AMERICA'S BICENTENNIAL in 1976 saw dozens of time capsules buried in virtually every state across the nation. A time capsule is a metallic container into which records and mementos of one generation are placed for safekeeping, later to be opened and studied by a succeeding generation anxious to know how it was "back then." Magazines, newspapers, coins and currency, tape recordings, articles of clothing, photographs and other items of contemporary society are carefully selected and lodged inside the capsule. The capsule is then sealed. Finally it is buried, never to see the light of day until, at the proper future time, it is dug up and its seal broken — 100 years, 500 years or even 1,000 years hence.
Few realize that in recent times a 2,500-year-old time capsule has been uncovered and opened to view! It was not unearthed by the spade of an archaeologist along the Euphrates River. Nor was it discovered in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. It was, in fact, never physically lost to begin with! The identity of that time capsule? Bible prophecy! Few realize that a significant portion of the Bible is, in effect, a time capsule. But a truly unique type of time capsule! Nearly one third of the Bible consists of prophecy. The majority of those ancient prophecies are yet unfulfilled! Notice, as an illustration, the instructions given long ago to the prophet Daniel regarding the prophecies he had received from God: "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end..." (Daniel 12:4). Daniel's prophecies were to be sealed from human understanding until the end times, the last days of this present human civilization. The actual words, of course, would remain through the centuries for all to see, but men's eyes would be blinded to their true meaning and intent. Even Daniel himself did not fully understand the prophecies he had recorded. He was simply told: "Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:9). When that future time finally arrived, however, then "the wise [would] understand" (verse 10). The vast majority of the prophecies of the Bible were sealed and shut up, like a time capsule, for the last days. Those days are now! The prophetic biblical time capsules are now open for full view. Moreover, the messages contained therein are not just dusty records of past events and forgotten civilizations — but vivid pictures of things to come, events just ahead!
Let us see the works of just one of the many prophets of the Bible, the prophet Ezekiel. Let us see the proof that these prophecies were not intended — as most theologians and Bible scholars contend — simply for the peoples of Ezekiel's time, the 6th century B.C. We shall discover that these living prophecies are instead vitally important messages for today — the latter 20th century! Few understand this vital truth. And few today are heeding Ezekiel's warnings. Yet no message is more timely or more urgent. To begin, it is imperative to properly understand the time setting of Ezekiel's prophecy. It is one of the vital keys unlocking a true understanding of the message and intent of the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel leaves nothing to the imagination. The time factor is spelled out in unmistakable detail in Ezekiel 1:1-2. Ezekiel records that his first vision occurred in the fifth year of the captivity of king Jehoiachin of the ancient nation of Judah. Remember, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had besieged Jerusalem on more than one occasion during the reign of Jehoiachin's predecessor, King Jehoakim. Nebuchadnezzar had taken many captives back to Babylon. Among them had been a young man named Daniel. That captivity is recounted in II Kings 24:17. Later, King Jehoiachin was taken into captivity by the armies of Babylon. The record of Jehoiachin's captivity can be read in II Kings 24:10-16. It was in that captivity that Ezekiel was taken prisoner. It was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's captivity (594-593 B.C.) that Ezekiel experienced his first vision. This was still six years before the final Babylonian assault against Jerusalem, which resulted in the destruction of the city and the Temple (II Kings 25).
Next notice to whom Ezekiel was sent with his messages. His commission is very clearly spelled out. In Ezekiel 3:1, God commands Ezekiel: "... go speak unto the house of Israel." Ezekiel is called "a watchman unto the house of Israel" (3:17; 33:7). Anciently, the 12 tribe nation of Israel had split into two separate nations after the death of King Solomon. The account of that break is found in I Kings 12. The southern nation, with capital at Jerusalem, subsequently became known as the house of Judah. The people of the house of Judah became known as Jews. The northern nation, with capital at Samaria, was called the house of Israel. It consisted of 10 tribes, headed by Ephraim and Manasseh. Those two leading tribes were descended from Joseph, son of the patriarch Jacob (see Genesis 46:20). Now notice the following fact: the northern, 10 tribe house of Israel had been conquered and carried away into national captivity by the armies of Assyria (II Kings 18:9-12) 130 years before Ezekiel began to prophesy! Yet it was to the house of Israel that Ezekiel was sent! Consider further: Ezekiel himself was now also in captivity! He was among the Jewish captives by the river Chebar in the land of the Chaldeans (1:1, 3). Chebar was a great canal southeast of Babylon. The 10 tribes of Israel, on the other hand, had been carried over a century before, not to the land of Chaldaea, but to the lands of the Medes to the northeast. Now the crucial point: Ezekiel was never released to seek out the house of Israel and deliver his message to it. He never reached the 10 tribes! Read the entire book and see for yourself. Tradition has it that Ezekiel was ultimately murdered by fellow exiles after rebuking them for idolatry. The conclusion is therefore inescapable! Ezekiel's prophecies were meant for a future time, and a different nation than Judah! He never went to the house of Israel or to the smaller neighboring nations to whom his prophecies were directed. Instead, he wrote the prophecies among Jewish captives — to be preserved by them until the time for which they were intended. That time is now!
Who Is Modern Israel?
Ezekiel's prophecies never reached the ears of the nations for which they were intended. They are primarily meant for the house of Israel today. But where is the house of Israel in this latter half of the 20th century? It is not in Palestine. The modern-day state of Israel is a Jewish nation — composed of descendants of the ancient house of Judah. The captives of the 10 tribe house of Israel, on the other hand, never returned to the Holy Land, except for one priestly family (II Kings 17:27). The 10 tribes became known as the "Lost Ten Tribes." Few understand what became of them. Longtime readers of The Plain Truth know that these 10 Israelitish tribes ultimately migrated northwestward into Western Europe. Some remained there. A large group later arrived in the British Isles in the mid-fifth century A.D. We know them as Anglo-Saxons. From there many later journeyed to North America and to Britain's colonies around the world. The amazing truth is that Ephraim and Manasseh — the leading tribes of the house of Israel — are, respectively, Britain and the United States today! It was upon Ephraim and Manasseh that the patriarch Israel (Jacob) placed his name and to whom the birthright of national greatness and wealth was bestowed (Genesis 48). The Messiah, by contrast, was to descend from Judah. The ancient prophecies of Ezekiel are thus essentially prophecies for the British and American peoples of today! (For proof of this vital truth, request your free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy by Herbert W. Armstrong) Now, after more than 2,500 years, these prophecies of Ezekiel are being proclaimed to the ears of those for whom they were intended — the modern descendants of the ancient house of Israel!
Watchman to the House of Israel
Notice, now, God's warning to Ezekiel: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman [guard or sentry] unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand" (Ezekiel 3:17-18). Ezekiel was given an awesome responsibility. Had he failed to properly execute his commission of warning the people of the house of Israel, God would have held him ultimately responsible for their deaths! God always gives ample warnings before meting out corrective punishment. God has promised that he will never dramatically intervene in world affairs without first revealing his intentions to his servants — who are then held responsible for warning the nations or peoples involved. "Surely the [Eternal] God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). After the warning is delivered, the watchman's job is finished. It is then up to the individual to decide whether he will personally act on that warning to avoid impending punishment. Ezekiel took his commission seriously. Unable by circumstances to personally deliver the warning, he wrote it down — to preserve it through the centuries until it could be delivered. You are now hearing that warning message! Ezekiel's message — along with the warnings and forecasts of other ancient prophets of God — are being broadcast daily around the world by way of "The World Tomorrow" radio program, and being read monthly in the pages of The Plain Truth. And the kings, presidents and prime ministers of this world are hearing them personally from Herbert W. Armstrong, editor in chief of The Plain Truth and apostle of Jesus Christ. Ezekiel's ancient commission is now being fulfilled!
A Rebellious Nation
Now notice some of the highlights of Ezekiel's message. No warning is more urgent or more timely for today. "I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me," God tells Ezekiel. "They and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day" (Ezekiel 2:3). God calls the people of Israel "impudent children and stiff-hearted" (2:4). He is not overly optimistic that they will respond to his warnings through Ezekiel. "The house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me," God observes (3:7). Yet God encouraged Ezekiel to faithfully execute his commission nevertheless. Whether the people heed the warning or not, God says, "they shall know that there hath been a prophet among them" (2:5). They will be without excuse! Ezekiel's message is not a pleasant one. It is one of "lamentations, and mourning, and woe" (2:10). It is one that many critics — oblivious to its real purpose and ultimate objective — have labeled a doomsday message. In reality, it is the only message that holds out any real hope for the world today!
Time of Jacob's Trouble
Consider the following: Bible prophecy reveals that in the years ahead, a great confederation of 10 nations will arise in Europe — an end-time revival of the ancient Roman Empire. This power will come under the leadership of a military dictator known as "the beast" (Revelation 17:12-13). The beast will ultimately invade Egypt, Palestine and other areas of the Middle East. Later he will confront the power of Soviet-led Asia and then of Jesus Christ himself at his Second Coming (Rev. 17:14). But where are Britain and the United States in this prophetic picture? The answer is Britain and the United States — the modern-day descendants of Joseph, leader of the house of Israel — will themselves be subjugated by the beast! This will occur at the beginning of a period of religious persecution called the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21). The prophet Jeremiah calls it "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). The American and British peoples are to become embroiled in a crisis that will pale the first two world wars into insignificance! See what Ezekiel has to say of the impending fate of the 20th-century house of Israel: "A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence [disease epidemics], and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee; and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them" (Ezekiel 5:12). One third of the peoples of America and Britain are — yet in the future — to die of famine and disease! Another third will perish in military attack! The remaining third will be taken captive as slaves into all parts of the earth! This is the terrifying future in store for the English-speaking peoples if events continue in the direction they are now headed and if our peoples do not repent of their sins! Sin is the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4). There will be no escape for those who refuse to heed the warning. There will be no safe haven of refuge — no hiding place from the sure punishment of God (Ezekiel 6:12; 7:15).
The destruction wreaked upon the house of Israel will be unparalleled in history. "In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste..." God declares (6:6). Cities will be completely destroyed — probably the result of hydrogen bomb warfare! How, many have wondered, will the combined nuclear might of the United States and Britain ever succumb? Ezekiel provides the answer: "They have blown the trumpet [of war], even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof. The sword is without, the pestilence and the famine within..." (7:14-15). The United States and Britain will be so weakened by famine and disease that no one will be in any condition to resist! Why this punishment? Why will God bring these dire punishments upon the modern-day house of Israel? God himself answers: "... for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them" (5:6). And again: "... for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel..." (6:11). Ephraim and Manasseh have refused to obey God. They have refused to live the way of life that produces peace and prosperity. They have turned their backs on the commandments of God and have committed abominations in his sight. For these reasons God declares "they shall fall" (6:11). When Ezekiel wrote, the ancient house of Israel had long since fallen into Assyrian captivity. This prophecy therefore clearly refers to the fate of the modern-day house of Israel. God is going to send it into captivity and slavery for the purpose of learning a great lesson! Anciently, God chose the nation of Israel for a great purpose — a purpose it has stubbornly refused to fulfill to this day! Instead of becoming a positive example to other nations of God's right way of life, Israel has instead degenerated into a shameful illustration of the consequences of disobedience. Peace and harmony — the fruits of obedience to God's laws — are nowhere to be found, within Israel's borders. Instead, "the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence" (7:23). The British and American peoples and the gentiles who dwell among them have been blessed above all nations of the earth. But in their material prosperity they have abandoned true spiritual values. They have forgotten their God! God is going to break their spirit of rebellion and disobedience! The result of that unprecedented punishment will be an eye-opening, spiritual realization of the true extent of national and personal sins — and a large-scale national repentance (6:8-9). "They shall loathe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations," God declares. "And they shall know that I am the Lord, and that I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them" (6:9-10). Israel will at last yield to the will of God! "And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you...", God says... and they shall be my people, and I will be their God" (11:19-20).
You Can Escape!
Amid all his prophecies of war and captivity, Ezekiel has another message: No one need suffer these frightful calamities! Those individuals who yield to God now will be spared his corrective punishment in the days just ahead. Notice: In a vision (recorded in chapter 9), Ezekiel saw six men bearing weapons of slaughter in their hands. Another man held a writing implement. God instructed the man with the writing implement to go through the midst of Jerusalem — the fall of ancient Jerusalem is a type of the fall of the modern house of Israel — and "set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof' (verse 4). To the six armed men God instructed: "Go ye after him [the man with the writing implement] through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity... but come not near any man upon whom is the mark..." (verses 5-6). Compare this account with the seventh chapter of the book of Revelation. Just as righteous Noah was divinely protected through the worldwide Flood that erased all life from the face of the land, God today promises to spare all those who individually turn from the evils of this present world — those who "sigh and cry" over its abominations. Are you one of these individuals?
The handwriting is on the wall! God is very soon to intervene mightily in world affairs! Britain and America are not the only nations that will suffer God's corrective punishment. All mankind has rejected God and his ways! But modern Israel will be first to receive correction — and later the first to be delivered (Ezekiel 36:7-11). In the end, all nations will learn the great lesson that God's way of life is the only way that will produce the peace and prosperity that all peoples seek. Then will begin the utopian World Tomorrow — with global peace and abundance at last. But first must come a time of divine correction. The entire world is entering a time of chaos and calamity. The world as a whole will not heed the warning! Will you take Ezekiel's warning seriously?