Mark 13:37 | “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
For years, the Vatican has promoted Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical, issued in 2015. This promotion, “designed to encourage strategic actors to commit to achieving total sustainability with Pope Francis’s environmental advocacy as a guide,” kicked into high gear this year (CruxNow, May 25, 2021). “Pope Francis said humanity has a duty to future generations to overcome selfishness, indifference, and ‘irresponsible’ habits, asking faithful to respect creation and ‘inaugurate a lifestyle and a society that is finally eco-sustainable.’” According to a Vatican official, the present plan is designed to be seven years long because of the biblical significance of the number seven. Year one is a planning year, followed by five years of environmental action. The final, seventh, year “will be a ‘sabbatical’ year dedicated to ‘praise and thanking God.’”
The idea is to begin with Catholic parishes and organizations and then bring in other churches and organizations, ultimately involving the whole world. Integral to the plan is a mandatory weekly day of rest. “The Pope’s encyclical calls for Sunday to be implemented as a weekly day of rest to save the environment” (OpenPr.com, December 11, 2020).
Biblical prophecy foretells the rise of an end-time “beast” power in central Europe. This “beast” will be a militarily and economically powerful political leader who will work in concert with a powerful religious leader (cf. Revelation 13). Ultimately, the religious leader will cause “all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (vv. 16–17). Francis’ Laudato Si’ may help bring this about.
Author Wolfgang Münchau recently wrote for The Spectator, “What we are witnessing is the birth of a new breed of Euroscepticism.… This all amounts to a moment of great danger for the EU” (July 3, 2021). Münchau described the plummeting respect for retiring German Chancellor Angela Merkel and current French President Emmanuel Macron—and the impact of their roles on the future of the EU.
Münchau described what he considers many political blunders made by Merkel in the 16 years of her leadership. Hers is a party in turmoil. Münchau asked a significant question regarding the EU’s future: “If neither Merkel nor Macron can ‘lead’ Europe, then who can? Look at the field of their potential successors in Germany and France. No one else is on the horizon. So the EU’s future depends on weaning itself off the illusion of Franco-German leadership.”
Despite the apparent void in leadership, biblical prophecy reveals that Germany will play a significant role in the future of Europe. While there may be “no one else on the horizon” at this moment, there is—or will be—someone waiting in the wings, unbeknownst to Münchau. There is an old saying that “nature abhors a vacuum”—and nations are always uncomfortable when there is a leadership vacuum. The Bible warns that, at the end of the age, a powerful, self-absorbed leader will arise in Europe, specifically in Germany. This person “shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god” (Daniel 11:36). He will help unify “ten kings” in Europe who will “give their power” over to him for a brief time (Revelation 17:12–13), and he will be supported by a prominent religious leader. Students of biblical prophecy need to watch for a strong leader to arise and pull together a core of European nations.
After twelve years under 71-year-old Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel has a new Prime Minister—Netanyahu’s former ally, 49-year-old Naftali Bennett. Winning the office by just one Knesset vote, Bennett now leads a “fragile coalition comprised of eight parties with deep ideological differences” (Associated Press, June 13, 2021). However, Netanyahu will not disappear. He is still part of Israel’s leadership and aims to return to power as soon as is possible. The extremely close vote demonstrates that he still retains a great deal of support, especially among Israel’s hardliners.
Bennett is a conservative Orthodox Jew and a millionaire. He is an “ultranationalist” who opposes Palestinian independence and supports Israeli West Bank settlements. He leads a coalition government whose current reason for being is its shared opposition to Netanyahu. Exactly what the future holds remains to be seen. Bennett has made clear that under his leadership Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, and he is calling for unity and cooperation among Israel’s leaders. He is supposed to step down from power in two years to make way for a centrist leader, in what is being called a “rotating plan for the premiership” (Deutsche Welle, June 13, 2021).
While Prime Minister Bennett’s new position will be very challenging, many wonder what his election portends for Israel’s future. How will he interact with other leaders in the Middle East, in Europe, and especially in Germany? Biblical prophecy foretells that Israel’s future will be rocky and dangerous (Zechariah 12:2–3; 14:1–2). Europe and even the pope will eventually become involved in Jerusalem. Bennett might set the stage for such a future.
In northern Ethiopia, more than 350,000 are living in a food “catastrophe,” according to a United Nations-backed analysis that defines a food “catastrophe” as “starvation and death affecting small groups of people spread over large areas” (BBC, June 10, 2021). Since November 2020, 1.7 million people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia have been displaced by civil war. In addition to those in a food “catastrophe,” the UN concludes that two million are in a food “emergency” and three million more are in a food “crisis.”
Although many are careful not to use the word “famine” until certain criteria are met, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has “chosen to ignore the rules and insist that ‘there is famine now in Tigray,’” concluding that arguing over definitions is counterproductive.
According to the UN, “This severe crisis results from the cascading effects of conflict, including population displacements, movement restrictions, limited humanitarian access, loss of harvest and livelihood assets, and dysfunctional or non-existent markets.” Ethiopia’s government insists its population has access to food relief, but starving citizens tell a different story, and Lowcock predicts the situation will grow far worse. In 1984, a similar war in the region led to a famine that killed between 600,000 and a million people.
Due to the greed and selfishness of leaders, millions continue to suffer unnecessary starvation. God warned that the end of this age will be characterized by selfish people who despise good and treat others with brutality (2 Timothy 3:1–5). Corrupt and power-hungry leaders do not serve the people they lead; rather, they care only about themselves. That is why people groan when wicked leaders rule (Proverbs 29:2). Our world needs righteous, caring leadership.