Nearly two years ago on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 1999, the world was in a state of euphoria as right round the globe the new millennium was ushered in. The excitement of the evening mirrored the excitement that people thought the new millennium would bring.

In a state of super optimism men and women thought that they were on the eve of a new era that would see the end of past woes.

But suddenly, on 11 September 2001, on a typical New York autumn day the world changed. The hi-jacking by terrorists of two Boeing 767 aircraft that were then deliberately slammed into the 110 storey twin towers of the World Trade Centre brought home the grim reality of the frightening age in which we live.

The collapse of the twin towers with terrible loss of life within two hours of the strikes was perhaps a symbol of the collapse of men and women’s hopes for the third millennium AD.

By the end of the day and two further hi-jackings later, over 6000 people had been killed in the worst man-made disaster in history. Until September 11 2001 few Americans believed that anything the rest of the world could do could seriously harm them. Ex US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was on a podium in Germany stating that in his opinion America faced no external threat, when the hi-jackings occurred. World wide, people are now very fearful of the future. If fortress America can be breached, where is anyone safe?

The Lord’s Warning

The very accurate descriptive words of Christ come to mind, in Luke 21:24-26. Let us contemplate these words of the master. “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

Right round the globe, world leaders were visibly shaken by the disaster. Photographs of US President George Bush at a press conference convened on the day of the tragedy vividly showed his shock as he spoke: “… thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror”.

The graphic scenes of the towers collapsing with frightened New York citizens watching in horror reminds us of the Lord’s words, “men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth”.

And the terrible visions of the twin towers fiercely ablaze with terror-stricken people trapped in the floors above leaning out the windows screaming for help portrayed a graphic reality of “perplexity”—no way of escape.

Everything that the Lord warned would come in the last days was portrayed in miniature in the World Trade Centre towers tragedy. The prophetic words of Isaiah reveal the fear that has embraced people worldwide. “Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake” (Isa 24:17–18).

Paul’s words to Timothy take on a very relevant meaning for our generation: “This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim 3:1).

Worldwide Terrorist Organisation

Since 11 September, as a result of the terrorist attack, changes are taking place on the political scene. The USA justifiably outraged over the attacks has vowed to hunt down those responsible and to also punish any regime harbouring such terrorists.

All the evidence seems to point to one Osama bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian fundamentalist, who since 1996 has been harboured by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Bin Laden and his organization, al Qaeda, a worldwide terrorist network, are believed to be responsible for bombing of US embassies in Africa and last year’s attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

“More recently, in 1998, bin Laden announced the creation of the International Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. This coalition comprises a number of Islamic extremist groups. At the same time, bin Laden urged his followers into a holy war, primarily against Israel and the United States.” (The Australian Financial Review 13.09.01).

The Tarshish Powers and the Middle East

Once again the name of Israel has come to the fore. Zechariah said, “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle” (Zech 14:2). Nations almost against their will are being drawn into the Middle East. What is very interesting to see developing is the increased “Merchants of Tarshish” influence and involvement in the Middle East as a result of the events of 11 September 2001.

In fact, the events of 11 September 2001 could go down in history as one of the most significant dates since World War 2. From the carnage of World War 1 came the Balfour Declaration and Britain’s mandate over Palestine. Out of World War 2 came the United Nations Organisation and the establishment of the Jewish State. The events of 11 September 2001 could be the catalyst for the alliance of nations in the Middle East as foretold by the prophets so long ago.

When Gog makes his unexpected invasion of Israel, Ezekiel tells us that “Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? Hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil? (Ezek 38:13).

We should therefore expect to see developing a strengthening of the Tarshish presence in the Middle East in association with Arab powers. Right at the forefront of commitment to the US cause against bin Laden and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Great Britain. “Blair offers Unconditional British Support. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has vowed to support the US ‘without hesitation’ in its campaign to root out international terrorism in the wake of the attacks on US soil. ‘We stand side by side with you now, without hesitation,’ Mr Blair said after talks yesterday with US President George W. Bush”. (The Australian 22.09.01)

“Tony Blair’s speech to the Labour Party conference this week was considered the best of his career … The British Prime Minister delivered an oration brimming with moral purpose. It was spoken with such quiet passion that The Guardian wondered whether it was not the speech he had struggled to get out all his life … I say to the Taliban: surrender the terrorists or surrender power. That is your choice” (The Sydney Morning Herald, 5.10.01).

The young lions are also falling in behind the Tarshish lead. A sample of newspaper headlines and articles illustrate the point. “Howard says Australia must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the US” (The Australian 22.09.01). “India pledges its support to Bush. India has made its most momentous diplomatic choice in decades: to join Washington’s crusade against Afghanistan” (The Australian Financial Review 18.09.01).

As for Sheba and Dedan, the support given to the Tarshish cause by Saudi Arabia and Oman is very telling. “US officials said Saturday they were pleased with cooperation from Saudi Arabia and Turkey as American military forces moved to position themselves for a military strike against Afghanistan. The oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia is of enormous strategic and diplomatic importance to the United States” (Associated Press 22.09.01).

“… A huge British military exercise in the Persian Gulf involving the army, navy and air force has become the likely real-life taskforce. War planes, nuclear submarines carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles and 27,000 British troops are already heading for Oman, or are already there, for a long planned Britain-Omani exercise” (The Advertiser 22.09.01).

Jordan, occupying the ancient territory of Edom, Moab and Ammon (Daniel 11:41), has also thrown in its lot with the USA and Britain to combat bin Laden’s organization. “For years Jordanian security forces have been fighting Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born millionaire now America’s prime suspect in the attacks last week. There’s little popular support in Jordan for bin Laden or the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan” (The Australian Financial Review 17.09.01).

On 6 October US President George W Bush announced that the US had entered into a Free Trade Agreement with Jordan presumably in response to Jordan’s co-operation in the fight against terrorism.

Doctor Thomas and Afganistan

Of course, no one can tell definitely what the outcome of the recent developments will be but it is most interesting at this stage of the world scene to consider some words of Brother Thomas from Elpis Israel, written over 150 years ago. “But the lion-power of Britain has not yet attained the limit marked out for it by the finger of God. The conquest of Persia by the Autocrat will doubtless cause England to conquer Afghanistan, and to seize upon Dedan that she may command the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and so prevent him from obtaining access to India either by land or sea. Possessing Persia and Mesopotamia, the apprehension of his pushing still further southward, and perhaps establishing himself on the north-eastern coast of the Red Sea, and so taking them in the rear and gaining access to India by the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, will also be a powerful motive for the merchants of Tarshish and its young lions to take possession of all the coast from the Gulf of Persia to the Straits, and thence to Suez, which by the lion-power will not only become the Sheba and Dedan, but also the Edom, Moab and Ammon, of ‘the latter days’.

The lion-power planted hereafter in the ancient territory of Moab, becomes the Moab of the latter days; so that when the countries before-named are possessed and settled by the British, they will be men of Dedan in Muscat, men of Sheba in Aden and Mocha, and Moabites, Edomites and Ammonites in their several territories” (Elpis Israel pages 435-436).

Brother Thomas expected Great Britain to conquer Afghanistan, and recent statements by both Tony Blair and George W Bush speak very clearly of their desire and intentions concerning the Taliban regime.

“British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared war on the Taliban. Significantly, Mr Blair did not rule out toppling the Islamic fundamentalist regime and installing a new government in Kabul” (The Advertiser 27.09.01). “Toppling Taliban a Key Aim. The US has made the overthrow of the Taliban regime a major objective of its war on terrorism” (The Australian 1.10.01).

Israel: The Eye of the Storm

In the midst of all this activity, winds of change are taking place in Israel. After one year since the Palestinian uprising on 28 September 2000, during which time 840 people have been killed, Israel and the Palestinians are once again, after much pressure from the USA, talking to each other. A very fragile truce has been arranged which is violated each day but perhaps something more lasting may develop.

The USA desperately wants to rally the Arab peoples to her cause to assist in her fight against Islamic terrorism and George W Bush sees peace between Israel and the Palestinians as a vital necessity in the cause.

Against his will, George W Bush and his Republican Party are being drawn into the problems of the Middle East. Recent statements by Bush and Tony Blair indicate that they back the creation of a Palestinian State so that both Israel and the Palestinians can co-exist in the Middle East with a measure of peace.

“President changes tack to woo reluctant Arabs. George Bush has become the first Republican president to endorse a Palestinian state …”

“Blair’s breath of life. The British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, has called for recognition for Israel and for justice for the Palestinians in their own land. ‘If we wanted to, we could breathe new life into the Middle East peace process and we must” (The Sydney Morning Herald 4.10.01).

Ezekiel predicted that in the last days prior to Gog’s invasion, Israel would dwell in the land in safety. “And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” (Ezekiel 38:11).

Will this be another effect of 11 September 2001—the Day the World Changed—who can tell? One thing is for sure, the nations are being drawn into positions outlined by the Word of God.

Our wisdom is to heed the signs of the times and to look upon the recent tragedy as a sign that the Lord’s return is near. “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:31).