|BACKGROUND & PROPHECY|
LAND OF YUGOSLAVIA
by Nigel Bernard
|The Land we know as Yugoslavia has stood at a geographical point which has been the focus of a divided Europe for centuries. The war-torn country is a dangerous flash-point today.|
On August 17th 1990, whilst the world was preoccupied with the developing Gulf crisis, armed Serbian nationalists seized some Croatian territory near the Yugoslav town of Knin. This incursion proved to be a minor foretaste of what developed into the current civil war. What is to transpire remains to be seen, but what has already happened provides dramatic evidence of a division which has its roots in history, which has ramifications for the whole of Europe, and which is foretold in Bible prophecy.
In Daniel 2 a prophecy is made of the empires which were to follow after the kingdom of Babylon. The empires were represented by different metals making up different parts of an image. In verses 32 and 33 we read:
"This images head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay."
The iron represents the Roman empire. Yet although the empire was to be as strong as iron it was to become divided; firstly into two halves, typified by the two legs, and then into smaller tribal divisions typified by the feet and toes.
The twofold division occurred in the fourth century AD when the Roman emperor Constantine chose to move his seat of rulership away from Rome to Constantinople on the Bosphorus. This left the bishops of Rome a freer hand in Rome and as their religious influence developed they were to find, initially at any rate, military support forthcoming from the Eastern part of the empire. This scenario was prophesied in Revelation 13 where the seven headed beast, representing the western part of the empire ruled by the seven-headed, that is the seven hilled, city (see Rev. 17:9, 18), is given power by the dragon, which represents the eastern part of the empire (Rev. 13:2).
As the tribal invasions, headed by the Lombards, against the western part of the empire increased, Rome, following religious differences with Constantinople, was obliged to turn away from the Mediterranean and to look inland to Europe for help. The papacy turned to the Empire of the Franks for their defence. The Frankish emperor Pepin and later Charlemagne saved Rome from invasion and this led to an alliance in AD 799 between the Pope and the Emperor of the Franks which laid the foundations for the, so-called, Holy Roman Empire. This empire is depicted in Revelation 13 by the two-horned beast of the earth.
The two legs of the image in Daniel 2 were now formed. There was Rome in the west providing the religious "horn" to the Holy Roman Empire and there was Constantinople, or Byzantium, in the east. The line of demarcation between these two halves bisects the country we today know as Yugoslavia. It was into this divided area that the ancestors of todays Croats and Serbs were to descend between the 6th and 8th centuries AD.
The Croats arrived in the Balkans initially under the patronage of Byzantium but this soon changed as they looked to the west for support. In 803 AD a loose federation of Croatian tribes stretching from Dalmatia to Pannonia accepted the suzerainty of Charlemagne and were converted to the western Roman Catholic religion. In 887 the Emperor Leo VI reasserted Byzantine authority over them but the Croatian leader Tomislav led an uprising around 924 which led to Croatian independence until 1091 when Ladislas I of Hungary took control following a dispute amongst the Croats. The Hungarian link was formalised and from then on the Croats were firmly within the fold of the west; the con-stitutional link with Hungary remaining until the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.
The Serbs arrived in the Balkan Peninsula in the early seventh century settling initially between the Tara and Ibar rivers. Between the seventh and thirteenth centuries the Byzantine emperors periodically attempted to control the Balkan peninsula. They were most successful during the eleventh and twelth centuries.
In 850 AD the first Serb state under the leader Vlastimir was established. The state acknowledged Byzantine authority and via the court of Vlastimir, Eastern Christianity spread amongst the Serbs. In 862 two brothers from Thessalonica, Cyril and Methodius, went as missionaries to the Serbs. To enable the Bible to be read by the Serbs a script known as the Clagolitic script was invented and from this the Cyrillic alphabet developed which sought to combine the Greek language with Slavonic phonetics. The Cyrillic alphabet became the chief distinguishing factor between the Serbs and Croats.
Following the death of Vlastimir the state declined but towards the end of the eleventh century the second Serbian state arose with it again showing commitment to the Eastern Chruch. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries several churches and monasteries were built in Serbia bearing testimony to the religious Eastern connection.
In 1389 the Serbs were defeated by the emerging Ottomans at the battle of Kosovo. Six hundred years later on June 26th 1989 a million Serbs were to commerorate this battle in a demonstration of support for Serbian nationalism. By the sixteenth century the Ottomans had established their control over the Serbs.
Yugoslavia came into existence after the First World War. It was an amalgamation of parts of the former Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Its people included Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The country of Yugoslavia was thus an attempt to bring together two distinct cultures which had previously been either side of a great political and religious divide. The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, commented as follows:
"As Lord Carrington leads Europes attempt to bring the factions together, he is aware that the country was an artificial creation, held together by ruthless force.
"The foundation stone of Yugoslavia was Serbia, which fought for and won its freedom from the Ottoman Empire last century. Its people are Slavs and Orthodox Christians and their ambitious state was feared by the neighbouring Austro-Hungarian Empire.
"Croatia and Slovenia were part of that empire, Roman Catholic and European in outlook."
So the conflict between the Serbs and the Croats is a manifestation of a division which goes back to the original division of the Roman Empire. As we have seen this division was a fulfilment of Bible prophecy. Yet the division is not simply an historical relic. It is very much alive today, as this conflict shows, and it still has a role to play in Bible prophecy yet to be fulfilled.
The Return of Christ
Besides representing continuous history from the time of Babylon the image in Daniel 2 also depicts in its wholeness the nations of men at the time of the return of Christ. This is demonstrated by the fact that the whole of the image is destroyed by the stone:
"Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together..." (Dan. 2:35).
So we should be seeing signs of the two legs of the image forming in these last days before Christ returns. Indeed when God speaks about the nations at the time of Armageddon he represents some of them by a dragon and a beast (Rev. 16:13). This echoes the language used in Revelation 13 and shows that the division of the Roman Empire, with Rome in the west and Constantinople in the east, provides a model for the last days. The development of EEC influence and the move towards a federal united Europe is dramatic evidence of the emergence of the Roman Catholic European beast. In the east we await the military incursion of Russia which will occur. It will finally head towards Israel as prophesied in Ezekiel 38. As it moves southwards Russia will truly become the eastern dragon.
The conflict in Yugoslavia is a symptom of this division. The country is being torn apart before the image of Daniel 2 begins to stand.
Let us take heed to the signs in the earth which show that the return of Christ is near. Let us be like the woman in Macedonia who "attended unto the things which were spoken of" (Acts 16:14) so that when Christ returns to destroy the image we might be one "that watcheth, and keepeth his garments" (Rev. 16:15).
Holy War in the Balkans
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