The "war on terrorism" has cost billions of dollars and thousands upon thousands of lives. Cherished assumptions about freedom and liberty are being called into question, as the world responds to an unprecedented threat. How will it end? Does Bible prophecy offer any hope?
A worldwide war on terrorism has been in progress for almost three years, since the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is a war that is being fought on many fronts, and shows no signs yet of being contained or of winding down. The battleground stretches to every inhabited continent. Although the United States and its allies have forced regime changes in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war—even in those countries—continues.
From places as diverse as Bali and Madrid come reports of explosions and mangled bodies. Suicide bombings in Israel have become so commonplace that they rarely even warrant front-page coverage any longer. Kidnappings and terrorist tactics have seriously dampened foreign tourist interest in countries such as Colombia and the Philippines. Add to that the periodic discoveries of anthrax-laden envelopes at the post office, and airport delays and temporary closures due to security fears, and it quickly becomes apparent that terrorism and the threat of terrorism carry a multi-billion dollar price tag.
In human terms, the cost of this war has included the lives of thousands of civilians who were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Many have lost family members, friends and homes. Thousands of American National Guard members have had their lives turned upside down when their units were activated and dispatched to the Middle East. Dubbed "weekend warriors" in times past, National Guard members were generally associated with cleaning up after hurricanes and floods. Now they have been filling in the gaps of an overstretched American military trying to fight a war on several fronts. Scenes of young husbands and fathers—and even young mothers—being dispatched for who-knows-how-long to areas remote from America's shores have tugged at the heartstrings of millions who watch on television. Far more sobering have been the stories and pictures of the hundreds of young soldiers, many not even out of their teens, who have returned to home and family in military coffins.
In addition to an economic cost reaching into the billions of dollars, the war on terrorism has had an enormous psychological cost as well. The most mundane and prosaic places have been the front lines in this war. Restaurants and coffee houses, malls and small retail shops, train stations and bus stops have been the targets of terror strikes that have killed and maimed victims of all ages, from babies in arms to the elderly. The very randomness of the violence has had a dismaying and terrorizing effect.
Another casualty has been some of the very freedoms that we in the Western world have long taken for granted. Freedom of easy travel, and freedom from oppressive government surveillance have long been taken for granted by citizens throughout the English-speaking world. Yet, as a result of the war on global terrorism, there are now checks and restrictions at which people would have rebelled just a few years ago. Frightened by the potential dangers, people now tolerate restrictions that would once have been considered more characteristic of authoritarian states.
A war on terrorism is being waged using the vast military and economic resources of the United States and its allies. Yet, in spite of all of this massive expenditure, the war continues on, un-won. Why? How is it that relatively few fanatics are able to set the agenda for the world's most powerful nations? And what does all of this portend for our world in the years immediately ahead?
Did you know that the threat of terrorism is directly mentioned in the prophecies of your Bible? The Bible not only foretold, centuries in advance, the effects of terrorist attacks on our nations; it also showed why such attacks would be allowed to happen.
Do you realize that some of the great geopolitical changes in the years immediately ahead of us will be in response to the effects of the global terrorist threat? Do you want to understand what all of this really means and where it is actually leading? If so, then read on!
What has fuelled such an explosion of terrorism on the world scene? Many of us cannot comprehend the mindset of a person strapping explosives onto his body and calmly walking up to a crowded bus stop to kill himself and as many victims as possible. Of course, the idea that terrorists would hijack airplanes and fly them into two of the world's tallest skyscrapers, killing everyone on board and thousands inside—and completely destroying the buildings—would have seemed like the plot of an adventure thriller before September 11, 2001.
Some analysts have asserted that the roots of terrorism lie in poverty and political oppression. However, as Walter Laqueur pointed out in his book No End to War: Terrorism in the 21st Century, almost no terrorism occurs in the world's poorest 49 countries. Furthermore, the 20th century's most repressive regimes—Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia—were free of terrorism. Laqueur argues that terrorism flourishes either in countries that are democratic in character or else in wholly inefficient dictatorships. He asserts that, far from "suicide terrorism" being a purposeless manifestation of despair, it is rather a tool of highly organized groups that train, guide and arm terrorists.
Wes Vernon, in an article for NewsMax.com, cites this analysis from Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation: "We are not at war with a gang of terrorists… It is not even that we are at war with Islam. Rather, Islam is at war with us" (March 25, 2003). Elsewhere in the article, Vernon quotes scholar Daniel Pipes as declaring that in pre-modern times, "jihad meant mainly one thing among Sunni Muslims, then as now the Islamic majority. It meant the legal compulsory communal effort to expand the territories ruled by Muslims… at the expense of territories ruled by non-Muslims." The goal of jihad is offensive, not defensive. The ultimate intent is to extend Muslim dominion throughout the entire globe.
Historically, there has been a clash of civilizations between the Islamic powers from the south and European "Christendom" from the north. For more than seven centuries, the Byzantine Empire (the remains of the eastern leg of the old Roman Empire) steadily retreated before the onslaught of advancing Islamic armies. Constantinople fell in 1453, but Muslim armies continued to advance through the Balkans into the heart of Europe until they besieged the gates of Vienna in 1529.
Moving swiftly across North Africa during the eighth century, Muslims crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and conquered Spain. Crossing the Pyrenees Mountains into France, they were finally turned back by the armies of Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732.
Muslim armies pushed eastward, and threatened Russia from the south. They crossed the Mediterranean, taking Rhodes and Cyprus, and made incursions into Sicily—threatening Italy itself. North African Muslims made slave raids not only on Mediterranean coastal towns, but also as far north as Ireland and England, enslaving upwards of 1.5 million Europeans during a 400-year period lasting into the mid-1500s.
European civilization struck at Muslim civilization as well. There were, of course, the medieval Crusaders' attempts to seize control of Jerusalem from the Muslims. Beginning in the 18th and 19th centuries, the European sphere of influence again expanded gradually into the Islamic world. Back and forth, this clash of civilizations has gone on for well over 1,000 years.
The most recent resurgence of this clash can be dated from the rise of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s. For years he railed against the Jews, the British and the U.S. in passionate tirades broadcast to the whole Middle East over Radio Cairo. In the 1970s, fuelled by the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the coming to power of Muslim clerics, incidents of terrorism began to rise. Since the 1980s, there has been a well-financed terror network that has grown in its worldwide reach and influence.
Where does the money for such an enterprise come from? According to a task force formed by the Bush administration's National Security Council, the money has largely come from Saudi Arabia. "Over the past 25 years, the desert kingdom has been the single greatest force in spreading Islamic fundamentalism, while its huge unregulated charities funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to jihad groups and al-Qaeda cells around the world… Starting in the 1980s… Saudi Arabia's quasi-official charities became the primary source of funds for the fast-growing jihad movement. In some 20 countries, the money was used to run paramilitary training camps, purchase weapons, and recruit new members" (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 15, 2003, p. 20). American officials now acknowledge that it was some of these key "charities" that helped transform ragtag bands of insurgents into a sophisticated global movement.
As we look at the terrible atrocities occurring in today's world, we have to wonder where it will lead. Will the U.S. and Britain successfully install a stable democratic regime in Iraq? Will the state of Israel be able to make peace with the Palestinians and finally enjoy a sense of normalcy?
Yes, terrorism will ultimately be stopped and the terrorists dealt with, but human governments will not bring about the long-term solutions! However, a response to the threats of terrorism with its assault on life and property will undoubtedly be one of the factors propelling events in Europe over the next few years. An international poll taken by the Pew Research Center in February 2004 revealed some interesting insights into the thinking of many people both in Europe and the Middle East. Majorities in Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and Morocco believe that the war on terror is simply a smokescreen to allow the Americans to control Middle Eastern oil and to dominate the world. Perhaps even more surprising to most in the United States is that a majority of people in France and Germany do not believe that President Bush's declared "war on terror" really represents a sincere effort to reduce international terrorism. News of American treatment of Iraqi prisoners has caused even many in the U.S. to question the way the war is being handled.
In continental Europe, there is a growing suspicion—and even antipathy—toward the English-speaking nations. As Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press observed: "Europeans want to check our power. There's considerable support for making the European Union as powerful as the United States." In fact, at least two-thirds of those living in France, Germany, and Russia told pollsters that they thought it would be good for the European Union to become as powerful as the United States. Where will these attitudes lead?
As long-time readers of this magazine realize, Bible prophecy shows that a great power bloc centered in continental Europe will ultimately challenge the U.S. and Britain for world leadership. This end-time revival of the old Roman Empire will achieve a level of success far beyond Germany's two ill-fated attempts in the first half of the 20th century. Events in the Middle East, along with international terrorism, will provide much of the catalyst to bring this about.
We know this because not only does history tell us of a clash of civilizations from north and south of the Mediterranean; so also does Bible prophecy. Writing more than a millennium before the rise of Islam, the prophet Daniel described a coming clash between a future "king of the north" and a "king of the south." Daniel 11:40 declares that "at the time of the end" a ruler called the king of the south will push at a counterpart labeled the king of the north. This will provoke the king of the north to launch a lightning attack on the Middle East, occupying several countries including Egypt and Libya. The end-time king of the north, the ruler of the revived Holy Roman Empire, is called "the Beast" in the book of Revelation. The king of the south describes a coming Middle Eastern strongman who will attempt to forge a confederation of Muslim states. His attempt to gain the upper hand in this escalating clash of civilizations will provoke an all-out European-led assault (For more detailed understanding of these prophecies, please request our free booklet, The Middle East in Prophecy).
Terrorist tactics are a growing threat to security and prosperity worldwide. Not only the Jews living in the state of Israel, but also inhabitants of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will find themselves singled out in a special way by the terrorists. There will be a growing wedge between these nations and a power bloc centered in continental Europe. When a clever and charismatic leader begins to emerge on the scene in Europe, it will be in a climate of escalating uncertainty and crisis. Promising a restoration of peace, security and prosperity, he will inaugurate an authoritarian state that most today can scarcely imagine. While this authoritarian control will suppress the sort of terrorism that is currently growing, it will do so at the cost of launching a campaign of state-sponsored terror against all who do not give their total allegiance to this future union of church and state (Revelation 13:12, 15–17). Please request our free booklet, The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor or Soon-Coming Reality?, for more detailed information on this vital topic.
How can we really know that the English-speaking world, in particular, will experience much of the brunt of this growing campaign of terrorism? And why will such a terrible thing happen? Writing many centuries ago, Moses directed a warning to the end-time descendants of the people of Israel. After detailing the blessings connected with faithful worship of the Creator, Moses then recorded a series of dreadful curses that would result from an attitude of contempt and disobedience to Almighty God.
Notice the solemn warning of Leviticus 26:14–16: "But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments… I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart." An attitude of utter contempt for God and His laws has come to increasingly permeate our society and that attitude will result in the catastrophic punishment of our people.
Various perversions, including homosexuality, are labeled an abomination to Almighty God (cf. Leviticus 18). Israel of old was told that the promised land had "vomited out" the nations that were there before them because of such perversions (v. 28) and that if they did likewise, the same results would follow. In 21st century America, it is considered acceptable for a judge who refuses to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom to be tossed from the bench, as was Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court. Yet, on the other hand, the media labels as "progressive" and "courageous" those magistrates who perform "marriages" between homosexuals and lesbians! Such an incredibly upside-down situation would have been unimaginable even a generation ago.
Simply put, our nations cannot treat our Maker and His instructions with contempt and expect to retain His blessing. As God removes His protection, we will see our enemies successfully strike at us again and again. Ultimately, our English-speaking nations will be subjugated by a coming European superpower and taken into national captivity, called the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). To understand these prophecies in greater depth, please request our free booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy.
Future terrorism and national punishment is not the end of the story. The prophet Isaiah describes a time beyond the bad news. "For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer" (Isaiah 54:7–8). While God figuratively "hides His eyes" for a short time, He anticipates our deliverance and restoration in the aftermath of national repentance.
A greatly humbled people will actually want to learn God's ways. Notice this description of our people after they are regathered from captivity: "All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you" (Isaiah 54:13–14). There will be peace and an absence of terror as a direct result of truly looking to God and wanting to live His wonderful way of life.
The returning Jesus Christ will establish a government that will encompass all nations. He will strongly rebuke those who would terrorize their neighbors, and He will usher in a time when hurt and destruction will come to an end. In its place, the knowledge of the Creator and His laws will fill the earth like the waters fill the seas (Isaiah 11:9)!
In the years between now and that glorious future time when the kingdom of God will hold sway over all the earth, what hope is there for you and your family? While terror and disease epidemics will stalk much of the world around us, those who genuinely seek to walk with their Creator need not fear! They will echo the words of the psalmist in Psalm 91: "I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust'… You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday" (vv. 2, 5–6).
Rebellious and disobedient nations will be brought to their knees by the events of the coming years. Global terrorism will indeed play its part in these terrible times. However, there is good news that lies ahead for a chastened and repentant humanity.
You can partake of that good news now, without having to suffer these coming punishments, if you will turn to your Creator with all your heart and become willing to truly obey Him. Think about it—if you walk with God, you need never walk alone! You will be able to say with David: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).