Israel

 January 15 saw the acceptance of a “land for peace” agreement in Hebron between Israel’s Netanyahu and Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. The irony is that the final impetus for agreement was an act of desperate terrorism by a nineteen year old Israeli soldier, Noam Friedman, firing into an Arab marketplace in Hebron. His objective—to impede the peace process; the result was enormous pressure on Israel from its allies and in particular the United States to implement the Hebron pullback.

Netanyahu faced a humiliating about-face on his previous rhetoric. He had asserted that he would never abandon Hebron. He spoke of Israel’s “eternal claim to the West Bank”. There seems little doubt that there will be ongoing division in Israel between the religious right who oppose any concessions to the Palestinians, and the secular moderates who prefer to compromise to avoid ongoing bloodshed.

The peace process however seems to have developed an inexorable momentum, a visible element of the “peace and safety” cry which is a key sign to us of the last days and the near return of our Lord (1 Thess 5:3).

The Papacy

 Pope John Paul II has made the news recently, charging a Vatican commission to examine whether the Catholic Church has been guilty of anti- Semitism in the past, with particular reference to the Second World War and the Holocaust. This has been described as “part of an attempt to reconcile the three great monotheistic religions—Christianity, Judaism and Islam—in time for the millennium… The 76 year old Pope, who counted many Jews among his friends in war-time Poland, is increasingly preoccupied with the millennium, which he speaks of in almost apocalyptic terms. He has… said that despite his age and frail health he hopes to retrace the travels of Abraham in the holy land and to climb Mount Sinai with Jewish and Muslim leaders.”

Catholic anti-semitism is well documented and scarcely needs another commission to uncover the facts. And any reconciliation sought by the Pope will surely be on Catholic terms or not at all. In view of our prophetic expectations we do well to follow carefully the Pope’s fascination with Jewry and the Middle East.

Europe

 Columnist, Anatole Kaletsky, made some interesting comments in a recent article in The Times. Among his observations: “Britain in particular, might do itself and Eastern Europe a favour by standing aside from Franco-German integration, and so adding to the average prosperity of the European periphery to which it historically and geographically belongs.

“It is probably now pointless for Britain, Poland or any other country to try to impede or dissuade the Germans, French and Belgians [Magog and Gomer] from creating a tightly organised European superstate” (compare Ezek 38:2).

The development of the feet and toes of the image continues, with setbacks occasionally but the trend we look for seems well established, with clearer evidence of a decisive break between Britain and Europe to be eagerly watched for.

Russia

 Uncertainty and instability bedevil the political landscape in Russia. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, after reportedly responding well to a quintuple heart bypass operation in November, was admitted to hospital again with pneumonia. His determined rival, former General Alexander Lebed, was quick to seize the moment, asserting that Yeltsin was too old and sick to govern and ought to retire.

The malaise of the country and its President is matched by an astonishing disarray in the once feared Russian military. A senior officer reported that in the Moscow military district last year the troops went for a six month period with not a single combat training exercise. Troops and officers in many districts have not received any pay for up to five months, and there have been unconfirmed reports of soldiers starving to death. Morale has plunged to such an extent that the army is suffering “a stunning epidemic of suicides among its officer corps”.

Such traumatic circumstances create an environment where a strong leader, a Gog, could prove very attractive to a country desperate for solutions. It was military humiliation and economic chaos which gave Hitler the opportunity to emerge in Germany between the Wars, and Russia is, if anything, in a worse situation now than Germany was then. Surely Gog is there now, awaiting only the right providential circumstances to emerge. Who is he? Lebed? Some other military or political leader? Or is he, like Hitler was at the beginning, a nonentity, an unknown—to emerge soon to the view of a fearful world?

As it Was in the Days of Lot

 Sometimes we find the evidence for declining standards in our world in unusual places. A recent issue of Business Review Weekly reproduced an article from Forbes, the US business magazine. The article observed: “… for the past two years the New York management consultants McKinsey & Co have hosted recruiting dinners for gay and lesbian students at the Harvard Business School; this year the effort was extended to Wharton and Stanford… Following in the footsteps of IBM, Levi Strauss, and Disney, McKinsey has also agreed in principle to provide health insurance to domestic partners of employees in same-sex relationships.”

Time was when our view, the scriptural view of this lifestyle, was shared by most in society. That has changed, and we are rapidly reaching the point, if we are not there already, when to speak out against this evil lifestyle will be regarded as displaying an offensive prejudice. Men surely have come to “call evil good, and good evil” (Isa 5:20).

Let us be sure that we are alert watchmen, awake and keeping our garments in these perilous last days.