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A Fourth Reich?

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Many do not realize that Germany plays a key role in Bible prophecy and in the events leading up to Jesus Christ's second coming. What does the Bible tell us about this land of mysteries and miracles?

What is Germany's future?

Bible prophecy and German history offer important clues!

Germany is a land of mysteries—and miracles! One of the most remarkable aspects of the German people is their astounding recovery and social transformation since the end of World War II. In 1945 the entire nation—which only 12 years earlier had set out to rule Europe and the world—lay prostrate in defeat. German cities had been reduced to rubble. Industry and the economy were destroyed. However, "just as the Germans had set world-class standards in destruction and self-destruction, they now proved equally adept at digging out and cleaning up" (The German Question and Other German Questions, Schoenbaum, p. 12). Today Germany's rebuilt cities hum with activity. The German economy is one of the biggest and strongest in the world. Wages and living standards are among the highest in the world. The militarized Germany of the Nazis has become a peaceful democracy. This would have seemed unthinkable 50 years ago.

Another incredible development was the sudden and unexpected reunification of East and West Germany beginning in the Fall of 1989. This surprising event concentrated 80 million Germans in the heart of Europe. Although skeptics may disagree, a German newspaper reported "just one year ago, no German politician was pursuing this goal, and no foreign politician

wanted it…it was God's work" (The German Comedy, Schneider, p. ix). As the 20th century draws to a close, Germany has emerged again as the most powerful nation in Europe—the same position it held at the beginning of this century! Not surprisingly, modern Germans, as did their predecessors in 1900, sense the "coming century as theirs" (Ibid, p. 10).

But just who are these remarkable people—the Germans? What's behind their miraculous recovery and incredible transformation? Most scholars recognize that "Germany is one of the great cultural centers of Europe and that German achievements in architecture, music, literature and philosophy are among the landmarks of civilization" (The New Germans, Radice, p. xvi). The great composers—Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Strauss—were Germans. Gutenberg printed the first book with moveable type, the Bible, in Mainz about 1456. The ideas of Martin Luther spawned the Protestant Reformation. German philosophers and theologians have molded the intellectual climate of the West. In academic fields, "from agronomy to zoology, Germans have not only advanced, but practically defined the natural sciences" (Schoenbaum, p. 11). German-engineered products are synonymous with precision and quality around the world. The contribution of Germany to the development of Western civilization has been almost without parallel!

Which Way for Germany?

What role will Germany play in the 21st century? Will we see a "Europeanized" Germany blend into the fabric of a united continent, or will Germany try again to take over Europe? Will a more powerful and assertive Germany be a friend or foe of America and other Western nations? The return of Germany to a position of power in Europe has raised once again the German Questions! Who are the Germans? How did they acquire their striking national characteristics? What does the future hold for Germany?

Such questions may seem irrelevant to generations born since 1945. After all, Germany has been a stable democracy, a good neighbor and dependable ally for over 50 years. Based on what Germany has achieved in the last half-century, some assert that "prospects for a larger, potentially more powerful Germany living at peace are promising" (Radice, p. 207). Supposedly, Germans no longer harbor great power ambitions because "the lesson of two world wars has been fully understood" (Germany's New Position in Europe, Baring, p. 29).

However, these optimistic views may be shortsighted and dangerously flawed. Astute observers with longer memories are concerned. Could a reunified Germany become "an uncaged giant, a Fourth Reich—a German Empire?" (Germany and Europe, Marsh, p. 167). A former Washington Post bureau chief in Bonn and Berlin sees Germany as "the most conflicted, powerful, promising and dangerous country in Europe" (After the Wall, Fischer, jacket). Italian journalist Luigi Barzini has described Germany's tendency to make sudden and unexpected changes. He warned it is "important to keep an eye on the German Proteus [a Greek sea god capable of assuming different forms] in an attempt to fathom the probable shape of things to come…Its decisions could once again overwhelm Europe and the world" (The Europeans, Barzini, p. 107).

While many assume it is impossible to predict the future in the complex field of international relations, that simply isn't true! The Bible outlines the future course of world history by predicting the actions of specific nations. One key to understanding Bible prophecy is to be able to identify the nations involved. National characteristics that remain consistent over the centuries provide important clues. As we will see in this article, Germany can be identified in the prophecies of the Bible and her future course of action can be known. That identity is surprising and the future is sobering—in the short run—but exciting in the ultimate outcome of God's plan for mankind.

Reason for Concern

What worries many seasoned observers is that this remarkably gifted nation has other unique and ominous proclivities. Germany has been described as a "country of promising beginnings, dramatic changes and abrupt breakdowns" and "a country with a neverending series of surprising inceptions and equally surprising finales" (Baring, p. 2). Many modern Germans are nervous that a developing crisis could push their newly united country "back into the continuity of German history" (Ibid, pp. 10–11). That history, viewed from the perspective of centuries, reveals a marked tendency to undergo periodic and dramatic transformations in national character. Visitors in one era describe a country of poets, philosophers and postcard panoramas that suddenly becomes a "nation of warriors" and brutally efficient conquerors in another era (Schoenbaum, p. 7).

This sobering phenomenon of "the mutable Germans" has been described by numerous writers. When Barzini visited Berlin in the early 1930s as a war correspondent he saw a city that was the "artistic capital of Europe" filled with avant-garde art shows, trail-blazing films and experiments of all kinds" (Barzini, p. 75). Several years later, after the Nazis had come to power, he saw a much different Berlin crowded with "stiff men in spotless uniforms," serious business men, chic women and families (Ibid, p. 78). Barzini comments, "I saw a strangely malleable country given a new shape by the Nazis" (Ibid, p. 78). He continues, "frightening above all were the young, healthy, well-washed faces of the soldiers, their eyes shining with a fanatic faith as they marched by, singing martial songs" that included 'Today we have Germany, tomorrow the world'" (Schoenbaum, p. 73).

It is this tendency toward a militaristic transformation that is the most worrisome aspect of the German people. German soldiers have marched out of Germany and across Europe as "a relentless unstoppable war machine" numerous times in history. World War II, "the most German of all wars," claimed 50 million lives (Ibid, p. 5). It began in 1939 when Hitler openly broke agreements with neighboring nations. Elite Panzer tank units lead the German blitzkrieg (lightning war). U-boats prowled the Atlantic in wolfpacks and newly developed U-2 rockets rained death and destruction on England. Millions of Jews, Czechs and Poles were deported to work as slave laborers in German factories and face genocidal deaths inconcentration camps—with their piles of corpses!

The German war machine of World War II stands unequaled in modern Western civilization for its efficiency, destructiveness and brutality. From a historical perspective, "the Third Reich became the epitome of the barbarity of man" (The Neo-Nazis and German Reunification, Lewis, p. 1), which raises even more questions: Why did Germany deteriorate into tyranny? Where do these tendencies come from? Could this happen again?

Obscuring German Origins

Germany's neighbors and national security advisors are not the only ones asking these questions. Many modern Germans, trying to understand Germany's turbulent past, are asking "basic questions about their identity…who are we?" (Fisher, p. 11).

One political scientist stated, "We do not know who we are, that is the German Question" (Baring, p. 2). Yet answers are available—recorded in the annals of history, imbedded in legends passed down from antiquity, and woven into Bible prophecies that focus on our times.

German historian Hagen Schulze writes; "Our identity is explained sufficiently only when our history is known" (The Unmasterable Past, Maier, p. 150). Unfortunately, German history has been manipulated to hide—from Germans and the world—critical bits of information concerning German origins and national traits. One historian comments, "Modern approaches to the problem of German origins have to a large extent been governed by shifts in political feeling" (The Early Germans, Todd, p. 9). Writers, promoting the false idea of pure racial origins, have ignored or obscured significant external influences on the development of German culture. This was particularly true in the late 1800s during the rise of German nationalism and into the Nazi era (Ibid, p. 263). However, history provides some remarkable insights into the origin and national character traits of the Germans. Coupled with Bible prophecy, these insights give us a divinely revealed window on Germany's future.

Historical sources indicate the German tribes descended from Indo-Europeans that migrated from lands around the Black or Caspian Seas where they had been "neighbors of the Hebrews" (Natural History, Pliny, Bk. 4,12; Germany: Her People and their Story, p. 10). Julius Caesar (60 BC) and the Roman historian, Tacitus (98 AD) refer to tribes living along the Rhine as Germani (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., p. 830; Todd, pp. 2–5). Tacitus states German men had "no taste for peace" and spent their time in warlike pursuits. According to early accounts, "Germanic society was a warrior society, a society geared to waging war" and they posed a serious threat to the Roman army (Todd, p. 36).

History clearly reveals the German tribes absorbed Roman ways (imperialism, totalitarianism and the religion of a "Christianized" empire) and became the "heirs of Rome" with the rise of the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne and the German kings (Germany: 2000 Years, Reinhardt, pp. xxiii, 43). To find Germany leading the effort to unite Europe today is not surprising. This idea has been part of the German cultural heritage for over a thousand years!

The Power of Ideas

But what accounts for Germany's tendency to undergo dramatic transformations in national character? Why did so many Germans buy into the "master race" concept and the destructive policies of Hitler's Third Reich? Part of the answer is found in the cultural history of Germany. It has been said that the character of individuals and nations determines their destiny.

The character of a nation is molded by religious and philosophical ideas of its people (see Reinhardt, pp. xxiv–xxvii). Ideas and ideologies have influenced cultural and political events in Germany "perhaps more than in any other nation in Europe" (Ibid, p. xxvi).

In German mythology the primary gods, Thor and Odin/Wodin, exhibit striking characteristics. Thor is a peaceful god of seasons and pastures but also a god of war. Thor combines in himself two different personalities—the "contrasting elements of friendly guardianship, and dark and dangerous irrationality" (Ibid, p. 15). Odin is a god of death, storm and battlefield, but also of wisdom and witchcraft. Odin also exhibits this same "incalculable and unfathomable irrationality. He destroys heroes and protects cowards; he sows discord among friends…he changes his attachments and affiliations, deserting his friends when they need him the most" (Ibid, p. 15). Over the centuries, Germany has exhibited the same tendencies for dramatic and irrational shifts in national character. It is also interesting to note that German mythology offers no real purpose or meaning for life (Ibid, pp. 12–13)—which leaves people searching for a cause.

When we examine the philosophical orientation of the ancient Germans we find a "lust for adventure and love of warfare [that] made them frequently oblivious of humane considerations and inhibitions. They tortured criminals… and broke solemnly sworn treaties without scruples" (Ibid, p. 10). The German sense of honor exalted vengeance. In Germanic tradition, loyalty, honor and heroism were more important than the humility, compassion and charity emphasized by Christianity. This fundamental conflict between traditional cultural influences and Judeo-Christian values begins to explain why Prusso-eutonic forces have pursued paths completely different from those taken by other peoples of Western civilization.

Leaders Make a People

This powerful mixture of ideas, traditions and opportunities appears to merge in the lives of individuals who have molded German history. The German lands were part of the territories Charlemagne conquered in his attempt to reassemble the Roman Empire. Charlemagne was a powerful warrior with a powerful idea. That same idea of uniting Europe under the banner of Christendom burned in the hearts of the first German emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, Otto the Great and Frederick Barbarossa (Frederick I of Hohenstauffen—proclaimed "master of the world"). Under these strong warriors the Germans became the most powerful kingdom in all Europe (960–1150 AD). However, the promising Hohenstauffen dynasty floundered (one of the "most brilliant failures of the Middle Ages") trying to conquer Italy, and Germany became the domain of warring princes for several centuries (Basic History of Modern Germany, Snyder).

In the early 1700s Frederick William I of Prussia revived the militaristic course of modern Germany. Following his Hohenzollern family tradition that land and military strength were keys to national power, he set out to build the strongest and besttrained army in Europe. When he died, Prussia was recognized as the most thoroughly militarized power in Europe and one of the most self-sufficient and prosperous. His son, Frederick the Great, turned Prussia into the "drill-yard" of Europe and a firstclass power (Jackboot, Laffin, pp. 6–7). Frederick was a visionary administrator who established a centralized government and a professional civil service to rule his expanding realm.

Frederick the Great was also an opportunist who learned from his mistakes. As king "he had no use for the forms of international law," invading without declaring war, then creating a pretext for his desired adventures (Ibid, p.15). For Frederick, war was serious business to be one as quickly and efficiently as possible. He favored tactics involving surprise, cunning and audacity for attacking enemies of superior strength. He amazed his adversaries with his "capacity to continually recover and rise up afresh" (p. 18). Frederick began his reign as a humanitarian only to be transformed into a ruthless "hammer of the world"—emulating earlier German Fredericks (see Jeremiah 50:23).

The Prussian Influence

The Prussian militaristic tradition begun by Hohenzollerns eventually permeated all of Germany. Following the defeat of Prussia by Napoleon, the Prussian Army was reorganized. Gerhard von Scharnhorst, a brilliant theorist and organizer, established military academies, built a new type of army, and laid the groundwork for what became the great German General Staff. This group of professional soldiers planned for war even in times of peace, and prepared future generations of officers—an idea copied by nations around the world. Under Scharnhorst's direction, the entire population of Prussia was indoctrinated to the purpose and glories of war. However, it was the influential writings of his most devoted pupil, Karl von Clausewitz, that put "a halo around the profession of arms" and led Prussia and Germany into preparation for total war.

According to Clausewitz, war was merely a continuation of politics by other means, and no victory should be without the shedding of blood. These ideas gained wide acceptance in Germany and are reflected in Bismarck's policy that "the great questions of the day will not be settled by resolutions or majority votes, but by blood and iron" (Ibid, p. 71). The goal of the new army created by Scharnhorst, Clausewitz and others was the destruction of an enemy as quickly and efficiently as possible by superbly trained and disciplined troops fighting for their national destiny.

It was this Prussian tradition—authoritarian, anti-democratic, militaristic, and expansionistic—that paved the way for the rise of Imperial Germany, the Nazis and the military adventures, atrocities and disasters of the Third Reich. While Hitler's ascent to power was aided by a worldwide depression, his ideas were drawn from long-standing German ideas and traditions. The warlike behavior and glorification of battle recognized by the Romans reappears consistently in German history. But where did the Germans develop their fixation for precision and martial behavior that so distinguishes their national character?

Who were the ancestors of the Germanic tribes that migrated from the shores of the Black and Caspian seas?

Striking Parallels

If you get a map showing the Black and Caspian seas, and check several history books for nations that occupied this area of the world in the 1st and 2nd millenia BC and exhibited militaristic traits similar to the Germans, you quickly discover some very interesting facts. That part of the world was dominated by Assyria and a neighboring kingdom, the Hittites. Read what historians and archaeologists have learned about these ancient nations. Notice their distinctive national character traits. Compare those traits to the ones that Germans have been noted for for nearly 2000 years. It won't take you long to begin to realize you are on to something!

The most outstanding feature of Assyria and the Hittites (as in Prussia and periodically in Germany) was the totally militarized structure of their cultures. Historians state: "The unique feature of the Assyrian state, in contrast to its contemporaries, was its militarism, which was a strong point in creating and running an empire. The Assyrian army was the mightiest that the ancient world had ever seen and no other people could resist it, at least for long" (Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, Sasson, ed., p. 916). Hittite power also rested on military prowess (The Barbarian Tides, Time/Life, p. 14). As in Prussia and Germany, Assyria was described as a nation of warriors, and the Assyrian government was primarily an instrument of war. The Assyrians developed a strongly centralized form of government under an absolute ruler, the "king of the world" (History of the Ancient World, Starr, p. 132). Initially, Assyrian conquests were to gain control and protect vital trade routes. Their goal was to translate the emerging economic unity of the Near East into political unity (as is happening in Europe today)!

The military tactics of the Assyrians and Hittites, like the Germans and Prussians, stressed rapid troop movements and surprise. Each nation developed a reputation for advancing the technology of war—chariots, cavalry, tanks, submarines and rockets. The Hittites were the first to make iron, and the Assyrians were "the first great army to use iron weapons" (Starr, p. 183). Charlemagne was noted for wearing iron armor and weapons and an iron crown (Gifford, pp. 34–35). The Germans award an Iron Cross for meritorious service in war.

The Assyrians, like the Germans at various times in their history, were notorious for using extreme acts of cruelty—blinding, mutilating, stacking severed heads and corpses—to intimidate and control conquered peoples. Both nations deported conquered peoples to different locations on a massive scale to obtain forced labor and break morale. Genocide was also practiced by both peoples. Assyrian art and literature glorify the destructiveness and brutality of war. Virtually the same could be said for the writings of von Clausewitz and other Prussian and German authors.

Assyria was an "empire that in military might would stand second to none…they wrote a bloody chapter in the story of mankind—one that was all the uglier because it featured deliberate terror and atrocity as instruments of foreign policy" (Barbarian Tides, p. 17). In the end, "Assyria's atrocious behavior had made it the object of seething hatreds" (Ibid, p. 29). Surrounding nations finally ganged up and defeated the Assyrians—as Allied nations have done twice in this century to Germany. For Assyria, "the end came so swiftly and was so complete that few details are known" (Ibid, p. 28).

This sudden collapse poses problems for historians. We are told that the Assyrians seem to disappear into the mists of history—in the area of the Black Sea. We are also led to believe the ancestors of the Germans emerge in the same region. While most historians are reluctant, or fail, to make any connection between the disappearance of the Assyrians and the appearance of the Germanic tribes, the fact remains that no other nation's history and national character resembles Germany more than does that of Assyria. Both Assyria and Germany stand unique in history for exactly the same reasons: totally militarized societies, the glorification of war, brutally efficient armies, deliberately calculated acts of extreme cruelty, mass deportations, slave labor camps, and genocide—all centrally administered with incredible efficiency. The histories of both nations reveal periods of powerful military resurgence after periods of decline. These parallels are striking and unique in the story of human civilization!

More Connections

The Assyrian Empire developed from the city-state of Asur (named for Asshur, a son of Shem—one of Noah's three sons—see Genesis 10:1, 22). Asshur was a brother of Aphraxad—an ancestor of Abraham, who was the father of the Hebrews Genesis 11:10–26). Thus true Assyrians and the descendants of Abraham (the Israelites) are kindred peoples. The name Assur means "leader" or "successful." Josephus, writing in the 1st century AD, states the Assyrians "became the most fortunate of nations, beyond others" (Antiquities of the Jews, 1:6:6). In light of their abilities and contributions to Western civilization, this is also true for the Germans.

Assur was worshiped as "the chief god of Assyria… the god of war" and represented as a "solar deity with a winged disc" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., p. 788). Both the winged disc and the swastika were also used by the Hittites (Collier's Encyclopedia, "Hittites"). The swastika is a symbol for the sun, power, energy, Thor's hammer and the god of weather and storm (Dictionary of Symbols, Liungman, pp. 48–49, 178–179). The Hittites and Assyrians also used a double-headed eagle to symbolize the sky gods—storm, thunder and the sun. These symbols reappear in the culture of Germany, Prussia and especially the Third Reich. The Hittites (who were conquered and absorbed by the Assyrians) show definite linguistic and cultural links with two of the German tribes—Hessians and Prussians.

Even more interesting are legends that Trier, the oldest city in Germany, was founded by Trebeta, the son of an Assyrian king named Ninus, in about 2000 BC (In Deutchen Landen, Bihl, p. 69). Many modern travel books mention an inscription on a historic house in Trier's marketplace stating this Assyrian colony was founded 1,300 years before Rome. Arab writers of the Middle Ages also refer to the Germans as Assyrians. The links between Germany and Assyria can be found and are neither far-fetched nor imagined.

Germany in Prophecy

But just what is the significance of these striking parallels between ancient Assyria and Germany? Simply this—numerous Bible prophecies clearly indicate that at the end of this age, just before the return of Jesus Christ, Assyria will once again play a pivotal role in world affairs (see Isaiah 10; 11). While Scripture states that the name and identity of Assyria, or Ninevah, would disappear (Nahum 1:1,14), which history confirms, the numerous prophetic references to Assyria in the context of the end times clearly indicate that the cultural, intellectual and ideological heritage of the Assyrians would survive. The annals of history strongly suggest the Germans are the bearers of that ancient legacy. It is written on their national character. It is linked to their origins. When the bible speaks of Assyria in the end times' it is speaking of Germany. No other modern nation fits the description so completely.

Germany's return to power in the years since World War II is no accident. God prophesied over 2,500 years ago that He would bring certain events to pass to accomplish His purpose (Isaiah 46:9–10; Revelation 17:17). Germany is the leading player in the effort to form a European Union. This union may become the long-prophesied, ten-nation beast power that will again rise out of the ashes of the Roman (and Holy Roman) Empire (Revelation 17:9–14).

Germany has played this role numerous times before. This emerging configuration will become a global economic power (Revelation 18:2–3, 9–14) and will use that power for political purposes. It will appear peaceful at first but will be transformed into a devouring, war-making beast (Daniel 11:21; Revelation 13:2–3; Revelation 17:12–14). Daniel describes this end-time kingdom as a strong and ferocious beast with "iron teeth" (Daniel 2:40–45; 7:7, 19–23). Yet, amazing as it may seem, Bible prophecy also indicates that God will eventually utilize the remarkable German people (Assyria) as a leading nation for peace in the coming kingdom of God (Isaiah 19:23–25).

God will use the outstanding intellectual and cultural strengths of the German people to help enrich the world during the coming millenial rule of Jesus Christ. As all peoples of the earth, the Germans have in their national character both strengths and weaknesses. In tomorrow's world, God will use the remarkable strengths of the Germans to serve their fellow man!

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