Europe is increasingly building its own war-making capacity. What factors are causing this change, and how will this trend impact the world?
“It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.” These words, published in a Time magazine article on January 26, 2017, were written by former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev. And truly, the world’s stability is more precarious than it has been for decades. The world is an increasingly dangerous and volatile place.
In this environment, who will come to dominate the rest of the 21st century?
We don’t often think of Europe as a military powerhouse, but something is happening there that should seize our attention—something different from any other development in the more than 70 years since World War II. Consider just a handful of headlines of the last few years: “Germany is quietly building a European army under its command” (ForeignPolicy.com, May 22, 2017). “EU unveils military pact projects” (Politico.eu, December 10, 2017). “Merkel calls for ‘real, true’ EU army” (EUObserver.com, November 13, 2018). European leaders are taking more responsibility for their own defense. And all of this is taking place at a time when the Bible predicts the dramatic rise of an end-time superpower that will burst suddenly onto the world scene.
What is happening today in Europe, and where will it lead? Is Europe preparing for war?
The continent is in a far more dangerous and unpredictable situation than any other it has faced in recent decades. Several key forces are changing the face of Europe even now, pressing Europeans to create their own distinctly European defense apparatus. Those forces are the rise of radical Islamic terrorism, the growth of the Russian threat, and the decline of the United States. Each is worthy of close consideration if we want to understand where all of this is headed.
Just a few years ago, Europe faced a major crisis of uncontrolled immigration. Due in large part to the war in Syria, well over 1.5 million immigrants poured into Europe between 2014 and 2017. What followed was a spike in terrorism from Islamic radicals. In 2016 alone, there were attacks in six different European cities—Berlin, Brussels, Hamburg, Nice, Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, and Paris—killing 150 people and injuring hundreds more (“From Paris to Brussels: Most recent terror attacks in Europe,” USA Today, April 7, 2017). Immigration has slowed, but the threat of terrorism continues to be a major force pushing Europeans to adopt tougher security policies.
After a terrorist attack in Belgium in January 2015, the government sent troops to guard targets around the country. It was “the first time in 30 years that authorities used troops to reinforce police in Belgium’s cities,” according to the Telegraph (“Europeans divided over increased security following terror raids,” January 17, 2015). Germany’s constitution forbids deploying German troops within its own borders, but in July of 2016, in response to increased terrorism, the German publication Deutsche Welle reported that the Bavarian Interior Minister had declared that law “obsolete” (“After Munich, politicians consider deploying soldiers at home,” July 25, 2016).
The immigration crisis has greatly strengthened the more right-leaning political parties. In October of 2015, at the European People’s Party’s congress in Madrid, EPP President Joseph Daul said, “We are going to move towards an EU army much faster than people believe…” (“EPP leaders bang drum for European army,” Euractiv.com, October 16, 2015).
Clearly, the threat of radical Islamic terrorism is forcing Europeans to think differently about immigration, security, and even their own personal freedoms. On December 16, 2015, the International Business Times reported on the EU’s controversial proposal calling for a “European Border Force and Coast Guard” with the power to take control of a country’s borders without its consent. Understandably, critics protested that this new program would potentially undermine European nations’ sovereignty. Nevertheless, it went into effect in 2016. While the agency may seem a rational response to terrorism, consider the power this could potentially place in the hands of a military dictator, should one arise.
Why is this happening? Does Bible prophecy say anything about relations between the Middle East and Europe providing a source of conflict and motivating possible military buildup in the future? Yes, it does. In Daniel 11:40–42, we read, “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him [the king of the North]; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown…. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape.”
Other prophecies suggest that the “king of the North” will most likely be an end-time leader attempting to rekindle the glory of the Roman Empire, centered in the heart of Europe. The “king of the South” can be located geographically south of Israel and Jerusalem as coming from the Middle East or North Africa. Will a European dictator go to war with a new Arabic/Islamic caliphate? Will the current threat of terrorism actually move Europe towards a more centralized and more militarized position? Time will tell.
Another factor is motivating Europe to increase its own defensive abilities: Russia—its increasingly aggressive neighbor to the east.
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Eastern European nations came out from under the Iron Curtain. The Soviet empire crumbled, and many adopted the sentiment that Russia had become nearly irrelevant, no longer a major world power. In the late autumn of 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to Europe as Russia’s “natural, most important partner” (Dov Lynch, “Russia’s Strategic Partnership with Europe,” The Washington Quarterly, Spring 2004).
But since that time, Russia has taken a more aggressive position. In 2014, Russia invaded parts of Ukraine and seized the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea. Since then, Europeans have seen Russia as a more dangerous threat. Consider some examples of this shift:
In January of this year, the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system was disclosed, allegedly outperforming the Patriot missile system (“The New Iron Curtain: Russian Missile Defense Challenges U.S. Air Power,” The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2019). In direct defiance of U.S. objections, Russia provided S-400 systems to NATO-member Turkey in July—an aggressive move designed to expand Moscow’s influence while eroding America’s (“Turkey Gets Shipment of Russian Missile System, Defying U.S.,” The New York Times, July 12, 2019).
No wonder Europeans are anxious to ramp up their defenses and military: They share a major border with an increasingly assertive Russia. A number of European countries have reintroduced the draft. Germany positioned tanks in Poland. Sweden issued wartime packets to every citizen in the country for the first time in 50 years. Hungary wants to institute mandatory military training for youth in school, and the European Union has called for a permanent military academy and the development of an EU army headquarters.
European leaders are becoming increasingly eager to show Russia they are no longer going to rely on the United States. In March of 2015, an EU Observer report noted, “European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said the EU should establish its own army to show Russia it is serious about defending European values” (“EU commission chief makes case for European army,” EU Observer, March 9, 2015).
As mentioned earlier, the prophesied king of the North will struggle against a Middle Eastern king of the South. But notice what other forces may be at play. We read from the prophet Daniel—speaking of the king of the North—about concerns that grow while he is engaged in conflict in the Middle East: “But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” (Daniel 11:44).
This prophecy in Daniel predicts a coming, devastating battle between a European leader and a Eurasian-Oriental force that could include a Russian dictator. The geography fits, and Russia and Europe do have a bloodstained history. The current concerns are real, and a massive military buildup is occurring in Europe right before our eyes. It isn’t imagined. It’s in the news. As the EU Observer reported, “A perceived threat from Russia has triggered a central European dash towards military spending” (“Russia threat triggers European military spending hike,” EU Observer, April 24, 2017).
In the meantime, what is Europe’s relationship with the United States?
After World War II, America led the way in Europe’s reconstruction. The NATO alliance meant American troops would be stationed on European soil permanently. But in recent years, America’s role has shifted. When the Cold War ended, NATO struggled to understand its mission in the new environment. As the years wore on, American presidents urged their European counterparts to pay more of the cost of their defense. In June of 2015, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter commended Germany’s government for its leadership in the Ukraine crisis. At the same time, he urged Germany to bolster its defense spending “to ensure that Germany’s defense investments match Germany’s leadership role” (“Pentagon chief urges Germany to bolster defenses,” Deutsche Welle, June 22, 2015).
President Donald Trump has also pushed European governments to pay more of their share of financial support for NATO. According to Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, that push is working. Addressing the U.S. Congress in April 2019, Stoltenberg reported that America’s NATO allies, predominantly European, are expected to spend an additional $100 billion dollars on defense budgets by the end of 2020. “That money will allow us to invest in new capabilities our armed forces need,” Stoltenberg said, “including advanced fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, missile defense and surveillance drones” (“Bolton touts NATO allies’ $100B military spending spree after Trump push: ‘Unequaled triumph’,” Fox News, July 16, 2019).
President Trump has gone further, questioning the value of America’s being in NATO at all. He caused a political firestorm in 2017 when he chose not to recommit to Article 5 of NATO. Article 5 states that an attack on any member of NATO requires other members to rally to its support. In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated, “The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over,” concluding that Europeans must take their future into their own hands and that America cannot be relied upon (“Merkel: Europe cannot rely on its allies anymore,” EU Observer, May 29, 2017). Other officials in the U.S. government have reaffirmed America’s commitment to NATO and, for now, America remains the “muscle” behind NATO’s military capability to counteract Russia. But how long will that last?
Accentuating the effects of the growing distance between America and Europe, the influence of America’s closest ally, Britain, is diminishing as well. When the British voted to leave the European Union, some in the EU saw Brexit as an opportunity to push their military agenda forward, knowing that the British had not generally been in favor of a European army. Note what one German defense minister said: “Europe needs common political will for more security policy relevance. The outcome of the election in America [that is, Donald Trump’s election as president] could provide an additional impetus…. The Brexit decision and the election in the United States have set a new course” for the EU (“Germany: Trump victory to spur EU military union,” EU Observer, November 11, 2016). Perhaps the situation is best summed up by this quote from The Independent: “Germany and Europe are likely to take on a much more substantial and independent role than they have in the past 70 years” (“What do Angela Merkel’s comments on Trump’s America mean for global political relations?” May 29, 2017).
We may not currently see in detail the final form a united Europe will take, but the events of today are preparing the way for an eventual superpower to take the world by surprise. Evidence shows that Europe is preparing for war. Islamic terrorism, Russia’s aggression, and America’s isolationism are all contributing to a newfound European desire to take full control of its own security. European leaders may have the best intentions to create a new order based on the rule of law, democratic principles, personal freedoms, and economically liberal policies, but Bible prophecy predicts that what will begin as a well-intentioned European experiment will end in disaster. Why do we say this?
Revelation 17:9–10 states, “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.” The Bible speaks of seven revivals of this system—the system once called the “Holy Roman Empire.” Since the Roman Empire’s collapse in 476 AD, many have tried to maintain a united Europe under one regime, including Justinian, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, Hapsburg ruler Charles V, Napoleon Bonaparte, and most recently, the alliance of Hitler and Mussolini. Yet, as the passage above indicates, the Bible shows that there is one more revival to come—the final revival, which will lead right up to the return of Christ.
There will come a powerful individual, with whom ten national leaders will voluntarily pledge their allegiance and share their authority. We read of this individual, called “the beast,” in Revelation 17:12–13: “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.”
Ten kings—or ten leaders—are prophesied to form the core of a remarkable political, economic, and military superpower under the direction of this “beast,” referred to as the “king of the North” in Daniel 11. This final world power described in Revelation 17 corresponds to the final world power described in the vision of Daniel 2, symbolized by the legs and feet of a great image of a man, composed of a mixture of iron and clay (Daniel 2:41–43). Just as ten kings are described in Revelation, the iron-and-clay feet of Daniel’s image would have ten toes, and both prophecies speak of these world-dominating kingdoms being destroyed by the returning Christ—they are referring to the same event! Daniel states that God showed him in a vision that “a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces,” becoming a mountain—or a kingdom—that filled the entire earth (vv. 34–35). That stone represents the Kingdom of God, “a kingdom which shall never be destroyed” and which “shall stand forever” (v. 44).
Will this end-time superpower, destined to be destroyed and replaced by the Kingdom of God, begin with the intention of bringing the whole world to the edge of destruction? Probably not. Most likely, it will be born of good intentions. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire stated in an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt that Europe should become a “peaceful empire.” He said, “I am using this phrase because, in tomorrow’s world, it’s going to be all about power… technological power, economic, financial, monetary, cultural power—all will be decisive. Europe cannot be shy any longer about using its power” (“French finance minister: ‘We need a European empire,’” November 12, 2018).
So, where is all this leading? When we understand these scriptures in the light of Jesus’ prophecies in Matthew 24, we see that this dictator will in large part bring the planet into a state of world war and devastation. It will be a time of destruction so horrific that unless dramatic, global intervention arrives from somewhere, no flesh would survive. But Christ will intervene, will fight against the forces of this individual called “the beast” and those who follow him, and will crush this final revival of the Roman Empire. As Revelation says of the forces of the beast, “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).
Will Europe be plunged into war in the future? Sadly, the answer is yes. The Bible shows this European power will turn sinister and take the world to the very brink of utter destruction—but the God of heaven will intervene and stop the coming insanity. We read about God’s direct intervention in Zechariah 14: “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished.... Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” (vv. 1–4).
The returning Jesus Christ will crush the nations that attempt to fight Him. The most advanced weapons systems will be no match for the blinding power of the returning Son of God descending to Earth. He will put down all rebellion, and Revelation 11:15 will be fulfilled: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
Europe is preparing for war, whether its national leaders realize this or not. Unseen and unrecognized forces continue to push it towards a dark and ominous future. However, when Jesus Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom on earth, He will abolish war. Europe will finally have a permanent rest from its bloodstained history. Isaiah prophesied of that time: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains…. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2, 4). Jesus Christ will establish His laws as the standard for all mankind, worldwide. He will enforce a global peace, bringing order and true harmony to the chaos and violence that have plagued mankind for centuries. Then, instead of preparing for war, the people of Europe—and the peoples of the entire world—will prepare to learn the way of peace, as they build a new civilization under Christ’s loving guidance. God speed that day!