AN evangelical preacher from Belfast has spoken of his belief that the violence in the Middle East is the prelude to the second coming of Jesus, following his safe return from a four-day visit as Hamas rockets hammered the country.
Pastor James McConnell arrived home in north Belfast on Tuesday and described how, in his hotel room, there were instructions on where to shelter when sirens sounded indicating that a rocket bombardment had started.
He told the News Letter yesterday that he had visited Israel because of his and his congregation’s strong interest in the second coming.
“I went out to find out facts about the conflict and also to find out about all the signs that Ezekiel, Zachariah, Joel and the Lord Jesus talked about because my church, myself and my pastors are very interested in the second coming of Christ,” he said.
“We believe if Christ doesn’t come the world will destroy itself. The prophecies are very accurate to what is happening today.”
Pastor McConnell is known for his passion for his evangelical beliefs and has staged religious rallies attended by thousands in Belfast, including one event at Andersonstown Leisure Centre where 40 people were saved.
He mainly stayed in Jerusalem during his visit and was there as Hamas launched attacks on the holy Christian, Jewish and Muslim city.
“The people were very tense because it is getting so close; I think they were surprised at my reaction and that I was there. I told them I have lived 40 years in this. Members of my own congregation were shot and bombed and killed,” he said.
“News of the rockets was constantly on the radio and in our hotel there was a leaflet – when you hear the sirens, make your way down to the basement where all the people will be.”
Pastor McConnell said there was currently a huge amount of tension in Jerusalem.
“If Hamas increase their weaponry they will aim at Jerusalem and the fear is that some of these rockets will be loaded with chemical warfare, and if that happens there will be an all-out war,” he said.
“Iran is angry with Hamas because Hamas has used all the weaponry they gave them, and now they have got to give them more. There is a rumour that Israel will have a go at Iran in the new year. Iran is 50 times bigger than Israel and Iraq is 20 times bigger than Israel and look at the Arab League which is against Israel, there are 24 nations in the Arab League, so it works out at about 120 nations to one. A little country the size of Wales, yet the whole world is against it. Their backs are to the wall. I feel, and other preachers like me feel, like the boy who was crying wolf, and then nothing happened and they didn’t bother listening to him.
“Jesus said no man would know the day or hour of his coming, but that there would be signs. These are the indicators because if Christ doesn’t come, then the world is finished.”
However, Pastor McConnell said he was encouraged after discovering a small evangelical church in the city, The Good God, where Jews and Muslims who have been saved prayed together.
He criticised the general media coverage of the violence.
He said: “The media here is pathetic. I don’t think they portray it accurately. Britain would seem to be more on the side of the Arab League. It would seem to be only America that is backing Israel.”
He said people in Israel felt betrayed by Britain: “That’s the general feeling, they didn’t say too much about it, but talked more about America and when America said Israel have the right to defend themselves, that eased that tension a little.”
l Pastor McConnell will be telling his congregation at the Metropolitan Tabernacle about his experiences in Israel at an evening service on Sunday starting at 6.45pm.