Welcome to the May 8, 2009 edition of Bible in the News. This is Glenn Abel with you.
This week, Pope Benedict XVI begins his much anticipated trip to Israel, and it will be interesting to see what happens...and even more interesting to hear what he has to say.
A History of Controversial Remarks
On the eve of Benedict’s Middle East trip, the media has been reporting about how he will have to carefully watch his actions, and especially his remarks. This quote from the Wall Street Journal is typical:
“During the visit, he will navigate a host of tricky issues: the West’s ties to the Muslim world; Jewish-Christian relations; and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And he’ll be trying not to make the diplomatic missteps that have plagued his papacy and vexed both Muslims and Jews.”
Indeed, Benedict’s track-record has been fairly consistent - when he goes abroad, his remarks stir up controversy.
“Diplomatic missteps” or “Calculated message”?
To a casual observer, it may appear that Benedict, like Joe Biden, the current Vice President of the United States, is simply prone to making “diplomatic gaffes” through careless remarks. Upon reflection, that cannot be the case.
The pope’s remarks are carefully prepared and scripted to make a point. Benedict himself loves nothing more than to “pontificate” on church doctrine and positions. Proof of this can be found by perusing his remarks made during his weekly “audiences.” The last few weeks, he has been drawing attention to Byzantine era church figures: “St Germanus, Bishop and Patriarch of Constantinople,” and “St John Damascene.” These men are recognized as having developed the theology that makes worship of images acceptable under the right circumstances. Their theology was developed as a response to the “Iconoclasts” of their time who fiercely opposed the worship of images (like a picture of Jesus) as being a form of idolatry. In this week’s address, he got to the point of his message: “It is true that in the Old Testament, divine images were strictly forbidden. But now that God has become incarnate and has assumed visible, material form in Jesus, matter has received a new dignity.” It is astounding to see how many false doctrines have followed on from the false doctrine of the Trinity!
We also note the fondness Benedict displays towards former popes and their regalia - being sure to point out the significance of a pair of shoes! His attention to detail is seen on so many levels that it is hard to believe his “controversial remarks” are simply “diplomatic missteps.”
Clearly, Benedict follows in the footsteps of previous popes of the Holy Roman Empire, of which Daniel saw in vision,in chapter 7, as a little horn boasting “great things.” The Vatican has an agenda and a message which is carefully articulated and delivered for maximum effect.
Stories to follow
During Benedict’s trip, watch for the following stories to develop further:
West Bank visit: The Palestinians had intended to receive the pope on a stage that was set against the backdrop of the Bethlehem security barrier and guard tower. The aim of the setting was to “draw attention” to their “suffering” at the hands of the Israelis. As of today, those plans had “hit a wall”, but we will see what happens. He will be giving a speech at the Aida refugee camp there, that we can be sure will not be in support of Israeli settlement in the west bank.
Yad Vashem: the Holocaust memorial where Benedict will deliver a speech. The issue here is, of course, the exhibit on Pope Pius XII that recognizes the fact that he did nothing to stop the extermination of the Jews. Benedict, who has been seeking to make Pius a saint will certainly not be visiting that part of Yad Vashem. What this former member of the Hitler youth says during his speech at Yad Vashem is the subject of much anticipation and speculation on the part of Israelis. We can be sure he will not miss an opportunity to spin his message.
Vatican sovereignty in Israel: Ahead of the pope’s visit, the Vatican has been requesting that Israel hand over title of dozens of holy sites in Israel. According to the Haaretz paper, Israeli President Shimon Peres has been urging the government to yield control of these sites to the Vatican. On Wednesday, this evoked a strong response from the Chief Rabbinate that “this unprecedented historical disgrace threatens the very existence of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish nation” and a clarification that “according to halachic rule, no Holy Land assets can be handed over to the Vatican.”
No doubt there will be other stories developing as his trip progresses.
Official Message: “Peace”
The official Vatican message is that Benedict’s visit is to focus on “peace and unity.”
During Wednesday’s “audience”, he had a message for the people of “Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories”: “I wish this morning to take the opportunity through this radio and television broadcast to greet all the peoples of those lands. I am eagerly looking forward to being with you and to sharing with you your aspirations and hopes as well as your pains and struggles. I will be coming among you as a pilgrim of peace.”
Real Message: “War”
Israel of old was led astray by their false prophets whose message was peace, as long as there was something in it for them. As the prophet Micah attested in Micah 3:5: “Thus saith Yahweh concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.”
As we reported a couple of weeks ago, the anti-zionist message of the “frog like spirits”, emanating from the mouth of the beast, dragon, and false prophet is remarkably united: Accept the two-state solution, stop settlements, and withdraw the settlers from the west bank are among the top demands. Scripture is clear on what happens when Israel does not “put into their mouths”: “they even prepare war.” Revelation 16:14: “For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”
There is nothing like a trip to the “glorious land” to stir up the desire to join forces with a military power that can, “plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain.” (Daniel 11:45)
False Prophet Silenced
In the 13th chapter of the prophecy of Zechariah, we are given a vision of the future for Israel. There is a time coming when v1: “...there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”
As Benedict visits the various holy places and shrines in Israel, Bible students recognize that the land must first be cleansed of all forms of commercial religion:
v2: “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith Yahweh of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land” ... v4: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive”.
Revelation 19 tells us of the end of the beast and the false prophet:
v19-20: “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.  And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone”.
Pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem”
Before that happens, however, there are great trying times ahead for God’s people as the nations gather for war against Israel: Zechariah 13:8: “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith Yahweh two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.”
But these trials will bring forth the results Yahweh desires: v9: “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, it is my people: and they shall say, Yahweh is my God.”
As we see the preparations for these events unfolding before our eyes, our prayer is that of the Psalmist in Psalm 122:6-9: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of Yahweh our God I will seek thy good.”
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