Camp David: There is no peace in sight for the city of peace
The writer is a former television-news anchorman, investigative reporter and Ambassador College theology student. He is commentator for the Tomorrow radio and television programs produced by Church of God members in the U.S. Northwest. His book Are We Living in the End Time? details an up-to-date view of secular society and trends that relate to end-time prophecies. Write Mr. Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rod Hall
SPOKANE, Wash.--After 14 days of sometimes intense negotiations, the Camp David peace talks ended with no agreement and with a deadline for the declaration of a Palestinian state drawing near. A trilateral statement released by the parties to Camp David said the "negotiations were unprecedented in both scope and detail."
However, as an American official summarized: "Jerusalem was the nut we were unable to crack."
Although Israel and the Palestinians promised to resume negotiations soon, reaction in the Middle East reminded Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat that they do not have full support for their peace efforts back home.
The dispute over Jerusalem is about history and religion, not simply real estate. Jerusalem is just too important a symbol to both the Israelis and Palestinians for either to compromise.
Perhaps nowhere else in the world are religion and politics so complicated and so concentrated in such a small plot of land. Ancient and passionately held beliefs and religious sites make the city central to the identity of three of the world's great religions.
Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in 1950. However, the United States and most other countries keep their embassies in Tel Aviv to avoid stepping in the middle of the conflict over who is the city's rightful ruler.
Israel still insists on keeping sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem. It offered the Palestinians limited authority in Arab neighborhoods and unhindered access to their holy sites.
That's not enough, say the Palestinians. They want Israel to return all the territory it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, except for the Old City's Jewish quarter.
The Palestinians demand sovereignty over East Jerusalem and want to make it the capital of a new Palestinian state they may declare later this year.
Pope John Paul II has urged that Jerusalem be governed under international protection.
The deepest differences that mark the 52-year-old dispute remain unresolved. The turbulence that has been the hallmark of Jerusalem's history for more than 3,000 years is likely to continue.
Continuing trouble prophesied
Prophesies in Joel, Zechariah and elsewhere imply an organized, significant Jewish presence continuing in and around Jerusalem, but trouble, controversy and infighting among its neighbors is likely to continue until the end of our age.
Just before Jesus intervenes, a great gathering of armies from every nation will attack Israel. Zechariah explains that "it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it" (Zechariah 12:3). His words echo with a striking resonance down to our time.
Jerusalem will be divided. "Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city" (Zechariah 14:1-3, NKJV).
This shows a divided city with part of its population directly attacked and removed. As the major world powers are drawn into this developing inferno, Jesus must intervene to prevent utter catastrophe (Luke 21:25-28, 35; Matthew 24:22).
Leading to these cataclysmic end-time events will be a scenario that appears to offer peace for the region. A temporary pseudopeace will be negotiated in the region with the help of an outside power other than the United States and a leader called the "prince who is to come" (Daniel 9:27; 11:23, 28-29).
The "70th week" of Daniel 9 reflects a time gap from what was previously fulfilled in the preceding 69-week prophecies in Christ's day. This gives end-time significance to this often-misunderstood passage.
The final seven years will begin when the end-time ruler, or prince, will be looked upon as a hero for at long last bringing a peace to this troubled region.
But the time of peace will be brief. Halfway through the seven-year peace agreement, after three and one-half years, the prince and major powers enter the area with force, leading to the final major battles just before Christ's return (Daniel 9:26-27, 11:31; 12:11-13; Revelation 13:5).
Although many in the Churches of God have traditionally felt the prince described here referred to Christ as the Messiah, for several reasons he is most likely the same end-time leader who will set up the abomination of desolation and the one described as the "beast" in Revelation 13 and 17.
The interpretation of "he" that begins verse 27 is crucial to understanding this prophecy in its fulfillment. In normal laws of reference, a pronoun refers to the last preceding person mentioned. In this case it is the "prince [or ruler] who will come" of verse 26 rather than "the Anointed One" of the earlier portion of that verse.
This prince destroys Jerusalem and the sanctuary. Yet Jesus never did. And He came to install and mediate the New Covenant, not confirm the old for one week.
Moreover, the death of Jesus did not cause the sacrifice and oblation to end as Daniel's vision reveals. The Jews continued to offer sacrifices until the Romans destroyed the temple.
Also, verse 27 shows that on a wing of the temple shall be one who makes desolate. This abomination remains until the consummation is poured out on the desolater. The returning Christ is the one who destroys the desolater.
In addition, a careful reading of Daniel 11 reveals that the king of the north, introduced in verse 21 as the "vile person," is the same one who places the "abomination of desolation" in verse 31 and is likely the same individual called the beast (Revelation 17:11-14). This is a pivotal event and sets in motion a three and one-half year countdown leading to Christ's second coming (Daniel 12:1, 11-13; Matthew 24:21).
Christ said: "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near" (Luke 21:20).
Times of the gentiles
He warns those who are there to quickly flee the area (verses 20-21). Jerusalem will be overrun by her enemies, until Christ returns and fights the aggressor nations (Zechariah 14:1-3).
"And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24, NKJV). This occurs just before the heavenly signs and Christ's second coming (verse 27).
Christ indicates then that the gentiles, or non-Jewish nations, will dominate Jerusalem until their time is fulfilled at His return.
The apostle John's vision in Revelation 11:1-2 also shows an end-time resurgence of the gentiles in Jerusalem, especially during the final three and one-half years just before Jesus returns (Matthew 24:21). This is the same time in which the two witnesses do their final work (Revelation 11:3-12).
The final end-time gentile world ruler will plant his presence firmly in Jerusalem by force of invasion (Daniel 11:40-45). Major persecution will break out against those who understand the truth (verses 30-35). This three and one-half year period will be completed when "the power of the holy people has been completely shattered [and] all these things shall be finished" (Daniel 12:7).
The term holy people can refer to either the descendants of Israel and Judah (Daniel 8:24; Isaiah 62:12) or God's called-out spiritual nation of Israel, which is God's church (1 Peter 2:9; Galatians 6:16; Romans 9:4-8).
During this final three and one-half-year period, both the Jews and God's church will be persecuted and scattered, and many will die (Revelation 7:9-17; 11:2; 12:13-17; 13:5-8, 11-18; 17:3-6,11-14). The city of peace will see no lasting peace until the Prince of Peace returns.
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