The Powers of Heaven

“There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”
—Luke 21:25, 26

THE PICTURE LANGUAGE of the Bible employs essentially all the created things of God with which we, here on earth, are acquainted. There are various reasons why God has used so much symbolic language in his Word. One reason is its unchangeableness. The meaning of words often change through use and misuse. Whatever man creates is also subject to change, but this is not true of the created things of God.


In the sign language of the Bible, God has employed the sun, the moon, the stars, and clouds; and on the earth, oceans, rivers, mountains, valleys, sheep, goats, horses, wheat, tares, fig trees, and other features of earth. The characteristics of these have not changed throughout the centuries, and when used in the Bible to illustrate the exalted thoughts of God they should have the same meaning to us as they did to the ancients.

Present day events call our attention to God’s use of the heavens, composed of the sun, moon, and stars, and the relationship of the heavens to the earth. Our text mentions both of these. Jesus foretold that there would be ‘signs’ in the heavens, and upon the earth ‘distress of nations with perplexity.’ These prophetic words of the Master constitute part of his answer to the disciples’ question pertaining to the signs of his presence and the end of the age.

In presenting the many signs of that future time concerning which his disciples asked, Jesus adhered closely to the general prophetic testimony of the Old Testament. The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

“Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.”—Isa. 34:1-4


We normally think of these prophecies as involving Christianity, the dominant religion of the western world, and as they pertain to the events of these last days. Thus, when in recent years we saw the nation of Yugoslavia torn apart when the Serbs, who are Eastern Orthodox Catholics, tried to take Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was dominated by Muslims, and commit genocide, we saw anarchy affecting that nation. Meanwhile the Croatians of that nation, who are Roman Catholic Christians, also attacked Bosnia and also fought against Serbia. Even though a United Nations peacekeeping force was used to restore order, the remnants of these formerly united nations continue to suffer from the tragic years of anarchy, and deep-seated hatreds still fester.

We were reminded of the symbolic heavens being ‘on fire’ and the powers of heaven being ‘shaken’—Christian religions being involved in the fulfillment of that prophecy. We seldom think of ‘the powers of heaven’ beyond the Christian religions, yet all religions are included in the powers of heaven. We are seeing many instances of the powers of heaven being shaken outside of Christianity. A recent article on Indonesia in the “National Geographic” magazine (March 2001), presented a reverse situation to that of Yugoslavia. Indonesia is dominated by Muslims, and the article began by stating:

“Night fell fast over the harbor at Bitung on the far northeastern tip of Sulawesi, and the refugee camp, an old rattan factory, was hot and steamy as a terrarium. A group of shell-shocked Christians, gathered in the glare of a hanging bulb, were telling how they’d lost their homes on Ternate in the nearby Moluccas.

“‘The Muslims burned our houses!’ said a retired army sergeant. ‘They destroyed our churches!’ the village English teacher chimed in. ‘We were massacred!’

“Such commotion was new to this sweet-smelling hillside town of neat homes and manicured yards, but part of a larger malady racing through the watery gut of eastern Indonesia. For decades the area, also called the Spice Islands, had touted its mixed communities of Muslims and Christians as models of interfaith neighborliness. Then, in January 1999, it plunged into primeval war, and now thousands were dead, a half million uprooted, and nobody could say exactly why.

“The ex-army man, Anton Letsoin, said that Ternate’s troubles began when a letter on faked church stationery was circulated among the island’s Muslims. Convinced that a ‘cadre of Christ’ was forming up to attack them, they rallied at the local mosque. There, a witness said he overheard his neighbors raise a chilling cry: ‘Seek out the Ohets’—slang for Christians—‘and destroy!’

“Who had manufactured the letter? The refugees blamed local political schemers, rogue military units, or maybe gangsters from Jakarta, who sought profit by sowing discord. Nobody wanted to believe it was religion. ‘We were living in peace,’ cried the teacher. ‘We never experienced religious hatred before!’

“This is the mystery of Indonesia today. Three years after a crashing economy ended the 32-year rule of Indonesia’s former president, Suharto (who, like many Indonesians, uses one name), the world’s fourth most populous nation boils with such comprehensive religious and ethnic strife that even Indonesians have a hard time explaining it. That’s not surprising, considering their anchor-shaped archipelago sweeps 3,200 miles end to end and contains 6,000 inhabited islands and 225 million people, who are, in turn, divided by religion (Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist), ethnicity (some 300 groups and as many distinct languages), and water (four-fifths of the country’s total area).

“It is easy to forget that Indonesians now live in a time of great promise. The collapse of Suharto’s corrupt, crony-encrusted regime in 1998 made way for the republic’s first democratically elected government in over 40 years and a chance to rebuild its badly corroded political and economic institutions. But the same surge of popular will that shoved Suharto aside also ended the steely controls he used to cap social unrest. ‘Now the lid is off,’ said a western diplomat in Jakarta, ‘and there is extraordinary trauma and a clashing of mental tectonic plates that could pull the country apart.’”


In this instance Muslims attacked Christians. The growing religion of Muslims has shown much more aggression than that demonstrated here. They have attacked Buddhists in Afghanistan and marked them as non-Muslims by tags and other badges of identification similar to that used by Hitler for Jews during World War II. The aggression against Israel by the PLO may be considered to be land-oriented, but in the background the religious beliefs lend aid to the aggression. In addition to the aggression extremist Muslims have had for Israel, they have also targeted the western world, and in particular the United States. We have witnessed in the past few years the aggressive attitudes of Iran and Iraq, though not limited to the United States. The disastrous war fought by the USSR against Afghanistan showed that Muslims do not want to be opposed or suppressed by any other nation or religion.


A series of articles on Islam appeared in the “Los Angeles Times” in December 2000 which included one on Jihadis, telling how they are developed and trained. It was entitled, “Jihadi’s: Belief in a Day When ‘the Whole World Will Be Islamic.’ ” Under the section devoted to religion it also was captioned: “The Chilling Goal of Islam’s New Warriors.” The article was written in Muriake, Pakistan. It began:

“Abu Samara was a gangling lad of 14 when he joined the jihad. He was still too much of a boy to grow the beard required of holy warriors. But he wasn’t too young to master the weapons of war.

“Within weeks, his long, thin fingers were proficient with assault rifles, hand grenades, rocket launchers, and the militants’ deadliest device: remote-controlled explosives.

“Then he volunteered to die.

“Over the next decade, Abu Samara learned advanced weaponry in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan. He trained alongside Muslim militants from Arab and Asian countries at Afghan camps later attacked by the United States for fostering extremists. Then he joined the Army of the Prophet, or Lashkar-e-Taiba, the most feared of Pakistan’s 14 private armies.

“‘From the moment I discovered the idea of jihad [holy war], I knew what I’d do with my life,’ he explained, sitting cross-legged and barefoot on the ground, an AK-47 slung over his shoulder.

“The former peasant boy, who at 24 now has a full-untrimmed beard and a head of long, tousled black hair to match, spends most of his time these days in Kashmir, the idyllic Himalayan territory of snowcapped peaks and verdant valleys that has become the world’s highest battlefield. His cell of commandos crosses into Kashmir from Pakistan for months at a stretch to carry out suicide missions intended to wrest all of the disputed region from Hindu-dominated India. Most volunteers don’t survive more than four years.

“Abu Samara is the archetype new ‘Jihadi,’ a breed of Islamic warrior whose mission is no longer simply fighting infidels and oppressors in Muslim lands—the kind of campaign that put earlier generations of holy warriors on the map in war zones such as Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lebanon, and Chechnya.

“The new Jihadis are the most dangerous face of Islam today. In Pakistan, they are the most aggressive among a growing array of activists and organizations replacing or challenging crumbling state institutions. They’ve already played a major role in transforming South Asia into the world’s most volatile region—and Pakistan into what the United States views as the world’s most explosive country.

“As a result of escalating tension over Kashmir, a U.S. intelligence estimate predicts a 40% to 60% chance of open warfare within the next couple of years between India and Pakistan—two countries that openly tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

“Yet Abu Samara’s mission is not limited to Asia’s subcontinent. He’s out to change—perhaps conquer—the world in the name of his faith.

“‘Jihad is not just about fighting against oppression and occupation. Jihad is about the way you think and say prayers, the way you eat and sleep. It’s about creating an Islamic environment. It’s about the struggle of life,’ said Abu Samara, a nom de guerre that means ‘father of bountiful.’

“‘Jihad gives life purpose,’ he said. ‘Without it, we’re useless.’”


The article continues to tell of the inspiration received for this latest movement because of success against the Soviets, saying:

“Virtually all of the private armies in Pakistan, the only Muslim country created solely to preserve a religious identity, are offshoots of groups launched with the help of Pakistani intelligence during the Soviet occupation of neighboring Afghanistan in the 1980’s. But they weren’t disbanded after Moscow’s 1989 withdrawal. Inspired by Islam’s role in defeating a superpower, their mission and numbers expanded rapidly.

“The impoverished South Asian nation is now home to at least 128 camps for militants dedicated to retrieving Kashmir and widening the Islamic world. Once the militants were proxies of the government. Now, even the new military regime is unable or unwilling to rein them in.

“‘If the government tried to stop us, we’d just carry on our jihad. We do what we want,’ said Abu Samara.”

The article describes the extensive facilities of the training center provided, which—in addition to wheat fields, orchards, a dairy, and lakes for raising fish—include a clinic, grammar and secondary schools, an Islamic University, homes for families of those who died for the cause, a mosque and barracks for fighters. Recruiting centers (2,300) bring in recruits. The goals of the training center are described by a spokesman as:

“We’re Muslims, and we believe Islam is more than a few rituals. It’s a religion of peace with solutions to all of today’s political and economic problems. It’s important for us to spread that message because we want one system in the whole world, which, of course, is Islam. And to make Islam dominant, we must do jihad.

“The Islamic ruling system does away with all nationalities, tribalistic bonds and races, and melts them into Islam. Under the Islamic ruling system, foreign policy is tied with jihad, conquest and the spread of Islam. It destroys borders and physical barriers to lead humanity from worshiping each other to worshiping the Lord of humanity.”

This Center gets most of its recruits for both fighting and preaching from the 8,000 Madrasas, or religious academies, that have sprung up in Pakistan during the past two decades. More than a million youths are enrolled because of Pakistan’s deteriorating educational system. Here boys of 10 to 12 are told how they can get to heaven, and are prepared to join the jihad to make the whole world Islamic.


This is another ‘power of heaven’ which appears to be destined to play an important part in the events of the last days of this present evil world. A new political party has become dominant in Pakistan called Jamaat. It is succeeding the conventional parties because of the discontent with these by the people of Pakistan.

With branches throughout Asia, Europe, and even North America, Jamaat now has a wider network than Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, one of the Islamic world’s oldest movements. It is active in the five Central Asian former Soviet republics, as well as among the Muslim Uighurs of western China. It has strong ties to Muslim groups as far afield as Malaysia and Sudan.

A spokesman for Jamaat said, “A feeling is emerging in Pakistani society that we have a special role to play in uniting Muslims all over the world. It seems like wherever there’s a war, Muslims are being killed. People feel that we need to get together to stop it, but there’s a leadership vacuum. With our independence and history of democratic institutions, what we have is better than many Muslim countries. And as a nuclear power, Pakistan is a country looked up to by the Muslim world—and the obvious place to provide new leadership.”

Just what part these ‘heavens’ of Islam will play in the closing events of our day we can only wait to see. As a power of heaven, it too must be shaken and burned with fire. Fire is associated with the manifestation of the presence of Christ; that is, he is revealed by fire as well as by the shaking of the heavens. On this point the Apostle Paul says, “To you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—II Thess. 1:7,8


The ‘mighty angels’ which are to be revealed with Jesus are undoubtedly the members of his glorified church. The word angel means ‘messenger,’ and these will be messengers with him to dispense the blessings of the new kingdom. But, first, every vestige of Satan’s empire must be destroyed, and all opposition to the laws of God’s new world broken. The gathering to himself of those who will reign with him is part of the work of Christ in the first part of his Second Presence. This is fully accomplished before the old order is completely destroyed; hence Paul’s reference to the ‘flaming fire’ which reveals the presence of Christ when his church is with him is a sign which is still future.

The sequence of world-changing events continues to emphasize to the people the utter futility of all human efforts to bring order out of chaos, and peace and prosperity out of war and starvation. Later, in the Lord’s own way, they will be made to realize the true meaning of what is occurring—that Jesus has come, and as the Arm of Jehovah his first work is to set aside the old order of things which is based upon selfishness—thus the people might more fully realize their need of Christ’s coming kingdom. (Ps. 110:1-6) Then they will realize that what they first thought to be a dire calamity concerning which they said, “Alas, alas,” was but the evidence that the king of a new world order had come and was preparing to establish his righteous kingdom in the earth.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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