As the world prepares to celebrate the dawn of the Year 2000 on a scale never seen before, we have the opportunity for sober reflection on the ever present Hand of Yahweh in the affairs of men and to re-energise our faith in the light of the near return of the Lord.

Never before has the world undertaken celebrations of the scale that are planned as 1999 draws to a close and the first day of 2000 begins. All around the world countries, cities and towns have begun their final frenzied preparations to welcome in the new year.

The planning of the celebrations has been accompanied by warnings about the dire consequences of potential computer failures and the revisiting of the open-ended prophecies of modern-day charlatans such as Nostradamus. There have been generous reviews of man and his ‘achievements’, as countless commentators have sought to identify the notable personalities in all fields of human endeavour.

What of our part in seeing in the new year?

It should go without saying that we should have no association with these celebrations or, for that matter, any others of their ilk. The Scriptures are very plain on this matter. The Lord warns of the dangers of becoming involved in the drunken and wanton behaviour of those around, with the effect that we become totally unaware of the coming of the day of the Lord (Luke 21:34). Paul states that those who become engaged in drunkenness and revellings will not inherit the Kingdom (Gal 5:21). Clearly if we are to walk honestly, or decently, before our God and our neighbours (Rom 13:13), we should not go back to the life that we left behind at our baptism (1 Pet 4:3).

Does this mean we have nothing to celebrate? Absolutely not! We have more to celebrate than the man who is without God and without hope in this world. The past 2000 years show the ever present hand of our God bringing about His purpose with the earth.

The angels as the “watchers” (Dan 4:17) or “eyes of Yahweh” (Zech 4:10 RSV) have consistently maintained their vigil over the affairs of men to bring to pass the will of their Creator. World history stands as a testimony of their work in the fulfilment of Bible prophecy, and an ever present reminder to us of the need to “hold fast… till the end” (Heb 3:6 cp Rev 2:25).

What have been the key events of the last 2000 years that should give us cause to rejoice, and cause us to aspire to the vigilance and consistency of those which “do his commandments hearkening unto the voice of his word” (Psa 103:20)?

AD 70—The overthrow of Jerusalem at the hand of the Romans and the eventual dispersion of the Jews, which was completed by AD132, was a chilling fulfilment of the words of Moses some 1500 years before the event. The description in Deuteronomy 28: 49–50 of the Romans as the victors in the one-sided conflict in the Holy Land is unmistakable. Indeed, we can take great consolation from the remarkable accuracy of fulfilled Bible prophecy, which can only increase our confidence that the little of prophecy which remains unfulfilled will occur.

AD 315—The wars of Constantine, which enabled him to establish his authority backed by apostate Christians, was a defining event in terms of the establishment of a system which would oppose and exalt itself “above all that is called God” (1 Thess 2:4). What a salient warning to us in the last days. In less than 300 years after the ascension of the Lord, believers could become engrossed in supporting a person like Constantine and forsake the Truth as revealed in the Son of God (John 1:14).

AD 391—The Greek and Latin fathers continued to define Christian theology. One of the hallmark outcomes of their deliberations was the Athanasian Creed, which provided the basis for the adoption of the Trinitarian Nicene Creed. The decline predicted by Paul, Peter and Jude had truly arrived by this year, when men would “not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears”. (2 Tim 4:3, cp 2 Pet 2:1; Jude v4). The need for diligent and personal study is still as strong as it was then as an effective antidote to error (2 Tim 2:15). Self proclaimed teachers should be shunned rather than followed, for it is not “flesh and blood” that reveals eternal truths to us but our “Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17).

AD 476—This year marked the end of the Roman Empire when the Goths over-ran the Italian peninsula and Romulus Augustulus, the last western emperor, was deposed. This victory saw the end of the political influence of the ‘Christians’ who had supported the Romans since Constantine embraced them. It also saw the emergence of the‘Holy Roman Empire’ and the Pope—“the mouth that spake very great things…[and] words against the Most High” (Dan 7:20,25). From this point in history the system of the Apostasy had become a permanent fixture on the political and religious landscape of the world, fulfilling prophecies in Daniel and Revelation to the letter.

AD 533—Justinian was noted as having in his reign laboured to establish, with fire and sword, the unity of the Catholic faith (Gibbon). In a declaration of subservience to the Pope, he declared that Justinian hastened “to increase the honour and authority of your throne”. This decree from Justinan was confirmed by Emperor Phocas in 606. From these times the Catholic system had become a vigorous persecutor of those who refused to bow the knee to the Pope, with the explicit support of the secular leaders of the day. This period ended in the turmoil of the French Revolution (1789–1793) some 1 260 years later—a period which corresponds to the forty and two months of Revelation 13:5. The French revolution greatly diminished the power and the influence of the Catholic system in Europe, giving rise to the beginnings of communism to fill the vacuum left by the departure of the Church from secular affairs.

AD 800—One of the notable events in the period from the Decree of Justinian to the French Revolution was the crowning of Charlemagne of the Franks as Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo, as a reward for his defeat of those nations who were invading Italy and taking their attacks to the gates of Rome. This answers to the second beast coming out of the earth (Rev 13:11). Whilst the power of the Church was dramatically reduced from the French Revolution till the last of the Papal states were annexed by Italy in 1870 (Rev 16:10–11), it had still had over 1 200 years to entrench its position in the hearts and minds of Europe. It is interesting to note that the same year the Pope lost his temporal power, he declared the doctrine of Papal infallibility. With the influence of the Church across Europe being unchecked for such a long time the opportunity was provided for it to exert a unifying spirit that would later lead to the formation of the confederacy described in Ezekiel 38.

1099—In this year the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. This was the first major campaign by British soldiers to fight for the city. Whilst in 1169 the Christians were driven from Jerusalem by Saladin, they were to return time and again to either fight for or defend the city. The last campaign was against the Ottoman occupiers in World War 1 when General Allenby took control of the city without a shot being fired. Whilst foreign troops have not engaged in a major conflict over Jerusalem since then, with the exception of 1967, Jerusalem has continued to be a burdensome stone to the nations (Zech 12:3) and it will eventually, like a magnet, draw all nations unto it for the final conflict (Zech 14:1). As we await that time, watching earnestly, may we “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psa 122:6), especially as we see the day of her glory almost upon us.

1290—Jews were expelled from England and in 1306 from France, as a fulfilment of the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 28:64–67. However, worse was to come. In 1818 a wave of Jewish pogroms swept across Eastern Europe, climaxing in the draconian 1935 Nuremberg Laws by which Jews lost their German citizenship, and the subsequent depravations, mass killings and unspeakable crimes which followed in the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. This dreadful man and his equally cruel subordinates were in fact instruments in the hands of God to bring about the change of circumstances which drove the Jews back to their land and as God recompensed “their iniquity and their sin double” (Jer 16: 16–18). How much more will we be called to account if we have failed to live up to our responsibilities and the commitments that we have made? In 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9 we are told of the fate of those who fail to obey the gospel. Could this apply to us?

1453—Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, marking one of their most significant victories as they established their Empire. Further notable victories followed in 1526 against Hungary and in 1529 as they besieged Vienna, pushing them deep into European territory. Revelation 9:13–21 describes in detail the ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire. However, God had decreed that the Ottoman Empire would fade (Rev 16:12) and one of the main turning points was in the 1912 War of the Balkans, with the Empire ultimately collapsing in 1923. As Nebuchadnezzar of old had to learn, once God’s purpose was finished with their kingdom, they serve no further purpose in His Plan (Psa 76:12). Their power and their riches all come from God and He can take it away as quickly as He can give it. Let us not be lured into thinking anything of what can be bestowed upon us in this age. It is as a vapour and will leave nothing of substance for our eternal well-being (Matt 6:19; 1 Pet 1:18).

1603—With the ascension of King James 1 to the throne, the Church of England was established, removing the influence of the Roman Catholic system over England. This event lead to the Authorised Version of the Bible being published in 1611, and more importantly paving the way for the alliance which will challenge Gog’s Catholic-based confederacy in the latter days as it sweeps into Israel against Jerusalem (Ezekiel 38:13). Britain and the nations with a British heritage have continued to demonstrate that they will form that alliance. In 1991 Britain with the US led the multi-national forces in the Gulf War and more recently in Bosnia. Britain has also demonstrated its single-mindedness by not becoming part of the ERM in 1992, and only this year both the Labour and Tory parties have adopted policies affirming Britain will not engage in a single army or currency with the other members of the EU.

1896—Zionism was established by Theodore Hertzl as the ‘voice’, as the word “noise” in Ezekiel 37:7 is more accurately rendered. It is rendered this way in Ezekiel 1:25, 28 and also 3:12. As an instrument of God, Hertzl was the unwitting catalyst that brought the bones of Israel together to form the basis of a new nation. His work and that of the other early Zionists led to the formation in 1948 of a new Jewish state on the mountains of Israel. Despite significant attempts in 1948, 1967, and 1973 the nation still remains, as promised by God in countless prophecies (eg Isa 43:10; 45:17–18; 54:17; Jer 24:6–7;30:10–11;31:36) and correctly interpreted in the timeless words of Brother Thomas in Elpis Israel (pages 441,2). How Brother Thomas would have been overjoyed to see the events that we are witnessing with our very eyes. What would have been his reaction to the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the ultimate re-establishment of the nation of Israel? Have we become so engrossed in the affairs of this world that we can no longer find joy in the fulfilment of Bible prophecy; or do we no longer feel an affinity with our fellow brethren and sisters who are waiting and watching? Now is the time for resolve not lethargy! Paul could see the days in which we live clearly and warned the Romans that “the night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Romans 13:12). May we have the same clarity of vision— not one cluttered with the distractions of this life.

1917—This year also saw the Russian Revolution, with the establishment of the nation which can be clearly identified in Ezekiel 38. Although it has waned recently as the nation has embraced more democratic systems and a western style market economy, it is far from being a spent force, as witnessed by its determination to rein in the Chechnyan people. As surely as the other prophecies of the Scriptures have been fulfilled, against the better judgment of Bible critics and sceptics, we can be assured that Russia will take a leading role in the countdown to Armageddon. The Russian leaders face significant challenges to return to a level of prosperity that the people experienced under Communism, and recent riots and demonstrations on the streets of Moscow indicate that their patience and time for the leaders is running out. As has happened before, they may choose to engage in a war on a much larger scale than that being waged in Chechnya, as a means of galvanising the nation.

1939–1945—World War 2 provided the basis for two required outcomes of Bible prophecy to take place: the return of the Jews to Israel and the rebuilding of Central Europe for it to be part of the Gogian host. Following the war in 1949 NATO was formed in response to the Cold War which saw West and East Europe divided. With the marginalisation of the UK and USA in European politics, NATO is now becoming a vehicle for the establishment of a single army across the whole of Europe, potentially embracing Russia, which only has observer status at present. In addition, other events and agreements hastened unification in Europe: 1957 EEC formed, which became the EC in 1967; the establishment of direct European elections in 1979; the 1986 Single European Act; the establishment of the EU single market in 1993; in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down; and the “Euro” was introduced in 1999.

The time of the end is at hand, the day of the Lord cometh. Are we ready? As the clocks all around the world tick over to the Year 2000, the Master Time-Keeper is also about to bring about a new era for all mankind which will bring about sustained change for all.