UPDATED 21st August 2017

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AUDIO SERMONS BY TONY & PATRICIA HIGTON:

Tony and Patricia met at theological college and have spoken together in many places around the world for many years.

RECENT SERMONS:

We must crucify the old nature Gal 5:1, 16-25 (Tony 26.06.16, 18 mins)

 New birth, living hope, eternal inheritance 1 Peter 1:3-9 (Tony 03.07.16, 18 mins)

 Getting to know God better Col 1:15-20 (Patricia, 17.07.16, 15 mins)

 God is in Christ, Christ is in us Col 2:6-15 (Tony 24.07.16, 22 mins)

 Listen to God, Submit to God then God will provide Psalm 81:1, 15-16 (Tony 28.08.16, 20 mins)

 How to be a true disciple Luke 14:25-35 (Tony 04.09.16, 18 mins)

 The Bible 01 – Inspiration 2 Tim 3:16-17 (Tony 25.09.16, 14 mins)

 The Spirit of power, love and self-discipline 2 Tim 1:1-14 (Tony 02.10.16, 17 mins)

 The Bible 02 – How to interpret Scripture – Different types of literature (Tony 09.10.16, 19 mins)

 The Bible 03 – A glimpse at the first five books of the Bible (Tony 23,10.16, 21 mins)

The Bible 04 – A brief look at the historical books in the OT (Tony 12.11.16, 25 mins)

The Bible 05 – A glimpse of the prophetic books in the OT (Tony 27.11.16, 24 mins)

The Bible 06 – An overview of Paul’s epistles (Tony 08.01.17 25 mins)

EARLIER SERMONS

“The vital importance of prayer” 1 Thess 5:17 etc (Tony 16 mins 11.10.15): A church must pray together other than in services.

“God’s plan for the universal church” (Tony 18.10.15 19 mins): God wants a united church not a conglomeration of individuals.

“God’s plan for the local church” Acts 2:42-47 (Tony 01.11.15 13 mins): God wants the local church to be a deeply committed fellowship

“The church as the Body of Christ” John 17:11-23 etc (Tony 01.11.15 17 mins): Jesus prayed that each church would experience deep unity in diversity.

“Baptism is not enough” 1 John 5:9-15 (Tony 06.12.15 11 mins): We must also invite Jesus into our lives.

“The church is the bride of Christ” Rev 21:1-14 (Tony 13.12.15 17 mins): The church must constantly prepare for the ‘marriage supper of the Lamb

“Gentiles are heirs together with Jews” Eph 3:1-12 (Tony 03.01.16) 17 mins)

The gifts of the Spirit are important for the church” 1 Cor 12:1-11 (Tony 17.01.16 19 mins): The gifts of the Spirit are available today.

“We have a glorious Lord” Luke 9:28-36 (Tony 07.02.16 15 mins): The Transfiguration shows how awesome Jesus is.

“The many ways Satan tempts us” Luke 4:1-13 (Tony 14.02.16 22 mins).

“As God’s chosen people put on love” Col 3:12-17 (Tony 16.03.16 19 mins)

“Knowing Christ” Php 3:4b-14 (Tony Mar 13th 18 mins)

“Taking sin, the Cross and Resurrection seriously Acts 10:34-43 (Tony Mar 27th 20 mins).

“Overcoming fear” John 20:19-31 (Tony 03.04.16 19 mins).

“St John’s understanding of Jesus as God” John 21:1-4; Rev 5 (Patricia 10.04.16 15 mins).

“The new heaven and new earth” Rev 21:1-6 (Tony 17.04.16 18 mins).

“Overcoming fear” John 20:19-31 (Tony 03.04.16 19 mins).

 “St John’s understanding of Jesus as God” John 21:1-4; Rev 5 (Patricia 10.04.16 15 mins).

 “The new heaven and new earth” Rev 21:1-6 (Tony 17.04.16 18 mins).

 “Longing for more of God” Psa 63 (Tony 01.05.16 13 mins).

“Living by faith” Luke 7:1-10 (Patricia 18 mins 29.05.16)

“The priority of loving God” Gal 2:15-21 (Tony 16 mins 18.06.16) There is a lot of loving neighbour in society but little loving God.

 Go to http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/sermons.html and click the appropriate link.


 

1. TO ENCOURAGE A SENSIBLE APPROACH TO ESCHATOLOGY (THE DOCTRINE OF THE END TIMES, THE RETURN OF CHRIST, ETC).

Many Christians (including Christian leaders) neglect this, either because they don’t feel competent to deal with it or because they are embarrassed by unbalanced extremists. I want to help rectify this by providing Christian teaching and also comment on current events and trends, with particular reference to anything relevant to Jesus’ teaching on the signs of the End Times. I try to take a constructively critical, extensively researched approach. I have completed the main (systematic) section with teaching on the subjects listed below. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/eschatology.html for both a Full (more detailed) Version and a Summary Version.

However you will find Updates on Eschatology on the blog below (which have also been incorporated into the main website above) and you are welcome to comment on them here.

2. TO INFORM PEOPLE ABOUT THE ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

For a number of years I lived and ministered in Jerusalem, leading an international organisation whose aim is to share the gospel sensitively with Jewish people and leading Christ Church, Jerusalem. Since then I have been seeking to inform Christians about the need, pain and fear on BOTH sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, because God loves both sides. See http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk/index.html. My recent newsletter on the Israel-Gaza conflict is at http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk/newsletter.html.

3. TO MAKE CONSIDERED PROPHETIC COMMENT ON CURRENT EVENTS AND TRENDS.

See below on the blog.

4. TO PROVIDE FREE, PRACTICAL, USER-FRIENDLY RESOURCES FOR CHURCHES AND INDIVIDUALS

These include apologetics (defence of the faith), biblical material, church development, church issues, devotional articles, doctrinal resources, evangelistic, interfaith and pastoral issues. Additions will be made to these materials. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/

ESCHATOLOGY (END TIMES) SUBJECTS COVERED
The signs of the End
Will there be a sudden, secret “Rapture” of believers to heaven?
The ‘Great Tribulation’ and the Antichrist
Secular eschatology – What secular scholars are predicting about the future of the world
The Battle of Armageddon & Cosmic signs
Old Testament Eschatology
The return of Christ
Will there be a literal Millennium?
End times judgment
Approaching death
Resurrection
The destruction of world
The truth about Hell
The hope of Heaven
Appendix: Understanding the Book of Revelation
Appendix: The Place of Islam in the End Times

What about the Good News?

I am aware that, in focusing on eschatology and prophetic comment on the news, I frequently major on bad news rather than good news. Does that mean I’m only interesting in doom and gloom? No, not at all. However, there is a lot of doom and gloom in New Testament eschatology, and we must take it seriously alongside the love, joy, peace and eternal life which results from the gospel.

Jesus himself told us to watch for negative signs of the time: wars and rumours of wars, famine, disease, earthquakes, persecution, church decline and apostasy, false prophets and messiahs, great distress (tribulation) and worrying events in the heavens. The rest of the NT has a fair amount of doom and gloom about the End Times. After all, the Book of Revelation is hardly light-hearted

So I major on giving updates on some disturbing “signs of the times”: artificial intelligence, church decline, genetic engineering, global warming, Islam, oppression & persecution of Christians, secularisation & societal decline, matters of sexuality, significant political developments, terrorism and war, world poverty, etc.

We have to take note of such things if we are to obey Jesus who said: “Watch out that no one deceives you … keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt 24:4, 42-44).

Having said all this, I do come across Christians who take eschatology seriously but read almost everything in society and the church negatively – it’s all doom and gloom. And I don’t believe that is correct. There is a huge amount of good in the world (theologically-speaking, it is the result of God’s “common grace” or the “general work of the Holy Spirit”). We need to maintain the balance and I do seek to share some good news amidst my main emphasis of keeping watch and noting the “signs of the times.”

What is on this site?

NEW ON THE BLOG

The Threat to the Family 1. The importance of the family (August 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/the-threat-to-the-family-part-1-the-importance-of-the-family/

The Threat to the Family 2. Attacks on marriage and the family (August 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/the-threat-to-the-family-part-2-attacks-on-marriage-and-the-family/

Update on Societal Decline (July 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/update-on-societal-decline-july-2017/

Update on World Government and Political Oppression (July 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/justice/update-on-world-government-and-political-oppression-july-2017/

Update on Oppression of Christians (July 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/update-on-oppression-of-christians-july-2017/

Update on Secularisation (January 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/update-on-secularisation-january-2017/

Update on Persecution (December 2016) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-persecution-december-2016/

Update on Church Decline (Nov 2016) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/update-on-church-decline-nov-2016-2/

Update on Anti-Semitism http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/middle-east/update-on-anti-semitism/

Update on World Government and Oppression http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/update-on-world-government-and-oppression/

Update on Global Warming  http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/disease/update-on-global-warming/

Update on war and terrorism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/war/update-on-war-and-terrorism/

Is the UK more Christian than the rest of Europe? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/european-union/is-the-uk-more-christian-than-the-rest-of-europe/

Is the UK more pro-Israel than the rest of Europe? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/anti-semitism/is-the-uk-more-pro-israel-than-the-rest-of-europe/

Update on the decline of Christian Belief. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/update-on-decline-of-christian-belief/

What should be our attitude to the European Union? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/what-should-be-our-attitude-to-the-european-union-2/ 

Update on Pandemics. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/update-on-the-danger-of-pandemics/

Update on Middle East tensions. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/middle-east/update-on-middle-east-tensions/

I agree with Peter Tatchell over Ashers Bakery! See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/i-agree-with-peter-tatchell-over-ashers-bakery/

An update on social decline. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/justice/update-on-social-decline/

An update on Secularism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/update-on-secularism/

An update on anti-Semitism and some dangers in combatting it. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/evangelistic/an-update-on-anti-semitism-and-some-dangers-in-combatting-it/

World inequality. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/justice/world-inequality/

Richard Dawkins speaks positively about Christianity! See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/apologetics/richard-dawkins-speaks-favourably-about-christianity/

Update on the Oppression of Christians. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/update-on-oppression-of-christians/

Further update on terrorism and war. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/further-update-on-terrorism-and-war/

How do we recognise God’s judgment? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/how-do-we-recognise-gods-judgement/

Update on the serious implications of terrorism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-the-serious-implications-of-terrorism/

Update on the Church of England. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchdevelopment/update-on-the-church-of-england/

Update on homosexual issues. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchissues/update-on-homosexual-issues/

Update on trends towards world government. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-trends-towards-world-government/

Secularisation and non-religious spirituality. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/secularisation-and-non-religious-spirituality/

Why the church fails to teach about eschatology. See
http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/why-the-church-fails-to-teach-about-eschatology/

Chair of the Islamic Society of Great Britain says the next coronation should be Christian. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/chair-of-the-islamic-society-of-great-britain-says-the-next-coronation-should-be-christian/

Good news: Palestinian rescues 5 Jewish students under attack in the West Bank. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/middle-east/good-news-palestinian-rescues-5-jewish-students-under-attack-in-the-west-bank/

“Jesus will return this month”. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/jesus-may-return-this-month/

Jesus preached the present and coming Rule of God. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/jesus-preached-the-present-and-coming-rule-of-god/

“Street preachers must not preach about morality”! See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/street-preachers-must-not-preach-about-morality/

Christians and others under antichrist rule. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/christians-and-others-under-antichrist-rule/

John the Baptist said Jesus would baptise in the Spirit AND judge the impenitent. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/john-the-baptist-said-jesus-would-baptise-in-the-spirit-and-judge-the-impenitent/

Update on war and the threat of war. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-war-and-the-threat-of-war/

Former imam who attacked churches converts to Christianity. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/evangelistic/former-imam-who-attacked-churches-converts-to-christianity/

Tory MP says use anti-terror laws against teachers who say gay marriage is sinful. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/tory-mp-says-use-anti-terror-laws-against-teachers-who-say-gay-marriage-is-sinful/

The Bible predicts Jesus will rule over Israel. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/the-bible-predicts-jesus-will-rule-over-israel/

Update on Secular Eschatology. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-secular-eschatology/

“Birth pangs of the Messiah”. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/birth-pangs-of-the-messiah/

Iraqi Christian leader refused entry to US to advocate for persecuted Christians. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/iraqi-christian-leader-refused-entry-to-us-to-advocate-for-persecuted-christians/

Homosexual baker strongly disapproves of homosexuals bullying Christian bakers. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/homosexual-baker-strongly-disapproves-of-homosexuals-bullying-christian-bakers/

The Middle East situation and its effects on Christians and Israel. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/the-middle-east-situation-and-its-effects-on-christians-and-israel/

So the government wants to relax Sunday Trading laws. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/secularisation/so-the-government-wants-to-relax-the-sunday-trading-laws/

You personally can combat ‘Islamic State’. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/evangelistic/you-personally-can-combat-islamic-state/

Persecution is coming in the West. See
http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/persecution-is-coming-in-the-west/

Church growth and decline. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchdevelopment/church-growth-and-decline/

Anti-Christian attitudes in Britain: Tim Farron. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/anti-christian-attitudes-in-britain-tim-farron/

Muslim imam raises money for church vandalised by young Muslim. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/muslim-imam-raises-money-for-church-vandalised-by-young-muslim/

Former MI5 boss says Counter-Extremism Bill could be used against Christians. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/ex-mi5-boss-warns-counter-extremism-bill-could-be-used-against-christians/

David Cameron doesn’t understand religion. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/secularisation/david-cameron-doesnt-understand-religion/

Thank God for this Muslim leader’s comment. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/thank-god-for-this-muslim-leaders-comments/

Belfast Pastor to be prosecuted for saying Islam is Satanic. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/belfast-pastor-to-be-prosecuted-for-saying-islam-is-satanic/

Bishop encouraged Osama bin Laden. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/bishop-encouraged-osama-bin-laden/

What about the Irish referendum on gay marriage? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/what-about-the-irish-referendum-on-gay-marriage/

The Belfast “gay cake” controversy. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/the-belfast-gay-cake-controversy/

Serious trends in the present situation. See  http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/serious-trends-in-the-present-situation/

Will Artificial Intelligence be the end of the human race? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/will-artificial-intelligence-be-the-end-of-the-human-race/

Why we should take note of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/why-we-should-take-note-of-wars-famines-earthquakes-pestilences/

Update on the Signs of the End: Anti-Semitism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/update-on-signs-of-the-end-anti-semitism/

Update on the Signs of the End: Pestilences. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=837

Update on the Signs of the End: Nuclear Terrorism & War.  See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=842

Update on Signs of the End 03 – Persecution & Oppression. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=871

Update on the Signs of the End 04 – Preparation for the End: Movements towards World Government.See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=875

Update on the Signs of the End 05 – Global Warming. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk.blog/?p=883

Update on the Signs of the End 06 – Turning away from the Faith. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk.blog/?p=886

INDEX OF RECENT ADDITIONS

ATHEISM (SCIENCE & RELIGION)

Why have atheists started their own church? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=263)

A response to Stephen Hawking’s atheism (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=172)

Has science squeezed God out? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=93)

Hawking finally disproves God – or does he? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=70)

BIBLE

The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/Inspiration&AuthorityOfScripture%2001.pdf)

The nature of God in the Old Testament (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/NatureOfGodInTheOldTestament.pdf)

An outline of the Old Testament (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/AnOutlineOftheOldTestament.pdf)

The wind could have parted Red Sea for Moses (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=79)

CHRISTIAN LIFE

·         BIBLE READING

Why read the Bible? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=46)

·          FEAR OF GOD

There is no fear of God http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=333

Miserable Sinners? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=36)

·         FORGIVENESS

God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive everyone (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=156)

·         LOVE

Love is complicated – but good for you! (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=91)

·         PRAYER
·         RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST

What does it mean to “know” Christ? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=154)

CHURCH GENERAL

What is the best form of worship? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=60)

Why join a prayer group? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=40)

CHURCH OF ENGLAND

Is the Church of England in terminal decline? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=164)

Should we have women bishops? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=56)

CREATION & EVOLUTION (GENESIS)

How does the Genesis account of the Fall of Man relate to Evolution? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=186)

Recent Tweets/Facebook messages on Creation & Evolution (Genesis) http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=307

ESCHATOLOGY (END TIMES)

Should we be thinking frequently about the Return of Christ? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=224)

Hastening the return of Christ (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=222)

Can we ignore what the New Testament says about signs of Jesus’ return? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/CanWeIgnoreSingsOfJesusReturn.pdf))

Some thoughts on the Book of Revelation (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/SomeThoughtsOnTheBookOfRevelation.pdf)

The meteor/asteroid coincidence – what does it mean? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=256)

GOD & THE WORLD

How God operates in the world (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=181)

HOMOSEXUALITY

What about ‘gay marriage’? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=237)

Church of Scotland approves Ministers in homosexual relationships (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=168)

ISRAEL & MIDDLE EAST

Is it right to divide the Promised Land? http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=284

My attitude towards Israel and the Palestinians http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=277

The decline of Christianity in the Middle East (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=88)

World Council of Churches statement on the Middle East http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=398

Recent Tweets/Facebook messages on Israel (and the Palestinians) http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=309

 

JUSTICE

Innocent until proved guilty (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=158)

OTHER FAITHS

Respecting Muslims (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=73)

Christian Unity and Other Faiths (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=34)

My attitude towards Islam and Muslims http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=389

RECONCILIATION

Listen to both sides (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=43)

SCIENCE & RELIGION (SEE ATHEISM)

SECULARISATION OF SOCIETY

Is Britain anti-Christian? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=95)

·         DISCRIMINATION v CHRISTIANS

Discrimination against British Christians (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/DiscriminationAgainstBritishChristians.pdf)

Discrimination against British Christians: Update 1 (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=179)

GENERAL TOPICS

 “Watching violent videos encourages violence” – fancy that! (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=86)

Recent Tweets/Facebook messages on General Religious Topics http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=305

 

When Jesus was asked about signs of his return he included pestilences but made it clear that these were not a sign that that the End is near but what he called “the beginning of birth pains [of the Messiah]” – a reminder of and pointer towards the End.  Hence we should take note of them whilst praying for and helping those affected by them

The danger of man-made pandemics

 

There is concern amongst scientists about the danger of man-made pandemics.  Filippa Lentzos, a senior research fellow in the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine at King’s College London wrote about it in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in December 2014.[1] She pointed out that scientists are “tinkering with viruses to make them more deadly and more able to spread.” During the Cold War this was done in order to use them in biological weapons. But now it is done for “gain-of-function” experiments. These are experiments which enhance bacteria or viruses, giving them functions not found “in the wild” so that scientists can assess the danger of pandemics. There is real concern that such enhanced bacteria or viruses could escape and actually cause a pandemic. For example, scientists have created an enhanced avian flu which can spread between mammals, not just birds.

 

Then there is the problem of mistakes made by laboratories. In 2015 the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah mistakenly sent live anthrax to commercial labs in nine states – California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin – and South Korea. Gigi Kwik Gronyall, a senior associate at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, said that such mistakes are “a problem that happens pretty regularly.” In 2014 it was reported that high-security British laboratories handling very dangerous viruses and bacteria have reported over 100 accidents in the previous five years.

 

The effect of climate change

 

The World Health Organisation has stated that “climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.”[2] However other experts regard this as a conservative estimate. Even the warming of the oceans can cause an algal bloom (a rapid increase of the number of algae) which can cause infections to humans.

 

The effect of increased population movement

 

The increased global movement of refugees and others will clearly also spread infectious diseases. The WHO warns that Zika is spreading across the Americas and epidemiologists warn this could lead to 4 million cases per year over the continent. An article on Ebola in the science journal ‘Nature’ in January 2016 said: “there are other lethal viruses that could cause as much suffering as Ebola has in West Africa, or even more. This outbreak has demonstrated that the world is much more vulnerable to global epidemics than anyone realized two years ago.” It warned that “The world isn’t equipped to deal with international public-health crises, especially in poor countries.”

 

Failure to cope with epidemics

A recent UN report has warned that a global epidemic far worse than Ebola could kill millions because the world is not prepared to deal with such epidemics. The UN panel on the subject said that the World Health Organisation should set up a center for emergency response and that this centre “must have real command and control capacity” with the best surveillance technology. Countries must comply with this.[3]

 

There is real concern that the US declared measles eradicated in 2000 but by 2014 the country had 667 cases from 27 states. The question has been raised that if the US can’t prevent the spread of an easily preventable disease that “was eradicated” what hope is there of preventing more serious diseases?

 

Dr David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on Ebola, warned the world to prepare for more major outbreaks of diseases which can pass from animals to humans which he said were a “local and global threat to humanity”. He added that climate change was increasing the range of disease-carrying mosquitoes, causing a threat to millions more people from malaria, dengue fever, etc.

 

The effect of antibiotic resistance

 

The growing resistance to antibiotics is a huge threat to human health. It is estimated that some 25,000 people die every year in the European Union from infections caused by bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics and this could grow to 390,000 by 2025. Experts are warning that this could lead to routine operations becoming fatal and many drugs becoming ineffective. It is estimated that resistance to antibiotics could lead to 10 million deaths per annum by 2050. Some calculate this could cost the global economy $100 trillion.

 

 

[1] http://thebulletin.org/preventing-man-made-pandemic7856

[2] Fact Sheet No 266 Sept 2015. See http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/

[3] http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/HLP/2016-02-05_Final_Report_Global_Response_to_Health_Crises.pdf

There are some very significant serious things happening in the world today regarding persecution of Christians etc. Persecution is a sign of the End Times:

1. Christians ridiculed and oppressed in modern Britain

Michael Gove, former UK Education Secretary said that British Christians are ‘openly derided’ and ‘coolly dismissed.’ British culture belittles Christianity on a daily basis. He added that “To call yourself a Christian in contemporary Britain is to invite pity, condescension or cool dismissal. In a culture that prizes sophistication, non-judgmentalism, irony and detachment, it is to declare yourself intolerant, naive, superstitious and backward.

“Far from enlarging someone’s sympathy or providing a frame for ethical reflection, Christianity is seen as a mind-narrowing doctrine. Where once politicians who were considering matters of life and death might have been thought to be helped in their decision-making by Christian thinking — by reflecting on the tradition of Augustine and Aquinas, by applying the subtle tests of just-war doctrine — now Christianity means the banal morality of the fairy tale and genuflection before a sky pixie’s simplicities.

“The suspicion was that Christians helped others because they wanted to look good in the eyes of their deity and earn the religious equivalent of Clubcard points securing entry to Heaven. Or they interfered in the lives of the less fortunate because they were moral imperialists — getting off on the thrill and power of controlling someone else’s life and impulses. Or, most disturbingly of all, they were looking to recruit individuals — especially in our schools — to affirm the arid simplicities and narrow certainties of their faith.

“This prejudice that Christian belief demeans the integrity of an action is remarkably pervasive. And on occasion singularly vehement.

“One of the saddest moments during my time as Education Secretary was the day I took a call from a wonderfully generous philanthropist who had devoted limitless time and money to helping educate disadvantaged children in some of the most challenging areas of Britain but who now felt he had no option but to step away from his commitments because his evangelical Christianity meant that he, and his generosity, were under constant attack.

“I suspect that one of the reasons why any suggestion of religious belief — let alone motivation — on the part of people in public life excites suspicion and antipathy is the assumption that those with faith consider their acts somehow sanctified and superior compared with others. ”

Andrew Brown, writing in the Guardian, agrees with Gove and asks why this has happened over Christianity. He puts some blame on militant atheists but adds: “But the real problem is the slow drift of religion into a category separate from the rest of life and thought. Religions that work have nothing to do with faith: they are about habit and practice, and the things that everybody knows. Gove quotes the Book of Common Prayer, which I also was brought up on, and love deeply. But it’s gone now. It will never again be a book of common prayer. The more that any religion becomes distinct from the culture around it, the weaker and weirder it becomes. Of course it can flourish as an embattled and angry sect. But Christianity in England has not been like that for at least 1,000 years. Seventy years ago, TS Eliot could write that dogs and horses were part of English religion, as much as bishops were part of English culture. That’s now very much less true, and it’s hard to imagine a conservatism that could ever bring it back. ”

More recently Victoria Wasteney, a senior NHS occupational therapist, was suspended for nine months for trying to convert a Muslim colleague, Enya Nawaz. Victoria offered to pray for her Enya who spoke of her health problems. Enya agreed and Victoria prayed for her with the laying on of hands. She also gave her a book about a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity. Then Enya complained to their employer. A disciplinary panel accused Victoria of “bullying and harassment.” The case was taken to an employment tribunal which upheld the panel’s verdict.

Don Horrocks, Head of Public Affairs at the Evangelical Alliance, commented on similar cases: “There remains a clear reluctance to tackle infringement of freedom of conscience and the emergent hierarchy of human rights, which has left people of faith firmly at the bottom and often wondering whether in practice religion and belief is a protected right at all. There is a long way to go to achieve parity and equality on a fair playing field with other rights. When rights conflict, the test of equality legislation is whether it results in genuinely fair outcomes for everyone. If one group of protected rights is consistently trumped by others then equality is not working. Equality is important, but unless it is expressed fairly in the context of recognised diversity then it can become oppressive and end up being wielded as a blunt weapon to silence those we disagree with.”

2. The level of persecution of Christians is higher than ever, much of it by Muslims.

There continues to be an increase in the persecution of Christians worldwide and it is becoming more intense in more countries of the world.

According to Open Doors (an international ministry serving persecuted Christians and churches worldwide) “Overwhelmingly the main engine driving persecution of Christians in 36 of the top 50 countries in Open Doors World Watch List is Islamic extremism. The most violent region is the states of the African Sahel belt where a fifth of the world’s Christians meet one seventh of the world’s Muslims in perilous proximity.”

Open Doors continues: “In 80 per cent of the 50 countries in the [Open Doors] World Watch List, Islamic extremism is a key persecution engine. Islamic extremism has two global centres of gravity: one in the Arab Middle East and the other in sub-Saharan Africa.”

We are all aware of the evil activities of extreme Islamists, Isis, Boko Haram etc. But Open Doors makes the following important statement: “The most violent persecutor of Christians in Northern Nigeria in recent years is the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, who have bombed churches and shot pastors. It’s an unsubtle attempt to smash the church. But in fact, for most Christians, the greatest threat comes from a creeping cultural Islamisation which has been stealthily progressing since the 1980’s, until Christians suddenly realise they are second class citizens in a culture that was once hospitable to them, and is now hostile to them. This ‘squeeze’ is as much a denial of freedom of religion and belief but cannot be tracked by monitoring specific incidents.”

Christians have faced increasing levels of persecution in the Muslim world. Muslim nations in which Christian populations have suffered acute discrimination, persecution and in some cases death include the following according to Emily Fuentes, communications director at Open Doors USA:
• Countries with extreme persecution: Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Maldives.
• Countries with severe persecution: Saudi Arabia, Libya, Yemen, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Kenya, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Djibouti.
• Countries with moderate persecution: Palestine, Brunei, Jordan, Comoros, Tanzania, Algeria, Tunisia, Malaysia, Oman.
• Countries with sparse persecution: Mali, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Morocco, Niger, Bahrain, Chad.

It was disturbing to read a Sky News “British Muslims Poll” dated 20th March 2015 which found that 39.8% of British Muslims (and 46% of women) did not believe it was the responsibility of Muslims to condemn terrorist acts carried out in the name of Islam, while 28% of all Muslims (including 33% of women and 32% of under-35s) said that they had a lot or some sympathy with young Muslims who had left the UK to join fighters in Syria.

In the TV programme “Killing Christians” Nadine, a 13 year old Iraqi girl said very movingly (with obvious depth and sincerity): “The Christian religion is about love and peace. I feel very sad because the devil has taken Islamic State over. I will pray to God to enlighten their minds. Whatever happens, we will not give up our religion. We will not abandon Christianity, never.”

3. Islam is projected to be the largest religion in the world by 2100.

The Pew Research Center, an American think tank which provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends, has recently published the first formal demographic predictions about “The Future of World Religions.” Together with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, it has gathered data from more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers, which has taken six years to complete.

It reports that, at present rates, Islam will grow faster than any other religion (twice as fast as the world population), partly due to fertility rates, and by 2050 will nearly equal the number of Christians in the world. Muslims, which numbered 1.6 billion in 2010, will then number 2.8 billion, or 30% of the population, and Christians 2.9 billion, or 31% of the population. In Europe, where 5.9% of the population are Muslim currently, 10.2% of the population will be Muslim by 2050. By 2070 the number of Muslims will equal the number of Christians (32% of the world population). By 2100 1% more of the world’s population would be Muslim than would be Christian

Between now and 2050, according to present rates, 40 million will convert to Christianity but 106 million will leave Christianity, most of them joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated. For example, in the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050. The population of Europe is projected to decline and the number of Christians is expected to decline from 553 million (three quarters of the population) to 454 million (two thirds of the population).

However elsewhere in the world the number of Christians is expected to grow, although as a percentage of the population the number will decline except in Asia and the Pacific.

So Islam will grow increasingly dominant in the world, doubling in numbers by 2070 and becoming the biggest religious community in the world. Muslims will almost double in number in Europe too. Christianity will continue to grow but a massive 106 million are projected to leave Christianity by 2050. Incidentally, this is hardly the love of most [Christians] growing cold (Matt 24:12) but it is a massive turning away from the faith.

4. We must remember that Islam is an antichrist (alternative Christ) religion.

I know I’m on sensitive ground. I’m not agreeing with those who resent Muslims being here or having equal rights and equal respect. Such attitudes are wrong. I am concerned about the implications of the spiritual dominance of Islam.

I always want to show respect to people of other religions and, where possible, to show respect for what they believe. Nevertheless I do believe it is right to make necessary criticisms of their beliefs too. This is the case with Islam. My most serious criticism of Islam is that it is an antichrist religion (“anti” in the original meaning of “in place of”):
• It has a false view of Jesus (Isa): he is not divine, did not die on the cross and so did not rise from the dead.
• But this Jesus will return to kill the Antichrist (as viewed by Muslims) and to set up a short period of peace and justice before dying.
• This Jesus will be a committed Muslim. Christians and Jews will join him in the Islamic faith. All religion other than Islam will be wiped out.
This Jesus is antichrist, i.e. an “alternative” Christ who ends up opposing the true church.

5. Israel under Netanyahu is likely to provoke very strong reactions from around the world isolating her.

Another significant factor in the current situation is the political situation in Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu has been re-elected as Prime Minister of Israel. Just before the election he stated that if he was elected there would be no Palestinian state. His subsequent attempt to back off from that position is not seen as convincing by many people. He has also seriously upset President Obama and the US government. It seems clear that Israel is going to suffer much more political pressure and to become more isolated in the world. The Palestinians are likely to take Israel to the International Court of justice for alleged war crimes. In view of the bleak prospects over the peace process it is also inevitable that violence from some Muslim sources will erupt. Anti-Semitism is growing. The re-establishment of the State of Israel is itself a sign of the End Times but the prospect, prophesied in Scripture, of the nations eventually turning against Israel is, to say the least, increasingly credible. However, one must be aware that one (but only one) factor is Israel’s current political intransigence over Palestine.

6. Conclusion

So we have a situation where:
• Christians are being ridiculed and oppressed in Britain.
• The worldwide level of persecution of Christians is higher than ever, most of it by Muslims.
• Islam, the fastest growing religion, is projected be the largest and most dominant religion in the world by 2100.
• Islam is an antichrist religion.
• The re-established State of Israel is being increasingly isolated, pressurised and in danger of violent attack.

It seems obvious to me that all this mainly recent news has relevance to what the NT predicts about the Signs of the End.

Is the idea of robots taking over the world just the stuff of fiction? Not according to people like Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates. It is interesting to take notice of what is called Secular Eschatology. Some secular scholars take more notice of the future and its dangers than some Christian scholars. Hawking told the BBC in December 2014: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” He added: “It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate.”

In May 2014 Stephen Hawking with two other Professors of Physics and a Professor of Computer Science wrote an article in which they said: “So, facing possible futures of incalculable benefits and risks, the experts are surely doing everything possible to ensure the best outcome, right? Wrong. If a superior alien civilisation sent us a message saying, ‘We’ll arrive in a few decades,’ would we just reply, ‘OK, call us when you get here – we’ll leave the lights on’? Probably not – but this is more or less what is happening with AI. Although we are facing potentially the best or worst thing to happen to humanity in history, little serious research is devoted to these issues.”

Elon Musk, founder of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), said: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that.
With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.”

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, commented on Artificial Intelligence (AI): “I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

Hawking, Musk and Gates, alongside hundreds of computer scientists and technologists, signed an Open Letter on “Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence.” The letter, referring to AI, stated: “The potential benefits are huge, since everything that civilization has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools AI may provide, but the eradication of disease and poverty are not unfathomable. Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls … We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial: our AI systems must do what we want them to do … we believe that research on how to make AI systems robust and beneficial is both important and timely.”

Other scientists take a different line. Professor Mark Bishop says that understanding and consciousness are fundamentally lacking in so-called ‘intelligent’ computers so “a human working in conjunction with any given AI machine will always be more powerful than that AI working on its own.” He believes this will prevent the dangers Hawking and others are warning of.

Dr Dan Handley believes that a computer could not enslave humans unless it had a desire to do so “but computers rely pure on logic, not emotion.” He thinks computers can only be taught to feign emotion, not actually to be emotional.

Professor Alan Winfield believes that the risk of computers bringing about the end of human civilisation “while not impossible, is improbable.”

Maciamo Hay, a researcher in genetics, points out that an AI is a computer which cannot act beyond the digital realm. It could modify its software (computer programmes) but not its hardware (machines). To do the latter without human involvement would require robots which could get raw materials and build machines without human assistance. He added that the computer would need to transfer its data to another machine if it was to avoid slowing down as it got older. Some researchers think it would be possible to achieve such conditions.

The power of computers

What is certain is that computers are becoming more and more powerful. Ramez Naam, Director of Program Management at Microsoft, said “It appears that a super-computer capable of simulating an entire human brain and do so as fast as a human brain should be on the market by roughly 2035 – 2040. And of course, from that point on, speedups in computing should speed up the simulation of the brain, allowing it to run faster than a biological human’s.”

Meanwhile robots are becoming more sophisticated. Kodomoroid, a Japanese android can read the news, recite tongue-twisters, speak multiple languages and interact with people. There are also ‘women’ robots with silicon skin and artificial muscles, which look eerily human.

There are robotic surgical systems. A robotic-assisted surgical platform is being developed. This would assist surgeons in “minimally invasive operations” giving them greater control and accuracy. Experts are working on robotic systems which could highlight blood vessels, nerve cells, tumours, etc., which would be difficult to see otherwise.

Another Japanese robot can understand facial expressions, gestures and tones of voice. The manufacturers claim: “For the first time in human history, we’re giving a robot a heart, emotions.” Another robot can play the violin and football and has opened the New York Stock Exchange. In 1950 Alan Turing said that a computer could be understood to be thinking if it convinced 30% of human interrogators in five-minute text conversations that it was human (the Turing Test). He predicted this would happen in about 50 years and there are controversial claims that this has been achieved.

Conclusion

Obviously the danger from Artificial Intelligence is not mentioned in Scripture. This is Secular Eschatology. Whether it will play a significant part in the future drama is unclear. But it is certainly something we ought to be aware of and to pray about.

The New Testament is quite clear that God has a continuing purpose for the Jewish people in Christ. Paul predicts that “All Israel will be saved.” Scripture also foretells attacks on Israel in the End Times. The continuation and even growth of anti-Semitism is a clear pointer to all this. It is a pointer towards the End Times.

A new anti-Semitism IS growing

The idea that anti-Semitism is growing, including in Europe, is controversial. Some surveys have been criticised as unreliable. What is the truth? I found it helpful to read what Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi says because he is a man of great integrity and intellectual ability. Writing in the Wall Street Journal in October 2014 he said: “This year, Europe’s Jews entered Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, with a degree of apprehension I have not known in my lifetime. Anti-Semitism has returned to Europe within living memory of the Holocaust. Never again has become ever again.”

He instanced a French synagogue congregation being surrounded by “a howling mob claiming to protest Israeli policy;” four people being murdered in a Jewish museum and a synagogue being firebombed in Brussels; a London supermarket feeling forced to remove kosher food from its shelves and a London theatre refusing to stage a Jewish film festival because it had received a small grant from the Israeli embassy.

He added: “More than once during the summer, I heard well-established British Jews saying, ‘For the first time in my life, I feel afraid.’ And Jews are leaving. A survey in 2013 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights showed that almost a third of Europe’s Jews have considered emigrating because of anti-Semitism, with numbers as high as 46% in France and 48% in Hungary. Quietly, many Jews are asking whether they have a future in Europe.”

Lord Sacks explained that in the Middle Ages Jews were hated for their religion, in the 19th and 20th century for their race and today for their nation state. “Israel, now 66 years old, still finds itself the only country among the 193 in the United Nations whose right to exist is routinely challenged and in many quarters denied. There are 102 nations in the world where Christians predominate, and there are 56 Islamic states. But a single Jewish state is deemed one too many.”

He believes the new anti-Semitism was started at the U.N. Conference against Racism at Durban in 2001 where “Israel was accused of the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide.”

Lord Sacks concluded: “Human rights matter, and they matter regardless of the victim or the perpetrator. It is the sheer disproportion of the accusations against Israel that makes Jews feel that humanitarian concern isn’t the prime motive in these cases: More than half of all resolutions adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council since 2006 (when the Council was established) in criticism of a particular country have been directed at Israel. In 2013, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a total of 21 resolutions singling out Israel for censure, according to U.N. Watch, and only four resolutions to protest the actions of the rest of the world’s states.”

There were a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK in 2014, many of them related to the Israel – Gaza conflict. The Community Security Trust recorded 1168 incidents compared with 535 in 2013. This was the highest number since records began in 1984. Most were verbal abuse but 81 involve physical abuse.

In France synagogues were firebombed and Jewish shops attacked. Gangs roam the streets shouting “Death to Jews.”

In September 2004, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, a part of the Council of Europe, gave examples of anti-Semitic comments on Israel:
• Denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour;
• Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation;
• Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis;
• Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
• Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.
Howard Jacobson recently wrote in the Independent: “A calm, responsible view of Israel, which includes understanding the rationale of its existence, might not make you like it or agree with it, but it will make you halt before the malicious caricature of it as a country unlike any other in its blood-thirst and intransigence, a caricature so reminiscent of the medieval figuration of Jews as Christ killers and child murderers that either the medieval imagination had it right and the Jew is indeed uniquely evil, or else the Jew, personified by Israel, is uniquely maligned.”

A 2013 poll of Jewish people for the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) found that 76% thought anti-Semitism had increased over the last five years, and 46% said they worried about being verbally assaulted or harassed in public because they were Jewish. A third were worried about being physically attacked, and 57% said they had heard or seen someone claim over the last year that the Holocaust was a myth or had been exaggerated.

John Mann, chair of the UK’s all-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism, was shocked by the poll and commented: “It is extraordinary that 75 years after the terrible events of Kristallnacht, Jews are again living in fear. The inaction of the European Commission in combating anti-Semitism is inexcusable.”

Danny Cohen director of television at the BBC has said he has “never felt so uncomfortable as a Jew in the UK” as it was revealed that anti-Semitic incidents in Britain hit record annual levels in 2014. He added that levels of hatred were on the rise across Europe. “You’ve seen the number of attacks rise, you’ve seen murders in France, you’ve seen murders in Belgium.”

The deceptive nature of anti-Semitism

Some anti-Semitism in various right wing political groups is quite deliberate and blatant. But a lot of it is more deceptive. Rabbi Sacks clearly shows how laudable concerns for justice for the Palestinians and legitimate criticisms of some of Israel’s actions can very easily mask or lead to perhaps unwitting anti-Semitism. The problem is that anti-Semitism (“the world’s longest hatred) is an underlying racist attitude and spiritual problem. It is a particularly pernicious and widespread form of racism. I have said before that the only explanation for its prevalence is that it is a demonic influence opposing God’s continuing purpose for the Jewish people. God has an End Time purpose for the Jewish people in Christ. The time will come, says Paul, when “All Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26) and this will have a dynamic influence on the world when Israel recognises her Messiah and proclaims him as such. The devil’s plan is, quite simply, to prevent this happening by destroying the Jewish people.

Consequently, we, especially those of us who, like me, are deeply concerned about justice for the Palestinians and do have legitimate criticisms of some of Israel’s actions, must be very careful not to fall into anti-Semitic attitudes. That does not mean that we should cease criticising Israel when appropriate. (I believe those who are really positive towards Israel will be critical of her at times. Christian Zionists who don’t make fair criticism of Israel are failing her). But it does mean we need to be self-critical so we don’t fall into an unbalanced, unfair criticism of Israel.

We also need to try to enter into the mind-set of Jewish people in general and Israelis in particular. Whereas history is a long time ago for us British Gentiles, the Jewish people are one of those groups who feel history is much ‘closer.’ To put it simply, the Holocaust happened yesterday. Not only that, some 2000 years of persecution preceded it. This ‘closeness’ of history engenders insecurity and in some cases understandable paranoia. Israelis have this insecurity. It’s obviously not altogether to do with history. There are countries and political groups today who are determined to destroy Israel. If we don’t understand this sensitivity we shall not understand Israelis and we won’t communicate effectively with them.
The evil of anti-Semitism is a clear sign of God’s End Time purposes for the Jewish people.

It should go without saying that our prime concern should be to pray for and, where possible, assist those affected by such traumas. It is, of course, a Christian responsibility to love one’s neighbour. This means we must defend and rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed and set them free; oppose injustice; provide food, shelter, clothing for the needy, hungry and oppressed (Psa 82:2-4; Isa 58:6-10). All this includes the foreigner (Zech 7:9-10). See also what Jesus says in Luke 12:33a and 14:13.

However, there is another reaction we should have to these traumas. The disciples asked Jesus: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3). Jesus replied at length but he first of all mentioned wars, famines, earthquakes and pestilences and he called them “the beginning of birth-pains.” This is a technical term meaning the birth pains of the Messiah, i.e. the traumas which will herald his return. He made it clear that they were early signs. Some Christians regard them as irrelevant but Jesus didn’t and, as you will expect, I’m going to agree with Jesus!

Someone will say: “But these things are always happening and have done throughout history. They will get worse just before Jesus returns (Luke 21:25-28) and it’s only at that stage they will be signs.” However, Jesus makes another very significant statement. He urges us all to keep watch – not at some time in the future but now – day by day.

He says: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matt 24:42-44). He goes on to tell the parable of the ten virgins to confirm his command to watch.

Mark reports him as saying: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:32-37).

How do we keep watch for the Lord’s return? I have noted elsewhere that Jesus wants us to think and live eschatologically. We are to pray regularly “Your kingdom come.” We are to celebrate communion and so “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” We need to live our lives in the light of the coming judgment (a very neglected truth today) and redemption.

Part of this keeping watch is to note the signs “the beginning of birthpains” which Jesus mentions in the immediate context of his command to watch. We must avoid naivety – thinking these very early pointers mean the Lord will come imminently, because many more things need to happen. But we are to see them as reminders of the Lord’s coming. They jog our memory. They help us to keep watch. This would not work if we only think of future signs. The signs will grow in intensity in the future. But we need to notice the lesser signs now.

The Lord’s command to us is to keep watch. Are we doing so, and, if so, how?