People walk through an area strewn with rubble near the coast where a huge tsunami, peaking over 12 stories high in some areas, devastated large areas of northeastern Japan.
Since Israel was called by God to be a light to the Nations (Isaiah 60:1-3) we feel constrained to relate to Japan and the terrible disaster that even now plagues its people. In doing so, we delve into the mysteries of God.
The day I started writing this article was April 11, 2011. An aftershock of 7.1 shook Japan—exactly one month after the monster earthquake of 9.0 that hit on March 11.
Twenty-eight thousand people are dead or missing. The torment of that day is beyond the most horrendous Hollywood horror movie. The ground turned to jello. The sirens wailed—warning of a possible tsunami.
Some people along the east coast of Japan scrambled into their cars—and escaped.
Those who waited 15-20 minutes to decide if the danger was real (there are lots of tsunami warnings) were caught in massive traffic jams up and down the coast. They sat in their cars as the waves carried them away—waves that peaked in some places at more than 12 stories high.
Then came the radiation—a killer you cannot see or feel. How much is too much? How do you know what to do? Should you evacuate your home or not?
You follow the instructions of the government, of course. But what do you do when the instructions keep changing?
An aid worker who was interviewed on BBC said that the people of Japan feel trapped by nature; a force has boxed them in, assaulting them from the earth, the sea, the air and even by fire. The ground attacked them, the sea overwhelmed them and now the air itself has become lethal.
The tragedy continues. The ground has not gone back to sleep. Hundreds and hundreds of aftershocks continue to stalk the living.
The experts say the aftershocks could last for years!
For the moment the sea is quiet. But the radiation that Fukushima nuclear plant is spewing forth is a man-made radiation that didn’t exist before atomic energy was created.
It’s called cesium-137 and has a half-life of 30 years and can easily contaminate food and water supplies.
It is this cesium-137 that still contaminates much of the deserted land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor.
At this rate of disintegration, John Emsley wrote in “Nature’s Building Blocks”, “it takes over 200 years to reduce it to one percent of its former level.”
Translation: The Japanese towns affected will be ghost towns for 200 years.
Those who were very close to the nuclear installations’ blowouts, but were not affected by the tsunami, were ordered to leave their intact homes within a few minutes.
They left with the clothes on their back and a suitcase or two. Some 180,000. They can never go back to their homes that are sitting there as if nothing had happened. Not even for a visit.
IS GOD INVOLVED?
As believers in the God of the Bible, how do we relate to such tragedy? Is God involved in this event? Or are we simply witnessing a random act of nature?
Many born-again leaders believe that God does not directly punish human beings.
He may allow Satan to attack individuals, cities or countries because of sin, but since God is good, He himself cannot create evil.
There are supportive scriptures to this emphasis—such as in chapter 32 of Deuteronomy. As Israel “grew fat” and forsook God, the Lord said, “I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be.”
In other words, He takes away His protection; He no longer “hides them under His wings.”
On the other hand, there are numerous scriptures that state God does and will punish the objects of His wrath. “I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal,” says the Lord.
The very popular Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara, publicly claimed that last month’s earthquake and tsunami were “divine punishment.” His remarks, coming from his Buddhist-Shinto background, sparked public outrage.
Nobody likes to feel that the gods are punishing them.
Perhaps it is not important or even prudent for us to try to analyze God’s calibrations for punishment. The important issue for us is to understand what does bring God’s wrath upon a nation.
And for that we have no further to look than the way God dealt (and still deals) with his firstborn, Israel.
ISRAEL, GOD’S EXAMPLE TO THE WORLD
The New Testament clearly states that the sinner—the self-seeking and disobedient, the unrighteous—will receive indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish—to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentiles).
Israel is God’s example of how He deals with human beings.
There are literally hundreds of examples in the Bible chronicling the results of Israel’s obedience and disobedience. When Israel sinned, punishment came. When Israel served God, blessing came.
Deuteronomy 28 is dedicated to explaining the phenomena of blessings and curses.
That Solomon understood this truth is seen in his prayer at the dedication of the Temple. When Israel would be defeated in war, or when there would be drought or famine in the land, Solomon prayed that if Israel repented, God would reverse the tragedy.
The Bible reveals that “an undeserved curse will not land on its intended victim.”
I would understand this scripture as an encouragement to followers of the Messiah to stand in faith against any curse—for whatever reason—that tries to attack the believer. The New Covenant plainly provides for freedom from the curses written in the Law.
YESHUA’S ANSWER TO TRAGEDY
And yet, there is so very much that we do not understand.
When disaster hits a saint of God who is clearly walking in obedience and righteousness, I fall back on the scripture: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but [only] those things which are revealed belong to us…”
If we could see into eternity, everything would be so much clearer.
When Yeshua was asked about the story of Galilean rebels who were killed by Pilate, and the 18 Jews who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell on them, he gave no explanation for these tragedies.
In fact, he emphatically explained that these people were not particularly bad.
Yeshua asked, “Do you think these people were worse sinners than everyone else?” A point blank “No!”
But his next sentence is so revelatory, so deep, we may tend to pass over it with the greatest of ease: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
What was Yeshua saying? That every sinner who does not repent on planet earth will see his life end in disaster.
And what is that disaster? Living for whatever length of time and then going into eternity without fulfilling God’s destiny for which he or she was called.
I think the Western Church is reticent to acknowledge the terrible truth that there is a hell to shun. We can hardly mention the unmentionable. What if someone lives to 80 or 90? What if he has gained the whole world but loses his own soul? What has he or she gained?
INTERCESSION AND REPENTANCE WILL SAVE THE DOOMED
Returning to the subject of punishment in this world, the Lord gives us little information to judge the death or suffering of individuals.
On the other hand He gives us plenty of examples concerning calamities that came upon cities or nations because of sin.
He cursed the cities of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida because they had the chance of a lifetime to receive salvation but did not.
Today, though many modern cities in Israel have been built on the ruins of ancient cities, these three have not.
But then Yeshua gave us an incredible glimpse into God’s court of justice when he revealed that if Sodom had had the opportunity that Capernaum had, Sodom would not have been destroyed, and would have been in existence even in Yeshua’s day.
In fact, as we know, if just ten people had had a heart for God in that city, Sodom would not have been destroyed in Abraham’s day.
There was another city—Nineveh—doomed for destruction. We don’t know if it would have come by war or “natural” disaster but it was doomed.
Yet when the prophet Jonah warned the people, they repented and according to history the city remained another 130 plus years.
Another heavy truth the Bible teaches us is that a nation cannot be destroyed until its cup of iniquity is full.
God told Abraham that his descendants would be in bondage for 400 years, and only after that would they conquer their promised land because the iniquity of the present occupants, the Amorites, “is not yet complete.”
Likewise, Yeshua told Jerusalem’s unbelieving religious rulers that they were filling up the measure of their father’s guilt. When the measure would be full, judgment would fall on Jerusalem—which it did, 40 years later.
THE NUMBER “ELEVEN”
It is interesting that in view of this March 11 tragedy in Japan, a number of major calamities have happened on the eleventh of different months.
Is this significant? It may simply mean that God is giving us another little hint that we are in the eleventh hour.
The beginning of sorrows has begun—as the Lord told us. The eleventh hour would be accompanied with wars, rumors of war, earthquakes, roaring seas and persecution.
On September 11, 2001 the U.S. was attacked by Islamists—our introduction to the “new” world force that appears to be involved in the last-day tribulations.
Spain was attacked by Islamists on March 11, 2004. 190 dead, 2000 wounded.
Then on March 11, 2010, exactly one year before the great earthquake, the Japanese government issued this statement:
“The Government of Japan deplores the decisions of the Government of Israel to give permission for the construction of 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem… The Government of Japan does not recognize any act that prejudges the final status of Jerusalem and the territories in the pre-1967 borders. Japan demands that the plans should not be implemented.”
The problem is that the prophet Zechariah let it be known that God “will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
Even though this is a prophecy pertaining to the very last of the last days, could this be a beginning?
Seven months later on October 11, 2010, Japan laid a cornerstone in Jericho—inaugurating an agro industrial park’s infrastructure—a multi-million dollar endeavor.
The hitch is—can you believe—a curse was declared on whoever lays a cornerstone in Jericho. Joshua cursed the city when God ordered its complete destruction.
“Cursed be the man before the Lord who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.”
Is this curse still in effect? I don’t know.
But let us continue: On January 11, 2011, Japan again condemned Israel’s building homes in Jerusalem, and declared it did not recognize Israel’s right to East Jerusalem. Instead Japan “strongly encourages” Israel and Palestinians to create two states out of the Holy Land.
Japan (and any other country who follows suit) possibly enters the area of curses specifically designated for the last days—when touching the apple of God’s eye.
Think about it: In the earthquake/tsunami, 55,000 Japanese homes were utterly destroyed.
“I will gather all nations… I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel… they have also divided up My land.”
SEEING THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
It is clear there are many pieces of the puzzle we do not understand which God takes into consideration in His judgment against a nation.
In no way do I believe the Japanese nation is worse than others.
No doubt there are attributes of these stoic people that are far superior to many other nations. But perhaps the most significant issue is since Japan is one of the most unevangelized countries in the world, there are a lot less Japanese people there to intercede for their nation.
In Japan, less than one percent of its 125 million souls have been born again.
And there are heavy evil forces that have thwarted revival.
Trying to understand God’s message to us, I believe the disaster in Japan is most definitely a wake-up call for believers everywhere.
It is one of the signs of the beginning of sorrows of which the Lord spoke. More is coming, according to the Bible.
APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES
The first priority of the believer is to humbly remember all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
The Psalmist said, “If You Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord who could stand?”
Our many sins have been removed—not by our good works but because of the love of God.
But for those who have not yet received God’s redemption, there comes a tipping point in God’s equation when He lifts His protection and His wrath is poured out.
Each of us needs to be in serious prayer for our own nation—as we begin to see events that show us our country is being weighed in the balance.
WHAT ABOUT AMERICA?
Looking at pieces of the puzzle, are these curses concerning Israel valid today?
If there is even a possibility that the answer is yes, then what about all the nations that are working together to take Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria away from the Jewish people? They too are being weighed in the balance.
Let’s consider North America for a minute.
What believer isn’t aware that America has been guilty of the grossest of sins—with Hollywood heading the pack to spread sexual immorality, violence and porn into every nation in the world?
The East coast glories in its evolutionary pillars with its elite universities spouting out prideful babble that comes from a people who do not know their God.
Yes, there are many good people in America and Canada—as there are in every other nation. But the main reason many Christians and Messianic Jews in the U.S. believe that so far America has been largely spared is because she alone in the world has continually stood with Israel.
“Abraham, I will bless those who bless you.”
That, together with the thousands of Christians who have given their lives to preach the Gospel around the world, is certainly a reason that, so far, America has escaped the tribulations of other nations—although natural disasters are seemingly increasing across the U.S.—a warning for those who are able to accept it.
But in many instances, the Church has “grown fat.” It sleeps. Today, America looks very fragile. In fact, the only hope for America are praying people who KNOW their God.
What about Great Britain? It is one of the most anti-Semitic, anti-Israel nations in the world.
The Church of the redeemed is struggling. Yet, there are groups, many of them small, who are praying their hearts out daily for the salvation—physical and spiritual—of Israel.
They are praying for mercy upon their own nation, England. They well know the Scripture, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” God is listening to those prayers.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
What can we do to help Japan?
There is a very important article we are reprinting in this issue written by Peter Wagner, giving insight to the powers keeping Japan from receiving the Gospel. It will help us know how to pray.
I clearly sense this is Japan’s hour for salvation. This is her window of opportunity.
The saints worldwide must rise up in prayer, in finances and in sacrifice to give this nation—the tenth largest population in the world—a chance to receive true revival.
God can take this terrible disaster and use it to bring eternal life to this nation.
Japanese Emperor Akihito addressed the nation at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on March 16, 2011—the first speech by an emperor since his father addressed the nation when Japan was defeated in 1945. He spoke of sorrow for his nation that was suffering from the terrible earthquake, tsunami and radiation fallout.
Let me give you some personal background information about my involvement with Japan. I could call it “The Great Japan Disappointment of the 1990s.”
During the Praying Through the Window initiative of the 1990s, I suffered a disappointing defeat in Japan.
I had become associated with David Yonggi Cho of Korea, and I joined his Church Growth International board in the mid-1980s. Among other things, I enthusiastically adopted the goal that he had set for the evangelization of Japan.
Toward the beginning of the 1990s, Cho began visiting Japan once a month, he learned the Japanese language, and he projected a goal of 10 million born again Japanese by the year 2000.
This was a substantial risk, since, of all the nations of the world, Japan has been one of the most notoriously resistant to the Gospel. Of a population of 125 million, Japan had fewer than one million believers, even though the Gospel had been freely preached for a century, and especially since World War II.
What did that have to do with me? I made the evangelization of Japan one of my highest priorities for the 1990s.
I literally believed in Cho’s 10 million goal. I wrote about it, I spoke about it in public meetings, and I visited Japan many times to help open the doors.
Numerous prayer journey teams from several other countries traveled to Japan and prayed at key power points. They did warfare against some of the highest profile principalities and powers over the land.
Cho continued to minister to large crowds every month, and I joined him from time to time. I was convinced that we had used the weapons of spiritual warfare properly on behalf of that nation and we would literally see the 10 million before 2000.
However, it was not to be.
Through the 1990s, the rate of church growth in Japan remained unchanged, and the year 2000 saw fewer than one million believers in the country—the same number as in 1990 and far short of the 10 million goal!
Later, Cho admitted publicly in his newsletter that he had set the goal of 10 million believers in his flesh, not through God’s revelation. Since I had associated with him so closely, I had to confess the same thing for myself.
People may rationalize this in one way or another, but I cannot join them. I set a goal, I did not reach the goal even with sincere dependence on God, and I admit that I lost! This, as you can imagine, was a major disappointment!
I once asked Cho why he thought churches grew so rapidly in Korea but not in Japan. His answer surprised me.
Although recognizing that there are many reasons, one, he suggested, was the serious damage done to traditional Korean culture through 36 years of Japanese occupation and, subsequently, through communism from the north. Christianity grew relatively unhindered by the traditional Korean principalities of darkness.
On the other hand, Japan’s culture has been virtually uninterrupted for 3,000 years. Paganism is deeply rooted in the warp and woof of the nation. The spirits over Japan have had their way and they are not prepared to allow Christianity more than a token presence.
The most serious setback for Japan’s territorial spirits came during a seven-year period following World War II.
Despite a Buddhist facade, Japan’s most deeply entrenched spirits are the principalities controlling Shintoism, which is a spiritualized form of nationalism.
The chief visible figure employed by these dark angels is the emperor.
In the popular mind, the emperor was himself a deity. But as a part of the World War II peace process, Emperor Hirohito publicly denied this status and the Japanese government agreed to separate itself officially from any religious institution, including Shintoism.
Christianity grew well for what are now known as the “seven wonderful years.”
[This was the period when General Douglas MacArthur called for a thousand Christian missionaries and 3,000 went. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20000504b7.html]
For more than 30 years it appeared, in the visible, that Japan was maintaining its status quo. But in the invisible world, the dark angels began regaining their foothold.
The growth of the Church slowed to a crawl. Then Hirohito died and his son, Akihito, became the new emperor.
A crucial question revolved around the Daijo-sai ceremony, the spiritual component of the traditional inauguration of the new emperor.
Let me show you some of what Wikipedia says about the Daijo-sai:
“The Daijo-sai or the Great Thanksgiving Festival is the… most important—and also the most controversial—of the inauguration rituals, because it is the one in which the emperor is united to his Imperial Ancestress in such a way as to share in a unique way in her divinity.
The ceremony is not mentioned in the Constitution imposed by the American occupation forces, and so its present constitutionality was questioned at the time of the accession of the present emperor Akihito.
“First, two special rice paddies are chosen and purified by elaborate Shinto purification rites…
“Meanwhile two thatched roof two-room huts are built within a corresponding special enclosure, using native Japanese building style which precedes all Chinese cultural influence. One room contains a large couch at its center…
“After a ritual bath the emperor is dressed entirely in the white silk dress of a Shinto priest, but with a special long train. Surrounded by courtiers, the emperor solemnly enters first the enclosure and then each of these huts in turn from 6:30 to 9:30 PM in the first, and in the second [enclosure] from 12:30 to 3:30 AM…”
Notice that the only furniture in the second hut is a couch.
The ceremony climaxes in an intimate encounter between the new emperor and the sungoddess, Amaterasu Omikami, the chief spiritual ruler over the nation.
It matters little whether the ensuing intercourse is physical (succubus) or spiritual. In the invisible world, the two ritually become one flesh and, through its supreme leader, the nation officially invites demonic control as long as he is emperor.
Unfortunately for Japan, a foolish decision [in 1989] was made and Emperor Akihito decided to reverse his father’s post World War II position and once again became, in the popular mind, “deified” through the Daijo-sai ceremony.
Not only that, but the government paid the expenses of the multimillion dollar ritual over the vehement protests of the Japanese Christian leaders.
Since then, predictably, the overt participation of government officials, as national leaders, in pilgrimages and rituals connected with traditional Japanese paganism, have been on the increase.
[An added observation is that from 1990 on, Japan’s fantastic economic bubble burst and the economy flattened—until today. Ed.]
Japanese people are good people and basically open to Jesus and Christianity.
As an example, many more Japanese young people choose a Christian wedding over a Shinto or Buddhist wedding.
Many Japanese pastors and expatriate missionaries enjoy a substantial revenue stream performing weddings which almost always require a session or two of “counseling.”
Japanese are not enemies of the Gospel—they are simply blinded by the Sun Goddess and her occult Shinto trappings.
It is almost too much to ask, but if the Emperor were somehow overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit to repudiate his vows to the Sun Goddess, in Japan we would surely see one of the greatest people movements to Christ ever recorded.
Condensed from www.elijahlist.com
The Lagoinha Church in Belo Horizonte is one of the largest in Brazil with over 45,000 members with multiple services. Ari spoke in their Sunday evening service.
We have just spent two weeks in Brazil.
Our purpose was two-fold as it always is when we travel outside of Israel. We were there to educate Christians concerning God’s plan for Israel in these last days.
Secondly, we were there to encourage God’s people to be actively involved with Israel’s salvation—through prayer, sharing this knowledge and giving.
So it was with these expectations we set out for Brazil.
From the plane we could see the rich countryside—thousands of square miles of the finest agriculture. We knew Brazil is a power to be reckoned with, but we were amazed at just how prosperous the nation has become—everywhere we went.
But as we talked to the Brazilian pastors, we were even more amazed.
We were told that some 20 years ago, there were about 10,000,000 Evangelicals in that nation. Today there are more than 40,000,000 believers! In a nation of 180,000,000 people, that is over 20% of all Brazilians.
There are estimates that in another 20 years that figure could actually reach 50%!
Everywhere we went, the leaders were hungry, the people on fire. Brazil is definitely in revival mode. Wherever we went in whatever city, churches were everywhere.
It is not at all surprising then that economically the nation is also booming. Where the Church grows, the people prosper. No two ways about it.
The economy of Brazil is now the world’s seventh largest economy and one of the fastest growing in the world.
Yes, the government is very left wing and very much against Israel. Brazil has been one of the first to recognize Palestine as a new state.
But the Evangelicals have a growing opportunity to change this—if they are discipled to understand the Word of God concerning Israel.
One pastor told us that some Brazilian Jewish businessmen had sought him out and told him that in this nation of anti-Israel politics it is plain to see that the Evangelicals stand out as a bright light with their foundational belief in the Bible.
They are therefore more prone to stand by Israel in her struggle to exist even though the world is becoming more and more hostile towards her.
In contrast, we thought about the United States with her ever-growing anti-Israel stand and her moral decline.
If the Church as a whole does not take hold of the horns of the altar and plead for revival in the U.S., the economic deterioration will likely continue.
The Church in Brazil is young—and yes, many sectors of the Church have limited understanding about Israel and the existential challenges she faces.
Because of Brazil’s Catholic history, there is not always a lot of knowledge about what the Bible says concerning Israel as we approach these last days. (See Romans 11)
But that is all the more reason we were honored to be invited by many Brazilian pastors and churches which gave us the opportunity to present “the case for Israel according to the Bible,” and to show what Maoz Ministries is doing to bring the message of salvation to our Israeli people.
We found pastors hungry to understand the Word of God on this subject. We had opportunity to speak to several hundred pastors and thousands of people in the churches.
Ari spoke in one of the largest churches in Brazil with a membership of 45,000 in the city of Belo Horizonte. The leadership immediately asked him to stay and speak at a pastor’s conference the following day. However, we had meetings scheduled the next day in another city.
Because the Church is young there, it is important to get Biblical truth to the people before heresies such as replacement theology move in through anti-Semitic or just plain ignorant voices.
God has given us leaders in that land who have opened many doors to Maoz Ministries. In all we spoke 25 times in those two weeks.
Julio Otani has done an amazing job directing our Brazil office. God has given us a man who is totally sold out to his calling—to reach his people with the Good News and the blessing waiting those who bring salvation to Israel: “I will bless those who bless Israel.”
Ari with Pastor Nelson, Ponta Grossa Church
We had traveled to a mid-size town in Brazil to speak in a local church.
Feeling a bit weary we checked into a lovely boutique hotel the church had provided for us. Pastor Nelson Braido, a humble, unassuming man met us in the lobby and warmly greeted us.
When it was time to get to the service, our translator turned on his GPS to find the church location. Along the way we were passing what looked to be a convention hall—with cars parked in every available cubicle.
As we were maneuvering between the cars we heard a roar coming out of the building. We said, “Oh, this must be some kind of sports stadium.”
Before we could finish the sentence we suddenly heard the sound of a shofar! We looked at each other and said, “Could this possibly be the church?”
We parked and walked in. The crowd was on fire. Some 6,000 people filled the auditorium.
Young men in the front were holding on to the four corners of a huge Israeli flag which they held up and passed over the heads of the people as they walked up and down the aisles. The worship was ear splitting—but glorious!
We were stunned.
On the stage there was a model of the high priest and a tent representing the Holy of Holies. The young people danced Israeli dances and sang in Hebrew. The pastor spoke with authority, anointing and great vigor!
We thought to ourselves, “In Ponta Grossa? How could it be? After Ari gave the message, Pastor Nelson invited us to meet his team of 19 pastors and leaders and their families.
We asked Pastor Nelson, “Where in the world did you get this love for the people of Israel – here deep in the hinterland of Brazil?” He simply answered, “From the Bible.”
Then he told us how he came to realize the truth of the scripture, “I will bless those who bless you.” In 1990 he began his church with 20 people in this city of 350,000. In his prayers he asked the Lord for 300 members, and two years later his church had grown to that number.
Soon after, he went to Israel for the first time and there asked the Lord for 500 souls. By 1995, the Lord had given him what he asked.
In 1997 he again went to Israel and this time asked the Lord to give him 1000 members. His staff had a hard time believing for that number.
Besides, they reminded him, they didn’t have a place large enough. So Pastor Nelson added a request for the property to accomodate the thousand.
By 2007, his congregation had grown to 1000 and they had built a building, debt free, to house the people.
So that year—2007—with his faith built up, he asked the Lord for 5,000 souls. By 2010 he had harvested the 5,000 and this year he already has another 1,000.
Last year he asked the Lord to give him a tithe of his city—meaning 35,000.
We asked him what is causing the growth. His answer was, “Revival!”
We could certainly feel revival in the air. The joy, the passion, the energy of young and old was amazing. No doubt Pastor Nelson will receive by faith what he and his leadership have asked for!
And Israel is fortunate to have a church such as this praying and supporting the growth of the Body in Israel.