Here are some news stories that caught my eye:
- James Ossuary Trial – You may recall the news story in 2002 of a burial box (ossuary) that had written on its outside : "James son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus". Well, the trial on its authenticity is now taking place in Israel. The Israeli paper, Haaretz, has an updated report on the trial of the alleged founder of the James Ossuary. Those who wish to keep up with the progress of the trial over its authenticity can read about it at:
In sum, it looks like a case has been made against the authenticity of this find. The defense is getting its turn now. (copied from the Primetime Jesus Blog).
2) The Deputy Commander in Chief of Iran's Army: If Israel attacks Iran, Iran will "eliminate" Israel. http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSHAF52999620080416. Iran will respond to any military attack from Israel by "eliminating" the Jewish state, a senior army commander said on Tuesday (April 15th).
Deputy commander-in-chief Mohammad Reza Ashtiani was echoing Iran's late leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, who said Israel should be wiped off the map…
3) A Strong, Unusual Earthquake Hits Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. http://news.aol.com/story/_a/rare-large-earthquake-hits-midwest/20080418062509990001. OK, everyone has already seen this news story. So why am I bringing it up here? I thought I would tie in the Disciples' question to Jesus about what would be the signs of Jesus Return (Matthew 24:3). It's very exciting to read what Jesus has taught about the end of the age. The Olivet Discourse is the second longest recorded teaching of Jesus (the longest being the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 4 through 6). This Discourse is of such importance that it is reported in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21), and is Jesus' longest teaching about the end of the age.
The long list of signs contained in Olivet Discourse is understood by those using the Pre-Trib Method as the signs of what will take place before Jesus' return. An example of a use in understanding these signs is shown by Pastor John MacArthur as he describes six birth pangs of God's Creation that calls out for Jesus Christ's return in his book The Second Coming, pp. 83-102. These birth pangs are:
- False Messiahs (Matt. 24:5); Pastor MacArthur describes a number of false Messiahs that we have faced in our own time: Sun Myung Moon, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite and Charles Manson. Since Pastor MacArthur wrote his fine book, another example is shown through the false Christ described in Dan Brown's best-selling novel The DaVinci Code, and this looks like it could certainly be added as another example.
- Wars, and rumors of war (Matt. 24:6); Pastor MacArthur teaches that this is a reference to the constant talk of wars and possibilities of wars, with such talk dominating public discourse. MacArthur at p. 91.
- Famines, Pestilences, and earthquakes (Matt. 24:7-8); this sign makes it clear that the birth pangs are a display of God's judgment. We just had an Earthquake in the Midwest? Is this a sign of the world's birth pangs? And how could our world with its tremendous production of wheat and corn lead to famines? I hope you have also seen the worldwide food shortages caused by corn production being used for ethanol production. It's crazy, but this could be happening despite our wonderful farming methods.
- Persecution of the righteous (Matt. 24:9);
- Defection of false Believers (Matt. 24:10);
- The Gospel is Proclaimed to the Whole World (Matt. 24:14);
So we see "unusual" earthquakes in the Midwest – is this one of the birth pangs of the world that is Earth's crying out for Jesus' return? I bring it up only because it is so unusual. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).