MT 16:2 He replied, "When evening comes, you say, `It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' 3 and in the morning, `Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times . . . "Similarly, in John 8 he was moved to rebuke both the leaders and the people of Israel (including some of his own disciples!), thusly:
43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say . . . 45 . . . because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!In short, conventional wisdom among the elites and highly popular views can be wrong, devastatingly wrong -- especially at those hinge-moments of history that the Greeks called times of kairos. (For, at such times, it can be terribly tempting to heed the call of folly and confidently march to its truth- and wisdom- suppressing drumbeat that tickles our itching ears with the stories we want to hear. Thus, those who heed the call of folly confidently march to ruin; as have ever so many communities now strewn across the ash-heaps of history.)
Instead, we must seek to truly and soundly understand our times for ourselves in light of God's word and relevant situational factors and trends that often do not make it into the headlines until it is too late to make a difference; to see what we should do.
So, as we continue to assess where we stand in this hour of global kairos, we must now turn to the implications of Islamist-Mahdist eschatology based on certain key hadiths (recorded, more or less authoritative traditions) of Mohammed.
In particular, Joel Richardson has given us an important summary excerpt on the relevant traditions, from the book The Approach of Armageddon? An Islamic Perspective (Canada, Supreme Muslim Council of America, 2003), by Sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabani – a chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America:
Hadith indicate that black flags coming from the area of Khorasan will signify the appearance of the Mahdi is nigh. Khorasan is in todays Iran, and some scholars have said that this hadith means when the black flags appear from Central Asia, i.e. in the direction of Khorasan, then the appearance of the Mahdi is imminent. [p. p. 231.]Richardson (NB: a protective pseudonym), aptly citing and summarising from several other Muslim sources, explains:
In Islam there are two flags. One is white and one is black. Written across both flags in Arabic are the words, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger”. [That is, the Shahada or core Islamic creed.] The white flag is called Al-Liwaa and serves as the sign for the leader of the Muslim army and is the flag of the Islamic State. The black flag is called Ar-Raya and is used by the Muslim army. It is also called the flag of jihad, and is carried into battle. One flag is governmental and the other is a military flag . . . .A Christmas 2006 Iranian Government press release examined in this blog in January 2007 gives further details from the (NB: significantly divergent but also quite parallel!) Shiite perspective, highlighting the roles of the Mahdi and Isa. First, some introductory remarks:
Islamic tradition pictures the Mahdi as joining with the army of Muslim warriors carrying black flags. The Mahdi will then lead this army to Israel [with the support of Prophet Isa, the Muslim eschatological "Jesus" figure] and re-conquer it for Islam. The Jews will be slaughtered until very few remain and Jerusalem will become the location of the Mahdi’s rule over the Earth. [Explanatory parentheses added.]
. . . mankind has not yet been able to eliminate poverty and remove the unequal distribution of income in the society, because of the unjust world order imposed by the so-called big powers, which by monopolizing science and technology terrorize weaker nations and plunder their wealth and natural resources . . . However, the exploitation of the weak, the unjust system of distribution and denial of the rights of nations, will end with the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (AS). In the government of the Imam man will witness real economic welfare throughout the world without any discrimination. The main issue in his global government is carrying out social justice and one of the main products of social justice is a highly developed economy that leads to the blossoming of moral and spiritual values as emphasized by the dynamic teachings of Islam.The account then gives details on the Mahdi's projected career:
. . . no source has pointed to the exact date when the Savior will appear and only God knows about the exact timing of the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (AS) . . . . Imam Mahdi and steadfast devotees will gather in Mecca . . . . After his appearance the Imam would remain in Mecca for some time, and then go to Medina. According to narrations Sofyani, a descendant of the Prophet’s archenemy Abu Sofyan will seize Syria and attack Iraq and the Hejaz with the ferocity of a beast . . . . many incidents take place in this line and finally Imam Mahdi sends troops who kill the Sofyani in Beit ol-Moqaddas, the Islamic holy city in Palestine that is currently under occupation of the Zionists. . . .Prophet Isa is also introduced:
The seat of the Mahdi’s global government will be the city of Kufa [in Iraq, a divergence from the Sunni view above], where his headquarters will be the Sahla Mosque, presently outside the city that was the home of Prophet Idrees or Enoch long before the great deluge of the times of Prophet Noah. From here he will dominate the east and the west to fill the earth with justice. [What such "justice" might mean for women and non-muslims, sadly, is exemplified not only by the notorious track record of the Iranian Mullahs and the Taliban, but also by a recent heart rending incident of a 13 year old girl in Somalia stoned to death for "adultery" after complaining of being raped; here.]
Another beautiful moment of the Savior's appearance is the coming down of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) from heaven. Hazrat Mahdi receives him courteously and asks him to lead the prayers. But Jesus says you are more qualified for this than me . . . Imam Mahdi will be the leader while Prophet Jesus will act as his lieutenant in the struggle against oppression and establishment of justice in the world. Jesus had himself given the tidings of the coming of God's last messenger and will see Mohammad's ideals materialize in the time of the Mahdi.Guyana-born Islam expert, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo of Barnabas Fund, adds:
“Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth as a Muslim, will marry and have children, then die and be buried near Muhammad. Some traditions assert that at this second coming He will destroy every cross, kill all Jews, convert the Christians to Islam, and reign as king of all Muslims.” [A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Islam, Christian Focus/Isaac, 2002., p. 22.]Richardson then sums up "the person and the mission of the Mahdi as he exists in the minds of many of the 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide":
The Mahdi is Islam’s primary messiah figure. He will be a descendant of Muhammad and will bear Muhammad’s name (Muhammad bin Abdullah). He will be a very devout Muslim.He will be an unparalleled spiritual, political and military world leader. He will emerge after a period of great turmoil and suffering upon the earth. He will establish justice and righteousness throughout the world and eradicate tyranny and oppression. He will be the Caliph and Imam (vice-regent and leader) of Muslims worldwide. He will lead a world revolution and establish a new world order. He will lead military action against all those who oppose him. He will invade many countries. He will make a seven year peace treaty with a Jew of priestly lineage. He will conquer Israel for Islam and lead the “faithful Muslims” in a final slaughter/battle against Jews. He will establish the new Islamic world headquarters from Jerusalem. He will rule for seven years (possibly as much as eight or nine). He will cause Islam to be the only religion practiced on the earth. He will appear riding a white horse (possibly symbolic). He will discover some previously undiscovered biblical manuscripts that he will use to argue with the Jews and cause some Jews to convert to Islam. He will also re-discover the Ark of the Covenant from the Sea of Galilee, which he will bring to Jerusalem. He will have supernatural power from Allah over the wind and the rain and crops. He will posses and distribute enormous amounts of wealth. He will be loved by all the people of the earth. [I have converted his list to paragraph format.]Now, a key shocker:
IN CERTAIN ISLAMIST QUARTERS, THE TALIBAN -- WHICH SOMETIMES USES BLACK FLAGS AND WHOSE SPOKESMEN SOMETIMES WEAR BLACK TURBANS, BEARDS AND WHITE ROBES -- IS REGARDED AS A LIKELY CANDIDATE TO BE THE INVINCIBLE "BLACK FLAG ARMIES."
That takes on a very significant colouration, when we cite a key "black flag army" hadith reported by "Thawban, a companion [of Mohammed]" directly:
The Messenger of Allah said: The black banners will come from the East and their hearts will be as firm as iron. Whoever hears of them should join them and give allegiance, even if it means crawling across snow.Further -- and as the above press release hints at -- the current Iranian regime sees itself in key quarters as the way-preparers for and vanguard of the Mahdi, who is held by Shias to be the re-emergent twelfth Imam of Shia Islam. (This is of course the same Iran that sits in a strategically commanding position next ot the Straights of Hormuz choke-point on the Persian Gulf oil artery. And, Mr El Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency recently reported them as having already modified ballistic missiles to take nuclear warheads, and as being only months away -- technologically speaking -- from having nuclear warheads.)
In short, any geostrategic retreat or major defeat of the West in the general region from Syria to Pakistan will be interpreted by the Islamists and as many other Muslims as they can persuade as a signal to rise up en masse, join the "invincible" Black Flag Armies, and march on Jerusalem.
And, just such a geostrategic defeat/retreat -- all too familiarly similar to the devastating one in Indochina in the mid 1970's that cost millions across that region their lives, and caused much havoc across the world until it was turned around by the firm resolve of the 1980's that led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire at the turn of the 1990's -- is contemplated by the incoming US administration. (Resemblance to the situation envisioned in Ezekiel 38 (with sidelights from Zechariah Ch 12 and Ch 13) is perhaps not coincidental.)
In short, the recent remarks made by Mr Biden on an early geostrategic test for Mr Obama, may prove to be inadvertently tellingly insightful:
"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."In the case of Mr Kennedy, within six months of his election: (i) he ineptly handled the Playa de Giron attempted invasion (cancelling what would probably have been decisive air support . . . ), and then (ii) in the Vienna summit he did so poorly [cf. Kennedy's post summit confession: "He beat the h--- out of me," and a recent commentary here] with Khrushchev, that the Soviet Dictator decided to push hard. First at Berlin, by building the infamous Wall, and then ultimately by putting Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles and nuclear-capable Il-28 bombers into Cuba.
"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
These last were only withdrawn after the world came within twelve hours of an American invasion of Cuba that would have led the Soviet tactical nuclear missile brigade there -- unbeknownst to the Americans -- to fire off its weapons, at not only the approaching fleet but probably also several US States, triggering a global nuclear war. In the end, Khrushchev "called" Kennedy on the hot-line [actually, a teletype system], and pulled out his missiles; but on the bargain that Castro's regime would be secure and that US Missiles long in place in places like Turkey would also be withdrawn.
This is the reason that Cuba has been for decades a safe haven and base for the export of Marxist revolution all across the hemisphere and beyond. (NB: We should remind ourselves that over the past 100 years, Marxian tyrannies have not only been consistent economic failures, but also have been collectively responsible for the deaths of well over 100 millions of their own citizens. Cuba's regime is somewhat low on the list, at "only" about 18,000. [Cf examples here, and a discussion here.])
In short, it is by no means clear that Kennedy was right in going to Vienna in May 1961, or in subsequent cases.
What then, should we do?
1] Seek to understand our times in ways that do not rely on the soundness of the headlined conventional wisdoms or popular opinions of our day.So, why not now, why not here, why not us? END
2] Instead, we need to dig beyond the headlines to understand the driving trends and too often censored/suppressed material facts and factors, so that we may soundly assess the ideas and agendas that are being pushed on us in the name of forces as diverse as: news, entertainment, education, "science," international treaties, "development," grants for development, "liberation," "saving the earth," "rights," "progress," etc.
3] Chief among these alternatives, is that we must now seek to build a sound, broad and deep understanding of the Word of God, with insights on how it has affected the course of our civilisation, its key institutions and its history, including for instance the rise of modern science and of modern liberty and democratic self government.
4] We need to appreciate the force of Jesus' counsel in Matt 24, on the three key trends of end times: deception, chaos, and the advance of the gospel in the teeth of chaos, dislocation and pain, confusion, hostility and outright persecution.
5] In that light, we need to rise up to our call under the discipling mandate of the church in our region, and from our region.
6]We must prepare our people to resist deception and handle the forces of chaos, soundly preparing for the waves of economic disaster and potential conflict that lie ahead.
7] Among other things that means we need to renew agriculture systems so that we can feed ourselves well enough that we can survive what would happen if, say, a war in the Middle East were to reach proportions that would disrupt trade patterns and the global economy.
8] Similarly, we must urgently find at least survival-level alternative energy systems, as such a war could easily cut the oil arteries through the Persian Gulf; causing the price of oil to spike so high that the recent unprecedented and devastating surge to nearly U$ 150/barrel will look mild by comparison. (Nor is it wise for us to be ever deeper in debt to Venezuela's strongman, an ally of Iran.)
9] For all of these reasons, and many other challenges, we will need to build capacity. That brings us back to the keystone strategic importance of building a cyber-campus based college that can work with micro-campus centres based in churches and other existing facilities and sites across our region.
10] Such an emergent college should in the first instance focus on the range: second chance secondary education to the associate degree level, with targetted degree and graduate/ professional courses beyond that level. In addition, specialist workshops and seminars on a wide range of relevant topics would be important.
11] Such an initiative would also catalyse a network of local vision and action initiatives built up around the idea that the church's mission is transformative for all of life, as we are the fulness of him who fills everything in every way, to bless it through the grace of God. [Cf Eph 1:17 - 23, 4:9 - 24 etc.]
UPDATE: More added on the early Kennedy Administration. Links on democide and related topics.