Pre-Feast Letter from Chairman Rhodes
September 15, 2011
When I first started reading the Church’s literature in 1966, the geopolitical emphasis focused on three areas: the Middle East, which is the epicenter of Bible prophecy; Europe and developments leading to the “ten kings” prophesied at the end time; and the continuing decline of the English-speaking nations.
Forty-five years later, after natural disasters, it seems that the news is still dominated by these three.
Relations between Israel and its neighbors are worse now than they have been at any time since the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt. The Israeli Embassy in Cairo was stormed last week, and the Ambassador and his family had to flee. Even “moderate” Turkey has talked of war, with their prime minister saying that an incident last year justified conflict with Israel.
In addition, there is to be an attempt at the United Nations later this month to recognize an independent Palestinian state. Although the U.S. would veto such a move in the Security Council, a vote in the General Assembly is a foregone conclusion against Israel.
Such a vote would also highlight increasing divisions between the United States and its European allies, as most European countries are likely to vote for an independent nation of Palestine.
Even without the Middle East, Europe itself is facing its own problems as fiscal disaster looms daily. As I write this on Tuesday, September 13, there are rumors again of Greece defaulting financially. An interviewee on BBC News last night put the likelihood of a default at 98 percent! A headline in London’s Daily Telegraph (August 24) read: “Market crash ‘could hit within weeks’, warn bankers.” September and October, historically, are the most likely months for a big financial upheaval. Any bad economic news in Europe, or even a default by tiny and seemingly insignificant Greece, will have a negative ripple effect around the world, including the United States. As a number of financial publications have observed in recent weeks, the prospect of a “double dip recession” is now more likely.
The worst-case scenario for Europe is of a possible total economic collapse. If this happens, we could see a repeat of the 1930s when, out of the rubble of democratic Europe and the Great Depression, the era of the great nationalistic dictators emerged that led to World War II. An article on today’s Stratfor website highlights the danger:
“European nationalism has always had a deeper engine than simply love of one’s own. It is also rooted in resentment of others. Europe is not necessarily unique in this, but it has experienced some of the greatest catastrophes in history because of it. Historically, the Europeans have hated well. We are very early in the process of accumulating grievances and remembering how to hate, but we have entered the process. How this is played out, how the politicians, financiers and media interpret these grievances, will have great implications for Europe. Out of it may come a broader sense of national betrayal, which was just what the European Union was supposed to prevent” (“The Crisis of Europe and European Nationalism,” George Friedman, Stratfor, September 13.)
The very future of the European Union is at stake right now. If the EU’s internal contradictions lead to it falling apart, watch for dramatic changes in Europe that will eventually lead to the resurrected Roman Empire prophesied in Scripture.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how we get from the Eurozone’s present fiscal challenges to the prophesied “ten kings . . . who give their power and authority to the Beast” (Revelation 17:12-13), but students of Bible prophecy know that this assuredly lies ahead.
Europe’s problems do not give the English-speaking countries any excuse to gloat. Both London and Washington are faced with horrendous mountains of debt and are unsure how to move forward. In the United Kingdom austerity measures (cut-backs in government expenditure) contributed to the recent inner-city riots. Take away freebies, and people will riot! But the economic crisis requires freebies to be taken away. This is a dilemma in the U.S. as well. In my own state of Michigan, welfare is being cut back, along with other expenditures, as the state tries to balance its budget. It remains to be seen what the consequences will be.
The federal government is also looking at serious cuts, though most politicians don’t seem to be looking too seriously. They will no doubt wait until the crisis worsens, as it almost certainly will.
Faced with all these uncertainties, what can the average person do? Jesus Christ said that His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). We all realize that no government and no economic system can provide us with guaranteed security. The only real security lies in our relationship with God. “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).
At this time of the year our thoughts should be on the coming Kingdom of God as we celebrate the annual Holy Days that look forward to the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom.
A new best-seller by writer Mark Steyn is titled “After America.” Beneath the title is the following sub-title: “Get Ready for Armageddon.” There are many people who realize fully the perilous times we live in, but, sadly, do not share in the knowledge and the hope of the Kingdom.
We have that hope, and we should all have a burning desire to share it with the world.
That’s why we recently hosted the Kingdom of God Bible Seminars, which were attended by more than a thousand new people who were warmly welcomed by members of the United Church of God, eager to participate in sharing their hope of the Kingdom with others.
That hope inspires us to pray daily: “Your Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). While we enjoy the physical blessings of the Feast of Tabernacles, let us also remember that these days look forward to a time when all the problems of this present world will be left behind.
Diane and I wish you all a truly uplifting and inspiring Feast of Tabernacles.
Sincerely, your brother in Jesus Christ,
Melvin Rhodes—Chairman, Council of Elders