We stand on the threshold of a new age. Today's world is going through rapid change among the global powers. China is rising in Asia as a power. Europe is grappling with challenges as an emerging power. America is adjusting to the challenge to its traditional role as the world's superpower.
We are on the threshold of the greatest prophesied event of your Bible, the coming of the Kingdom of God to this earth, with Jesus Christ as its leader. This will change everything.
Before we examine this event, we must wait for other major prophecies to be fulfilled. We have come on-location to Vienna, Austria, to talk about these coming events. This area claims a unique place in history as part of the story of Europe. As prophesied religious and political events unfold, Europe will play a significant role. Events from this region will impact the entire world. Stay with us on Beyond Today as we examine "Europe on the Threshold."
The gospel that the Church was commissioned to preach, has its roots in ancient history--from prophecies foretold thousands of years ago of the coming reign of Jesus Christ.
From the beginning of His ministry, this was the focal point of His message:
"…after John was put in prison," it says, "Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.'" (Mark:1:14-15).
Christ was merely reiterating the same vision that He had inspired His prophets of old to preach, such as Daniel, who wrote of a time when it says "…the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all of these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." (Daniel:2:44).
It is the same gospel that the Church will preach "in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew:24:14). This is in Matthew 24.
This gospel, the good news, is a message of continuity, a message that God has always used to inspire His people and to lift their eyes to a greater assurance of the coming superpower Kingdom of God!
But between now and then, it will be preceded by a coming kingdom of man. It, too, is a superpower, and it, too, has its roots in antiquity. The bad news of this kingdom is also one of prophetic continuity, a message through which God has continually warned those who have eyes to see, so they will not be deceived. This is why we've come to this part of the world, to Europe, to examine the roots of this soon-coming superpower of man.
This rise of a final, mighty kingdom of man will be the last resurrection of a long, successive series of kingdoms. It will be the ultimate deceitful, rebellious and futile effort to establish peace on the earth apart from God.
When "the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ" (Revelation:11:15)--it says in Revelation-- historians in the world of tomorrow will look back and show the continuity of how the kingdoms of this world were great powers succeeded by other great powers that finally culminated in the greatest human power base that the world had ever seen. They will also show that when the world rejected the Bible, it threw away an opportunity to see history written in advance.
Daniel and John were inspired to write end-time history in advance, showing that a great false church and a confederation of nations will combine their resources to establish the most powerful union this world has ever known. Its center of supremacy is rising in Europe. And right here in Vienna, we see the foundation of that superpower from its various forms over the centuries. But of even greater importance: your Bible foretells a time not too distant when this superpower foundation will once again come to life.
In the sixth century B.C., Daniel interpreted a dream for the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar--a dream that the man had seen with a giant image of a man with four sections of its body composed of four kinds of metals. Through God's inspiration, Daniel interpreted the image to represent a sequence of four powers that would dominate the civilized world. History shows they were in order: the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greco-Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great and finally, the Roman Empire.
Now Daniel wrote that this fourth kingdom, the great Roman Empire, quote: "shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others" (Daniel:2:40).
That great empire did just that, crushing and absorbing many smaller peoples and kingdoms before it fell its own turn in 476 A.D. But unlike its predecessors, the Roman Empire would be resurrected several times, culminating in a giant end-time superpower based in Europe.
European history shows that, beginning with Justinian in 554 A.D., various kings, emperors, dictators and other rulers have, with varying degrees of success, periodically revived the grandeur and might of the Roman Empire. But at some point, the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire! European emperors ever since have declared their reigns to be revivals of the Holy Roman Empire, political powers allied with, and sometimes guided by, their great church.
It's astonishing, when visiting the Schatzkammer, here in Vienna, where the secular and ecclesiastical treasury of the Hapsburgs in Vienna lie, to see the direct correlation between the Roman rulers and the church. There was no real separation of church and state.
In his visit to Spain a few years ago, former Pope John Paul II encouraged Europeans to quote, "return to their roots." What might those roots be? We're going to take a look at those roots in just a moment.
But first, let me offer you a free copy of an important booklet that we have produced on this subject: The Book of Revelation Unveiled .
This free booklet provides for you an overview of one of the most critical books of the Bible. Prophecy will take on an expanded meaning for you as you read this analysis of one of the Bible's most misunderstood books. You will see Christ's revelation of His hand in history and the future.
One of the astonishing things you will learn is the hope God holds out to our world. History will not come to an end. The world and humanity will not perish. But a new world will emerge. A world based on the rule of Christ on this earth, not the false idea of Christ ruling through any religious or political system created by man.
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It is not difficult for Europeans to find their roots, nor to discover how deeply their church roots and political roots have intertwined.
Large cathedrals dominate the skyline of every European capital. Museums filled with religious art portray the role of Christianity in the historical development of each country. Though obvious to see, the roots of Christianity are largely forgotten in today's secular global life. But the Christianity of the ages is different from the simple direct teachings Christ gave His Church.
By the end of the third century, the true servants of God had become a distinct minority among those who called themselves Christians. Counterfeit Christianity had become the majority, with false teachers successfully gaining a far larger following. They were not, however, united in their beliefs. By the end of the third century, this counterfeit Christianity was a squabbling, bitterly divided religion.
But in the early fourth century, an emperor came to power who would change the course of history--Constantine.
Constantine's political position was insecure at first, but he quickly saw an opportunity to change that. In all the empire, only Christians were unaligned politically. Constantine calculated that he could use this formerly persecuted and politically alienated religious body to strengthen his hold.
So first, he legalized Christianity. Then, only two years later, he called all the divided professing-Christian groups together at the Council of Nicaea to hammer out a unified system of belief. He wanted a unified religious body that was politically committed to him. To achieve this, Constantine presided over doctrinal deliberations and dictated statements of belief whenever disagreements could not be resolved amicably. He soon molded together these bickering groups into a strong and unified vassal of the Roman Empire.
It was Constantine, who is still revered today, who really entrenched the church-state relationship. In his book, A History of the Christian Church , Williston Walker tells us that, in 323, "Constantine was at last the sole ruler of the Roman world. The church was everywhere free from persecution . . . But, in winning its freedom from its enemies, it had come largely under the control of the occupant of the Roman imperial throne. A fateful union with the state had begun."
Now supported by the Roman emperors, this new religion grew in power and influence, seeking to become a truly universal church. In its ambition to add more members, many new converts and many new practices were welcomed into its fold.
What was the result? Well this state-dominated Christianity became a bizarre synthesis of many beliefs, practices and customs.
Historian Charles Guignebert described the process this way: "Now at the beginning of the fifth century, the ignorant and the semi-Christians thronged into the Church in numbers...They had forgotten none of their pagan customs...The Church adapted to herself, as well as she could, them and their customs and beliefs. On their side, they were content to dress up their paganism in a Christian cloak."
During this time, observance of biblical practices, including, the seventh-day Sabbath and God's festivals, practically disappeared from the new and growing religion, replaced with other practices and other new religious holidays.
Although the Roman Empire would fall, it was far from being forever gone and forgotten. As the Roman church solidified its religious power base, over the centuries it facilitated the rise of various political powers in Europe, who not only looked into the might and glory of Rome as a model, but claimed that they were resurrections of that empire.
Travel throughout Europe today, and you will constantly see evidence of the church's power and its historical alliances with these political powers. It is not difficult to see how it could exist, both anciently and at Christ's return.
Revelation 17 gives critically important details that help us understand "the mystery of the woman and the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and ten horns" (v. 7). The woman in prophecy symbolizes a church. Whereas the Roman Empire, foreseen by Daniel almost six centuries before the time of Christ, was described as a beast in Daniel 7, Revelation describes the church as the image of the beast.
"He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed" (Revelation:13:15).
This church-state relationship is further described in Revelation 17.
"Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time" (Revelation:17:9-10).
This prophecy takes us through the last two millennia, from the time of the apostle John who wrote these words until the second coming of Jesus Christ. It's a prophecy about the fourth beast of Daniel 7, the original Roman Empire, the Roman church and the subsequent resurrections of the Roman Empire. It existed in the past, it does not now exist, but it will rise to exist again. And it's here, in Europe, where I stand, that this revival of the Roman Empire will sit.
One revival, or resurrection, of the Holy Roman Empire was that of the German Nation. It traces its origins back to the time of Charlemagne, who was crowned by the pope on December 25, 800 A.D.
The coronation of Charlemagne was a deliberate act on the pope, part of Pope Leo III. In crowning Charlemagne emperor, the pope was effectively declaring the rebirth of the western Roman Empire, which had collapsed in the fifth century, and asserting the papacy's authority over the emperor.
Charlemagne's elevation to emperor resulted from his having defended the pope against the rebellious inhabitants of Rome. The church needed a military power to defend its interests, to support its missionary efforts, and to enforce its discipline. Charlemagne provided that in the late eighth century. He was rewarded with his coronation by the pope and this began a close relationship between the Reich and the church.
Charlemagne was followed by five revivals, all attempts to restore Rome's glory, all sanctioned by the papacy: Otto the Great's Roman Empire of the German Nation, the Holy Roman Empire under the Hapsburg Dynasty, Napoleon's French Empire.
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The most recent attempt of reviving the Holy Roman Empire was under Mussolini, who proclaimed the resurrection of the Roman Empire in 1922. Later, in alliance with Hitler's Germany, the original axis of evil attempted to conquer the world. Together, they did succeed in briefly conquering most of Europe.
One imperial revival yet remains to appear--the final combination of a political and religious power that will exist at the time of Christ's return.
Daniel pointed out some peculiarities about this fourth kingdom. He described its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay, and he also added,
"Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile." (Daniel 2, 41-42)
This partly strong and partly fragile kingdom and the people composing it will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.
It's difficult for people to understand the nature of the Holy Roman Empire because it was so unlike any other empire. It was never Roman as was the original Roman Empire. It was unique in world history, and it bore no resemblance to nation-states like England or France.
In European history, whereas a king ruled over a single nation, an emperor ruled over a vast territory made up of many nations or ethnic groups. What made the empire unique was the fact that these differing groups were connected to the emperor through the pervasive influence of the church. It was a secular power, but one with strong ecclesiastical connections. In fact, until 1508, German kings were not considered Emperors of the Reich until the pope had formally crowned them as such. The Reich was always considered the ultimate protector of the church based in Rome.
People have been deceived and controlled by this false religious system that has been backed up for most of its existence by the secular authority. Combined, they are a force to be reckoned with, and at the end, this coming great confederation of nations will dominate the world scene economically, militarily and religiously.
This attempt to revive the Roman Empire is already in existence--it is called the European Union, currently consisting of 27 member countries that are pledged to work together toward an ever closer union.
When outsiders look at this attempt at unity, they often imagine a United States of Europe similar to the United States of America, not the Holy Roman Empire. But Europe is not going to be another United States. The relationship between the different members that constitute the EU is naturally affected by historical precedent. And that precedent is the Holy Roman Empire, a motley assortment of nations that owed a common allegiance to an emperor.
It is interesting to let history show the roots of the movement. Michael Elliot of Newsweek magazine reported:
"In January 1957, six nations signed a treaty on the site of the ancient Roman Capitol, and brought into being the European Economic Community…An aide to Paul-Henri Spaak, the then Belgian foreign minister, remembers that his boss said, 'Do you think that we have laid the first stone of a new Roman Empire?' Recalls the aide, 'We felt very strongly we were Romans that day' " ("Don't Spoil a Success," Newsweek Magazine, international edition, January 29, 1996, p. 40).
In 2005, after Holland and France rejected the proposed European constitution, temporarily shelving the process, British historian Niall Ferguson observed:
"Without the new constitution, Europe will look less like the United States and more like the Holy Roman Empire...with a bewildering agglomeration of overlapping institutions and jurisdictions... Rather than a single, strong executive arm, it will have multiple, overlapping tentacles" ("Federalist Style," The New Republic, June 20, 2005).
This certainly correlates with Daniel's vision of a bewildering blend of iron mixed with clay! Revelation 17 shows that the 10 toes actually correspond to the 10 horns of the beast, represented in this final revival--the Holy Roman Empire.
"The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast." (Revelation:17:12)
The idea of a new Roman Empire has never been too far from the minds of those involved with this organization of nations. Determined statesmen leading the resurgence of Europe have seen the reality of their dream slowly and steadily come into being.
Europe has continued to prosper as barriers to integration have tumbled one by one. Recent economic challenges have forced leaders to rethink their union. Nations like Greece, and Ireland and Portugal have tested the limits of the current economic union. As leaders react, it becomes clear that to survive and protect their prosperity, a closer political union will be necessary. Europe is one of the three great power blocs in today's world. It will continue its march toward unity and grow in influence.
You need to watch and understand why this is happening. More importantly, you need to understand how it will affect your life.
When the 10 kings come together to form the revived beast power, it is likely Germany, already the world's biggest exporting nation and the third biggest single economy, will again be at the head of the next Reich. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was centered on Germany, which remains strategically placed in the middle of Europe. Germany is the number one trading partner with all the other EU members with the exception of Britain, which does equal trade with the United States.
This new European superpower, backed by a religious superpower, will become a dominant force on the world scene. Its initial intent to join forces will no doubt be for outwardly peaceful, logical reasons. But Bible prophecy shows that perspective will change and suddenly, as the peace of the world is threatened.
We also see prophesied a nation or a group of nations led by a king of the South, as Daniel wrote in chapter 11 of Daniel, where it is soon possibly to emerge as an Islamic world contender increasingly at odds against the West. It will push at this European-centered bloc, and lead events to the final conflict of superpowers that could destroy human life unless Christ intervenes.
With these prophecies in mind, as we watch developments in the world today we see a very interesting description of the relationship between the church and state. It is depicted in Revelation 17 as one of fornication; the "great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (Revelation 17: 1-2).
This description is quite accurate and it is one based on lust, and it is a very appealing system to human nature, and it is exactly how the relationship between the church and the secular European leaders has been through history, each using the other in ways that were mutually beneficial so each could accomplish its own separate goals.
Now one sees a paradox in Europe today. On the one hand, it has become extremely secular. Europe's rise from the rubble of World War II, its resurgence economically, its dream of a powerful union, has been swift and spectacular, but it has built a humanistic, materialistic system.
The church still solicits a fascination and undeniably strong appeal to the grand tradition and pride of the past. Revelation 17 speaks to the power of the Church, it says, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues." (Revelation:17:15)
We can also see how an unsteady relationship between church and state, based on a humanistic, materialistic system will fulfill another prophecy in Revelation. As end-time events rapidly progress, at some point the church-state relationship will rapidly deteriorate.
"The ten horns which you saw on the beast," it says, "these will hate the harlot and make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman whom/which you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth." (Revelation:17:16-18).
Elsewhere, in Revelation, the description of the system hearkens back even further than the Roman Empire, calling the end-time system by the name of the first empire that was the head of Daniel's image--Babylon. We are told that, not just Europe, but the whole world, the inhabitants of the earth is in the Babylonian system. But the central power will be in Europe.
Everything Satan and humanity has stood for and built will be on the line at this point!
When these 10 kings--and the original Greek indicates rulers, not specifically kings--when these 10 kings unite in a political, economic and military alliance, Daniel's prophecy indicates that they will preserve their cultures and languages. It will not be one totally integrated group of states, but 10 individual political, cultural entities united for a common purpose. Some leaders will be stronger than others, just as iron is stronger than clay. The power and authority that comes from their confederation, will last only a short time before they make the fatal mistake of resisting Christ at His return:
These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is the Lord of lords and King of kings..." (Revelation:17:12-14).
"And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him, who sat on the horse and against His army." (Revelation:19:19).
His army? Who would that be? Well, read on: "Those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful." (Revelation:17:14) These are God's people; those who, through the ages, have stood valiantly for the truth!
It is at this point that the promise God gave Daniel comes to pass:
"Then to Him [Christ] was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom [is] the one which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel:7:14).
This is an amazing prophecy. We are also on the threshold of the greatest prophesied event of your Bible, the coming of the Kingdom of God to this earth, with Jesus Christ as its leader. As I said earlier: this will change everything.
But before wrapping up this important subject on Beyond Today, please be reminded, of our free offers. You won't want to miss out on The Book of Revelation Unveiled --free of charge--as well as a free subscription to our magazine, The Good News .
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We are on the threshold of an age different from any era mankind has ever experienced--the Kingdom of God.
But between now and Christ's return we are seeing the emergence of one final age of the kingdom of man, one born out of and similar in many respects to its predecessors, but one more powerful than ever seen. Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon before the brightness of God's new age shines forth, and a great tribulation will darken the world before we experience the promised paradise of the Kingdom of God.
We must prepare, for both!
God's Word foretold centuries ago the increasing isolation and the decline of the English-speaking nations, the rise of a European superpower and the emergence of fundamentalist Islam with increased conflict in the Middle East. The coming together of these powerful forces will set the stage for the coming of Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.
In the immediate future, we may see dramatic technological advancements that make life more comfortable. We may likely witness a short time of relative world peace. It may seem to many that that peace may be the peace promised mankind by God. Don't be deceived. It won't be, God's peace, and it will be short-lived.
This final humanly designed government will be replaced by Jesus Christ and His government.
Let us watch for the future, keeping our eyes focused on the coming Kingdom of God. Let us watch in the present, keeping our eyes on what is happening right now in the world, understanding the prophecies being fulfilled. And let us watch by learning the lessons of the past, understanding the great lessons of history and how they will be repeated.
For Beyond Today, on location in Vienna, I'm Darris McNeely.