Feb 28, 2011
Tough Times for Arab Dictators
Across the Middle East, people weary of repression, poverty, and corruption have taken to the streets, calling for revolution and reform. Since most dictators only envision their subjects as having absolute adoration for them, the sight of massive crowds calling for their downfall must come as a huge shock.
The first to go was Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He fled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in mid-January. Some reports say he had a stroke, fell into a coma, and may have died.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has managed a more graceful retirement from office. After conceding to protesters, he settled in the Egyptian Red Sea coast resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.
Many of the Persian Gulf states have managed to hold on to power by offering up token concessions to their countrymen:
Bahrain -- The nation of Bahrain has reshuffled its cabinet. Bahrain's king has decided to give $2,650 to each family on the Gulf island.
Kuwait -- The ruler of Kuwait has announced the distribution of $4 billion and free food for 14 months to all citizens. Each of the 1.12 million native citizens will get $3,572 in cash until March 31, 2012.
Algeria -- President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said the state of emergency, in force for the past 19 years, is to be lifted. The announcement followed pressure from government opponents who demanded the emergency powers be scrapped.
Saudi Arabia -- King Abdallah returned to Saudi Arabia after recovering from back surgery. He immediately announced $10.7 billion in benefits. The king also said he would give a 15-percent pay raise to state workers, fight inflation, and provide more money for housing and studying abroad.
Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi is likely to be the next to fall. He is rapidly losing control of that nation. Eastern Libya is now being administered by a loose alliance of tribal leaders. Many of Gadhafi's government officials have joined the opposition.
The unrest in Libya has been the bloodiest. Gadhafi has ordered his military to fire on protestors. He even had jets bomb unarmed crowds. The foreign minister of Italy, Franco Frattini, said more than a thousand people have been killed in the uprising so far.
The death toll may climb dramatically higher before Gadhafi is removed from power. He has already proven himself to be a cold-blooded killer. Some of the statements made in recent days have reinforced the long-held belief that he is mentally unstable.
When rumors circulated that he may have fled the country, Gadhafi made an address while sitting in a car, holding an umbrella out the door.
“I am here to show that I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Don't believe those misleading dog stations.”
In one speech, Col. Gadhafi told Libyans that the protesters were fueled by drinks spiked with hallucinogenic drugs and were acting on the orders of Osama bin Laden.
“Their ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe,” he said in a telephone interview with Libyan state television.
Speaking from a historic fort overlooking Green Square, Col. Gadhafi told a paid group of supporters to strike against protesters, saying “retaliate against them, retaliate against them,” and “dance, sing and prepare. Prepare to defend Libya , to defend the oil, dignity, and independence.”
As the crowd waved flags, Gadhafi said: “I am in the middle of the people in the Green Square . … This is the people that love Moammar Gadhafi. If the people of Libya and the Arabs and Africans don’t love Moammar Gadhafi, then Moammar Gadhafi does not deserve to live.”
Times might be tough for dictators, but don’t look for a wave of freedom to sweep over the Middle East. The most likely course is for the situation to go from bad to worse. The political void may soon be filled by Islamic militants. Compared to them, Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi might as well be George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. During the past few decades, they maintained a peace with Israel.
The upheaval is very bad news for Israel. Since Bible prophecy predicts that someday the Jewish state is going to be attacked by several of her Arab neighbors, stability has been Israel’s friend. The changes we are seeing now could be an indication that time is running out.
One of the most-mentioned laments among those of us who have Bible prophecy as our calling is that seminaries are not teaching prophecy and pastors are not preaching and teaching prophecy today. We refer to the majority of the seminary instructors and preachers who otherwise preach and teach God’s Word as inerrant truth.
Those who view the Bible as merely a book with good suggestions for how to live, but don’t consider it the literal Word of God, can’t be expected to understand the crucial necessity of preaching and teaching the whole Word of God. These pick and choose verses, applicable or not, to put forth their ear-tickling homilies, which by their very nature avoid doctrinal truth. So, we aren’t pointing a finger of admonishment at these.
Sadly, however, this description fits a growing number of seminaries and their graduates. It is getting harder to tell the genuine from the pretenders. More and more the words are sugar-coated, the points supposedly made trailing off into the ether of mumbo-jumbo irrelevance. When one gently probes one or the other of the Bible-believing/preaching pastors with the question: "Do you preach prophecy?” the answers are along the same line. It’s my experience and that of others who ask the question that 95 percent of those asked say something akin to the following:
"Prophecy is just too hard for people to understand."
"I just don’t know about the subject, because we just barely touched on it in seminary."
"Teaching people how to live as a Christians is more pressing."
"It scares people, so I just don’t want to worry them unnecessarily."
"People have been saying the Second Coming is here for years, and we are still here. We need to deal with the here and now, not pie in the sky."
And my personal favorite:
"Some preachers are premillennial, some postmillennial, or whatever. I’m 'pan'-millennial. I believe it will just all pan out in the end."
I have to tell you–confess, I guess—that this last one always presents a personal test of my temperament. Whenever I hear it, I see red, even though I’ve been as physically blind as the proverbial bat since 1993. Some of these preachers–a few--become a bit defensive and get rather exercised, launching into tirades, arguing that we prophecy types read far too much into the headlines as they might relate to biblical prophecy. And I readily admit that this has and continues to happen more often than it should.
The many episodes of date-settings for the rapture over the years, for example, have done disservice to God’s prophetic Word. Too often I receive formulas from all sorts of angles and configurations that claim to give the precise time of Christ’s coming in the Rapture, or that propose to have the answers to other prophetic events.
Despite the fact that there are those who are overly speculative in their views of Bible prophecy, the following must be said. To the pastors of America who claim the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of the Living God but callously ignore its prophetic content—be forewarned. Your excuses/arguments won’t stand the test at the bema–the judgment seat of Christ. You will be held accountable by the very Lord you proclaim you love so much–the same Lord about whom the angel told John: “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10b).
That same Jesus gave us the Olivet discourse, during which He laid out general and specific things to come. The Gospel accounts give Christ’s commandment of what to do about the many prophesied things He had just foretold: “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:37).
Prophecy makes up at least 27 percent of the Bible. Half of that 27 percent has been fulfilled, with half yet to be fulfilled. Anyone with spiritual ears to hear and spiritual eyes to see is capable of following the Lord’s command: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21: 28).
Certainly, if God calls people to be pastors–shepherds of His flock—He equips them to feed the flock His whole Word, not just the parts the pastor selects as important, while summarily dismissing the other parts of God’s Word. Jesus said to “watch” for prophetic developments. And, spiritually attuned eyes and ears–a condition all pastors should seek to appropriate and maintain—can hear and see that we are at the very end of the Church Age.
Just this week, the entire world, not just the Middle East, exploded with rage. From Cairo and the capitals of Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Libya, Bahrain, and Iran to the U.S. capital emulating the austerity cuts tumult in Europe, the seas and waves of humanity are roaring with distress and perplexity.
From Juarez, Mexico, and the deadly drug wars to the seas off Somalia and the murderous pirates who prey on their victims, violence fills the whole earth.
Israel stands alone in the global spotlight as the most-hated nation on planet earth. The world is in economic chaos, headed for total collapse. All the while, technology is progressing geometrically in ways that will one day provide earth’s last tyrant with the satanically endowed ability to enslave most all people on this fallen sphere.
Yet many pastors of America are into building bigger, more beautiful edifices in order to more spectacularly entertain their audiences. They make claims that they are telling of God’s love. But, they are stressing how to tap into that love in order to gain favor for acquiring material things; they are not teaching how to share the message that Jesus’ love is shown in that He died to save us from our sins. Too many pastors are moving farther from teaching doctrinal truth. One such truth being assiduously avoided is that of Christ’s Second Coming.
Thankfully, this Laodicean model doesn’t apply to all megachurches in America today. Some genuinely preach and teach truth from the Bible, although most, I’m sorry to have to say, continue to push aside Bible prophecy in favor of sticking exclusively to life-lesson theology. The responsibility to “watch” must, by the Bible’s very definition of the word “preacher,” fall first and foremost on those who are called to shepherd God’s people. The Word of God warns specifically about keeping the flock informed, and about those commissioned to do so who fail in that responsibility: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me” (Hosea 4: 6a,b). Paul’s admonition applies to pastors and teachers even more, perhaps, than to those whom they shepherd and instruct.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2: 15). These are perilous times, dear pastors and teachers. Bible prophecy at this juncture in human history isn’t frivolous or an elective to be chosen according to the pastor’s whim. The hour is late, and God’s people haven’t a clue. It is critical that you begin giving them biblically prophetic nourishment.