The political landscape of the European Union is shifting. History makes plain what this means for the continent.
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Visitors to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany, can experience a piece of truly ancient history: the towering Ishtar Gate of King Nebuchadnezzar II’s Babylon.
The awesome structure was rebuilt in the museum from remnants excavated from the ancient site. Among the royal blue stones and promenade of snarling lions is an inscription from the king himself. He declared that he had the gates built and “adorned them with luxurious splendor so that people might gaze on them in wonder.”
Europe could wish they had a Nebuchadnezzar right now. A leader who would not only engage in impressive public works, but also reinvigorate and refocus the flagging continent.
The book World Military Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary described the king’s industriousness upon assuming the throne: “As the new leader of the Babylonian Empire, he began a campaign of economic and military revival of his nation-state. He instituted a program of building canals for agriculture and rebuilding old canals that had fallen into disrepair…He constructed a port on the Persian Gulf for trade and ordered the assembly of a terrace with brick arches filled with flowers, now known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.”
For now, such a dynamic and active leader for the continent is nowhere to be found. One reason for this is that Euroskepticism—opposition to increased unity—appears to be on the rise. Case in point: June’s European Parliament elections. Two of its biggest countries, France and Britain, had anti-EU parties take them by storm. Other fringe groups also saw modest but notable gains elsewhere.
It was nowhere near a complete stampede out of the union, however. The majority of other nations stuck with more typical choices—ones that will keep the power bloc on an even keel.
But what is a Euroskeptic really? The negative label is usually reserved for those who work to preserve individual national sovereignty at any cost. If one is honest, however, most everyone in the 28 member states remains skeptical. If citizens and politicians were really clamoring for “more Europe,” there would be a United-States style president by now, one with true executive power.
Instead of working toward a more efficient, tightly-knit power bloc, the continent usually stacks the deck for less unity. Its four European presidents make this clear. There is the European Parliament president, the European Commission president, and the European Council President, which is not to be confused with the rotating presidency of the European Council.
Those who have been selected to the bloc’s top spots have generally been safe choices—politicians known to shun the limelight and avoid making waves.
Yet the time of status quo leadership appears to be coming to an end. The shifting landscape in the parliament, joined by continuing financial, political and geopolitical crises, all cry out for sure hands at the helm of Europe.
But what would such a leader look like?
Many of the continent’s leading politicians and economists see the EU’s dearth in leadership and are speaking out. Project Syndicate collected their thoughts in a cynically titled section of its website “Europe’s Ever-closer Disunion.”
Javier Solana, who was formerly the EU high representative for foreign and security policy and the secretary-general of NATO, wrote: “The EU’s institutions need to revitalize themselves and recover the support of Europe’s citizens. They must demonstrate their efficiency, capacity to innovate, and ability to invigorate the continent with renewed dynamism and drive.”
The same publication printed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “manifesto for change”: “The new approach should begin with the European Council asserting its responsibility to give Europe direction by setting a clear, focused, and convincing platform of change that connects with European citizens’ concerns and transforms the view of what Europe can actively, not reactively, achieve.”
He also stated that “if Europe wants to exercise power commensurate with its economic weight, it must have the capacity to play its part both in military operations and in the essential role of security-sector building in potential partners emerging from turmoil or conflict.”
Efficient. Dynamic. Proactive. Military-minded. None of these terms describe the European Union’s current leadership.
Despite such calls for change, the power bloc has continually stuck with “more of the same” when appointing persons to its most powerful posts. This trend has marked every appointment in 2014—a year that would normally signal seismic shifts for any other government. The presidents of the commission, council and parliament have already or will soon end their terms, which means a fresh cast of faces. (Notably, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy will be replaced in November.)
Howard Davies, an economist and professor at the university Sciences Po in Paris, wrote that to face its deepening problems Europe “will need the strongest leadership team that it can find to steer through treacherous waters and implement crucial financial reforms. Just now, the signs are far from promising. There are few new faces or ideas on the horizon. We must hope to be surprised” (ibid.).
While it can be easy to blame the leadership for Europe’s current situation, leading the continent is definitely not for the faint of heart. Heading the EU means grappling with 28 distinct member states, 505 million citizens, disparate millennia-old cultures, and an estimated 225 indigenous languages.
Yet the continent has faced similar problems before and individuals have risen to the occasion. The clear pattern of history reveals five time-tested characteristics that have delivered European unity and prosperity.
The EU today can make it easy to forget that the landmass was split only a handful of decades ago by the Iron Curtain. Even further out of mind is that twice in the last 100 years the continent hosted world wars. Borderless Europe and all that comes with it—coupled with 20 to 30 years’ time—have made it astonishingly easy for the human mind to forget the recent past. For example, a 2011 poll commissioned by the European Jewish Congress found that two out of three European “respondents under-45 surveyed did not know that six million Jews died in the Holocaust.”
Similarly, without concerted effort, one can forget that the Europe of today is an extreme outlier of European history. The length of time that the continent has peacefully existed under the somewhat contradictory EU motto “United in Diversity” is just a blip on the historical timeline.
At the start of WWI, Europe and the globe were a patchwork quilt of competing empires: today’s Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, China, France, Japan, Austria, Hungary and Turkey all had colonies throughout the world. There are still people alive today who were born around that time, yet it has faded into the musty pages of history.
These events disappearing from the collective memories of nations and continents obscures what should be obvious patterns of history.
To many, the European Union is simply the way it has always been. Realize, however, that since WWII—and even more so since 1989—the continent has been going against a historical model, one of empires, kings and strongmen.
Studying centuries past, one can see what it takes to lead the continent. Historical emperors and kings who reclaimed some of the grandeur of the Roman Empire top the list. Among them are Justinian (who reigned from AD 527-564), Charlemagne (768-814), Otto I (936-973), Charles V (1516-1556), and Napoleon Bonaparte (1804-1815).
These men, and the governments they led, faced the same roadblocks modern EU politicians do: a cacophony of languages, cultures and historical rivalries.
Although spread over the centuries, they were united in purpose. Charlemagne wanted to be like Justinian, and both wanted to emulate Constantine, the Roman emperor who set the pattern for a Catholic-backed empire. Most everyone after Charlemagne wanted to be like him. Tellingly, some historical sources state that Charlemagne, Charles V, and Napoleon were even coronated with the same Iron Crown of Lombardy—despite the first and the last of these three reigning 1,000 years apart!
Five traits made these men a cut above the rest. (While each ruler displayed all five characteristics, only a sampling of examples has been included.)
(1) Broad appeal: Charlemagne was a charismatic man of the people. He regularly conversed with his soldiers and peasants. H.A. Guerber’s The Story of Old France stated that “every year Charlemagne held two great assemblies out in the open air. Anyone who wished to speak to him, but was afraid to enter the palace, could then approach him freely, and make known his request or complaint.”
Just after the popular uprising of the French Revolution, which resulted in the beheading of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Napoleon was overwhelmingly voted into a lifelong political position. During a national election, the question was asked: “Is Napoleon Bonaparte to be made Consul for Life?” A total of 3,568,885 voted affirmative and only 8,374 voted “no” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition).
In addition, “All areas under Otto’s rule prospered, and the resultant flowering of culture has been called the Ottonian renaissance” (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
James Bryce’s The Holy Roman Empire stated this about Otto: “Constantly traversing his dominions, he introduced a peace and prosperity before unknown, and left everywhere the impress of an heroic character.”
(2) Political prowess: Justinian streamlined the laws of the land, which formed the basis for how judicial systems work in the West today. For example, his Codex Justinius stated that a man is innocent until proven guilty. He also fostered artistic and cultural renewal, which can still be seen through his numerous and ambitious building projects, such as the iconic Hagia Sophia.
Many of the Holy Roman emperors were skilled speakers and most often multilingual. The historian Einhard, a contemporary of Charlemagne, wrote that the king “was a gifted and ready speaker, able to express clearly whatever he wished to say. Not being content with knowing only his own native tongue [German], he also made an effort to learn foreign languages. Among those, he learned Latin so well, that he spoke it as well as he did his own native language, but he was able to understand Greek better than he could speak it. Indeed, he was such a fluent speaker, that [at times] he actually seemed verbose.”
Charlemagne used his legislative power to preserve and systematize written language, which provided the basis for the Roman lettering still used today. For example, this process brought about the invention of the question mark. Also, he ordered the preservation of literary works from ancient Rome. Without his intervention, much knowledge would have been lost.
The Catholic Encyclopedia wrote of Otto: “A shrewd calculator, always convincing and always toiling, he correctly estimated the importance of diplomatic negotiations. He was a keen observer and possessed a fine knowledge of human nature which always enabled him to select the proper persons for important offices in the government.”
The skills of Charles V—whose empire included the Spanish colonies in the New World—allowed him to navigate a complex and crowded political landscape. He consistently bested the larger-than-life personalities of England’s King Henry VIII, France’s Francis I, Pope Clement VII, and the Ottoman Empire’s Suleiman the Magnificent.
Likewise, Napoleon appeared able to morph his personality to meet any situation. History Today wrote: “[Historian] Geoffrey Ellis saw in Napoleon’s ‘changeable and contradictory character’ and ‘mercurial moods’ the ability to adjust to and exploit any situation, while for R. S. Alexander, Napoleon was a ‘chameleon,’ able to change appearance at will to adapt to his surroundings and allow others to see in him what they wanted.”
The magazine wrote that Napoleon’s personal contradictions can “help us understand the man’s dexterity in manipulating situations for both his personal benefit and that of France.”
(3) Military might: Justinian’s battles were fought by his great and virtually invincible general, Belisarius. Under the emperor’s direction, the Byzantine armies maintained the empire in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Some sources state that Charlemagne’s soldiers never lost a battle when he was present. He fought one military campaign after another and ultimately doubled the territory inherited from his father.
France under Napoleon took Europe in a matter of years and repeatedly defeated coalitions of multiple nations that included Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia. His winning record led to one of these coalition forces enacting the Trachtenberg Plan, which included only engaging in battle when Napoleon was not present.
(4) Relentless drive: Known as the emperor who never slept, Justinian set the pace for those who came after him. The 11th edition of Britannica stated that he was “a man of considerable abilities, wonderful activity of mind, and admirable industry. He was interested in many things, and threw himself with ardour into whatever he took up; he contrived schemes quickly, and pushed them on with an energy which usually made them succeed…”
The publication also stated: “Otto was a man of untiring perseverance and relentless energy, with a high idea of his position…Otto was of tall and commanding presence, and although subject to violent bursts of passion, was liberal to his friends and just to his enemies.”
Britannica stated that Charles V’s “unswerving resolve and his refusal to give up any part whatsoever of his patrimony [inherited kingdom] are evidence of a strong and unconditional will to power.”
Napoleon was also known for sleeping little and being relentless. After being forced to abdicate his throne and imprisoned on the island of Elba, he escaped and roused an army to again take on all of Europe at once. He was finally narrowly defeated at the battle of Waterloo.
The biographies of these men all speak about a belief in a divine mission that was central to their decision making. For example, Charlemagne felt it was his personal responsibility to expand God’s kingdom on Earth.
This leads to the final trait…
(5) Religious ties: Justinian started a model of maintaining close ties between church and state after he reclaimed Rome and reunited the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire in AD 554. He considered himself both “king and priest.” Although the arrangement sometimes resulted in power struggles, it was mutually beneficial and served to capture both the nation’s head (politics) and heart (religion).
Similarly, Charlemagne and Otto I ushered in the Holy Roman Empire, which began a tradition of being crowned by a pope. Napoleon, though not a Holy Roman emperor, also had the Catholic leader involved in his coronation.
In addition, Charles V believed it was his God-ordained mission to protect Christendom.
What makes these men the standard for European leadership? It was not that they were perfect. Many of them had deep flaws such as a penchant for overspending, being ruthlessly violent, using deception to get what they wanted, and holding petty grudges.
Instead, the answer to this question has everything to do with Justinian in AD 554. Most are unaware that this is a most crucial date in history. But to understand it, one must go much further back in time—again to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II and the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
The king had a nightmare that vexed him. The details of the dream are related in the biblical book of Daniel: “This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay” (Dan. 2:32-33).
In the account, the king did not know what this strange metal man meant until Daniel interpreted it.
Yet this vision—tucked in a biblical book few read—is far more important than you might realize! It offers absolute proof of what to look for in the future leadership of Europe.
Bible prophecy, which takes up a full one-third of the Book, can be likened to history written in advance. Foretelling events and bringing them to pass is one of God’s ways to allow mankind to prove the absolute authority of His Word.
Any open-minded person can do this by placing the words of the Bible next to the record of history.
Returning to the story, the king’s dream foretold a number of successive empires. Read Daniel 2:37: “You, O king [Nebuchadnezzar], are a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.” Verse 38 adds, “You are this head of gold.”
As always, the Bible interprets itself. Nebuchadnezzar and the Neo-Babylonian Empire represent the first kingdom of gold. What are the other three empires?
Daniel later had his own dream, which offers additional clues. In his vision he saw “four great beasts” (7:3) that matched the four metals of gold, silver, bronze and iron that Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed about.
Verse 4: “The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings…”. Again, this is Nebuchadnezzar’s empire.
Verse 5: “And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear…” This stood for the Medo-Persian Empire (558-330 BC), which had an army that overwhelmed its opponents with superior size and strength.
Verse 6: “After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.” This was the Greco-Macedonian Empire (333-31 BC). In just 13 years, its leader Alexander the Great amassed the largest kingdom in the ancient world. This can be likened to the unexpected swiftness of a leopard pouncing on its prey. Also, upon his death, the empire was given to his four generals, here likened to four heads.
Verse 7: “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.” This is the Roman Empire, the most efficient, effective, and longest-lasting empire of human history.
History and prophecy align perfectly!
To remove any doubt, the Bible makes clear what is meant by the term “beasts” in verse 17: “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.”
Kings must have a kingdom or government. The word “beast” is symbolically used to represent a governmental system.
Although it does not seem so on the surface, the fourth beast—government system—of Daniel 7 has much to do with Justinian in AD 554 and the trends to watch for in modern Europe.
A parallel to this beast is found in Revelation 13: “And I [the apostle John] stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and…the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion…” (vs. 1-2).
Recall that in Daniel, the beast representing the Roman Empire “was diverse from all the beasts that were before it.” The Romans spread and devoured the territory of the three previous kingdoms. They also had the top characteristics of these previous empires: the speed and cunning of a leopard, the military toughness of a bear, and the grandeur and ferocity of a lion.
Also notice that in both Daniel 7 and Revelation 13, the beasts have 10 horns. The Bible defines these: “And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings [governments] that shall arise” (Dan. 7:24).
Putting this picture together, the Bible states that the Roman Empire would have 10 distinct “horns” (kingdoms) and that it would have a “deadly wound,” which would later be “healed.”
History clearly supports every part of this!
Ancient Rome enjoyed an extended period of power and splendor, which was followed by a long and steady decline. In AD 476, it was finally overrun by a series of three Germanic tribes, the Vandals, Heruli and Ostrogoths.
This date marks the start of the “deadly wound”—it looked like the Roman Empire was dead!—and the three tribes are the first three horns.
Yet, in AD 554, Justinian’s army recaptured Italy and led his Imperial Restoration. Rome was back! This was the fourth of the 10 horns.
The next four horns were Charlemagne’s Frankish Kingdom, Otto I’s Holy Roman Empire, Charles V’s Hapsburg dynasty, and Napoleon’s kingdom.
From AD 554 until Napoleon was forced to abdicate the throne in 1814, this system repeatedly united Europe for a period of 1,260 years.
After this deadly wound was healed, the Bible states that “power was given unto him [the Roman governmental system] to continue forty and two months” (vs. 5).
What does 42 months have to do with 1,260 years? Real Truth Editor-in-Chief David C. Pack answers this in his booklet Who or What Is the Beast of Revelation?
He writes: “Ezekiel 4:4-6 and Numbers 14:34 show that, in prophetic fulfillment, each day counts for a year. This is critical to understand in regard to many other prophecies. Without recognizing this principle, all of these Bible prophecies have remained closed—sealed—to those who sought to understand them. How does ‘a day for a year’ apply here?
“Forty-two months is three and a half years. God’s sacred years contain 360 days. 360 days times 3 1/2 equals 1,260 days—or 1,260 years in prophecy.”
Astonishingly, AD 554 to 1814—from Justinian to Napoleon—is exactly 1,260 years!
There was another weaker resurrection of the Roman system (ninth horn) that began when Giuseppe Garibaldi united Italy in 1870. This culminated with the Axis powers during WWII.
One Last Time
The final restoration—which will have the good and bad traits of this system—will need a leader. One with broad appeal to unite Europe and establish its leading role on the world stage. Revelation 13 states: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship [or pay homage to] him…” (vs. 8).
He will need political prowess to enact economic changes to allow abundant prosperity. Revelation 18 states that “the merchants of the earth” will become “rich through the abundance of [Europe’s] delicacies” (vs. 3).
He will also have incredible military might: “Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. 13:4).
As happened from Justinian to Napoleon, he will have relentless drive and close religious ties.
In both Mark 13:37 and Luke 21:36, Jesus Christ had a simple command: “watch.” By this He meant prophetic trends and conditions as outlined in God’s Word. More details regarding the prophetic beasts mentioned in the Bible can be found in Mr. Pack’s thorough booklet Who or What Is the Beast of Revelation? It also explains why Christ said to keep an eye on world events.
Your Bible, coupled with history, shows you the signs to look for in both Europe and the entire world. Now, it is your job to watch.