Preparing for the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God on earth.
Hundreds of thousands of people were stranded all over the world when the dust from Eyjafjallajökull – an erupting volcano in Iceland – spread across large parts of European airspace. It stopped or impeded commercial flights for six days and led to the unprecedented closure of many of Europe’s major airports because of fears that the volcanic dust would damage jet engines and thus endanger life.
Many days after the ash cloud had been declared safe, as the wind direction changed and the eruption eased, many were left counting the cost. Families were still stranded: sleeping at airports, staying on in costly hotels, trying to get a flight home. Airlines were working out what the disruption had cost them in lost business, extra meals, or accommodation costs. Governments were left to consider their position as they were said to have overreacted to the potential danger and to have restricted flying unnecessarily. But other travellers will have tales to tell their children and grandchildren for years to come about how they got home, despite a volcano!
For there were ways of getting home despite the closure of airports. Ferries were still running; cargo vessels took passengers; some light aircraft were chartered; taxis could be summoned to get you to a port; cars could be hired; a coach was hired by a group of people who clubbed together; others travelled by train. Some people crossed continents, combining one form of transport with another, just to get to a ferry terminal.
Occasions like this can bring out the very best in people who are anxious to get home and who make great endeavours. And when the aircraft were grounded ferries abounded as this month’s cover photograph shows, the photographer having driven across to Dunkirk in Northern France to collect his stranded family, who were visiting from New Zealand, to bring them safely to Britain.
Events like this demonstrate how things have changed compared with just a few years ago. The eruption happened just after the Easter holiday break and there were people stranded all over the world. Tourists were to be found in countries as far apart as Australia, New Zealand, India and Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of people were either away on holiday or on business, and none of them could get back on their scheduled flights. That’s the sort of world we now live in, where readily available travel is taken for granted.
But it is also the case that human society is now more fragile than ever and something like an erupting volcano, an earthquake, or a tidal wave can cause huge disruption and loss. None of that would have mattered in earlier times but now that we travel much more and work in businesses which criss-cross the world, we are vulnerable to the circumstances of life as never before. Things may look solid and secure but, as events like the banking crisis or a volcanic eruption demonstrate, society is not that robust and one unscheduled event can throw things seriously off track.
Many years ago the Jewish people were dispersed all over the world but not because they had been on holiday. For more than 1000 years they had been a displaced people, ousted from their homeland by the Romans and forced to move on from nation to nation as they were persecuted and refused a place to settle. But God had promised that the time would come for them to return home, at His command:
“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’ For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he” (Jeremiah 31:10,11).
The impediment to their return was significant: much more of an obstacle than just a bit of volcanic ash. Some of the land was occupied by people now described as Palestinians. Many nations had been responsible for the persecution of the Jewish people, so when the matter came to a vote in the United Nations the decision could have gone against partitioning the land to create a Jewish State. But it did not. Under the hand of God and in 1947 the majority vote was for the establishment of a Jewish state after a lapse of 1878 years. By then there were some Jews already living in the land, having bought estates and farms they had begun to reclaim the land from centuries of abandonment. The declaration of the State of Israel in May 1948 spurred on the process of resettlement and Jews from all over the world began to return and resettle.
The Exodus Again
Long before the nation had come from Egypt as refugees marching to the land that God had promised their ancestors. Now they travelled to Israel as Abraham had once journeyed from Ur of the Chaldees – leaving settled homes to become pioneers in a new nation, making a new start in life. Mainly by sea, for this was in the 1940s and early 50s, a dispersed community moved home to settle in a new land and to build it into a powerful nation.
The existence of Israel as a Middle Eastern nation is a modern phenomenon which is a testimony to the fact that God always keeps His Word. He promised that he would re-establish the nation of Israel on earth and that has now been accomplished, amidst opposition and in controversial circumstances, just as the Bible predicted.
The scene is now set for the final dramatic event in the prophetic calendar. Now that Israel is back in the land, surrounded by enemies, we can expect the return of Jesus from heaven to reign on earth over God’s restored kingdom. He may be a long way from home at present, but not for long!