In George W. Bushʼs televised address to the nation on March 18 he said: “The danger is clear: Using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, terrorists could fulfil their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other. The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it.” And so the President set his nation on the course for war in the Middle East.

This article is written as the US led military approach on Baghdad advances, with the horrors of war becoming more and more apparent. As Bible believers, we are disgusted at the atrocities of war, yet on the other hand excited about the implications this war may have in shaping our world, and in the gathering of nations for Armageddon. As we write, the powerful might of the United States is being hampered by “the worst dust storms in decades” as well as driving rain in the desert. Once again, we see how that the might of man is completely at the mercy of the God of heaven.

Isnʼt it amazing how these events have changed the tilt and balance of alliances: “Nobody in the world would have believed it if you told them 20 years ago about the state of international relations in February 2003. For one thing, France and Germany have just lined up with Russia for the first time against their Cold War protector, the US, on the biggest strategic and military issue facing the world…” (The Australian 12.2.03). The Financial Review (25.3.03) said, “Weʼre moving back to 19th Century European balance of power situation with France, Russia and Germany lining up against the US-UK Anglo Saxon coalition of the willing”. The front page headline in The Weekend Australian (15.3.03) said, “NATO, UN suffer Franceʼs mass destruction”. The article, by Foreign editor Greg Sheridan, said: “The geostrategic and international consequences will be shaped by the course of the war and its outcome. But recent events will have their own profound consequences. It is impossible not to conclude that they have already changed, perhaps fundamentally, the international system, in ways that will have great consequences for Australia”.

Dangerous Implications for Israel

Whichever way you want to look at it, Israel will continue to be an important focus of attention in the Middle East crisis. The long term implications of a war in Iraq are certain to affect Israel. The condemnation of Iraq from the US, Britain and Australia has been due to their non-compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1441.

But the eerie shadow over Israel is all about the UN Resolutions resulting from the six day war in 1967. These are UN Resolutions 242 and 338. UN Resolution 242 calls for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent (1967) conflict”. It also calls for “respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”. Resolution 338 re-affirms this and calls for negotiations.

It is claimed by many countries that Israel is in breach of these UN Resolutions and, in particular, because of their occupation of East Jerusalem. In response, Israel argues that Resolutions 242 and 338 are firstly not binding because they are not Security Council resolutions. Secondly, that Israel made a good faith effort to implement the resolutions at the Camp David negotiations in 2000. And thirdly, that the suicide bombings impinge on Israelʼs “right to live in peace…” Whatever the truth may be, it is clear that Israel will eventually become the focus of world attention. The danger for Israel is that US action against Iraq sets a dangerous precedent for the future. This has been recognised by many key players on the world stage in past months.

We ask the vital question: What will the US do if France, Germany and Russia one day point the finger at Israel? What if they call Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and East Jerusalem or else face “serious consequences”? If the US is so committed to forcing Iraq to comply with “UN resolutions”, then what about Israel? George Bush obviously realised he had a problem, so last October he signed the document which finally, on behalf of the US government, recognised Israelʼs sovereignty over East Jerusalem. So now the US cannot be accused of inconsistency. So now one country in the world does recognise Israel as legally occupying East Jerusalem. But who else is going to do the same?

For all these legalistic debates over UN resolutions, the yet unfulfilled words of the prophet Zechariah ring loud and true: “I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it… half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city.” (Zech 14:1,2 NIV) Why half the city? Why wonʼt the “rest of the people” be removed? Why would Zechariah make a point of this? Think about it. Isnʼt this the issue facing Israel?

Expansion of Europeʼs Empire

“Ever closer Union” is the catchcry these days in Europe as it continues to push ahead with enlargement plans. Here we see the continued rise of a latter day Roman Empire. The single european currency has provided a significant springboard for furtherance of the European ideal:

“Onlookers, groping to capture the significance of [the Euro], note that no currency has circulated as widely in Europe since the Roman empire. It is a provocative comparison…” (The Economist 5.1.02).

“Charlemagne had a common currency in Europe. He made every part of the Holy Roman Empire use the penny, which was about 90% silver…. This was in AD 794. Thus does politics rule money. The euro has been controversial precisely because it engages vast political ambitions. To critics, it represents a step toward “a European superstate that will submerge the individuality of the European nations…”” (Newsweek 31.12.01)

Leadership of the continent is now being centralised into a single command structure (see Rev 17:13). We are seeing the EU expanding on a wide scale, taking in many more countries—supposedly to total 25 by next year!. Danielʼs fourth beast symbolises this Roman Empire, which must be in existence in the latter days (Dan 7:11). On the other hand there are a core group of Western European nations within the EU, grouped together economically by the single European Currency. These are predominantly countries under strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church. This power is symbolised in Daniel by the little horn of the fourth beast (Dan 7:8–11,20–27). Meanwhile we have European countries still retaining their individual identities. This is why the fourth beast has 10 horns (Dan 7:7). How incredibly accurate is this prophecy! The story is expanded in Revelation, where we witness a re-emergence of the Beast of the Earth (Holy Roman Empire) before Armageddon (Rev 16:13 cp 13v11–18) as a prelude to its final appearance in Revelation 17 and 19.

At the crucial moment, we know that the military power of Europe, led particularly by Russia, and allied with certain Islamic nations and others will be drawn into the Middle East, and particularly against Israel where events will act as a magnet. The merchant powers of Britain and the US will be powerless to save Israel from destruction (Ezek 38v13). Only Divine intervention will eventually save Israel and the world from this catastrophe.

Changes In Russia

For a number of years now we have looked for some reversal in fortunes for Russiaʼs economy. There is no doubt that since Mr Putin came to power, things have dramatically changed in Russia:

“Russiaʼs resistance to a US-led invasion of Iraq is a sign that the diplomacy of dependency of the 1990s might have run its course in Moscow. After recovering from a decade of post-Soviet shrinkage and collapse, Moscow is awash in cash and not so easily plied by the Westʼs economic handouts. Western purse-strings were a factor Russia had to consider when forming its foreign and even domestic agendas through most of the 1990s. With its economy in a shambles, Moscow feared punitive rulings from the Paris and London Club groups of creditors, who held billions of dollars in Soviet-era debt. The alchemy of Russiaʼs financial relations has changed quite a bit since then: Vladimir Putin put a halt to IMF borrowing after becoming President in early 2000, when a recovery in world oil prices gave Moscow some financial relief….”

“Middle East uncertainties, which have prompted a rise in oil prices, have buttressed the Kremlinʼs finances further. Russia, the second-largest oil producer in the world, is now cash-rich, and the government had been using its huge budget surpluses to pay down the national debt. Last week, the day after Russia declared along with France and Germany its firm opposition to a United Nations resolution authorising force against Iraq, the Russian government posted an announcement on its web site that it intended to repay IMF loans next year ahead of schedule” (Wall Street Journal, Feb 2003).

Poverty and Hunger

Incredibly, with all the emphasis in the media on catastrophes and disasters, little is said about the suffering in third world countries. Endless time in the news media is given to the September 11 attacks and the Bali bombings, but how much is given over to the problems in Africa? It can be easy to live in our world completely unaware of what is really happening:

“Where itʼs September 11 every day of the year—Africa is a continent in ferment. Internecine wars, abject poverty and a sickening increase in the spread of AIDS has it teetering on the brink of self-destruction. From the Horn of Africa to its most southern point of Cape Agulhas there is starvation on a monumental scale caused by extreme drought and subsequent poor crops, most of which have been destroyed by floods. There is an enormous increase in the mortality rate among children who, if they donʼt starve to death in the near future, are likely to be orphaned by or succumb to AIDS.

“It seems that little succour is at hand. Little wonder then, that from Senegal through Zambia and Lesotho, the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks merited hardly more than a mention. According to a recent BBC documentary on AIDS in Africa, 6000 people die each day and millions of children are orphans. In sub-Saharan Africa there were more than 28 million people living with the disease at the end of last year. On a world scale, four out of every five children with AIDS live in Africa. Nairobi alone, according to the UN, has more than 1 million such parentless children.

“In the absence of both AIDS and nature, there is rampant war. There are wars in Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, to name a handful… There is ethnic killing in the eastern Congo, abduction and enslavement in Sudan and Uganda. Not to mention widespread laying of landmines, denial of humanitarian assistance to people in terrible circumstances in Angola – and so forth. Africa, it seems, canʼt take a trick.” (Sydney Morning Herald 11.09.02)

Consider the following amazing facts (compiled by the Bread for the World Institute):

  • More than 840 million people in the world are malnourished—799 million of them are from the developing world. More than 153 million of them are under the age of 5. 1
  • Six million children under the age of 5 die every year as a result of hunger. 1
  • Of the 6.2 billion people in todayʼs world, 1.2 billion live on less than $1 per day. 2
  • The amount of money that the richest 1% of the worldʼs people make each year equals what the poorest 57% make. 2
  • In developing countries, 91 children out of 1000 die before their fifth birthday. By comparison, in the United States eight children in 1000 will die before turning five years old.
  • Each day in the developing world, more than 30 000 children die from mostly preventable and treatable causes, such as diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, measles or malaria. These diseases are far more deadly to children who are stunted or underweight. 2
  • 12 million people die each year from lack of water, including 3 million children from waterborne disease: 1.1 billion lack access to clean water; 2.4 billion live without decent sanitation; and 4 billion without waste water disposal. 2
  • By the end of 2 000, some 22 million people had died from AIDS, which has caused 13 million children to lose either their mother or both parents. 2
  • 40 million people are living with AIDS—90% of them in developing countries and 75 percent of them in sub-
  • Saharan Africa: 2.9 million are under the age of 14. 2
  • More than 2 million children each year have severe visual problems due to lack of vitamin A.2
  • Godʼs Kingdom the Only Solution

There can only be one solution for the suffering in this world. Despite all of manʼs grand inventions, world leaders refuse to confront the problem of poverty and disease. Billions of dollars spent on weapons, but how much on food? Almost all the poverty in the world could be eradicated if nations all agreed to stop military spending. Godʼs longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, and we wonder how much longer it can last today. The Lord Jesus Christ will soon remove the kingdoms of this world (Rev 11:15) and replace them with an age of peace and prosperity where there will be food for all:

“The days are coming, declares the LORD, when the reaper will be overtaken by the ploughman, and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills” (Amos 9:13 NIV). “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you” (Isaiah 35:4).

But most importantly of all, the world will be given the true bread of life, through the blessings of Godʼs righteous king in Zion: “I am the true bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).