2014 has been another action-packed year for Bible student Watchmen
We opened last year by saying every year brings surprises! 2014 proved no different. Who at the start of the year could have anticipated the blatant foot prints left by the Russian Bear’s move southwards? True, we knew that there had to be a shaking of the nations of Europe. Countries like Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey need to be drawn, willingly or otherwise, into the appropriate division of Eastern and Western Europe as denoted by the two feet of the Image of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2; or, to use the symbols in Rev. 16, to be part of the Dragon or the Beast. But the speed at which the Russian Bear clawed her way into Crimea was breath-taking.
Or who anticipated at the start of the year that oil prices would tumble—great news for motorists and hauliers, but crushing news for those nations reliant on their income from oil sales! The basic benchmark, Brent crude, was $115 a barrel at the start of the year, at the year-end it was down to just under $57; a stunning 50% fall! Russia—like other oil exporting countries—has seen its economic budget blown out of the window and who knows what actions this can precipitate.
We know that we must go through a time of trouble, but who was expecting to hear from Russian lips the warning that the world was entering a new Cold War? For an older generation that lived through the previous Cold War this is not a rosy prospect. Europe has imposed deep sanctions on Russia for their actions in Ukraine and Russia has likewise retaliated with sanctions against Europe. This has come at a time when Europe is stagnating and Russia’s dollar income from her oil exports is plummeting.
Who could have anticipated the precipitous 45% fall in the Russian rouble which is causing such financial hardships? Certainly not the Russians! “The situation is critical,” said the central bank’s vice-chairman, Sergei Shvetsov, mid-December. “What is happening is a nightmare that we could not even have imagined a year ago.” Russia is being pushed into a corner by the actions of the West. As a leading commentator put it in the Daily Telegraph 17-Dec-14
After years of bluster and suggestions by Mr Putin that the US is a paper tiger, the Kremlin is now coming face to face with the cataclysmic consequences of what it has done by invading Ukraine and changing Europe’s borders by force. By the same token, Washington needs to move with care since it would be a geostrategic miscalculation of the first order to push a nuclear-armed Russia too far into a corner, or to perpetuate a cycle of grievance.
Had we heard of ISIS or IS, Islamic State, as it now insists on being called, before this year? I checked to see if it had been mentioned in Milestones 2013 and the only ISIS mentioned was in the word crisis! Yet how many column inches does IS now occupy in the news, as they try to build a Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East. With Assyrian-like barbarity they have instilled terror in their enemies because of the extreme lengths they are prepared to go to kill their victims.
Many could see that Israel would have to eventually deal with the constant barrage of rockets from Gaza. But who would have thought that it would take 50 days before Hamas agreed to a cease-fire—Israel’s longest conflict with them yet. In 2014 Israel increasingly felt the wrath of other nations; anti-Semitism continued its sharp rise, causing an increasing flow of Jews to leave the uncertainties of Europe and make a new life in Israel. A new phrase for 2014 was the “French effect”—increasing numbers of Jews leaving a country because of anti-Semitic harassment and hostility from the media and radical politicians. France has been joined by Turkey and Ukraine as the latest examples of “French effect” emigrations to Israel.
Who would have thought that the EU would be so insensitive to Britain’s feelings as to heap more and more and more cash demands on her! 2014 saw eye-watering demands for extra cash to feed the hungry political beast, as Britain seemed to be the only country in Europe who looked as if they were prospering and therefore could satisfy its feeding frenzy. More and more voices in 2014 called upon Britain to quit the EU, voices not only from within Britain but also EU leaders chafing to move forward with the integration of Europe without the UK holding it back.
2014 brought the historic visit of the Pope to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The Vatican had hoped to conclude a deal with Israel over certain sites in Jerusalem which the Vatican would like to control, but President Netanyahu’s government is wary to set a precedent to a power which would like to control the whole of the city! 2014 also saw another historic visit by the Pope—to Strasbourg and the European Parliament, following the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, who visited in 1988. The speech was well received, frequently being interrupted with applause, in spite of the strong words used to describe Europe’s lack of vigour and vision. His message was to revive Europe by putting religion at its heart.
2014 has seen spectacular changes in the world of nature—extremes of heat, extremes of cold; extremes of rain and extremes of drought. Signs in the heavens!
And what of 2014 in the Brotherhood? Each will know their personal circumstances. Personally at Rugby we have been growing, but sadly this is not the norm in the UK. More and more ecclesias are losing members. Why is this? There will be many reasons, but foremost is the pressure from worldly reasoning coupled with neglect in the reading and study of God’s Word. One area is in the undermining of the basic foundation of the early chapters of Genesis. So intertwined is God’s Word that to try and interpret the Creation account by being influenced by the pseudo-science of evolutionary thinking, mixed with the Higher Critical philosophy of the Churches, brings disaster. Undermine the foundations and the house collapses: undermine just one small element then the veracity of scripture collapses step by step. It is either true from the beginning or it is not! Hand in hand goes the matter of Inspiration. The spectacular destruction of faith is sad to witness. Its corrosive acid eats at an implicit trust in God and His Word and the shell collapses, sometimes at a remarkable speed. Surely it is one more evidence that we are in the last days.