As I write, leaders of the G-8, the world’s leading economic nations, have finished another summit meeting. This one was hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the hills of Maryland near Washington, D.C.
These meetings accomplish very little. They usually end with an agreed-upon statement meant to sum up discussions. While the latest spoke of an “emerging consensus” and promised to promote growth among the economies of Europe, it seems that very little of concrete specifics will come from the summit.
Meetings like these demonstrate more than anything else a critical lack of leadership among today’s world leaders. Leaders meet, but crises continue to simmer, costing the lives of thousands and stifling any progress toward positive solutions for the growing problems of our world.
The economic challenges facing Europe and America continue with no real solution in sight. European leaders have met repeatedly for months trying to resolve the eurozone financial crisis created by the debt-ridden economies of member states like Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.
The United States’ economy is trying to rise out of a recession brought on by the near-collapse of Wall Street in September 2008. The razor-thin economic recovery threatens President Obama’s reelection chances. Should Europe slide into further trouble with a default by Greece, the fallout could hinder America’s economic recovery.
Has the thought occurred to you that what we are watching among today’s world leaders is a massive crisis of leadership? Meeting after meeting is held to discuss the European debt crisis or to work out a solution to a diplomatic problem in the Middle East. Summits are held, and conferences are arranged. Plans are made, but the problems persist. Real and lasting solutions do not materialize.
Why is this? What could be the outcome of such a lack of leadership on the world scene?
List of crisis points
A look around today’s world scene shows multiple crisis spots. The “Arab Spring,” the wave of protest and revolution in the Middle East and North Africa that began last year, continues to develop.
Last year the Egyptian uprisings threw out President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in office. Whoever replaces him will preside over the most populous Arab state and a host of social problems needing a firm hand and practical solutions. Egypt’s military is the real power within the state, and whoever sits in the presidential office may face an uneasy relationship with the military leadership. This reality may yet result in further conflict, keeping the nation in a state of uncertainty.
The fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood made significant gains in parliamentary elections. Long a major social support group, the Brotherhood has had to walk a delicate tightrope between its religious fervor and practical necessity. Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt is a force waiting to be unleashed under the right conditions.
No strong leader appears to be in line to lead Egypt forward during this time of transition.
Iran’s nuclear ambitions herald another crisis waiting to explode. Each week brings rumors of Israel’s preparations to launch a preemptive attack on Iran to knock out its nuclear facilities. Questions about how this could be done and what the fallout would be for the region are many.
What would be the response of the United States, Israel’s principal ally and support on the world scene? President Obama has not demonstrated a firm commitment of his administration to the entire peace effort within the region. It appears there is a major leadership vacuum surrounding this impending action.
Syrian crisis and proxy intervention
The world’s response to Syria’s crisis is another example of leadership failure. Opposition forces to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have been unable to accomplish a regime change, and thousands of civilians have been slaughtered in the months-long civil war.
Empty calls from the United Nations to stop the atrocities have failed to produce any solution. Syria has been given cover by China and Russia—in effect a pass to wage war on its citizens to keep the current regime in power. No one from any major world power has demonstrated the leadership necessary to stop this senseless and brutal action by a government against its own people.
It appears that Washington and other nations can only funnel money and arms, the mother’s milk of war, into this conflict. The Syrian conflict grows worse with each week. It has spilled over into Lebanon, with partisan Islamic factions working against each other, the Syrian Assad regime and Israel. Some insurgent Syrian groups have identified Israel as the enemy. Should they gain control, Syria would represent an even more hostile nation against Israel’s interests in the region than it does now.
America seems engaged in a proxy war with its support of these small groups allied against a common enemy. Such alliances never work in the long run. The old adage “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is not a secure foundation on which a world power can operate.
The lesson of Afghanistan in the 1980s is an example. America supported Afghan insurgents against the Soviet Union, supplying them with arms and money. When the Soviets were beaten back into retreat, American support withdrew as well, leaving a vacuum in which Osama bin Laden could base his al-Qaeda operation, which eventually attacked the United States on 9/11.
Alliances bought with weapons of destruction and money will not endure. The prophet Jeremiah spoke to Jerusalem about its alliances with other nations, which in God’s sight were wrong to the point of being immoral. He used the term “lovers” for these allies, denoting a false relationship based on greed or lack of trust in God. For Judah and Jerusalem this violated the covenant with God. For the United States it violates a relationship with God based on the promises to Abraham—a covenant still in effect and governing the role of America in today’s world.
Jeremiah 30:14 Jeremiah 30:14All your lovers have forgotten you; they seek you not; for I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of your iniquity; because your sins were increased.
American King James Version×says, “All your lovers have forgotten you; they do not seek you; for I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased.” Because America has not demonstrated godly leadership among the nations, God will allow its “lovers,” allies gained essentially through bribery, to turn on her, causing further grievous wounds. This is a high cost for a lack of godly leadership.
Lack of leadership worldwide
America will not be the only nation to suffer from treachery and faithlessness because of flawed alliances. Even decisive leadership emerging in the midst of a vacuum will falter and suffer defeat.
Today’s crisis in leadership will open the door to a coming power that Bible prophecy describes as “the beast”—the term denoting both a political empire and its leader. This political power will likely emerge on the world scene at a time of seemingly unsolvable crisis. Its leader will have the answers! People will support him to the point of what the Bible describes as “worship.” Notice what the book of Revelation says:
“Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion [showing the powers of historic empires represented by these symbols in Daniel 7 combined in it].
“The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” (Revelation 13:1-4 Revelation 13:1-4 1 And I stood on the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads the name of blasphemy.
2 And the beast which I saw was like to a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast? who is able to make war with him?
American King James Version×).
This “beast” leader and system receive power from the dragon, a symbol for Satan the devil (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And 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.
American King James Version×), “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×).
Later in the book we see more specifics about the beast: “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour [a short time] as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast” (Revelation 17:12-13 Revelation 17:12-13 12 And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
American King James Version×).
Ten kings cede authority to one supreme leader to solve a world crisis in leadership. This leader will be idolized by people as the one leader who can bring order among the nations and ensure the continuation of a period of global expansion and prosperity. Some event will trigger his rise at a moment when no one else has the answer to a crisis that threatens world order.
Can this happen today?
Reading this biblical prophecy raises the question: How could this happen today? How could one person be granted such power and status described by these prophecies about this powerful personality?
The answer is that it could easily come about, even in a world as interconnected as ours. Even with a jaded and skeptical public, where government and traditional authority structures have been challenged, eroded and replaced, there is still opportunity for such a person to rise.
Keep in mind that this person works with extraordinary help from spiritual forces that are unseen and whose existence and influence are not realized in our modern skeptical society. This beast power will work with the aid of the “rulers of the darkness of this age” (see Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
American King James Version×). That is why he will be accorded near god-like status.
I can imagine such a leader as one who promises to preserve the good life the world has enjoyed. Since the end of World War II the world economy has risen to extraordinary levels of wealth. Everyone, even the poorest, have benefited by a rise in a general standard of living. Threaten this system with collapse, and people will put their trust in anyone who can promise to sustain and protect their lives and livelihoods—if only this person were given the authority to implement his programs.
Lesson from history
Adolf Hitler is often seen as the most evil leader of the 20th century. His plan to conquer Europe, and then likely the world, and his effort to exterminate the Jews through a Holocaust continue to impact our world and our thoughts to this day.
The fact that he acquired the power, support and heart of Germany, one of Europe’s most cultured and civilized nations, and then used its resources to plunge the world into war, is still studied and examined by historians. And the fact that it happened is a lesson to us that something like it can happen again.
Hitler, through a legitimate ballot of the nation, became chancellor of the German Republic on Jan. 30, 1933. It was thought that the National Socialist (Nazi) Party could restore Germany to its rightful place of power within Europe. The country’s defeat in World War I, the humiliating “peace” and war reparations imposed by the Allied powers, and subsequent economic problems had brought the German people to the point where they were willing to turn control over to a former vagabond from Austria.
Though he held the political power of the state, it was not great enough for Hitler to achieve his vision. He quickly set out to take complete power. He needed a controlling majority in the Reichstag, Germany’s elected parliament, but was 70 seats shy. Through clever maneuvering, Hitler was able to call for new elections set for March 5. Yet the Nazi Party still needed to win the votes. So what happened?
On Feb. 27, six days before the election, a fire broke out in the Reichstag, the building that housed the parliament. Hitler and his henchmen seized on this incident to incite opposition against all other political elements that opposed him. Though others were blamed, all available evidence points to the Nazis themselves as the ones behind the arson. The fire became a convenient means to an end.
Hitler was able to secure a decree “for the Protection of the People and the State,” and seven sections of the constitution guaranteeing individual and civil liberties were suspended. Vast power was granted to Hitler to bring other parts of the state in line. Fear gripped the electorate, and people were urged to vote for the Nazi Party to ensure peace and liberty.
However, when the March 5 vote was tallied, Hitler’s party was still several seats short of the majority it needed. One more step was necessary to secure complete power.
The German government was arranged so that a measure of prestige and honor was held by the president, Paul von Hindenburg, an old and venerated general. Through a carefully orchestrated public display of humility and subservience, Hitler paid homage to the old leader before the assembled parliament. All fear and suspicion of Hitler, his party and his tactics were forgotten in a moment.
Two days later the parliament passed what was called an Enabling Act. By this short document, parliament ceded power of legislation, control of the Reich budget, approval of treaties with foreign states and the initiating of constitutional amendments to Hitler and his cabinet for a period of four years.
This single act, by a legitimately constituted body of elected officials, formed the legal basis for Hitler’s dictatorship. From March 23, 1933, until his death by his own hand in an underground Berlin bunker in May 1945, Hitler was the undisputed Fuhrer, the leader. His takeover was accomplished within 60 days of first assuming office—a stunningly short time. Through the cleverest of intrigue, a vile man was given honor and seized the control of the German nation (compare Daniel 11:21 Daniel 11:21And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.
American King James Version×).
Could history repeat?
Could something similar happen today? Of course it could—as people fail to learn the lessons of history. The folly of today’s leaders threatens the wealth and stability of a vast global network of wealth and power that has been building for decades.
No one wants to see it end. The philosophy of “let the good times roll” expresses a driving need for a culture saturated in a visual aura of wealth, glamor, power and status. No one wants their security, both present and future, threatened.
Look around at today’s world. No one leader stands out as a person with such talent, ability and ideas to bring nations together to ensure the continuation of the present world order.
How long will the leadership drought continue? Crisis after crisis continues while no one with large ideas steps forward with the agenda to effect solutions. But at some point there will be one crisis too far.
Until then, events continue to muddle forward. Band-aids are put on very large problems, providing only temporary relief. And while no one stands out today with the grand ideas and talent to lead whole groups of nations, a day will come soon when events will bring forward the person described in these prophecies.
The present world order cannot continue indefinitely. Changes will occur. And when they do, you will see unprecedented leadership emerge that will astound the world.