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What does the war in Israel mean?

12.11.23 | Worship | by Joshua Claycamp

What does the war in Israel mean?

    Evidently, Satan hates Israel with a special hatred. There is debate whether God has a special plan for the nation of Israel at the end of days, but there is no doubt that Satan has a special hatred for them. The events of the past month reveal an incredibly hideous, evil strength breaking forth across the world. Many have asked me whether these events are a sign of the end-of-days?

    The following is a letter that Pastor Josh wrote to the members of First Baptist Church, dated October 31, 2023. It is reposted here for your edification.


    Dear First Baptist Church,

    Evidently, Satan hates Israel with a special hatred. There is debate whether God has a special plan for the nation of Israel at the end of days, but there is no doubt that Satan has a special hatred for them. The events of the past month reveal an incredibly hideous, evil strength breaking forth across the world. From the barbaric bloodshed of thousands of Jews in their own homes on Saturday, October 7th, to the enormous, blood-curdling rallies sweeping across the United States and Europe calling for the death of Jews, to the furious mob recently rampaging through a Russian airport lusting for Jewish bloodshed, Satan now runs free –openly, unrestrained, unchallenged, everywhere. And Satan’s aim is the annihilation of the Jews, along with a world war to drag everyone in –if he can manage it, leaving millions dead and much destruction.

    Many have asked me whether these events are a sign of the end-of-days, whether the return of Christ may be more immediately imminent, and what we should do at First Baptist Church. Having considered these things prayerfully for some time, I thought it best to write to you about a wise course for us. You will notice that these humble thoughts of mine come to you in the form of a letter, not an email. My hope is that this will not be quickly cast aside, or deleted, but that you will weigh carefully what I say and study the Word of God for your own understanding, that you will be encouraged in more fervent prayer for the nations, and that the Holy Spirit will guide you into the path of God’s will and direction for your life: to make a commitment to gather and worship weekly with the church.

    The first question that we must confront is whether these events signal to us the more immediate and imminent return of Christ. While recent events have something to do with end-times prophecy, it is not a certainty that the return of Christ is any more imminent. We know from the book of Romans that God has a plan for Israel at the end of time. Paul writes in Romans 11:25 and following,

    “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

    “The Deliverer will come from Zion,

    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

    27 “and this will be my covenant with them

    when I take away their sins.”

    28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:25–29 (ESV)

    What Paul means by this is that, while Israel is currently hardened against the gospel, there is an expected future where that hardness of heart is removed, and many of the Jews will come to faith in Jesus Christ. The Jews will only be saved through faith in Jesus Christ as their Messiah, for there is no other name given under heaven whereby anyone, including the Jews, can be saved. The Apostle Paul teaches that God’s plan is to one day bring about this miracle of conversion among the Jews. As we consider the current events taking place in Israel, it is obvious that Satan desires to destroy the Jews out of hatred for God and His electing purposes. Christians, therefore, are right to pray for the protection of Israel against this present evil, and we should also pray even more fervently that God would use these terrible atrocities to soften Israels heart and to awaken them to an understanding of their need for a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Nevertheless, the question remains: is the current conflict between Hamas and Israel an indication of the more immediate and imminent return of Jesus? It is my conviction that we are looking for more than what we currently see taking place in Israel. Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica of the signs that indicate Christ’s imminent return. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians,

    “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed… …to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1–4, ESV)

    There is much debate about this passage, yet it seems that Paul is speaking of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem where the “man of lawlessness” will take his seat, declaring himself to be God and demanding that the world worship him. Paul writes that the return of Christ, and our being raptured to Him, cannot happen until these other things take place. As there is no temple in Jerusalem we really shouldn’t expect, anytime soon, for the antichrist to be seated within it and demanding our worship. In my humble opinion, the rise of the Antichrist and the return of Jesus to this earth do not seem any more imminent, despite the terrible war unfolding before us.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t breathe a deep sigh of relief just yet if I were you.

    What is happening in Israel, and around the world, does have deep meaning for us. The current conflict between Israel and Hamas is another birth pain in a series of contractions that will lead, someday, to the rise of the Antichrist and the return of Jesus to this earth.

    Matthew writes,

    “As He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matthew 24:3–8, ESV)

    In the case of the current Israeli war, this conflict is an example of, “…wars and rumors of wars,” and, “…nation [rising] against nation.” Jesus uses the metaphor of “birth pains” to describe the unfolding events of history as increasingly terrible and occurring with greater frequency. Certainly, these signs do point to the growing conflagration that will one day consume our world and precipitate the return of Jesus. It is increasingly likely that this current war in Israel will go global, resulting in the destruction of nations, and drawing us ever closer to the appointed time of the Lord’s return. I believe that the end is not yet, but we must always remember that there is an appointed time, and it draws nearer and nearer.

    Regardless of our understanding of eschatology or how we interpret current world events, the question we need to ask ourselves, in any case, is this: what should we keep ourselves busy doing until Jesus does return? Again, Matthew tells us:

    “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only…” (Matt. 24:36) “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:45–51, ESV)

    I think that Jesus’ teaching is clear, but we also find a similar exhortation in Hebrews 10:24-25.

    “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25, ESV)

    This echoes what the Prophet Daniel wrote centuries before:

    “And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness shall shine like the stars forever and ever. But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge will increase.” (Daniel 12:3–4, LSB)

    With the world slowly spiraling into chaos and looking for the arrival of a false savior to rescue them and restore order, what should Christians be doing? Should we simply sit back and wait for Jesus to return? No. I answer that we need (1) to be worshipping God together for mutual encouragement and strengthening, (2) striving to disciple our children and others within the church to prepare ourselves for suffering and persecution, (3) seeking to boldly evangelize our neighbors, to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and (4) we must grow, ourselves, every day in our understanding and in our love towards Jesus. We need to continue doing this until the very end of time. The individual who faithfully prioritizes these things, ignoring the worldly siren song to abandon them, is the one who has truly recieved salvation, just as the Lord taught us:

    “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13, ESV)

    Given what our Lord admonished us to do in Scripture, and all that we see happening in the world around us, I offer a suggestion. I urge you to make regular worship attendance with the church your number one priority this year. It has been my observation that everything else that is necessary for us to grow in our faith, for both you and me, flows out of an ultimate commitment to attend the worship services of the church and to dutifully give to Jesus what He so richly deserves, the praise of our lips with all our heart. When I am first committed to gathering with the Lord and His people, on-time, in my seat, with my Bible and notebook in hand, and when I am expectant and prepared for the Lord to work in my heart during the Sunday worship service, I have found that He does, in fact, work more powerfully in the worship service in both me and those around me, just as He promised in Hebrews 10:24-25.

    Through committed worship attendance my soul is steadied in the storm, my heart is prepared to face the coming day, no matter how dark or foreboding it may appear, and I have a stronger sense of the body of Christ standing together with me. All the other activities and responsibilities of the Christian life, and the good works that Jesus has prepared for me to do, will all come much more easily and much more naturally to me when I am first committed to being with the church on Sunday. Attending church regularly, every Sunday, as your priority is one way that you can, “…give [your brothers and sisters] their food at the proper time,”, and it is essential to “encouraging one another” as you “see the Day drawing near.” Gathering with the congregation every week is how we, “… see to it that no one deceives you in any way.” It seems so simple, yet it is so truly powerful.

    You may have been suspecting that I was going to suggest something radical to prepare for the coming of the Antichrist, like digging an underground bunker or stockpiling seven years’ worth of food, medicine and other supplies. Well, I am convinced that the simple, clear and direct teaching of Scripture provides us with the wisdom necessary for this moment, and it is a wisdom that is far above and beyond anything that we could ever think or imagine.

    God says to us,

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

    Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5–8, ESV)

    As I reflect on all the different passages within the Word of God that speak about the Apocalypse and the coming end of days, do you want to know the theme that keeps recurring over and over again in every single apocalyptic passage? It isn’t searching for shelter. It isn’t stockpiling food and medicine. It isn’t devising clever plans for engaging in commerce while rejecting the mark of the beast. The singular theme that pops up in every single passage of Scripture that pertains to the end-of-days and the apocalypse is this: God’s people will worship God faithfully, as He has commanded, and they will endure in worshipping together until the end of days.

    A commitment to the weekly Sunday worship of God is the best medicine against evil. Even atheists and unbelievers recognize the importance of this. Gina Welch, an ardent and outspoken atheist who wanted to understand evangelical Christianity, decided to go undercover inside a Baptist church. She made a false profession of faith, underwent baptism, and got connected to a small group Bible study; she volunteered in Vacation Bible School, and she even went on an international missions’ trip, helping with outreach and evangelism. In her book, In the Land of Believers, she made the following observation about worship: “This weekly gathering served as a kind of mystical touchstone, a place where Christians could be watered, keeping their faith perpetually lush and always growing. It was an opportunity for them to recharge after a rough week. The worship service served to rejuvenate them. There is no analog in secularism,” (Welch, 2010).

    I agree with what Welch says, except for one salient detail. Satan is just as equally concerned with our worship as God, and there are many “analogs” within secularism. In fact, if you take care to read Revelation thoroughly, the central concern of the Antichrist is to lure the world away from God by enticing, seducing, or otherwise forcibly making the world to worship him. Just consider these passages:

    • “…and all who dwell on earth will worship it [the antichrist], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” (Revelation 13:8, ESV)

    • “It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.” (Revelation 13:12, ESV)

    • “And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.” (Revelation 13:15, ESV)

    And despite this extraordinary, even violent pressure from the Antichrist to worship him, the true people of God make it their studied, disciplined practice to gather together in worship of the one true God. Real Christians are good at worshipping God together, they practice and perfect their worship of God week after week, and they endure in their worship of God until the Lord Jesus comes back. Just consider the following passages…

    • And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” (Revelation 5:9, ESV)

    • After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”” (Revelation 7:9–10, ESV)

    • And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:7, ESV)

    • Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship You, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:4, ESV)

    • I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:8–9, ESV)

    As you can see for yourself, the worship of our hearts is the driving concern of both the Antichrist and our Heavenly Father. Its vitality is recognized even among atheists. And the admonition of God’s Word is that we will persist in gathering together for mutual encouragement and worship, every week. This means that we must be diligent in the choices we make when it comes to our gathering together for worship. These decisions to prioritize worship are made on Sunday morning, and Saturday evening; they are made a week in advance, and even months in advance. As we approach the end-of-days, the best medicine, the most important medicine, you can take to brace yourself against the allure and power of darkness is to give yourself, all of yourself -heart, mind, and body- over to the weekly worship of God.

    A day may come when I advise this church congregation to begin stockpiling seven years’ worth of food, medicine, and other supplies. I suppose such a contingency is remotely possible… Or, even crazier, a day may come when I suggest something radical like building an underground bunker! But if I were ever to do this, I would only give such recommendations with a view towards this ultimate goal: that God’s people will stick together, and we will endure in worshipping together the one true God until Jesus returns!

    Yes, brothers and sisters, Satan has broken free from the shadows and now rampages across the earth. Evil has arrived at our doorstep. No one can stop this monster… except, of course, the One whom we are called to worship with all our heart. Our weekly worship helps to disarm and defeat the powers of darkness. The question that I ask in the wake of these events in Israel is a searching question. The question is this: will you gather to worship God with us?

    I love you so very much, my brothers and sisters, and I am praying that our worship of God would be even sweeter and even more precious to Him, and to you, this coming year. May God be greatly praised!

    In Christ,

    Pastor Josh Claycamp


    Thank you for reading! If you would like to receive these occasional newsletters from Pastor Josh, consider becoming a member of First Baptist Church and joining in the mission! You can fill out an address form and request these newsletters in person at our weekend worship services. We pray for God's blessings.