(Photo: Harvest Ministries / Trever Hoehne)
Harvest Ministries leader Greg Laurie concluded the last of his three radio interviews with Calvary Chapel founder Pastor Chuck Smith on Wednesday by asking him about the future of Israel.
Affirming that the current threats against Israel are a sign of the end times, he stated, "The Bible tells us that the Lord is going to gather them back into the land and there is going to be an endeavor to destroy them. It is interesting that Iran is one of those nations that will be aligned together with Russia in the attempt to destroy [Israel]. It's interesting how they are all coming together now.
"We see the problems that are over there and we realize that it looks like we are right on the border of the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 and 39."
Earlier this week, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, visited President Barack Obama in the White House. At the meeting, that included a discussion with their national-security advisers and a 30-minute chat alone, Netanyahu gave Obama a decorated scroll of the story of Esther from the Bible.
The book of Esther tells the story of how the beautiful Esther and her cousin, Mordechai, plot to keep the evil Haman from murdering Persia's Jews. Laurie asked Smith what the significance of the gift to Obama from Netanyahu might be.
"It was during that time that Ester was used by the Lord to save the nation of Israel from eradication that was planned by Haman, who was part of the Neo-Persian empire," Smith said. "[Haman] had a day all set up when they were going to put a bounty on the head of every Jew throughout the area."
The Neo-Persian empire was the world's most dominant force at that time, Smith explained.
"Esther stepped forward with the encouragement of her cousin, Mordechai, to make intercession for the people," Smith said.
The scroll was a very appropriate gift "because I don't think that they are really comfortable in Israel over the support [from] our present government," he commented. "I know they (U.S. government) are giving verbal support, but when it really comes to push and shove they (Israeli government) are not certain that we are going to be there to defend them or to help them."
Some Middle East observers have confirmed Smith's reasoning about the gift. Columnist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that the Esther scroll gift can be interpreted as: "When the Jews see a plot forming against them in Persia, they will act to disrupt the plot, even if Barack Obama wishes that they would wait for permission."
The Harvest Crusades founder asked Smith about whether the nation's previous strong support of Israel was "one of the reasons God has blessed our country?"
"Well, He promised He would bless those that bless them and curse those that drop them. That's something that God has declared and I do believe it is true," he said. "Take a look at those nations that have come against Israel. Take a look at Hitler and how he was really planning on world domination, but he was touching God's anointed and God said don't touch my anointed, don't do my prophets any harm."
Smith, 84, who is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, is undergoing treatment for lung cancer. The setback has not stopped him from teaching about end times. He recently spoke at all three weekend worship services that concluded the SoCal Prophecy conference at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills.
While giving frequent updates on the events of the Middle East at his church in Costa Mesa, Smith often begins with news that shows the potential outbreak of war, but ends by referring to the current events as "exciting times."
"How can you make, you say, all these dire predictions with a smile on your face? Well, because the outlook for the Church is very bright," he said at the conference. "We're almost there and I know how this story ends and that it's always comforting when you know that it ends and 'they all lived happily ever after.'"