Before proceeding any further in Revelation chapter thirteen, we need to pause and apply these prophecies toward what is currently happening in our generation. Logically, if we really are in the midst of the final generation before the return of Christ, then we should be able to see the final world order taking shape today. As it turns out, in our lifetime there has been major developments on the world political scene which have come close to assembling this final world empire. However, the story of its rise to power is not a simple one. The beginning of this saga actually has its origin centuries ago in the final days of the old Roman Empire.
Development of the Western World
After the eastern half of Rome was conquered in the year 1453 A.D., most people probably think that the empire simply ceased to exist. However, as we have clearly shown through Daniel’s prophecies, from God’s perspective even though the unity of the kingdom was broken, the spirit of the empire still continued throughout the centuries. There seemed to be an almost supernatural desire among the European nations to keep the glory of Rome alive even after its dominion had been cut off. Perhaps the most frequent attempt at bringing the empire back to its days of unity was in the repeated establishment of political entities going by the name of the “Holy Roman Empire”. First inaugurated by Charlemagne (768-814 A.D.), this religious and political empire initially succeeded in subduing the Lombards and Saxons, fought victorious campaigns in Hungary and Spain, and literally united much of the western European territories.
Thus, long after the fall of imperial Rome in 476 A.D., the spirit of the empire still survived in the western part through its descendant nations. In fact, at the time of the first Holy Roman Empire, the Pope even gave Charlemagne the old imperial title designating him as the “emperor” of Europe. For a brief period after the lineage of Charlemagne had died out, the use of the imperial title perished along with the unity of the empire. However, beginning in about the tenth century, continual dynasties of Germanic kings took for themselves the title. For centuries these kingdoms not only kept the desire for an empire alive, but actually used the old “Holy Roman Empire” name and the imperial title of “emperor” just like the original empire.
Daniel was right. The Roman Empire really never did cease to exist in spirit. Generation after generation tried their best to keep the “beast” unified and powerful even when it was broken and divided into smaller nations. Even Dante wrote of his dream for a reunited Europe (Paparella, E.L., 2012, Dante’s Vision of a United Europe in Europa: an Idea and a Journey, p. 35, Xlibris Corp.).
After the many centuries of history which followed Charlemagne’s first kingdom, the Holy Roman Empire finally culminated in two infamous German powers. In the year 1871, an administration calling itself the German Empire was formed with roots stretching back throughout the long history of Roman rule. As was true of its predecessors, its ambition was nothing less than total European dominance. To prove its association with the spirit of the Roman Empire, it began to call itself the “Second Reich”. This name indicated better than anything the true relationship of the empire to the original fourth beast of Rome. Even though it was an extraordinary force in European politics throughout its brief existence, this final form of the “Holy Roman Empire” met with a fiery end in the battles of World War I. The “War to End all Wars” was ironically fought to prevent the forceful consolidation of the Roman Empire.
At first it appeared that the peace of the postwar period marked the end of any nation carrying on the torch of the empire. However, this interim period was not to last. In the early 1930’s a major leader arose out of a troubled Germany having the same old visions of an united Europe like so many who came before him. It wasn’t long before Adolf Hitler became one of the most evil and aggressive empire builders the world has ever known.
However, despite all the horrible sins that Hitler perpetrated on many nations and peoples most don’t understand that he had a bizarre purpose behind his madness. Of all the potential “emperors” of a reassembled Rome, it was Hitler who probably came closest to accomplishing exactly what the Antichrist is prophesied to do. Adolf Hitler made it no secret that it was his desire and purpose to establish the “Third Reich” and reign as ruler of not only Europe, but of the entire world. In his warped mind, he imagined that this Third Roman Empire would be an invincible kingdom that would last a thousand years. In some warped way that no doubt was influenced by Satan himself, Hitler hoped to actually bring about something like the Kingdom Age of the Bible, which is prophesied to last 1,000 years. In reality, he came very close to fulfilling the kingdom of the Beast, not the kingdom of God.
It is not surprising to find that many Christians believed that the end was near during both world wars. The destructive forces unleashed during those years were enough to bring on visions of Armageddon. Moreover, the similarities between the goals of the Second and Third Reichs and what is actually predicted to occur when the Antichrist arrives on the scene are eerie to say the least. During Hitler’s time, it was almost as if Satan was trying to establish the final world empire before its appointed time, and the Lord was preventing him at every step.
By the mid-1900s, the unique European political climate which continually birthed empire-builder after empire-builder was appearing to move closer to the rise of the true Antichrist. World War II may have stopped the Third Reich in its tracks, but in its wake the war unexpectedly moved Europe one step closer to unity. After Hitler’s defeat, the nations of the world were presented with a very unique opportunity. V.E. day had initially left the world with an impotent Europe which was decimated and defeated by the allied forces. Japan was in no better shape with two of its cities suffering the first onslaught of nuclear weapons and most of its other major cities destroyed as well by conventional weapons. In fact, no industrial nation survived the Second World War without dramatic scars left on their economy and infrastructure. Even the victorious countries of the west were left to climb out the mess of a tattered and torn world economy which would not be the same for many years to come.
Such complete destruction provided the allied powers with the prospect of building a totally new system. The problems which had led to a world-wide depression and even hyperinflation in some countries now had a chance to be solved with careful planning and control. From out of the desolation of war soon would come a new world order the likes of which modern history had never seen before. After World War II, there had never been a better chance for the leaders of the West to build the entire world economy from the ground floor up.
The victorious leaders of the postwar era realized that if the western world did not grab the initiative to rebuild and design the economies of Europe and Japan, then Soviet influence would quickly take over. Either the United States would take its rightful role as architect of the brave new world or risk the almost inevitability of communist control. The decision was an easy one. Immediately after the war, the former enemies of America were suddenly treated as allies united against the “Great Russian Bear” from the east. The driving philosophy was that either the western countries would succeed at economic and military cooperation or the world might soon face the prospect of World War III.
This was just the beginning of the new political mentality that was to govern the foreign policy of the West since 1945. The primary idea behind the grand plan was to make the economies of Europe so interdependent that the prospect of another war developing would be out of the question. In fact, the plan actually was much broader than that; it was to intertwine North America, Europe, and Japan in close economic cooperation to form a trilateral alliance, which would dominate the global financial system.
Toward a United Europe
Encouragement toward European integration was not a new thought. Back in the early 1920’s Richard Graf Coudenhove-Kalergi, who was a representative from the glory days of the Holy Roman Empire, continually preached the main tune of a United-Europe movement. Through two books he published on the subject, Pan-Europa (1923) and Practical Idealism (1925), Coudenhove-Kalergi argued that through economic and political integration, national borders could be broken down and a united Europe rise up. According to the Strategic Culture Foundation online Journal, “Coudenhove-Kalergi saw the hypothetic United States of Europe as the sixth European unification project, a democratic one to be, in a remote sense, built on the legacies of the empires of Alexander of Macedon, Julius Caesar, Charles the Great, Pope Innocent II, and Napoleon I” (Olga Chetverikova, 2012). Though much of that talk fell upon deaf ears during early part of the last century, some leaders like Winston Churchill were earnest supporters of the concept. After World War II was over, Churchill took advantage of the opportunity for peace and fully advocated a Council of Europe and the establishment of a kind of Pan-European army to keep the peace.
These new ideas for the consolidation of Europe were quite different from those of the usual would-be conquerors of the past who tried to unite the continent by force. These proposals were now for a peaceful integration of Europe where all the nations could work together to form a confederation based upon their mutual interests.
Perhaps the first steps toward this form of European cooperation began with an agreement in 1921 between Luxemburg and Belgium. These two smaller countries of northern Europe always seemed to be the main enthusiastic supporters of a broader confederation, but no other country listened at first. After the end of the Second World War, however, a third country, the Netherlands, entered the group. Collectively, they began to call themselves the “Benelux” countries. With regard to this integration Luigi Barzini in his book The Europeans (1984) said that…”The idea (for European integration) evidently found its right season. It was so successful, in fact, it was admired and envied by other Europeans”. Eventually, Barzini said, the French, Italians, and Germans also envisioned entering the Benelux group, although it never did come to pass in his day. The term Benelux, however, did survive that early attempt at economic cooperation, and as we shall soon see, these three nations may still play a significant role in establishing the final form of the Empire-Beast at the end.
The event which actually delayed the rise of the Beast more than anything else was the intervening German aggression of the Second World War. All the visions and hopes directed toward a “United States of Europe” were at least temporarily dashed to the ground. After the war, however, the influence and power of a prosperous America helped to dramatically change the political climate of Europe for the better. Finally in 1950, the original dream of an expanded Benelux-like group of nations came to fruition when the European Coal and Steel Community was formed in May of that year. Just as its name implies, the organization was principally established as a common market just for coal and steel trade.
Common markets are a familiar facet of the world economy. They are typically set up to provide a favorable trading atmosphere for their member countries. This usually includes no tariffs (or lower tariffs) on the goods bought and sold within the community, while at the same time allowing the nations of the group to compete easier with other perhaps more prosperous or larger nations on the outside.
The Encyclopedia Britannica calls the European Coal and Steel Community the “initial step in the movement for European Integration”. The six countries which participated in the market even went so far as to set up a central governing body to administer the economic problems and concerns of the member nations. Thus, this was the first political body established in peacetime Europe which was given broad enough power and authority to actually cross national boundaries.
Perhaps one of the most influential leaders in Europe at this time was Jean Monnet. Although not mentioned in the same breath as the herculean personalities of de Gaulle, Churchill or Adenauer, Monnet would nevertheless turn out to be one of the most successful visionaries Europe had ever seen. Monnet was obsessed with the prospects of one solitary idea. That idea, said Richard Barnet, author of The Alliance, “was the obsolescence of national sovereignty” (p. 96, 1983, Simon and Schuster). He also mentioned that Monnet believed “Europe exhausted itself every generation by pitting one indispensable part of itself against another. “The choice”, said Barnet, “was a Europe united or a Europe forever at war” (p. 96). It wasn’t long before Monnet’s dream had touched the likes of General Charles de Gaulle. Barnet quotes from de Gaulle in a speech he gave in Algiers in 1944:
“We believe that a Western association of sorts, organized by us, as broad as possible in membership and stressing economics, would be very advantageous. Such an association, extending to Africa and maintaining close relations with the East—especially the Arab states, which quite justifiably are seeking to pool their interests—and in which the Channel, the Rhine and the Mediterranean would serve as arteries, might constitute the major center of a global organization concerned with production, trade and security” (emphasis mine) (p. 121).
Jean Monnet was the one who first proposed that the initial integration of Europe should take the form of an economic cooperation of the coal and steel producing countries. From his suggestions, the original Benelux countries along with France, Germany, and Italy became the first united front in Europe’s march toward fulfilling the prophecies of the Bible.
Such a limited trading market was certainly a far cry from the rise of a full-fledged empire, but it was nonetheless a start. It wasn’t long before the member countries saw the benefits of having a united group to compete in world trade and politics. The United States so greatly dwarfed and dominated Europe at that point in history that some form of integration was almost a necessity just to survive in world commerce.
The crusader, Jean Monnet, had big plans to drive Europe further toward complete unity. He thought that the common market of coal and steel must be quickly expanded to include other items such as textiles and agriculture. Slowly but surely, he believed, the community would move toward the dramatic step of total political and military union as well. In Monnet’s mind, it would either unite or eventually be caught up in another spiral of war and destruction.
Monnet was not alone in his visions of a united Europe. Leaders of many of the major western countries shared his view, not the least of which was the United States. America, more than any other single force, was mostly responsible for bringing about the revitalization of Europe after World War II. Two factors entered into the political dealings of that era. First and foremost was the rise and fear of the Soviet Union. U.S. political leaders thought that if Russia was not stopped in their imperialistic dreams that they would run roughshod over all of Western Europe, just like they had with Eastern Europe. If America did not push quickly to unite the former enemies of Europe into a defensive force capable of withstanding this threat, then the greatest of our potential trading partners may fall to the communists. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—a military confederation which existed solely to counter the Russian buildup—was born out of this atmosphere of distrust and “cold war”.
The second reason America wanted Europe to unite was purely economic in nature. In the years after the war, the United States was clearly the strongest and most dominant country to ever exist. Both militarily and economically, it seemed as though the U.S. could influence and coerce any situation to their benefit. America was sitting in the unique position of having the ability, the foresight, and the will to mold the world’s economy to its own advantage. What country would not welcome such a chance to insure its own economic prosperity? When men like Monnet pushed for European integration, the U.S. echoed his words wholeheartedly. A strong Europe would mean a strong trading partner and a good hedge against continued Soviet and communist expansion.