One of the consequences of the financial upheaval of the past 18 months, reported the U.S. newsmagazine BusinessWeek, is that Europe is now richer than North America. The accumulated national wealth of North Americans has dropped by 21.8 percent while Europe's only fell by 5.8 percent, "down to 22.2 trillion euros—a quarter of the globe's total wealth" ("Europe Now Richer Than North America," BusinessWeek, Sept. 16, 2009).
As great wealth is necessary for global power, could Europe be on the verge of taking over from the United States?
Bible prophecy shows that a new, European-centered superpower will exist immediately before Jesus Christ's return. It will be a great commercial system whose trade dominates the world.
It's no coincidence that all 27 member countries of the European Union have signed the Lisbon Treaty, uniting Europe more than ever before with its own president and foreign minister jointly representing all member nations.
Its currency, the euro, is now valued at 1 1/2 times the U.S. dollar and is used by more people. With over 500 million citizens, the EU is the world's biggest single market and by far the world's greatest trading power. Having now surpassed the United States in economic power, could it soon replace America as the world's foremost political and military power?
Lessons from a fallen empire
There's a lesson for the United States in the memory of some still living.
Few people alive today can remember a time when the world was dominated by the British, but that's the way things were prior to World War II. After fighting alone against the Third Reich for two years, the British were joined by the Soviet Union when Germany attacked them in June 1941. Another six months would pass before Pearl Harbor, which brought America into the war.
Americans expected that their boys would all return home after the war, just as they had done after World War I. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt told British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that American troops would leave Europe two years after the war's end. No one expected U.S. forces to stay longer. But American troops remain in Europe 65 years later!
What was the change that led American troops to remain in Europe?
Quite simply—Britain was broke! London was not able to return to the role it had held for two centuries, the task of policing the world. Such a role requires great wealth. After fighting two world wars in just over three decades, the British did not have the funds for foreign commitments and could no longer support their allies around the globe.
This wasn't something that was apparent immediately after the war ended in 1945. The British Empire remained intact. Some of the British possessions in the Far East had been conquered by Japan, but all voluntarily returned to British rule after the war.
Historian Norman Moss, who describes the transition of superpower status from Great Britain to the United States in his 2008 book Picking Up the Reins, states: "British atlases showed a quarter of the earth either ruled by Britain or linked to it in the Commonwealth. Britain ruled directly much of Asia and most of Africa and it was the dominant power in the Arab world" (p. 27).
Other European powers did not fare so well. The Dutch soon lost Indonesia, and the French had to fight a prolonged war in Indochina.
"A catastrophe scarcely thinkable"
One of America's most respected historians, James Truslow Adams, wrote a history, The British Empire 1784-1939, in 1940—the crucial year of the Battle of Britain, an airborne struggle for survival when the future of the world depended on Britain holding out against an attempted Nazi invasion.
At the end of the book, he wrote the following warning to his fellow Americans: "The possible overthrow of the British Empire would be a catastrophe scarcely thinkable. Not only would it leave a vacuum over a quarter of the globe into which all the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression would rush, but the strongest bulwark outside ourselves for our own safety and freedom would have been destroyed" (p. 358).
It certainly seemed that the preservation of the British Empire was in the best interests of the United States and other nations.
One year after the war, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff similarly advised: "The defeat or disintegration of the British Empire would eliminate from Eurasia the last bulwark of resistance between the US and Soviet expansion...Our present position as a world power is of necessity closely interwoven with that of Britain" (Moss, p. 64).
The British did not only have the ultimate responsibility for financing their empire—which included a quarter of the world's people—they were also soon embroiled in fighting a war against communists in Greece, where Britain stationed 9,000 troops to support the anticommunist forces and had given 40 million pounds in financial assistance in the months following World War II.
But by February 1947, in the middle of the harshest winter on record, the British could no longer afford to support Greece. A cabinet meeting on Feb. 18 led to London asking Washington to take over, announcing that aid to Greece "would stop on March 31. It was accompanied by another note saying Turkey also needed help and Britain could not provide it" (p. 62).
Although few comprehended it at the time, this change was truly momentous. "For two centuries Britain had been the dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean. Now it seemed to be surrendering that role in two key countries.
"It is often said that Americans lack a historical sense that Europeans have, but on this occasion it was the Americans who saw the historical significance of that moment.
"To British ministers, battling from day to day to keep the country's head above water, this seemed to be just a temporary retrenchment in one area. None of them appeared to see any larger implications in the decision.
"The American view was put in grandiloquent terms by Joseph M. Jones, who was in the State Department at the time: 'Reading the messages, [it was] realized . . . that Great Britain had within the hour handed the job of world leadership, with all its burdens and all its glory, to the United States" (p. 64).
The date was Feb. 21, 1947—the day the United States effectively replaced Great Britain as the world's global superpower.
Changing roles prophesied
"And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh," reads Genesis 48:20 Genesis 48:20And he blessed them that day, saying, In you shall Israel bless, saying, God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
American King James Version×. In this passage of Scripture, the patriarch Jacob (Israel) had prophesied that the descendants of his two grandsons, the sons of Joseph, would "become a multitude of nations" (verse 19) and a great nation—a prophecy fulfilled first in the British Empire and Commonwealth and secondly in the United States, the great republic that broke away from the empire. Ephraim, the multitude of nations, was to be great before Manasseh.
The supremacy of first Britain with its empire and then the United States of America was prophesied for "the last days" (Genesis 49:1 Genesis 49:1And Jacob called to his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
American King James Version×). But just as the British Empire collapsed due to debt and an overstretched military, so the United States faces the same problems today.
Prophecy shows that, at the time immediately before the second coming of Jesus Christ, global power will pass to a revived and renewed Roman Empire—a new world superpower based in Europe.
To be clear, however, the EU is not the prophesied end-time power in its final, biblical form. Bible prophecy clearly states that 10 "kings"—we might call them presidents, premiers or prime ministers—will give their power and authority to a final supreme leader who rules over them all.
What the EU has achieved is a powerful commercial and political system that places Europe in a position of global leadership. The final European power will likely emerge from this. Exactly how remains to be seen.
To learn more about prophesied end-time events, see our booklet Are We Living in the Time of the End? online or request a free copy to be mailed to you. Also, to understand what the Bible reveals about the future of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries, request or download your free copy of The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. WNP