For centuries, many Europeans have looked beyond their small nation-states and dreamed of a powerful, unified continent. As the European Union grows, matures and negotiates obstacles, Bible prophecy can shed light on the prospect of a united Europe.
Is the unification of Europe the pathway to a peaceful future—or is it a nightmare in the making? Bible prophecies show that big surprises are ahead for Europe and will affect the whole world.
What is so important about Europe? Why should people in North America, Africa or Australia be concerned about events taking place on a continent halfway around the globe? The answer is simple—we are witnessing a turning point in human history that will dramatically change the course of world events. T.R. Reid, former London bureau chief for the Washington Post, observes, "At the dawn of the twenty-first century, a geopolitical revolution of historic dimensions is taking place across the Atlantic: the unification of Europe… Europe is a more integrated place today than at any time since the Roman Empire" (The United States of Europe, p. 1).
Reid notes that Americans, like many others, have "largely ignored this European revolution" although European leaders have openly stated that in the coming century "the united Europe is determined to challenge American claims to global supremacy and gain equal standing with the United States on the world stage" (ibid., pp. 6, 228). He relates how British Prime Minister Tony Blair summarized the goal of Europe's politicians: "We are building a new world superpower. The European Union is about the projection of collective power, wealth, and influence. That collective strength makes individual nations more powerful—and it will make the EU as a whole a global power" (ibid., p. 4). Reid concludes, "A geopolitical earthquake is taking place in Europe that will have a profound effect on the world of the twenty-first century and America's place in it—but so far most Americans [and Britons, Canadians and Australians] have chosen to overlook the tremors" (ibid., p. 227).
Tony Blair is not the only political leader with grand visions for Europe. Romano Prodi, former head of the uropean Commission, has stated, "Europe's time is almost here. In fact, there are many areas of world affairs where… Europe is already the superpower" (ibid., p. 25). Though Europe occupies only 6 percent of the earth's surface and has only 12 percent of the earth's population, it holds 40 percent of the world's wealth and conducts more than 50 percent of the world's commerce. The euro is the world's strongest currency, and the EU is the world's largest trade market. Bureaucrats in Brussels now make business regulations that govern industries around the globe. European consortiums such as Airbus are overtaking former industry leaders like Boeing. Based on such developments, French President Jacques Chirac has grandly proclaimed, "Europe can become the number one power in the multi-power world of tomorrow" (Superstate, Haseler, p. 67). Chirac is merely echoing the dreams and ambitions of another famous French leader, Charles de Gaulle, who proclaimed that a united Europe "from the Atlantic to the Urals will decide the fate of the world" (ibid., p. 68). In addition to becoming a major civilian and economic power, Europe is also "located in a pivotal global position… crucially placed at the center of a web of civilizations" between America, Africa, Russia, the Middle East and China (ibid., p. 70). For all these reasons, and more, a unified Europe will be a power to be reckoned with in the years ahead.
The idea of a united Europe is more than just a quest for economic stability and prosperity. It is a long-standing vision that has captured the imagination of intellectuals who have wanted something to believe in as they attempt to build a better world. European unification was devised as a way to eliminate war from the continent. By tying the countries of Europe together with common laws, a common currency, a European Court, a Central Bank and a host of other intertwined institutions, Europe's planners hoped to keep age-old rivalries from resurfacing and tearing Europe apart.
Optimists consider the attempt to build a united Europe a "bold new experiment" and a "bridge" to a new global era of supranational governments and the path to a secular humanistic utopia of peace, harmony, economic stability and ecological sustainability (The European Dream, Rifkin, pp. 3–8). Some even see the European Union as a model for a future world government. American author Jeremy Rifkin, a student radical in the 1960s, is now an advisor to former Italian prime minister (and EU enthusiast) Romano Prodi. Rifkin writes idealistically that "my hope for the future pulls me to the European Dream, with its own collective responsibility and global consciousness… The fledgling European Dream represents humanity's best aspirations for a better tomorrow… The world is looking to this grand experiment in transnational governance, hoping it might provide some much needed guidance on where humanity ought to be heading in a globalizing world… The European Dream is a beacon of light in a troubled world" (ibid., pp. 8, 358, 385). For some today, the quest for the European Dream has practically become a new religion—a quest for a secular "holy grail."
However, the reality of life inside the EU is quite different from these idealistic sentiments. Mark Gilbert, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Trento in Italy, writes: "The weight of expectations placed on the EU in Rifkin's book verges on the ridiculous. If the EU is a beacon for humanity, it is a smoky one" ("Europe: Paradise Found?," World Policy Journal, Winter 2004-05, p. 9). Gilbert lists a series of problems facing the EU: high taxes that support Europe's extensive welfare states, reams of regulations that stifle economies and produce high unemployment, opposition to an unpopular constitution, a hopelessly cumbersome decision-making apparatus, recurring budgetary battles and corruption charges, and a swelling population of immigrant workers spawning far-right protest movements. French analyst Laurent Cohen-Tanugi states that when the electorate in two of the EU's founding members (France and Holland) chose to reject the proposed EU constitution, this was a "crisis of unprecedented seriousness" for the EU that "reflects and deepens a profound crisis in the process of European unification" ("The End of Europe?," Foreign Affairs, November-December 2005, p. 55). Cohen-Tanugi believes that "the 25-member union of today is an unworkable and unreasonable project" and that "the worst outcome of the EU's current crisis would be the gradual undoing of European unification… as a result of declining EU legitimacy and rising nationalism. Such a development would generate political instability and tensions in and around Europe" (ibid., pp. 64–65). Cohen-Tanugi observed that "the political leadership required for change is unlikely to come from Brussels" (ibid., p. 62). Many observers expect future European leadership to come from a reassertive Germany (for more on this topic, see page 16 of this issue).
Misgivings about European unification have surfaced, because of its failure to improve European economies and reduce unemployment. There are also disagreements about the EU's future direction. Even EU enthusiast Rifkin admits, "I'm not sure how thick the European Dream is" (Rifkin, p. 383). He wonders whether the European commitment to cultural diversity and peaceful coexistence will remain firm in the face of terrorist attacks by foreign agents, or whether Europeans will remain committed to the principles of inclusivity and sustainable development if there is a serious economic downturn or a global depression (ibid., p. 384). Other observers note that Europeans are "participants in a vast and farreaching political, economic, and cultural experiment" and that "no one has any clear idea of the outcome" (The Idea of Europe, Padgen, p. 3). Historians recall that when Napoleon and Hitler attempted to unite Europe through a common currency and a common code of laws enforced by a central government, their efforts ended in failure and bloodshed (ibid., pp. 122, 191).
While many EU analysts are unsure about possible outcomes of the European experiment, some are quite firm in their views. Connor Cruise O'Brien, a former pro-chancellor of the University of Dublin, wrote, "The idea of a United States of Europe is a dangerous mirage" (The Question of Europe, Gowan & Anderson, p. 84). Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher believes that the drive to create a European superstate is "a classic utopian project, a monument to the vanity of intellectuals, a programme whose inevitable destiny is failure: only the scale of the damage done is in doubt" (Statecraft, Thatcher, p. 359). But what will actually happen in Europe, and where are current events leading? Can we really know?
Few today understand that Bible prophecies describe major events that will mark the end of this age and signal Jesus Christ's imminent return to set up the kingdom of God on this earth. In fact, Jesus told His disciples to "watch" world events so that they would not be surprised by these rapidly developing events (see Matthew 24–25).
One key event that will announce the approaching end of this age will be the appearance of a powerful—yet fragile—federation of ten nations in Europe with links to the ancient Roman Empire (Daniel 2:40–45). Bible prophecy illustrates the unstable nature of this union through an image with feet and toes made of a mixture of iron and clay. This is an accurate description of what is developing in Europe today. The EU nations lack the bonding power of a common language, common customs or common history. Policy decisions often pit small European nations against larger ones. Interests of the two so-called core nations of Europe—France and Germany—often diverge and conflict. Analysts are aware that as long as "member states remain 'sovereign,' unity will remain temporary and fragile" (Superstate, p. 75). British journalist Timothy Garton Ash comments: "The great gamble of this continental project is that the Franco-German core will indeed be a magnet, that where Bonn and Paris lead, others will sooner or later follow… The trouble is that this project is very likely to fail" (The Question of Europe, p. 123). More than 2,500 years ago, the Bible prophesied the fragile nature of this end-time European experiment!
Other prophecies describe four empires that would arise to dominate the Mediterranean world. The fourth empire, recognized as the Roman Empire and pictured as a beast with ten horns—was to be "different from the first ones" in that it would exist as a succession of ten kingdoms (the ten horns of Daniel 7:24). Efforts currently underway to unite Europe will mark the final revival of this Roman system. The leaders of the EU have made no secret of their desire to link the unification of Europe to the legacy of Rome. It is also interesting that the transnational governance of the EU has been described as "something new" that "differs qualitatively… from any previous arrangements of European states and from any current arrangement of states on any other continent" (The Question of Europe, p. 120).
Bible prophecies describe the final revival of the Roman system as a mysterious beast (Daniel 7:7, 19–20; Revelation 13:1–10; 17:3–8). The Hebrew and Greek words for "beast" can also be translated "creature" or "wild animal" (see Strong's Concordance). The EU has been called, "a thing… this maze… an impenetrable labyrinth" (The Question of Europe, pp. 120, ix). The EU is shrouded by an air of mystery in that its decisions are made "behind closed doors" in secrecy, the institutional arrangements are complex and unfamiliar, and its treaties are written in convoluted language that is unintelligible to the average person (see Padgen, p. 27). The EU has also been referred to as a chimera—defined as "a fire-breathing monster with body parts from various different animals; a fantastic hybrid; an impossible folly" (ibid., p. 77; English Dictionary, Geddes & Grossett). This definition matches the biblical description of the endtime creature that was prophesied more than 2,000 years ago (see Daniel 7:7; Revelation 13:1–2).
British journalist Christopher Booker actually refers to the EU as "The Federal Monster" that is steadily—and stealthily—eating away at British sovereignty (Daily Mail, December 10, 2005). He writes: "The chief reason why this massive takeover of national sovereignty has not been more widely noticed is that the EU exercises its control from behind the scenes, so carefully disguised that even many of those directly affected still think that their own national ministers and agencies are still in charge… Instead of sweeping away all the existing national institutions in each country, these have all been left standing while being hollowed out from within… We have become victims of a slow-motion coup d'etat" (ibid.). Others have noted that during the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis operated in a similar manner in Denmark and in France (The Question of Europe, pp. 86–87). Many in Europe will be shocked and surprised when they realize that they are no longer in charge of their own governments, and have been deceptively corralled into a transnational European government—a government that has talked of peace, harmonization and human rights, but has taken away their cherished national rights and freedoms (see Daniel 11:21).
The prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation provide sobering views of the European Dream's ultimate destiny. Scripture reveals that a miracleworking religious figure will help bring about the final end-time revival of a political-economicmilitary beast created in the image of the ancient Roman Empire. The Apostle John wrote that this religious figure "was granted power to give breath [life] to the image of the beast" (Revelation 13:11–15). Amazingly, one EU policy paper has used the same biblical terms, projecting that in constructing a political Europe, "it is for the Union [the EU] to give life to its model on the international stage" (Building a Political Europe: 50 proposals for tomorrow's Europe).
Bible prophecies reveal how religion will ultimately play a decisive role in bringing to life this end-time European federation. The Bible also indicates that unless people in Europe conform to certain religious-inspired legislation (the "mark" of the beast—which will probably preclude the observance of the biblical Sabbath), they will not be able to function within this trans-European social-economic-political system that will be part of a global trading network (Revelation 13:15–18; 18:10–15). History records that in the past, church councils have influenced civil laws to bar "heretics" from participating in social and economic activities.
Scripture also reveals that eventually "ten kings [leaders, nations]… will give their power and authority to the beast" for a short time—about 31⁄2 years (Revelation 17:12–13; 13:5). The main mechanism for uniting Europe today involves surrendering national sovereignty to trans-European governance—the EU Commission and the EU Parliament—which, the Bible indicates, ten leaders will ultimately do. In the years just ahead, we will probably see a reshuffling of the 25 current members of the EU into a new configuration that has a more solid core of ten politically federated nations in central Europe, bound together by a common religious belief in Roman Catholicism. Surrounding this smaller unified core will be other more loosely affiliated nations. This idea of a smaller core of nations leading the rest of Europe resurfaces periodically when the drive to unite Europe stalls over disagreements among the member nations. Bible prophecy indicates that the final revival of the European Dream will be a federation built around a core of ten nations!
The prophet Daniel states that a vile and deceitful leader (referred to as "king of the north") will gain control of this revived Roman system under the guise of being a peacemaker. He will militarize this end-time European federation, and will invade the Middle East—under the pretext of promoting peace and stability, or as a reaction to a provocation from an Islamic power to the south (see Daniel 11:21–25, 40–43). The Bible also indicates that "Assyria"—modernday Germany—will lead this revived European power (Isaiah 10:5–19). To learn more about Assyria's role in prophecy as modern- day Germany, please request our free reprint article, A Fourth Reich?. God will use this final revival of the Roman Empire to punish the backsliding Israelite nations, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Britain and other nations of northwest Europe. This episode of national punishment will wipe out two thirds of the population of modern Israelite nations (Ezekiel 5:12).
The European beast power, in league with an influential religious leader, will persecute those who actually live by biblical precepts (Daniel 7:21, 25; Revelation 13:7, 15; 17:6). The leader of the beast power will also enter an agreement—which he will later break, ending a period of religious tolerance—that will for a time allow the Jews to begin sacrifices in Jerusalem (Daniel 9:26–27; 8:11). Eventually, this deceptive political leader will engage in a devastating conflict with nations to the north and east (e.g. Russia and China) that will claim the lives of one-third of the human race (Daniel 11:44–45: Revelation 9). He will also clash with his ally—the powerful religious leader—in a struggle reminiscent of conflicts between medieval emperors and popes. The political leaders of this revived federation of ten European nations will then turn on and destroy the religious organization that once gave it life (Revelation 17:16–17). Thus, Bible prophecies reveal that the European Dream, after a short span of 31⁄2 years, will turn into a horrible nightmare—and will crumble when Jesus Christ returns to set up the kingdom of God (see Daniel 2:44–45; 11:44–45; Revelation 17:15–18; 18:1–24). This is the ultimate fate of the secular utopian dream that is driving European planners who ignore the biblical admonition, "unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalm 127:1).
But how does all this relate to you? The God of the Bible reveals the future so that human beings today can know and prepare for what lies ahead (Isaiah 46:9–10). Scripture also tells us that it is not God's will that any should perish, "but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). If we are actually willing to study the Bible, and begin to live by the instructions God has placed in His word, it is possible to escape much of the turmoil that lies ahead for the nations and peoples of this world. This is why Jesus told His disciples, "Watch… and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36). These promises can apply to you, if you are able to see through the mirage of the secular European dream and avoid becoming entangled with the beast that is rising in Europe.
The historic move to unite Europe will not become a "beacon of light" to a troubled world. Rather, it is a warning sign that dramatic, long-prophesied events are about to erupt on the world scene and bring human civilizations to the brink of disaster. You need not be surprised, because Bible prophecies revealed thousands of years ago that this end-time scenario would occur just before Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on this earth. The return of Christ and the kingdom of God are the real hope and the real beacons of light for our troubled world. When the prophecies of the kingdom become reality, the European Dream and the short-lived European experiment will seem naïve by comparison. May God speed that day.