The late British author John Stott summed up the mindset of many this way: "Most of us feel demoralized by the heart-rending tragedy of this chaotic world. Our very survival is in doubt. The ordinary citizen often feels a helpless victim of the tangled web of politics, or a faceless unit in the machine of modern society" (Basic Christianity, 2008, p. 152).
The apostle Paul foretold that conditions would be like this during the last days of this age of man (2 Timothy 3:1-5). That's why our articles about regional and world trends ultimately focus on the good news guaranteed by the prophecies of the Bible.
But the Bible itself makes it very plain that the wonderful world to come will first be preceded by devastating conditions of a magnitude never before seen by the human race (see Matthew 24:21-22; Daniel 12:1; Jeremiah 30:7). The state of the world will be so dire that human survival will be at stake!
Our news headlines show that prophecies written in the Bible many centuries ago are now beginning to be fulfilled in a major way. Nowhere is this truer than in Central Europe and the Middle East. This article focuses on Europe (though you can gain an understanding of the other region's prophetic role by reading our free booklet The Middle East in Bible Prophecy and articles about Israel and the Middle East that appear regularly in this magazine).
What does Bible prophecy tell us about the future of Europe? The biblical books of Daniel and Revelation both show that a new and dictatorial superpower will emerge at the time of the end, centered in Europe. In this article we'll see how the stage is apparently being set for the fulfillment of these prophecies.
Europe as a unified entity
Europe is a key player in the global economy. In spite of all the talk about the economies of the United States and China, the European Union (EU) is the world's largest and wealthiest economic power bloc.
Europe has also been the battleground for countless wars over the millennia and the flashpoint for two devastating world wars in the first half of the 1900s. At the heart of those two world wars for control of Europe was Germany, now politically and economically immersed with other European nations in seeking a United States of Europe.
The global intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, Inc., better known as Stratfor, is highly respected for its analysis of global and regional trends. Months ago it noted that "the future of Europe [is] bound to the decision-making process in Germany" and that "Europe cannot function as a unified entity unless someone is in control."
It went on to explain that "at present, Germany is the only country with a large enough economy and population to achieve that control" ("Germany's Choice: Part 2," July 26, 2011, emphasis added throughout). In recent months we have seen this demonstrated again and again as Germany has positioned itself—sometimes openly, sometimes behind the scenes—to take the lead in the future direction of Europe.
Currently two basic scenarios exist for the future of Europe. One view, the most popular, holds that the present generation of Germans have become staunch defenders of freedom and democracy, being fully aware of the dangers of repeating Berlin's troubled history during the first half of the 20th century—when its ambitions twice led to world wars.
A second view is that a long-lingering euro crisis, initially spurred by runaway Greek debt but then spreading steadily to other troubled European economies, will eventually result in the emergence of an economic powerhouse that can step in and resolve the crisis—a new German-led empire.
Proponents of this projection of current trends believe that the nations of southern Europe are slated to come under Berlin's thumb and that, in the long run, even the enormous bailouts by Germany will be well worth the huge costs incurred. In other words, Germany will be successful at attaining through its economic might what it was unsuccessful at attaining through military might twice in the last century.
Do history and the Bible indicate which view will eventually prevail?
"It's all about Germany"
The two world wars started by Germany have often dominated the anxious postwar thoughts of other European countries. In 1997, then French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing cautioned that a failure of efforts to integrate Europe economically (leading to today's euro) would lead to "a preponderant influence of Germany" in European affairs (Celestine Bohlen, "Euro Unity? It's Germany That Matters," The New York Times, March 9, 2010).
A basic rationale by other European nations in recent decades was to encase Germany well inside the European Union to prevent its previously notorious nationalistic tendencies from threatening their sovereignty and territorial integrity. This was a powerful motivator behind the steady drive for European integration into an eventual united Europe.
But is this strategy really going to work out as hoped in the long run, considering Europe's disparate peoples and cultures? With Europe confronting a painful and divisive economic crisis, will Berlin eventually wind up virtually directing the activities of the EU anyway?
It appears the answer is now becoming clearer. The article cited above states: "Ten years after the euro, it's still all about Germany, which isn't the way it was supposed to be. . . President Nicolas Sarkozy of France can come and pledge all the support to Greece he wants, but in the end, it's Germany that matters" (ibid).
Newsweek magazine recently pointed out: "Who is the greatest beneficiary of the existence of the euro? The answer is Germany. . . The rest of the euro zone absorb[s] 40 percent of German exports. . ." (John Eatwell, "Euro Vision," Sept. 5, 2011).
The Stratfor report cited earlier also noted: "Despite its flaws, the system that currently manages Europe has granted Germany economic wealth of global reach without costing a single German life. Given the horrors of World War II, this was not something to be breezily discarded. No country in Europe has benefited more from the eurozone than Germany. For the German elite, the eurozone was an easy means of making Germany matter on a global stage without the sort of military revitalization that would have spawned panic across Europe and the former Soviet Union. And it also made the Germans rich."
Moving to exert control
Germany is clearly taking steps to exert control in the current economic crisis. The Stratfor report also noted that Germany was for a long time content to take a backseat in the European leadership arena, but no longer.
With the economic crisis spreading among the countries of southern Europe, Germany is the only European power with enough financial muscle to bail them out—and has quietly maneuvered behind the scenes to put themselves in the driver's seat.
Germany has created a new bailout mechanism that, as Strafor observes, "takes its orders from the Germans. The mechanism is not enshrined in EU treaties; it is instead a private bank, the director of which is German. . . In order to get the money, distressed states merely have to do whatever Germany—the manager of the fund—wants. . .
"Accepting EFSF [European Financial Security Facility] assistance means accepting a surrender of financial autonomy to the German commanders of the EFSF. For now, that means accepting German-designed austerity programs, but there is nothing that forces the Germans to limit their conditions to the purely financial/fiscal.
"For all practical purposes, the next chapter of history has now opened in Europe. Regardless of intentions, Germany has just experienced an important development in its ability to influence fellow EU member states—particularly those experiencing financial troubles. It can now easily usurp huge amounts of national sovereignty.
"Rather than constraining Germany's geopolitical potential, the European Union now enhances it; Germany is on the verge of once again becoming a great power. This hardly means that a regeneration of the Wehrmacht [military force] is imminent, but Germany's re-emergence does force a radical rethinking of the European and Eurasian architectures."
"A real opportunity to achieve a political union in Europe"
The British newsmagazine The Economist recently observed: "All of a sudden . . . Berlin is abuzz with talk of remaking the European Union: issuing joint eurobonds, renegotiating the EU's treaties, even creating a federal Europe" ("Germany's Euro Question," Sept. 10, 2011).
Redesigning the European Union's institutions has suddenly become all the rage in Germany!
Of particular interest is the revival of federalism. The Economist piece continued: "German Euro-federalists have woken up after a long slumber. It is no surprise that Joschka Fischer, the Greens' elder statesman [who served as foreign minister and vice chancellor under former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder], should call for the 'United States of Europe.'"
According to a Sept. 4, 2011, Reuters article, Schroeder himself also called for the creation of a "United States of Europe," stating: "The current crisis makes it relentlessly clear that we cannot have a common currency zone without a common fiscal, economic and social policy. . . We will have to give up national sovereignty. . . And that means the United States of Europe...In the crisis lies a real opportunity to achieve a political union in Europe."
Strengths and weaknesses in eurozone nations
According to The Wall Street Journal: "The Greek statistical office reported that the economy shrank 7.3% in the second quarter, down from an initial estimate of 6.9% contraction last month. The Greek economy has been contracting for three years" ("Greece Slips Further," Sept. 9-11, 2011).
Recently Athens has been only weeks from running out of euros and facing a critical debt default. In response the Greek government has promised to levy a property tax to address a 2 billion euro revenue shortfall. But will this measure send yet more Greek citizens to the streets, demonstrating and rioting in protest? Some observers still feel that a Greek default is inevitable.
Discussions with EU and International Monetary Fund officials recently broke down over the terms of loans Greece desperately needs to avoid economic collapse. Several other southern European nations are only slightly better off than Greece.
How is it that, as the Newsweek article cited above states, "the entire national debts of Greece, Portugal, and Ireland amount to less than 5 percent of euro-zone debt," and yet the entire eurozone can be seriously shaken by their debt problems? This clearly points to major structural flaws in the way the euro was originally constructed as a new currency beginning in early 1999.
This probably has some bearing on why, just prior to the establishment of Jesus Christ's future rule on earth, the Bible speaks of a future European-centered superpower where the component countries are symbolically described as iron mixed with clay, "partly strong and partly fragile" (see Daniel 2:40-44).
The troubling future of Europe
Hitler's Nazi regime (1933-1945) was made possible only by a severe economic crisis in Germany during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Under normal economic conditions the Nazis could never have come to power. Of course, the details are different today. So far it's not Berlin that's experiencing economic crisis, but other eurozone nations, principally in southern Europe. Germany remains the principal paymaster of Europe. But there may yet be financial consequences for Germany.
Today the European Union countries are experiencing serious political differences and a troubling degree of divisiveness and disunity due in significant measure to severe economic problems. Bible prophecy indicates that the European Union will not continue in its current form.
Some members may opt out of the EU, or perhaps even be forced out as the prophesied end-time entity takes shape (Britain, for instance, has often been at odds with the European Union almost from its inception in 1958).
Ultimately a new and powerful European superstate, labeled in symbol as "the Beast," will astonish a largely unsuspecting world. An imposing bloc of nations will coalesce as one final revival of the ancient Roman Empire (Revelation 13:1-8; 17:8-18; Daniel 2:37-45; 7:15-27).
Ten member nations (or groups of nations) will relinquish their own national sovereignty to become part of this astonishing end-time superpower. "These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast" (Revelation 17:13).
These disturbing events will affect the whole world—including setting the stage for the devastatingly dangerous times in which human extinction would happen without God's intervention (Matthew 24:21-22). Since all that Bible prophecy foretells is sure to happen, we should all heed the words of the apostle Peter. He asked in light of the impermanence of the world around us: "What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?" (2 Peter 3:11).
Seeing the stage set for the fulfillment of end-time prophecies should motivate each of us to examine our spiritual condition in the light of God's Word. An understanding of prophecy ought to lead us to repentance and to dedicate our lives to seeking God and serving Him. Mere academic Bible knowledge is far from enough!
Jesus Christ plainly tells us in Luke 21:36: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man"!
To Learn More...
This article has touched on the highlights of what Bible prophecy foretells is to come in Europe. To understand the overall significance of the ongoing prophetic picture, request or download the free booklets You Can Understand Bible Prophecy and Are We Living in the Time of the End?