There was much debate about Benedict XVI's visit to Israel. Was it really just a personal visit, as he represents the Vatican state no matter what he does? Then there was the issue of sovereignty over six (6) sites, which sounds very like state business. The issue of sovereignty has profound implications.
Then too the Israeli leaders hoped to gain from it more favourable world opinion, which is foolish on two counts. The first being that any favour comes from God. The second being that the Catholic Church desires to achieve recognition of the Catholic Christian role in Israel, and in that objective, people from many sides could see the Church standing where it ought not.
Events in the history of this Land, between the West and East, show why this is so.
The imposition of a Greek Culture in Jerusalem
Antiochus IV, the Selucid king from 175 to 164 BC, who ruled the quarter of Alexander's empire containing Jerusalem, stood an idol where he ought not. This king valued all things Greek. He made himself a god calling himself Theos Epiphanes or in Greek 'god manifest'. It is recorded,
..the king sent an old man of Athens, to compel the Jews to depart from the laws of their fathers.. And to pollute also the Temple in Jerusalem, and to call it the Temple of Jupiter Olympus:.. The coming in of this mischief was sore and grievous to the people: For the Temple was filled with riot .. The Altar also was filled with profane things, which the Law forbids. Neither was it lawful for a man to keep Sabbath days, or ancient Feasts, or to profess himself at all to be a Jew. And in the day of the kings birth, ..they were brought by bitter constraint to eat of the sacrifices; and when the Feast of Bacchus was kept, the Jews were compelled to go in procession to Bacchus. (2Maccabees 6:1-7)
The Maccabees rebelled and suffered many casualties to remove this pollution of the Temple. Though very soon after Rome gained the ascendency and Antiochus IV died suddenly the presence of Greek religion in Jerusalem was not easily forgotten.
The Romans, Greek culture and the end of Jerusalem
Less than 200 years later Jesus seems to allude to the incident,
But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that reads understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: (Mark 13:14)
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso reads, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: (Mat 24:14-16)
The Roman emperor Caligula proclaimed himself a god and was referred to as Jupiter in public documents. In 40AD he ordered a statue of himself to be placed in the Temple at Jerusalem. He had previously placed a clay altar in Jamnia but the Jews had destroyed it. This event was not hidden, and from this point the Christians could know who was the desolater who would stand where they ought not, for a Roman had, just like Antiochus IV, sought to impose again Greek worship.
Jesus refers to Daniel who speaks of a ruler who would come from one of the 4 parts of Grecia (Daniel 8:21). Rome had taken on the Greek culture and taken over from Antiochus. Herod Agrippa II was appointed ruler of Judea by the Romans in 48AD. He supported Gessius Florus the Roman Procurator of the region from 64 -66AD. Florus, like Antiochus IV, sought to impose the Greek culture and angered the religious Jews by organising 17 talents be taken from the Temple treasury. This, according to Josephus, was the beginning of the Jewish revolt. It was, for them, an abomination standing where it ought not. It was a good time to leave Jerusalem for Christians. By 66AD the Jews drove out Agrippa II. During the Jewish-Roman War of 66AD Agrippa II sent 2,000 archers and cavalry to support Vespasian.
Vespasian was appointed in 67AD to put down the Jewish rebellion. He believed that a prophecy that from Judaea would come the future ruler of the world applied to him (which according to Suetonius was well known), and he found portents and omens to support this. After Nero's death in 68, there were 3 emperors in one year: Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. While Vespasian was at Caesarea, he gained enough support, possibly based on the portents, and was proclaimed on July 1, 69 emperor at Caesarea (not in Rome where Vitellius still ruled). Notwithstanding Josephus' opinion, Vespasian was a Roman ruler who knew he was being elevated to become a god and ruler of the world. His siege of Jerusalem was only lifted by the confusion at the death of Nero. At Caesarea, as a ruler of Judea, he was representative of a Greco -Roman power standing where it ought not. His son Titus, the very next year in AD70, would complete his work and destroy Jerusalem.
Modern Roman-Greek religion imposes its presence on Jews and Muslims
This year on May 11-14, 2009 pressure was placed on the leaders of Israel to give sovereignty of six (6) properties in Israel officially to the Holy See, the Roman Catholic Church. Six is a significant number. They include the Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth; the Coenaculum Mount Zion, Jerusalem; the Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem and the Church of the Multiplication beside the Sea of Galilee. The Pope scheduled his visit to Nazareth on May 14, which just so happens to be the day Israel declared independence and on that day he held a by-invitation only mass at the Church of the Annunciation.
This call for sovereignty, on analysis, seems a request to stand where it ought not, not so much in relation to the Jews, so much, as the Muslims.
The site of the Church of the Annunciation is a place of controversy. The last time a Pope visited Nazareth in 2000 the construction of a plaza in front of this church caused Muslim protest as it was over the grave of a nephew of Saladin, and included the Shihab-Eddin shrine, and shops owned by the Muslim waqf. The local government approved plans for a large mosque to be constructed at this site, but after worldwide Catholic protest construction was halted. Would sovereignty over this Church, also include the plaza? This has the potential to be a victory the Crusaders would have been proud of. On May 14 Muslims of Nazareth, the majority of the inhabitants, might ponder that there is a Church standing where it ought not.
The Coenaculum (or the Cenacle) at the top of a place called Mount Zion was built by Catholic Franciscans in 1335. Beneath are earlier Crusader, Byzantine and Roman foundations. Part of the building was a synagogue in 333. A Church was built over the ruins in 6th-century, but was destroyed in 614 by the Persians. The Crusaders won it back and built a Monastery and Church in the 12th-century, but in 1219 it was destroyed probably by the Ayyubid Sultan Al-Muazzam. The present Chapel of the Coenaculum was built by the Franciscans in 1335 when the land was bought for them by the king of Naples. But they lost it again when they were evicted and the room was changed into a mosque in 1523 with the addition of a Muslim prayer niche. At this time the lower floor was venerated as the tomb of king David. Now due to this tomb, a Jewish yeshiva is located nearby as the cenotaph of King David is visited now by Jewish people. If Israel, for some reason, grants sovereignty over the Coenaculum, the Roman Church will have won, again, a minor crusade. They will have won back, by negotiation, what they lost 486 years ago, to the Muslims.
Gethsemane Church of all nations is a Catholic Franciscan church, built in 1924 by donations from many nations (hence its name). It is at the junction of 3 roads: to the old city, to the Mount of Olives, and to Jericho. In the 4th Century a church was constructed there, but was destroyed by the Persians in 614AD. It was rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th Century, but was destroyed again by the Arabs in 1187. In 1666 the Franciscans purchased land, but were not allowed to rebuild the ruined church until the British conquest in 1918. During 1919-1924 the Franciscans built the Catholic church over the ruins of the Crusaders church. Though they owned the land for 253 years they could not build as the Muslims knew what a church meant here. Sovereignty would be a victory as it would seem to establish a right lost for so many years to stand near Jerusalem.
To get the point of it all, these are Benedict's words when he was in Jerusalem,
“The Church in the Holy Land, which has so often experienced the dark mystery of Golgotha, must never cease to be an intrepid herald of the luminous message of hope which this empty tomb proclaims.” http://benedictinisrael.blogspot.com/
Who made it so dark for Catholics in the Holy Land? The Muslims! They destroyed every church the Roman Catholics built, and then, for hundreds of years prevented them from having a presence in the Holy Land. In addition Muslims claimed and still hold the most holy of sites in Jerusalem: the site of the Temple. For Benedict, at least, history has not been forgotten. In addition, to add insult to injury, a few of the Orthodox Churches managed foothold in the Holy Land at the time the Catholic church was suffering still from Garibaldi's onslaught. But there is a reason for this, as God rules over the nations (2 Chronicles 20:6). God has allowed at his Temple site the mosque and Dome of the Rock (which is the oldest Muslim Mosque) to be still held by the Muslims, for the moment to make a point.
Sovereignty over the most Holy site: the Temple Site
It is not a big issue for Jews that they do not yet, in practice, own sovereignty over the Temple site. Their prophet wrote,
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days. (Hosea 3:4-5)
That Israel for many days (61 years) has not had sovereignty over the Temple site shows the truth of the Jewish God's words written in the Bible. It is when Messiah comes that they shall build again the Temple there. Ultimately the edifices of Roman or Greek religion, or culture, are to both the native people of this Holy Land, just like the attempts of Antiochus IV, a thing standing where it ought not.
Certainly to claim sovereignty in Israel, or even have Sovereignty now may be no guarantee of future sovereignty, Israel's God declared
I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him. (Ezekiel 21:27)
But Jesus' words should make us think, if we are true servants of Christ,
When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso reads, let him understand:) (Matthew 24:14-16)
Whoso reads Daniel Chapter 8, let him understand.
Daniel was told also,
Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. (Daniel 8:13-14)
There lacks only a few years now until the 2300 years are ended from when Rome took over from Greece and began to take Greek culture to the world and,
then, and only then, finally shall the sanctuary be cleansed
When he comes whose right it is.
For more on Daniel 8
Over all of history the servants of God have known the signs of the times: their times. They have seen the direction of events toward the Kingdom of God on earth replacing the kingdoms, republics and democracies of humans.
An article prompted by National DNA day April 25 celebrating the understanding of DNA.
We have been given many time periods to prophetic events in the Bible. Many people think it too hard, and do not make an effort to understand them. However, if they were not to be understood, why were they given? And the Bible says the wise shall understand (Daniel 12:10).
On the 15th December 2010 was announced a Roman statue from a bathhouse had been unearthed by storms in the Mediterranean,
Standing 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall, the statue was found in the remains of a cliff that had crumbled under the gale-force winds. Discovered near the ancient port after the tides had returned to normal, an official with the Israel Antiquities Authority said the statue will be displayed in various museums.
Dated to approximately 1,800 to 2,000 years ago – the period in which the Romans occupied western Judea -- the statue weighed 200 kg (440 lb) and had no head or arms.
“The sea gave us this amazing statue,” Yigal Israeli, a researcher with the Israel Antiquities Authority told the Reuters news service. He added that other artifacts may have washed out into the ocean due to the same storm, however.
Fragments of mosaics and bits from a Roman bath house were also recovered at the site Israelnationalnews
Recently we wrote in Watchman part 3 of the Cyprus tree felled by Israel and the confrontation with Lebanon which in the Bible is the Great Cedar. Shortly after we have a very significant incident where a wind gust broke the Anne Frank Tree in Amsterdam as if it were a matchstick.