Are we living in the “End Times?” 

North Korea has a hydrogen bomb, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic is poised to strike Miami, Harvey drowned Houston, an earthquake rocked Mexico, Oregon and California are burning, a total eclipse of the sun crossed the US, a powerful solar flare exploded, and Donald Trump is the leader of the free world. I don’t believe that we’re living in the book of Revelation, but is the universe trying to tell us something? Is prophecy being played out around us, or are humans careening toward our own extinction because we are fools?


Biblical Prophecy

The Bible is rich with prophecy, much of it vague and terrifying. The prophets, men like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and John of Patmos had a direct connection to God, more visceral than others, and were often viewed with suspicion because they were erratic and strange. The visions God gave them may have fried their brains. Prophecy is open to interpretation, and even among fundamentalists, there are questions about the nature of scripture. Is the book of Revelation literal or figurative? There is a lot of wild stuff in that book, with creatures that sound like aliens, multi-headed beasts, plagues, famines, and an actual war between heaven and hell.

Revelation was written by John on the island of Patmos, where he recieved a series of visions from God. The book, the last in the Bible, predicts the end of the world in a series of cataclysmic events, laying out unthinkable losses throughout the world which intensify as they progress through the opening of seals, culminating in Christ’s triumphant return. Many Christians believe in the Rapture, an event where Christians are taken up to heaven prior to the tribulation, while the rest of the world is left behind to endure the coming wrath of God. Christians fall into two camps when debating this, the “pretribulative,” folks, who think they will be spared, and the “post-tribulative” believers who believe Christians will have to wait while the earth goes to hell.


The Antichrist

One constant, though, is the rise of the Antichrist. Throughout history, Christians have pointed to many leaders, believing that each one was the Antichrist. From Nero to Hitler and President Obama, there have always been candidates. Hitler certainly seemed to fit the bill, persecuting Jews and dragging the entire world into war. The Antichrist is said to be charismatic, a great deceiver who unifies the world, only to plunge it into darkness. He is a liar who professes Christianity, while serving Lucifer. President Donald Trump possesses something earlier leaders did not: nuclear weapons capable of ending the world. His hypocrisy, lies, and the way he dribbles scripture to pander to fundamentalists make Trump a pretty good candidate.

Global politics and war

Revelation states that there will be war and rumors of war as the earth hurtles toward the apocalypse. For the first time in human history, mankind has the ability to cause its own extinction in war. With instability in the Middle East, a resurgent and aggressive Russia, and someone with a questionable grasp on geopolitics in the White House, we are teetering on the abyss.

Opening the seven seals:

Revelation 6:12: I watched as he opened the Sixth Seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth…”. 

We just experienced a total eclipse, an earthquake, a blood-moon, and a meteor shower. Interesting.

Sounding the seven trumpets:

Rev 8:7: The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned down, and all the green grass was burned up.”

Sounds a whole lot like a nuclear war! With North Korea threatening to attack the US, the threat of nuclear war is at its most dangerous since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Rev 8:10: A great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of the water. The name of the star is wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter and many people died from waters that turned bitter.

Radiation poisoning would do this to global water supply, and huge portions of the population would die. This is followed by locusts and plagues, all of which could happen due to the war.

Pain continues to rain down upon the earth as the book continues, with the seven bowls of God’s wrath. The waters turn to blood and the sun scorches people with fire, and plagues spread as the Beast rules a world plunged into darkness. Nuclear winter, perhaps? Babylon falls, and then comes the rider on the white horse, Christ himself leading an army of angels, throwing the beast into a fiery lake.

Conclusion

We may be in a tribulation of our own making if we do not collectively make better decisions. As the climate changes and the oceans warm, our children and grandchildren will face the consequences of our utter disregard for science and lack of stewardship of our planet. Displaced populations will be on the move, competing for dwindling resources, causing war and famine. Prayer is a powerful thing, and so is action. We must not blindly follow leaders who would lead us to our own destruction.

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Faith and Fiction

This is a story of triumph, so please bear with me because it might not sound that way at first. Happy endings aren’t worth a damn if there weren’t tears along the way.

  
I love writing and God. The love of those two intersect, in spite of my passion for other things. I love my wife and my children. I love to play music and dream melodies and yearn to create something beautiful and true.

I love the way the sun breaks when it’s rising over the Gulf of Mexico when I’m so far from land that the sea and sky are the world, and there is that perfect orange light born, glittering on the waves, and the hope of a good fish and that day sings in my chest. The best part, knowing that the next day will be just as good, infused with the same hope. For me, those moments have been few,  and I’m blessed to remember them.

It is easy and dangerous to make the things we love God.

A mentor and friend, a brilliant songwriter far beyond me, convinced me that the only way to succeed was to be willing to sacrifice everything at the altar of writing. I listened to him and to my own demons and learned the wrong lessons. My friend would smack me in the back of my head now if we were sitting next to each other at a bar in Nashville. I have tears in my eyes remembering him and the way he made me a better writer, and I wish I could hear him say something sarcastic and kind. 

Writing is not God, though we make it so.

Writers are not destined for pain unless they choose anguish. Joy is the lyric and the page and the melody and truth beneath. God is God.

The Divided States of America

There is much gnashing of the teeth and shrill screaming  about politics these days. Everyone with internet access has an opinion and a voice. Many people are outraged about something. Social media is choked with hate, politicians point fingers, and any sort of reasonable discourse seems to have fled the country.

The things people are screaming about are distractions, while the things they should be paying attention to go largely unnoticed. We, the people, are being played.

Money and politics

Both parties are equally beholden to the almighty dollar. There are no good guys, as far as I can see, and those who actually seem to have a heart for the American people and are willing to buck the system have no chance of actually being able to be a force for positive change because their voices are drowned out by the hatred, the money, and the discord. That seems to be the idea.

Republican Governor John Kaisch of Ohio announced his bid for the 2016 election; he is an example of a moderate who has accomplished great things in his home state, and of course, he has no chance at winning. The Koch Brothers won’t be helping him.

Hillary Clinton portrays herself as the champion of the middle class, yet she is an example of the ivory tower liberals who are not only disconnected from most of America, but who also reap millions in corporate campaign contributions. She is above all else a political animal.

The banking industry, working behind the shadows is one place where true power resides. Energy is another. Power has almost nothing to do with politics, and is essentially the ability inflict one’s will upon another. The United States possesses the strongest military the world has ever seen.

But the real power lies not in the new F-35, the stealth bomber, or the ICBM, but in those who decide when and where these weapons will be used. Where we will go to war and why.

Be angry and mean and certain!

That’s what they want. Whoever the hell they are.

It doesn’t seem to matter who the figureheads are, though I’d love to believe otherwise. We can argue about guns and rebel flags and gay rights, and it appears that there is profit somewhere for someone in that discord. We howl about Obama and lose respect for the office of the President, and that’s just fine with those guys. They’re playing both sides of the fence, and are laughing at us from their private islands.

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The insults and name calling between parties has never been worse, and it’s spilled over from Congress to Main Street and even the dinner table.

So what should we be paying attention to?

The way money buys power. Decisions like Citizens united. Corporate welfare.

Climate change. It’s happening. The planet is growing warmer according to 99% of climatologists. Sea levels will rise, weather patterns will shift. Water shortages and droughts will worsen in some areas, while other parts of the world will see floods.

ISIS, China, and Russia.

The Islamic state is spreading like wildfire, and now boasts a well organized and supplied army. The guys behind the guys don’t know what to do about them yet, and the whole Arab spring caught them off guard, along with the power vacuum in Iraq. The middle east is nuke waiting to blow. The aftershock will shake the world.

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China is on course to overtake the United States in military power over the next two decades. They have an aircraft carrier, a fleet of submarines, and the desire to project power into the Indian Ocean and South Pacific. They are building islands out of the sea, placing air strips on them. China owns trillions of dollars in U.S. debt and manipulates its currency to the great detriment of the United States. Of course, the multinational corporations don’t care about what is good for the United States. They’re in the business of making money for shareholders, so will continue to ship jobs to China because it’s good for the bottom line.

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Russia is eager to reclaim its stature as a superpower, and Putin, a former KGB officer with an ego the size of his country, is unpredictable, ruthless, and bent upon taking more land and resources. The annexation of Crimea proves this, along with the war in the Ukraine, the relentless incursions into NATO airspace, and threatening posture of flights off the U.S. coast. Bombers within forty miles of California? Yes. That happened this week, again. Russia has simulated nuclear attacks against Sweden, and they are actively militarizing the arctic, building bases to go after oil resources as the ice packs melt.

Ourselves

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More dangerous to this great nation than these other threats is the one we present to ourselves.

For a house divided cannot stand.

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Jamie Mason’s Guest Blog: Canadian vs. American Post-Apocalyptic Visions

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DEATH OF A NATION Canadian vs. American Post-Apocalyptic Visions

by Jamie Mason

Broken windows stretch to the horizon. A noxious twist of grimy smoke clutches the clouds and a stench of bodies – the piled carnage of the City’s dead, an odor to corkscrew even the heartiest stomachs – lies heavily on the street. A door opens in a darkened shop-front and a man swathed in camouflage steps into view carrying an automatic rifle. The pearl-colored light reflects in his mirrored shades and the red, white and blue of his shoulder patch provides the only flash of color in an afternoon the hue of gun-metal and sorrow. A noise. He spins, bringing the rifle to bear … and is brought up short by the sight of a young, unarmed woman with a backpack slung over one shoulder, a maple leaf sewn into its pocket flap. She grins and flashes a peace sign. 1. The journey inevitably influences the traveller. But it is equally true that the traveler defines the journey. This is never more true than in the post-apocalyptic genre. One of my favorite films is the oft-overlooked 1985 gem REVOLUTION, starring Al Pacino. When Tom Dobb, the illiterate fur trapper Pacino plays, sails into New York Harbor on the eve of the War of Independence, he sums up the chaos unfolding in the streets tersely: “New York, goin’ crazy.”

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The opening scene of that film confounds every expectation by painting the launch of the American Revolution with images of unimaginable brutality and human ugliness. Mobs smash British shop-windows, tear down statues of the King and (sadly for Tom) confiscate boats for the cause. Although history has vindicated the wisdom of the American Revolution as a critical step in the advancement of human freedom, I can’t help believing that the film’s portrayal is likely accurate. Strip away the historical bunting, and America was basically a colony that revolted against its landlords. Its birth was midwifed in a blaze of gunfire and death. War is war and, no matter how noble the cause, it’s always certain to unleash a level of apocalyptic violence. Canada’s birth was more ambiguous. We came into existence two short years after the end of the American Civil War, the result of a process that began in direct response to that conflict. By the time the British North America Act was passed, Canada was a sprawl of disconnected communities, ripe for annexation by a vigorous and ambitious neighbor. Invasions had been attempted five times in two previous wars and there was no reason to expect it wouldn’t happen again. (Indeed, a few of Lincoln’s generals lobbied for it.) Independence from a war-weary Britain seemed the most prudent way to secure the national welfare. Negotiations were lengthy and complex, tangled in British legal red-tape and impeded by competing colonial claims. Sir John A. MacDonald, our first Prime Minister, rose to lead a nation that was still very much unexplored and only just beginning to understand itself. Canada very literally emerged, blinking and uncertain, from the mists of the historical wilderness into a deafening silence.

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2. In our beginning lies our end. These two emergence narratives have served to shape, fundamentally, the contrasting American and Canadian visions of the post-apocalypse. I would hold that while television shows like THE WALKING DEAD and JERICHO and novels like WORLD WAR Z and THE PERSEID COLLAPSE portray a uniquely American apocalypse, Canadian equivalents such as ORYX & CRAKE, the collected stories of FRACTURED: TALES OF THE CANADIAN POST-APOCALYPSE and my own KEZZIE OF BABYLON (Permuted Press, March 2015) offer an equivalent Canadian vision unique in its own right. While there will always be an appetite for American entertainment north of the border, our American friends might be surprised to learn how our apocalyptic visions differ.

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3. ENEMIES & ANTAGONISTS Every good post-apocalyptic tale needs an enemy, and in American stories that enemy is usually a group or (in the case of zombies) a faceless horde which must be attacked and defeated militarily. THE WALKING DEAD handles this trope well, providing combat engagements pitting the protagonists against legions of zombies as well as human threats like the Governor and his dystopian serfs. WALKING DEAD s/heroes pack guns and katanas and these tools are always the go-to choice when trouble comes. This is not to dismiss other points of tension in the show (exploration, parlay with bad guys, character arcs), but to highlight the uniquely weaponized nature of the American post-collapse world. In a nation where the right to own firearms is enshrined in law and whose birth occurred in a storm of violence, it is logical that its death-throes would subside to the howl of gunfire. By contrast, the “enemy” faced by the main characters of Morgan M. Page’s poignant “City Noise” (FRACTURED: TALES OF THE CANADIAN POST-APOCALYPSE) is of an entirely different order. In Morgan’s vision, Toronto smoulders in the aftermath of a nebulous event known only as “The Crash” (an end every bit as ambiguous as our nation’s founding). The protagonists, Sarah and Johnny, are both transsexuals caught in the mid-point of transition when The Crash occurs, leaving them to scavenge in a blighted city for the drugs their bodies need in order to continue their biological migration. Instead of hordes of zombies to be vaporized by gunfire, the enemies Johnny and Sarah face are the ticking time-bombs of their own medically-altered biology, caught mid-way through a complex and transformative procedure

INDIVIDUAL VS. GROUP The cult of individualism is strongly rooted in the American consciousness and, for this reason, plays a titular role in any American post-apocalyptic story. The tendency for people to coalesce in a crisis is a historical given. But in American PA tales like OBJECTS OF WRATH (Permuted Press, 2014) the need for individualism sometimes leads to tragic results. One of the most poignant scenes in the novel involves a group of military first-responders flying into a remote encampment to offer aid to some backwoods survivalists. The unit’s doctor is turned away from caring for the group’s terminally-ill children because he is black. Here, hyper-individualism – the determination to survive with or without assistance from others, despite all logic – plays out in the ideology of a group existing in opposition to mainstream values of racial equality. Contrast this with the plot of my own novel, KEZZIE OF BABYLON (Permuted Press, 2015) wherein the Canadian tendency to seek accord and accommodation within groups – however dysfunctional – leads to disaster. A commune of biker outlaws, sheltered in the sanctuary of a remote grow-op in the hinterlands of Vancouver Island has, within its ranks, a deranged psychopath determined to impose her religious vision upon the group. The reluctance of the collective’s leaders to confront and disempower this person leads to murder, imposition of a form of worship that involves zombie crucifixion and (ultimately) destruction of the commune itself. Like those whose appeasement of the Quebecois nationalists resulted in the Meech Lake debacle, the reluctance of Buzz and Deacon to act allows Kezzie to take over and slaughter any who oppose her.

RELATIONSHIP TO NATURE Although environmental devastation often triggers the apocalyptic moment in American PA stories, it is rarely an ongoing threat as the plot progresses (THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD being the only exceptions that spring to mind). By way of final example, I contrast two short stories with the same title, one American, one Canadian. In Eric Del Carlo’s fascinating and brilliantly-rendered tale “The Herd” (OG’s Speculative Fiction, Issue #11), the Earth’s collapsing environment unleashes a series of devastating storms, driving a mass migration of human refugees ahead of them. Because I have spoken with Eric about the story’s origins, I can reveal that “The Herd” is based on his own experiences during Hurricane Katrina. Former residents of New Orleans, Eric’s family joined the stream of refugees clogging the highways just like the characters of “The Herd”. But it is what the storms cause people to do to each other as opposed to the storms themselves that form the real basis of Eric’s story. This in contrast to its Canadian counterpart. “The Herd” written by Tyler Keevil is first up in Exile Edition’s 2013 DEAD NORTH: CANADIAN ZOMBIE FICTION. In this unique twist on the zombie trope, Tyler presents us with a zombie horde migrating across the tundra, shadowed by an Inuit hunter. At play in this crisp, visually-evocative tale are all the elements of the classic Canadian wilderness survival story. It is Man against the elements as much as it is Man against … whatever. “A heaviness is in the air, a change in temperature, the wind, the look of the clouds. I know it is going to snow, and it comes in the early morning, just after the herd has set out. It arrives first, as a brief sprinkle … Then a lull, the air charged with a static crackle … Some of the deadheads stop, confused, and look up at this white confetti raining down …” – “The Herd”, Tyler Keevil, DEAD NORTH (Exile Editions, 2013) 4. And so we can see: the post-apocalyptic visions of both Canadian and American writers are informed by the human experience and social dimensions of the writers’ host countries. But it is in our origins, I think, that we find the defining characteristics of each country’s post-apocalyptic vision. We must remember that America and Canada are both nations engaged in the ongoing process of democratic evolution. Societies in both countries adapt to prevailing circumstances, learning from their mistakes, making mid-course corrections and each working to preserve the ongoing experiment that is any free society. We are unique, yes. But we influence each other enormously and are mutually fascinated by visions of the apocalypse. Americans, robust and individualistic, fight each other over possession of the wasteland while Canadians, willing to pay almost any price to remain within a group – however dysfunctional – seek to survive its ambiguous wilderness. As both nations emerge from history and grow toward self-actualization, we both imagine our own demise only to discover that we die very much the way we were born.

My friend Jamie Mason is a Canadian writer of dark fiction whose stories have appeared in On Spec, Abyss & Apex, White Cat and the Canadian Science Fiction Review. His zombie novel KEZZIE OF BABYLON was published in March of this year by Permuted Press. He lives on Vancouver Island. Learn more at www.jamiescribbles.com

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Three Releases this week!

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In a cool confluence of events, I’ve got three releases going live on Amazon this week. The conclusion to the Wrath trilogy, Wrath and Redemption is available for pre-order now, and will be available on Feb. 3. In this sweeping finale, readers will get a better sense of what has happened beyond the United States in the years following The Fall. From the Saharan desert to Siberian tundra and the streets of Rome, the Foxes struggle to keep evil at bay. In this novel, Crystal is actually one of my viewpoint characters, along with Russian general Leo Petrovitch, Ryder, who is now full grown, and of course, William Fox. It was hard leaving these characters and this world behind, but I think this book wraps the series up nicely.Patriots cover final

Also releasing on Tuesday Feb. 3 is my novella Sunshine Patriots, set in Stephen Konkoly’s newly minted Perseid Collapse Kindle World. Following an EMP attack by China, the eastern United States is hurting. A family still reeling from loss finds themselves under attack and fights to survive, from the sweltering FEMA camps to the mangrove swamps of the Florida Keys. This is a page-turner, I think, and very fast paced. I’m deeply honored that Steve invited me to be a part of this project, which features some of the best post-apocalyptic writers in the business.

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The third release is a horror anthology, At Hell’s Gates (volume 2), which features a short story I wrote a few years ago. The great thing about this collection of short stories is that all of the proceeds go to benefit the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a great charity that helps veterans and their families. There are some fantastic stories in this book, written by some top  indie horror writers. My contribution is a weird science-fiction piece about a castaway on a far-flung planet.

I’ve got a fourth full length novel which I plan to publish sometime this spring, The Tears of Abraham, which is about the next American Civil War. Finally, my story Fate of the Fallen, which follows the life of Malak, an angel who has lived and died many times for the last two thousand years, unique in that he posses free will and limited power will come out sometime soon, as well. I plan to release a series of three novellas about Malak, as he struggles to stave off Armageddon. I’m staying busy!

To all my readers, thank you for reading my work! I look forward to exploring new worlds together. I hope you’ll leave me an honest review on Amazon, because that really helps.

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The End of Times… War and Rumors of War

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Mankind has always possessed a morbid fascination with the apocalypse. From the Biblical Flood and Mayan calendar to modern day science fiction, civilizations have been aware and intrigued, sometimes terrified, by their impending doom. In fiction, this is entertaining, but the reality is more chilling. Societal collapse has been a recurrent theme in our history, and perhaps this is one of the reasons we are drawn to books like The Stand  and television shows like The Walking Dead.
For many Christians, the End of Times means the rise of the Anti Christ, Armageddon, and the return of Jesus. Christians have been looking toward the heavens for about two thousand years now, wondering if this is it.

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Sad ruins remain to remind us that the world as we know it is far from eternal. Entire cultures in the Pacific rose and fell, and disappeared. The mighty Mayans are gone, the Roman Empire fell, sacked and destroyed from within. Yet, even those breakdowns did not lead to the destruction of the human race. Life went on.

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Only in the last sixty years, the blink of an eye in terms of history, has mankind developed the ability to cause its own extinction. While in the past, a meteor strike, super-volcano, or a blast from a star light years away could have erased us from the planet, we now can do it ourselves with the push of a button.

A global nuclear war is one obvious way this could happen. To put this in perspective, consider that Russia and the United States possess thousands of nuclear weapons. Russian weapons are dirtier and their largest nukes are more powerful than those in the United States’ arsenal, but it’s irrelevant. The tipping point for a nuclear winter is roughly one hundred explosions, according to the most recent science. There has been debate over the years on this topic, with some estimates coming in at only thirty or forty simultaneous explosions causing the planet to go cold. If thousands of these weapons were launched, that’s the end of us. The atmosphere is choked with radioactive ash, obstructing sunlight, the temperature falls, plants die, and there is no more food. The animals die, and homo sapiens  perish right along with the rest of them.

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In the last sixty years, we have also decided to come up with other, creative weapons of extinction. Biological weapons could do the job just as well as nuclear bombs. Our scientists tinker with viruses, which actually alter DNA, finding ways to make these things more deadly. A genetically altered virus could end our species. We’re looking at the worst outbreak of Ebola, a virus as scary as its name, which according to Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “is the world’s first Ebola epidemic, and it’s spiraling out of control. It’s bad now, and it’s going to get worse in the very near future. There is still a window of opportunity to tamp it down, but that window is closing. We really have to act now.”

Against this backdrop, we now have the greatest level of danger in the world we’ve seen since World War II, with Russia poised to trigger a global war over the Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin on the throne and his finger on the button, not the kind of man to face in the ultimate game of chicken. Because, he’s the guy that doesn’t swerve at the last minute. Then of course, there is the militant, insane, ISIS movement which is spreading like the black plague, a tide of evil which is consuming countries torn by war. The radicals are willing to stop at nothing, bereft of the slightest shred of morality or human decency, killing innocents without remorse or hesitation, and seeming to relish every shot  Shia, every cut throat.

In Gaza, Israel sends in armored vehicles to stop rocket attacks on civilians, and levels schools, homes, and lives. Israel is defending itself against attack, against those who use children as human shields in order to gain support from around the world. Hamas WANTS to provoke Israel into these attacks. It’s Terror 101. Israel becomes more isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly vulnerable to attack from neighbors who have invaded time and time again. Israel also has nuclear weapons, and while they will never confirm this, everybody knows. If Israel is attacked, and it’s really just a matter of time, they will use these weapons if it looks like the war is lost. It’s called the Sampson Option, and it is chilling.

The Old and New Testament in the Bible lay out some things which have come to pass that are irrefutable, though seemed highly unlikely. Israel, it was foretold, would cease to exist, and it’s people would be scattered. That happened more than once. The temple would be torn down. The Romans did that. Israel would become a nation again. This seemed impossible, yet in 1948 Israel was again a nation. One of the last important pieces of scriptural prophecy is the rebuilding of the Temple. There are plans underway now in Jerusalem to do just that.

Whether one believes in the prophecy or not, those things did happen. The book or Revelation, the last and scariest book of the Bible, is rife with images and verses open to debate, with the scrolls and seals being opened, the four horsemen of the apocalypse coming, and death on a pale horse riding to doom mankind.

These may not be the end of times, and perhaps humanity will figure out a way to become better, alter its essential warlike nature and selfishness and transcend the hatred we wield like a sword. At no time in all of human history, though, has the end seemed quite so imminent or possible.

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