Today, I’m celebrating the Jewish holiday of “Purim” today with Lynn and my sons. We’re studying the Book of Esther (and teaches a three-part sermon series on it at Cornerstone Chapel in northern Virginia) and considering the lessons for all of our lives today. We’re eating special pastries known as “Hamentaschen” (yummy!). And we’re thanking the Lord for saving the Jewish people — His chosen people — from annihilation by an evil Persian regime. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and mercy amidst the storms of life in these last days. Please have mercy on Israel and the Jewish people, but also on the Persians and all the people of the epicenter.



A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration image showing a model of the preliminary forecast of the tsunami triggered by the quake in Chile. The model shows waves of up to one meter travelling across the Pacific Ocean. (AFP/NOAA)

>> Massive, catastrophic 8.8 earthquake in Chile triggers tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific — including Hawaii – and raises more yet questions about whether we are living in the last days, in light of other critical events in the past week.

>> MSNBC headline: Big quake question: Are they getting worse? Seismic shockers are to be expected, but planet seems to be more active”

>> U.S. Geological Survey: Magnitude 5.0+ earthquakes in last 7 days

Q: What does the Bible teach about the second coming of Jesus and something called “the Rapture”?

A: The Bible describes two separate and distinct future events, both of which are often described as the Second Coming. The first event is what Bible scholars call the Rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, the apostle Paul writes that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” In this passage, Paul is describing an event in which Jesus Christ will not physically, literally touch down on the earth but will first come “in the clouds” and snatch away His true followers from the earth in an instant of time. Those who have not chosen to follow Christ, those who have not been “born again,” will remain behind on the earth and will have to go through a terrible time of wars, famines, natural disasters, and divine judgments known as the Tribulation.

The second event occurs at the end of the Tribulation. This is when the Bible teaches that Jesus will physically, literally return to earth, destroy His enemies, and set up His own righteous government based in Jerusalem. He will reign on earth for one thousand years. In Revelation 19:11–20:6, the apostle John writes, “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. . . . He will rule [the nations]. . . . And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and he threw him into the abyss. . . . And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God . . . and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. . . . Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection. . . . They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”

Q: Are there any signs that will indicate when the return of Jesus Christ is close at hand, and if so, what are they?

A: One day while Jesus and His disciples were sitting on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city of Jerusalem, the disciples asked Him this very question. Their query is recounted in Matthew 24:3.

“Tell us,” they said, “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

Jesus could have refused to answer the question. Instead, He answered them at great length and detail. His answers are recorded in Matthew chapter 24 and in Luke chapter 21, and they provide a checklist of signs to watch for. Among them:

  • Revolutions (Luke 21:9, NIV)
  • The rise of false prophets and false messiahs (Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-27)
  • Wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6)
  • Nations rising against nations (Matthew 24:7)
  • Kingdoms rising against kingdoms (Matthew 24:7)
  • Famines (Matthew 24:7)
  • Plagues (Luke 21:11)
  • Earthquakes (Matthew 24:7) and “great earthquakes” (Luke 21:11)
  •  “Terrors” that lead to “men fainting from fear” (Luke 21:11, 26)
  • Persecution of the believers (Matthew 24:9)
  • Apostasy and betrayal of one another (Matthew 24:10)
  • Increasing lawlessness (Matthew 24:12)
  • People’s love for one another growing cold (Matthew 24:12)
  •  “The roaring of the sea and the waves” (Luke 21:25)
  • The good news (the gospel) of Christ’s love and forgiveness will be preached “in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations”—even Muslim nations, even Radical nations—“and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14)

Jesus cautioned His followers not to speculate on the exact time of the Rapture or the Second Coming. In Matthew 24:36, He said that “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” But “day and hour” is a very narrow slice of time. By giving us at least fifteen other specific signs that would be happening in the last days, Jesus clearly wanted us to know when the time of His return was rapidly approaching.

Why? He gave the answer in Matthew 24:42, when He said, “Therefore, be on the alert.” He reinforced the point in the next verse, when again He urged His followers to be “on the alert.” In Matthew 24:44, He stressed this critical point for a third time. “You also must be ready,” He insisted, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”

Followers of Jesus Christ who study these signs are coming to the conclusion that they are being fulfilled today and that we are, in fact, living in the last days. They are, after all, living through revolutions, wars and rumors of wars, and horrifying persecution, for starters.

They have no idea precisely when Jesus will return, of course. But given how closely world events are tracking with Bible prophecy, they find themselves increasingly motivated to “be ready” by living lives of holiness, by sharing the gospel with Muslims and nominal Christians, by making disciples of all nations, and by planting new church congregations throughout the region.

Have you ever heard of the “Four Spiritual Laws”? Would you like to read a clear and concise explanation of the gospel and know exactly what the Bible says you must do to be forgiven of your sins and spend eternity with God in heaven? Please click here for more information.



Why did Mosab Hassan Yousef renounce Islam and become a follower of Jesus Christ?

News that the son of the leader of the Hamas terrorist organization was for ten years a spy for Israel working against Hamas to protect the Jewish people — the startling revelation made in the new book, Son of Hamas, to be released on Tuesday from Tyndale House Publishers — has garnered print and Internet news media coverage around the world.  But millions of additional people around the U.S. and around the world are about to learn more of the extraordinary story as Mosab Hassan Yousef, the book’s author, begins a series of major television interviews this week.

  • On Monday, Lord willing, I will report on-line and at the National Religious Broadcasters conference in Nashville the exclusive story of how and why Mosab Hassan Yousef renounced Islam and became a follower of Jesus Christ.
  •  On Tuesday, Mosab is scheduled to give his first global exclusive TV interview to CNN’s Christian Amanpour.
  •  Other shows Mosab is expected to be on in the next few weeks include CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel, and NBC’s “Today Show.” This are a bit in flux so I can’t say exactly when these appearances will be.

Please pray for Mosab — for wisdom, discernment, courage and protection. Please pray John 12:49 (NIV) for him, that the Father would command him what to say and how to say it. And please pray that millions will hear the gospel, give their lives to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and develop a passion to pray for Israelis and Palestinians and all the people of the epicenter. Thanks so much, and stay tuned for more updates.


>> PASTORS AND BIBLE TEACHERS: To review Joel’s notes for his upcoming Purim message on “Israel, The Iran Threat, and Lessons From The Book of Esther,” please click here 




Residents look at a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Saturday Feb. 27, 2010 after an 8.8-magnitude struck central Chile. (AP)

Are we living in the last days?

In Matthew chapter 24, Luke 21, the Book of Revelation and elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus Christ, His apostles and the Hebrew prophets warn that in the end times we will see the emergence of a new global currency, earthquakes and severe natural disasters, the emergence of a Russian-Iranian alliance, and apocalyptic wars with Israel. 

Jesus said in Matthew 24:33, “When you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” In verse 42, He commands, “Therefore, be on the alert.” In verse 43, He again tells His followers to “be on the alert.” In verse 44, He says, “You must also be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” If Jesus came today, would you be ready?

Consider a few of the noteworthy news stories over the past few days:

Have you ever heard of the “Four Spiritual Laws”? Would you like to read a clear and concise explanation of the gospel and know exactly what the Bible says you must do to be forgiven of your sins and spend eternity with God in heaven? Please click here for more information.


Iranian President Ahmadinejad (right) visits Syrian President Assad in Damascus.


Ahmadinejad, Assad and Nasrallah dined in Damascus Wednesday night (pictured left to right)

UPDATE: Iranian President Ahmadinejad dined with Syrian President Assad and Hezbollah chief Sheikh Nasrallah Thursday night in Damascus. Topic: how to strengthen their alliance to annihilate Israel. 

* Wash Post headline: Iran, Syria mock U.S. policy; Ahmadinejad speaks of Israel’s ‘annihilation’

* MEMRI headline: Iranian President Ahmadinejad Repeatedly Calls for Eliminating Israel

ORIGINAL POST: “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Arab nations will usher in a new Middle East without Zionists and without colonialists,” reports Haaretz. “Ahmadinejad made the comments during his visit in Syria, where he met with President Bashar Assad, opening a two-day visit that follows U.S. efforts to break up Syria’s 30-year alliance with Tehran. The Iranian president also said that if the Zionist regime wants to repeat its past mistakes, this will constitute its demise and annihilation. Ahmadinejad said Iran, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon will all stand against Israel. Ahmadinejad is also scheduled to meet senior officials from the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, Syria’s state-run news agency said.”

Please pray for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his wife, his two grown sons, and his grown daughter that they all may come to faith in Jesus Christ and their hearts towards Israel, Jews and Christians would be transformed as God has transformed the son of the Hamas leader.

Please also pray for Bashar al-Assad, his wife, and their three children (all of whom are under the age of 10), that they, too, may all come to faith in Jesus Christ and their hearts towards Israel, Jews and Christians would be dramatically changed.

>> LEARN HOW TO BLESS ISRAELI AND PALESTINIANS AND PRAY MORE EFFECTIVELY FOR THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM: Please join us for the 2010 Epicenter Conference in Philadelphia on June 25-26

[Note: The above caption is incorrect. The dinner occurred on Thursday night, not Wednesday. My apologies.]


>> Russia won’t back “crippling” sanctions; alliance with Iran grows closer

UPDATE: I can now disclose that the book is called, Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices….it’s published by SaltRiver, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, and hits bookstores next Tuesday….the author is Mosab Hassan Youssef, the eldest son of the leader of Hamas….just since the Haaretz story was published, the book has skyrocketed on Amazon from #72,000 yesterday to #146 as of 11:00am eastern….it’s a phenomenal book — one of the most powerful testimonies of a Radical Muslim leader coming to Christ and turning from hatred for Israel to love for Israel that I have ever read….and Mosab is the real deal….we had the opportunity to speak by phone several times last year while he was working on the book….can’t wait to tell you more on Monday when I’ll be authorized to share with you exclusive excerpts from the book and details from my conversations with him….stay tuned….in the meantime, please pray for Mosab’s safety, for his courage, and for wisdom for him and his team as media interest builds and he has a chance to explain why he renounced Islam and terrorism became a discipleof Jesus Christ, and a friend of the Jewish people. 


ORIGINAL POST: Last week, I mentioned that I had just finished one of the most powerful books I had ever read about a Radical Muslim leader who has come to faith in Jesus Christ….having signed a non-disclosure agreement, I couldn’t say more….I’ve just learned that on Monday, I will be able to say more….the author of the book has given me exclusive rights to write the first article in the U.S. about the new book, including his remarkable spiritual journey from jihad to Jesus….that said, I think you’ll be interested in this headline in one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers: Haaretz exclusive: Hamas founder’s son worked for Shin Bet for years….more to come on Monday….please stay tuned.

Excerpts from Haaretz article:

  • “I wish I were in Gaza now,” said the son of the Hamas leader in an interview: “I would put on an army uniform and join Israel’s special forces in order to liberate Gilad Shalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Shalit. That must not be done.”
  • “The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money,” said a former Israeli Shin Bet official who was the double agent’s handler. “He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives. His grasp of intelligence matters was just as good as ours — the ideas, the insights. One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts.”

>> LEARN HOW TO BLESS ISRAELI AND PALESTINIANS AND PRAY MORE EFFECTIVELY FOR THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM: Please join us for the 2010 Epicenter Conference in Philadelphia on June 25-26

>> PASTORS AND BIBLE TEACHERS: To review Joel’s notes for his upcoming Purim message on “Israel, The Iran Threat, and Lessons From The Book of Esther,” please click here 



PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE OF UKRAINE AS PRO-PUTIN LEADER PREPARES TO TAKE POWER: Anti-Israel tack and religious restrictions feared

Viktor F. Yanukovich will lead Ukraine.

Viktor F. Yanukovich – the pro-Russia, pro-Putin opposition leader of Ukraine — has won a tightly contested and controversial election to emerge as his country’s new leader. Current Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of her country’s pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2005 (which at the time threw Yanukovich out office), apparently lost the election by 3.5%. She accused her rival of trying to steal the election, but has now withdrawn her formal challenge before the Ukrainian Supreme Court.

This is not, however, the first time Yanukovich and the Putin regime in Moscow have been accused of being in cahoots to seize control in Kiev. In 2004, U.S. political advisor Dick Morris wrote a column warning that “as an unpaid, volunteer adviser to Viktor Yushchenko, the democratic candidate for president, I have seen, firsthand, how Viktor Yanukovich, the Putin candidate backed by a coalition of the Russian Mafia, oil barons, former KGB officials and communists stole the election and thwarted the obvious will of the voters. Would-be czar Vladimir Putin has taken a giant step toward reasserting the regional hegemony of the former Soviet Union by stealing the election in Ukraine right under our noses….Putin regarded the contest as so important that he personally visited Ukraine in the weeks before the election to campaign for his candidate, a clear violation of the most elementary standards of independence and protocol. His former KGB henchmen — and once and future communists — combined with Russian organized-crime figures and oil barons to pump money into the race and to intimidate voters on the ground.”

Five years later, Morris’ warning is worth reconsidering: “The stakes could not be higher. If Ukraine and Russia combine, as Putin clearly wants, the old Soviet Union will be back on the road to regional domination and the old ambitions of global power will return. And 45 million people will be cheated of the right to determine their own future. We, in the West, are at best distracted and at worst willing to cede to Putin regional control in return for his assistance in the war on terror. This is a mistake of the same order of magnitude as the allies made in the 1930s in dealing with Hitler. The theft of the Ukrainian election is parallel to Germany’s decision to march into the Rhineland. And our refusal to notice or act is akin to the French and British policy of turning the other way.”

Pro-democracy forces should be concerned about the direction Ukraine is now headed. So should Jewish and evangelical Christian leaders. The history of persecution against the Jews in Ukraine is long and sordid. But since the collapse of the USSR, Kiev has been reasonably friendly towards Jews and towards Israel. Now, as Kiev moves towards Moscow, concerns of an anti-Israel tack in Ukrainian foreign policy could be coming.

The Church has been growing steadily in Ukraine in recent years. Some of the largest congregations in Europe — with thousands of believers attending every Sunday (as opposed to “big” churches in Europe that attract only a few hundred to weekend services) — are located throughout Ukraine. In 2007, more than 200,000 Ukrainians turned out to hear the gospel from Franklin Graham in the Olympic Stadium. In 2008, Christianity Today called Ukraine “the Bible Belt of Europe” and the “hub” of Christianity in Eastern Europe. But Ukrainian believers and outsider observers are concered that Yanukovich will impose draconian restrictions on religious freedom, just as Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have done in neighboring Russia. Followers of Jesus Christ need to pray faithfully for their brothers and sisters in Ukraine, and keep advancing the gospel there more than ever will there is still freedom to do so.


At 12:17am, I finished an advance copy of one of the most powerful testimonies I have ever read, the story of a Radical Muslim leader coming to faith in Jesus Christ. This book is going to make headlines and change lives. I’ve signed a non-disclosure form so I can’t say any more yet. But soon I will give you the details. Please pray for this believer, even though you don’t yet know his name. Pray that the Lord would protect him and give him deep joy and great courage. Please pray, too, that the Lord would touch, encourage and inspire millions of lives through his phenomenal story of God’s love and mercy. And stay tuned….


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has confirmed that the PM will come to Washington, D.C. the weekend of March 21-23. He will address the AIPAC Policy Conference and likely hold meetings with administration and congressional leaders. Among the others addressing the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren.


“President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday that Iran’s arch-foe Israel was mulling starting a war ‘next spring or summer’ but has yet to make a final decision,” reports Agence France Presse. “Without specifying whom would be targeted, Ahmadinejad said: ‘According to information we have, they (Israel) are seeking to start a war next spring or summer, although their decision is not final yet….But the resistance and regional states will finish them if this fake regime does anything again.'”

[UPDATE: Netanyahu in Moscow says Israel isn’t planning for war with Iran.]

The Iranian leaders comments come as Israel completes a massive new homeland security drill designed to prepare civilians for the possibility of a war with Iran or Syria. Netanyahyu is currently in Moscow for two-days of meetings with Putin and Medvedev, trying to engage Russia’s help to avert a war. Meanwhile, the head of the Israeli Defense Forces said this week that Israel is more peaceful than ever before, but that the peace is fragile and could give way soon to a major regional war. “This is a peaceful time, but this reality is fragile,” Lt.-General Gabi Ashkenazi said during a visit to Home Front Command headquarters to watch the ongoing exercise, as reported by the Jerusalem Post. “We have to face the changing nature of today’s wars, changes which caused a threat to the home front and turned it into an operational arena.”