One early morning while it was still dark, we were awakened by the Code Red apps on our phones telling us that a rocket attack was taking place. Normally, these attacks happen every month or so to the Israeli communities which surround the international border with Gaza, 140 or so miles away from us to the south, and so we were in no hurry to do anything other than silence our phones. It was probably just another false alarm—real enough for others but not for us. However, when I glanced at my phone’s lock-screen to confirm what I expected to see, instead it read: Rocket Attack: Golan. As soon as I read the screen, we heard a couple of explosions followed by the loud wail of the rocket siren across the street. It wasn’t just any part of the Golan, it was our part!
Throughout Israel, each neighborhood is assigned a color representing the number of seconds one has to reach his/her bomb shelter before a rocket lands—once the siren has gone off. These “defense zones” range from 1 1/2 minutes in the middle of the country down to “immediate” or “no time” for those who live near the borders of Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. We just happen to live in one of those “immediate” zones, just 2 miles from the Syrian border and 3 miles from the Lebanese border.
Of course, upon hearing the siren we jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes and headed to the bomb shelter next door. But by that time the incoming rockets from Syria (in this case Iran was the instigator) had already passed over our home or had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system. That wasn’t the end of our hectic morning, as Israel lost an F-16i to the overwhelming number of SAMs shot by Syria at their fighter jets in a skirmish that happened just a few minutes later. We were in and out of our protective place for the next three hours as the battle raged overhead and on both sides of the border. Thankfully, this time none of the rockets—nor any of the falling debris from Syrian SAMs which were intercepted by the Iron Dome—fell on our neighborhood.
However, just a week or so before this battle took place, we had been instructed by our neighborhood security chief to check out our bomb shelter to make sure that it was ready. I.e. we needed to make sure that there was enough bottled water, snacks—flashlights and batteries—and anything else that we might need in case of an attack. To be honest, I put off the inspection for another day—for a time when I thought that a war might be a bit closer. Basically, I was derelict in my duty to make sure that we were as prepared as possible, thinking that we would have plenty of advanced warning—even though we had been given specific instructions on how to prepare. All of this brings me to the point of this post.
If Jesus had given instructions to his disciples in present-day Israel regarding his return, I think he might have used current day natural catastrophes and skirmishes with Iran and Syria in his parables, similar to how, two thousand years ago, he compared his return to Noah’s flood and the parable of the ten virgins.
Sitting on the Mount of Olives, with the old Arab man who owns the camel that the tourists ride listening in, the conversation might have gone something like this:
“Look, no one knows exactly when I will return—except my dad. For example, remember all those people in Sumatra, Indonesia? How they were eating and drinking, having beach weddings. But they were unaware that one morning the earth would quake and the sea would carry half of them off in the following tsunami. Two people would be standing together and one would be drowned while the other held onto something for dear life. So, you’ve got to be ready, because I’m going to return just like that earthquake—at a time you do not expect.
“My reign will come like that time I tipped off the IDF about a possible attack. Remember how they instructed the Golan residents to be prepared by making sure that their bomb shelters were stocked with everything—especially batteries for their flashlights and for their electronics—and to stay close to their bunkers? Then in the middle of the night, a little while later after everyone had gotten complacent because nothing had come of the warning, Iran and Syria launched thousands of rockets into the Golan. But only half of the people made it to the bunkers before the doors were shut, and fearing an invasion, the ones inside the bunkers would not open the doors, so the rest outside had to deal with both the rockets and the enemy.
“Watch out! because you don’t know the day nor the hour! When you hear the siren, it’s too late to get ready.”
Jesus has told us to be faithful during the delay of his return. We don’t know exactly when that will be, but we’re told to ‘stay awake’. What does this mean practically for us? We’ve got to prepare the church—everyone in the church—for the Lord’s return and the times leading up to it; how to be living ready and alertly. The Bible, throughout both the Old and New Testaments, details numerous signs that could happen before he arrives. It’s got to be part of our sermons, children’s lessons, ABFs, small groups and our discipleship training. It’s a huge part of the Good News! It’s what Jesus commanded us to do, and he’s telling us that we are living in an “immediate” zone, on the border.
Are we being obedient? Or, do we think, “Ah, we’ve got time…”?
Syrian Rocket and Israeli Iron Dome contrails as seen from our home.Defensive Zones as detailed on Israel’s Home Front Command website.