American Destroyer harassed by Iranian speed boats
The warning follows an episode on Wednesday when a US warship and Iranian ships faced off near the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf. US Navy spokesman Bill Urban said on Thursday that a US Navy patrol boat in the Persian Gulf fired three warning shots after an Iranian vessel approached head on, coming within 200 meters of the US ship.
During Wednesday’s incident, the USS Squall “resorted to firing three warning shots from their 50-caliber gun, which caused the Iranian vessel to turn away,” he said.
Iran has again threatened it will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a passageway through which 40 percent of the world’s oil is transported, unless the US and its allies stop “threatening” it, a senior Iranian military commander has said. The Strait of Hormuz is the world’s chief seafaring energy choke point. Through that narrow waterway passes more than 17 million barrels of oil – more than a third of all maritime-traded oil each day.
Iran does play a significant role in end-time prophecy, but many get confused on the timing of various prophecies concerning Persia. Let me briefly state that Persia (Iran) is mentioned as part of the Gog-Magog pact in Ezekiel 38-39, noting that Russia, China, Pakistan and India, along with Iran, merge together to attack the country of Israel. The question is; when does this take place?
Many believe that Ezekiel 38:8 refers to the Jews who have returned to the land during the past century, they conclude that this prophecy concerns an invasion of the modern Jewish state of Israel prior to Christ’s return. But this cannot be, as the attack occurs when Israel is dwelling in peace with no defensive walls, a time soon after Christ’s coming better fits this prophecy. The returned Israelites are described in this prophecy as dwelling in peace and safety-in a “land of unwalled villages…without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” (verse 11). This certainly does not describe Israel today, but better describes Israel at the beginning of the Millennium.
We will explore Iran more in depth in a future blog regarding Persia (Iran) at the time of the end—Steven LeBlanc
The Turks Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge links Asia and Europe
The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has emerged from the July 15th coup attempt in a much stronger place. The coup, rather than dividing the country has brought a greater degree of stability, with the exception of the Kurdish area in the Southeastern part of the country.
President Erdoğan is using the coup as a pretext to attack his “enemies”. He is conducting a massive purge of his antagonists, having arrested tens of thousands. The focus of the purge has been the military, which is a secular power that is pro-American. The army is constitutionally responsible for upholding secularism. But Erdoğan is seeking to please the Muslim leadership in the country.
Turkey is pivotal in the Middle East. It is the key to subduing ISIS in Syria and in Iraq. Turkey is the main movement point for refugees seeking to move into Europe. The European Union desperately looks to Turkey to stem the flow of migrants moving onto the European continent. In essence Turkey serves as a massive plug to stop the refugees. Turkey is also seen as a bulwark against Iran. Turkey and Iran are enemies, remember Turkey is Sunni; Iran is Shiite. Both powers are seeking to be the key power that controls the Middle East.
Turkey is significant for a number of reasons:
●It has a population of 80 million people
●Turkey is the major gateway for Muslims to enter into Europe—Europe looks to Turkey to serve as a plug that can stop the flow of refugees into Europe.
●There are nearly 4 million Turks living in the nation of Germany
●The army may be the largest in the Middle East, but much of its size comes from draftees on short-term duty.
●Turkey is one of the most geographically strategic countries in the world today—a potentially decisive bridge between continents. Turkey has been called the World’s Island, a central meeting point of three continents – Asia, Europe and Africa (Turkey connected to Africa via the Mediterranean sea).
●We believe that many Turks are descended from Esau (or Edom), son of Isaac—remember Isaac had two sons—Esau and Jacob.
●Turkey wants to become part of the European Union—and Turkey wants its citizens to have the right to travel to European cities without having to obtain visas for travel in Europe—this is very important to Turkey—But European leaders really do not want Turkey to be a part of their Union—Europeans fear the Muslims Turks.
●Turkey is pivoting: it has reopened relations with Israel (both countries fear and hate Iran).
●Turkey has recently apologized to Russia, for tensions over the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet in Syria. Turkey needs to maintain a practical relationship with Russia. Turkey is the second-largest buyer of Russian natural gas, a significant importer of Russian oil and metals, and the largest buyer of Russian wheat and sunflower oil. A combative relationship with Russia will only bring enormous economic pain to the Turks.
●Turkey is surrounded by unrest: Turkey faces massive chaos to the south in Syria and Iraq, instability in the Caucasus, and emerging U.S.-Russian tension in the Black Sea. Also, Russian influence is rising in the Balkans.
●Turkey is also facing a rising Kurdish insurgency within its borders and just outside of its borders.
We believe history tells us that the tribes of Esau are scattered throughout the Middle East, with a large number of Edomites residing in what we know as the nation of Turkey today. One of the grandsons of Esau was Teman (Genesis 36:11). The name Teman (Genesis 36:34) was carried down in history in what we know today as the ‘Ottoman’ Empire. Some historians also tell us that the Khazars called the Byzantium Emperor the “King of Edom”.
Esau and his descendants are referred to in the Bible, often by the name Edom (Genesis 25:30)—and sometimes by the name of their homeland of Mount Seir (Genesis 36:8-9), southeast of Judea, in what is now southern Jordan. For centuries, the people of Edom acted cruelly against the Israelites, attacking them and invading their land. Amalek was the worst of the Edomite-related peoples. The Bible records that even God has a special rancor for Amalek, saying in Exodus 17:16 “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
Notice a prophecy in Ezekiel 25: God says, “Thus saith the Lord; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself on Israel; I will stretch out my hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from Edom, and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword!” (Ezekiel 25:12-13).
The end-time descendants of Edom will be punished severely for their violent acts against Israel and Judah.
These emergent stories are worth watching:
Is Europe spinning out of control? The headline out of the Wall Street Journal reads: Europeans Ask if Violence Is Becoming Fact of Life. In two weeks, Western Europe has experienced a massacre in Nice, an axe attack on a German train, a shooting spree in Munich. The Syrian bomber who killed himself and injured 15 others at a festival in Ansbach Germany was revealed to have declared his support for Isis. The latest attacks will push more Europeans to the far right. The publics of Europe – in France and Germany in particular – are becoming increasingly troubled about events that their politicians seem unable to control. Brexit, economic stagnation, the rise of terrorist events, the European banking crisis; there is a growing sense in Europe, that Europe is slowly spinning out of control.
The Southern European economic crisis is picking up steam. Italy is struggling with high rates of non-performing loans, on top of low growth and high unemployment. An Italian crisis has much more far-reaching repercussions than Greece’s, since Italy is the third-largest economy in the Eurozone. Italy’s economic problems will have ripple effects across Europe’s major economies, impacting the stability of the euro, European banks, and exporters. The problem for the U.S. is that it is much more exposed to France and Germany, which have significant positions in Italy notwithstanding the best efforts of their banks in recent years to reduce exposure to Italy.
Of greater concern, is the emerging parallel crisis in the Eurozone’s largest economy. Germany is sitting on an export bubble. Germany depends on exports for nearly 47% of its GDP (World Bank Data). If demand continues to decline in China and Europe for German goods, and America buys fewer German products, Germany will be heading towards trouble. German production is falling. German companies like Siemens are laying off thousands of workers. Many German banks are bleeding from bad shipping industry loans and low interest rates. Germany’s largest bank Deutsche Bank is operating billions of dollars in the red. Europe’s banks are in trouble, serious trouble!
Further off on the horizon is Israel’s next war with Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Everyone in the region knows this is a matter of ‘When’, not if. Hezbollah for now is deeply occupied with the Syrian civil war and does not have the resources or stamina to fight Israel. But they continue to build up their supplies for the future war. According to the Israeli Defense Force, the country is preparing for the future fight by undergoing intensive exercises aimed at a major ground assault aimed at the hills of southern Lebanon. As well, the Israeli Air Force has honed its ability to deliver more “efficient” precision strike efforts when they bomb Hezbollah targets. One Israeli officer asserted that when the next war begins with Hezbollah ground forces will move quickly to attack Hezbollah positions, “We will use all of our power to destroy Hezbollah militarily”. The war is coming, just hard to know exactly when.
New disturbing statistics out of Russia: Russia’s Muslim population is growing rapidly. Nearly 13 percent of Russians are Muslim. Russia now has more than 23 million indigenous Muslims—at least 3 million more than previously thought. Most live in the country’s eight autonomous Muslim republics: Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Adygea.
And notice this perceptive statistic from the Middle East. Nearly half the men in the Middle East between the ages of 25 and 29 are single. These men are poor and have little hope of marrying and are often angry. They are most likely to attempt to make their way to Europe for a better life.
“To say that Saudi Arabia is on the verge of its most significant change in decades is not an exaggeration. It has the potential to reshape not only the Middle East but the entire world”—George Friedman. Saudi Arabia is facing an extreme crisis. Its economic underpinning is oil . Oil prices have dipped in the past, but this time it is different. This decline has every appearance of being a long-term re-pricing of oil. A rise in oil prices over the next four to five years is uncertain at best. Even at $50 or $60 oil, Saudi Arabia will still run reserve-draining budget deficits without further cuts in spending, which would likely lead to internal unrest.
In Syria, the United States is facing the Assad regime and ISIS, both harsh to the United States. There is a mixed bag of opposition groups, of various ideologies and competencies. The Russians and Turks, each have their own agenda. If Assad’s regime were destroyed, who would fill the vacuum? George Friedman writes: “At this point, a post-Assad Syria would result in even worse outcomes than leaving him alive. And if you doubt that, consider the fall of Gadhafi and Saddam. There will come a time when we will deal with Assad, but this is not the time”.
We need to stay awake to the dangerous happenings in the world at large. “But keep on the alert at all times,” said Jesus, “praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36, New American Standard Bible).
The Bible describes disciples as living in a state of expectancy, in a state of tension, between two worlds. We live in the present world, which we know will end, while we look for the world to come with the return of Christ. “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44).
These are disturbing developments I continually monitor within the European setting. Economic distress, political battles, refugee issues and more will contribute to destabilizing Europe, this will eventually lead to the rise of a European dictator who will bring a short-lived degree of unity to Europe (this will occur eventually-not immediately). This is a short list (and by no means complete) of what I am watching now:
TERRORISM, MIGRANTS, AND CRIPPLING DEBT: IS THIS THE END OF EUROPE?—Vanity Fair Magazine
Will Europe Unravel: Brexit means the U.K. left the EU, will other nations follow—if so this will create a massive economic shock wave felt around the world? Geopoliticalfutures.com founded by George Friedman states the following: The European Union was created with two purposes in mind. The first was to maintain peace. Europe had been wracked with war and horror in the 20th century. Conflict wrecked its economy, psychologically traumatized the continent and lost Europe its place in the world. Integration promised to bring the nationalist tensions that caused the conflicts under control. The EU’s second purpose was to ensure prosperity through the creation of a free trade zone, with a level regulatory system managed from Brussels, and a selectively utilized single currency. European integration, particularly the integration of Germany into a single system, was designed to achieve both ends. The vision, vague and never agreed to by all parties, was the creation of a federation, or at least a confederation, that would result in some variation on the United States of Europe.
The lesson here is simple: Europe desperately want to be unified but continually finds itself grappling with disagreements and misunderstandings. As I have written previously: In the book of Daniel we see an end-time Europe that is partly strong and partly brittle. The divisions we are seeing within the European Union today regarding refugees, the jihadist threat—the economy, showcase that biblical reality of disagreement and division within Europe: Daniel 2:40-43: “And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; just as iron crushes and smashes everything, it shall crush and shatter all these. As you saw the feet and toes partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the strength of iron shall be in it, as you saw the iron mixed with the clay. As the toes of the feet were part iron and part clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with clay, so will they mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.” We watch Europe’s pattern of brief unity, then division, then war—this pattern has played out again and again, down through history.
Dangerous levels of unemployment in Europe: watching southern Europe, where unemployment has remained at more than 20 percent for years, and high unemployment plagues France feeding a groundswell of frustration. The overwhelming difference between the lives of southern Europeans, including the middle class, and Germans, who enjoy 4.2 percent unemployment, is intense. Europe as a whole has stagnated economically—people are becoming ANGRIER.
Italy’s banking crisis: As much as 18 percent of Italy’s loans will not be repaid, this means the balance sheets of Italian banks are horrible. A non-preforming loan is a loan that simply is not being repaid. Only a drastic improvement in Europe’s economy can help Italy come out of its banking crisis. What is very clear is that Europe’s economy is not getting better it is getting worse. What is particularly dangerous is that Italian banks take loans from other European banks. These European banks, including German banks, have borrowed against Italian debt. Italy has the fourth largest economy in Europe, behind Germany, the United Kingdom and France. Should Italian banks begin to fail this will create shock waves throughout Europe.
German banking crisis: The international Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a shocking 63 page report warning that the German banking and insurance sector is in deep trouble. On page 42 of the report we are told that, “Deutsche Bank appears to be the most important net contributor to systemic risks in the global banking system”. Deutsche Bank is Germany’s biggest bank. In just the last year, Deutsche Bank has laid off tens of thousands of workers Low interest rates are cutting into Deutsche Bank’s ability to earn money. If Deutsche Bank were to severely stumble—this could set off a banking crisis in Europe that sends a wave of panic around the globe.
Anti-German sentiment grows in Europe: In the past year Germany has feuded with Italy over banking regulations, clashed with France over defense spending. Germany has repulsed Hungary, Poland, Austria and France over its migration policy (pressing Europe to embrace refugees from the Middle East and North Africa). The Greeks are still angry at Germany over imposed austerity. All of this leading at greater cracks within Europe.
Unrest in Europe is leading to the rise of Nationalism (anti-EU, nation first movements) throughout Europe: More wars have been fought over national identity in Europe than anywhere else in the world. A worsening economy and the refugee crisis is fueling the anti-European Five Star Movement in Italy, the Alternative for Germany party in Germany, the Front National party in France, Jobbik in Hungary, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, Italy’s Eurosceptic, anti-immigration Northern League (Lega Nord), Geert Wilders anti-EU Party for Freedom (PVV) has surged to the top of Dutch opinion polls. The anti-immigration, nationalist Sweden Democrats (SD) tops the polls in Sweden, and there are more parties of the anti-EU, anti-immigrant bent gaining traction in Europe.
The ‘other’ German problem: There is another European economic crisis looming. Germany gains nearly half of its GDP from exports. German prosperity depends on their ability to export and the ability to export depends on the active demand of their consumers in Europe, America and Asia. Germany exports heavily to the EU, and the Italian banking crisis, if it unravels, is likely to cause an EU-wide banking crisis, and an even greater weakening of the European economy. A worldwide recession would wound deeply German exports, and inevitably drive up unemployment—which Germany fears. A steep rise in unemployment in Germany would open the door to the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, currently led by Fauke Petry.
Russia boosts its military preparedness: The Kremlin is moving troops and equipment to the country’s western border regions and ramping up the Baltic Fleet in an effort to demonstrate Moscow’s commitment to modernizing its military. Low oil prices continue to hurt the Russian economy. Russia is deeply concerned about Ukraine, as it needs Ukraine as a type of buffer against the West. Russian military efforts will increase thus causing tensions with Poland. Poland’s historical Catch-22 is that it is caught between a potent Germany and a controlling Russia. Poland does not trust Russia.
Europe is overwhelmed with political disagreement, unemployment challenges, refugees and lack of stability—this is the type of setting that foreshadows major political change. Watching world events coupled with understanding Prophecy helps us to maintain that sense of urgency in our lives, and continually fuels the need to focus on the work of God which is proclaiming and teaching about the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.