The Year that Changed Everything

The year of 2016 was one of shocks, and one of political revolution. After Donald Trump’s win in the US Presidential election, many front page headlines emphasised that this is a ‘Revolution’. Prominent Brexit front man, Nigel Farage, made the following comments in a speech after meeting with Trump:

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

“Often there are decades where very little hap­pens, and occa­sionally there is a year in which decades happen, and I think when our grand­children and great grandchildren look back at the history of this period of time, 2016 will be the year of political revolution, the year that changed everything… This revolution that has taken place in Britain and now on a much bigger scale here in the USA is, I hope and believe, going to roll out over the course of the next couple of years across the entire western world.”

Revolutions have re­shaped the Middle East over the past five years. The last great sign of Christ’s return in the book of Revelation is that a French revolutionary spirit would not only come out of Russia, Europe, and the Papacy, but it would also go unto “the kings of the earth and of the whole world” (Rev 16:13-16). This revolutionary spirit is instrumental in gathering the nations to Armageddon. It is a spirit of madness, working miracles”: what better way to describe recent events. Just like the plague of frogs in Egypt, there was a promise of freedom, but it was a false promise. The late 1980s saw revolutions in Russia and Europe, firstly instigated by Pope John Paul II’s support for the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland. Now in 2016, in both the Brexit vote and US election, it was the working class who rose up against the ruling elite to turn politics on its head.

The election of Donald Trump carries a lot of un­certainties for the world. He does, however, appear to be willing to allow Russia more latitude in the Middle East. The political class in Moscow celebrated his elec­tion. It appears that Russia’s consolidation of power in Syria will be able to continue unabated as a result of Trump’s Middle East policy. Meanwhile Trump has questioned the role of the NATO alliance, which would mean European nations will need to press forward towards a European army. Many popular political leaders are arising in Europe with strong ties to Russia: with a number of elections due in 2017, many are concerned that some European na­tions will look to Russia for leadership and security. Prophetically, this is what we would expect.

Russian Military Power in Syria

We see from Daniel 7 that the fourth beast will “stamp the residue” when Russia re-establishes the Eastern Roman Empire and takes control of the ancient territories of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Grecian empires that were not previously con­quered by Rome. Russia’s move into Syria in late 2015 appears to be the beginning of this. During 2016 Russia continued to consolidate its position in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government. The city of Aleppo has been retaken by Syrian government forces due to significant Russian fire­power and brute force. This has been a humanitar­ian tragedy on a massive scale. The Economist (22.10.16) came to this conclusion: “Every week Vladimir Putin finds new ways to scare the world”.

In August, 2016, Russia also began using an Iranian air base to launch bombing raids in Syria. Russia is the first foreign military power to operate from Iran’s soil since World War Two. Analysts are saying that this will expand the political influence of Russia in the Middle East and speed the grow­ing convergence between Moscow and Tehran. Historians said the decision to let Russia base its planes and support operations in Iran was “a his­toric one” (Australian Financial Review, 17.08.16).

In its war against ISIS, Russia has launched many Iskandar missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea, which have required permission from Iran. These missiles have trav­elled through Iran’s airspace. Iskandar is a missile named after Alexander the Great. This is fitting because Alexander’s Grecian empire conquered territory around the Caspian Sea that is now occupied by Iran. Alexander’s Grecian empire will come under Russian control in the near future, no doubt in alliance with Iran.

An Israeli official recently claimed: “Russia has long term ambitions in the Middle East”. He said: “Rather than viewing the region as an area of tem­porary interest Russia is making plans for the long term. It did not return to the Middle East with military capabilities in the air and at sea only to “show off ” and leave… The new neighbour did not come only to rent an apartment; he came here to build a villa” (Reuters 15.11.16).

In August, 2016, the Turkish Army launched their ‘Euphrates Shield’ military operation in Syria. Turkish military forces support militant groups in Northern Syria and are fighting Kurdish forces in the region. Russia criticised Turkey for not gaining approval for its military actions with the Syrian government. The use of ‘Euphrates Shield’is telling. The River Euphrates will finally dry up when Russia moves in to Turkey and re-establishes the Roman Empire with its capital in Constantinople (Rev 16:12-13). It was interesting to see a coup attempt in Turkey in July, 2016. Turkey is extremely unsta­ble and politically vulnerable. Turkey has been constantly involved in military confrontations in Syria in the past year. The Jerusalem Post (31.12.16) asks: “What price is Russia ready to pay for Turkey?” In other words, when will Russia’s patience with Turkey run out? It concluded, “Russia wants to clamp Turkey in its pliers”.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Pope Francis and Vladimir Putin have similar goals in the Middle East. Christians in Syria and Iraq are being persecuted and hundreds of thousands have fled their homelands. According to Pope Francis, Putin is “the only one with whom the Catholic Church can unite to defend Christians in the East” (Sputnik, 9.02.16). A headline in The Australian (30.12.16) recently observed the “Pope’s soft spot for Putin” in relation to Russia’s liberation of Aleppo. The widely publicised meeting of leaders from Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches in Cuba earlier in 2016 came about primarily due to the Middle East crisis. These were the first ever face-to-face talks between the respective leaders: they signed a joint declaration in which special attention was given to the Middle East. Daniel 11:36-39 describes the Eastern em­perors at various times in history giving honour to the Pope, “a foreign god”, in Rome. This is a system that continues until the end (11:36), and therefore it is not surprising to see a similar alliance between the Pope and the Russian leadership.

We often now read of comparisons between Russia and the Roman Empire of past times. One such headline was entitled, “Putin’s Russia acts like Ancient Rome” (The Observer 15.07.16). It stated:

“In parts of the Middle East, particularly Syria, the role occupied by Rome is now occupied by Russia. Russia is a master at such relationship games. The Russians have gathered power and momentum using the same model used by the Romans and with the same success. Today Russia is king of the mount. Russia controls what hap­pens in Syria. Putin pulls the strings. Assad is his puppet.”

So Russia is now fulfilling its role as a ‘guard’ or ‘protector’ for its allies in the Middle East (Ezek 38:7). Russia has also sent large numbers of ships to Syria, including a number that sailed through the English Channel in October, 2016. When Russia moves south it will include “many ships” (Dan 11:40).

Russia has also been heavily involved in Libya, and has thrown its support behind Libya’s powerful army commander, who is in conflict with the UN backed government there: “Russia’s growing role in Libya comes after it turned the tide in Syria’s war through military intervention in support of President Bashar al-Assad against mostly Islamist rebels, as it seeks to restore some of its Soviet-era influence in the Middle East and wider region” (Sydney Morning Herald, 27.12.16).

Russia influences other countries, not just militarily and politically, but also economically. The following article outlines a recent in-depth study on the powerful influence Russia has on the eastern European states of Serbia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Hungary, and Slovakia:

The Kremlin’s Economic Grip On Europe: Since 2008, Russia has deployed its economic footprint in Europe with increasing aggression. Moscow’s economic influence in the region remains surprisingly large. Because the region is disproportionately reliant on Russian oil and natural gas resources, the energy sector has been Moscow’s main channel of economic influence. During the past decade, the share of Russian gas in the domestic consumption of the five countries has never fallen below 60 percent, and since 2004, has usually remained above 80 percent” (Foreign Policy, 23.12.16).

A recent example of this was the agreement to create joint Russian and Armenian military forces. The two countries are creating a joint command, whose leader will be appointed by the Supreme Commander of the Armenian Armed Forces in agreement with the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces (Moscow Times, 14.11.16). One country at a time, Russia is exerting her control.

Russia and the Church

Russia and Greece continue to forge ties based on shared religious and historical ties to Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium. Putin travelled to Greece in May, 2016, and it was reported that he was using “reli­gious diplomacy” to strengthen ties between the two countries. The Greek Prime Minister, Tsipras, said that strengthening ties between Moscow and Athens is the “strategic choice” of the Greek nation.

Putin also visited Mount Athos, one of the most important Orthodox holy places. Putin emphasised that Russia and Greece have common civilisation values and Orthodox culture. In 2016, Russia cel­ebrated the 1000th anniversary of the Russian monastery on Mount Athos. Zechariah 9 describes a conflict between Greece and Israel at the time of the end. Greece is therefore intimately connected with Russia’s rebuilding of the image empire. Daniel’s fourth beast has brass claws indicating its Greek influence (Dan 7:19). It is therefore likely that Russia will take control of Greece sometime in the near future. Greece’s continued financial troubles mean that as a country she is extremely vulnerable to a takeover. Hundreds of billions of euros have been spent by European nations to bailout Greece but this has not resulted in any improvement in its financial position. The Italian government has also just approved a 20 billion euro bailout of Italian banks. The money in Europe is running out.

Meanwhile, Putin has unveiled a huge statue of Vladimir the Great in Red Square. The President called on Russians to unite to face external threats as his namesake did. Vladimir the Great was the 10th Century ruler of Kievan Rus, who adopted Orthodox Christianity in 988 AD for his people. At the unveiling of the large image, Putin said, “Today it is our duty to stand together against contem­porary challenges and threats, using our spiritual legacy and our invaluable traditions of unity to go forward and continue our thousand-year history” (The Guardian 4.11.16).

There have been a number of terrorist attacks in the past year in Europe, and this is turning the po­litical landscape on its head. Right wing parties are becoming more prominent with Catholic European nations strengthening their resolve against Islamic extremism. In her New Year message, Chancellor Angela Merkel identified Islamist terrorism as the biggest challenge facing Germany in 2017. Islamic terrorism could ultimately be the catalyst to bring Christian European nations together with Russia to fight the Islamic State scourge in the Middle East. This is one area to watch closely in coming months.

Meanwhile, the Pope is embarking on a year of commemoration of the Reformation with the Lutheran Church. The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door will ultimately be commemorated on 31 October, 2017. CBS News (31.10.16) stated that this is “a remarkably bold gesture given his very own Jesuit religious order was founded to defend the faith against Martin Luther’s ‘heretical’reforms five cen­turies ago”. The Pope is using his Jesuit training to masterful effect to bring the harlot daughters under the control of the Papacy and to initiate an alliance with Russia and the Eastern Church.

Jerusalem the Ultimate Flashpoint

The city of Jerusalem will be the ultimate flashpoint when it comes to negotiations over a “two state solution”. Zechariah 12:3 says that those who try to burden themselves with the city will be cut in pieces.

On 23 December, 2016, a significant event oc­curred with the UN Security Council voting to condemn Israel over new settlements in Palestinian territory. Approximately 570,000 Israelis live in settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The land is also home to some 2.6 million Palestinians. The Israeli settlements are considered illegal under interna­tional law, which is something Israel denies. The US is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The Council is made up of 15 members, including five permanent members, who have the power to veto resolutions. Other permanent mem­bers are France, China, Russia, and the UK. The Security Council adopted a resolution that the establishment of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 have “no legal valid­ ity,” constitute a “flagrant violation” under interna­tional law, and are a “major obstacle” to a two-state solution. It was adopted with 14 votes in favour, to a round of applause. The US abstained from the vote on Israel, essentially allowing it to go through. The following analysis by well-respected US col­umnist, Charles Krauthammer, explains the drama of this event:

“It’s the third category of ‘settlement’ that is the most contentious and that Security Council Resolution 2334 explicitly condemns: East Jerusalem. This is not just scandalous; it’s ab­surd. America acquiesces to a declaration that, as a matter of international law, the Jewish state has no claim on the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, indeed the entire Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. They belong to Palestine. The Temple Mount is the most sacred site in all of Judaism. That it should be declared foreign to the Jewish people is as if the Security Council declared Mecca and Medina to be territory to which Islam has no claim. Such is the Orwellian universe Israel inhabits. At the very least, Obama should have insisted that any reference to East Jerusalem be dropped from the resolution or face a US veto. Why did he not? It’s incomprehensible – except as a parting shot of personal revenge on Benjamin Netanyahu. Or perhaps as a revelation of a deep-seated antipathy to Israel that simply awaited a safe political interval for public expression” (Opinion, The Washington Post 29.12.16).

Donald Trump, however, assured Israel that things would change once he becomes president. The problem is that the UN resolution is now de­termined and is highly unlikely to be overturned. This will give Russia and her allies ‘justification’ for their invasion of Jerusalem in the future to imple­ment this resolution when “half the city shall be taken into captivity” (Zech 14:1-2). Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu responded with a statement, part of which said the following:

“Citizens of Israel, I would like to reassure you. The resolution that was adopted yesterday at the United Nations is distorted and shameful but we will overcome it. The resolution determines that the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem is ‘occupied territory’. This is delusional. The resolution determines that the Western Wall is ‘occupied territory’. This too is delusional.

There is nothing more absurd than calling the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter occupied territory. There is also an attempt here, which will not succeed, to impose permanent settlement terms on Israel. Think about this absurdity, half a million human beings are being slaughtered in Syria. Tens of thousands are being butchered in Sudan. The entire Middle East is going up in flames and the Obama administration and the Security Council choose to gang up on the only democracy in the Middle East – the State of Israel. What a disgrace. Last night’s resolution is a call to arms for all of our many friends in the US and elsewhere around the world… Therefore, this evening I tell you in the language of our sources, the sweet will yet come forth from the bitter and those who come to curse will yet bless. Here, on the first night of Chanukah, I stand next to the Maccabees of our times, IDF soldiers and wounded IDF heroes. I salute you and I say to you clearly: The light will dispel the darkness. The spirit of the Maccabees will overcome. Happy Chanukah.”

Ultimately the city of Jerusalem will be the centre of contention when all nations are gathered to Jerusalem to battle (Zech 14:2). The salvation of Israel will only come at the intervention of Jesus Christ and the saints: “Yahweh thy God shall come, all the saints with thee” (Zech 14:5); “The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem” (Joel 3:16). Creation is certainly groaning as it earnestly waits for the revealing of the sons of God (Rom 8:19). Let’s pray that this time comes soon.