What happened next, fueled by U.S. dollars supplied under the Marshall Plan, was an economic miracle: Western Europe rebuilt and retooled its industry.
Modernized from the ground up, in the 1950s and 60s many of defeated Germany's factories began to outclass the factories of its national benefactor, the United States. The old dream of a peaceful European union led to an organization known as the European Common Market.
In the last half of the 20th century the Common Market gave way to the European Union, a powerful alliance with old enemies France and Germany at the center. The amount of international integration achieved under the European Union is staggering.
But it is not in the form that it will be when Jesus Christ returns.
Returning to Revelation 17, we see that John "marveled with great amazement" at the vision he had seen of the woman and the beast (Revelation 17:6). An angel then explained to John that "the beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit…" When they see it, people "will marvel…when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is" (Revelation 17:8).
What does such unusual wording mean?
Having gone through this historical background, we can now understand how an empire could once exist, then disappear, then reappear in a somewhat different form. The fact that this beast, symbolic of an empire, "was, and is not, and yet is" tells us that the Roman Empire, which does not exist at this time as such, will be restored yet again in the near future.
It "was," meaning it existed in the past, it currently "is not," meaning it doesn't exist at this moment, and "yet is," for it remains an undercurrent in European politics, and "will ascend out of the bottomless pit"—meaning it is destined to rise yet again.
Revelation 17:10 prophesies that there would be seven kings or rulers who would lead resurrections of the Roman Empire in cooperation with the Roman church. We've seen that so far, there have been six. A seventh revival, called "the beast" and linked in prophecy to God's intervention in human affairs with Christ's return, lies ahead.
In 1957 six Western European nations—West Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium—came together to create the European Economic Community through the Treaty of Rome. These groundbreaking steps toward European unification were taken in the ancient capital city of the Roman Empire and home to one of the world's oldest and major religions.
Paul Henri Spaak, former secretary-general of NATO, later remarked on that signing in a BBC documentary: "We felt like Romans on that day…we were consciously recreating the Roman Empire once more."
Europe's long dream of unity retains its hold on European leaders. Although slow to come together, and certainly not yet in its final form, that union will emerge as a global superpower that will stun and shock the world.
The European Union is now the world's greatest economic power, accounting for more than a third of the globe's total gross domestic product. It's the largest exporter in the world. The euro, the EU's common currency, has increased in value almost 50 percent against the U.S. dollar since its introduction in 2002.
Some EU leaders believe that the union isn't developing fast enough or flexing enough muscle on the world scene. There has even been discussion of forming a coalition within the European Union, led by France and Germany, that would speed up political unity.
Not all Europeans are greeting the concept of an EU military force with open arms. The joint U.S.-European incursion into Kosovo in the late 1990s revealed the general reluctance of many European states to play a part in using military force. The combined EU members sent only 50,000 troops to the Balkans, when they have almost 2 million men under arms.
Meanwhile the United States, with its major military commitment in Afghanistan and other forces scattered worldwide in the war on terror, is showing considerable weariness in acting as the world's policeman. Instead of pursuing force with Syria after that country's president Bashir al-Assad used chemical weapons on its own people, the administration of Barack Obama has pursued diplomacy instead. Likewise a recent diplomatic deal with Iran has taken shape instead of the typical threat of armed conflict and sanctions that have been used in the past.
Europe's Prophesied Future
The events in Europe are following a historical pattern—an attempt to unite the Spanish and Italians, Germans and Slavs, French and Scandinavians into one empire.
The current moves to expand and solidify the European Union appear to be setting the stage for the emergence of the end-time power Daniel prophesied as being made of partly of iron and partly of clay. In light of what Bible prophecy reveals, it's fascinating to note the roots of the movement to unify Europe.
The idea of founding a renewed Roman Empire was certainly on the minds of those whose efforts have led to the current organization of European nations. That union has continued to strengthen with greater cooperation and integration in economic and political affairs.
The 10 kings who will give their power and authority to the beast will not understand how monstrously evil their creation will become, ultimately plunging the world into catastrophe.
Revelation 17:14 clearly states the time setting for this prophecy: "These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them…" The Lamb, of course, is Jesus Christ. He will not return until this prophecy of 10 rulers who form an end-time superpower is fulfilled. Yet all indications are that His return must be soon (a forthcoming study aid Seven Prophetic Signs Before Jesus' Return will cover this topic in greater detail)—and the appearance of this empire will of course be even sooner.
As history shows, the Roman Empire has fallen, risen and fallen several times in the past. Be assured that it will rise once more, yet soon afterward will be destroyed and replaced by the final superpower—the Kingdom of God, ruled by Jesus Christ, which will never be destroyed!
The Final Fall
The dreams of Julius Caesar, Justinian, Charlemagne, Napoleon and Mussolini have never died. They will resurge once more—yet will end in utter disaster. In Revelation 19 we find out who destroys this final empire. Here the apostle John writes about a vision he received concerning the future: "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God" (Revelation 19:11-13). This is the One we know as Jesus Christ.
Continuing: "And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:14-16; see also Revelation 19:17-21).
The last superpower of men described in Bible prophecy will be replaced by the final superpower—the Kingdom of God, led by Jesus Christ, which will rule the entire world. Prophecy was given by God to guide us through changing world conditions, strengthen our faith and give us hope for the future. Our faith must be in Him and our lives must be dedicated to doing His will so we might ultimately be a part of that Kingdom.
This is what Bible prophecy reveals regarding the end time. The foundation is laid, the structure is being built, and the time for the seventh revival of the Roman Empire—the beast—draws ever closer.
Will you be ready to face these events that are destined to transform the world?