"Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane, but the church of Jesus constant will remain." Remember the words of "Onward Christian Soldiers"? They come home to you when you travel in Central Europe. I had an opportunity to do just that in early September, accompanying my parents on tours of three cities—Prague, Budapest and Vienna—with other stops en route.
We joined 32 other people on our bus, all from the north of England, where I grew up and where my parents live. I found it fascinating to hear their comments on the emerging European Union.
Understanding Continental History
People from the Anglo-Saxon countries (including Americans) find it difficult to grasp history and Bible prophecy. The reason is quite simply that our nations have been around so long.
The United States, for example, although only about 220 years old, has enjoyed more than 130 years of peace and stability, with a continuous political system within the same stable borders since the end of the Civil War. England has done even better, with almost 300 years of stability under the present royal house, a substantiality that nations like Australia and Canada have shared in through their ties to the throne.
This means that anybody living in any of these countries is not as old as the country itself. Our memories are of stability, so we find it difficult to understand the turmoil of other nations during our lifetimes. It is no exaggeration to say that many European nations are younger than most of you reading this magazine.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia, for example, two of the countries I recently visited, are barely five years old (even when united, their history began only in 1918). The former Czechoslovakia was created out of the northern end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the First World War. Today's Hungary itself is less than 10 years old.
The Austrian Republic, as it is now configured, did not come into existence until 1955. The Federal Republic of Germany did not exist until 1949—and, with its present borders, it is only seven years old. Even France's Fifth Republic is celebrating only its 40th anniversary.
Of course, nations, cultures and kingdoms existed on the same pieces of land for centuries before the present political boundaries were drawn. Ancestors of the citizens of many of today's nations lived on those lands for centuries and helped shape the Continent. But the past, as they say, was another country, no less so than Colonial America was distinct from what the United States of America is today.
These changes have had their effect on the peoples of these lands. Whereas Americans and Britons have been lulled into a sense of security, the peoples of nations that have endured decades of war, foreign domination, political uncertainty, revolutions, divisions and financial upheaval suffer from what the Germans refer to as Zukunftsangst, a constant worry about the future.
I have often observed that, whereas most American males read the sports page first, most European men don't. When traveling on the London underground it's instructive to see what people are reading. Most are perusing a newspaper—there are plenty to choose from—but most people do not read the sports page first. The front page often impacts their daily lives in a way that Americans would find difficult to understand. Accordingly, the average European citizen is usually better informed about the issues of the day than the average American.
Perspectives on the Euro
It came as no surprise, then, that the people on our tour all had an opinion on the euro, the new currency that is supposed to tie 11 European nations together beginning this year. The United Kingdom is not one of the 11. The ruling Labour government is in favor of the euro but will not consider adopting it until after the next election, due in 2002. The opposition Conservative Party is somewhat divided over the issue, with most of its members decidedly against the euro, including party leader William Hague.
It is difficult for many in the United States to understand the issues here. Think of it this way: What if America were forming an economic union with the other nations of the Americas, and a common currency was to be set up and run by an independent bank based in South America? In this scenario, a three-year transition to the new money would start in January, with the U.S. dollar and the new pan-American currency to be accepted in all businesses, but by the year 2002 the dollar would be phased out and only the new currency would remain. The Super Federal Reserve would be based in South America.
In the above scenario, it's doubtful that many Americans would support the change. Yet opinion polls show that just under 50 percent of the British electorate supports the euro. One third are opposed, while the others remain undecided or uninterested.
Britain Leery of German Dominance
The dominant nation of the euro will be the economically most successful country, undoubtedly Germany, with which Britain has fought two major conflicts this century. The British people are, in effect, being asked to hand over control of their finances to peoples of other nations, principally their former enemy.
Britons leery of the euro include the political editor of The Daily Mail, who wrote on Nov. 20: "Germany's ambition to dictate British tax rates was made starkly clear yesterday. Oskar Lafontaine, the country's new left-wing finance minister, insisted that EU members who sign up to the euro must also accept a co-ordinated tax policy. 'A unified currency area needs a fair and equal tax framework,' he said. The prospect horrified UK business leaders. Harmonisation would inevitably mean rises in both company and income tax, as British rates are currently among the lowest in Europe."
London remains the world's biggest center for international finance, a role that began in colonial times. The British pound is still a major currency, though not as vital to the world trading system as it once was.
Britain has lost a great deal of its independence since joining the European Community in 1973, but losing its own currency and adopting one controlled mostly by others would be its biggest single step away from independence. Whatever Britain decides, its role as an international financial center will be affected.
For hundreds of years the British people struggled against continental domination to preserve their freedom and the freedom of others and the unity of the multitude of nations that formed the British Empire until fairly recent times. Successive British governments based their foreign policies on not getting involved in European affairs any more than they had to, but always being ready to intervene to stop any single European power from growing too powerful.
Now the British have completely reversed the safe policy of centuries to become a part of the latest European superpower, which some observers see as the German-led European Union.
Nations in Waiting
Other nations, too, are growing increasingly enamored of the EU. Formerly communist nations in Eastern Europe are turning their eyes from the East to the West: to Western Europe, that is. All seem to want to be a part of the EU.
The Czech Republic and Hungary are two of the most successful formerly
communist nations. Hungary's economy has taken off since the end of the communist era, showing signs of successful incorporation into the capitalist West, with many Western companies already operating in Hungary. Also evident are traffic jams and the visibly obvious social evils that freedom and prosperity bring.
Slovakia isn't doing as well. Economically it is progressive, having embraced free enterprise. But it has been held back by a too-dictatorial government. On entering and leaving Slovakia, I noticed that its border was the only one with long delays, a sure sign of some form of continued dictatorship. (Following a recent election there is hope that a more democratically inclined administration will be willing to cooperate more with neighboring nations.)
Borders are almost meaningless in Western Europe. We emerged from the Channel Tunnel in France. Before we knew it, we had traveled through Belgium and were in Germany, and no one had asked us for our passports or other identification. Nations in this part of Europe, together with some others, have removed border controls, allowing freedom of movement.
The Czech Republic is not yet a member of the EU, but its border had little substance. We crossed quickly. For the first time I had to travel on an American passport because my British passport had expired. I was singled out at border crossings for special handling, much to the amusement of my English traveling companions, who, with their new European passports, can cross any border with minimum inconvenience. One can see some advantages to the new Europe.
This new Europe is part of the appeal of the euro. In an age of incessant international travel, the desire for one currency for all the nations of Europe is appealing. Loss of independence seems to be of secondary importance to many.
Although the British government has not decided to adopt the euro, a third of British companies are gearing up for it. It will be possible for visitors to spend euros in the biggest British stores, adding pressure to fully embrace the new currency.
Why Europeans Want Unity
But it is on the Continent that enthusiasm for the European Union is greatest. The 20th century has been disastrous for Europeans. In this period two world wars have been fought on European soil. Millions were killed; many millions more dispossessed and forced to relocate as refugees in strange surroundings. By some estimates, 90 percent of Europe's historical treasures were destroyed in World War II.
It is easy to see why Europeans want to unite. The Continent has seen much civil conflict and political division throughout this century, with ethnic tensions often surfacing, especially in Central Europe. The 40-year division of the Cold War has ended, but subsequent fears of Russian instability dominate headlines on the Continent.
The desire among most of the people of the Continent is for security and unity. Few have thought it through to the extent of exactly what kind of alliance they want, but most would agree with the stated intent of the EU to work toward an ever-closer union.
A Prophesied Superpower
Key Bible prophecies in Daniel and Revelation describe a major political, economic and military power that will rise shortly before God's dramatic visible intervention in world affairs (Daniel 7, Revelation 13, 17). Revelation 17:12Ñ14 reveals a union of "ten kings" (leaders of 10 nations or groups of nations). These leaders and their combined military forces will turn against Jesus Christ at His return, bringing destruction on themselves.
This prophetic union could pose a major threat to the predominantly Anglo-Saxon nations that have dominated the world for the last few centuries. Ironically, both the United States and Great Britain have played major roles in encouraging the European Union.
Even many of the British people are considerably ignorant of the implications of unity. Nobody on our bus knew of the entity as the European Union; they all still referred to it as the EEC (European Economic Community), its former name when the intention was to create only a single economy. The designation changed a few years ago to show that the present goal is a closer economic, political and military combination. Europe has moved forward considerably during this decade.
Continue reading The Good News to understand how world conditions are increasingly setting the stage for the fulfillment of many Bible prophecies. GN