As Israel continues its April, 2002 confrontation with Palestinian terrorists in its most ambitious military campaign since the 1967 War, the eyes of the world have been inextricably drawn to Bethlehem. The seizure of the Bethlehem Church of the Nativity and sixty of its attendants by an estimated 250 Palestinians (200 reportedly armed) has put the Israeli forces in an extremely delicate situation.
Not only is there grave concern for the personal safety of the hostages, but also for the politically explosive religious site itself.
In 1996 the faithful servants involved with assembling these messages completed the 390th Message under our previous ministry name of "Raging Wind."
We then began a new series of messages under the present name of "Rapture Watch."
Our final Raging Wind Message in 1996 dealt with the forfeiture of Bethlehem by Israel to the Palestinian Authority. We will be sharing this updated Raging Wind message in light of the current developments in Bethlehem as Palestinian President Yasser Arafat leads the region in the slaughter of innocent men, women and children.
About 5 miles south of Jerusalem on a commanding height (or "Rama," Matt. 2:18) lies the city of Bethlehem, also known in Scripture as the city of David (Luke 2:4 & John 7:42) and Ephrath (Gen. 35:19). Lying 100 ft. higher than Jerusalem on a limestone ridge, the city of Bethlehem has had a unique role in Gods plan for the nation of Israel.
It was here that David was born and later anointed as the future king over Israel by the Prophet Samuel. The city of Bethlehem was later to be blessed with the greatest of honors. Through Davids royal line Mary, of the tribe of Judah was to give birth in Bethlehem to the Savior Jesus, the prophesied Messiah.
Bethlehem means "house of bread" and the name Ephrath means "fruitful." The prophetic relationship of the special names given to this city is realized in Jesus Christ. He is the true Bread of Life that was sent down from Heaven and the fruit bearer in His role as the Savior of mens souls. Jesus is the one and only Eternal King from the promised line of David.
David was a young man enroute to the city of Bethlehem. He came upon the scene of the giant Philistine Goliath spewing forth humiliation and degradation against the warriors of Israel. It was a time of great shame in Israel as the Philistine continually berated the Israelites in a challenge for their God-given kingdom.
When David saw the mocking giant he was moved to take up the challenge. David slew the Philistine and after that Davids fame and renown grew (I Sam. 17:36). David grew up to become the greatest of Israels earthly kings. It was King David of the tribe of Judah who conquered Jerusalem.
Our next look at Bethlehem can be found in Matt. Ch. 2 & Luke Ch. 2. Our focus is upon a woman named Mary as she is forced to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a government census. It is an extremely long distance to traverse for a woman about to enter into labor. The birth of her baby Jesus in Bethlehem would later be the reason for the greatest of sorrow as King Herod, another Palestinian ancestor through the Edomites, will have all the innocent children 2 years and younger slain in Bethlehem in hopes of killing the prophesied future King.
Thirty-three years later Mary would witness her sons murder. The life of Jesus would end as the most evil and despicable crime against innocence committed by mankind, yet would at the same time be the most glorious voluntary act of love the world will ever know.
Bethlehem has been chosen by God to rise above tragedy and to bring forth glory, victory and hope to Israel and the world.
It is with this perspective in mind that we look upon the abandonment of Bethlehem by Israel to the Palestinians, the modern-day Philistine heir.
In passages such as Zeph. 2:5-7 it has been revealed that the inhabitants of ancient Philistia would possess portions of Israel at the close of the age. It is also just as evident, when all the prophetic passages are seen as a whole, that the Palestinians will turn on Israels overtures of peace and in so doing will be brought to ruin.
With this foreknowledge in hand we will consider some words of Yasser Arafat after the Palestinians took possession of Bethlehem on Dec. 22, 1995. Quoting from the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph article of Dec. 24, 95 which headlined, "Bethlehem cheers triumphant Arafat" we read the following quotes from Arafat: "We pronounce this holy land, this holy city, the city of the Palestinian Jesus, a liberated city forever, forever, forever! Tomorrow my brother Elias and I will celebrate together and for the first time the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ under the Palestinian flag and tomorrow we shall meet and pray in Jerusalem at the Al Aksa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher." The article stated that the second "tomorrow" mentioned was figurative. It is with great interest that we review these words spoken in Bethlehem by a temporarily closeted enemy of Israel.
In the past, David of Bethlehem defeated the Philistines greatest champion Goliath with just a single stone. Now the modern-day Philistines possess the very city of David and the birth place of the Messiah Jesus Christ as their own and claim it "forever, forever, forever." Arafat wants Bethlehem because in his mind its possession by the Palestinians represents a final victory over Israel by a modern-day Goliath - himself.
Now his eyes are set on the very soul of Israelis identity and the place of their Messiahs death and resurrection. When Arafat declared in Bethlehem, "tomorrow we shall meet and pray in Jerusalem," he was not speaking of just going as a visitor, but as the man who plans to dispossess the ownership of Jerusalem from the descendants of Judah and the tribes of Israel.
The headline from the Dec. 31, 95 Co. Spgs. G.T. read, "Arafat turns eyes toward Jerusalem." Zech. 12 prophecies Israel will never relinquish Jerusalem and Zech. 9:5-9 reveals that Bethlehems present renown foreshadows once again days of tribulation and innocent deaths before the glorious victory a coming King will bring.
Our final quote from Arafat is the most startling of all when he stated that "I will celebrate for the first time the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ." To make such a statement in Bethlehem along with his declaration that "tomorrow we shall pray in Jerusalem at the Al Aksa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher" in actuality contains the utmost of disdain for the Scriptures and for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yasser Arafat absolutely does not recognize Jesus as his Lord. Arafats verbal assent to Jesus being his Lord was made with the sole intention of having the Christians support him in his bid for Jerusalem.
False praise also came out of King Herods mouth for Jesus when all the while in his heart he was plotting the murder of Christ (see Matt. 2).
The Al Aksa Mosque, which is part of the worship site of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, declares its Islamic disdain and rejection of the deity of Jesus Christ. Engraved throughout the structure of the Dome of the Rock are Moslem denunciations that God ever could have had a son. Jesus said in John 5:23, "He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him."
Arafats other reference to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher being his second destination for prayer in Jerusalem further shows his intentions. This gloomy, idol-laden Roman Catholic edifice beckons Arafats attention because of the power of the Pope and the Vaticans like-minded future stake in gaining control over Jerusalem.
He believes that just as elsewhere in the world, once Islam is fully established in authority it will inevitably silence and then eradicate both Judaism and Christianity.
The fatal flaw in Arafats plan is that he is not just dealing with history and mens mere ideologies which wax and wane over time, but with the living God who knows every mans thoughts.
The God of Israel Who was born as a man child in Bethlehem almost 2,000 years ago and fulfills every intention of His heart watches over His people of destiny (Isa. 9:6).
In Zech. 9:9-10 after having spoken of the Philistine in Gaza in these last days, the Lord tells of His second coming to Jerusalem. The first time almost 2,000 years ago as the Savior King, the second time soon to transpire as the warrior and conquering King.
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth."
Jesus Christ "the Lord shall inherit Judah His portion in the Holy Land and shall choose Jerusalem again" (Zech. 2:12).
Today is the day to put your complete faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins before the trumpet of God sounds and the final number of the heaven-bound Church is tallied (I Thess. 4:15-18).
The Rapture of the Church to glory is even at the door and
the approaching days of unimaginable tribulation echo today from
Davids voice in Bethlehem when he told Goliath, "This
day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike
you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the
carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the
air and the wild beast of the earth, that all the earth may know
that there is a God in Israel" (I Sam. 17:46).