Mark 13:37: “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
A recent Guardian article tells a sobering story: “UK universities suffer worst-ever rankings in world league table” (June 9, 2020). For centuries, English universities have received tremendous respect around the world as among the world’s very best. Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, and other universities in the United Kingdom have long been recognized among the best in the world and have been great sources of pride for the English.
In recent years, however, UK universities have been losing ground to Asian competitors, falling in international rankings for four years running. While Imperial College climbed one spot last year to eighth in the world, it was the only UK university in the top 20 to improve its position. Nearly 75 percent of the country’s schools—including Oxford—fell in the rankings, in what The Guardian reports was “the UK’s worst-ever performance.” Universities in the United States are also experiencing a downward trend, “which has seen the country’s share of the top 100 universities fall from 32 to 27 over five years.”
Bible prophecies warn that, at the end of this age, God will “break the pride” of the power of the nations descended from ancient Israel, because they will turn from Him and reject His ways (Leviticus 26:14–19). These substantial declines are a humbling reality—and the Bible reveals that the days ahead will bring even greater examples of the breaking of national pride.
Though the European Union presents itself as a pan-European confederation of nations, the reality may be somewhat different—a fact made all the more plain by recent leadership changes. On July 1, Germany’s Angela Merkel took over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council—while fellow German politician Ursula von der Leyen continues to serve as the head of the EU Commission. “The European Union is set to be run by two German women with a long history. The Continent might never be the same” (Spiegel International, June 17, 2020). What will these German leaders accomplish together?
Politicians, academics, and pundits have been demanding more aggressive international leadership from Germany for years. German money has contributed greatly to Europe’s success in recent years, and strong German leadership is now being called for. A noted German academic and politician recently observed, “If Germany doesn’t show leadership in Europe, there won’t be a Europe” (Politico, June 25, 2020). Indeed, though English and French have long functioned as the languages of commerce in Europe, the German language is becoming increasingly popular throughout the continent (Politico, June 26, 2020). Bible prophecy reveals that Germany will play a powerful role in Europe and the world at the end of this age. The political situation in Europe is now ripe for a strong and sober nation to come to the fore. The last half of 2020 may give us some strong hints about the future of Germany’s growing leadership role in Europe.
The respected journal Foreign Affairs recently published an article on the emerging role of “middle powers” (“Can Middle Powers Lead the World Out of the Pandemic?,” June 18, 2020). Author Bruce Jones makes the following sobering observation with regard to the global pandemic: “With the United States mired in inward-looking dysfunction and China currently incapable of the kind of diplomatic largesse that global public health leadership demands, middle powers will have to lead the way out of the crisis.”
These “middle powers” are large, independent nations that are stepping into a leadership gap left by the world’s faltering super-powers. They include Japan, Canada, the U.K., Germany, France, and some other European Union nations. They are setting the pace in both financial and public health leadership during the global pandemic and have even brought the superpowers to the table to make progress on global initiatives.
Bible prophecy reveals that one of these “middle powers”—Germany—will continue its rise on the world stage. With the U.S. promising to withdraw a third of its troop protection from German soil, Germany will be forced to militarize at a faster pace than planned (Washington Post, June 5, 2020). The nation has repeatedly stepped into the leadership vacuum left by the U.S., and students of Bible prophecy know the importance of watching Germany—the nation that will one day lead the world for a time.
In 2018, the marriage rate in the United States dropped to its lowest level since 1900 (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 29, 2020). Just 6.5 out of 1,000 people married in 2018, down from 7.0 in 2016. Many experts expect this number to drop further in future years. Meanwhile, more couples are living together outside of marriage (Daily Mail, April 29, 2020).
Marriages are more prevalent among financially stable couples, while those in more challenging financial straits are less likely to marry. Yet research shows that marriage can potentially improve a couple’s financial situation and also provide health benefits. While some studies suggest that fewer people are marrying because there are not enough “economically attractive” men available, other experts suggest that “the recent decline may simply be because people are following less traditional family paths” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 29, 2020).
Describing signs of the end of this age, the Apostle Paul wrote that “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1–4). These selfish attitudes do not fit well with biblical marriage, which requires each partner to give to and serve the other. Sadly, in choosing not to marry, millions in the U.S. and other nations are denying themselves the opportunity to experience one of the great joys of life.
The EU has been struggling, and Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic have added insult to injury. European nations are acting independently in their battle against the virus, and some commentators have declared that this could be the end of the EU as we know it.
By contrast, following in his predecessors’ footsteps, Pope Francis has supported the drive toward a united Europe. In fact, Francis recently implored, “In these times in which we need so much unity among us, among nations, let us pray today for Europe, so that Europe manages to have this unity, this fraternal unity of which the founding fathers of the European Union dreamed” (CRUX, April 23, 2020). Francis recognizes that events in Europe can change the whole world. “It’s not at all clear whether the pope actually can save the EU from itself,” notes Vatican expert John L. Allen, but, regardless, this non-European pope is “reminding his adopted continent of its ideals at a time when disenchantment with them seems to be on the verge of going mainstream.”
Pope Francis perceives a need for a stronger, unified Europe, and he is working toward that end—as have popes before him. Bible prophecies tell of an end-time leader of the Roman church who will strongly support a European superpower known as “the beast.” In fact, this coming religious leader will use powerful miracles to motivate the nations of the earth to view the coming European beast power as a savior (Revelation 13:11–17)! Events unfolding on the continent could be setting the stage for the fulfillment of ancient prophecies that will involve the Roman church and a centralized European superpower.