Forum Class for May 15, 2005
The Dragon Lady and Mystery Babylon (Revelation 17-18)
Notes from Ray C. Stedman:
One of the frequent questions asked about the end times is: "Will the church go through the great tribulation?" I am not going to deal at length with that question now, but we have seen in many passages of Scripture, and especially in the seven letters to the churches of Revelation, several reasons to say, "No, the true church of Jesus Christ will not go through the great tribulation." Those who truly know the Lord and who are alive when this period comes, will be caught up to be with him before the tribulation begins.
Yet all the church today is not necessarily included in that promise. All of Christendom is not the true church, in other words. There is a church that goes through the great tribulation, and we come to that matter in our studies in Revelation now. We had a hint of this in the letter to Thyatira in the 2nd chapter of this book, where the Lord describes a woman there named Jezebel who taught the people to commit immorality, and of whom the Lord said, "I will cast her and her children into great tribulation," (Revelation 2:22 KJV). We get the full account of that here in Chapters 17 and 18. It is introduced in the first six verses of Chapter 17:
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries." Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead:
MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. (Revelation 17:1-5 NIV)
We have already learned that the beast represents a western coalition of nations, headed by a great political leader who will dominate world economics in the last days. (We will see more of this beast later in this chapter). But now the apostle is called to focus on this woman who sat upon the beast. There are several clues, in fact ten of them, which are given to help us identify the woman. What does this symbol mean? Two full chapters are devoted to this. No symbol in the book of Revelation is given more identifying marks than this woman, therefore she must represent a very important factor. Here are the clues: First, we are told that this woman is a "prostitute." She is a harlot, or, to put it bluntly, a whore. The use of a sexual symbol indicates that physical
wrongdoing, which is bad in itself in the sight of God, is a picture of an even greater evil, that is, worship of God gone wrong! It pictures unfaithfulness to God by someone who claims to honor him. A harlot is one who offers sexual satisfaction, as a wife would, but does not otherwise fulfill that role. This clue points to some organization or group that claims to worship God but is actually unfaithful to him. The second clue given is that this woman has universal influence. She is described as "the great prostitute, who sits on many waters." We do not have to guess what that means for in Verse 15 of this same chapter John says,
Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages." (Revelation 17:15 NIV)
Many peoples all over the earth are affected by the teachings of this harlot organization. In Verses 1 and 2 we read, "With her the kings of the earth committed adultery." She will have power over the leaders of nations -- "the kings of the earth" -- and she makes the common people "intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries." In other words, they are misled by the heady wine of religious illusion which results from the teaching of the woman. The third clue is that she is seated upon the beast. That pictures a relationship between them. It is clear that the woman dominates the beast for a period of time. She exercises tremendous power over the political leader of these last days, but eventually Verses 16 and 17 will be fulfilled.
"The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled." (Revelation 17:15-17 NIV)
All through these sections, we see constant reminders that God is in overall control. He allows things to happen, and they will actually accomplish his ultimate purposes. The fourth clue is that the woman is obviously very wealthy and expensively adorned. She was "dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls." These are symbols, figures of divine and spiritual truths, but which are only outwardly held. They are not actually possessed, but outwardly adorn, thus making the woman very attractive to many people. She also holds, we are told as the fifth clue, "a golden cup in her hand." Outwardly it is of gold, which is a symbol of divine activity -- it looks to be divinely given -- but it is filled with false religious concepts, "with abominable things," with spiritual adulteries, filthiness of teaching. As many commentators point out, this is intended to be a contrast with the communion cup of the New Testament, "the cup of the Lord," which is associated with the truth of God. This is a counterfeit of the cup of the Lord. It looks like it is the true thing but is not.
Then the sixth clue is given: she is called "Mystery, Babylon the Great." The word "Mystery" indicates there is something deeper here than appears on the surface. Babylon, of course, was the great city on the Euphrates River, the empire which dominated the ancient world. We see the founding of this city in the book of Genesis. It was begun as the city of Babel, founded by Nimrod, the great hunter of human souls. It became a source of idolatry for all of the ancient world. But this is not a reference to Babylon by the Euphrates because the title "Mystery" indicates something deeper. It is that which is spiritually identified with Babylon, i.e., with idolatry or spiritual adultery. Similarly, in Verse 8 of Chapter 11 we were told that Jerusalem is called "Sodom" and "Egypt" because it had become a source of wrongful teaching and corrupt practice.
The seventh clue is that she is called "The mother of prostitutes." Other religious organizations and groups follow the same errors and fall into the same idolatries and false religious teachings. She spreads wide the seeds of false doctrine throughout the world, and many groups will follow her. Then, the eighth clue is that she is a persecutor of the true believers in Christ: "I saw the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus." She cannot tolerate any opposition that reveals the falsehood she is perpetrating. She opposes with violence and death all those who preach the truth contrary to the lie she promulgates. Two other clues appear elsewhere in this chapter which we will consider along with these to be sure we have properly identified this woman. One is found in Verse 9, and the other in Verse 18, the last verse of the chapter. These add further confirmation to the woman's identity. Verse 9:
"This calls for a mind with wisdom [i.e. it is not something easily identifiable. One must think about it.]. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits." (Revelation 17:9 NIV)
More than dozen ancient writers describe Rome as the city built on seven hills. This was familiar terminology in the 1st century. And that identification is further confirmed by what John is told in Verse 18:
"The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth." (Revelation 17:18 NIV)
In John's day that could only be one city -- Rome. "The great city," which was the capital of the Roman Empire that dominated the whole known world of that day, literally ruled over the kings of the earth. But at that time the church in Rome was not a counterfeit church; it was a genuine Christian assembly. At the end of the 1st century when John is writing this, it was the church of the catacombs. It was persecuted and hounded and had to hide in the caves of the earth underneath the city. That probably explains the last part of Verse 6 where John tells us that when he saw the woman seated upon the beast, "I was greatly astonished." Why? Doubtless it is a great surprise to him to see that the church he knew in Rome would become a great harlot church, dominating the kings of the earth.
When we put all these clues together it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that this pictures the Roman Catholic Church. It is a church that arises during the present church age, but comes to its greatest power in the last seven years of this age, after the true church has been raptured. When we say that, we must remember that we are not talking about Roman Catholic people. We think of the church as people, but the Roman church itself teaches that the church is the clergy -- the papacy and the hierarchy -- not the people. It is interesting that Catholic scholars themselves admit as they study this section of Revelation that it is Rome which is described here, but they say it is pagan Rome. The only problem with that is that John would not have been a bit surprised that pagan Rome persecuted the saints of God. He expected that for this was common by his time. But to see the church itself persecuting the saints of God is what astonished him so.
It would be simplistic to say this describes the Roman Catholic Church and that church alone. We must remember, first of all, that there are many true saints within the Roman Catholic Church. There have been godly popes, bishops, priests and nuns through the centuries. I have met some of them; so, perhaps, have you. What we need to understand is that it is the teaching of the Roman church that is described here -- the extra-biblical teachings from pagan sources that have been brought in under the name of Christendom. They involve a seeking of earthly power or status gained by religious authority. That is Babylonianism. That is what first arose in the city by the Euphrates -- a search for earthly power and glory by religious means. The Tower of Babel was built unto heaven, and the people said, "We will make a name for ourselves." That is Babylonianism.
There are many religious groups and churches today that are afflicted by this taint. Not only the Roman Catholic Church, but also Orthodox churches, Anglican churches, Eastern churches, Western churches, Protestant churches, Independent churches, Charismatic churches, and Evangelical churches -- many of them reflect this same error. Our good friend, Eugene Peterson, who has such a gift for putting things powerfully, says it well:
Whoredom is sex connected with money. Worship under the aspect of the Great Whore is the commercialization of our great need and deep desire for meaning, love and salvation. The promise of success, ecstasy and meaning that we can get for a price is Whore-worship. It is the diabolical inversion of "You are bought with a price," to, "I can get it for you wholesale."
Verses 8 through 14 are given to an interpretation of the beast. I will not read them because we already covered this in Chapter 13. There we saw that it describes a revived form of the Roman Empire: ten European nations who give their power to one man to rule. The startling fact that I promised you when we came to this section is that the Imperial form, the emperors or Caesars of Rome, did not pass away until 1917 (the year of my birth) when the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar were both overthrown in one year. Each of these titles are ways of spelling Caesar: Kaiser is the German form; Czar is the Russian. So the imperial form, which is described in this section as the sixth form of the beast, passed away only as late as 1917. A seventh would appear for only a short time, John is told, and then the eighth, which is the beast, will come into being. The end of that eighth form is described in verses 13-14:
"They have one purpose [i.e., the ten kingdoms, the ten nations] and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings -- and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers." (Revelation 17:13-14 NIV)
When the Lamb appears, the church will be with him. Several Scriptures predict that when Jesus appears in power and great glory, the church is already with him, for, as it says here, accompanying him will be "his called, chosen and faithful followers." That is a brief anticipation of what we come to in Chapter 19, which we will look at next week. Chapter 18 now adds further details of the judgment of the great whore. It is self-explanatory, needing little interpretation. I shall merely read it and make a few comments as we go along: First, a great angel announces the fall of Babylon and gives reasons for it:
After this [John says] I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries." (Revelation 18:1-3 NIV)
Three reasons are given for the overthrow of the great harlot. She is demonic: "She has become the haunt of every evil spirit and every unclean and detestable bird." That is doubtless a reference to our Lord's parable of the mustard seed, found in Matthew 13. There he speaks of this tiny seed, which is the church planted in the world, which grows to be a great tree and becomes a nesting place for evil birds. It pictures demonic ideas and teachings finding a place in the church. Also Mystery Babylon is said to be, as we have seen before, spiritually unfaithful (kings commit adultery with her) and materially seductive (merchants grow rich from her excessive luxuries), and for these reasons she is overthrown. Then, in Verses 4-5, an appeal is made to the true saints that are still within this false church in the last days to come out of her.
Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes." (Revelation 18:4-5 NIV)
This great religious system still retains much saving truth. One can become a true believer in the church though much error is found as well. There is enough truth there that, by the Spirit of God, someone can become saved, and some do even in that day. But now the appeal is made to come out of her, and further reasons are given for judgment:
"Give back to her as she has given;pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup." (Revelation 18:6 NIV)
This is simply the law of retribution. What you do to others will come back to you. "What goes around comes around." In this case it is doubled because of the length of time that error is promulgated. Another reason is given in Verses 7 and 8:
"Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, 'I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.' Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her." (Revelation 18:7-8 NIV)
The second reason for judgment is her arrogant, self-indulgent pride. She lavishes luxuries upon herself and takes pride in the fact that she is a queen; she does not need help from anyone. There is something we must notice carefully here. We saw in Chapter 17 that the beast and the false prophet will turn against her and destroy her with fire. But beyond that hatred and destruction of the beast there seems to be a further judgment from God which is described in Verses 9-10:
"When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: 'Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!'" (Revelation 18:9-10 NIV)
There seems to be a sudden judgment from God at the end here. In Chapter 16, this was announced as coming at the time of the great earthquake described there. The kings who destroyed her are now terrified at a sudden and total end that comes to this great city. They are mourning, of course, as the account goes on to tells us, not for the Whore but for their own loss.
"The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more -- cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep, horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men." (Revelation 18:11-13 NIV)
Their business is ruined by the destruction of this city. False religion has been good for business, but now it is all gone. It included costly ornaments, fine clothes, ornate building materials, expensive perfumes, incense, fine foods, expensive vehicles, and even slaves -- fine young men and women who are bound to serve without pay and who give up every human right and liberty out of mistaken devotion to a false system. Verses 14-19 continues the lament of the peoples of earth:
"They will say, 'The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.' The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: 'Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!'_"Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, 'Was there ever a city like this great city?' They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: 'Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!'" (Revelation 18:14-19 NIV)
The merchants and seamen seem terrified and amazed at this sudden judgment that comes upon this great city. Notice how many times "one hour" is mentioned. This destruction is very rapid. It seems to be a judgment by fire from God. It suggests enormous volcanic activity. Geologists have long known that almost all of southern Italy, from Rome down through the city of Naples, is volcanic in nature. Vesuvius, the great volcano behind Naples, has destroyed parts of that city in times past. So there may well be a tremendous volcanic destruction of Rome in the final days of Daniel's 70th week. Now, in contrast to the reaction on earth, heaven rejoices. Verse 20:
"'Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.'" (Revelation 18:20 NIV)
Note that the cruel treatment by Mystery Babylon goes back to the time of the apostles. Religious error has come in that has created opposition to the truth, and unleashed attack upon prophets and apostles and the saints of God.
Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: "With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world's great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth." (Revelation 18:21-24 NIV)
We do not need to add anything to the solemnity of that final word. But we must not stop there. There are five more verses from Chapter 19 that belong with this:
After this [John says] I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants."
And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!"
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!" (Revelation 19:1-5 NIV)
This is the first time the word "Hallelujah" appears in Revelation. There is a great Hallelujah Chorus in heaven that rejoices over the final removal of this terribly destructive church that insinuates error into the midst of truth and, in the name of God, leads people astray. Verse 3 confirms that the final judgment of Babylon is from God for it says, "The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever." That is not an earthly scene; it is eternity that is in view.
Let us now leave that solemn and sobering picture. The quarrel God has with Babylonianism wherever it may be found, not only in the Roman church but in many churches which fall prey to this error, is that "she glorifies herself" in the name of God. She teaches in the name of Christ, mingling truth with error. Saints are called to separate themselves from that root error: the hunger for earthly glory and position obtained by religious devotion. Whenever a church seeks influence by impressing people with outward splendor you have the seeds of Babylonianism present. Whenever individual Christians try to appear pious and devout while the heart runs after material gain or status, there is the silken allurement of Babylon. In the New Testament the occasion where this begins in the church is the judgment that came upon Ananias and Sapphira. That couple seemed to be godly and devout, but what they were after was not the glory of God but self-glory. They were using an apparent act of devotion on their part in selling their land and giving only a part of the proceeds to the apostles to gain a false status in the midst of the people.
We must ask ourselves, "Why does God show us all this?" All through Revelation we are seeing the end of things that are present with us now. We are shown this because, if we see how things will end we can turn away from them now. That is the reason this book is sent to the seven churches of Asia -- that they might learn from the judgments God will bring on Babylon what is wrong with the practices they see around them throughout the church age.
Father, how grateful we are for the wisdom of your Word. We remember that wisdom invites us to come and drink of her wine and we will be blessed, strengthened and helped. We pray therefore that we may choose not to drink from the false wine of religious error but to come and drink from the fountain of truth itself, the word of the living God, and be drawn close to the One who loves us and gave himself for us that we may be changed, sanctified, and made whole. In the name of Jesus we ask it. Amen.
Notes on Chapters 17-18 from John Walvoord:
THE DESTRUCTION OF ECCLESIASTICAL BABYLON
THE INVITATION TO VIEW. THE JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT HARLOT (17:1-2) CHAPTERS 17 and 18 of Revelation are dedicated to the description of the final destruction of Babylon in both its ecclesiastical and political forms. It is evident from these chapters that the events described therein, especially those in chapter 17, precede by some considerable period the events represented in the seven vials. In fact, it is probable that the events of chapter 17 occur at the beginning of the great tribulation. The revelation is given to John, however, subsequent to the revelation of the vials. It must be remembered that from John's point of view all of the events of the book of Revelation were future, and it pleased God to reveal various aspects of future events in other than their chronological order. Any interpretation of Revelation 17 and 18 is difficult because expositors have not agreed as to the details of their interpretations. In general, however, it is helpful to consider chapter 17 as dealing with Babylon as an ecclesiastical or spiritual entity and chapter 18 as dealing with Babylon as a political entity. It is also helpful in chapter 17 to distinguish the vision in verses 1 through 6 from the interpretation in verses 7 through 18.
John is shown the vision of the destruction of Babylon, as representing false religion, by one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and is invited to behold the judgment of a woman, the symbol of Babylon, described as the great whore (Gr., porne, usually translated "harlot"), who is seen sitting on many waters. The interpretation of "waters" is that these are the many nations ruled by Babylon. The woman is further described as having committed fornication (Gr., porneuo, verb form of porne). The inhabitants of the earth are declared to have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. The picture of the woman as utterly evil signifies spiritual adultery, portraying those who outwardly and religiously seem to be joined to the true God but who are untrue to this relationship. The symbolism of spiritual adultery is not ordinarily used of heathen nations who know not God, but always Of people who outwardly carry the name of God while actually worshiping and Serving other gods. The concept of spiritual adultery is frequently used in describing the apostasy of Israel (cf. Ezek. 16 and 23; all of Hosea). Characteristically, the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the husband of Israel (cf. Isa. 54:1-8; Jer. 3:14; 31:32). In the New Testament the church is viewed as a virgin destined to be joined to her husband in the future (II Cor. 11:2), but she is warned against spiritual adultery (James 4:4).
The alliance of the apostate church with the political powers of the world during this future period of time not only debauches the true spiritual character of the church and compromises her testimony in every way but has the devastating effect of inducing religious drunkenness on the part of the inhabitants of the earth. False religion is always the worst enemy of true religion, and the moral wickedness involved in the union of the church with the world imposes a stupefying drunkenness as far as spiritual things are concerned. The hardest to win to Christ and the most difficult to instruct in spiritual truth are those who have previously embraced false religion with its outward show of a worship of God. The concept here presented, enlarging on the previous revelation in 14:8, makes plain that the apostate church has eagerly sought and solicited the adulterous relation with the world political powers and therefore is primarily to be blamed.
THE VISION OF THE WOMAN ON THE BEAST (17:3-4) Accepting the invitation of the angel, John is carried away in the spirit, that is, in a spirit of ecstasy, into a place described as the wilderness or literally "wilderness" (no article in the original). From this vantage point John is able to see the woman previously introduced as the great harlot. She is seen seated on a scarlet-colored beast which is full of the names of blasphemy and which has seven heads and ten horns. The scarlet beast is the same one described in 13:1 where the beast is the revived Roman Empire in its character as the center of the world government of Gentile power in that day. The fact that the woman is riding the beast and is not the beast itself signifies that she represents ecclesiastical power as distinct from the beast which is the political power. Her position, that of riding the beast, indicates on the one hand that she is supported by the political power of the beast, and on the other that she is in a dominant role and at least outwardly controls and directs the beast.
The situation here described is apparently prior in time to that described in Revelation 13, where the beast has already assumed all power and has demanded that the world should worship its ruler as God. The situation, therefore, seemingly is in the first half of Daniel's seventieth week before the time of the great tribulation which is the second half. While such a relationship has many parallels in the past history of the Roman church in relation to political power, the inference is that this is a future situation which will take place in the end time. The significance of the seven heads and the ten horns is revealed subsequently in this chapter, the seven heads apparently referring to forms of government which are successive, and the ten horns to kings who reign simultaneously in the end time. The fact that the woman, representing the apostate church, is in such close association with the beast, which is guilty of utter blasphemy, indicates the depth to which apostasy will ultimately descend. The only form of a world church recognized in the Bible is this apostate world church destined to come into power after the true church has been raptured.
The description of the woman as arrayed in purple and scarlet and decked with gold, precious stones, and pearls is all too familiar to one acquainted with the trappings of ecclesiastical pomp today and especially of high officials in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. Purple and scarlet, symbolically so rich in their meaning when connected with true spiritual values, are here prostituted to this false religious system and designed to glorify it with religious garb in contrast to the simplicity of pious adornment (cf. I Tim. 2:9-10). Alford states, "I do not hesitate therefore. . . to maintain that interpretation which regards papal and not pagan Rome as pointed out by the harlot of this vision."' The most striking aspect of her presentation, however, is that she has a golden cup in her hand described as "full of abomination and filthiness of her fornication." The Word of God does not spare words in describing the utter filthiness of this adulterous relationship in the sight of God. Few crimes in Scripture are spoken of in more unsparing terms than the crime of spiritual adultery of which this woman is the epitome. As alliance with the world and showy pomp increase, so spiritual truth and purity decline.
THE NAME OF THE WOMAN (17:5) The word mystery is a descriptive reference to the title, not a part of the title itself as implied by the capitalization in the Authorized Version. This can be seen by com. paring the name given to the woman in 16:19 and 18:2. It has been commonly held that the title "Babylon the Great" assigned to this woman is not a reference to Babylon as a city or to Babylonia as a nation but a religious designation, namely, that the woman corresponds religiously to what Babylon was religiously. The meaning is made clear by her description as "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." It has been noted by many writers that the iniquitous and pagan rites of Babylon crept into the early church and were largely responsible for the corruptions incorporated in Roman Catholicism from which Protestantism separated itself in the Middle Ages.
The subject of Babylon in the Scripture is one of the prominent themes of the Bible beginning in Genesis 10, where the city of Babel is first mentioned, with continued references throughout the Scriptures climaxing here in the book of Revelation. From these various passages, it becomes clear that Babylon in Scripture is the name for a great system of religious error. Babylon is actually a counterfeit Or pseudo religion which plagued Israel in the Old Testament as well as the church in the New Testament, and which, subsequent to apostolic days, has had a tremendous influence in moving the church from biblical simplicity to apostate confusion. In keeping with the satanic principle of offering a poor substitute for Cod's perfect plan, Babylon is the Source of counterfeit religion sometimes in the form of pseudo Christianity, sometimes in the form of pagan religion. Its most confusing form, however, is found in Romanism.
In Genesis 10 and 11 it is recorded that Nimrod was the founder of Babel, later called Babylon. In chapter 11 is recorded the rebellion of men against God in attempting to make a city and a tower that would reach to heaven. The history of the ancient world reveals that it was a common practice to build huge mounds (ziggurats) of sun-dried bricks of which the most ancient illustration has been discovered at Erech, a place mentioned in Genesis 10: 10 and dated more than 3,000 years before Christ. The tower of Babel was apparently a forerunner of later towers dedicated to various heathen deities. There was no stone with which to build, and therefore bricks were used with mortar binding them together. The tower of Genesis 11 was a monument to human pride and an express act of rebellion against the true God.
In judging this act God confounded the language of the people and gave the city the name of "Babel," meaning "confusion" (cf. Gen. 11:9). The city, later named Babylon, had a long history. It became prominent under Hammurabi (1728-1686 B.C.) who was the guiding light to the empire during the Old Babylonian period. Babylon's greatest glory was achieved under Nebuchadnezzar who lived during the Neo-Babylonian period about 600 years before Christ. Daniel the prophet wrote his book at that time. The story of the city and empire has been deciphered from thousands of cuneiform tablets unearthed by archaeologists.
Of primary importance in the study of Babylon is its relation to religion as unfolded in Revelation 17. In addition to materials given in the Bible itself, ancient accounts indicate that the wife of Nimrod, who founded the city of Babylon, became the head of the so-called Babylonian mysteries which consisted of secret religious rites which were developed as a part of the worship of idols in Babylon. She was known by the name of Semiramis and was a high priestess of the idol worship. According to extra biblical records which have been preserved, Semiramis gave birth to a son who she claimed was conceived miraculously. This son, given the name of Tammuz, was considered a savior of his people and was, in effect, a false messiah, purported to be the fulfillment of the promise given to Eve. The legend of the mother and child was incorporated into the religious rites and is repeated in various pagan religions. Idols picturing the mother as the queen of heaven with the babe in her arms are found throughout the ancient world, and countless religious rites were introduced supposedly promising cleansing from sin. Though the rites which were observed in the Babylonian false religion differed greatly in various localities, there usually was a priestly order which furthered the worship of the mother and child, practiced the sprinkling of holy water, and established an order of virgins dedicated to religious prostitution. Tammuz, the son, was said to have been killed by a wild beast and afterward brought back to life, obviously a satanic anticipation of the resurrection of Christ.
In the Scriptures themselves, though many of these facts are not mentioned, there are a number of allusions to the conflict of the true faith with this pseudo religion. Ezekiel protests against the ceremony of weeping for Tammuz in Ezekiel 8: 14. Jeremiah mentions the heathen practices of making cakes for the queen of heaven (Jer. 7:18) and offering incense to the queen of heaven (Jer. 44:17-19, 25). The worship of Baal, characteristic of pagan religion in Canaan, was another form of this same mystery religion originating in Babylon. Baal is considered identical to Tammuz. The doctrines of the mystery religions of Babylon seem to have permeated the ancient world, giving rise to countless mystery religions, each with its cult and individual beliefs offering a counterfeit religion and a counterfeit god in opposition to the true God revealed in the Scriptures. Babylon as an evil woman is portrayed in the prophecy of Zechariah 5:1-11 where the woman of verse 7 is described as personifying wickedness in verse 8.
The Babylonian cult eventually made its way to other cities including Pergamos, the site of one of the seven churches of Asia. The chief priests of the Babylonian cult wore crowns in the form of the head of a fish, in recognition of Dagon the fish god, with the title "Keeper of the Bridge,. that is, the "bridge" between man and Satan, imprinted on the crowns. The Roman equivalent of the title, Pontifex Maximus. was used by the Caesars and later Roman emperors, and was also adopted as the title for the bishop of Rome. In the early centuries of the church in Rome, incredible confusion arose; and attempts were made to combine some of the features of the mystery religion of Babylon with the Christian faith, a confusion which has continued down to the present day. In this chapter in Revelation, the last stage of counterfeit religion is revealed as it will be in existence in the period before the return of the Lord to earth. It is a sad commentary on contemporary Christendom that it shows an overweening desire to return to Rome in spite of Rome's evident apostasy from true biblical Christianity. In fact, modern liberalism has far outdone Rome in its departure from the theology of the early church, thus has little to lose by a return to Romanism. Apostasy, which is seen in its latent form today, will however in its ultimate form in this future super church which will apparently engulf all Christendom in the period after the rapture of the church.
THE WOMAN DRUNKEN WITH THE BLOOD OF MARTYRS (17:6-7) The woman is pictured not only as the source of all evil in apostate Christendom but also as the one who is actively engaged in the persecution of the true saints. Her wickedness in this regard is demonstrated by the description that she is drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. Here the primary reference is not to ancient Babylon but to Babylon perpetuated in apostate Christendom especially in its future form. The history of the church has demonstrated that apostate Christendom is unsparing in its persecution of those who attempt to maintain a true faith in Jesus Christ. What has been true in the past will be brought to its ultimate in this future time when the martyrs will be beyond number from every kindred, tongue, and nation. The blood shed by the apostate church is exceeded only by that of the martyrs who refuse to worship the beast in the great tribulation. As John contemplates the woman, he records, "I wondered with great admiration;" or more literally, "I wondered with great wonder" (the verb in the Greek, thaumazo, has the same root as the noun thauma, both meaning "to regard with wonder or astonishment").
The angel, perceiving that John wonders at what he sees, states that he will declare the mystery of the woman and of the beast. He does so, however, by describing the beast first in detail, then the woman and subsequent action relating to her. Few passages in Revelation have been the subject of more dispute among scholars who have attempted to interpret them than this explanation of the angel. Great care, therefore, must be exercised in determining precisely the component parts of the divine revelation herein given.
THE ORIGIN OF THE BEAST (17:8) The angel first gives a detailed description of the beast in his general character. The beast is explained chronologically as that which was, is not, and is about to ascend from the abyss and go into perdition. "The bottomless pit" (Gr., abyssos, meaning "bottomless;" or "the abyss") is the home of Satan and demons and indicates that the power of the political empire is satanic in its origin as is plainly stated in 13:4. The word perdition (Gr., apoleia) means "destruction" or "utter destruction," referring to eternal damnation. The power of the political empire in the last days is going to cause wonder as indicated in the questions in 13:4: "Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him, The overwhelming satanic power of the final political empire of the world will be most convincing to great masses of mankind.
There is a confusing similarity between the descriptions afforded Satan who was apparently described as the king over the demons in the abyss (9:11), "the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit" (11:7), the beast whose "deadly wound was healed" (13:3), and the beast of 17:8. The solution to this intricate problem is that there is an identification to some extent of Satan with the future world ruler and identification of the world ruler with his world government. Each of the three entities is described as a beast. Only Satan himself actually comes from the abyss. The world government which he promotes is entirely satanic in its power and to this extent is identified with Satan. It is the beast as the world government which is revived. The man who is the world ruler, however, has power and great authority given to him by Satan. The fact that Satan and the world ruler are referred to in such similar terms indicates their close relationship one to the other.
While many have attempted to demonstrate from this verse that the final world ruler is some resurrected being such as Judas Iscariot, 'Nero,' or one of the more recent world rulers, it would seem preferable to regard the "eighth" beast as the political power of the world government rather than its human ruler. What is revived is imperial government, not an imperial ruler (cf. Rev. 13:3). That which seemingly went out of existence in history never to be revived is thus miraculously resuscitated at the end of the age.
THE SEVEN HEADS OF THE BEAST (17:9-11) The explanation of the beast introduced by the unusual phrase "here is the mind which hath wisdom" anticipates the difficulty and complexity of the revelation to follow. The reader is warned that spiritual wisdom is required to understand that which is unfolded. The first key to the revelation is in the statement 'The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth." Many expositors refer this to Rome. Seven hills formed the nucleus of the ancient city on the left bank of the Tiber. These hills received the names of Palatine, Aventine, Caelian, Esquiline, Viminal, Quirinal, and Capitoline. As Rome grew, however, the hill Janiculum on the other side of the river Tiber was often included among the seven, as Alford does, omitting the Capitoline. Later the hill Pincian to the north of the ancient city was also included in the hills of Rome as the city developed and moved north. This passage in Revelation is taken, therefore, to indicate that the seat of the ecclesiastical power will be in Rome geographically rather than in Babylon. Throughout its history Rome has been described as the city of seven hills as indicated in coins which refer to it in this way and in countless allusions in Roman literature. Victorinus, one of the first to write a commentary on the book of Revelation, identified the seven mountains as the city of Rome.
The seven heads of the beast, however, are said to be symbolic of seven kings described in verse 10. Five of these are said to have fallen, one is in contemporary existence, that is, in John's lifetime, the seventh is yet to come and will be followed by another described as the eighth, which is the beast itself. In the Greek there is no word for "there," thus translated literally, the phrase is "and are seven kings." The seven heads are best explained as referring to seven kings who represent seven successive forms of the kingdom. Because the seven heads are identified with kings in verse 10, some prefer to divorce the meaning from the city of Rome entirely and center the ultimate fulfillment in a rebuilt Babylon on the site of ancient Babylon
The final form of world government, symbolized by the eighth beast itself, is the world empire of the great tribulation time. The revived Roman Empire which will be in sway immediately after the rapture of the church is apparently indicated by the seventh head, while the beast, described in verse 11 as the eighth, is the world empire, which is destroyed by Jesus Christ at His second coming. In summation, what is described in verses 8 through 11 is the final form of Gentile world power in alliance with apostate religion symbolized by the harlot.
THE TEN HORNS OF THE BEAST (17:12-14) Further detail is given concerning the final stage of the world empire as having a nucleus of ten kings apparently joined in a confederacy represented by the ten horns. These kings In contrast 'to the seven heads of the beast are kings who rule not in succession but simultaneously at the end time. By comparison with chapter 13, It will be seen that this is the form of the Roman Empire just preceding the world empire. The ten horns' rule as kings is subject to that of the beast Itself, and their sphere of power is brief. They are a phase of the transmission of power from the various kingdoms to that of the beast itself. This is shown by verse 13 where it is said that these have one mind and shall give their power and strength to the beast. They are further described as making war with the Lamb, a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, and their ultimate subjugation under the Lamb Is destined to be fulfilled at the second coming. A brief anticipation of this triumph is indicated in verse 14 where the Lamb is prophesied to overcome them as Lord of lords and King of kings. Those on the side of the Lamb are called, chosen and faithful.
THE EXPLANATION OF THE WATERS (17:15) In the first verse of the chapter the harlot is seen sitting upon many waters. Here the description and the symbolic meaning of the waters are given as referring to people, multitudes, nations, and tongues. Generally speaking, when water is mentioned in Revelation, it should be taken literally. The fact that a symbolic meaning is specifically assigned to it here indicates that this is the exception to the usual rule. The situation described here is one of great political power on the part of the beast but a sharing of rule with the woman who controls the multitudes of the world.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE WOMAN (17:16-18) Verse 16 reveals a most remarkable development in the vision which is also the climax and the purpose. of the preceding description. Here the ten horns, previously seen as ten kings destroy the woman riding the beast in a most graphic action. The best reading indicates that both the ten horns and the beast combine in this effort. The expression "upon the beast" is most accurately translated according to the better manuscripts "and the beast." The action of this verse is cast in the future tense which must be understood as future from John's point of view. The destruction of the harlot reduces all her pomp and gorgeous robes to naught. She is stripped of them, her flesh is eaten, and she is burned with fire. These graphic words clearly picture the downfall of the apostate world church of the future.
By comparison with other scriptures, the time of the event may be placed approximately at the midpoint of the seven years of Daniel's seventieth week, which leads up to and climaxes in the second coming of Christ. During the first half of the seven years, apostate Christendom Bowers and establishes its power over all the world. During this period there is a measure of religious freedom as indicated by the fact that the Jews are allowed to worship and renew their sacrifices (Dan. 9:27). There may be widespread preaching of the gospel in this same period, as it would hardly seem possible to extend religious freedom to the Jews without doing the same for all. However, the triumph of the ecumenical movement is simultaneous with this final effort. All religions of the world, apart from the true faith in Christ, gather in one great world church. Only those who are truly saved, whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life and who know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. seem to escape this movement toward unification. The climax of this series of events is seen in the early portion of chapter 17 where the woman in all her pomp and wickedness is riding the beast.
However, with the beginning of the second half of the week, the ruler of the revived Roman Empire, who is the political head of the world empire and is himself designated also as "the beast; is able to proclaim himself dictator of the whole world. In this capacity he no longer needs the help and power of the church. He therefore destroys the world church and substitutes for this ecclesiastical apostasy the final form of wickedness in the area of religion, the worship of himself. According to 13:8, all men shall worship the beast except true believers in Christ. Many and a parallel revelation in Daniel 11:36-39 where the willful king likewise puts aside all other deities in favor of the worship of himself.
The divine judgment inflicted upon apostate Christendom follows a pattern which can be observed in other judgments upon wicked nations and ungodly rulers. Ancient Babylon was used to bring affliction upon the people of Israel, as were also the governments of Assyria and Egypt. But in due time the same nations who inflicted divine judgment were them. selves the objects of God's wrath. The principle involved is plainly stated in verse 17. Their action, though inspired by a blasphemous attempt to institute a world religion utterly contrary to divine revelation, nevertheless fulfills God's will that the kingdoms of the world should come under the domain of the beast in fulfillment of prophecy until the end of the age, indicated in the phrase "until the words of God shall be fulfilled." Thus the plan of the ages unfolds majestically, and Scripture indicates that God sovereignly permits the increment of wickedness until the cup of iniquity overflows.
At the close of the chapter, the woman is again identified with the great city which reigned over the kings of the earth, referring to the ecclesiastical power and control of the political which characterized portions of church history in the past and will have its climax in this future period. The "great city" is obviously a reference to Babylon in its religious rather than its historical significance. The influence of Babylon on Roman Christianity was partly responsible for the assumption by Rome of political power, namely, the authority of the church over the state. Just as ancient Babylon conquered kings in a political way, so its religious counterpart would dominate political states during the period of Roman papal power.
The interpretation that this is a reference to pagan political Rome as advanced by the historical school of interpretation or that it refers to a future literal city of Babylon is wrong. The city here according to verse 5 is a mystery, not a literal city. The entire context of chapter 17 supports this interpretation, distinguishing as it does between the city identified with the woman and the political power referred to as the beast and the ten horns.
After the disposal of Babylon in its religious form by its destruction at the hands of the beast, the prophetic revelation in chapter 18 then deals with Babylon as a political force also destined for destruction at a later date.
THE FALL OF BABYLON ANNOUNCED (18:1-3) The opening phrase of chapter 18, "after these things," marks a later revelation than that given in chapter 17. John declares, "I saw another angel come down from heaven." The phrase "another angel" makes clear that the angel of chapter 18 is a different angel from that of 17:1. Though the angel is described as "having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory," it is evident that this is a literal angel and not a theophany, nor Christ in the form of an angel. The term "another" (Gr., allon) makes clear that this angel is the same in kind as the angel of 17:1. And the facts that the angel has great power and that the earth is lighted with the glory of the angel lead to the conclusion that the angel is delegated to do a great work on behalf of God. The announcement by the angel given in verses 2 and 3 declares that Babylon the great is fallen. The repetition of the verb "is fallen," found in the aorist tense, indicates a sudden event viewed as completed, though the context would indicate a future event. Seiss believes that the repetition of the phrase "is fallen" is intended to describe
two separate parts or stages of the fall, answering to the two aspects in which Babylon is contemplated, referring first to Babylon in mystery, as a system or spirit of false worship, and second to Babylon as a city, in which this system or spirit is finally embodied.
The announcement of chapter 18 coming so closely after the destruction of the harlot in chapter 17 has, however, raised a question as to whether the two are one and the same event.
There are a number of reasons for believing that chapter 18 is a subsequent event, though described in similar terms. The woman who is destroyed in chapter 17 is made desolate, naked, and burned with fire by the beast with the ten horns. From this it may be concluded that the destruction of the harlot in chapter 17 is the fall of Babylon in its ecclesiastical or religious sense and that it probably occurs when the beast assumes the role of God at the beginning of the great tribulation. The world church is destroyed in favor of a world religion honoring the political dictator, the beast out of the sea of chapter 13.
In chapter 18, the context seems to indicate that Babylon here is viewed in its political and economic character rather than in its religious aspect. The term "Babylon" in Scripture is more than a reference to the false religious system which stemmed from the false religion of ancient Babylon. Out of ancient Babylon also came the political power represented in Nebuchadnezzar and fulfilled in the first world empire. In some sense this is continued in the commercial system which came from both the religious and the political Babylons. It seems that chapter 17 deals with the religious aspect and chapter 18 with the political and economic aspects of Babylon.
According to verse 9 the kings of the earth as well as the merchants will mourn the passing of the Babylon of chapter 18. There is apparently no mourning connected with the destruction of the woman in chapter 17. The destruction of Babylon in chapter 18 should be compared with the preceding announcement in 16:19 where the great city is divided and the cities of the Gentiles fall. This event comes late in the great tribulation, just prior to the second coming of Christ, in contrast to the destruction of the harlot of chapter 17 which seems to precede the great tribulation and paves the way for the worship of the beast (13:8).
The downfall of the city of Babylon in 18:2 is followed by its becoming the habitation of demons, the "hold" or "prison" of every evil spirit, and the "cage," the same word in the Greek as "hold" (phylake), of every unclean and hateful bird. The threefold description of the inhabitants of fallen Babylon is a reference to fallen angels in their various characteristics as demons and evil spirits, symbolized by the bird (cf. "birds," Isa. 34:11-15; Matt. 13:32). This abandonment of destroyed Babylon to demons is a divine judgment stemming from the utter wickedness of its inhabitants described in verse 3. Babylon in her political character has had evil relationships with "all nations" described as "fornication: In this, they have been led by the rulers, "the kings of the earth: The resulting evil association has made the merchants of the earth rich. Just as the church had grown rich in proportion as it had been wicked, so the nations have likewise prospered, as they have abandoned God and sought to accumulate wealth of this world. The wealth originally collected through the influence of the apostate church is taken over by the political system in the great tribulation which with universal political power is able to exploit to the full its accumulation of wealth.
A CALL TO SEPARATION FROM BABYLON (18:4-5) As John contemplates the announcement of the fall of Babylon, he hears another voice from heaven addressed to the people of God instructing them to come out of Babylon. In a similar way the people of God were urged to leave Babylon in ancient days (Jer. 51:45). Seiss explains the phrase "come out of her," citing Jeremiah 50:4-9 where the children of Israel are urged to "remove out of the midst of Babylon" (Jer. 50:8), and the command "Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul" (Jer. 51:6). Alford compares the command to come out of Babylon to the warning to Lot to leave Sodom (Gen. 19:15-22). The purpose of leaving Babylon is twofold: first, by separation from her they will not partake of her sin, and second, they will not have her plagues inflicted on them. The reference to plagues refers to the vials of chapter 16, especially the seventh vial which falls upon Babylon itself (16:17-21). This is further evidence that the event of chapter 18 is subsequent to the seventh vial and therefore in contrast to the destruction of the harlot in chapter 17.
In verse 5 the sins of Babylon are declared to reach to the heavens with the result that God remembers, that is, judges her iniquities (cf. Jer. 51:9). The fact that her sins have reached (Gr., kollao, literally "glued" or "welded together" i.e., piled one on another as bricks in a building) unto heaven is an allusion to the tower of Babel which began the wicked career of ancient Babylon (Gen. 11:5-9). Though God permits the increment of sin, its ultimate divine judgment is inescapable.
THE INDICTMENT AGAINST BABYLON (18:6-8) In keeping with the enormity of her sin, the voice from heaven now calls on God to reward Babylon even as she rewarded the people of God. The verb (Gr., apodidomi) means literally "to pay a debt" or "to give back that which is due." It is the law of retribution sometimes called lex talionis. Divine justice exacts the "eye for an eye" and the "tooth for a tooth."
The normal law of retribution, however, is here doubled in recognition of the enormity of the sin of Babylon. Accordingly the voice demands, "Double unto her double according to her works: In keeping with this principle, the cup of iniquity which Babylon filled is now to be filled twice with the measure of her judgment. There is no mercy for the utter apostasy found in Babylon in all her phases of operation. The verb (Gr., kerannymi) translated "fill" is literally "mix" or "mingle" as in the preparation of a drink. The same verb is used in 14:10 in connection with the wine of the wrath of God.
The same law of retribution is indicated in verse 7 where the standard of her judgment is compared to her luxurious living in which she was given to self-glorification. The expression lived deliciously" (Gr., estreniasen) means "to be wanton" or "to revel" and comes from a word meaning "hardheaded" or "strong: Her willful sin against God is now to be rewarded with torment and sorrow. The -torment" (Gr., basanismon) refers to trial by torture with its resultant mental anguish and grief (Gr., penthos). Her wishful thinking in which she said, "I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow" is going to be rewarded by sudden destruction from the Lord which according to verse 8 will come in one day in the form of plagues, death, mourning, and famine, resulting in her utter destruction by fire. Her vaunted strength is as nothing compared to the power of God. Like the church at Laodicea, her wealth has brought a sense of false security (3:17). Her claim to not being a widow has only the faulty foundation of her illicit love affairs with the kings of the earth (17:2). The fact that her judgment comes in one day, emphasized in the Greek by being placed first in the sentence, is reminiscent of the fall of Babylon in Daniel 5, which fell in the same hour that the finger traced its condemning words upon the wall. Before morning, the ancient power of Babylon has been destroyed. In a similar way, the rich fool of Luke 12:16-20 lost his barns and his soul in one night. When it is time for God's judgment, it descends with unwavering directness.
THE LAMENT OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH (18:9-10 The destruction of Babylon in its political and economic aspects described in the preceding verses is now the subject of a lament by the kings of the earth. These kings are a wider designation than the ten kings of 17:12,16, who participated in the destruction of the harlot. Here there is lament over the destruction of that which remained. The time is the second coming of Christ at the end of the great tribulation. The very kings who participated in the wickedness and wealth of Babylon now mourn her passing, symbolized in the burning of the capital city. The lament of the kings over Babylon is most emphatic in the Greek by the repetition of the article: literally "the city the great, Babylon the city the mighty." It was great in its extent of power and accomplishment and mighty in the strength of its rule. In spite of its greatness and strength (Gr., megale and ischyra), it nevertheless falls in one hour.
Some believe that ancient Babylon is to be rebuilt as the capital of the world empire in the great tribulation period and that Babylon in this chapter refers to ancient Babylon rather than to Rome. According to Isaiah 13:19-22, Babylon was to be completely destroyed and not inhabited. This seems also the teaching of Jeremiah 51:24-26, 61-64. It is argued that ancient Babylon as a city was not destroyed for hundreds of years after the fall of the empire and therefore these prophecies have not been literally fulfilled.
The destruction of Babylon according to Jeremiah 51:8 was to be sudden. This is confirmed by Revelation 18:17-19. As far as the physical city of Babylon was concerned, this was not true of ancient Babylon as it continued for many years after its political downfall. Further, it is pointed out that the prophecy of Isaiah 13:6, 9-11, which formed the context of Isaiah 13:19-22, indicates that the destruction of Babylon would be in the day of the Lord. Hence, it is held that Babylon will be rebuilt and then destroyed by Christ at His second coming.
Others identify Babylon as Rome, the seat of the apostate church as described by the seven mountains of 17:9 and also the political city as elsewhere described. It is possible that Rome might be the ecclesiastical capital and rebuilt Babylon the political and commercial capital. It is also conceivable that Rome might be the capital in the first half of the last seven years and Babylon in the second half--in the world empire phase. Haldeman holds that Babylon will be rebuilt. He states, "Rome will be the political, Babylon the commercial, capital of Antichrist's kingdom." On the other hand Hoste observes, "I do not think there is any necessity that Babylon should be rebuilt, for another city has, as we see in this chapter, taken her place."
Those who deny that Babylon will be rebuilt do so on the principle that the prophecy of destruction refers to ecclesiastical and political power symbolized in Babylon but not embodied in an actual city. The city of Babylon politically therefore is now destroyed historically. The power and religious character of Babylon are destroyed at the second coming. The ultimate decision depends upon the judgment of the expositor, but in many respects it is simpler to postulate a rebuilt Babylon as fulfilling literally the Old Testament prophecies as well as that embodied in this chapter.
Regardless of location, the burning of the city is a symbol of the fall of its political and economic might, and the kings of the earth marvel at the destruction of the seemingly infinite power of the capital of the world empire. The twofold lament involved in the words bewail and lament indicates to vocally lament (bewail) and to beat the breast (lament, Gr., kopsontai). Their vocal lament, "Alas, alas" (Gr., ouai) is probably better translated 'Woe, woe" because it is much more emphatic than the English "alas." The word is mournful in both its sound and meaning and is reminiscent of the hopeless wailing of those who mourn the passing of loved ones. Their mourning is also characterized by fear lest they have the same judgment which has overcome the city, and for this reason they stand afar off. How sad is the hour of judgment when it is too late for mercy.
THE LAMENT OF THE MERCHANTS OF THE EARTH (18:11-19) The economic character of the city of Babylon is indicated in the fact that the merchants also weep and mourn for her. Their grief is occasioned by the loss of their trade with the city. The rich and varied character of the merchandise is itemized in verses 12 and 13, beginning with precious stones and costly metals characteristic of wealth and luxury. Next In order are the fine fabrics used in their clothing, composed of fine linen and silk in the luxurious colors of purple and scarlet. Precious stones, versatile metals, and fine fabrics which constituted the wealth of the ancient world are here itemized as the treasure of Babylon in the hour of her destruction. The luxury of their apparel is matched by the rich furnishings of their homes including articles of fine and other precious wood, ivory, brass, iron, and marble. Thyine was a fragrant wood corresponding to cypress and was used for expensive furniture in Roman times along with other precious materials. The use of vessels made of ivory, brass, iron, and marble as well as precious wood was symbolic of the luxury and wealth of Babylon before its destruction.
In verse 13 expensive perfumes and spices are mentioned, such as cinnamon, unspecified odors (Gr., amomon, from an odiferous shrub of which an ointment was made, translated "spice" in the A.R.V.), and ointments (Gr., myron, an unguent made of an aromatic juice). Some manuscripts add "incense" between "odours" and "ointments" (Gr., thymiamata). The last luxury item to be listed is frankincense. All of these could be afforded only by the wealthy. Next is mentioned the abundance of foods, such as wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, and sheep. The word beasts (Gr., ktene), used as a general word for property in the form of animals, probably refers to cattle. Verse 13 closes with reference to the means of transportation employed by the wealthy. namely, horses and chariots, and finally, the slaves they possessed in body and soul. The combined picture is one of complete abandonment to the wealth of this world and total disregard of God who gave it.
Verse 14 tells of the sweeping removal of all these precious possessions described as "the fruits that thy soul lusted after" and "all things which were dainty and goodly." The inhabitants of Babylon addressed as "thou" are no longer able to find these things. Like the kings of the earth who stood afar off and watched the ascending smoke of the burning of Babylon, so the merchants also shall fear to go near the city. Weeping and wailing, that is, crying out loud and mourning, they also repeat their sad "alas" (Gr., ouai). All the great riches of the city, described again as fine linen, purple and scarlet, gold, precious stones, and pearls, are brought to nothing.
Those in ships, apparently standing off from shore on the sea, witness the scene and join in the mourning as they see the smoke of the city ascending. They cry saying, "What city is like unto this great city!" In expression of their grief, they cast dust on their heads and join other merchants in weeping and wailing. For the third time in the passage, the mourning cry "Ouai, ouai" is heard. Their mourning is not for the city, however, but because their wealth derived from trade in shipping is now at an end. Christ warned against coveting the wealth of this world when He said,
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt. 6:19-21).
In contrast to the transitory wealth and glory of this world, which are here consumed by a great judgment from God, are the true riches of faith, devotion, and service for God laid up in heaven beyond the destructive hands of man and protected by the righteous power of God. The destruction of Babylon also ends the nefarious control of the souls of men mentioned last in the list of commodities in verse 13. No longer can ancient Babylon control the world religiously, politically, or economically.
REJOICING IN HEAVEN OVER THE FALL OF BABYLON (18:20) In contrast to the grief overtaking worldly rulers and merchants by the destruction of Babylon, those in heaven, who are mentioned later in 19:1, are called upon to rejoice at the righteous judgment of God. The address is to "the saints and the apostles and the prophets rather than to the "holy apostles; with the article repeated each time. The expression "hath avenged" is literally "God hath judged your judgment on them; that is, "God hath inflicted your judgment on them; thus bringing to bear upon Babylon the righteous recompense for her martyrdom of the saints. It is another case where the righteous ultimately triumph as victory follows suffering.
THE UTTER DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON (18:21-24) John in his vision now ,sees a "mighty angel" (cf. 5:2; ,10:1) throw a stone like a great millstone into the sea, portraying the violent downfall of the great city. A similar instance is found in Jeremiah 51:61-64. In this passage in Jeremiah, Seraiah, a prince who accompanied Zedekiah into Babylon, is instructed after reading the book of Jeremiah to bind a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates with the words, "Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary." In the similar instance portrayed in Revelation, the millstone is cast into the sea instead of the Euphrates. The symbolism is the same. It represents the destruction of the great city, which like a stone cast into the sea will be found no more. The ultimate end of Babylon in all its forms will be accomplished by God's judgment at the end of the great tribulation. Babylon will be found "no more at all" (cf. vv. 14, 22-23). The expression occurs seven times. with minor variations.
The angel now enlarges on the cessation of activity in this great city. That which characterized its life and featured its luxurious existence, such as the voices of harpers and musicians, of pipers and trumpeters, who added to the fanfare and public display of both the religious and political Babylon, is now silent, Similarly, the fine craftsmen who produced the ultimate in luxurious goods are no longer to be found. The sound of the millstone grinding out the grain is silent. In like manner, the light of the candle is now out, the city cold and dead, and no longer do its streets ring with the voices of the bridegroom and the bride. Of the nine different features mentioned, seven are described as "the voice" (Gr: phone, literally "sound") of harpers, musicians, pipers, trumpeters, millstone ("sound" same as "voice" in Greek), bridegroom, and bride. The very silence of the city is a testimony to God's devastating judgment.
Verses 23 and 24 provide another brief summary of the extent of Babylon's sins and greatness. Her merchants were "great men of the earth." All nations were deceived by Babylon's sorceries. Here too was the martyred blood of prophets and saints. The greatness that was the secret of her rise in power and influence makes her downfall all the more impressive. Babylon is declared to be guilty of the blood of prophets and saints, reference in part to the martyrs of the great tribulation.
There is an obvious parallel in the rise and fall of Babylon
in its varied forms in Scripture. As introduced in Genesis 11:1-9,
Babylon, historically symbolized by the tower reaching to heaven,
proposed to maintain the union of the world through a common worship
and a common tongue. God defeated this purpose by confusing the
language and scattering the people. Babylon, ecclesiastically
symbolized by the woman in Revelation 17, proposes a common worship
and a common religion through uniting in a world church. This
is destroyed by the beast in Revelation 17:16 who thus fulfills
the will of God (Rev. 17:17): Babylon, politically symbolized
by the great city of Revelation 18, attempts to achieve its domination
of the world by a world common market and a world government.
These are destroyed by Christ at His second coming (Rev. 19:11-21).
The triumph of God is therefore witnessed historically in the
scattering of the people and the unfinished tower of Genesis 11
and prophetically in the destruction of the world church by the
killing of the harlot of Revelation 17 and in the destruction
of the city of Revelation 18. With the graphic description of
the fall of Babylon contained in chapter 17 and 18, the way is
cleared for the presentation of the major theme of the book of
Revelation, the second coming of Christ and the establishment
of His glorious kingdom. (The Revelation of Jesus Christ,
by John F. Walvoord, Moody Press 1966)
The European Union (EU) is already a major economic and political force in the world today. Its influence is going to increase in the future, and even overshadow the dominance of the United States. And yet, outside of the EU, most people are painfully unaware of how the EU got its start, what its goals and vision are, and where it fits into Bible prophecy.
It is important for Christians worldwide to understand the EU and possibly influence it in a positive way to counter forces that are taking it in a very unbiblical direction.
The Historical Background of the European Union
For centuries, Europe was the scene of frequent and bloody wars. In the period 1870 to 1945, France and Germany fought each other three times, with terrible loss of life. A number of European leaders became convinced that the only way to secure a lasting peace between their countries was to unite them economically and politically. The EU (earlier known as the European Economic Community) was formed after World War II in order to prevent another war in Europe, in particular in order to integrate Germany into the world community. At first, the effort was to integrate major trade markets, but gradually the vision expanded and continues to grow.
Let's look at the chronology of the EU in the making:
1946: Winston Churchill had the vision of a United States of Europe. April 18, 1951: The Treaty of Paris established the European Coal and Steel Community.
March 25, 1957: The signing of the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community (EEC), also known as the Common Market. The original members were Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, Italy, and West Germany.
1962: The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was established.
1967: The institutions of European communities were merged and from this point on, there was a single Commission and a single Council of Ministers, as well as the European Parliament.
1968: All internal tariffs within the EEC were eliminated and a common external tariff was imposed.
January 1, 1973: The six member states became nine as the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Ireland joined the EEC.
1975: Israel and the EEC signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) under which both sides undertook to phase out tariffs on each other's exports of goods.
1979: The European Monetary System came into effect, reducing exchange rate volatility between member currencies. The UK has refused consistently to join the monetary system and, until this day, maintains its own currency, while other member states use the new EU monetary unit, the euro. Candidates from each country for the EU Parliament are now chosen by direct vote of national populations, with new elections every five years. Before this, national parliaments elected the members.
1981: The nine became 10 when Greece entered the EEC.
1986: Spain and Portugal entered the EEC as members.
April 1989: The Delors Report called on the EEC to undertake a three-stage program aiming to achieve full economic and monetary union for member states. The program was adopted in June, despite fierce opposition from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
1989: There was a global earthquake with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before WWI and WWII, there were many different empires and rivaling systems across Europe, including democracies, republics, fascism, hereditary monarchies, and communism. After WWII, there were basically only two major power blocs-the United States and its western allies (NATO) and the Soviet Union with its allied states. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, was the trigger heralding the beginning of the rapid disintegration of the Soviet eastern bloc.
1992: The Treaty of Maastricht introduced new forms of cooperation between the member-state governments-for example, in defense, control of internal markets, justice and home affairs, security policy and foreign policy. By adding this intergovernmental cooperation to the existing "community" system, the Maastricht Treaty created the European Union (EU), supplant-ing the former EEC. The EU stopped being a mere economic system and developed a broader political vision. Now, a western European-dominated EU is looking toward eastern Europe.
1993: Border controls between EU member states disappeared, with no border checkpoints to hinder inter-European travel from Lisbon to Berlin.
1995: Austria, Finland, and Sweden entered the EU as members. November 27-28, 1995: The governments of 27 countries, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission (the Partnership) established the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) with the overall objective of turning the Euro-Mediterranean basin into an area of dialog, exchange, and cooperation guaranteeing peace, stability, and prosperity. This was known as the Barcelona Process. This connection of the Mediterranean basin with the EU positions the EU eventually to incorporate the Mediterranean basin nations into the EU.
1997: The Treaty of Amsterdam expanded the powers of the EU.
January 1, 2002: A single currency, the euro, was introduced as the EU implemented a decision to bring about an economic and monetary union (EMU), involving the introduction of a single European currency managed by a European Central Bank. The euro became a reality, and euro notes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the 15 countries of the European Union, i.e., Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, and Finland.
February 1, 2003: The Treaty of Nice ensured that the EU could continue functioning efficiently with 25 or more members, streamlining its decision-making processes. The treaty laid down new rules governing the size of the EU institutions and the way they would work.
June 30, 2003: A draft document of a European Constitution was presented. It outlined a new leadership structure for the EU, with a stronger EU presidency, a new office of a European foreign minister, more transparency, and democracy for EU institutions. Now the EU Parliament is taking from the member nation-states most of the decision making for European defense, foreign policy, economics, overriding laws, etc.; its decisions dictate to the member states the direction all will follow.
May 1, 2004: Ten new states in eastern Europe entered the EU as members: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey applied for membership. Economic and political integration between the member states of the European Union means that these countries have to take joint decisions on many matters. So they have developed common policies in a very wide range of fields--from agriculture to culture, from consumer affairs to competition, from the environment and energy to transport and trade. In the early days of the EEC, the focus was on a common commercial policy for coal and steel and a common agricultural policy. Other policies were added as time went by, and as the need arose. The EU's relations with the rest of the world have become a major focus of the body. It now negotiates major trade and aid agreements with other countries and is developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy. During the 1990s, it became increasingly easy for people to move around in Europe, as passport and customs checks were abolished at most of the EU's internal borders for member states. Since the 1990s, there has been a globalization process that has created a global marketplace with integrated systems that demand cooperation between the nations. During this time, there has been the liberalization of world trade and capital transfer, fast technological progress as the information highway has become global, and deregulation and less government control on national economies. While all of this is happening globally, it is happening much faster in Europe as the EU is growing in influence and control of Europe at an exponential pace. The effect of these changes in the European power base, which has shifted from being nation-centric to EU-centric, is that the EU now speaks with one voice and not many voices. At the United Nations General Assembly, the EU votes as a bloc. This also has an effect on candidate nations or those wishing to be a member of the EU in the future. They too vote as the EU votes in order to show their allegiance. For example, in votes on the Middle East, candidate countries always vote as the EU does. Diplomats say: "Such voting patterns show how the candidate countries are looking after their self-interests since they will receive economic and financial benefits on joining the EU" ( Financial Times, "'New Europe' States Follow EU Line," January 31, 2003 ).
The European Union, the Bible, and Israel (Part 2)
Israel and the EU
There has always been a love-hate relationship between Israel and the EU. In 1962, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asked for associate membership for Israel. In 1975, Israel became a quasi-associate member and customs duties were reduced to 70 to 90 percent. In 1995, Israel was included in the Barcelona Process and was especially rewarded for the Oslo Peace Process.
While there have been some economic benefits for Israel from the EU, it has nevertheless been a vocal critic of Israel's policies. Since 1973, there has been a history of an anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian bias. In the 1980 Venice Declaration, Europe for the first time called for a Palestinian state, for talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and condemned Israeli settlements as "illegal." The Berlin Declaration called for Jerusalem to be a "corpus seperatum" and be internationalized.
While the EU has declared its stand against international terror, their actions belie their commitment. For example, the EU voice on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict condemns Israel for its use of military force and the continued "occupation" of land, while they supply funds to aid Palestinians (12 million euros per month), which have been used by the Palestinian Authority and groups such as Hamas for terrorism that kills Israelis. Only recently did the EU face up to how their funds were being used once the information was made public, and it is now trying to close the loopholes. The EU also spoke out against the current war in Iraq, even though the objective was to topple the oppressive dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, who not only subjugated his own people, but also funded international terror. The Report on Anti-Semitism commissioned by the EU was never officially published because it showed clearly that Islam in Europe was by far the major driving force and perpetrator of anti-Semitism in Europe. Not liking the results of the report, they repressed it.
A recent poll of the EU among Europeans, carefully worded by an antagonist of Israel, revealed that the majority of Europeans believe that Israel is "the greatest obstacle to peace" in the world; the second being the USA. EU Parliament elections have just taken place, in June 2004, and we will have to wait and see what stand the new parliamentarians will have toward Israel. According to one pro-Israel EU parliamentarian, to date only about 2 to 3 percent of the Parliament members are openly pro-Israel, 25 percent are friends of Israel, and 25 percent give Israel the benefit of the doubt. There is a Permanent Delegation for Israel where the parliamentary members are mixed in their attitude toward Israel. On the other hand, the Permanent Delegation for the Palestinian Authority has had an uncritical parliamentary membership supporting Palestine.
The EU and the Bible
The motto of the EU is: "Unity in diversity."
One of the preambles to the EU treaty is full of uplifting words about the value and importance of Europe and has a section in which religion is mentioned: "Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, which, nourished first by the civilizations of Greece and Rome, characterized by spiritual impulse always present in its heritage and later by the philosophical currents of the Enlightenment, has embedded within the life of society its perception of the central role of the human person and his inviolable and inalienable rights, and of respect for law..." (Note: This is pure secular humanism!)
Article 2, The Values of the EU, states, "The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, democracy, liberty, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. These values are common to the Member States in a society of pluralism, tolerance, justice, solidarity, and non-discrimination."
For Christians, it is clearly evident that Christianity or the Bible are not mentioned as part of Europe's heritage. Some of the strongly Catholic states (Malta and Poland among them) want a specific reference to Christian values or the Bible, but the Convention President at the time the draft was presented, France's Valery Giscard D'Estaing, had only offered the phrases "religious and humanist inheritance" and "spiritual impulse." In fact, Giscard d'Estaing told the German newspaper Die Zeit in early 2003: "There will be no reference of God in a constitution of Europe." There is a split between the rationalists and the religionists in the EU, and many want no reference to religion, God, or the Bible at all.
The EU has left God out of their constitution because they see religion as a threat to their secular humanist values. At this point, the draft Constitution recognizes that organized religion exists, but some parliament members want this reference to be dropped from the final draft. Already in many European nations, restrictions are being placed upon Christian denominations and organizations that want to promote their faith to the community. This is seen as inconsistent with EU secular values that are being pushed across Europe. Very soon, unless a loud voice is heard, Christians will be silenced by the power of the secular state, which will begin to legislate against Christianity.
Another blind spot in the secular values of the EU is their belief that religion does not play a large part in the life of many peoples of the world. In Islamic countries of the Middle East and North Africa, religion is everything, including exporting it to new lands, by force if necessary. With the future inclusion of non-European Middle Eastern and North African countries, a large Muslim population will become part of the EU. It has been said that Europe and the EU are no longer a "Christian club." "Put baldly, the choice facing the EU's member states is between economic prosperity and preserving what remains of the old Christian club. It is hard to see how they can have both. In fact, through enlargement they have already made their choice" (Financial Times, "Beyond the Christian Club of Europe," December 11, 2002). However, if the EU fulfills its vision of including the nations of the Mediterranean basin as member states, they will find a majority of its population is Muslim. Historically, Islam has preyed upon European territory via Spain and Portugal from North Africa, conquering land as far north as the Austrian border by Muslims from Turkey and the Arab Middle East. The Islamic population of Europe is already large and growing, so much so that it is anticipated that within 15 years, the mayors of many major European cities will be Muslim, because their Muslim populations are so large and growing. If the EU brings Islamic nations into the EU, all Islam has to do is wait a decade or two and they will be the effective majority in the EU and can take it over "democratically," using democracy as a door by which they can and will impose their religion and system on the Western world. Current secular leaders in the EU don't see this because they discount the power of religion. However, Islam will never succumb to secular humanism and will actively impose Islam into the EU if given a chance.
At the same time that Christianity and the Bible are being put down by the EU, we also see pagan cults rising in Europe, which are accepted as part of the pluralism desired by the EU vision. Ironically, while Christianity is being more and more repressed, pagan cults are growing as a cultural expression of the people. The name Europe comes from Greek mythology. Remember, the preamble to the Constitution says, "Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, which, nourished first by the civilizations of Greece and Rome, characterized by spiritual impulse always present..." The past of Europe is seen to rest on the foundational glory of its pagan history. EU foreign policy spokesman Javier Solana stated to the Financial Times , that there is an increasing rift between the U.S. and Europe because of the tug-of-war between religion and secularism. The reason for this shift he explains as follows: "The US [is] increasingly viewing things in a religious context... For us Europeans this is difficult to deal with because we are secular."
For the Bush administration, Solana says, the September 11 attacks were an act of war and an expression of evil. Europeans, who unreservedly condemned the attacks, saw them through a different lens: as the most extreme and reprehensible symptom of political dysfunction, operating from failed states such as Afghanistan. A religious society, he theorizes, perceives evil in terms of moral choice and free will; a secular society sees the causes of evil in political or psychological terms ( Financial Times, "Solana Fears Widening Gulf Between EU and US," January 7, 2003).
The European Union, the Bible, and Israel (Part 3) (Conclusion)-
The EU in Bible Prophecy
In the spirit of the Enlightenment when Europe began to break away from Christianity and biblical values, the EU today glorifies secular humanism, while glorifying its Greco-Roman heritage, which was pagan. The EU has diminished religion, God, and the Bible in Europe, placing man on center stage. It sees itself as the master of its own fate. Another motto of the EU is: "Of many languages, one voice." Remember when the people of Babel decided to make themselves as God, God confused their language. Today, the EU is reversing this trend, preparing to be the major market and political force in the world. "And the Lord said, 'Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them'" (Gen. 11:6). This analogy with Babel is not a coincidental comparison. The EU itself has chosen Pieter Bruegel's Tower of Babel as a logo for the EU, and their Parliament building in Strasbourg is designed to imitate this painting! The poster that declares, "Many tongues, one voice," shows the Tower of Babel with a ring on the EU stars from the flag circling above. However, the stars are all upside down pentagrams, which is a symbol used by the occult and Satan worshipers as it resembles a goat's head, a symbol of Satan.
John in his vision wrote: "So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns... And on her forehead a name was written: mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth" (Revelation 17:3-5). Ovid in Metamorphosis (43 BC) wrote, "Unknowing, [Europe] the daughter of the king dared to mount the bull... " This symbol of a woman riding the bull/beast is depicted in a statue in front of the EU parliament.
The prophet Daniel wrote: " And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay " (Daniel 2:40-43). This fourth kingdom has been interpreted as Rome, and prophecy buffs have always looked for a revived Roman Empire that would rise up before the return of the Lord, as described by Daniel and John. The EU has worked to turn Europe into one empire again, eventually to encompass the territory of the ancient Roman Empire plus more. Charlemagne, Charles V, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Mussolini, and Hitler have tried this in the past. The EU has accomplished what others failed to do, and all without firing a shot. Interestingly, the EEC got its start at the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957. On Capitoline Hill in Rome, nearly 2,000 years ago, Caesar's legions went forth to bring the first unified rule to Europe's warring tribes. Since the Roman Empire's fall, the unification of Europe has been a dream, which neither the sword of Napoleon nor Hitler could realize. But on Rome's Capitoline Hill, six statesmen, with the peaceful stroke of a pen, took the biggest step yet made toward this dream of centuries. The architect of the EEC, Jean Gabriel Monnet, declared, "Once a common market interest has been created, then political union will come naturally." It has.
Israel's past ambassador to Brussels, in a speech at Ben-Gurion University in January 2003, said, "We are witnessing something which never happened in human history: Nation states are handing over their sovereignty [to the EU] without being forced to do so by war." It is amazing to see these fiercely ethno-centric nations of Europe, who have fought so many wars in history to preserve the integrity of their nations, traditions, tribes, language, and culture, now willingly giving it up to the god of economic and political world power. Europe today reflects Daniel's prophecy as a place of economic and political strength, on the one hand, but also fragility because it is basing its hope and future on godless, secular humanism, which will fail because man is not becoming better and better, but more depraved when disconnected from God. The European system is really ushering in the ultimate neo-pagan, godless society if it continues on its present course. And it will be ripe for takeover. Many Bible scholars see that it is out of Europe that the Antichrist will arise to make war with the saints and Israel. Daniel speaks of this Antichrist figure and says, " He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law " (Daniel 7:25). John says, " It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them " (Revelation 13:7)
Is this to say the EU is of the Antichrist? No, but the EU system will be given over by him. As this secular EU system works to diminish God and the Bible in European society and glorify secularism, it is easy to see how this can happen. John says, " And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot... For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled " (Revelation 17:16-17). In this prophecy, the leaders of Europe " give their kingdom to the beast." This Antichrist will look good. The apostate world will see him as a savior, not as a monster. But a beast he is, wearing an almost impenetrable disguise. He claims to be for peace, not war. But he wages war to obtain elusive peace. "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords " (Ps. 55:21). The final human effort to produce a New World Order is described in Revelation 13. John, on the island of Patmos, described it as the Antichrist beast kingdom. His regime is doomed from the start. Proclaiming world peace, the beast brings havoc and ruin. He is called Abaddon, the destroyer. The beast kingdom will never succeed. Daniel spoke of a coming "king of fierce countenance" whom we understand to be the very Antichrist: "And through his policy also he will cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he will magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he will also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he will be broken without hand " (Dan. 8:25). This Antichrist will try to fulfill the ancient vision of Babel. His humanist New Age religion will exalt man as the divinity. "He opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that swell in heaven " (Rev. 13:6). This beast also allows the rebuilding of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem and places a graven image of himself in it, signifying to Israel that he is a false Messiah. His wrath is poured out upon Israel, but at the end of the day, God prevails and His Messiah comes to defend Israel and then rule and reign from Zion. Christians and Jews are looking forward to this Messianic day when Israel will be the head nation, and peace and justice will emanate from her to bless the world.
What Does This Mean to Us?
Europe today is a challenge for the Church. We need to act and speak out for biblical values and freedom to pursue our faith. On Israel, the Church needs to speak out in Europe to the EU Parliament and not allow EU leaders to continue to bash Israel with impunity. There are 3,000 lobbying groups within the EU, but none for Israel. Today, there is one, the European Coalition for Israel, which has been founded by four Christian organizations with a lobbying office in Brussels, the location of the EU Parliament. These four Christian groups are Bridges for Peace, Christians For Israel, Christian Friends of Israel, and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. We are encouraging Christian individuals and churches across Europe to stand up and speak out while we still can. The coalition is working to inform the EU Parliament members with the truth about Israel, working to influence the foreign policy of Europe in a positive manner. This is accomplished through our newsletter; getting Christians to write letters to, call, and petition their EU parliament members directly; empowering the voice and activities of pro-Israel organizations and groups in European nations; holding prayer meetings to entreat the Lord in this effort; and networking with similar organizations in other nations.
Ezekiel said, " Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me " (Ezekiel 3:17). Join us in supporting this effort in prayer and action. And, even if you are not from Europe, you need to stand up and speak out for biblical values and issues in your countries. This is an end-time battle. One thing we have learned from history is that when Christians say and do nothing, tyranny takes over. While the window of opportunity is open to us, let us work to turn the tide from secularism into a biblical course for our nations, for Israel, and for the world.
From Bridges for Peace, <http://www.bridgesforpeace.com>
Profiles in Prophecy Series
For 19 centuries Bible scholars have been anticipating a "Revived Roman Empire." Many wonder where this strange expectation comes from. Is this some kind of academic fantasy, or is there a real basis for this quaint perspective?
There are also some that suspect that the current expansion of the European Union may be setting the stage for the emergence of that final world empire which will initiate the final scenario climaxing with the Second Coming of Christ. Will this emergent federation of states ultimately become the domain of that coming world ruler that many call "the Antichrist"? Is he alive today?
The strategic geopolitical horizon of past half-century has been dominated by two superpowers: the United States and the USSR. But it is becoming clear that the two dominant powers of the next half-century apparently will be China in the east and the "new Europe" in the west.
The United States has a population of approximately 270 million. The new Europe is over 57% larger, with a combined population of 470 million. If they succeed in establishing a common foreign policy, they will control the United Nations.
As we watched the strange antics of France and Germany during the jockeying of positions in preparations for the war with Iraq, the only way to appreciate what was really going on required the insight that there were more urgent issues at stake than just the Middle East: the power positioning for control of the EU was the primary agenda.
The European Union presently has 15 members. By 2004, ten more will be added. By 2007, two more will be added, with others getting in line.
But first things first: where does this expectation for a "Revived Roman Empire" come from? What does the Bible indicate concerning the forthcoming geopolitical horizon? How will it affect the Middle East? NATO? The role of the United States? And how will the emergent changes impact each of us?
The Biblical Background
Generally, the Bible views history - both past and future - through the lens of Israel. But there are a few exceptions. Daniel Chapter 2 and Chapter 7 are distinctive in that they provide a Biblical glimpse of all of world history from Daniel's time during the Babylonian Empire (600 B.C.) until the final climax of human history when God Himself intervenes and establishes His own kingdom upon the earth.
[It is interesting that the portion of the Book of Daniel which focuses on Gentile dominion on the Planet Earth is contained between Chapters 2 through 7, and that in these chapters the original language changes from Hebrew to Aramaic, the Gentile language of that time.]
Nebuchadnezzar, an outstanding general and the son of King Nabopolassar, inherited the kingdom upon his father's death. He had a troubling dream one night, and in seeking its significance he decided to put the court advisers (which he had inherited from his father) to the test. He insisted that they describe the dream he had and then interpret it for him. Of course, they could not. If he would tell them the dream, they would certainly have given their interpretation. They had no way of knowing what he had dreamt. So Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to be executed. (He knew how to reduce excess head count in his organization!)
Daniel had been taken captive as a teenager to be trained at court, and was in that job classification along with his three friends, so they, too, were subject to the same execution order. Daniel petitioned his supervisor for a chance at the challenge, and after a night of prayer, his appearance before the throne of the king is one of the more dramatic episodes in Scripture. Daniel not only described the dream precisely - confirming to the king that Daniel's gift was genuine - and he then also provided the interpretation.
Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. - Daniel 2:31-36
Strange dream, eh?
Daniel then gives them the interpretation: the series of four metals represent a series of empires. The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar, and the kingdom of Babylon. But it would be followed by another, and then another, and then a final one. In the days of the final empire, God Himself would establish His own kingdom with the "stone cut without hands," an allusion to the Messiah who would come to rule. (The consistency of idioms throughout the Bible is, itself, remarkable. The "stone cut without hands" is also" the stone which the builders rejected," the rock of offense," and always speaks of Christ. 1)
Notice that there are four metals, with the fourth involving a fragile phase lacking strength due to the inclusion of brittle potter's clay. More on this later. This is where we get the expression, "the idol has clay feet."
Later in his life, Daniel received a vision of four beasts, which are recorded in Chapter 7. It turns out that while the idioms are quite different from the dream in Chapter 2, the subject is the same: four empires are depicted as summarized in the following diagram [Click Here]. The details in the text are remarkable, and are also later employed in the Book of Revelation.2 Babylon was conquered by Cyrus the Great who established the Persian Empire. After about two centuries, the Persians were conquered by Alexander the Great, whose exploits are further detailed in Daniel 8 and 11. The Greeks were, in turn, conquered by the Romans. But who conquered the Romans? No one. In the fifth century A.D., the western leg of the Roman Empire simply disintegrated into pieces. 3 (The eastern leg of the empire endured another 1000 years before falling to the invasion of the Muslims.)
Most conservative scholars recognize that the fourth empire will have two "phases": the fragments are destined to reassemble to form the final empire that is so prominent in prophetic Scripture.
It is interesting that each of the "pieces" of the western leg had its "day in the sun," but none of them achieved the dominance of the original: Germany under Charlemagne and the subsequent "Holy Roman Empire." (As Voltaire observed, "It was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire!") Even Hitler suggested a bid for continuance by calling his regime, "The Third Empire." The emerging reassembly of the fragments of the ancient Roman Empire would seem to have profound implications for those who take their Bibles seriously. And there's more.
The Prince That Shall Come
The angel Gabriel visited Daniel and provided him the famed "Seventy Week" prophecy that predicted, among other things, the precise timing of the Messiah presenting Himself as a king to Jerusalem. 4 He would then be executed and Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed. 5
Jesus gave four disciples a private briefing on His "Second Coming," and He pointed to this very passage in Daniel as the key to end time prophecy. 6 This four-verse prophecy is unquestionably the most astonishing in the entire Bible and deserves your diligent study. It not only establishes, with amazing precision, the chronology and details of the Gospel narrative, but it also lays out the framework for scenario of the Second Coming. But we will focus only on one small detail for our purposes here.
In describing the destruction of the city and Temple, the text notes:
and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary 7
"The people" that destroyed the city and sanctuary were, of course, the legions of the Roman Empire in 70 A.D. The Legions V, X, XII, and XV laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed it precisely as Gabriel (in Daniel 9) and Jesus predicted.8 Furthermore, "the prince that shall come" is one of the labels for a coming world leader that has over three dozen labels in the Bible, but is commonly called "the Antichrist." Since it was his people that destroyed the city and the sanctuary, we recognize the elliptical reference and infer that the Antichrist is, thus, in some sense, identified with, or related to, the Roman Empire.
These are but a few of the reasons that Bible scholars have been looking for a "revival" of the Roman Empire as prelude to the climax of God's program of redemption.
The New Europe
We will continue this series of articles exploring the background, current activities, and apparent agenda of the drive toward a "United States of Europe," and the surprising implications on our near horizon. This emergent confederation will impact the management of global resources, the struggles for power - perhaps eclipsing or controlling the United Nations - and very likely will prove to be more of a competitor than a partner.
How will all this impact strategic positioning militarily? How will this impact the global control of strategic resources such as energy, and the weapons of mass destruction?
What are the implications of the rising anti-Semitism in both the UN and the EU in years ahead? What will be the implications of the rise of Islam in the "new Europe"? What are the implications of the embracing of Islam by the Vatican?
There are some harrowing challenges ahead for everyone involved. In fact, a leader may emerge which will prove to be the very one which the Bible describes as a dominant player in the climactic scenes of all human history. He will be a peacemaker, leading to a "peace to end all peace," and the fabled Battle of Armageddon.
It is, indeed, an exciting time to "do our homework," and to make sure our personal priorities are in sync with the times!
1. Ex 17:3-6, 33:22; Ps 118:22; Isa 8:14, 28:16; Zech 3:9 (cf.
Rev 5:6); Mt 21:43,44; Acts 4:11; Rom 9:33; 1 Cor 10:4; 1 Pet
2. Revelation 13:1, 2; 17.
3. Daniel 2:41-43.
4. Daniel 9:25; Zech 9:9; Luke 19:38-40.
5. Daniel 9:26; Luke 19:41-44.
6. Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21.
7. Daniel 9:26.
8. Luke 19:41-44.
Fragmentation of an Empire
In last month's article we reviewed some of the reasons why Bible scholars have been anticipating a "Revived Roman Empire" as part of the prelude to the "Last Days." Just as Daniel had predicted, 1 the Babylonian Empire was ultimately conquered by the Persians; the Persians were, in turn, conquered by the Greeks; and, the Greeks were conquered by the Romans. But who conquered the Romans?
No one! The Roman Empire ultimately disintegrated into pieces, and each segment seems to have had its "day in the sun." The ensuing struggles for power, and the influx of external tribes into the cohesion that once was Rome, continued over almost two millennia. In our series reviewing the rise of the "New Europe," we'll take a brief glimpse at the cauldron that has been stewing with tensions and ambitions for many centuries.
Europe emerged out of the shadow of the Roman Empire during a period of cultural change in the Mediterranean that lasted from about A.D. 350 to 600. After the capital of the empire was moved from Rome to Byzantium (Constantinople, the "New Rome") in the 4th century, the western part of the Empire began to disintegrate as major tribal groups continued to encroach on the remnants of "Pax Roma," each bringing their unique background into the mix. The Vikings from the north, the Muslims from the south, and the Magyars from the east; each had their impact, challenging the durability of the cohesiveness that once was Rome. However, the laws, the cultures, the religions - Christianity in its many forms - and the monetary and linguistic infrastructure were the threads and fabric that would ultimately be regathered into the final tapestry.
In each region, unique identities evolved that were tied to local or vernacular languages and sets of traditions that explained their history, values, and claims to the land. At the same time, because these regions had inherited the Roman Christian culture embodied in Latin literacy, they developed a shared identity as members of western Christendom. This common culture distinguished Europeans from neighboring peoples in the Islamic regimes and the barbarians in the east.
As Rome receded, new cultural forces swept across Europe. The migration and settlement of various Germanic peoples, the so-called barbarians, filtered into the western European territories of the Roman Empire for several centuries. By 500, when Rome no longer effectively controlled the west, Europe was divided into different homelands for various ethnic groups: the Ostrogoths settled in Italy; the Visigoths found a home in Iberia (present-day Spain and Portugal); the Franks flourished in Gaul (present-day France); and, the Angles and Saxons occupied parts of the British Isles.
By the 9th century, the fragile balance of Roman Christian and Germanic traditions was disrupted by a sometimes-violent influx of new peoples. These peoples were integrated into European society through some of the same mechanisms of settlement, conversion, and negotiation that had established the earlier wave of immigrants. These invasions initiated another phase of ethnogenesis: Europe's frontier regions developed new identities, and the central kingdoms redefined themselves.
The fact that the older kingdoms in the British Isles, France, and Germany recovered their equilibrium after these assaults underscores the strength of the earlier synthesis of Roman, Christian, and Germanic traditions.
The newcomers (the Muslims, the Vikings, and the Magyars) came from three directions and caused panic throughout Europe. Muslim raiders attacked Europe's coastline from their Mediterranean bases in the south. Their incursions were halted in the West by Charles Martel's forces in the famous battle at Tours in 731.
Scandinavian Vikings came from the north. These seafaring groups of landless Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian warriors sought fame and fortune through plundering, trading, or demanding tribute from fearful residents in the British Isles and around the coastal and river regions of the continent. Some of these Viking groups eventually established settlements and integrated with the local populations. For example, they explored Greenland and beyond, colonized Iceland, negotiated control of eastern England, built Dublin in Ireland, founded Normandy in northern France, and established the Kievan dynasty in Russia.
Nomadic Magogians (known also as Magyars or Scythians) came from the Asiatic steppes in the east (a region that includes present-day Kazakhstan and southwestern Russia) and eventually settled in Hungary and converted to Christianity.
Europe fragmented in response to these waves of attacks. Each region developed new alliances and identities. In 1450, the Muslims even overran Byzantium, ending the eastern leg of the original Roman Empire.
The "Holy Roman Empire"
The "Holy Roman Empire" had its origins in the empire established by the Frankish king Charlemagne in A.D. 800, crowned by Pope Leo III as "Emperor of the Romans," the first use of that title since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in A.D. 476. Although Charlemagne's kingdom soon disintegrated in 843, the concept of the "Holy Roman Empire" was to endure for another 1,000 years.
Early in the 13th century the Holy Roman Empire was engulfed in a civil war between rival German princes vying for the title of emperor. Emperor Frederick II, known as "the wonder of the world," restored power and prestige to the empire, bringing it to one of its highest points since the death of Charlemagne. However, in order to win the support of the German princes, he greatly increased their independence within the empire. As a result, after Frederick's death in 1250, the title of "Holy Roman Emperor" was claimed by many different princes and lords, and civil war began again within the empire.
Through advantageous alliances with other kingdoms, Emperor Charles V came to control more territory than any Holy Roman Emperor before him. He was already ruler of extensive areas in Europe, America and parts of Africa in 1530 when he became Holy Roman Emperor - the last to be crowned by the pope. Charles struggled to maintain his empire against outside threats, but his possessions gradually dwindled as territories were captured or ceded.
After the death of Charles V, the Holy Roman Empire continued to decline in both area and importance, until it was finally dissolved by Emperor Francis II in 1806, following the defeats in the Napoleonic Wars. Francis proclaimed himself the emperor of Austria and allied Austria with Britain and Russia to fight Napoleon. The united powers defeated Napoleon in 1814, and at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Francis recovered most of the territory he had lost.
In truth, the empire had existed more in the realm of ideas than as a political or administrative reality. Voltaire gave us his classic summary: "It was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire." Its legacy, however, endured. The ancient obsession with Italy, the costly conflicts with the papacy, and the continuous resistance of German nobles to any strong central authority had made the empire essentially ungovernable for over five centuries.
One will not understand the history of Europe unless one understands the struggles for temporal power with the Vatican. 2
Yet despite its ignominious decline and end, the Holy Roman Empire continued to exercise a great influence on the imaginations of later German imperialists. When Otto von Bismarck and the Prussian king William I established the German Empire in 1871, they explicitly encouraged the title the "Second Empire" for their new state, so as to borrow some of the glory and power enjoyed by the Holy Roman Empire at its peak.
Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist supporters similarly appropriated the legacy of the "First Empire" by dubbing their own regime the "Third Empire" (The "Third Reich," in German) and pledging another thousand years of German hegemony. Both regimes, of course, proved considerably shorter than the original empire during its peak, although for a time they were equally as dominant in the politics of western and central Europe.
The Thirty Years' War
The great powers of 16th-century Europe were England, France, Spain, Austria, and the Ottoman Empire. The network of relations between powerful states first emerged in Europe during the 16th century and solidified during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648).
The Thirty Years' War began as a Protestant revolt against King Ferdinand II's Catholic-controlled government in Bohemia (later Czech Republic). A series of religious and dynastic conflicts followed, involving the great powers of Europe. The majority of the war was fought on German soil, with hostilities ending in a treaty, the Peace of Westphalia, dashing hopes for German unification and significantly curtailing the power of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburgs. The Habsburg family ruled Austria and Spain. Habsburg power peaked in the late 16th century when Spain conquered Portugal. But the Thirty Years' War resulted in the defeat of the Habsburgs by a coalition of nations, including France, Sweden, and the German principalities.
The accord created the Dutch Republic (later, The Netherlands) and Switzerland. At the end of the war, the Netherlands assumed dominance of international trading routes and joined the ranks of the great powers, displacing Spain. Spain's decline as a great power dated from their forcible expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and their subsequent string of costly wars against France and a failed attempt to invade England.
The Netherlands declined in power in the 18th century when its commercial and maritime rivalry with Britain led it into a series of debilitating wars. France then emerged as the dominant European power. In the 20th century, Britain and France declined as great powers as they attempted to hold onto their far-flung colonial empires.
World War I
Nationalist aspirations made the Balkans volatile. Seeing the decline of the Turkish Ottoman Empire as an opportunity to extend their territories, newly independent Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece attacked the Ottomans in 1912. To manage their rivalries and fearing nationalist unrest, the Great Powers of Europe formed rival alliances: Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy formed the "Triple Alliance," while Russia, the UK and France formed the "Triple Entente."
As Russia and Austria-Hungary intervened in the fighting that broke out in the Balkans, the rest of Europe found itself sucked into "The Great War" (as it was called before we learned we had to count them). This period also brought other events that were to impact the decades ahead. Revolution and civil war plunged Russia, Germany and the remains of Austria-Hungary into chaos in the years that followed World War I. The Europe that emerged from this period was radically different: the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires had disappeared and a host of smaller states had appeared.
The Russian revolution of 1917 led to the creation of the Soviet Union, a self-declared revolutionary socialist state. A secret agreement between France and Britain, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, included dividing up the Middle East, which laid the foundation of the cauldron that continues to this day (See the article "The Main Roadblock to Peace").
The League of Nations gave Britain the Mandate to provide a homeland for the Jews, but Britain peeled off 75% of that land to create the state of Jordan for the Palestinians.
World War II
Reeling from the excesses of the Treaty of Versailles, the people of Germany rallied behind Adolf Hitler in a quest to reestablish themselves. In 1938 Hitler annexed his native Austria and through deceits and intimidation succeeded in annexing Sudetenland, the strategic part of Czechoslovakia. Britain and France abrogated their commitments to defend it, convinced that the appeasement would bring "peace in our time." But the rest of Czechoslovakia was then quickly overrun, and the subsequent invasion of Poland in September 1939 forced Britain and France, who had also promised to protect it, to declare war on Germany. World War II began.
Later that month the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east, and Poland was then partitioned between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union attacked Finland in the winter of 1939-40 and annexed the Baltic States and northern Romania. Germany went on to conquer Yugoslavia and Greece and launched the invasion of the USSR in 1941. Nazi Germany was at the peak of its power, with most of Europe under the control of Germany and its allies. In the USSR, Hitler's troops at first made rapid progress, advancing to the gates of Moscow and Leningrad, but the invasion turned into a war of attrition in which the German army was gradually ground down by the reviving Soviet Union. (Hitler learned the same lesson Napoleon had experienced earlier by not recognizing the "defense in depth" heritage of the ancient Scythians, the forebears of the Russians.)
The end of World War II saw Germany dramatically reduced in size and divided into East and West. Meanwhile the USSR gained Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine, and occupied northern East Prussia, including Konigsburg (Kaliningrad). Much of Eastern Europe effectively became an extension of a massively expanded Soviet Empire. The Soviet Bloc also created a buffer zone between the USSR and the rest of Western Europe.
In April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed by 10 Western European states, the U.S. and Canada to provide a military framework for cooperation in the face of what was seen as a common enemy. Relations between the West and the Soviet Union were plunged into the freeze known as "the Cold War."
World War II had left Europe scarred with deep ruins and despair. Many leaders realized that they could never let that happen again. However, numerous attempts at alliances and treaties were attempted, but doomed to failure. The roots of the tensions ran too deep.
In our next article we'll review the innovations that led to the foundation of the "New Europe" to rise out of the ashes of over a thousand years of history - a Europe that will surprise you.
1. Daniel 2 and 7.
2. See Dave Hunt's classic, A Woman Rides the Beast, Harvest House, 1997, Eugene, OR. (The related briefing package we did together, The Kingdom of Blood, is also available.)
In our previous articles we reviewed some of the reasons Bible scholars have been anticipating a "Revived Roman Empire" as part of the prelude to the "Last Days." Just as Daniel had predicted, 1 the Babylonian Empire was ultimately conquered by the Persians; the Persians were, in turn, conquered by the Greeks; and, the Greeks were conquered by the Romans. But no one conquered the Romans. The ensuing struggles for power, and the influx of external tribes into the cohesion that once was Rome, went on for almost two millennia.
Continuing the historical summary of our previous articles, by the end of World War II Germany was dramatically reduced in size and divided into East and West. The USSR gained Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine and occupied northern East Prussia, including Königsburg (Kaliningrad). Much of Eastern Europe effectively became an extension of a massively expanded Soviet Empire. The Soviet Bloc also created a buffer zone between the USSR and the rest of Western Europe.
Relations between the West and the Soviet Union were plunged into the freeze known as "The Cold War." In April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed by 10 Western European states, the U.S. and Canada to provide a military framework for cooperation in the face of what was seen as a common enemy.
The Treaty of Paris
The war had left Europe scarred with deep ruins and despair. Many leaders realized that they could never let that happen again. However, numerous attempts at alliances and treaties were attempted but failed. The roots of the remaining tensions ran too deep. A few visionaries, recognizing that these direct attempts were doomed to failure, determined that the only viable path would be to first "unite" Europe economically, and the best place to start was in the heavy industries: coal and steel. To accomplish this, in 1951 the Treaty of Paris created an innovative organization: the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). It was signed by six countries: German, France, Italy, and the three "BeNeLux" countries, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxemburg. It created a multinational "Commission" to centrally manage the coal and steel industries of the six countries. It proved so successful that it became the model for the treaties that were to follow.
The Treaties of Rome
In March 1957, to take effect January 1, 1958, these same six nations signed the Treaties of Rome, which created two more multinational consortiums: The European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC) and the European Economic Community (EEC). The astonishingly ambitious goal of the EEC was to build a unified tariff wall around the six signatories and remove the tariffs among them. This sounds simple, but it was widely regarded as fanciful and ultimately doomed to failure. However, much to the amazement of many international observers, it accomplished the objectives for its initial phases two years ahead of schedule!
A European Parliament was formed, but I can remember those early years when most people didn't even realize it existed, and few took it seriously. The symbol of the European Parliament is a woman riding a beast atop seven hills. This is a representation from classic Greek mythology of an affair between the Greek god Zeus and the legendary beauty Europa. Zeus spotted and fell in love with the young princess as she picked flowers. He changed himself into a handsome bull and carried her off to the island of Crete, where she bore him three sons. In 1580, the Italian artist Paolo Veronese rendered this tale into a his classic painting, The Rape of Europa. The European continent may have originally been named after Europa: the official Internet site of the European Union is http://europa.eu.int/. (To Bible students, the woman riding the beast is suggestive of Revelation 17, indeed!)
The European Community Is Born
The three multinational organizations - the ECSC, the EAEC, and the EEC (commonly known as the "Common Market") - each had its executive functions vested in its respective "Commission," each reporting to the composite Council of Ministers of the six signatory countries. In 1967, these three Commissions were simply merged into a single Commission, creating what was then called The European Community (EC).
In 1973, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark joined the Community. In 1981, Greece joined, making the total number of countries 10. (Many Bible students became particularly intrigued now, recalling the "ten toes" of Daniel 2, and the "ten horns" of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13, etc. Our enthusiasms were a bit premature; we all had more homework to do.)
In 1986 Spain and Portugal joined, making it 12, which seemed to puncture some of our presuppositions!
The Maastricht Treaty
In June 1993, a milestone treaty was signed in the city of
Maastricht, Netherlands, that would obsolete the Treaty of Rome:
it established the goals of a common currency, a common judiciary,
a common foreign policy, and a common military. What emerged is
now known as the European Union (EU).
In November 1993, I had the opportunity to interview 40 of the top leaders in nine cities of the countries involved. Traveling with Ambassador William Middendorf, 2 it became quite evident that the behind-the-scenes machinations to finesse the votes within each country to approve the Maastricht Treaty were highly organized by the international socialists and other proponents.
The Enlargement Continues
In 1995, Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the European Union. To solidify the requirements a candidate needs to become eligible to join the European Union, the "Copenhagen Criteria" was established. The criteria included: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities; a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with the competitive pressure and market forces within the Union; and, adherence to the political, economic and monetary aims of the Union. In the decade of the 90s, the EU has spent more than $85 billion on pre-accession aid to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This is about as much in real terms as the American Marshall Plan in the immediate aftermath of WWII.
This was not just to put the economies of these countries back on their feet. It was also to help them build up democratic institutions, to encourage the development of civil society, to train administrations in which the concept of public service is strong enough to overcome the temptation of corruption, and to help to build judicial systems that citizens believe are independent and able to ensure that the rule of law holds sway in practice and not just in theory.
A Common Currency
The ancient Romans started using coins in about 290 B.C., steadily expanding their use from their native Italian homeland, and as they conquered remote territories, their coinage - and language - went with them. By the 1st century A.D., their denarius, sestertius, and aureus were the common currency throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, from Scotland to the Sahara, from Portugal to Iran. At a time when it could take two months to travel from London to Rome, this symbol of centralized authority was a powerful force for fiscal cohesion. (In the 3rd century, Emperor Caracalla is said to have ordered the entire population of Thrace - roughly modern Bulgaria - to be sold into slavery for refusing to use the standard Roman coinage!)
The subsequent history of attempts at monetary union is spotty. In the 8th century - 300 years after the collapse of the western leg of the original Roman Empire - Charlemagne, King of the Franks, imposed a uniform system of silver coinage on the lands under his control: roughly equivalent to France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. In the 9th century, Danegeld, a tribute paid by terrified communities across Europe to prevent attacks by marauding Vikings, can be viewed as a rudimentary form of monetary union.
Napoleon toyed with the idea of a uniform European currency without significant results. The Latin Monetary Union (1865-1926) and the Scandinavian Monetary Union (1873-1924) were early but unsuccessful attempts at European monetary integration.
However, before the millennium closed, an historic milestone was put in place: the European Monetary Union (EMU). The final stage of the EMU began on January 1, 1999, when the exchange rates of the participating currencies were irrevocably set. Twelve member states introduced the new euro banknotes and coins at the beginning of 2002. (Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom are members of the European Union but are not yet participating in the single currency. Denmark is a member of the Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II), which means that the Danish krone is linked to the euro, although the exchange rate is not fixed.)
The European Central Bank has been quietly stockpiling gold and is apparently pursuing a strategy of making the euro an asset-based currency (in contrast to the U.S. dollar, which is debt based). The implications of these maneuvers will be explored in our next article.
A Central Assisting Partner
The EU has become the dominant trading partner of 13 candidate countries. As a result of the Nice European Council (December 2000), direct EU investment has exceeded 67% of foreign investment into the candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Over the past six years, the total value of trade has increased threefold to ¤210 billion/year.
EU member states run considerable surpluses on their export trade with candidate countries, which result in more jobs, more tax revenue and more money for social security systems: over ¤25.8 billion/year. (In contrast, the U.S. will book a record deficit of over $435 billion this year!)
The direct financial assistance to EU candidate countries is being provided through three primary instruments: Phare, ISPA, and Sapard. The Phare budget is ¤1,620 million for institution building: structures, strategies, human resources, and management skills needed to strengthen their economic, social, regulatory and administrative capacities. This includes financing for regulatory infrastructure to ensure compliance in areas such as food safety, making frontiers secure, testing and measuring equipment related to consumer protection, etc., and financing to promote a market economy to cope with competitive pressures within the EU when they qualify to join.
ISPA (Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession) has a budget of ¤7 billion (2000-2006) for environmental infrastructure assistance concentrated on drinking water, waste water treatment, solid-waste management, and air pollution.
Sapard has a budget of ¤540 million/year to prepare for the Common Agricultural Policy and the Single Market. The key point here is that the EU itself is financing and assisting the candidate countries to qualify themselves for membership.
There are ten countries that are going to join the European Union in 2004: the Central European states include Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The Baltic States include Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. And there are also two Mediterranean island republics: Cyprus and Malta.
There are also two candidates scheduled to join in 2007: Bulgaria and Romania, which will bring the total to 27. This would bring the total population of the European Union to 446 million, almost 70% larger than the United States.
This still does not count the enigma of Turkey, which has been pursuing membership since 1987 but is not likely to be resolved soon. The geopolitical (and Biblical) implications of Turkey's situation will be reviewed in a subsequent article.
In our next article we will summarize the rather surprising implications of the rising European empire and the portents on the horizon for the United States and the world community.
1. Daniel Chapter 2 and 7.
2. Ambassador to the EU, the Netherlands, OAS, and former Secretary of the Navy.
In previous articles we reviewed the Biblical basis which led scholars to anticipate, over the many centuries, a reemergence of the Roman Empire. Clearly portrayed in Daniel's several prophecies, the sequence of conquering empires from Babylon, to Persia, to the Greeks, and ultimately to Rome have each followed the Biblical scenario. Likewise, the Roman Empire wasn't conquered, but fragmented into pieces. From Charlemagne on, the lingering concept of a "Holy Roman Empire" continued - despite Voltaire's classic rebuttal that it was "neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire!" And the stage now seems to be set as these fragments appear to be combining in preparation for the final climax of the long awaited "last days."
Last month we reviewed the rise of post-war Europe, from the Treaties of Paris and Rome, the EEC ("the Common Market"), the EC ("European Community"), and now with the Maastricht Treaty, the EU ("European Union"). The existing 15 members currently represent a Gross Domestic Product of 9.2 trillion euros, with a population of about 340 million. [See Chart].
With the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the resultant availability of the now-independent eastern bloc states, the "Copenhagen Criteria" was established to qualify candidate members into the Union. It is interesting that the requirements established were not intended as barriers, but obstacles to be overcome. The European Union budgets over ¤3 billion in assistance to the candidate members to facilitate their preparation to join the Union. In January, 2004, the present 15 will be joined by ten new members, and in 2007, two additional applicants are scheduled to join.
This will bring the total economic unit into a federation that will have a population 60% larger than the United States, with an economy that is currently about 14% larger than the U.S. (when adjusted for the increasing euro).
Like most nations, in the United States foreign trade accounts for an increasing percentage of economic activity (e.g., Q1 2003: 23.8%). But the U.S. is becoming a consumer rather than a producer of economic activity: imports now represent 25% of all transactions, up from 14% in the 1980s. Furthermore, the U.S. foreign trade is conducted at a loss: the trade deficit is projected to exceed $548 billion in 2003. In contrast, the European Union gains a surplus of over ¤25 billion per year.
Shift of Jobs
Like most industrialized nations, the U.S. relegates an increasing number of jobs to low-cost labor countries, such as Mexico or Asia. U.S. factories have shed 2.4 million jobs since 2001, and it is estimated that 3.3 million more will move off shore by 2015.1 Europe, too, is taking advantage of the lower-cost labor in the candidate countries, where the average income is a fraction of the incomes among the member nations. What makes the European Union's distinctive advantage is that this labor source will be within their own tax base. As they continue to upgrade the infrastructures of these new members, from an agrarian to an industrial economy, they will also gain the long-term benefits.
The EU vs UN
All the EU member nations are members of the United Nations. France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom are presently on the Security Council. (Two are among the five permanent members, ten others are elected by the General Assembly for two year terms.) It came as a surprise to me to discover that the EU is a larger contributor than the U.S. to both the UN operating budget and peacekeeping budgets.
The strange antics by France and Germany prior to, and during, the recent Iraq War was among many episodes highlighting the jockeying for position regarding the EU. It is unclear at this time whether the European Union will "take over" the UN, or simply eclipse the UN's commitment to irrelevancy on the world scene.
The Enigma of Turkey
One of the more enigmatic applicants for EU membership is Turkey. They spent the better part of a century attempting to be part of the West. In 1925 Turkey adopted the Western calendar; in 1926 it adopted the Swiss civil code (and later the Italian penal code); in 1928 the country switched to the Latin alphabet; in 1931, the metric system; in 1934 all Turks were obliged to take a surname (Mustafa Kemal became Kemal Ataturk), and the women were given the vote.
Following World War II, Turkey joined all the main Western institutions: the UN in 1945; the IMF in 1947; the OECD in 1948; the Council of Europe in 1949; NATO in 1951. In 1963, after four years of application, Turkey received associate membership in the European Community. Turkey's agreement specifically held out full membership as an eventual goal and their application in 1987 was ahead of Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Norway (whose applications were accepted and expedited).
Turkey lost its largest trading partner after the 1991 Gulf War. Now, pressured by France, previously favored by oil contracts with Iraq, Turkey declined the US use of its bases, despite a commitment of $80 billion in aid. Nevertheless, it now seems clear that they have been rejected by the European Union. (While at the Air War College recently, I had the opportunity to discuss this with some 3-star officers that were in attendance, and they expressed optimism that Turkey will be allowed admittance.) I personally retain my doubts for a number of reasons. Among other considerations, Europe presently has about 14 million Muslims in its population. If Turkey joins, they will bring in 63 million more.
Another aspect that commands our close attention is the possibility that the scene is being set for the Magog Invasion depicted in Ezekiel 38 and 39. ("Meshech" and "Tubal" were principal cities in ancient Anatolia, which constitutes the eastern three-fourths of modern Turkey.) We simply need to watch and see.
The tensions between two major powers dominated the past 70 years: The U.S. and the USSR. Both are on the decline for different (or perhaps similar) reasons. The void is being filled with two emergent superpowers: China and Europe. It has been the policy of the U.S. to encourage the formation of an Atlantic trading partner. It is now becoming clear that what has emerged is more of an increasingly aggressive competitor. And the anti-U.S. sentiment in both Germany and France, as well as the rest of Europe, is an increasing factor on the global horizon.
Jesus chided the Pharisees in that they could discern the signs of the weather, but could not discern the "signs of the times." 2 We may well be even more culpable! As we scan our global horizon, the weather clouds are clearly forming. There is a clearly discernible restructuring towards the classic Biblical scenario that scholars have been anticipating for almost 2,000 years!
As we watch the movement of nations, the continuing global antipathy towards God's land grant to Israel, and many other clearly discernible strategic trends in our society, it is, indeed, a time to do our homework, rethink our personal priorities, and prepare to honor our Coming King!
1. Forrester Research, as reported in Investor's Business
Daily, July 1, 2003.
2. Matthew 16:3.
This article was originally published in the September 2003 Personal Update NewsJournal.
The Omega Letter Intelligence Digest
Vol: 44 Issue: 23 - Monday, May 23, 2005 <http://www.omegaletter.com/>
Next week, French voters will be asked in a national referendum to either approve or reject the EU's proposed new Constitution. The French referendum will be the first in a series of similar referendums across the EU, as each nation's voters give an up or down vote on the document.
The EU constitution is a long, rambling document about ten times the length of the US Constitution, including amendments. From what can be observed, it is about as inspiring as a phone book, attempting as it does to set out in detail the relationship between the European government and the people to be governed.
To some degree, the new constitution consolidates the numerous existing treaties and arrangements into a single document. But the new constitution also creates important new rules. It gives new powers to the European parliament -- a collection of politicians from across the EU's spectrum, usually elected by a stunning minority of votes from their home countries -- or appointed outright by their national leaders.
It confers rights on European citizens through the introduction of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Among the rights enshrined by the Charter is one that may run afoul of heavily unionized socialist France -- the 'right to work.'
In France, EU opposition is led by socialists and trade unionists who argue the new system will usher in a 'capitalist nightmare' of longer working hours, low taxation, and free trade.
Notes Gerald Baker of the 'Weekly Standard': "The principal effect of the constitution, however, is to confirm and accelerate the central tendency of the E.U. over the last 50 years to send power to the center, to the European level, while eroding national sovereignty in everything from economic policy to foreign and defense policy. The constitution is, the German minister for European affairs said earlier this year, "the birth certificate of the United States of Europe.""
The French will be the first state to hold its referendum, and ironically enough, Europlanners are terrified that French voters will vote against accepting it.
After reluctantly agreeing to consult the people, the European Union's leaders now have absolutely no idea what to do if the people vote "No."
The French government, once one of the EU's most ardent supporters, is beginning to realize that it will NOT be the leading state in the new union. With that in mind, Paris has said in no uncertain terms that, if the constitution is rejected, there will be NO renegotiation. If the constitution is rejected, it will be dead.
Germany disagrees. The Germans say the matter of what to do if the constitution is rejected is 'undecided' and the constitution could be rewritten and resubmitted for another vote.
The British, even less comfortable with surrendering its national sovereignty than the French, say that if the French vote 'No', then the whole process is over and there will be no need for Britain to hold her own referendum.
The British opposition is rooted in the exact opposite of French sentiments. The Brits fear that the EU constitution will usher in a 'socialist nightmare' of business rules that will result in reduced working hours, lower wages and increased taxation.
The Netherlands is also expressing some reluctance, although the debate there is more about the ambitions of France and Germany to dominate the Union than it is about the actual unification process.
There are actually two European superstates -- the economic European union and the strategic and military Western European Union. The WEU is headquartered in Paris, born out of the 1948 Benelux treaty and created as Western Europe's military and security organization by the 1954 modified Brussels Treaty.
From the WEU's website: "But despite all the institutional changes in Europe, the Assembly of WEU is still the only European parliamentary institution that allows national parliamentarians to monitor security and defense issues. . . Against this background the Parliamentary Assembly of WEU continues to make a dedicated contribution to all issues of security and stability on the European continent."
From the perspective of the Western European Union, the EU's role is to provide for domestic tranquility, but the real power, that of security of defense, remains in the hands of the ten full members of the WEU.
The ten full members of the WEU are those states who are also full members of NATO. The Secretary General of the WEU is former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, who also serves as the European Union's High Representative, under the authority of WEU Recommendation 666.
The members of the EU's Political and Security Committee are also members of the WEU's Permanent Council.
In other words, regardless of how the EU's constitutional referendums turn out, the real power will remain where it has been all along -- with the ten leaders of Western Europe's FULL members. (http://www.weu.int/Delegations.htm)
The prophet Daniel was called to interpret a dream for King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel interpreted the dream as images of four successive world empires; Babylon, Medo-Persia, Alexander's Greek Empire and that of Imperial Rome. Daniel foretold the collapse of the Roman Empire after it split into two 'legs' -- the Western Empire, headquartered in Rome, and the Eastern Empire headquartered in Constantinople. The legs of the image had ten toes that Daniel said represented a later reincarnation of the two legs of iron [Rome].
Later, Daniel had similar dreams: "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things." (Daniel 7:7-8)
Daniel sought the Lord's counsel, saying, "Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast . . . And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came . . . " (Daniel 7:19a, 20-21,22b)
The 'little horn' says Daniel, makes war with the saints and prevails against them. John described the rise of antichrist in Revelation 13:7, saying, "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them."
Currently, the European Union is perceived to be the power in Europe. The WEU, if it is considered at all, is viewed as part of the Greater EU, but in point of fact, the opposite is true. The collapse of the EU's constitution could mean the collapse of the EU. Politics abhors a vacuum. There is only one logical candidate to step in and pick up the pieces, and Recommendation 666 has already established the framework.
In Daniel's day, ancient Rome was still six hundred years future. Daniel witnessed the fall of Babylon and the rise of Medo-Persia, but he was long dead before Alexander the Great conquered the known world.
Daniel predicted the defeat of Alexander's Empire, its division among his four generals, and its replacement by the Roman legions. That is amazing in and of itself. But Daniel also foretold Rome's rise and fall and its restoration in the last days.
Daniel foretold that the power in the last days would be invested in ten 'kings' but that those ten kings would subordinate themselves to an eleventh, 'little horn' whose power was such that he would be able to pluck out three of the original kings 'by the roots'.
We aren't there yet, but this is what exists as of today, May 23, 2005: The 25-member European Union is in danger of collapse, should the constitutional referendum fail. Waiting in the wings is the 28-member Western European Alliance, headed by the ten nations of Europe who are FULL members of both the WEU and NATO.
The head of the EU is also the Secretary General of the WEU. He is not one of the ten 'kings' but is instead an eleventh 'little' king, given the power to exercise the authority of the original ten under the authority of WEU Recommendation 666. (See http://www.assemblee-ueo.org/en/documents/sessions_ordinaires/txt/2000/rec666.html)
At least three, France, Great Britain and the Netherlands, are rethinking surrendering their sovereignty to the center. All three of these are also members of the Original Ten.
"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." (Daniel 2:44)
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