As the introduction of the European common currency on January 1, 1999 draws closer, the questions of "What exactly, is Europe?" and "What will be the impact of the Euro on international monetary markets?" are being asked in many quarters. Within the church of God we might also ask, "Will European unification signal the rise of the prophetical beast power?" and "Why exactly do we watch and wait for a union of European states?"
In an article in the October 19, 1998, Wall Street Journal titled "Europeans Search For a Shared Identity Amid Dark Memories," reporter Robert Frank outlined some of the contradictions that lie in the path of eventual European union:
"'What exactly is Europe?' asks Angelique Berky, a 15-year-old high-school student in a European Studies class. Her classmates are equally puzzled. 'Isn't it everything between Russia and Iceland?' offers a classmate. 'Russia isn't Europe,' interrupts a girl with a baseball hat and Nike sneakers. 'Britain's not really Europe either. They're more like…Americans.'"
"So it goes in Europe's quest to find itself. Even as this sweeping region exudes newfound confidence-new currency, new leaders, new hype about a Third Way to organize national economies-Europe is beset by growing angst about its identity and place in the world. No region produces as many schemes to define itself, and yet no region remains as poorly defined. While America and Asia are grappling with the world financial crisis, Europe has the added existential burden of figuring out just what it is" (Wall Street Journal, October 19, 1998, page 1).
Unification in Spite of Resistance
The process of unification will continue despite uncertainty and resistance inherent in the differences of the many nations that constitute Europe. The many languages of Europe constitute a formidable barrier to the single identity that a true union represents. While many, especially the youth, are bilingual, most Europeans cannot carry on a conversation in a language other than their own.
Thirty-six countries constitute the traditional definition of "Europe." It stretches from Iceland in the west to the Ural mountains of Russia in the east, and from the Arctic circle in the north to Turkey in the south. The diversity of culture alone represents major impediments to union that under normal processes will take years and delicate wisdom to surmount. Defining a "European culture" is almost impossible. American music and movies dominate the European entertainment scene, as they do in much of the world.
When it comes to creating a common foreign policy the E.U. has plans on the books for its own foreign minister, but it is a long way from acting with a united front toward any international incident, much less affairs in its own backyard. The recent crisis in Kosovo, the separatist region of the former Yugoslavia, is a case in point. No European nation has been able to offer a solution to this tragedy. To this day any serious attempt at settlement has only come through the diplomatic efforts of the United States. The same could be said for the entire Balkans crisis of the 1990s.
"Europe wasn't founded in Rome, but on Freud's couch in Vienna," says Pedro Schwartz, economics professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid. "The Germans want to forget Hitler, the French want to control the Germans, the Spanish want to forget Franco and the Italians want any government but their own. Is this the makings of a union?" (ibid.).
On the surface it may not look like a union, but unseen events have a way of producing changes in world affairs that create unexpected and unforeseeable alignments of nations. For decades the church of God has watched the European political scene for the rise of a bloc of nations that will fulfill the scriptures about an end time entity called "the beast" as described in Revelation 13 and 17. Why have we looked with such intense scrutiny at Europe and the unification of its nations over the years?
The Holy Roman Empire
We have understood the Roman Empire to be the fulfillment of the two legs of the image in Daniel 2:33 and the fourth beast of Daniel 7:7. This fourth beast also had ten horns. The Roman Empire in the west collapsed in 476 A.D. when Rome was overrun by barbarian tribes from the north. The eastern emperor, Justinian, attempted a short-lived restoration in 554 A.D. This healing of the "deadly wound" (Rev. 13:3) did not endure and it was not until 800 A.D. that we have the beginning of what history calls the Holy Roman Empire, which was a continuation of this system of church and state, a true spiritual heir of the ancient Roman Empire. Charlemagne was crowned imperator Romanorum and reigned over a united Europe from his palace in Aachen.
This revival was continued with the ascendancy of Otto the Great in 962 A.D. The Hapsburg dynasty of the 16th century under Charles V was next in line until the arrival of Napoleon in the late 1700s. Napoleon desired to re-create a Roman-European civilization, this time led by France, and had himself crowned emperor by the Pope in 1804. The French leader considered himself the worthy successor of Charlemagne and believed that Europe would not see peace until it was united under one sovereign.
Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini are the two agents of the twentieth century phase of the ancient Roman system with their alliance during World War II. Mussolini went so far as to declare his rule a form of the resurrected Roman Empire in 1936. Both men made agreements with the Catholic papacy that mutually benefited both church and state during this dark period of the twentieth century. Hitler's Third Reich dominated more areas of Europe under a single banner than any time since that of ancient Rome.
What Do We Look For?
Today we wait for a final revival of this ancient system called "the beast." The arrival of this political power will dominate the world scene in the days prior to Christ's return. How and when will this all come about? It might be helpful to review the basic scenario as shown in Daniel and Revelation.
The second chapter of Daniel describes an image seen by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, with a head of gold, arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet made of a mixture of iron and clay (Daniel 2:32, 33). Based on Daniel's explanation to the king we understand the head to be the ancient Babylonian empire. From that we deduce that the subsequent Persian, Greek, and Roman empires in world history correspond with the other sections of the image. Daniel's interpretation shows that "a stone...cut without hands...struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. And the stone...became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (verses. 34-35). Verse 44 shows "in the days of these kings (those represented by the feet), the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed."
Here we have an overview of history from the time of Daniel to the establishment of God's kingdom at the return of Jesus Christ. Revelation 17 gives us a closer view of the figure's 10 toes where they are described as 10 "horns" of a beast representing "ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast" (Revelation 17:12). These ten kings, whatever they represent, are the final revival of the system that sprang from the roots of the Roman Empire at its fall in 476 A.D. As we have seen there have been numerous resurrections of that ancient system that have pulled together political and spiritual power to rule over many nations. Revelation 17 shows there is one that "has not yet come" (verse 10). This is the one we look for in today's world scene.
History and prophecy show that powerful religious figures in the person of the Roman Catholic papacy have cooperated with these political entities to further their own purpose. The future and final union of these two forces will create an unprecedented combination of influence and world power unlike any the world has previously seen (Revelation 17:3). This is why we have always looked to the European scene for an understanding of where we are in the march of prophecy.
A Global Power
It is this last thought that we should examine closely for help in understanding what, where, and how to watch for this coming event. Let's notice what Revelation tells us about the influence of this system. Revelation 13:7 says, "He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation" (Revelation 13:7, NIV). The influence of this system extends to every nation. Verses 12 and 14 say all the earth worships and is deceived by the work of this system.
In chapter 17 we are told "the great harlot who sits on many waters [nations] with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (verses 2-3). Verse 18 says, "And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth." All nations and leaders of the world will be in league with this globally interlocked system of trade and finance (Revelation 18:3). And when it comes to a sudden end, all the world will feel the loss and consequence of its demise. The final collapse of this Babylonish system will affect all the nations who have come under her seductive powers (Revelation 18:23).
Daniel 12:1 says of this end time period: "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered" (NIV). Looking at these verses it is obvious that this end time power will hold the whole world in its grasp, exercising life and death influence over everyone.
How will this be done? The "mark," or symbol, of this power will determine one's ability to trade in the world economy (Revelation 13:17). Historically, the enforcement of worship on the Lord's day, Sunday, has been a means by which the papacy has sought to bend peoples to its will. This past July, Pope John Paul II issued a pastoral letter, Dies Domine (The Lord's Day), in which he enjoined the sanctification of the first day of the week as the day of rest for all men. It was a strong affirmation of Sunday worship.
Watch with Wisdom
When we see the worldwide influence of this beast power it tells us that we should be looking at global trends in all the world at the same time we watch for a movement toward unification in Europe. The world's largest nation in terms of population, China, cannot be left out of any scenario. In fact, all the nations of the Pacific Rim will have a role to play in end time events. This is also true for the nations of Africa and Latin America that will be affected by the appearance of this system called Babylon.
How these nations will fit into the scheme of matters is yet to be seen. We do not know exactly what is meant by the "ten kings" who will give their power to the beast. There are already 15 members of the European Union, and more likely to be added. Could it refer to 10 groupings of nations or power blocs? Will nations other than those strictly termed European be a part of this scenario? We will have to wait to see the final development.
It is wiser for us to focus on the clear trends the Bible tells us to watch for. Christ warned of religious deception, wars and rumors of wars, famine and pestilence, and developments specifically affecting Jerusalem. The apostle Paul foretold specific social trends that would worsen in the end time in 2 Timothy 3:1-4. And certainly the Hebrew prophets have much to add to our understanding of things to watch for toward the close of the age.
This end-time power will astound the world with its appearance, its influence, and its promise. However those who watch with wisdom will be delivered from its wrath. WNP