Mark 13:37: “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
In addition to struggling against COVID-19, India is facing two different strains of bird flu (“India culls thousands of birds over avian flu concern,” Deutsche Welle, January 14, 2021). The nation has culled thousands of birds and warned citizens that the flu can spread through human-to-human contact, though the highest risk comes from contact with poultry.
In reaction to these new virus strains, the prices of chicken, eggs, and other fowl plunged and many shops and stores that sell such foods were closed. Shop owners who defied the closure laws were threatened with having their licenses revoked (“Bird Flu: Sale Of Chicken Banned In Delhi, Restaurants Warned,” NDTV, January 13, 2021) and restaurants were forbidden to serve chicken or eggs.
Avian flus are yet another plague afflicting nations around the globe, and at least one of these bird flu strains (H5N1) is deadly to humans. Bible prophecy reveals that many devastating events will erupt in the world before Christ’s return, including disease epidemics (Matthew 24:7). Yet Jesus Christ warned that these are just “the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8). It is sobering to see world events lining up with end-time prophecies, but these events also point to the imminent return of Jesus Christ to establish His everlasting, peace-filled Kingdom over the whole earth.
There are those who continually point out problems within the European Union, bringing up squabbles between nations, trade disputes, financial crises, and problems with the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. Yet Der Spiegel editor-in-chief Ullrich Fichtner observes, “Despite its long list of crises in recent years… the European Union has become a global pacesetter. Its laws and regulations have established global norms. This has made the bloc a 21st century model” (“How Europe Became a Model for the 21st Century,” February 4, 2021).
Europe is the primary export market for Russia, the U.S., India, and South Africa, and is the largest financial partner of emerging African nations—providing 40 percent of all African investments and providing the market for a third of all African exports. The EU provides more than half of all development aid funding in the world and is the world’s most influential global regulator. As Fichtner points out, “A global player like today’s Europe has never existed in this form in the history of the world.”
While the configuration of nations in the end-time “beast” superpower may differ from what we see today (Revelation 17:12–14), the EU is well on its way to leading the world in regulation, trade, standard of living, and other factors. In the years ahead, it could also lead more powerfully in military and religious matters.
The United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Morocco, and Bahrain last year signed onto the Abraham Accords—a peace deal some call “the most significant breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli conflict since the 1990s” (“How Arab Ties With Israel Became the Middle East’s New Normal,” Foreign Policy, December 21, 2020). Many analysts are now watching Saudi Arabia to see if the powerful Islamic nation will follow suit with its own agreement with Israel (Washington Post, December 15, 2020).
Cooperation is increasing among Gulf states that have recently been at odds with each other. In early January, Deutsche Welle reported the claims of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that “the Gulf states had signed an agreement on regional ‘solidarity and stability’ at a summit aimed at resolving a three-year embargo against Qatar” (“Gulf leaders sign agreement to end Qatar blockade,” January 4, 2021), noting also that he thanked the U.S. and Kuwait for their mediator roles. Now Egypt has resumed diplomatic relations with Qatar, making Egypt “the first country to officially do so under an Arab deal to end a long-running dispute” (“Egypt and Qatar agree to resume diplomatic ties,” Cairo says, Reuters, January 20, 2021). Saudi Arabia plans to reopen its embassy in Qatar, and Bahrain and Egypt have both reopened their airspace to Qatar.
How might these events impact the future of the Middle East and the Arab nations? Bible prophecy states that at the end of the age a powerful “king of the South” will face off against a European “king of the North,” with control of Jerusalem at stake (Daniel 11:40–43). The current efforts at cooperation could lead to the formation of the prophesied “king of the South.”
Many articles in the popular press pit family life against work success. But a new University of Georgia study found that those with a strong family life were better managers at work (“Family life can make you a better boss,” News.UGA.edu, January 18, 2021). The new study “found that positive interactions with your child during your off hours can make you a better leader.” The study’s lead author observed that “leaders could be more effective because of their family life.”
The research found that managers with strong family lives had important leadership characteristics, such as showing consideration, providing assistance, and demonstrating concern for employees. These same attributes are seen in strong family interactions. The study suggested that if companies encouraged more employee-family interaction, it could benefit both the workers and the “bottom line” of their company. Individuals who have good relationships with their family members not only set a good example for others, but also develop character traits that enhance their leadership potential in endeavors and responsibilities outside the home.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently “boasted of deploying hypersonic missiles, spy satellites, multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles and the North’s own nuclear-powered submarine” (“Korean Peninsula: Nuclear weapons plans trigger arms race fears,” Deutsche Welle, January 14, 2021). In response, South Korean officials are contemplating developing their own nuclear-powered submarine. Analysts are concerned “that North Korea is provoking an arms race with its southern neighbor and, potentially, Japan.”
North Korea appears to be concerned about a preemptive attack by the United States and feels that nuclear submarines will give them one way to stave off such an attack. Related to its leader’s boasts about a submarine, the North Korean government has displayed what appeared to be ballistic missiles designed for submarine launch (“North Korea shows off new submarine-launched missiles after rare party congress,” Reuters, January 14, 2021). Despite a severely strained North Korean economy, Kim Jong Un is still focused on continued military advancement and buildup—to the detriment of his people.
As relationships between nations deteriorate and despot nations appear more emboldened, we need to remember Jesus Christ’s admonition that “wars and rumors of wars” will abound before Christ’s return (Matthew 24:6). Yet Jesus warned that we should not become overly worried, as these events must come to pass! The world does not know the way to peace (Isaiah 59:8). It is only through the return of the “Prince of Peace” that true peace will come to this earth.
As 2020 drew to a close, the European Union and China tied up a trade deal known as the “Comprehensive Agreement on Investment”—a deal that, only a year earlier, Chinese leaders thought very unlikely (“The Strategic Implications of the China-EU Investment Deal,” The Diplomat, January 4, 2021). Ultimately, the agreement seeks to level the playing field for EU investments in China. In turn, more sectors of the European economy will open up for Chinese investment.
Critics of the agreement note that the EU and China have different intentions behind their investments in each other’s nations. Under the agreement, Chinese investments in Europe will be a boon to China’s political goals (“With China deal, EU leaves the hard part to Washington,” Politico, January 6, 2021). Meanwhile, European investments in China are almost completely focused on profit.
Bible prophecy offers some interesting insights into the future of the European economic machine and agenda. The Apostle John foretold that a future German-led European “beast” power will emerge as a powerful trading entity that will bring wealth to much of the world (see Revelation 18). Watch Europe’s global economic efforts as prophecy marches forward!