The Marshall Plan, inaugurated 50 years ago this April, provided a necessary impetus toward integrating the free nations of Western Europe. It did this by providing massive aid, conditioned only on Europe planning her own collective recovery.
With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nations of Eastern Europe can now also pursue their destiny. Several of them have applied to join an enlarged North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Community. In doing so they are returning to their roots.
The vision of a free, undivided and peaceful Europe remains a cornerstone of American foreign policy. Many observers believe prospects for peace and widespread prosperity have never held more promise.
But could events and circumstances yet derail this rosy world vision? Does Bible prophecy provide any clues? What can we expect for America and Europe in the years ahead?
The answers are shocking and sobering. They deserve our urgent attention.
The danger within
On June 5, 1997, 50 years to the day after George Marshall’s speech at Harvard University’s commencement exercises outlined a visionary plan to rebuild a shattered and divided Europe, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered a visionary and comprehensive commencement address of her own on that campus. It was a speech worthy of her predecessor.
In her address Secretary Albright appealed for a wider vision than just focusing on Western Europe, as George Marshall had done (see “Excerpts” to the right).
The world is an interconnected community facing more-diverse threats than those that occupied Secretary Marshall’s generation. Mrs. Albright attempted to galvanize American leadership to complete the Marshall vision on a grander scale-the whole of Europe and every continent. She reminded America that it must heed the lessons of the past to provide adequate world leadership. She said America must invest the resources to keep itself economically, militarily and politically strong. She also referred to threats to that vision.
Mrs. Albright implicitly referred to the moral health of America. She warned that “the greatest danger to America is not some foreign enemy; it is the possibility that we will… take for granted the institutions and principles upon which our own freedom is based.”
Losing foundational values
The deteriorating moral condition of the Western world should rightly raise serious concerns. In America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, strength and freedom have been based on the Bible and its values. Yet those values are increasingly neglected, ignored and forgotten. Not only are they taken for granted; increasingly they are trampled underfoot.
A rising tide of immorality, drug trafficking, family and marital collapse, environmental degradation and the threat of terrorism are issues that demand the attention of Western nations. These factors sap any nation’s moral strength and diminish its vision and leadership. The lesson of biblical history is that, when a nation departs from biblical values, disaster may not be far away.
America’s moral, political and financial strength is eroding. Consequently her leadership role is at risk. Already it is practically impossible to mount the level of financial assistance that the Marshall Plan delivered.
In spite of apparent advances on many fronts, America has actually lost much of her power. Today’s equivalent sum of Marshall Plan aid is $88 billion. That sum far surpasses the $62 billion of economic, food and military assistance the United States provided to more than 146 countries and numerous other organizations and banks in the four-year period from 1993 to 1996.
Further, to once again spend the same proportion of the federal budget as was spent on the Marshall Plan in 1948 (13 percent), the United States would spend a staggering $203 billion at 1996 values.
Global problems, global solutions
Today the problems of our globally interconnected world are daunting. Political, economic and scientific leaders increasingly recognize that such a world needs global strategies and solutions. The United Nations is presently the only instrument we have for such solutions, but its shortcomings and limitations are evident.
In her Harvard speech Mrs. Albright drew attention to the continuing tinderbox of ethnic hostility in the Balkans. That area and others such as Rwanda illustrate the dark side of human nature, which is capable of so quickly exploding into unbridled violence. The Middle East, so often in the headlines, is another area in which hostilities simmer close to the surface, never far from explosion and bloodshed. How long before a fragile peace again evaporates into violence?
To many in the West, the goal of bringing the world together in “an international system based on democracy, open markets, law and a commitment to peace,” as Mrs. Albright put it, may sound laudable and desirable. But much of the world is suspicious of America’s intentions and resists the imposition of such values.
Islam’s more militant adherents in particular do not share America’s democratic values and react with horror at its moral shortcomings.
The uniting of Europe along the lines of the American federal model also portends problems. There is a major difference between the various states of America and the hoped-for federal states of a united Europe. Different nationalities within Europe-with their long, separate histories and sense of identity-resist the notion of full integration. Britain in particular has a long-standing antipathy to being integrated within Europe. Religious and national differences exert-and will continue to exert-powerful constraints within such a union.
Elsewhere, Iranian rearmament and resurgence is an issue that also raises increasing concern. In neighboring Iraq, Saddam Hussein still defies the United Nations and refuses to reveal the nature and extent of his weapons programs.
Will Saddam Hussein, perhaps allied with other Arab nations, again prove a major threat to the peace and security of the free world?
The Asian economic meltdown that began last year also gives increasing cause for concern. How will that crisis, as it continues to gather momentum, affect other nations of the free world?
The risk of nuclear proliferation and such weapons falling into the wrong hands has increased rather than diminished. The environment suffers under the insult of human exploitation. At times it seems as though even nature is striking back with punishing climate changes. Neither should we exclude unforeseen calamities such as earthquakes and volcanic activity, which also play a part in Bible prophecy (Matthew 24:7 Matthew 24:7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
American King James Version×; Revelation 6:12-17 Revelation 6:12-17  And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, see, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;  And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.  And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.  And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;  And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:  For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
American King James Version×; 16:18).
The point is that we live in a volatile, fast-moving global community and world economy in which unforeseen developments can quickly arise along a broad front. The crust of civilization and civilized values can be fragile and all-too-easily broken.
What lies ahead: the biblical view
The Marshall Plan was exemplary and successful. It rescued Western Europe from disaster. America’s quest to continue and complete Marshall’s vision based on peace, prosperity and freedom is also exemplary. Yet, from the perspective of the Bible, a different view emerges. As Mrs. Albright observed, “evil unopposed will spawn more evil.”
The Bible reveals that the world will once again be overwhelmed by great evil as it was in Secretary Marshall’s generation. However, this time it will be on such a scale that no human resources will be able to successfully stand against it. When that time comes, predicts the Bible, a source of good will be there to intervene and deliver mankind.
Matthew 24 outlines the disturbing picture of a world at the brink of disaster in which life teeters on the edge of oblivion. “It will be a time of great distress; there has never been such a time from the beginning of the world until now, and will never be again. If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God’s chosen it will be cut short” (Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22  For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×, New English Bible, emphasis added).
Only the intervention of the returning Jesus Christ will save humanity from destroying itself. Only under His leadership will the vision of a global community fully at peace and sharing an alliance of enduring values and universal prosperity be fully developed. We can be thankful that God has a rescue plan that will pale even George Marshall’s remarkable effort into relative insignificance.
A shifting and terrifying world scene
Elsewhere in the Bible, the book of Revelation has much to say about a coming short-lived superpower, a union of church and state whose actions will stagger the world (Revelation 13, 17).
According to this prophesied scenario, war, not peace, will engulf the world. How ironic that the very entity that has served as a cornerstone of American policy for the past 50 years-a politically, economically and militarily powerful Europe-may well play an integral part in this scenario.
As hard as it may be to imagine, this coming time of trouble will be worse than anything ever seen before (Matthew 24:21 Matthew 24:21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
American King James Version×) and will lead directly to the triumphant return of Jesus Christ to earth (Revelation 17:14 Revelation 17:14These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
American King James Version×).
In fact, more than one of the Bible’s major predictions indicates that a violent military confrontation will engulf the world powers (Joel 3:9-11 Joel 3:9-11  Proclaim you this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up:
 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
 Assemble yourselves, and come, all you heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause your mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
American King James Version×; Revelation 9:15-18 Revelation 9:15-18  And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.  And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.  And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.  By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
American King James Version×; 16:14). This is pictured as occurring at “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×) and finds its geographical focus in the Middle East (Daniel 11:41-45 Daniel 11:41-45  He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.  He shall stretch forth his hand also on the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.  But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.  But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.  And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.
American King James Version×; Zechariah 14:1-4 Zechariah 14:1-4  Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you.  For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.  Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.  And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×).
Where do we go from here?
We should not forget the factors that make any nation strong. God tells us that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34 Proverbs 14:34Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
American King James Version×). God’s law, which the Bible details, describes universal moral values. They exalt any nation that upholds them. Any individual who upholds them will also flourish and be fruitful (Psalms 1:1-3 Psalms 1:1-3  Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law does he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
American King James Version×; 92:12; Proverbs 11:28 Proverbs 11:28He that trusts in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.
American King James Version×, 30-31; 12:12).
Mrs. Albright concluded her speech by asking what kind of world will result from the next generation of American leadership. Such a world will be the product of the judgments and choices made. She claimed that no “certain road map to success” exists. Morally speaking, however, such a road map does exist, and it is both authoritative and certain. The Bible guarantees success for individuals and nations who uphold its principles.
As we contemplate the 50th anniversary of a remarkable man’s visionary plan that saved a continent, let us be thankful for such people and for the continuing efforts of well-meaning nations and leaders. But let us also contemplate the limits of human leadership. Let us not delude ourselves with well-meaning rhetoric that fails to address the fundamental spiritual problems that threaten to overwhelm us.
Political action can go only so far. The Bible predicts the eventual outcome of unrestrained human nature goaded by unseen spiritual forces (Revelation 12:9-17 Revelation 12:9-17  And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brothers is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to the death.
 Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.
 And when the dragon saw that he was cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×). It describes spiritual problems on a scale no human leadership, government or alliances can control. Only the returning Jesus Christ can remove such malign spiritual influence and oversee a new world in which human nature will be permanently changed for the better.
Continue reading future issues of The Good News, which will explore contemporary issues from the perspective of God’s inspired Word, the Bible. It alone comprises a “certain road map to success” and contains true and reliable principles upon which we may base our lives. GN