This is the Bible in the News; and this is Paul Billington at the desk to offer some comments about it.
It has been an interesting week again in many respects, but among all the news stories a really significant one has been the landslide election victory for Vladimir Putin in Russia. As reported by the Associated Press:
"Vladimir Putin's party won a crushing victory in parliamentary elections Sunday, paving the way for the authoritarian leader to remain in control even after he steps down as president.
"The vote followed a tense Kremlin campaign that relied on a combination of persuasion and intimidation to ensure victory for the United Russia party and for Putin, who has used a flood of oil revenues to move his country into a more assertive position on the global stage.
'The vote affirmed the main idea: that Vladimir Putin is the national leader, that the people support his course, and this course will continue,' party leader and parliament speaker Boris Gryzlov said after exit polls were announced."
The United States newspaper 'USA Today' reported the election as follows:
"European election monitors said Monday that Russia's parliamentary ballot was unfair, hours after President Vladimir Putin's party swept 70% of the seats in the new legislature.
"The victory paves the way for Putin to remain Russia's de facto leader even after he leaves office next spring. On Monday, Putin described the weekend's election as a vote of confidence in him. 'I headed the United Russia ticket and, of course, it's a sign of public trust.' Putin said in televised remarks.
"Sunday's vote followed a tense Kremlin campaign that relied on a combination of persuasion and intimidation to ensure victory for the United Russia party and for Putin, who has used a flood of oil revenues to move his country into a more assertive position on the global stage."
The 'persuasion and intimidation' spoken of in those reports refers-- in part, at least--to the activities of the Russian youth group known by the name NASHI. Nashi appears to be much like the Hitler youth groups of the 1930's in many ways. A report in the Moscow Times described the anti-US fervour of this movement as they sought to influence the Russian elections. Under the headline NASHI SAYS U.S. PLANNING INSURRECTION it was reported:
"Nashi, the pro-Kremlin youth group, accused the United States of planning to incite 'thieves and traitors' to seize key public buildings and squares and urged the crowd at a post-election celebration to help thwart the attempt.
"Organizers told some 5,000 activists at a rally on Vasilyevsky Spusk, near the Kremlin, that the United States and the West were hoping to overturn the massive victory of United Russia, whose ticket was led by President Vladimir Putin, in Sudnay's State Duma elections. United Russia won in a landslide.
"'We will not let anyone take over our victory,' Nikita Belokonev, a senior Nashi activist, told the crowd, which had gathered in the bitter cold. 'There are people in the country who want to steal our victory, and there are countries not happy about the elections.'"
The report in the Moscow Times continued:
"Activists circulated through the crowd, handing out a leaflet warning that the United States was trying to sabotage Putin's triumph. A cartoon, drawn in the style of a Soviet propaganda poster, depicts a sinister Uncle Sam sitting on sacks of money with names of Russian opposition leaders written on them.
"'They wanted traitors and thieves to win,' the text says. 'Between Dec. 3 and 6, before the official announcement of the election's result, [the traitors] will try to seize squares and buildings, provoke disorder, take our victory from us.'
"A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman called the claim 'ridiculous.'"
Well, ridiculous or not, many Russians will believe it, just as Germans believed the tall stories told by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebells as the Nazis rose to power 70 years ago.
There seems to be abundant evidence that today, we are witnessing the rise of a new autocratic Russia, and there is every sign that this Russia is becoming more and more hostile to the United States and Britain.
An article in the Jerusalem Post by the columnist and assistant editor, Caroline Glick said:
"Just ahead of Sunday's Duma elections, Russian President Vladimir Putin took yet another step towards ending the post-Cold War thaw in Russia's relations with the West by signing a law suspending Russia's participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. Starting next week, Russia will halt NATO countries' inspections and verifications of its military sites and will no longer be obligated to limit the number of its conventional weapons deployed west of the Urals. The signal the move sends former Soviet republics and satellites like Ukraine, Georgia, Poland and Rumania is a chilling one.
She went on to say, "Russia's hostility to the West extends from Europe to the Middle East." And that, of course, is where the Bible meets the news. Expositors of Bible prophecy have told us what to expect--and they have been telling us about it for several hundred years! Russia, they have said, is the chief power mentioned in Ezekiel chapter 38. For example, Lowth, in his commentary of 1739 identifies Russia, saying that:
"The Septuagint interpreters (that is the Greek version of the Bible dating back to about 285 BC) take the word Rosh, commonly translated chief, for a proper name... Rosh, taken as a proper name, signifies those inhabitants of Scythi, from whence the Russians derive their name and original."
So there is a comment made well over 250 years ago, based upon an interpretation that goes back over 2,200 years! If that doesn't show us how that the Bible is ahead of the news, then neither would we believe though one rose from the dead!
There can be no doubt that the Russian power is to grow in military strength so as to fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel. The modern world therefore faces a frightful future as Russia spreads its power over the nations. Writing in 1854, John Thomas in speaking of the Russian Gog wrote this:
"There never has been such an age of conquest as that which will soon open upon the world; and as to the establishment of European freedom and independence, the war to be initiated is the setting in of an overwhelming inundation that will submerge them under one of the most terrible and scorching despotisms that ever wrung the heart of nations."
This is where current events are leading. The Nashi movement, the rise of an autocratic Russia, the hostility to the United States and the West, the extension of this into the Middle East--it is all in line with what prophecy has taught us to expect.
It is also telling us just how close we are now, to the coming of Israel's redeemer and Messiah. Referring to Ezekiel 38:2, and to the title of this prophecy, John Thomas takes our minds right back to the beginning of things--to Genesis 3:15 in fact. He wrote:
"In this title to the prophecy the antagonists are indicated, namely, the Son of Man, (ben-adam) or seed of the Woman, on the one side; and the Prince of Rosh, the Head of the Serpent Confederacy, on the other. Hence, by understanding Gog's title, the reader may know which of "the powers that be" is chosen of God to personate the Serpent's Head when it is bruised by the Woman's Seed."
The word "Head" of course, is ROSH in Hebrew.
So we continue to watch the Bible in the News, and as we do so we are reminded of the call of the Gospel, of the coming of Christ, of the judgement seat that he will call us to. With the Bible in the News we are reminded day-by-day of the Truth. Let us each respond to it in wisdom and cultivate that right mind in this our day of opportunity.
Join us again next week God willing, here on www.bibleinthenews.com or www.biblemagazine.com. Now also available for subscription via iTunes podcast.