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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Mar. 18, 2008

  • 2008 Mar 18

The Deadliest Hours Earth Has Known

For centuries, skeptics who deny that God's Word is reliable and inspired—have pointed to one entire chapter of the Bible that describes an event which has never happened. That event is the prophesied end of the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.

As you open with me to Luke 21 we are continuing our Tribulation Survival Guide. Christ's words to those during the deadliest hours earth has known. Note just one part of His message, verse 28.

Luke 21:28—“Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

What things would we look for if we could see things that "begin” to happen?

May I suggest one very powerful prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled? There is an amazing chapter in God's Word that declares the complete destruction of a certain city, an unmistakable city, a clearly identified city named Damascus—that is a reminder of what is coming.

Today turn your attention with me to Damascus. Start with me in Acts 9:2. Where was Paul headed the day God intercepted him? Damascus. He was on the Damascus Road that heads out from Jerusalem through a gate called even to this day--the Damascus Gate. Now turn back in your Bibles to Isaiah 17.

What is the best known fact about the capital of the Middle Eastern land of Syria? This designation shows up in nearly every encyclopedia, magazine, and tour brochure:

"The Oldest Continuously Inhabited City in the World!”

  • Damascus was founded and settled by the ancient Arameans. Their language is still known to us as the language that Jesus spoke called "aramaic”.
  • The Arameans are descended from Aram: the son of Shem. Listen to  Genesis 10:22: “The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram.  

Throughout history this city has been known as— DAMASCUS, DIMASHQ, and SHAM. That name of the city as “Sham” in ancient times actually refers to the fact that as far as we know this is where "Shem" the eldest son of Noah because he chose to live there after the flood.

Damascus is an emerald green oasis set in the sands of the nearby semi-desert, of modern Syria. Today over two million people awoke and began their day at work and play in this thriving, bustling city.

Yet God says that Damascus is going to be destroyed so completely, so severely, so violently—that it is going to become a ruinous heap and uninhabited!

Damascus is named 60 times in 55 verses in the King James Bible. The first time we see it mentioned is in Genesis 14:15 when Abraham was rescuing his nephew Lot.

Genesis 14:15—“He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus.”

But as we just saw, the founders go all the way back to the Flood of Noah. Now turn with me to Isaiah 17. Isaiah wrote from 739-686 BC, and has an entire chapter about the destruction of this city called Damascus. When did he write? 8th and 7th century BC.

  • "The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap ... And behold at evening tide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us." ( Isaiah 17:1,14 )

But if you look closely in our text, we see the prophet Isaiah declaring in chapter 17 the destruction of Damascus in “very strong, definitive language--regardless of translation.

·        KJV -" Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap."

·        NKJV -"Behold, Damascuswill cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap."

·        NASB -"Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city. And will become a fallen ruin."

·        NIV -"See, Damascuswill no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins."

·        NLT -"Look, Damascuswill disappear! It will become a heap of ruins."

But what do travel brochures, books and news correspondents always say about Damascus? Damascus has a "claim to fame" which is, that it is "the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world".

A while back on CNN Presents (March 15, 2003) a program aired that was called "Lines in the Sand". The narrator was Shelia Macvicar, a CNN Senior International Correspondent, who took a trip to the Middle East to see how a war with Iraq would play in the Arab world. From the transcripts listen to the opinion of the world about this city:

"When you talk about civilization, Syrians like to remind you their capital Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, an old culture that has slowly started to embrace reform. For nearly 20 years, Syria has been on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terror and it has not yet made peace with Israel...."

Here's a few more ...

  • "Located in a strategic gap commanding the Barada River and transdesert routes, Damascus has been inhabited since prehistoric times and is reputedly the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. There was a city on its site even before the time (c.2000 BC) of Abraham..."
  • " Damascus is known to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world . There is firm evidence that in the third millennium BC, Damascus was a population center of a civilization that was considerably prosperous and economically influential. The earliest reference to the city was found in the archaeological site of Ebla in 1975; where the word "Damaski" was found on one of the clay tablets. Some historians believe that the city actually dates back to the seventh millennium BC..." damascus online
  • "Said to be the world's oldest inhabited city, Damascus today is a thriving modern capital. Three thousand years ago it was the capital of the Aramean Kingdom and was later conquered by Alexander the Great, when it became an important Greek city. It was also a major city of the Roman Empire and fell to the Muslims in 635A.D ..."
  • "The capital and largest city of Syria, in the southwest part of the country. Inhabited since prehistoric times ..."
  • " Damascus (Sham or Dimashq as we call it) has the reputation of being the oldest city in the world. More recent discoveries suggest that Damascus was first settled ca. 6,000 B.C. but some discoveries suggest that it is older than 8,000 B.C. but we don't know exactly who ruled Damascus at that time. An old story says that its name "Sham" was derived from "Shem" the eldest son of Noah because he chose to live there after the flood...." arabicnet
  • "Damascus is one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities , and reports run back at least 3,500 years. Many claim that Damascus is the oldest continued inhabited city in the world. While modern Damascus is a standard Middle Eastern city, it was famous for centuries, and often referred to as the "pearl of the East".... lexicorient

Jeremiah also writes about this city called Damascus in his inspired revelation from God between 627-567 BC. When was that? 7 th and 6 th century BC. This is what he says in chapter 49.

  • Damascus has grown feeble; She turns to flee, And fear has seized her. Anguish and sorrows have taken her like a woman in labor. 25 Why is the city of praise not deserted, the city of My joy? 26 Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets, And all the men of war shall be cut off in that day,” says the Lord of hosts. 27 “I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, And it shall consume the palaces of Ben-Hadad.” (Jeremiah 49:24-27)

Why all the details? Because secular writers, historians, fact finders are all in agreement—since ancient times (that is code for what we in the Bible would call “since the Flood of Noah”) Damascus has been continuously inhabited and has a record of it's history.

Then God steps in and says, Damascus is going to be burned, melted, destroyed, vacated, and completely destroyed into a heap of uninhabited ruins”. When did He say that? From the 8th century BC continuously until the 6th century BC. In all those centuries Damascus remained, thrived, sat as the caravan oasis at the convergence of the great trade routes of the ancient world. So when God warned of looming annihilation Damascus was there inhabited and prosperous.

Okay, so what has happened since? Read tomorrow’s eNews and review all that has been going on in Damascus.

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