Archaeology Proves Bible History Accurate

Archaeology Proves Bible History Accurate

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Is the Bible religious myth or accurate history? Some highly educated people say the Bible’s history cannot be trusted. What do you think? Here is an important article to help you clarify your thoughts.
From the December 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

The Bible is the only ancient, well-organized and authentic framework in which to fit all the facts of history. The Bible does not record all history. In fact, there are huge gaps in the history contained in the Bible. Yet, without the Bible and what it reveals from prehistory, ancient history and prophecy—which is history written in advance—you cannot truly understand any history. No worldly source can help us as the Bible does!

But what do modern men say about the Bible? Most agree it is a book for the religious, but think its history cannot be trusted.

For centuries, until the so-called Age of Enlightenment—also known as the Age of Reason—the Western world accepted without question the historical accuracy of the account of the Garden of Eden, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, the history of the patriarchs and the Exodus from Egypt. However, in the 17th and 18th centuries, European intellectuals began to claim that only through human reason could true knowledge be obtained. Rather than the Bible, scientific reasoning became the source of authority—the ultimate judge of all truth. The Bible came under direct attack.

Then in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the theory of evolution—the fable of a creation without a Creator—and higher Bible criticism spawned by anti-Semite German rationalists, came on the scene and succeeded in completely removing God and the Bible from the picture. German Bible critics argued that the Bible was unhistorical and had no reliable basis in fact. They stated that the Bible was merely Jewish fable and folklore fabricated in the 5th and 6th centuries b.c.—in other words, that most of the Old Testament books were not contemporary records, but rather had been written centuries after the events took place. Many scholars came to deny the existence of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David and Solomon.

So today, most theologians and ministers look askance at the Bible and its history. The real tragedy is that these men refuse to study into and teach the vital lessons taught by these histories.

Foolish Scoffers

The great men of the Bible prophesied accurately that highly educated men and women who scoff at God and His revealed Word would dominate our world. Although men have sneered at God in every generation beginning with Adam, ours was to be the worst. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools …. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:21-22, 28). Although Paul is speaking specifically about the earliest men, we have not changed for the better; we have grown worse.

Since the 17th and 18th centuries, men have produced an amazing fund of knowledge in the industrial and scientific areas. Yet pursuing knowledge about God has been left out. Our generation knows less about God and what God is doing than any prior generation. Modern leaders in education, science and industry have created a science-centric world. They have pushed religion into the outer fringes of our civilization. Ours is not a religious age—though some may think it to be so. Paul saw into our day and said that end-time religion has “a form of godliness,” but that men deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5). Most of the world’s educated believe that mankind has outgrown the need for God. God has been made to seem powerless. This fact should alarm us. It is time we turn back to the all-powerful God.

Many believe that science will save us from our problems. Why can’t we recognize that science is about to destroy us? Soon the need for God will come crashing back upon us. Then all men will have to admit that only God can save us.

The Apostle Peter wrote, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts …. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:3, 5-6). Peter states clearly that one of the hallmarks of our day is a willing ignorance of God. The truth is, men could know much more about God but choose not to. What does this mean? Peter warns that willing ignorance of God, along with a great expansion in all other fields of knowledge, is the cause of the soon-coming, final global disaster (verse 7). Mankind, assuming self-rule without God, will bring itself to the brink of annihilation. Thankfully, God promises to intervene and stop our self-destruction.

Here are some perfect examples of what Paul and Peter are talking about. Bertrand Russell, the late British philosopher and avowed agnostic, wrote this in his History of Western Philosophy: “The early history of the Israelites cannot be confirmed from any source outside of the Old Testament, and it is impossible to know at what point it ceases to be purely legendary.” Mr. Russell dismisses the Bible as unreliable legend in just a few sentences. Even though first printed in 1945, his book is still widely read by university students and is considered one of the best books of its kind. Young, bright minds have been and still are being prejudiced against the Bible, the foundation of true knowledge. Historian R.G. Collingwood, in his book The Idea of History (printed posthumously in 1946), tagged the Bible as “theocratic history and myth.”

Most scholars lower the Bible to the level of Homer—mythology in poetic form. Unfortunately, many Bible scholars, ministers and theologians agree. Yet, there are mountains of evidence to prove otherwise.

The Bible is a book of accurate history. Contrary to what Mr. Russell had to say, there is evidence outside the Bible that proves the reality of its history. However, we hear very little about this evidence.

New Science: Archaeology

Most scholars have been ignoring pertinent facts. The willing (and sometimes willful) ignoring of the truth has been happening for decades. Even while Russell and Collingwood were writing their books, other scholars were unearthing spectacular discoveries that cast a bright light on the truth of the biblical record. Even prior to the mid-20th century, the new science of archaeology—the digging-up and study of the remains of man’s bygone years—caused an earthquake within the anti-God scholarship of the critics. The facts are amazing.

As a science, archaeology has expanded to include the study of all cultures. However, at its earliest stage of development, the infant science was concerned most with ancient civilizations. For centuries, robbers, religious pilgrims, even Napoleon had unearthed and carried away multiple thousands of ancient artifacts from sites throughout the Near East and Egypt. It was during Napoleon’s military expedition in Egypt in 1799 that the vitally important Rosetta stone was dug up.

Yet, it was not until the end of the 19th century that a systematic study and evaluation of the Near East began. This geographic region is known as the Fertile Crescent. Egyptologist James Henry Breasted first used the term “Fertile Crescent” to describe the lush, well-watered, crescent-shaped geographic region starting at the Persian Gulf moving up the Tigris-Euphrates valley, then westward over Syria and southward along the Mediterranean Sea through Palestine. The productive Nile valley is often included within the boundaries of the crescent. It is in this geographic region that the lands and peoples of the Old Testament history are located. For nearly two centuries, the Fertile Crescent has been the focus of intense archaeological scrutiny. Even Herbert W. Armstrong supported critically important digs in Jerusalem by sending Ambassador College students there as workers.

There should be strong public interest in the archaeological findings of this region. Although at one time archaeological findings did spark sharp interest by both secular and religious scholars, much is now forgotten or goes unnoticed.

Archaeology has confirmed without question the historical accuracy of the Bible.

Gainsaying Not Stopped

The scholars’ main attack on Bible history in the early 20th century was that no secular records existed to provide evidence of the Flood, the Exodus, or the lives of David and Solomon. Many claimed that Moses could never have written the first five books of the Bible, since writing had not been invented at that time. But when the curious, energetic men and women dug up the past, these commonly held ideas were proved to be without foundation.

Modern archaeology has challenged the world of education to admit that the Bible is factual. Solid, documented evidence outside the Bible record confirms events and persons that were at one time considered to be suspect or plain false.

Still, some people work tirelessly to discredit the Bible as a God-inspired record of critically important history. Some have stubbornly overlooked overwhelming evidence. Others have purposely misinterpreted the facts to hold on to pet theories. Are we surprised? Not really. Why?

The Bible has the answer. No man of himself can accept or submit to the authoritative Word of God. Paul wrote: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). Men have been successful in getting rid of God and His great authority (though in reality, God is very much present). They don’t want Him back! To admit that the Bible is accurate historically would mean accepting that God does exist—and that His Word holds authority over the lives of all men. The brightest minds know that if the Bible is exact in its history, then its commands are in full force. You cannot separate Bible history from Bible law! The entire Bible is true, or it is false. It cannot be both.

Let’s be plain: You can rely on the historical accuracy of the Bible.

Behistun Rock Deciphered

Let’s look at several of the more important archaeological finds that confirm Bible history. Not all of these artifacts have been as publicized as some of the more spectacular ones like the Rosetta stone or the tomb of King Tut of ancient Egypt, yet they are momentous in regards to the evaluation of the Bible chronicle.

The deciphering of the Behistun inscription in the 19th century was one of the most remarkable archaeological advancements and the most vital to understanding ancient writings uncovered in the Fertile Crescent. The discovery opened the door for archaeology to further confirm the Bible’s historical accuracy.

The inscription, like a billboard about the size of half a football field, is situated on a cliff about 300 feet above the base of a mountain in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran. The site lies along the road that connected the ancient capitals of kingdoms of Babylonia and Media: Babylon and Ecbatana. The inscription dates back to 516 b.c. and is an account of Darius i’s assumption of the Persian throne (521-486 b.c.). This account was written in cuneiform in three languages (Babylonian, Elamite and Old Persian). In 1835, Sir Henry C. Rawlinson copied and began to decipher the text, finishing the Persian translation in 1846. He and other scholars were soon able to translate the Babylonian and Elamite portions.

Many ancient cultures in the Middle East used cuneiform, but these works were a mystery until the trilingual Behistun inscription was deciphered—the discovery made possible the translation of other cuneiform writings.

The Behistun breakthrough led to others, including the translation of 22,000 tablets at the ruins of Nineveh, Shalmaneser’s Black Obelisk, Shennacherib’s Prism, and the epic poems of Gilgamesh and Enuma Elish. (These poems contain accounts of the Flood, creation and the tower of Babel that closely parallel the Bible.)

The Fabled Hittites

Bible critics had long sneered at references in the Bible to a people called the Hittites (Genesis 15:20; Exodus 3:8, 17; Numbers 13:29; Joshua 1:4; Judges 1:26 and elsewhere). Their opinion was that the Hittites were simply one of the many mythical peoples made up by Bible writers. Some critics said they may have been a small and unimportant tribe. But the critics were off the beam!

Toward the end of the 19th century, Hittite monuments were uncovered at Carchemish on the Euphrates River in Syria, proving the Bible right. Later, in 1906, excavations at Boghazkoy (ancient Hattusas, capital of the Hittite Empire) in Turkey uncovered thousands of Hittite documents, revealing a wealth of information about Hittite history and culture. The centuries-old Hittite rubbish showed they were a real and formidable power. They were once one of the dominant peoples of Asia Minor and the Near East. They exercised considerable control south into Syria and Palestine.

The Bible was right all along! Today, no one questions the existence of the Hittites. Volumes of books exist on the history, art, culture and society of the Hittites. Yet an anti-Bible prejudice still exists. Scholarly people usually believe that if it’s in the Bible, it’s wrong. But the Bible is right and has always been right.

In 1974, Italian archaeologists found approximately 17,000 cuneiform tablets and fragments at the site of ancient Ebla in northern Syria. The inscriptions on these artifacts date them prior to the 24th century b.c. Noachian Flood. Similar finds were uncovered in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The tablets show that writing was common centuries before Moses. The critics can no longer claim that Moses and his contemporaries were illiterate or that the Pentateuch was written by Ezra in the 5th century b.c.

No Jewish Captivity?

One of the most ridiculous claims of the critics has been that the Babylonian captivity did not take place. This is on a par with those who believe the Holocaust of World War ii did not happen. The Bible gives specific details about the captivity of Judah by the armies of Babylon early in the 6th century b.c. (ii Kings 24-25). Scholars have said it’s all just another Jewish myth. However, between 1935 and 1938, important discoveries were made 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem at a site thought to be ancient Lachish. Lachish was one of the cities recorded in the Bible as being besieged by the king of Babylon at the same time as the siege of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 34:7).

Twenty-one pottery fragments inscribed in the ancient Hebrew script were unearthed in the latest pre-exilic levels of the site. Called the Lachish Ostraca, they were written during the very time of the Babylonian siege. Some of them are exchanges between the city’s military commander and an outlying observation post, vividly picturing the final days of Judah’s desperate struggle against Babylon! Since the 1930s, there has been more unearthing of Babylonian historical texts describing the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The historical fact of the Babylonian captivity is firmly established.

We could discuss literally hundreds of archaeological finds that corroborate Bible history. Noah’s Flood, the Exodus, David, Solomon and the kings of Israel and Jerusalem as described in the Bible are proven to be historical by non-biblical sources. If you desire to know more, go to your local library and do some self-study. You may be surprised to find how much information is actually available to you. Unfortunately, you will not find this information on your nightly news. Two books we can recommend are The Bible as History by Werner Keller and On the Reliability of the Old Testament by K.A. Kitchen.

There are numerous biblically related artifacts in the British Museum located in London. They are breathtaking to see. Even though you may never be able to go to London, it is possible to log on to the museum website (www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk) and see pictures of the artifacts. Here is a short list of some of the more important treasures of antiquity:

  • The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (858-824 B.C.) shows Jehu, king of Israel, bowing before the Assyrian king. This is the only known picture of an Israelite king.
  • Tablets from the time of Tiglath-Pileser (744-727 B.C.) state that he received tribute from Jehoahaz of Judah. This is the full name of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:7).
  • A wonderfully detailed limestone relief from Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh shows the siege of Lachish.
  • One of the most important is the cylinder of Nabonidus (555-539 B.C.). He was the last ruler of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. This stele proves that his son Belshazzar was co-regent with him (Daniel 5; 7:1; 8:1). Scholars previously scoffed at Belshazzar’s existence.
  • In his book A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Gleason Archer Jr. quotes author John Elder as saying, “It is not too much to say that it was the rise of the science of archaeology that broke the deadlock between the historians and the … Christian. Little by little, one city after another, one civilization after another, one culture after another whose memories were enshrined only in the Bible, were restored to their proper places in ancient history by the studies of archaeologists …. Contemporary records of biblical events have been unearthed and the uniqueness of the biblical revelation has been emphasized by contrast and comparison to newly discovered religions of ancient peoples. Nowhere has archaeological discovery refuted the Bible as history” (emphasis mine). That last statement is the most important. Archaeology has proven that the Bible is accurate history!

    A Recent Find

    The contribution of archaeology to the Bible record is far from over. In August this year, an incredible find was unearthed in the Old City of Jerusalem. The event did not make national news. It should have!

    Workers repairing a sewage-pipe break uncovered the Pool of Siloam in Old Jerusalem. This pool was a major gathering site for the Jews. The Pool of Siloam is central to the account of the miracle of Christ healing a man blind from birth (John 9:1-7). Christ put clay on the man’s eyes and then told him to wash at the Pool of Siloam. Obeying Christ by washing in the pool completed the miracle (verse 11). This created an incredible stir among the Jewish elite of Christ’s day (verses 14-41). Why? Jesus Christ had made the clay with His own spit on the Sabbath day. The Jews considered this act a breaking of the Sabbath command. Jealous and insecure, the Pharisees declared that Christ was not of God for healing the blind man on the Sabbath (verse 16). A study of the whole chapter makes plain that the entire incident was used by God to show the Pharisees how blind they were to God and what God was doing on this Earth. Of course, they failed to learn that lesson.

    Why is all this important today? Here is what the Los Angeles Times reported about this incredible archaeological find: “‘Scholars have said that there wasn’t a Pool of Siloam and that John was using a religious conceit’ to illustrate a point, said New Testament scholar James H. Charlesworth of the Princeton Theological Seminary. ‘Now, we have found the Pool of Siloam … exactly where John said it was.’ A Gospel that was thought to be ‘pure theology is now shown to be grounded in history,’ he said” (August 9). Do we get it? The scholars are wrong—again. The Bible is accurate—always!

    Unfortunately, this archaeological event received very little attention. What if it had? Think about what this find tells us. It not only establishes the historical accuracy of John’s Gospel, it reinforces the historicity of Jesus Christ. The find also establishes that it is God’s desire to heal mankind of seemingly impossible health crises. God is very real and very powerful. Our modern scholars have their part in making many men, women and children as spiritually blind as the Pharisees of Christ’s day.

    It’s time for all people to seriously question Bible critics. It is time for all Bible critics to stop pointing their finger at God—to quit casting doubt on the Bible record and start learning the true knowledge that will solve all humanity’s problems.

    The Pope Trumpets Sunday

    From the November 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

    In August, Pope Benedict xvi made Germany the destination of his first trip abroad. On Sunday, August 21, as part of the World Youth Day celebration, the pontiff conducted a mass with over 1 million people where he stressed the importance of Sunday worship: “Sunday is a free day …. Yet this free time is empty if God is not present,” he said. “Sometimes our initial impression is that having to include time for mass on a Sunday is rather inconvenient. But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is what gives a proper focus to your free time” (International Herald Tribune, August 22).

    These comments came just a few months after similar statements at a mass celebrating the closing of the 24th National Eucharistic Congress on May 29. In front of 200,000 in the Italian city of Bari, Benedict declared that the reinforcement of Sunday worship is fundamental to his mission.

    To students of history, this focus represents a return to the papacies of old, the papacies of that ever-recurring imperial European power, the Holy Roman Empire.

    Pope Benedict perceives the secularist moral vacuum that has plagued Europe since the time of the Enlightenment. Now, after resounding rejections of the European Constitution by both France and the Netherlands in referenda earlier this year, European unification appears to be in disarray.

    But it seems Benedict wants to fill that vacuum—the old Roman way. That way was never sympathetic to the idea of the public voluntarily accepting its tenets. Rather, as even a cursory study of history will reveal, it was imposed by force.

    This pope’s dream coincides with that of his predecessor, John Paul ii. It is a huge vision—a vision of a Europe united from the North Sea in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east.

    But here is the trouble: The only times throughout history this vision has been fully realized is when Rome imposed its religion. Since Charlemagne’s “conversion” in the eighth century, the Roman Empire, with its common religious ideology, was able to hang together in repeated resurrections and wreak havoc on those who resisted it.

    As Texas-based think tank Stratfor said, “Europe, for geopolitical reasons, cannot be unified except beneath the heel of a conqueror” (June 2).

    Pope Benedict is committed to reinstating the active observance of the Roman Catholic Church’s chief icon: Sunday. He knows that to popularize religion in Europe, he has to reintroduce a means of promoting what marketers call brand loyalty. The most historic brand the pope can offer to bond the people together is the ancient day of worship, fashionable since Babylon, the old day of the sun—Sunday. Hence his promotion of that old Roman brand in his recent addresses.

    If we understand how the church has enforced this day in its past history, we should be very alarmed.

    Who Changed the Sabbath?

    The Bible commands worship on a seventh-day Sabbath. Who changed the Sabbath to the first day of the week?

    Here is what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote on this subject: “Where did Sunday originate? Not with the Roman Catholic Church, but with the pagan religion of the Roman Empire, long before there was any Catholic Church! It is the day on which the ancient pagans assembled at sunrise, faced the east (as they do Easter Sunday morning today), and worshiped the rising sun. It was Constantine, emperor of the Roman Empire, not a pope, who made Sunday the official so-called ‘Christian day of rest.’ But it was enforced—people were caused to accept it universally—by the Roman Catholic Church!” History proves Mr. Armstrong to be absolutely correct!

    Sunday observance was initiated by Constantine, not a pope—but it was enforced by the Roman Catholic Church. According to The History of Roman Catholicism (1836), “The accession of Constantine the Great to the throne of the caesars and his subsequent conversion to Christianity, forms a most important era in the history of the church.” It is important, as the writer points out, because this began the intimate relationship the Roman Empire developed with the Roman Church—a relationship that lasted for many centuries.

    Constantine changed the official day of worship to Sunday during the Nicene Council of a.d. 325.

    In a letter regarding the council, Constantine spoke of the enforcement of Sunday worship for Easter services: “At this meeting the question concerning the most holy day of Easter was discussed, and it was resolved by the united judgment of all present that this feast ought to be kept by all and in every place on one and the same day.” This statement was directed at those who kept the Passover—one of God’s seven annual festivals commanded in Scripture—rather than Easter, and kept it several days before Easter. “[F]irst of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews. … Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd …. [I]t has been determined by the common judgment of all, that the most holy feast of Easter should be kept on one and the same day” (emphasis mine throughout).

    In other words, Easter was to be kept on Sunday, and the “Jewish” Passover—which is actually God’s biblically commanded assembly—was expressly forbidden!

    In another letter, specifically regarding Sabbath worship, Constantine wrote, “Forasmuch, then, as it is no longer possible to bear with your pernicious errors, we give warning by this present statute that none of you henceforth presume to assemble yourselves together. We have directed, accordingly, that you be deprived of all the houses in which you are accustomed to hold your assemblies: and our care in this respect extends so far as to forbid the holding of your superstitious and senseless meetings, not in public merely, but in any private house or place whatsoever. Let those of you, therefore, who are desirous of embracing the true and pure religion, take the far better course of entering the Catholic Church …. [F]rom this day forward none of your unlawful assemblies may presume to appear in any public or private place. Let this edict be made public.”

    This was confirmed at the Council of Laodicea almost 40 years later in a.d. 363. At that conference, it was determined, “Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord’s Day. … But if any shall be found to be Judaizers, let them be anathema [cursed and excommunicated] from Christ.”

    There you have it: historical proof of the enforced observance of Sunday. To assemble together on any other day for a religious observance was unlawful.

    Today, many Sunday-observing “Christians” admit that the Sabbath was changed. Notice the question posed to the Catholic Church in the book Catholic Doctrinal Catechism, written by a Catholic priest with the intention of defending Catholic doctrine: “Question: Have you any other way of proving that the church has power to institute festivals of precept? Answer: Had she not such power, she should not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her—she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday, the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday, the seventh day, a change for which there is no scriptural authority.”

    As Christians today, are we to heed what a great church has admittedly changed—or what is divinely inspired in the Bible?

    Here is a quote from the Theological Dictionary, by Charles Buck, a Methodist minister: “Sabbath in the Hebrew language signifies rest, and is the seventh day of the week … and it must be confessed that there is no law in the New Testament concerning the first day.

    And finally, here is what Isaac Williams wrote in Plain Sermons on the Catechism: “And where are we told in Scripture that we are to keep the first day at all? We are commanded to keep the seventh; but we are no where commanded to keep the first day … [T]he reason why we keep the first day of the week instead of the seventh is for the same reason that we observe many other things, not because the Bible, but because the church has enjoined it.”

    God’s Church During the Middle Ages

    When Constantine made his decree in a.d. 325 enforcing Sunday observance in the Roman Empire, a tribulation period began. Those saints who remained faithful to God’s Sabbath command were forced to flee into hiding for fear of their lives. Persecution against these people set in almost immediately.

    God’s Church was revived during the last half of the 12th century by a man named Peter Waldo. After much study of the Scriptures, Waldo claimed that nowhere was Christian life observed as commanded by Christ. He quickly amassed thousands of followers. The Catholic Church considered him a great threat.

    Pope Alexander iii made this stunning decree at the Council of Tours in a.d. 1163: “Whereas a damnable heresy has for some time lifted its head in the parts about Toulouse, and already spread infection through Gascony and other provinces, concealing itself like a serpent in its folds; as soon as its followers shall have been discovered, let no man afford them refuge on his estates; neither let there be any communication with them in buying and selling: so that, being deprived of the solace of human conversation, they may be compelled to return from error to wisdom.”

    Notice that people were forbidden to buy or sell with these “heretics” because of what they believed. Bible prophecy says those who refuse a “mark” will be unable to buy or sell in the near future. (For more information, request our free booklet Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.)

    The Waldensians grew nonetheless. Waldo devoted his life to making more copies of the Scriptures. Back then, very few people owned Bibles, and were thus forced to take the Catholic priests at their word regarding what the Scriptures said. With the rapid spread of Bibles came the increase of dissension. Many Waldensians began to meet privately in homes to discuss the Bible.

    Pope Innocent iii ruled the Catholic Church in the early 1200s. Though he admitted it was all right for the common people to study the Scriptures themselves, he nevertheless warned, “It is not proper for you to hold your meetings in private, nor to act as preachers, nor to ridicule the priests. Remember that men must have a special training before they can understand the deep things of Holy Scripture. The priests are trained for this purpose. Listen to them. Respect even the most ignorant of them. Beware of thinking that you alone are correct, and despising those who do not join you” (History of the Christian Church, 1879).

    As dissension grew, those who were reading the Scriptures for themselves began to be persecuted. The author of History of the Christian Church continued, “They were called Waldensians, as if that were a hard name. Force was applied to them. They were routed; their versions were burnt, so far as possible; their opinions rooted out. The priests of Metz breathed freely again, and went on in their old ways of ignorance, idleness and vicious selfishness. Like cases seem to have occurred at Auxerre, and various towns in France, until the Council of Toulouse, in 1229, forbade the laity to possess the books of the Old and New Testaments in any language ….”

    That’s history. A great church actually forbade people to read the Bible. Throughout history, this church has spoken “great things.”

    In any doctrinal controversy, we must believe the Bible, not men!

    The followers of Peter Waldo were persecuted by the Roman Empire. The cause behind it was the Roman Church.

    “We Cannot Live Without Sunday”

    Note the terms Pope Benedict used in his May 29 mass to motivate the people to return to this ancient Roman practice: “Sunday, day of the Lord, is the propitious occasion to draw strength from him, who is the Lord of life. The Sunday precept, therefore, is not a simple duty imposed from outside. To participate in the Sunday celebration and to be nourished with the Eucharistic bread is a need of a Christian, who in this way can find the necessary energy for the journey [of life] to be undertaken. We must rediscover the joy of the Christian Sunday.”

    The pope concluded with this prayer: “[M]ay today’s Christians again become aware of the decisive importance of the Sunday celebration …” (Zenit, May 29).

    The intensity of the papal commitment to enforcing Sunday worship in Europe was underlined in the pope’s statements as reported by one of Italy’s most popular conservative newspapers. It reported his words as follows: “We cannot live without Sunday. … The religious holiday of obligation is not a task imposed from the outside, but a duty of the Christian” (Corriere Della Sera, May 29).

    Sunday—we “cannot live without” it, it’s a “holiday of obligation” and a Christian “duty.” Those words ought to send a chill up the spine of any honest student of the history of the Holy Roman Empire.

    A Matter of Life and Death

    Here is another excerpt from The History of Roman Catholicism: “The Roman Church has adopted as its fundamental principle that it can never err, and the body of the civil law when once chosen by the church, as the basis of its system of ecclesiastical jurisprudence, partook at once of its infallibility, and unchangeableness and became one of its prominent features. To change it in one of its most unimportant [details] would be to acknowledge that the church had erred, which is impossible. … Thus the Roman pontiff is clothed with supreme authority, and combines at once in his own sacred person all the functions of the legislative, the judicial, and the executive powers. He has no constitutional restraint, he is absolutely unlimited and without control. … Those surely are fallacious reasoners, who argue that because the pope has never yet exercised the power that he really possesses, with evident political effect, that he will never exercise it; they cruelly and fatally deceive themselves who indulge in pleasant slumbers when the voice of the past calls upon them to rouse to ceaseless watchfulness.”

    Remember, this powerful church was prophesied to speak great things. Throughout history, the pope has been referred to as the vicar of Christ. Vicar does not mean Christ’s representative as some assume. It means “in place of” Christ. Those truly are “great words.” The author of the above-mentioned book urges readers who falsely assume a pope would never really exercise his full power to remember the “voice of the past.”

    Historic facts show that under Charlemagne, the observance of Sunday within Europe actually became a matter of life or death. Many were put to the sword, burned at the stake, stretched on the rack, or met their end by some other horrible means at the hands of others who literally meant that citizens could not live without Sunday! These unfortunate souls were declared heretics by Rome—but martyrs by historians (including the 16th century’s John Foxe).

    Let us hope this pope, Benedict xvi, did not have this long and agonizing history in mind when he uttered that most unfortunate phrase, “We cannot live without Sunday.”

    For more information on this vital subject, request our free booklet Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath?

    A Last Resort

    What it takes for God to bring such destruction
    From the November 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

    If the Trumpet is right about all this, and Hurricane Katrina was in fact destruction measured and sent directly by an Almighty God, then you may have some serious questions.

    This may rattle certain presumptions you have had about God—dismantle premises on which you have based your thinking about an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving Creator.

    After all, an entirecity was brought to ruin.

    Could this be the same God of love, peace and joy professing Christians believe in today? Or is this more the work of a brooding, temperamental deity—ready to zap anyone with severe consequences for breaking His strict law?

    Let us turn to the Holy Bible—a book that claims to be God’s own words, thoughts, opinions—His own nature. If that Book cannot explain these things, then God is beyond understanding, or His existence is beyond belief.

    According to the Bible, Katrina wasn’t the first time God brought punishment on an entire city. Back in Abraham’s day, God wiped out two entire cities simultaneously.

    God told Abraham, “Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:20-21).

    God wanted to witness the decadence of these twin cities for Himself—to be sure His planned destruction would be warranted. No man could say God destroyed these cities without gathering all the intelligence He could.

    Abraham, known as a “Friend of God” (see James 2:23), sensed what God’s verdict might be—that destruction of these cities was inevitable. So He began to reason with God: “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (verse 23). A good question, particularly because Abraham had a relative living in Sodom—righteous Lot. In the next verse Abraham proceeded to ask God, What if there were 50 righteous within the city—would you destroy it? He told God this seemed out of character for “the Judge of all the earth” (verse 25).

    Amazingly, this all-powerful God answered the question! “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes” (verse 26). The entirety of this festering pool of immorality and decadence would be spared for the presence of 50 righteous.

    Abraham, who acknowledged in this bold conversation that he was just “dust and ashes” (verse 27), continued to reason with God: What about 45? Or 40? God said He would spare the city for that.

    Abraham, asking God not to be angry with Him, pushed some more numbers—30, 20, 10? God patiently returned, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake” (verse 32).

    Certainly we can look at the destruction that God rained on Sodom and Gomorrah and gain tremendous insight into God’s opinion of their sins: God completely wiped them off the map. (Righteous Lot and those of his family willing to accompany him escaped with God’s help.)

    The Bible even uses Sodom later as a warning to those who will not repent—showing that, in the end time, God will bring similar destruction upon entire nations that are steeped in similar perversions.

    But there is another lesson we can take from Sodom and Gomorrah—that of God’s mercy. City-wide destruction was a last resort—even with a city so twisted. Read that again: God would have spared the entire city for the presence of 10 righteous people.

    Put this together with Ezekiel 33:11, where God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live,” and you can be sure that, before wiping out entire populations, God surveys the situation intently.

    As Katrina submerged an entire city, God surely took “no pleasure” in it. What must God have been thinking?

    How must we tear His heart out with our sins!

    The rest of that verse in Ezekiel 33 has God asking, “Why will you die, O house of Israel?”

    More than just a city is going under before it’s all over. God speaks of an entire “house of Israel”—elsewhere He speaks of “cities”—plural—“without inhabitant.”

    As this Trumpet has made clear, more destruction is coming. But consider, as it comes, that God would rather have it an entirely different way. Sadly, we are leaving Him no other choice.

    As the Bible shows, however, the greater catastrophes on the horizon will soon humble us to the point where we can know God—where we will submit to His perfect law of liberty and enjoy the fruits and blessings of such living! God’s punishment will have paid off.

    This is the only way the “wicked will turn from his way and live.” Only when we humble ourselves and turn to God can we truly live as He wants us to. That is what gives God pleasure. If it takes erasing entire cities, then isn’t it all worth it?

    Those who died in Sodom and in New Orleans will have their chance to know God in a resurrection. The Bible records in three places where Christ talked about Sodom’s coming day of judgment (see Matthew 10:15; 11:24; Mark 6:11).

    Those who partook of those perversions will have their chance to know God. As will those who died in New Orleans. The destruction that came to these cities—although it was a last resort—will have been worth it.

    For more on knowing God and understanding His plan of salvation, please request a free copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s Mystery of the Ages.

    Miseducation of America’s College Students

    From the November 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

    What is really happening in today’s colleges and universities?

    A couple of new books attempt to get to the bottom of the question. What becomes apparent is that for both students and faculty, the very function of universities as places of learning seems increasingly archaic.

    The average student spends 12 hours a week in class and 13 hours a week (supposedly) studying. So what do students do the rest of the time? It may come as no surprise, but these books contend that, apart from working off-campus jobs, students party wildly, get drunk, “hook up,” and participate in other such unhealthy activities. They largely choose their classes according to what fits their schedule—or their social life (i.e. avoiding early morning or Friday classes). Heavy drinking often begins on Thursday night or earlier. Alcohol poisoning fatalities have increased drastically.

    The solution the education system has come up with is to fill the students’ lives with extra-curricular programs to “keep them out of trouble.”

    In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Naomi Schaefer Riley, referring to the connection between the rise of drinking on campus in recent decades and the introduction of grade inflation, suggests another, more fundamental, solution.

    “Experience shows that students who regularly fall down drunk or drag themselves around campus hung over are rarely prepared for class. What if it became hard to get good grades in college without devoting, say, at least 40 hours a week to attending classes and actually studying for them? One suspects that the alcohol problem—and many problems derived from idleness—would sort themselves out” (August 25).

    True: Rather than insisting on achievement—on studying and learning—educators have simply lowered the bar. For example, one of the above-mentioned books was written by a professor who, after going back to school for a year before writing her book, came to the conclusion that because reading is not a priority for students, in the future she would assign her students less to read.

    This is the kind of thinking that will ensure the education system becomes ever more inept. The drop in educational standards of recent years, while perhaps disguising the problem for a while, has perpetuated it. The incentive for students to study hard in order to achieve is becoming a thing of the past.

    It seems our modern education system has for the most part forgotten its purpose: to educate!

    But while educational standards are a huge part of the problem, they are by no means the whole story. Read our July 2005 article “The Ailing State of American Universities” to find out more on the state of the U.S. educational system and what the true solution is.

    Oil and the Terror Premium

    From the November 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

    Even before Hurricane Katrina, oil prices were skyrocketing. Contributing to their rise is a $5-to-$20-per-barrel “terror premium.”

    The price of oil in the U.S.—a net importer of oil—is subject to conditions far outside its borders and its control. Political instability in Venezuela, Nigeria and Iraq, as well as the heightened risk of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, cause great concern for oil companies. Doing business in these areas is risky for these companies, which must face corrupt governments, destruction of facilities from terrorists (such as in Iraq), and internal strife.

    Stratfor noted this point: “The energy markets are dealing with a terror premium from the fear that the next militant attack could come anywhere, and a war premium from the Iraqi situation. Taking into account the heightened global awareness of political violence, the world has a combined premium anywhere from $5 a barrel to $20 a barrel, depending on what analysis you rely upon” (August 19).

    According to Congres sional Quarterly, this “terror premium,” which has contributed to record-high oil prices, is likely to remain (July 27). With growth in demand outstripping supply and spare oil capacity dwindling down to 2 percent of global demand, the oil market is highly susceptible to price hikes.

    The fact that spare-oil-producing capacity has dwindled to 1.5 million barrels a day means that a single terrorist attack on a major supply line could cause a massive shortage. Experts figure it would take a spare capacity of 6 million barrels per day to ensure that no single terrorist attack would cause a shortage.

    In an oil crisis simulation called Oil Shockwave, co-sponsored by Securing America’s Future Energy (safe) and the National Commission on Energy Policy, experts sought to discover what would happen to oil production as a result of terrorist attacks and regional instability. According to safe President Robbie Diamond, the simulation proved “that even relatively small reductions in oil supply will result in tremendous national security and economic problems for the country” (pr Newswire, June 24).

    The simulation of a supply disruption of just 3.5 million barrels of oil, in a global market of 83 million barrels, resulted in gas prices rising above $5 a gallon, oil prices rising to $161 a barrel, a decline of the gross domestic product for two consecutive quarters, and the U.S. current account deficit soaring to $1.087 trillion. Such an economic crisis could easily launch the U.S. economy into a recession and create an economic tsunami the world over.

    The effects of an oil supply disruption would be incredible and devastating. So what terrorist organization wouldn’t be tempted to try it?

    Ironically, high oil prices help fund terrorists. Iran, the biggest state sponsor of terrorism, holds 10 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and is opec’s second-largest producer. Is there any doubt that Iran uses a portion of that money to fund terrorist training camps and equip terrorists?

    Four years after the war on terrorism began, the U.S. still lacks the will to confront terrorism’s biggest sponsor. As a result, terrorism still runs rampant with the funding and support it needs.

    The experts are right. The terror premium is here to stay.

    Israel’s Bleeding Wound

    In the name of peace, an embattled nation declares war on itself.
    From the November 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

    In early September, news coverage got swamped with a nation-shaking disaster and a harrowing evacuation in the United States. The event overshadowed another evacuation—possibly just as nation-shaking—that had occurred not two weeks before on the other side of the world.

    Israeli soldiers called it the most difficult mission they have ever been asked to carry out in service to the democracy they love. With few exceptions, they dutifully obeyed orders to evict all 9,000 Jewish residents from their homes in settlements throughout the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank—even as they withered inside.

    In a gut-wrenching account printed in the August 23 Wall Street Journal, Israeli reservist Michael B. Oren well expressed the maelstrom of emotion he felt while following his orders: pride in his fellow soldiers, respect for his elected government, heartache for his dispossessed countrymen, fear for the future of his homeland.

    Oren described an illuminating scene that unfolded at one synagogue. Soldiers, before evacuating the people, granted them an hour of parting prayer; the settlers took two, and the soldiers entered. Encountering a grieving mob, they first tried to comfort them—and ended up breaking down themselves. “[S]oon,” Oren wrote, “soldiers and settlers were embracing in mutual sorrow and consolation.” Finally, before the sobbing people were escorted to evacuation buses, a request by the rabbi to address the soldiers was granted. “So it happened that 500 troops and 100 settlers stood at attention, with Israeli flags fluttering, while the rabbi spoke of the importance of channeling this sorrow into the creation of a more loving and ethical society. ‘We are all still one people, one state,’ he said. Together, the evicted and the evictors, then sang ‘Hatikvah,’ the national anthem—‘The Hope.’”

    And so it went. Lots of ache, but no arms. It wasn’t easy: Troops had to drag men, kicking and thrashing, out of their homes, while children sat by crying; at a children’s nursery, mothers stood outside holding tightly to their babies while soldiers collected toddlers; settlers ripped their clothes in mourning. But in the end, what was scheduled to take three weeks—with the Israeli government committing some 14,000 troops to the mission, the country’s largest-ever military operation outside of war—was finished in only a few days.

    “While the settlers’ overall restraint should be recognized, the bulk of the credit can only go to the [Israeli Defense Force],” Oren wrote. “Never before has an army relocated so many fellow-citizens against their will and in the face of continuing terror attacks with so extraordinary a display of courage, discipline and compassion.”

    Thus, a fragile nation carved into itself.

    Why? In the pursuit of peace.

    This evacuation is thought to be a step toward achieving peace in the Middle East. Many view it as the first phase of Israel’s retreat from land Palestinians want in order to establish their own state—which also includes the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    Sadly, however, this bitter sacrifice didn’t move the deadlock one inch closer to a solution. It achieved precisely the opposite.

    In addition to rending the hearts of Israel’s citizens, the action only inflamed the fervor of Israel’s foes—and quite possibly handed the worst of those enemies a base of operations for the next phase in their war on the Jewish state.

    While individual soldiers may have exhibited courage, discipline and compassion, the unilateral retreat they undertook on behalf of their government is a poignant reflection of the division, lack of national will, and depletion of faith that will soon prove to be a fatal wound for this embattled nation.

    What, after all, is going to happen in the Gaza Strip now that Israel’s watchful eye is gone?

    At War With Itself

    The Gaza pullout polarized Israeli society. Polls showed the Israeli populace split straight down the middle on the issue, with sizeable numbers on each side absolutely staunch in their belief that the other is dead wrong.

    The “ultranationalists,” as the press calls them, believe the Gaza Strip and West Bank are part of the land bequeathed to the Jews by God. Today, this is seen as the extreme view. It wasn’t always. Once, the nation was united in its determination to defend every inch of its land, firm in its belief that God was its protector.

    Today, however, faith in God is seen as thin stuff on which to base foreign policy.

    God specifically prophesied that because of Israel’s lack of faith and its disobedience to Him, the nation’s will would be broken (Leviticus 26:19).

    That is just what has happened. Wracked by division within and hostility without, a slight majority of Israelis now see retreat as their only way forward.

    This is nothing less than a mindset of resignation—a very public surrender to war-weariness. To think that it will produce peace is to ignore every lesson of history and every shred of logic.

    “Judah’s Wound”

    Territorial concessions have been a hallmark of the Arab-Jew peace process, which, as editor in chief Gerald Flurry has stated for almost a decade based on biblical prophecy, will prove to be “Judah’s wound.”

    The Bible refers to the present nation of Israel as “Judah” (hence the name Jew). In Hosea 5:13, the interesting word wound can be found. Gesenius’ Lexicon defines it, “the pressing together, binding up of a wound; here used figuratively of a remedy applied to the wounds of the state.” In other words, the remedyisthe wound!

    Look at the last 12 years of Israel’s history—since the Oslo agreement in 1993—and one can easily see what a wound it truly is to trust in your enemies to guarantee your protection—enemies who have a self-declared and oft-proclaimed mission to crush you from existence, no less.

    Throughout this “peace process,” Israel made concessions based on the premise that the Palestinians would become satisfied, and hence friendly neighbors. But with each concession, terrorist attacks only increased—a trend that openly exposed the utter falseness of this reasoning.

    Israel’s first territorial concession in its modern history came in 1979, when it turned over the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Since then, the Jews have surrendered numerous pieces of strategically important land to the control of the Palestinians in return for empty promises of peace.

    This latest withdrawal, however, is the first complete territorial withdrawal since the Sinai.

    And whereas withdrawal from the Sinai came with a promise of peace by Egypt (which more accurately could be described as a state of non-war), the Gaza withdrawal doesn’t even involve the pretense of a peace agreement by the Palestinians. They have made no commitment to stop their war against Israel. The Palestinian Authority refuses to disarm the terrorist group Hamas, which, along with other militant organizations, maintains its commitment to Israel’s ruin.

    Appeasement and Defeat

    Gaza has been a critical component in Israeli internal and foreign policy ever since the nation won it in the 1967 Middle East war. During this time, however, it has given Israel no end of trouble. For over a decade, weapons have been smuggled to Palestinians across the Egyptian border through a complex network of tunnels. The Gaza Strip has been a base of operations for some of the worst Arab-Israeli savagery.

    It has come to the point where, according to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, it is “no longer realistic” for Israel to hold on to Gaza (Associated Press, August 17).

    To the Palestinians, that statement reads, “Israel admits defeat in Gaza.” We are tired of fighting. We will leave our homes, our businesses, our land. We’ve had enough; we’re getting out. Please, just give us some peace.

    A top Hamas figure in Gaza, Ahmed al-Bahar, was a little more pointed in his assessment of the withdrawal: “Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today following more than four years of the intifada. Hamas’s heroic attacks exposed the weakness and volatility of the impotent Zionist security establishment. The withdrawal marks the end of the Zionist dream and is a sign of the moral and psychological decline of the Jewish state. We believe that the resistance is the only way to pressure the Jews” (New York Sun, August 9).

    The Arab militants first saw this approach work in southern Lebanon, when Israeli troops withdrew in 2000. After years of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah, the price in violence became too great for Israel to remain there. In fact, some say it was that withdrawal that inspired the Palestinians to begin the intifada that has yielded the same result in Gaza.

    Though presented by Sharon as a strategic decision in the interests of Israel’s security, the withdrawal is seen as a momentous victory for terrorism by the Palestinians. A joint Israeli-Palestinian public opinion poll in June found that 71 percent of Palestinians believe Israel’s Gaza withdrawal is a triumph for the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel.

    Gaza’s Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, stated in an interview, “I stress that the resistance was what drove the occupation out of the Gaza Strip” (Jerusalem Post, August 22).

    To the Palestinians, 400 attacks in Gaza over the past five years have paid great dividends. And how can they not view it this way? Does anyone believe Israel would have given up conquered territory to its enemy if 1,200 of its people hadn’t been killed in the past four years? The message from Israel to the Palestinians is, terrorism works.

    “It certainly wasn’t good Palestinian democrats who believe in the rule of law that persuaded Israel to give up Gaza,” said Arnaud de Borchgrave (United Press International, August 17).

    In Hamas’s words, on a banner in downtown Gaza City, “Four years of sacrifice beat 10 years of negotiations.”

    The disengagement was accompanied by mass celebrations by the Palestinians; chief among them were members of Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

    “You can tell a lot about a political or historical event by looking at who’s celebrating it—and in this case it should be obvious that anything which gives Hamas encouragement is most assuredly a dangerous and foolhardy mistake” (IsraelNationalNews.com, August 16).

    As the withdrawal from Gaza began, various Palestinian terrorist groups held rallies and marches of celebration and victory. Masked gunmen marched in a Hamas procession; hundreds of Democratic Front supporters marched through the streets; a Fatah/al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades procession was attended by hundreds of armed men; supporters of the Popular Resistance Committees fired guns into the air and burned Israeli and American flags; Palestinian Islamic Jihad held a procession that included a military show by its terrorist-operative wing; a Fatah faction also had a parade featuring a military show and gunfire. In addition, Islamic Jihad put on an unprecedented military seaborne parade to celebrate its “victory.” About 50 boats filled with militants wielding assault rifles, rocket-launchers and Palestinian flags sat off the Gaza coast.

    The weeks that followed saw repeated victory parades and shows of military force by the various terrorist groups. The day after the last of the Israeli troops vacated the Gaza Strip, Hamas held its largest rally ever. Spokesmen for the different groups made clear their commitment not to disarm but rather to continue their armed struggle against Israel.

    If Israel hoped to appease the Palestinians by feeding them land, retreating from Gaza was a clear and abject failure.

    Abbas’s True Colors

    The Gaza pullout has reinforced the trend of Palestinian popular support swinging toward Hamas and other terrorist groups. Hamas in particular is likely to perform well in next January’s Palestinian parliamentary elections, thanks to the role it is perceived to have played in securing Israel’s retreat.

    Though the hopes of many for peace are still pinned on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he has virtually no control over Palestinian terrorist organizations, and he apparently risks losing the sympathy of his people by taking a peaceful approach.

    In fact, if we take Abbas as his word, he shares the same goals as the terrorists—and even sympathizes with their methods. In the days following the Gaza pullout, he practically sounded like a Hamas spokesman. To a gathering of Palestinians who had been wounded in hostilities against Israel, he said: “The credit for the evacuation is for you and for the martyrs who sacrificed themselves and gave their lives for the homeland” (Associated Press, August 22). IsraelNationalNews.com reported September 4 that, in a recent speech to Gaza students, Abbas patently praised suicide bombers: “They receive their reward in the Garden of Eden,” he said, reminding the students that martyrs and suicide terrorists “brought about the withdrawal from Gaza.”

    Thus, even this “moderate” politician, who enjoys the confidence of the United States, has openly acknowledged that terrorism works. How much of an actual difference is there between him and the terrorist groups he is meant to rein in?

    Gaza’s New Tenants

    With all Israeli military installations dismantled and troops gone from the Gaza Strip, terrorists are now free to build up stockpiles of weapons and launch rocket, mortar or missile attacks into Israel.

    And that is just what they have done.

    Immediately after the idf completed its evacuation, thousands of Palestinians flooded into the former Jewish settlements, destroying, vandalizing, burning and looting. They even destroyed greenhouses and an industrial center donated by pro-peace groups intended to help the Gazan Palestinians by providing 26,000 jobs and a dependable source of export revenue. Despite pledges to Israel guaranteeing post-evacuation security, Palestinian Authority and Egyptian police did little to stop the rampage. Not a good sign of things to come.

    Terrorist groups exploited the period of disorder to transfer hundreds of terrorists, along with their weapons, from neighboring Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Just a few days of weapons smuggling included hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank rockets and bomb components, according to Israeli military assessments.

    As the Israeli Defense Force completed its withdrawal on September 12, two Kassam rockets were fired from Gaza over the border into Israel—one landing close to a tent city of expelled Gazan Jews, the other near a city in southern Israel.

    Of course, Israel reserves the right to enter at will to counter any threats. But that will come at its own increased price—possibly an unleashing of a deadly round of terrorist strikes on Israel.

    In a not-very-veiled threat, the military wing of Hamas posted a statement on its website in August that included: “Any Zionist violation of the liberated territories after the withdrawal, be it a violation of the land, sea or air space, will be encountered by force. We reiterate that the presence of any Zionist soldier or settler in the liberated territories, crossings or border areas would mean fighting this presence with all available means” (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, August 20).

    (Thus we see what a “liberated” Palestinian-controlled area is to be: completely devoid of Jews. Meanwhile, of course, within the Jewish state Arabs are free to live, work, vote, even seek government office. Consider: How would the world respond if the Jews became adamant about eliminating Arabs from within their borders?)

    Apart from home-grown Palestinian violence that the Gaza withdrawal will no doubt promote, there is also the probability of an influx of reinforcements. Surrounding Arab states see the withdrawal as an opportunity to offload some of the Palestinian refugees in their countries. Considering the lack of jobs available in Gaza and the resulting social discontent, terrorist recruitment among the local population is likely to flourish.

    As for controlling the Strip’s borders, Israel, again, faces a no-win situation. If it allows the Palestinians to operate a seaport and airport, it opens the door to smuggled weapons. If it doesn’t allow open borders, the territory will stagnate economically even more, providing a breeding ground for terrorism.

    Then there is the potential problem of the Egyptian/Gaza border, with the Israelis turning over border security duties to the Egyptians. Egyptians harbor a deep and age-old resentment against the Jews. Despite a certain “peace” existing between the two countries today, armaments have steadily flowed over the Egyptian border to the Palestinians for years. Though the present Egyptian government cooperates with Israel in trying to control the border, if a more radical Islamic government comes to power in that country (which we can expect to happen at some point), Israel’s security situation could suddenly become far more desperate.

    Israel’s Desperation

    Clearly, as Israel retreats, violence is bound to advance. Few dispute this reality.

    One Israeli politician recently said, “A unilateral withdrawal is not a recipe for peace. It is a recipe for war.” These words weren’t uttered by a staunch opponent of the Gaza withdrawal. They are the words of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon—the one who fought half his own cabinet to make it happen.

    In early 2003, in fact, it was the very issue of withdrawal from Gaza that gained Sharon the prime ministry—as an opponent of it. (Later the very same year, Sharon joined his political rivals on the issue.)

    It was Sharon who actually led the campaign to persuade Israelis to settle there after the Six Day War in 1967. For the last 40 years, it was he who drove the campaign to settle Israelis on land that the Palestinians wanted to claim—working in various ministerial posts building settlements for over 20 years, and as settlements minister under Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

    In one instance, in the mid-1970s when he was an adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, he even joined squatters in resisting soldiers who had come to evacuate them from land in the West Bank (Advertiser, August 20).

    A commentator in one Israeli paper wrote, “We will not forget, Mr. Sharon, your recurring statements year after year: ‘Go to the hilltops,’ ‘Settlement protects the State of Israel,’ ‘Settlement protects the coastline’ and so forth” (Hatzofe, August 17).

    Sharon’s about-face epitomizes the desperation of Israel and the futility of its current strategy.

    A measure of the truly muddled thinking behind the Gaza retreat came on June 9, in a speech by Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the Israel Policy Forum in New York. He said that withdrawing from Gaza “will bring more security, greater safety, much more prosperity, and a lot of joy for all the people that live in the Middle East.” He then explained, “And we all desperately need it. We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors.”

    Truly, Israel is in retreat.

    In the face of enemies bent on its destruction, it hardly stands a chance of survival if it is not only tired of being a target, but also tired of winning!

    Addled and weary, Sharon has trashed his reputation as a warrior, and, like his predecessors, taken a reckless route. He has pushed increasingly daring measures to try to break the deadlock with the Palestinians: building a security wall to separate the Jews from the Arabs; releasing Arab prisoners from Israeli jails—and now the evacuation of Jewish settlements.

    Sharon’s reasoning, it is said, is that this withdrawal will decrease international pressure (particularly from the U.S., its primary patron) on Israel and thus make it easier to hold on to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    This is very mistaken thinking. The U.S. itself faces a war against Islamic terrorism, and one of the stated reasons for the anti-Americanism driving the terrorism is America’s support for Israel. As America’s problems intensify, we can expect to see the U.S. question more and more whether its support of Israel—against Arabs—is really worth it.

    Then there is pressure from Europe, which Bible prophecy indicates will become more involved in the Middle East peace process as time goes on. The European Union has made quite clear its position on the matter of Israel’s territorial concessions. Last October, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that the Gaza withdrawal would be a good first step but that it must be followed by a full and complete withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Jerusalem Newswire, Oct. 24, 2004).

    Will even a reinvigorated terrorist campaign stop the international community from pressuring Israel to compromise further? Not if history is our guide. As one commentator declared, “Untroubled by facts, [Israel’s critics] will demand further Israeli withdrawals” (New York Times, August 9).

    As for Sharon’s own stated intentions not to give up the larger settlements in the West Bank or Jerusalem, his backflip on the Gaza settlements belies such pledges.

    In fact, the history of Israeli politics since the start of the misnamed peace process is strewn with instances of Israel’s leaders going back on promises in desperate hopes of achieving a state of peace.

    Ironically, the fact that the withdrawal was relatively smooth and quick—despite expectations of possible violence and a prolonged operation—could actually work against Sharon. Instead of highlighting the huge sacrifice Israel has made, thereby decreasing pressure on it to go further, it could do just the opposite. Certainly, for the Israeli settlers who wanted the withdrawal to be so painful and politically costly that no government would ever attempt such a disengagement again, the success of the withdrawal is undoubtedly a huge setback.

    And of course, it has given the Palestinians the assurance that Israel is quite capable of retreating from land they claim as their own.

    Jerusalem Next?

    Though the Palestinians will certainly accept the gift of the Gaza Strip, Israel‘s concession will do nothing to slow them in their drive for the control of Jerusalem. “Our march will stop only in Jerusalem,” asserted the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, Ahmed Qureia (New York Sun, August 9).

    At a mass rally in Gaza the week of the withdrawal, about 10,000 Palestinian Arabs celebrated in the streets, singing, dancing and chanting, “Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem.”

    The Palestinians also make no secret of the tactics they plan to use. “Now, after the victory in the Gaza Strip, we will transfer the struggle to the West Bank and later to Jerusalem,” said Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Zahar (Jerusalem Post, August 17).

    Further, Zahar stated: “Neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip, nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don’t recognize the State of Israel or its right to hold on to one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims” (ibid.).

    How much clearer could he have made it?

    The Israeli withdrawal from four settlements in the northern West Bank will make way for Hamas and these other militant groups. Hamas has announced its plan to move its base of operations to the West Bank. The Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various Palestinian terror groups operating in the Gaza Strip, is transferring its rocket-making and other military technology to the West Bank.

    Israeli military officers reported that, since early in the year, Palestinian terror groups have sought to deploy heavy weapons into the West Bank, with the assistance of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

    Former Labor Party Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami is worried about what the Palestinians may do next: “A unilateral retreat perpetuates Israel’s image as a country that runs away under pressure,” he stated. “In Fatah and Hamas, they will assume that they must prepare for their third intifada—this time in [the West Bank].”

    What was supposed to be a step toward peace will more likely prove to be the spark igniting another intifada.

    What Is to Come

    Israel’s critics say that all the Palestinians want is for Israel to give them the “occupied” territories. That all their hate-mongering, suicide bombings, terrorist attacks will stop if they could just create their own state.

    But the Arab-Israeli conflict can never be solved by territorial concessions. Quite simply, the Arabs have a fundamental problem with Israel’s very existence. Eighty percent of Palestinian Arabs deny the Jewish state’s right to exist. As long as Israel exists, Arabs will seek its destruction. To believe anything else is to deny history, reality and the Arabs’ own declarations.

    Territorial concessions will always be seen as a sign of Israeli weakness and galvanize the Arabs in their quest for full victory. After Israel’s Gaza concession, terror and violence will only get worse in this war-ravaged nation!

    As Gerald Flurry states in Jerusalem in Prophecy, “Through the peace process, Judah has become vulnerable to the enemy, with very little freedom to strike back. … Soon the whole world will see what the Arabs saw all along—that the peace process is a wound from which the Jews will never recover!”

    The Palestinians have their eyes set on Jerusalem. No concessions, talks or agreements can ever stop them from seeking control over this much-coveted city.

    In this, the Arabs are prophesied to succeed. Referring to Zechariah 14:2, editor in chief Gerald Flurry forewarns, “East Jerusalem—one half of the city—will be conquered by the Palestinians!” (ibid.).

    Zechariah 14:1-2 state, “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”

    Mr. Flurry explained, “This prophecy revolves around the Day of the Lordthe end time. We are living in that time right now.

    “Christ prophesied that He would ‘gather all nations’ to battle Him in Jerusalem. Then He makes what might appear to be a strange statement. One half of Jerusalem is to be taken captive. That crisis triggers a series of events that leads to the return of Jesus Christ! One half of Jerusalem being taken captive is like the first domino to fall, leading to Christ’s return and battle against all nations in Jerusalem! It all begins and ends in Jerusalem. But what a glorious end!

    “The nation of Israel was established in 1948. At that time the Jews only had roughly one half of Jerusalem. The Arabs had East Jerusalem. Zechariah 14 is also a prophecy that the Jews would conquer all Jerusalem, because in order for half the city to be taken just before Christ returns, the whole city has to be controlled by the Jews now. That happened in the 1967 war.

    “So the prophecy in Zechariah 14:1-2, which has not yet been fulfilled, has to happen between 1967 and the Great Tribulation. Jerusalem is going to be totally captured in the Tribulation (Revelation 11:1-2). Many prophecies tell us that.

    “Today the Arabs live in roughly one half of Jerusalem. They just don’t control it—yet” (Trumpet, November 1997).

    The tragedy currently unfolding within the embattled State of Israel brings the day of the fulfillment of this prophecy nearer.

    Israel’s deadly wound will bleed that little nation to death.

    Look again at Hosea 5:13: “When Ephraim [speaking of modern Britain] saw his sickness, and Judah [today’s Israel] saw his wound, then sent Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.” Finally, in a desperate diplomatic frenzy (involving Britain), Israel will cry out to the Assyrian—the presently uniting European power with Germany at its head—for protection as its last hope for survival as a nation. It will, one last time, try to remedy its plight through a peace pact.

    “The Israelis will finally see that their peace pact with the Palestinians has failed. The Jews really only see the effect of their wound. They don’t see the cause. That is why they turn to Germany for another peace pact! This time they place their trust in an even greater enemy! Once again they fail to trust God” (Jerusalem in Prophecy).

    Catholic Europe has been waiting for years for just such a request. By then bristling with military might, it will respond to the call—ready to finally fulfill its ambition in the Holy Land. With anarchy reigning between Arab and Jew, Europe will intercede and impose “peace” on the region. “He [the European power] shall enter also into the glorious land [Jerusalem], and many countries shall be overthrown” (Daniel 11:41). Jesus Christ Himself prophesied that this intervention would be anything but peaceful: “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” (Luke 21:20). What will appear to be a sincere effort to establish security in the Holy City will end up being a grisly repetition of the Crusades!

    The stage is already being set. But as the outlook for Israel grows more bleak, the day nears when Jerusalem finally—rather than being a source of conflict—will become the focal point and the source of a genuine global peace.

    With reporting by Donna Grieves