In a previous article in this series, we saw how God dramatically intervened on numerous occasions to guide the course of history. We saw how He preserved and prepared Europe to play a unique role on the world stage (“Europe, Christianity & God’s Plan,” Tomorrow’s World, January-February 2017). And we saw how His intervention paved the way for the social and religious influences that have shaped our world to this very day. At critical turning points that determined the future direction of world history, the Persians, the Muslims and the Mongols were each prevented from conquering and spreading their religious cultures over the continent of Europe. However, few today understand why the peoples of Europe were protected from these foreign conquerors. Even fewer recognize how God preserved the remnants of true Christianity scattered among other competing versions of “Christianity” that struggled to dominate the European continent. Yet Europe truly has, indeed, been an important stage where God has been working out His plan on earth.
Many of the peoples of Northwest Europe (including those of Scandinavia and the British Isles) assume they are Gentiles because they are not Jewish. However, many today do not realize that the Jews represent primarily two of the tribes of Israel: Judah (from which they take their name) and Benjamin. The Bible reveals that ten other tribes also descended from the biblical patriarch Jacob (see Genesis 49). After a period of captivity in Assyria, many Israelite tribes migrated into Northwest Europe—where they multiplied and fulfilled the promises that God made earlier to Abraham and his descendants. The descendants of these European Israelites later scattered around the globe and carried their religious ideas and cultural values with them (see our booklet The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy). Many of the Israelite nations (America, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) now make up what is called the “Anglosphere.” The French, Dutch, Belgians, Swiss and Scandinavians are also among the scattered Israelite nations. Together, these Israelite peoples have dominated the history of the world for the last five hundred years, but few understand why this has occurred.
The Bible records that God gave His laws to His chosen people so that they could be lights and examples to the world and the blessings of a biblically based culture could be shared with all mankind (Deuteronomy 4:1–8). These divinely inspired laws, however imperfectly they have been observed by the modern descendants of Israel, have played a unique role in setting Western Civilization apart from the rest of the world and have played a role in why God has preserved Europe from total and permanent foreign conquest in previous historical eras. God intended the Israelite nations to be His “servants” (Isaiah 44:21) and to have a powerful and positive impact on the world—and He guided the course of European history to make His purpose become a reality (cf. Isaiah 46:9–10). We will explore this fascinating subject in future articles in this series. However, the Israelite nations have not always fulfilled their God-given mission—and that will result in future consequences.
The continent of Europe played another unique role in the fulfillment of God’s plan for mankind. Jesus said that He came to build a church that would never die (Matthew 16:18). He described His church as a “little flock” (Luke 12:32) that would be persecuted (John 15:20), but which would hold fast to His teachings (John 17:17; Revelation 3:8). While true Christianity virtually disappeared from the lands of its birth in the Middle East and North Africa due to the violent spread of Islam and other forces, geographical and political factors in Europe combined to allow the survival of the faithful followers of Jesus and the preservation of the teachings of true Christianity.
Both the Bible and secular history record that Jesus and His followers were persecuted by Jewish religious leaders and Roman civil authorities—deadly oppression that lasted long after His death and resurrection. During the terrible persecutions unleashed by pagan Roman emperors, Christians were imprisoned, tortured and thrown to wild animals to amuse cheering crowds. In this environment, many Christians were forced to worship in secret in underground catacombs of Rome or in secluded places in the countryside. However, even as an adulterated and apostate version of Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire, a few determined to truly follow the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles—observing the seventh-day Sabbath and the biblical Holy Days, baptizing adults and not children, and other doctrines—and were targeted for persecution by the Catholic bishops of Rome. Such true Christians stood out from those who began adopting non-biblical customs and teachings—such as observing Christmas, Easter, and “Saints’ Days,” and adopting the pagan doctrine of the immortal soul—in order to make it easier for pagans to “convert” to the compromised “Christianity” of the powerful Roman Church (see Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, p. 595).
In an effort to enforce conformity to Roman Christianity, popes in Rome launched crusades against so-called religious “heretics” who rejected these “Christianized” pagan customs and teachings. As a result of the persecution and slaughter instigated by the Roman Church, Albigensians and Cathars in southern France fled to mountain-top castles where they were protected by sympathetic leaders. Waldensians in northern Italy retreated to inaccessible Alpine valleys and sometimes worshipped in caves to preserve their faith. Paulicians in Asia Minor and Bogomils in the Balkans were also persecuted by the Roman Church and the Byzantines. Even in England, where Protestantism prevailed, believers who persisted in following the teachings and example of Jesus and the Apostles (observing the Sabbath, the biblical Holy Days and biblical health laws) were persecuted by the Church of England for not conforming to teachings that were carried over from the Roman Church (see our booklet on God’s Church Through the Ages).
While many of the records of these persecuted groups were destroyed and forgotten, and surviving accounts of their beliefs were often twisted by their inquisitors and persecutors, traces of their true beliefs can still be found among the remnants of these groups that remain scattered in Europe or eventually fled to the New World, where some even use the biblical name “Church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; et al.).
From the vantage point of history, the evidence indicates that God preserved Europe from being overrun by foreign invaders as a cradle in which He could incubate the scattered Israelite people and enable them to develop an approach to civilization that would influence the world. As Jesus predicted, God also preserved His Church among the various warring divisions of so-called “Christianity” that struggled to dominate the European continent. Bible prophecies reveal that when Jesus Christ returns, the saints who have been faithful to His teachings will join the King of kings to establish the Kingdom of God on this earth (Revelation 11:15–18) in what will become the ultimate turning point in the history of the world.