Europe’s Great Divide: Which Vision Will Prevail?

by Justin Palm Estimated reading time: 17 minutes

What do Europeans talk about when they talk about Europe?

They talk about money: “Why do some countries have to step in and bail out other ones who’ve been irresponsible?” … “But don’t we have to do something big like that to keep all our economies going?”

They talk about religion: “Do most people even care anymore about traditional Christianity or Catholicism?” … “What about Islam? Can we all live together if we’re afraid of each other, or we look down on each other, or we’re blowing each other up?”

They talk about politics: “Power should go back to the people instead of unelected bureaucrats or elected officials who don’t represent us. We should have more say in what’s happening.” … “But isn’t this what we all signed up for? We might have to give up some things, but I think they know what they’re doing.”

They talk about immigration: “It’s all well and good to take people in, but how can we support everyone? How can we pay for it all? And what does it mean for our culture and security?” … “Don’t we have some kind of responsibility to them though? Where else are they supposed to go?”

Europeans have a lot of opinions, and a lot of differences of opinion. This is because the European Union (EU) is a great mix of more than 500 million people across 28 individual countries under one European flag—counting Britain, though it has voted to leave.

The other EU countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Nations often have their own unique personalities and identities. For European nations, this involves their relation to the rest of Europe, with some nations having a stronger European heritage than others. Far more than do people in America, Britain, China, Russia, Venezuela and Nigeria, Europeans talk about their nation and their continent. Yet there are often many clashes between the distinct nations and cultures of Europe. In many ways it seems a miracle that citizens within Europe’s various countries have been able to come together over the last 75 years.

Why was the European Union created, and why have so many nations joined? Looking at how we got here helps explain today’s divisions over Europe’s future.

Conflict over differences

In the first 50 years of the 20th century, Europeans and others around the world let their differences of opinion give way to unbridled passion. Blood was spilled in unprecedented numbers and ways. The Sixth Commandment about killing people was cast aside by many. The first half of the 20th century was a time of hate, power, control, tyranny, slaughter, national zeal, midnight rallies, concentration camps, suffering, mass migration and new weapons.

Then on August 6, 1945, an American plane dropped a new kind of weapon that instantly killed 70,000 people in Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, another bomb was dropped that instantly killed 40,000 people in Nagasaki. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had previously called the scale of the atomic bomb “the Second Coming in Wrath.” This terrible weapon brought an end to a war that had already killed 60 million people—yet its introduction threatened the possibility of even greater death and destruction in the future.

American President Harry Truman toured Berlin in 1945. He was shocked by survivors so numb they were past the point of feeling. As one biographer describes it:

“The motorcade passed miles of ruin and devastation, bomb craters, blackened burned-out buildings, and seemingly endless processions of homeless Germans plodding along beside the highway carrying or dragging bundles of pathetic belongings. They were mostly old people and children who appeared to be headed nowhere in particular, with nothing but blank expressions on their faces, no anger, no grief, no fear, which Truman found extremely disturbing … Most of those trudging past never bothered even to look up” (David McCullough, Truman,1992, p. 414).

Millions of people carried the awful memories of war with them in their hearts as they rebuilt the world. They vowed to never let such mass killing happen again, especially with the onset of the nuclear age making human extinction possible.

The idea behind the European Union

European political architects had an idea: Create a system of interconnectedness between their nations. If, the logic went, we weave our countries together like a Gordian knot, then one country deciding to start a war to bring down other countries would bring destruction on itself—thus deterring war.

Europeans started working together under this premise, beginning with economic cooperation between nation states. People in six core countries—Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands—agreed on some basic principles and decided to make it binding. They first formed the European Coal and Steel Community in the 1951 Treaty of Paris. This was a precursor to soon afterward drafting a broader and more cohesive partnership in the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957, on Rome’s Capitoline Hill, creating the European Economic Community.

The phrases used in the treaty’s preamble are beautiful in their noble intentions (emphasis added):

DETERMINED to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe …”

ANXIOUS to strengthen the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions …”

RESOLVED … to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty, and calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts …”

The preamble ended with, “… and to this end … have agreed as follows,” the terms of the treaty then being spelled out.

The king of Belgium, the president of West Germany, the president of France, the president of Italy, the grand duchess of Luxembourg and the queen of the Netherlands signed their names.

The European Union thus took its first breaths.

This began a process of independent nations gradually ceding sovereignty to a supranational entity. As the years went by, more countries answered the call and joined; more treaties were signed; bureaucracy expanded; countless European laws were passed; Brussels became the capital; people traded their currencies for a shared currency; leaders opened their borders; the European power became stronger and more integrated, striving toward “an ever closer union.”

What became the European Union grew, and grew, and grew—and as it did, the contract was further and further changed. Leaders were giving up some of the direct governance of their own nations to have a small say in governing all of Europe.

Enter the Eurosceptics

Doubt entered some people’s minds—doubt about the fair-ness of this evolving agreement, doubt about whether it was worth it, doubt about the end goal, and the big question: Does Brussels really have our country’s best interests in mind?

To some, Europe had become something like Frankenstein’s monster—too big, out of control and dangerous. Although Mary Shelley’s scientist had good intentions, to bring life and hope, the creature became something grotesque. It tells the scientist, “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel.”

Two camps formed, and now they are pushing two competing ideas for Europe’s future. One wants to press on with the founders’ vision. Another group, the Eurosceptics, wants more national control.

Britain became the first nation to actually vote to leave. On June 23, 2016, after much debate and campaigning, 51.9 percent of British voters decided it would be best to exit the union. This referendum started a messy divorce process.

After the vote, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party and member of the European Parliament, addressed the assembled Parliament on June 28. Some members booed him as he summarized the argument against the European Union:

“When I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me—well I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you? And the reason you’re so upset, you’re so angry, has been perfectly clear, from all the angry exchanges this morning …

“You as a political project are in denial. You’re in denial that your currency is failing … You’re in denial over [German Chancellor] Mrs. Merkel’s call [in 2015] for as many people as possible to cross the Mediterranean [into the European Union]—which has led to massive divisions … within countries and between countries.

“The biggest problem you’ve got and the main reason the UK voted the way it did is because you have by stealth and deception, and without telling the truth to the rest of the peoples of Europe, you have imposed upon them a political union …

“What happened last Thursday [in the Brexit vote] was a remarkable result—it was a seismic result. Not just for British politics, [or] for European politics, but perhaps even for global politics too.

“Because what the little people did, what the ordinary people did—what the people who’d been oppressed over the last few years who’d seen their living standards go down did—was they rejected the multinationals, they rejected the merchant banks, they rejected big politics and they said actually, we want our country back, we want our fishing waters back, we want our borders back.

“We want to be an independent, self-governing, normal nation. That is what we have done and that is what must happen. In doing so we now offer a beacon of hope to democrats [that is, those who advocate popular government rather than control by unelected bureaucrats] across the rest of the European continent. I’ll make one prediction this morning: the United Kingdom will not be the last member state to leave the European Union” (emphasis added).

No one yet knows how the Brexit situation will affect the European Union, but Farage is not the only one to speculate that others will follow suit.

Who should rule?

Whatever the fallout of the Brexit situation, Germany and France have promised to keep the European project alive. But people in Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and other nations are becoming more and more sceptical of the European Union contract. 

Hungary went so far as to build a 325-mile wall on its border with Serbia and Croatia to block illegal immigration. Thinking that leaders in Brussels were not doing enough to protect them, the Hungarians took matters into their own hands.

Italians are now trying to take back more national control, with mixed results. The New York Times reported: “After months of torturous negotiations, acrid insults, internal tensions and enough social media airtime to fill a Netflix series, Italy’s populist leaders bowed to the demands of the European Union to roll back its expensive, rules-flouting budget” (Jason Horowitz , “Italy and E.U. Reach a Budget Deal, as Populist Plan Runs Into Reality,” Dec. 19, 2018).

Let’s step back. Besides the two visions for Europe’s future, there is still a deeper issue at heart. Europeans for the most part, including leaders, want essentially the same thing— peace and prosperity. They want to make an impact on the world. They want to survive, thrive and live. The arguments are over the best way to achieve these goals, yet these come down to deep divides in outlook.

People in the EU camp believe that centralized power in Brussels is best for the people.

Eurosceptics believe individual nations know best how to govern themselves.

And of course, with corrupt human nature, people often believe that they could coach the team better if they were in charge. On the other hand, there are many who would prefer to hand responsibility off to others, even trading freedoms for a sense of security.

Is ever-more-powerful human government the answer?

An ancient dream answers once and for all who should rule on the world scene. It holds the missing dimension that frames Europe’s past, present and future.

A king’s disturbing dream

Many centuries ago, a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that frightened him. He could not under-stand it and refused to even tell anyone what he saw in his dream. None of his magicians, astrologers or sorcerers could tell him the dream or its interpretation.

But one man in his kingdom was given the interpretation in a night vision. The Hebrew prophet Daniel stood before King Nebuchadnezzar and was able to tell him what he had dreamed.

Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed of a giant statue of a man with a golden head, silver chest and arms, bronze belly and thighs, iron legs, and feet and toes that were a mixture of iron and clay. A mysterious stone struck the feet, and the entire statue was crushed and blown away. The stone grew into a mountain that filled the earth (Daniel 2:28 , Daniel 2:31-35 ).

Daniel then told the king the divine interpretation:

“Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory … you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.

“And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes , partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay.

“And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay” (Daniel 2:36-43 ).

The statue, starting with Nebuchadnezzar, represented four successive great empires—Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. The “fourth kingdom,” Rome, would continue in some fashion until the end time, the feet with 10 toes being a final revival of this system in the end time.

While this coming revival of the Roman Empire will not look exactly like today’s European Union, it will be centered in Europe and will likely have roots in the European integration project going back to the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

And Daniel 2 reveals that division within Europe will not be resolved in political integration. Competing visions will remain. The coming superstate will be “divided … partly of iron and partly of clay … partly strong and partly fragile.” People with different nationalities will not be able to agree on everything, but prophecy indicates that both groups will partly get their way.

Other prophecies show that religion will also play a major role in the rise of this kingdom. A powerful element among today’s Eurosceptics is a desire for Europe to return to its strong religious roots. Historically, religion helped unite Europe under the reigns of the Holy Roman Emperors Charlemagne (A.D. 742-814) and Otto the Great (A.D. 912-973).

Like Frankenstein’s monster, the “fourth kingdom” will have unprecedented power. It will cause death and destruction far beyond what was done by the Axis Powers in World War II. In fact, the end-time superpower will bring mankind to the brink of extinction without God’s intervention.

Leading up to this, despite the division there will be a final transfer of national power and sovereignty over to the European superstate and its leader. The 10 toes of the image in Daniel 2 are found as 10 horns in a prophecy in Revelation 17, revealed to be 10 rulers in this final Roman revival. The apostle John is here told:

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour [a brief time] as kings with the beast [the final dictator]. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb [the returning Jesus Christ], and the Lamb will overcome them” (Revelation 17:12-14 ).

“The kingdom shall not be left to other people”

This brings us back to the stone that smashes the image in Daniel 2:

“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure” (Daniel 2:31-45 ).

Many Bible verses describe Jesus Christ as the “stone.” At His second coming, He will strike down this final European-centered global empire. Mankind’s final, best effort to bring peace and prosperity will become a tyrannical beast and then at last be toppled with Christ’s return. This “stone” becomes a mountain that fills the earth—the Kingdom of God being established over all nations.

God will take the reins of power and end the corruption of human misrule: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people.”

Here is the lesson God wants all of us to learn: People cannot truly solve people’s problems. Nations cannot, and federal superstates cannot. Who should ultimately rule? Not people, but God. Only His government will be able to bring people peace and prosperity!

What does this mean for the future?

Which competing vision for Europe’s future will win in the end?

The Eurocentric vision currently championed by Germany and France has dominated the continent’s thinking in recent years. But ironically, these champions of greater European unity have sown the seeds of greater dis unity by encouraging massive immigration from third-world countries. In so doing, they have actually helped give birth to a pushback or countermovement.

That countermovement is the more nationalistic vision now being advocated by many in Hungary, Poland, Italy and other states. A powerful element in this movement is the desire for European nations to return to their strong religious roots—which, as mentioned, led to previous attempts to unite Europe in earlier Roman revivals, such as those under Charlemagne and Otto the Great in the Middle Ages. 

How will these competing visions of Europe’s future play out? For the near future, we simply don’t know. Europeans are deeply divided, and the continent is facing tumultuous times. And tumultuous times can lead to catastrophic results. It was the unstable conditions of the 1920s and 30s that led to the political ascent of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler and their Axis, forming what they viewed as a reborn Roman Empire. They promised stability, and they produced a measure of it—until disaster came!

Ultimately, though, Bible prophecy is clear. Again, as the prophet Daniel assures us, “The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” A new and final European-centered superpower will form as indicated in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and other prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. It will be “partly strong and partly fragile” because the peoples of which it is composed “will not adhere to one another.”

But that doesn’t mean that such a superpower cannot wield terrible power and wreak enormous damage on the world, as Nazi Germany and fascist Italy and their partners did during World War II (see “D-Day + 75 Years: What Have We Learned?” beginning on page 4). In fact, this new superpower will be involved in the most horrifying warfare humankind has ever seen—so deadly and devastating that humanity would be on the verge of extinction if God did not intervene.

As age-old prophecies draw ever nearer to their fulfillment, we would do well to heed Jesus Christ’s instruction in Luke 21:36 : “Watch therefore, 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”!

Continue reading Beyond Today magazine and watching Beyond TodayTV to stay abreast of where today’s trends are taking your world!

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