing, and the rock is removed out of his place.
19 The waters wear the stones: you wash away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth; and you destroy the hope of man.
20 You prevail for ever against him, and he passes: you change his countenance, and send him away.
21 His sons come to honor, and he knows it not; and they are brought low, but he perceives it not of them.
22 But his flesh on him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn.
Eliphaz 2nd response to Job
1 Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said,
2 “Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?
3 Should he reason with unprofitable talk? or with speeches with which he can do no good?
4 Yes, you cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God.
5 For Your mouth utters your iniquity, and you choose the tongue of the crafty.
6 Your own mouth condemns you, and not I: yes, your own lips testify against you.
7 Are you the first man that was born? or were you made before the hills?
8 Have you heard the secret of God? and do you restrain wisdom to Yourself?
9 What know you, that we know not? what understand you, which is not in us?
10 With us are both the gray headed and very aged men, much elder than Your father.
11 Are the consolations of God small with you? is there any secret thing with you?
12 Why does your heart carry you away? and what do Your eyes wink at,
13 That you turn Your spirit against God, and let such words go out of Your mouth?
14 What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
15 Behold, he puts no trust in his saints; yes, the heavens are not clean in his sight.
16 How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinks iniquity like water?
17 I will show you, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare;
18 Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it:
19 To whom alone the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them.
20 The wicked man travails with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.
21 A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come on him.
22 He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword.
23 He wanders abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? he knows that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.
24 Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle.
25 For he stretches out his hand against God, and strengthens himself against the Almighty.
26 He runs on him, even on his neck, on the thick bosses of his bucklers:
27 Because he covers his face with his fatness, and makes bulges of fat on his flanks.
28 And he dwells in desolate cities, and in houses which no man inhabits, which are ready to become heaps.
29 He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof on the earth.
30 He shall not depart out of darkness; the flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his mouth shall he go away.
31 Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompence.
32 It shall be accomplished before his time, and his branch shall not be green.
33 He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine, and shall cast off his flower as the olive.
34 For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.
35 They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepares deceit.
Job’s second reply to Eliphaz
1 Then Job answered and said,
2 “I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.
3 Shall vain words have an end? or what emboldens you that you answer?
4 I also could speak as you do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.
5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief.
6 Though I speak, my grief is not assuaged: and though I forbear, what am I eased?
7 But now he has made me weary: you have made desolate all my company.
8 And you have filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me: and my leanness rising up in me bears witness to my face.
9 He tears me in his wrath, who hates me: he gnashes on me with his teeth; mine enemy sharpens his eyes on me.
10 They have gaped on me with their mouth; they have smitten me on the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me.
11 God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked.
12 I was at ease, but he has broken me asunder: he has also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark.
13 His archers compass me round about, he spits my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he pours out my gall on the ground.
14 He breaks me with breach on breach, he runs on me like a giant.
15 I have sewed sackcloth on my skin, and defiled my horn in the dust.
16 My face is foul with weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death;
17 Not for any injustice in mine hands: also my prayer is pure.
18 O earth, cover not you my blood, and let my cry have no place.
19 Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.
20 My friends scorn me: but mine eye pours out tears to God.
21 O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbor!
22 When a few years are come, then I shall go the way From I shall not return.
1 My breath is corrupt, my days are extinct, the graves are ready for me.
2 Are there not mockers with me? and does not my eye continue in their provocation?
3 Lay down now, put me in a surety with you; who is he that will strike hands with me?
4 For you have hid their heart from understanding: therefore shall you not exalt them.
5 He that speaks flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail.
6 He has made me also a byword of the people; and aforetime I was as a tabret.
7 Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow, and all my members are as a shadow.
8 Upright men shall be astonished at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite.
9 The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
10 But as for you all, do you return, and come now: for I cannot find one wise man among you.
11 My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart.
12 They change the night into day: the light is short because of darkness.
13 If I wait, the grave is my house: I have made my bed in the darkness.
14 I have said to corruption, You are my father: to the worm, You are my mother, and my sister.
15 And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it?
16 They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.
Russia to Deploy Precision Strike Missiles in Western Atlantic - Bill Gertz -
Russia is deploying long-range, precision cruise missiles to the western Atlantic that American defense officials say will allow Moscow to target Washington and other East Coast cities with conventional or nuclear attacks.
Moscow is adding Kalibr land attack cruise missiles to both warships and missile submarines that Moscow plans to use in Atlantic patrols near the United States, sorties that were once routine during the Cold War.
The new sea-based Kalibr deployments are expected in the coming months, according to officials familiar with intelligence reports of the Russian maritime operations.
The land-attack version of the Kalibr, known as the SS-N-30A by NATO, is a relatively new weapon and was showcased for the first time by Moscow in attacks on Syria that began in 2015
Russia has stated that over 100 Kalibr missile strikes were carried out against Islamic terrorists and other anti-Syrian government rebels.
The Office of Naval Intelligence in 2015 said the Kalibr is deployed on Russia's new Sverodvinsk-class nuclear attack submarine as well as older submarines and surface warships. A total of 32 Kalibrs can be launched from missile tubes on the new submarine.
Nuclear-armed Kalibrs will be deployed on Russia's new Borei-class missile submarines as well as the attack submarines.
Most of Russia's surface warships and many coastal vessels are being outfitted with the long-range missile.
The missile is considered very lethal because it flies close to the sea surface, frustrating efforts to detect and strike the missile with anti-missile systems.
"Russia plans to deploy Kalibr capability on all new design construction of nuclear and non-nuclear submarines, corvettes, frigates, and larger surface ships," the ONI said in a report, noting the missile gives even modest vessels "significant offensive capability."
"The proliferation of this capability within the new Russian Navy is profoundly changing its ability to deter, threaten or destroy adversary targets."
The missile also comes in anti-ship and anti-submarine variants.
According to ONI, the Kalibr land attack missile has a range of between 930 miles and 1,550 miles.
That range means a ship or submarine armed with Kalibrs and located 1,000 miles off the U.S. coast could target all American cities stretching from Boston to Miami and as far west as Chicago.
Kalibr is a concern for U.S. military commanders in Europe as a result of their deployment on ships and submarines in the Mediterranean and areas near Europe. The missile has been compared to the Navy's Tomahawk cruise missile.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO commander and commander of the European Command, told Congress last spring he is concerned about the submarine-launched Kalibr.
"The activity level of their maritime forces is up in Europe," Scaparrotti told the House Armed Services Committee, adding that the deployments were not normal.
"Most of their ships now have a Kalibr system on them," he said. "It is both conventional and can be nuclear, if they choose to do so. It's a very good system. It provides reach and precision, and, of course, wherever they have a ship, whether it's undersea or on the surface, many of their ships now have the Kalibr system on them."
Scaparrotti said the Russians are making "rapid progress" in developing the new Severodvinsk nuclear attack submarine, more capable Kilo submarines, and Kalibr cruise missiles.
Vice Adm. James Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, described the Kalibr as a missile "I'm very interested in."
"It's a capable weapon system and from where the Russians operate it's capable of targeting any capital in Europe," he said. "Do I think they'll do that? No, I don't, because I think that the NATO Alliance operates from a position of strength."
Foggo said it's important for the United States to know the location of Russian submarines in the European theater at all times.
Asked during a Pentagon briefing if all Russian submarines can be detected where they sail, Foggo said: "Well, I prefer not to comment on the tactical details and the operational issues. But I can tell you that we hold an acoustic advantage, and we will continue to do that. Our boats are the best in the world."
He also warned last year about the growing threat of Russian undersea warfare capabilities.
"Russia has renewed its capabilities in the North Atlantic and the Arctic in places not seen since the Cold War. For example, Russian forces have recently reoccupied seven for their former Soviet Union bases in the Arctic Circle," Foggo said.
"The improved capability of Russia to be able to project power into this [European] region and these strategic routes from the Arctic into the North Atlantic and the [Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom] Gap is something that we need to pay particular attention to."
Russian submarines, Foggo said, "today are perhaps some of the most silent and lethal in the world, with the exception of our own."
Kalibr missiles deployed on a variety of launch platforms have "shown the ability to reach pretty much all the capitals in Europe from any of the bodies of water that surround Europe."
"We know that Russian submarines are in the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confirming our command of the seas and preparing a very complex underwater battlespace to try to give them an edge in any future conflict," Foggo said Oct. 4 in a podcast. "And we need to deny them that edge."
A Navy spokesman had no comment and a spokesman for the Northern Command, which in charge of defending the U.S. homeland, also declined to comment.
Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon nuclear analyst, said the Russians have stated that the Kalibr will be a major weapons system for the Russian navy and will be dual-capable-armed with both conventional and nuclear warheads.
"The Russians say the long-range version of the Kalibr is a nuclear capable missile with a range of 2,000 or 2,500 kilometers [1,242 miles or 1,553 miles]," Schneider said.
Russian state-run media reports have identified the new Severodvinsk-class submarine with Kalibr missile as part of the strategic nuclear forces, he added.
"There is no reason it can't be used against the U.S.," Schneider said. "Its range is comparable to the early Polaris missiles which were our strategic deterrent in the 1960s."
The Kalibr is one of two main weapons systems that Russia plans to use in any future strikes on the United States. The second is the advanced Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile that can be armed with either conventional or nuclear warheads.
The Washington Free Beacon reported in 2015 that Russian bombers practiced cruise missile strikes on the United States from launch areas off the coast of Canada in September 2014
Last month, Russia President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow will soon deploy a new hypersonic missile capable of defeating U.S. missile defenses. The new missile called Avangard was flight tested last month and traveled at a reported Mach 30-more than 20,000 miles per hour-while maneuvering and changing altitude.
Putin has stated that Russia may produce a land-based version of the Kalibr because of the U.S. pullout from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Also in December, Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of Russian magazine National Defense, stated that Russia could deploy its submarines close to the United States.
"Our submarines, too, might have surfaced suddenly some place in the Gulf of Mexico to shock America," Korotchenko said. "We have the corresponding forces of our submarine fleet there. We do not do that for the simple reason our purpose is not to show off in such a silly way, but to cope with the assigned tasks."
Russia claimed in state media earlier this year that in 2013 a Russian submarine sailed into the Gulf of Mexico undetected.
A Russian submarine officer asserted that an Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine armed with Kalibr cruise missiles came within "missile strike distance from one of the main bases of American submarines," an apparent reference to the Kings Bay submarine base in Georgia.
The Free Beacon reported in 2012 that the Akula-class submarine sailed in the Gulf of Mexico.
However, the chief of naval operations at the time, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, denied the incursion in a letter to Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas). "Based on all of the source information available to us, a Russian submarine did not enter the Gulf of Mexico," Greenert said.
The Kalibr also comes in an export version known as the Klub that are deployed in a launch cannister disguised as a shipping container, making it an ideal missile to fire from the deck of a merchant vessel.
In 2019, Israel Faces Dangers On Many Fronts - By Yoav Limor -
The coming year is likely to be one of uncertainty as Israel tries to walk the extremely fine line between the highly volatile potential of conflict on all fronts, and the IDF's clear superiority and ability to generate deterrence.
Ostensibly, Israel has to strive to avoid a wide-scale conflict in 2019. This should be doable as each foe, in every sector, currently has far more pressing issues to deal with: Syria is reeling from a bloody, seven-year civil war; Hezbollah is knee-deep in financial problems and internal Lebanese political turmoil; Hamas is trying to improve the dire economic situation in the Gaza Strip; and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is focused on trying to make heads or tails of the impending post-Mahmoud Abbas era.
Add to that Israel's military power, and one can understand why Israel's enemies are wary of confrontation. Still, logic does not always prevail in the Middle East, and each sector harbors a significant chance of rapid escalation, especially as all are under the menacing specter of Iran, which is trying to increase its regional influence.
This means that the Israeli challenge will be, first, to avoid war; second, to win a war should one erupt; and third, perhaps most important, to both prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and stop Hezbollah's armament efforts in Lebanon, especially with respect to the Shiite terrorist group's precision-missile program.
Israel will also have to carefully navigate its policy in Gaza to ensure the desperation there does not worsen, and equal prudence will be required in the West Bank, where fighting terrorism while minimizing the infringement on the civilian Palestinian population's routine is crucial to preventing another intifada.
Israel will have to do all of this while contending with complex geostrategic conditions, especially given Donald Trump's decision to pull American troops from Syria and the subsequent increase in Russia's regional power.
This will require not only diplomatically navigating the complex equation between Washington and Moscow, but also fostering closer ties with the moderate Sunni axis, which, in turn, is likely to increase friction with rogue states, including Turkey.
This fine line between opportunity and risk is one Israel will have to walk alone, and it will have only itself to count on, both diplomatically and militarily.
All this will take place against the backdrop of what is expected to be a challenging year for Israel regardless. The election campaign is already proving to be a stormy one, and the IDF will likely be dragged into it.
The new IDF chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, slated to take office in mid-January, will have to maneuver between all the external and internal threats and challenges, including the questions raised about the army's war readiness, the need to formulate a multi-year budget, and the personnel crisis brewing in the military's regular and standing ranks.
Defense and security issues will continue to dominate the political and public agenda in 2019, on every level. The good news is that chances of war are slim. The bad news is that, given the regional upheaval, no security assessment can be taken for granted.
Now is the Time to Get Serious - By Stephen du Bord -
Do you ever wonder where you might end up if you died today? Or if there really is a life beyond this one? Most of us, while living on this Earth, pursue the usual goals in life such as a career, strong income, a healthy family, close friends, status, and the like. But very few of us give thought to what might happen if we were to breathe our last breath today, and even fewer of us are really prepared for whenever that day may come.
Maybe we'd rather not think about those things, because who really knows what lies beyond this life? Can anybody know? Is there really nothing? Or is there something very real? There is no shortage of opinion (and fascination) on what lies beyond this life, and the mysteries thereof.
What are we to think, or feel, or say when our loved ones exit this life and we experience the mourning and grief of their absence? Is there anything anyone can say or know to really give us comfort over whether we'll see those we love again? And what about when the time comes for us? How will we cope with the reality of dying when it knocks on our door?
There's no shortage of empty platitudes such as, "They're in a better place," trying to comfort us in vain, with no real offer of tangible hope.
Is there any real hope to be found on this issue?
I believe there is, and this assurance is the only real and certain hope mankind is given in this world - a true hope of life beyond death, and the ceasing of all pain, suffering, evil, and mourning forever.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
The Bible's response to death is that it has been defeated! How? By none other than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Isaiah 25:8 declares: "He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people's disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken."
He is the One who took our sins upon Himself - He died a substitutionary death on our behalf, took our place, died the death that we deserved, bore the punishment that was ours to suffer. Jesus took the wrath of God on Himself, for all of us who choose to put our trust in Him.
Jesus proclaims: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" (John 11:25).
According to Jesus, this life is not the only life we have, and the end of this life is not the end by any means... if we place our trust in Jesus, the resurrection and the life.
If you haven't ever truly given your life to Jesus Christ, then now is the time to consider His free gift of Eternal Life by accepting the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on your behalf.
Isaiah 55:6-7 says, "Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near."
In other words, life is short, and you have no idea when yours might come to an end, and that door to salvation, closed. If God truly offers the solution to death being the end of all things, and instead flips that notion on its head, telling us that death is actually a doorway to a future more glorious than we can even imagine, well, then we really need to open our ears and hearts to hear what He has to say!
2 Corinthians 6:2 says, "Indeed, the 'right time' is now. Today is the day of salvation."
If death came to your door today, you need to be sure you've made the most important decision you'll ever make - trusting in Jesus Christ to cover your sins and restore your relationship with God. He wants you to be one of His own more than anything!
One of the parables Jesus uses to illustrate God's love for us, as we wander through this life without Him, is in the parable of the lost sheep:
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent"
Another similar parable Jesus uses to make this same point is that of the Prodigal Son.
God loves you, and He wants to spend Eternity with you - this He has made very sure to communicate, and He has even offered Himself in Jesus Christ as the solution to our estrangement from Him.
Romans 5:8 confirms this: "But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
We need Jesus to save us from ourselves and to bring us back into a rightful relationship with God.
Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
The Bible says that we are born into sin (Psalm 51:5); it's in our nature.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 says: "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins."
Romans 3:10 says: "As it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one.'"
What this means is that none of us are qualified by God's standard of righteousness to enter into His Kingdom because of our sins, and ALL of us are found guilty of the death penalty and everlasting separation from God.
This is the essence of what makes Hell - separation from the Source of life, joy, happiness, love, relationship, contentment, peace and any other good thing. None of that will be present, because any connection to the Source of it all, God the Father, will be cut off forever if we enter Eternity apart from Him.
None of us will enter into Heaven, God's dwelling place, if left to our own devices. Let's examine this condition, of which we all will be found in if we exit this life without having placed our trust in Jesus Christ.
On this topic, Revelation 21:27 says, "But nothing unclean will ever enter it [the Kingdom of God], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life."
Who is the Lamb of God? None other than Jesus Christ.
In John 1:29 we are shown what John says upon seeing Jesus coming near to him: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"
Jesus tells us in John 3:3, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
So how do we get our names written in the Lamb's book of life and become born-again?
1 John 1:9 gives us the solution: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
By admitting our sinfulness (our inability for moral perfection, and to meet up to God's standard of righteousness), and by admitting our deep need for a Savior, who is Jesus Christ, we open ourselves up for God's healing Grace to be poured upon our souls, cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
John 14:6: "Jesus said to him, 'I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"
Accepting Jesus' perfectly lived life (which satisfied God's requirement for a life of moral and spiritual perfection in honor of Him), and accepting His death on our behalf (as the only perfect, spotless human being to have ever lived, which satisfied God's requirement for spotless, pure sacrifice to be made for sin), and accepting His bodily resurrection (which ensures that death has been defeated, and that we will one day be resurrected too: as in 1 Corinthians 15:20)... this the only way we can be redeemed from the darkness that infects our heart, mind, body, and soul, and which separates us from God who is perfectly clean, holy, and righteous.
Read that paragraph again.
Romans 10:9-11 is where this Truth and assurance of salvation is revealed to us:
"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, 'Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.'"
If this admission of our sinfulness, and this belief in our hearts of Jesus Christ's life, and death, and resurrection saving us, and by this confession with our mouths that He, Jesus, is Lord and God and our Savior - if this is a genuine and heartfelt one, we WILL be saved.
God assures us of this, that we need not doubt we are saved. "If we confess our sins, He is FAITHFUL and JUST to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
All this is all done in recognition that we cannot earn our way into God's Presence. We cannot earn our redemption and reconciliation. But only by the Grace of God through our faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves: it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This is the only way we can enter into that joyous, glorious Everlasting Kingdom, into which nothing unclean will ever enter, and within which no pain, nor sorrow will ever be felt again.
Faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation is the way-the ONLY Way to salvation and reconciliation to God. Nothing we do, no matter how good, can earn us a spot in Heaven when we exit this life. Recall John 14:6 in which Jesus proclaims, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Remember the two verses from Romans 3:23 and 6:23 quoted earlier? The verses which proclaimed our dire predicament and eternal death sentence? At first glance, they're pretty bleak, but that's only if they're read in isolation of the surrounding context!
If we read just beyond those verses, the outlook shifts dramatically. The darkest night becomes the brightest day that ever dawned!
Let's see those two verses again, but now with the glorious solution that follows:
Romans 3:23-24: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
The Bible says in Romans 10:13, "Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved."
Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God, sent at the appointed time for our redemption (Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 5:6) and He holds the key to life (John 14:6) and death (Revelation 1:18), being the one who overcame the grave and is now resurrected and glorified in Heaven (Mark 16:19).
He is also the same One who is coming back soon (Revelation 22:7, 20), first in what's commonly referred to as the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; John 14:1-3; Revelation 3:10), to redeem and snatch away to Heaven those who accepted Him into their lives, and later at the end of the Tribulation (time of God's wrath/judgment against sinful humanity) to finally judge a wayward and rebellious world whose inhabitants have repeatedly denied, rejected and fought against Him (Matthew 25:31-46).
The Bible says that, if we look for it, we can see the time of Jesus' return drawing near, and that there are many signs which we will be able to see as we near the season of His return (read Matthew 24).
We are told in the Bible that there are specific signs to look for, such as the rebirth of Israel as a nation (Ezekiel 37; Isaiah 66:8), which is undoubtedly the biggest sign of them all (refer to the study on Israel's rebirth linked below), as well as the Gospel of Jesus Christ being preached to the whole world (Matthew 24:14), the rise in Globalism and calls for World Government, and the setting up for the Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38), as indicators of the nearness of the End.
We are also told of general signs of the times, which are seen in ever-increasing apostasy, false prophets/charlatans claiming to be Christ, or of Christ, wars and rumors/threats of wars, earthquakes, and famines throughout the world, to name a few (again, read Matthew 24). These are all likened as "birth pains" in Matthew 24:8, as they will increase in both frequency and intensity as the end gets nearer; and the statistics show that they are.
Be sure to refer to the links at the bottom of this write-up for more information on all these signs just mentioned, which explain them in more detail - they are easy-to-read, lay-friendly, and incredibly timely - please take some time to read them over.
All of this should give you a pretty clear picture of our situation in this world at this given point in history: a) time is running out, and b) things are soon going to change dramatically. The most important question to ask yourself is: in whom (or what) do I put my trust? In people? In money? Or perhaps in Jesus Christ?
Ultimately, the only thing that will really matter is if you've put your trust in Jesus, to reconcile you to God by His atoning blood on the Cross, and to also "keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth" (Revelation 3:10). There isn't much time left. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.
If you died today, or Jesus returned today, where would you find your eternal home to be? In separation from God, the Source of all good things? Or in His very presence forever, free from all evil, pain, suffering, and sorrow for all eternity?
This world is filled with darkness, decay, and death - we all are confronted with it daily, but we are not left without any hope. Even as the end of this age draws close, and each passing year brings each of us nearer to the end of this life, we can rest in the assurance of God's promises to those of us who trust in Him for Eternal Life, beyond when this earthly one ends.
By placing your trust in Jesus Christ for reconciliation to God, you will be saved and set apart for a place in His Eternal Kingdom, which is drawing ever nearer.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Hope the C of E keep their stand on this, as its not a biblical celebration.
Birthdate04. 02. 1973
About meI am a Christian from Scotland and run this website. I am married with children of different ages that keeps me busy. My son is Autistic and doesn't speak.
LocationHelensburgh (United Kingdom)