In 1917, Bible students were thrilled when the British, assisted by her “young lions” began pushing the Turks out of Palestine. That October, the success of the legendary cavalry charge by the Australian troopers of the 4th Light Horse Brigade against the strategically placed Beersheba, opened the doorway to Jerusalem. “This was the last important cavalry charge in history and the last to win a resounding victory that altered the course of a war.” Then in November came the thrilling Balfour Declaration: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…” Again it fell to the Australian young lions to be the first to enter Jerusalem on December 11th 1917. Here was clear evidence of the hand of God in the affairs of men. Brother Ladson wrote in the December issue of The Christadelphian concerning the Balfour Declaration:

“The declaration of the sympathy of the British Government in the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews, has thrilled to the hearts of the Brethren of Christ the world over. There would be few ecclesias where, on the Sunday morning following the Declaration, the theme would not be joyfully enlarged upon, and the whole service in prayers, hymns, and anthems, be warmly touched with the emotion generated by such a vindication of our faith.”

The news of the taking of Jerusalem on December 11th just made it into the January 1918 issue – again there was great rejoicing. Brother Ladson wrote:

“Dear brethren and sisters,

We rest on the solid rock of the Word of the One  Who changes not. Christ will return according to  his word, the gates of Jerusalem will lift their heads  to welcome the entry of a greater than the British  general, but in this present victory we have that  which warms our hearts and strengthens our hands  anew, seeing that it is in the line of the revealed  programme. There is much to be done, and the time  is short; let us realise that the Lord must come to  his household before he is revealed to the world, so  that before another year has passed – yes,  before another month has passed – our  call may come.”

Here we are, over 90 years further  on and how much more of the “revealed  programme” we have been privileged to  see. We have witnessed the hardening  of the British government against the  returning Jews, leading to them wiping  their hands of the situation and yielding  control to the UN, which led to Israel’s  rebirth as a nation in 1948.

Britain’s decline

We have seen the decline of Britain as  a power as America took over as the  world’s superpower. Yet, as Brother  Thomas gleaned from the prophetic Word, Britain still has a role to play. This  is not the place to examine the scriptural  ground for the basis of Britain being  Tarshish and America, Australia, Canada  and India playing the role of ‘her young  lions’ (Ezek 38:13 rv). Brother Billington’s  book Cry of the Prophets—Tarshish in Bible  Prophecy from CSSS agents is an excellent  study of this subject.

Thirteen years of Labour government  rule had left its mark on the financial  fortunes of Britain. North Sea oil reserves  were running out, a bloated civil service  was swallowing up ever increasing sums  of money together with generous pension schemes  that could only be funded by higher taxes on a  shrinking working population. Corruption and nest  lining by our politicians had grown to scandalous  proportions. One could be forgiven for looking  to America to play the role we had traditionally  associated with Britain.

Should we write Britain off as a past power  that had played its part and was now disappearing  into obscurity like countless powers before her?  Hold on! God’s Word holds sure! This spring we  have seen quite remarkable changes following the  UK elections in May. We have written in detail in  the Bible Magazine of the Conservative-Liberal  Democrats coalition government that eventually  emerged following the elections. Also of the  remarkable fact that just as Britain’s government  was in abeyance, the EU was driving forward  far-reaching bailout plans for Greece and other  faltering members of the euro – steps which will  inevitably lead to a greater integration of the eurozone  members – or the collapse of the euro! We  aren’t, at the time of writing, even 80 days from  the launch of Britain’s first coalition government  for 65 years on May 11th, yet there is a quiet air of  optimism here over Britain’s future.

Britain and India

In Old Testament times there appear to have been  two Tarshish powers – one in the west accessible  from Joppa (Jonah 1:3) and one in the East  accessible from Ezion-geber (1 Kings 9:26). We  read of the ships of Solomon going on a three year  round trip to the eastern Tarshish.

“For the king’s ships went to Tarshish with the  servants of Huram: every three years once came the  ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory,  and apes, and peacocks” (1 Kings 10:21).

Peacocks point to India as the destination of  these ships. Britain’s history with India goes back  over 400 years! Queen Elizabeth I granted a royal  charter establishing the East India Company in  1600. Since India’s independence in 1947, ties have  strengthened between the two countries. There are  over 1.6 million people of Indian origin living in  Britain, and India is second only to the US as the  largest overseas investor in Britain.

Bible students have long seen a role for India as  part of the “young lions” associated with Britain –  others being America, Canada, Australia and New  Zealand. These nations are – largely – favourably  disposed to Israel, although subject to the particular  leader in power at the time. So it was thrilling  to see the new British Prime Minister following  up his election promise to build ties with the  Commonwealth countries and India in particular.  He made India his first major destination, following  a brief, but important visit to America to re-establish  that long-standing special relationship.

The visit to India at the end of July was a  spectacular affair. His decision to take with him  three of his four most senior cabinet ministers,  together with his higher education minister, marked  this out as an unprecedented trip. They were  accompanied by the most high-powered team of  UK business leaders ever assembled.

“Cameron’s aim is not just to win contracts for  British firms, but to establish a strategic relationship  in which our scientists, engineers, designers  and entrepreneurs will work with their Indian  counterparts and combine British innovation and  Indian costs to sell to the rest of the world.

India is the world’s second fastest-growing  economy. It is expected to overtake China as  the fastest-growing within 40 years, and also  replace it as the world’s greatest population  with more than two billion people by 2050.  As its population rises, so too will its number  of highly educated graduates and skilled  engineers – already qualifying at the rate of  160,000 per year.

Britain’s largest manufacturer (Tata, owner  of Jaguar Land Rover and Corus steel) is Indian,  India’s 700 companies in the UK are our largest  job creators, UK businesses owned by British  Indians generate £10 billion in turnover, and our  richest man, Lakshmi Mittal is an Indian” (Daily  Telegraph 23 July 2010).

Britain finds more oil

These finds have come at a psychologically good  time for Britain. Recent discoveries in the North Sea  have been rather small and so potential investors  have chosen to take their drilling rigs elsewhere.  Maybe there will be still more discoveries to boost  Britain’s finances in these difficult economic times  as these reports indicate.

“Estimates of reserves in a new North Sea  discovery have been raised for the second time in  two weeks and the third in a month after further  drilling found more oil in an area that had been  regarded as a poor prospect.

The four-field Catcher complex, is now  estimated to contain up to 350m barrels and  with more wells planned could emerge as the  biggest North Sea discovery in a decade. Recent  discoveries have been in the ‘tiddler’ category  with reserves of between 20m–30m barrels (Daily  Telegraph 5 Jul 2010).

Drilling on the UK’s continental shelf grew  by 86% in the second quarter of the year from the  year before, according to research by consultancy  Deloitte.

It seems companies are finding funds easier  to come by, evidenced by data published by  industry body Oil & Gas UK flagging a planned  £6bn spending spree on new developments in  2010, and possibly more than that in 2011. It  could hit £60bn over the next decade, said the  report’s author Mike Tholen” (ShareCast 9  July 2010).

UK economy grows at the fastest pace in four years

Britain was one of the last countries in Europe  to come out of recession, but growth has been  surprisingly strong since, as this headline declared.

“The quarterly leap in gross domestic product  (GDP) was almost double the 0.6pc expected by  the City and the highest since the first quarter of  2006, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The stellar advance, driven by huge growth  in business services, finance and construction,  comes amid a global debate over the impact of  austerity measures on the economy and could be  taken to vindicate Chancellor George Osborne’s  decision to push ahead with his planned fiscal  squeeze.

Overall the UK posted its strongest annual  growth – 1.6pc – since before the recession at  the beginning of 2008 and much better than the  1.2pc growth forecast for the year produced by  the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Within the services sector, business and  finance posted its strongest rise in almost three  years – advancing 1.3pc over the quarter, as the  City emerged from the aftermath of the banking  crisis.

Construction bounced back from a snowbound  first three months to the year to grow at a huge  6.6pc, its fastest quarterly pace since 1963”  (Daily Telegraph 23 July 2010).

Britain is seeing a growth of inward investments  – overseas companies investing in Britain.

“Britain remained Europe’s top destination  for foreign direct investment in 2009, attracting  more than a fifth of all new projects in the region. London remained the most popular European  city for inward investment for an eighth year  running, underlining the importance of business  in the capital for the UK economy.

London secured 263 projects , far outperforming its closest rivals in Europe. Paris came second with 99 projects and Madrid third with 55” (Reuters 2 June 2010).

Britain and the Middle East

Is Britain being prepared by the angels for her  latter-day role as a supporter of Israel and active in  the Middle East, working with her commonwealth  friends in the Sheba-Dedan area of the Arabian  Peninsula? We know that the pendulum of history  swings back and forth. Britain was the active power  in the 19th and 20th centuries, but faded out of the  picture since WWII. It is clear from Ezekiel 38:13  that there is to be a role for Britain again in this  region. Under the present government, this could  be achieved. Two years ago, David Cameron, then  leader of the Opposition party, addressed a dinner  of the Conservative Middle East Council. [My  emphasis in this section]

“Conservatives must come to office steeped  in an understanding of the complex politics of the  Middle East. We must take the remaining time we  have in Opposition to build on that understanding  – and I know from my own visits to the region that  nothing beats seeing a country at first hand and  hearing from the politicians and decision-makers  who live there. Recent events, not least the war in  Iraq and the ongoing Middle East Peace Process,  mean that Conservatives must seek the widest of  perspectives in seeking to gain a grasp of Middle  Eastern politics. That  is why William Hague  has called for Britain to  forge a new approach  in our relations with the  Middle East. He wants  Britain to begin a longterm  effort to elevate  our contacts with our  many friends in the  Middle East, many of  whom feel that they  have been somewhat  neglected by their old  friend, Britain, in the  last decade. A new Conservative Government  will put that right – and we are starting to put it  right now, from Opposition” (David Cameron  10 June 2008).

William Hague, the new British Foreign and  Commonwealth Secretary, in a major speech to  parliament setting out the Coalition party plans  had this to say.

“The Middle East is a region of great  opportunity and promise where we have many  friends and potential allies. We have long called  for the elevation of British links with many  of the countries of the Middle East, North  Africa and the Gulf, not only diplomatically but  in matters of culture, education, commerce and  security. We will now take forward the work of  developing that long-term initiative” (Hansard  26 May 2010).

In a speech on July 1st to the Foreign and  Commonwealth Office staff he said:

“I can announce today that the Prime Minister  has launched a joint taskforce with the United  Arab Emirates as part of our efforts to elevate  links with the Gulf. It will develop options for  strengthening our ties across the board.”

It will be interesting to see where Mr Cameron’s  next major visit takes him.

Britain and the Commonwealth

Under the Labour government the role of the  Commonwealth in British affairs was largely  ignored. That has now changed. The fact that  William Hague’s appointment to the post of  Foreign Secretary was the first to be announced by David Cameron as he put together his government,  indicates the importance of this highly prized  position. The fact too, that use is being made  of the full title – Foreign and Commonwealth  Secretary also is of great interest to the watchmen  on Zion’s walls. Is the tide turning at last? It would  appear so. The Conservatives want to direct their  attention on rebuilding the neglected links with the  Commonwealth. In Hague’s July 1st speech referred  to above, he set out in detail their new foreign  policy. The world had changed and Britain needed  to change to engage in a “networking world”.

“The case for the UK embracing the  opportunities of the networked world is very  strong. We are richly endowed with the attributes  for success. We are a member of one of the  world’s longstanding global networks – the  Commonwealth – which spans continents and  world religions, contains six of the fastest growing  economies and is underpinned by an agreed  framework of common values. The previous  Government in my view appeared oblivious to  this aspect of the value of the Commonwealth, not  even mentioning it in a strategic plan published for  the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2009.  We are also the world’s sixth largest trading nation  even though we comprise just 1% of the world’s  population; second only to the USA in the amount  of money we invest abroad and always outward  looking and intrepid in nature. One in ten British  citizens now lives permanently overseas. We  have unrivalled human links with some of the  fastest growing countries of the world … The  English language gives us the ability to share  ideas with millions – perhaps billions – of people  in the biggest emerging economies and – if we so  choose – to build networks across the world. It is  staggering that in India 250 million school and  university-aged students – four times the entire  population of the United Kingdom – are now  learning English. This underlines the essential  importance of the work of the British Council and  the BBC World Service, which give Britain an  unrivalled platform for the projection of the appeal  of our culture and the sharing of our values.”  (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Britain and Israel

After the many ways that Britain supported  the return of the Jews to their homeland, it was  disappointing to see how Britain turned her back  on her responsibilities, especially during and  after WWII. But we don’t have to look for new  interpretations of our traditional understanding of  prophecy – we have to wait in patience. The time  will assuredly come when all things will be fulfilled.  At a time when on one level the US seems to be  cooling her relationship with Israel (though as far  as military support is concerned recent events have  shown that that special bond is still strong), we look  for the Old Lion to set the initiative. Is that time  at hand? We have a new leader who has spoken  passionately about his affinity to Israel and has a  Jewish ancestry. Last year he said:

“If I become Prime Minister, Israel has a  friend who will never turn his back on her … I  passionately believe in the right of Israel to exist,  to defend itself and to live in peace and security”  (CFI Annual Business Lunch, 18 June 2009).

William Hague had earlier spoken of his party’s  support for Israel.

“The unbroken thread of Conservative Party  support for Israel that has run for nearly a century  from the Balfour Declaration to the present day  will continue. Although it will no doubt often be  tested in the years ahead, it will remain constant,  unbroken, and undiminished by the passage of  time” (Speech to the Balfour dinner, 3 Nov 2008).

Cameron’s criticism of Israel in his July speech in  Turkey over Gaza and its blockade did however come  as a surprise. It certainly is what his Turkish audience  wanted to hear, but it will have disturbed his Israeli  contacts. Perhaps it will lead to an invitation to visit  Israel and see things through their eyes!

How much longer?

We live in a godless world that is ripe for the  judgments of God. Israel faces constant criticism;  it is not difficult to contemplate many nations  assembling against Jerusalem. The time is short,  as Brother Ladson exhorted in 1918 and his  exhortational warning still stands firm. Before  Messiah reveals himself to the world, he will come  to gather his household. We may not see another  year pass before that day comes. There is nothing  that has to take place before our Master comes; the  final pieces of the prophetic jigsaw will fall into  place after our call to the Judgment Seat.