Mark 13:37 | "And what I say to you, I say to all: watch!"
Tensions are growing between Turkey and Greece, fed in part by Turkey’s energy exploration in Greek territorial waters. In response to Turkey’s actions, Greece is looking to increase its military arsenal. “Despite the deep recession caused by the coronavirus crisis and a rising budget deficit, Athens has decided it’s time to act. Fighter jets, frigates, torpedoes and helicopters are all on Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ shopping list” (“Greece Goes Arms Shopping as Turkey Tension Rises,” Politico, September 11, 2020). This will increase Greek military spending by about a third over the next ten years. Even now, reports describe dozens of navy flotillas from each nation beginning to crowd each other, and “diplomats fear an accidental or deliberate escalation could spark a full-blown conflict.”
France, a close ally of Greece, will be one of the major contributors to the nation’s military buildup. Greece is also hoping to achieve a “mutual defense assistance” agreement with France. French support for Greece’s position recently prompted Turkey’s president Erdoğan to warn Paris, “Don’t mess with the Turkish people. Don’t mess with Turkey” (“Erdoğan Warns Macron: ‘Don’t mess with Turkey’,” Politico, September 13, 2020).
The world is entering a time when simmering tensions—whether new or long-standing—will begin to boil over. While there have always been wars and rumors of wars, the Bible reveals that these ominous situations will increase in frequency and potential severity as we approach the last days (Matthew 24:4–8).
Following last year’s historic peace deal between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain, and the powerful engagement of both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Middle East stability again appears to be fracturing (“Analysis: The Real New Middle East Reality,” Israel National News, October 2, 2020). The mostly Sunni nations mentioned above are gravitating more toward Israel and the United States, while Iran and Iraq are moving closer to Turkey. Iran is now threatening terror attacks against the UAE and Bahrain. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan observed to Turkish lawmakers that “Jerusalem is our city”—referring to the period from 1516 to 1917 when the Ottoman Empire controlled the city (“‘Jerusalem is our city,’ Turkey’s Erdogan Declares,” Times of Israel, October 1, 2020). Erdoğan has also stood up to defend the rights of the Palestinian people.
Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, however, has commented, “Israel and states across the Arab world not only stand together in advancing peace. We stand together in confronting the greatest enemy of peace in the Middle East: Iran” (Israel National News).
The Bible warns of a coming “king of the South” that will arise in the Middle East and come into conflict with the coming European empire (Daniel 11:40–43). The fracturing of old Arab ties in the Middle East, and new agreements with Israel, are fascinating and could tie into biblical prophecies about a temporary, relative peace in the region prior to Christ’s return, even allowing the reinstitution of animal sacrifices (Daniel 11:31; 12:11). Students of Bible prophecy need to watch the Middle East!
In response to the recent poisoning of Putin critic Alexi Navalny and Russian interference in Libya, the European Union and the United Kingdom have leveled sanctions against several Russian leaders considered to be in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, as well as one Russian organization. “The adopted restrictive measures consist of a travel ban to the EU and an asset freeze for individuals, and an asset freeze for the entity” (“Russia Vows to ‘Respond in Kind’ to EU Sanctions on Putin Aides,” Deutsche Welle, October 15, 2020).
The Kremlin warned that this action could hurt EU-Russia diplomatic relations and that Russia would retaliate in kind. Of particular interest is the singling out of Germany for criticism: “The Germans are not planning to provide any facts, despite all international and legal obligations.”
Sweden is planning to double its annual military conscription numbers and increase its defense spending by 40 percent in the next five years, after letting its military dwindle in recent years (“Sweden to Increase Military Spending by 40% as Tension with Russia Grows,” The Guardian, October 15, 2020). This is a reaction to increased Russian activity and territorial encroachment in both the Baltic Sea and Swedish airspace. While Sweden maintains strong ties with NATO, it is not a member of the alliance and is thus entirely responsible for its own defense.
Students of Bible prophecy should take note, as Scripture indicates that the world should expect a growing schism between Russia and the nations of Western Europe as the end of the age approaches.
A new study of more than 600 children, conducted by a university in Belgium, found that the more exposure children have to “green spaces,” the higher their IQ (“Growing Up in Green Spaces Boosts Children’s IQs, Claims Study,” EuroNews.com, August 24, 2020). Researchers discovered that “a three per cent increase in the greenness of a child’s neighbourhood raised their IQ score by 2.6 points on average.”
These researchers also looked at children across all socioeconomic levels (education and income) and found that, no matter their background, their IQs rose as they had more exposure to green spaces with bushes and trees. That means “that the relationship between nature and cognitive development is not solely related to the child’s upbringing and financial background.” While the researchers still do not understand all the mechanisms behind their findings, they speculate that “children who live in greener spaces have lower stress levels, experience less noise pollution and have more opportunities for social play.”
Regardless of the reasons behind the findings, these modern researchers have apparently stumbled across something God has understood for a long time. In the beginning, God placed the first family not in the desert or the tundra, but in a garden (Genesis 2:8–9). Bible prophecies about God’s coming Kingdom on the earth make clear that people will live on their own land and be able to sit under their own trees (Micah 4:2–4). This will be a time when springs pour forth from the desert, making it lush and causing it to “blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1). When Jesus begins His reign on earth, He will initiate many changes that will positively impact child development and IQ—and adding green spaces will be one of them!
From California up to Washington and from the Pacific coast inland to Wyoming and Colorado, flames charred millions of acres during the 2020 fire season (“States Are in Desperate Search for Help Battling Record Wildfires,” The New York Times, September 10, 2020).
Oregon’s governor stated, “We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across the state” (“Oregon Fires Force 500,000 People to Evacuate; California Fire Becomes State’s Deadliest of 2020,” Weather.com, September 11, 2020). Roughly 500,000 Oregonians had to be evacuated from their homes, as tens of thousands of firefighters faced shortages in equipment. And yet, as another official put it, “[It’s] becoming sad that every year we’re having this conversation. We say this is the biggest year, and then the next year say this is the biggest year. It’s becoming numbing how frequently we have to say this” (The New York Times).
The scale of destruction in the American West is sobering. Meanwhile, fires have also ravaged Canada, Europe, and Australia. In the pages of the Bible, God warns modern Israelite-descended nations (including nations of Western Europe and many English-speaking countries) that “your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. The Lord will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed” (Deuteronomy 28:23–24). As we see increasing droughts, famines, and destructive fires around the globe, we need to remember that admonition. Yet we can take encouragement, as well, as Jesus Christ tells us in Luke 21:28, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”