The Rise and Fall of Empires

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The Rise and Fall of Empires

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Empires. It's a word we don't hear often these days. On occasions we'll hear of individual nations rising and falling, but rarely do we hear of the rise and fall of empires anymore.

Yet it does happen. Within the lifetime of most of you reading this, we've seen the fall of the Soviet empire. In 1991 the Soviet Union ceased to exist, splintering into 15 separate republics (many of which afterward reintegrated as the loose-knit Commonwealth of Independent States). The U.S.S.R. had lost its Eastern European client states beginning in 1989.

A number of our readers have lived through the dissolution of the greatest empire the world has ever seen, the British Empire. For years it was said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire." And this was true. Its member nations spanned the globe so that, at all times, the sun was shining somewhere on that empire. It controlled enormous wealth and territory.

Yet it, too, was not to last. The burden of policing and protecting the world was too great, and after the staggering cost of World War II, the British Empire dissolved within a few decades.

Going back further, we see the rise and fall of other empires: Napoleon's French Empire. The Ottoman Empire. The Islamic Empire. The Roman Empire. The Hellenistic Empire of Alexander the Great. The Persian Empire. Babylon. Assyria. Egypt of the pharaohs.

With few exceptions, such as the meteoric rise of Alexander, the rise of empires is a gradual process, often one of conquest. It takes time to build strength, to assimilate, to unify people.

Are we now seeing the rise of a new empire in Europe? Are we witnessing a slow, deliberate gathering of economic and political muscle that will see a new giant take the world stage? Could it be that this new giant has already ascended the stage when most of the world wasn't paying attention?

Europe has witnessed staggering changes in recent years. From the devastation of World War II, the European Union has risen from the rubble to become a superpower that's already flexing its muscles. Politically, it's challenged the United States on Iraq and Israel. Economically, it's challenging the entire rest of the world.

For years Europeans have worked toward a united Europe, wealthy and free of the scourge of division and war. These dreams go back 2,000 years to the Roman Empire, and regular efforts have been made to revive that empire along with its might and glory.

The current effort may be the most ambitious. With its May 1 addition of 10 new members, the European Union has 450 million citizens and territory stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to Russia. Its members will soon resume work on a common European constitution. They are also laying the groundwork for a common European military force.

Where will these efforts lead? Surprisingly, the answers are already spelled out in the pages of the Bible. They've been there—somewhat obscured by mysterious signs and symbols—for centuries. But with God's guidance, some digging and knowledge of history and Bible prophecy, the answers soon become much clearer. They reveal a future of both horror and hope. You'll find a brief summary of the rise and fall of tomorrow's empires in this eye-opening issue. GN