Since it seems to have become our custom, we will begin our update again this week with the weather.
For the first time in several weeks Washington DC and the East Coast were not affected by extreme winter weather. However hail, heavy rain, strong winds and flash floods pummeled parts of the South and the Midwest. As I noted last week these storms were predicted, but thankfully there were no deaths and very few injuries reported. Tornadoes touched down in Missouri and Texas, and large hail fell in Texas and Arkansas. The National Weather Service had been very concerned about the magnitude and intensity of the storms, but the threat did not evolve catastrophically.
By the way, Secretary of State John Kerry canceled his planned trip to Israel this past Tuesday saying the framework for peace negotiations had hit an impasse and were at risk of failing. Whew…. Relief from pressure on Israel to divide the land and storms in the US that did not reach their anticipated intensity. Are these related? In light of historical evidence it is something to consider. We’ll get back to Kerry, Israel and the Palestinians in a bit.
In Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 we find the record of Jesus Christ’s Olivet discourse to His disciples where He prophesied of the events that were to take place before His second coming. We find written in Matthew 24:6-8: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Obviously we are aware of ongoing wars and conflicts in nearly every part of the earth, and there are reports of food shortages and famine in many countries due to weather events and/or conflicts. And in just the last couple of weeks we have been made aware of a significant Ebola outbreak in a few West African countries. This coupled with various influenza outbreaks in China and the Far East and resurgence of polio and other viruses around the world including the United States, pestilence seems to be on the rise as well.
In fact pestilence is affecting more than the human population. There have been reports of large numbers of fish dying in lakes, streams and oceans around the world; birds both wild and domestic have seen large instances of “die off” in various parts of the world; and in the US alone it is estimated that over 40% of the nation’s swine have been lost due to a new viral disease.
So then, that brings us back to the weather and natural events. This past week we have seen a number of earthquakes around the world many ranging between 4.0 and 8.0 on the Richter scale. In fact there are some interesting numbers out of Oklahoma. From 1975 until 2008 the state of Oklahoma recorded less than six earthquakes a year. From the period between 2008 and 2012 Oklahoma recorded 278 earthquakes that registered 3.0 or greater, and in 2013 there were 222 earthquakes which registered 3.0 or greater. And now in 2014 in less than four months state of Oklahoma has registered 253 such tremors.
These numbers and percentages of increase are reflected in most states in the US, and in fact a similar percentage of increase in frequency is reported in every country and every continent around the world. And, that being the case, this increase certainly cannot be blamed on “fracking” alone, because this practice is not in use in every oil-producing country, and certainly isn’t in use in countries that do not produce oil.
And since we’re looking at seismic activity, the Earth’s crust, and natural disasters; last week seven volcanoes in six different countries began erupting within hours of each other. Volcanoes in Japan, Mexico, Vanuatu, Guatemala, Italy, and Indonesia (Mount Sinabung and Mount Merapi) all began belching lava and ash. Ash clouds from 4 to 6 miles high were reported over these volcanoes, and in some cases interrupted airline flight patterns. So many volcanoes throwing so much gas, ash and particulates into the air can have an effect on climate, this is a scientific fact. I’m not saying that these volcanoes herald the start of a new ice age but the planet certainly seems to be getting a bit more active of late.
Continued large eruptions put a huge amount of particulate matter into the atmosphere, and these particles reflect sunlight away from earth and when there is enough of them the temperatures can drop. Aside from the devastating effects the lava and ash can have on the lives of those living near to them, due to crop and property losses, and other economic factors, the global impact can be enormous. These losses can lead to many hardships including hunger and famine as is evidenced after the Tambora eruption of 1815, and the Icelandic eruption of Eyjafjallojkull in 2010.
These earthquake and volcanic spasms of the earth continue to come without warning, but at the same time these spasms should be a wakeup call to all of us that we are indeed living in perilous times, and as Christ foretold; “all these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Israel and Palestine
Well now, as I mentioned before John Kerry postponed his latest trip to the Middle East. The Secretary of State said that the United States was evaluating whether to continue its role in Middle East peace talks after claiming that both the Palestinians and Israelis had taken steps that were not helpful to the negotiations. Kerry said that it was “reality check time” because there was a limit to the amount of time United States could spend on the peace process. Saying it was important to keep the peace process moving, but that “in the end, it is up to the parties,” Kerry said; “This is not an open-ended effort, it never has been. It is reality check time, and we intend to evaluate precisely what the next steps will be.”
I wrote last week that a senior Palestinian official had admitted that the only reason the Palestinians had entered into the negotiations for peace was to secure the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners (most of whom are terrorists). This statement set off a chain of events which has led to this impasse. After hearing the comments of Palestinian official, Israel decided not to release the final 26 prisoners they were scheduled to release as a condition for these ongoing talks. Following that Mohammed Abbas signed 14 UN conventions including the Geneva Convention and has positioned the Palestinians to sign up to 25 more in an effort to move Palestine closer toward Statehood recognition by the UN.
Additionally Abbas has made new demands on the Israelis including;
- Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
- The release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners.
- Israel must release three senior-level prisoners: Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Sa’adat and Fuad Shobaki.
- Israel must cease settlement construction.
- The PA is to be given sovereignty over Area C in the West Bank (the area Knesset Member Naftali Bennett wants to annex)
- Israeli military operations must stop in PA-controlled territories and “reunion” permits are to be issued for 15,000 Palestinians.
- The border crossings must be reopened and the blockade on the Gaza Strip lifted.
- The Palestinian gunmen who were deported to the Gaza Strip and Europe after they sought shelter in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem must be allowed to return to the West Bank.
The Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, said Wednesday the Palestinians may seek to join the International Criminal Court and more U.N. agencies if there is no progress in peace talks with Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised retaliatory measures on Sunday after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made the unilateral moves towards statehood (moves which the PA agreed it would not make while the “Peace” talks continued). While not immediately specifying what action he would take, he said Israel remained willing to press on with U.S.-brokered peace talks, but not “at any price”.
Also in Israel, the IDF struck militant targets in the Gaza Strip this past weekend after Palestinians renewed rocket fire into Israel.
Israeli security source confirms Assad regime recently used chemical weapon. According to Israeli security assessments, Syrian government forces used non-lethal substance on March 27 against rebel fighters near Damascus. Despite the assertion by the security source that the chemical is nonlethal, some reports suggested that four people were killed in the March 27 attack. The “Syria Deeply” website cited the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a group of Syrian-American doctors and surgeons traveling in and out of Syria, as condemning what it described as a “poisonous gas attack” in Harasta.
After President Obama’s visit with the Saudi King last week sources inside (Sunni) Saudi Arabia say it is apparent to them that the Obama administration has sided with (Shiite Iran). The Obama administrations interference in the Middle East has brought an end to Sunni controlled governments in Egypt and Libya while doing very little to end the Shiite regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria. Interestingly neither Obama and the US delegation nor the Saudis brought up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the talks. It is widely understood that the Saudis have adopted the idea that the enemy (Israel) of my enemy (Iran) is my friend. The Saudis are indeed as concerned that Iran may achieve nuclear capabilities as Israel is.
Meanwhile Vladimir Putin continues to take advantage of every foreign policy failure of the Obama administration. He has opened doors for communications with the Saudis, the Egyptians, and Palestinians, while maintaining his relationships with Syria and Iran.
The Russian takeover of Crimea and it’s continued presence along Ukrainian border have fostered rebellion among Russian speaking citizens of Ukraine which I believe will eventually lead to Russian takeover. Ukrainian troops have dug in at border in a stare down with Russian troops. Braced against the driving snow, fresh-faced newly conscripted Ukrainian soldiers stare over the border with Russia, waiting to attempt to fend off an invasion from Russian troops amassed on the other side.
As China continues to exert pressure on its neighbors in the South China Sea by claiming more and more territory, the US State Department issued a statement warning China not to attempt annexations such as that done by Russia with Crimea.
One day after China brought US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on board its first aircraft carrier as the first foreign visitor, its defense minister warned that no one, not even the United States, could contain its military ambitions. Gen. Chang Wanquan said; “With the latest developments in China, it can never be contained,” and that the US is “a country of worldwide influence, and the Pacific Ocean is huge enough to hold both China and the US for common development and also huge enough to hold the other Asia-Pacific countries.”
Again, the Obama administration has weakened the United States in influence economically, politically, and militarily throughout the world. This my friends is another “sign of the times” (see our Blog post “Biblical Prophecy; what is still to come? ~ Part 1”).
Keep your Eyes on Israel, and keep looking for the return of our Lord because; Jesus is Coming Soon!