The "Great Tribulation" and the Antichrist
- Paranoia, naivety and cynicism
- An outline of the relevant biblical teaching
- ~The parallels in the Bible about the Antichrist
- Interpretation of the Biblical teaching
- ~What about the 70 weeks of Daniel?
- ~The order of events associated with the Great Tribulation
- ~Further events associated with the Great Tribulation in the Bible.
- ~Are the references to the temple and “sacrifice and offering” literal?
- ~What about Ezekiel’s prophecy of a new temple in the End Times?
- ~With whom does the Antichrist make a covenant?
- ~What is the mark of the Beast?
- How are we to discern events leading towards this sign of the End Times?
- ~How do we respond to good moves which could ultimately lead to evils?
- ~Modern movement towards globalization
- ~Trends towards world government
- ~~World government and citizenship
- ~Surveillance: A tool of World Government
- ~~The Snowden revelations
- ~Arguments for and against world government
- ~Opposition to world government
- ~Support for world government by modern scholars
- ~~War and terrorism
- ~~Economic considerations
- ~~World Poverty & Inequality
- ~The Place of Islam
- ~Lessons from the rise of Hitler
- ~~An example of a would-be world dictator deceiving the population, including Christians
- How do we respond to all this?
- I believe that Christians are likely to face tribulation at any time. Many Christians are facing serious persecution in at least 47 countries at the present time. It seems to me quite reasonable to expect that this will get worse in the time approaching the Return of Christ. We could think of it as Satan having his final fling, if you like. Furthermore, such an End Time tribulation is taught in Scripture.
- Similarly, John says there are many antichrists. They are people who deny that Jesus is the Christ and that he is the incarnate Son of God (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). So there are still many antichrists today. But, as we shall see, the NT also predicts a major Antichrist figure in the End Times. Again, this seems quite reasonable as another aspect of Satan’s final fling. (I will use the term “Antichrist” for convenience in this paper although John is the only one who actually uses it).
- This subject creates paranoia amongst some fundamentalists who readily see the Antichrist as present in the world today. They jump to naïve and sometimes bizarre conclusions about the fulfilment of the relevant prophecies and bring the whole matter into disrepute.
- For example, in a 2013 survey one in four Americans were found to think that Barack Obama was the Antichrist. Half of them were sure and the other half not sure. The rationale is: “The anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40s, of Muslim descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a massive Christ-like appeal.... the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything.” Another factor, apparently, is that the Secret Service refer to the heavily- armoured presidential car as “The Beast”!
- Professor Matthew Sutton an American historian is writing a book called “American Evangelicals and the Politics of Apocalypse.” He has also written about what happened in 1935 during the presidency of F D Roosevelt, who was bitterly opposed by many evangelicals. They thought he was the Antichrist because he was expanding the power of the federal government and was an internationalist in outlook. It was, of course, at the time of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and the massive return of the Jews to Palestine. Sutton commented on the current identification of Obama as the Antichrist, saying that such ‘apocalyptism’ “was fringe among conservatives 150 years ago” but “is now mainstream. It's just the air they breathe.”
- Another rumour is that Bill Gates is the Antichrist. The rationale here is: “If you take all the letters in Bill Gates III and then convert it in ASCII code (American Standard “Code for Information and Interchange) and then add up all the numbers you will get 666 which is the number of the beast .... It was already foretold in the Bible that someone powerful would rise up and lead the world to destruction. Bill Gates definitely has that kind of power in his hands. More than 80% of the world's computers run on Windows and Dos (including those at Pentagon!) If all his products have some kind of small program that can give him control, setting off nuclear arsenals, creating havoc in security systems, financial systems all over the world, etc...”
- Other candidates for Antichrist have been:
- Ronald (Wilson) Reagan (“He has six letters in each name, survived a mortal wound - although not to the head. His First Lady wore a lot of red and he moved to a house at 666 St. Cloud Rd., upon retirement.”)
- Mikhail Gorbachev (“He was a charismatic leader with worldwide popularity. He ruled an enormous empire and had a weird thing on his head”).
- These suggestions are quite entertaining but totally ridiculous.
- However it is important that we avoid both paranoia and naivety. On the one hand, we must not jump to hasty conclusions. On the other, without being dogmatic, we need to recognise factors and trends in modern society which could facilitate the fulfilment of the prophecies about the Antichrist.
- Whilst being properly critical, we must also avoid cynicism. Joyce Baldwin wrote a commentary on Daniel whose prophecies influence the teaching of the NT on the Antichrist. She makes the following perceptive comment (actually about Daniel 11, but it has wider relevance): “With regard to prophecy as foretelling, the church has lost its nerve. An earthbound, rationalistic humanism has so invaded Christian thinking as to tinge with faint ridicule all claims to see in the Bible anything more than the vaguest references to future events. Human thought, enthroned, has judged a chapter such as Daniel 11 to be history written after the event, whereas God enthroned, the one who was present at the beginning of time and will be present when time is no more, may surely claim with justification to ‘announce from of old the things to come’ (Isa 44:7).”
- In Matthew 24:15-22 Jesus quotes Daniel’s prediction of “the abomination that causes desolation” and associates it with “great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again” (traditionally called the Great Tribulation).
- Daniel’s prophecy speaks of someone who “at the temple … will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Dan 9:27). Daniel also predicts that a “king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods” (Dan 11:36). He has been talking about Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek king who attacked Jerusalem in 167BC and desecrated the temple by erecting an image of Zeus in it. But commentators say that from verse 36 onwards there is a reference to the Antichrist. Joyce Baldwin in her commentary writes:
- “While it is true that Antiochus IV fulfils in a general way the description given in these verses, there are discrepancies when it comes to detail regarding his religious practice ..... At this point we do well to consider the time-honoured question whether in this chapter reference is being made only to Antiochus IV, or whether there is a secondary reference also to some later ruler or rulers of whom he is a prototype .... there are reasons for thinking that, although the chapter finds its first fulfilment in the character and reign of Antiochus IV, the matter does not stop there. Notice that (i) there are details which do not apply to Antiochus if our information about him from other sources is accurate ….”
- “... The writer is never speaking only about one era of history, even though the prediction was to be applied to Antiochus as the first of many oppressors ... What the book suggests and later prophecy confirms (cf. Mk. 13:14ff. and the parallelism of the book of Revelation) is that the escalation of opposition will culminate in a final onslaught in which evil will appear to triumph, and only the intervention of God will prove the contrary…..”
- Biblical prophecy regularly exhibits this characteristic of telescoping the future, so that the more distant event appears to merge with the nearer so as to become indistinguishable from it. The best-known passage in which this telescoping features is the discourse of Jesus in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, where He speaks both of the fall of Jerusalem and of the end of this age. Only after the latter event had taken place did it become possible to distinguish which passages applied to the events of ad 70, and which were predictions of the more distant future .... neither an exclusively historical nor an exclusively eschatological interpretation is satisfactory, and that we must allow for a double reference, for a mingling of historical and eschatological.”
- Daniel goes on to speak of him being “successful until the time of wrath is completed” and that he will not “regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all.” He will invade Israel (“the Beautiful Land”). “Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.”
- Zechariah 12-14 has been treated as a description of the End Times, including the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation, by numerous interpreters. But is this a credible interpretation? Joyce Baldwin in her commentary speaks of the latter part of the book being “disconnected eschatological glimpses.” p. 63. She speaks of a progression in the book “from the local scene in Babylon or Asia Minor to the world scene, from a point in time to the end of time.” She adds that both parts of the book [i.e. chapters 1-11 and 12-14] “are parallel in that they cover the whole of time between Christ’s first and second coming, but in the second part there is progress in intensity of spiritual conflict and in eschatological emphasis …. Chapter 14 leaps to the day when the Lord will reign over the earth, and so to the end of time (14:7).” p. 70-71. She also draws parallels between Zechariah and the Book of Revelation in their use of the themes of earthquake, miraculous intervention, divine deliverance of Jerusalem, bitter mourning and ultimate joy. “The Book of Revelation uses these among other themes to depict the end of history.”
- In summary, these chapters include the following points:
- 1. It uses the term “on that day” (12:3, 8) which is commonly used to refer to the Day of the Lord.
- 2. All the nations will besiege Jerusalem/Judah (12:3; 13:8-14:1). This relates to the Antichrist who turns against the Jewish people. It is part of the Great Tribulation.
- 3. The nations will be defeated (12:6-9; 14:2-3, 11-15). This would seem to be the Battle of Armageddon.
- 4. The Lord will return to the Mt of Olives (14:4). He defeats the Antichrist.
- 5. The Jewish people look on the one they have pierced (12:10) and are cleansed from sin (13:1).
- · There are various ideas as to who this refers to. Baldwin writes that some have said it was a historical individual as Onias III, assassinated in I70BC, or Simon the Maccabee, assassinated in 134 BC; but she comments “no known historical individual quite satisfies.” Another idea is that it is Jehovah who has been thrust through in the person of His representative. But Baldwin comments: “how can two distinct people die in the death of only one?” Then she refers to a collective interpretation of the pierced one and she writes: “While it is just possible to see the vicarious suffering of individuals within the nation as redemptive, what connection is there between the death of these martyrs and the cleansing from sin that followed the mourning (13:1)? The interpretation is not convincing.....”
- · She concludes: “After such a confusion of viewpoints how are verses 10 and 11 to be interpreted? The murder has occurred in Jerusalem of a man, who is in some way identified with the Lord, and the inhabitants of the city have been responsible for his death. After the event they have been conscience-stricken, and in their deep grief have found within themselves the gift of a new spirit of repentance and supplication for forgiveness, which is closely followed by the promise of cleansing from a newly opened fountain (13:1; cf. Ezk. 36:25,26). Though the word for 'pierced' in Isaiah 53:5 is a different one from that in verse 10 here, Lamarche is surely right in finding significant the fact that both writers express the same idea: with the piercing and death of the messenger of the Lord is connected the forgiveness of sins. Zechariah, however, does not identify his pierced one with either the Servant or the king.”
- · It seems that this is referring to the Jewish people recognising Jesus as Messiah, fulfilling Paul’s prophecy: “All Israel will be saved.” (Rom 11:26).
- 6. People from the nations who survive the defeat will go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord (14:16-19).
- As always, some interpreters will want to conclude the passage is totally symbolical and others that it refers to events long ago in history. But it seems to me that both of those views have serious difficulties. At the very least the interpretation I have suggested does seem feasible.
- Paul writes about “the man of lawlessness … the man doomed to destruction” who “will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). Many believe this is the same action as setting up the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ in the temple.
- Paul continues: “the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing” (2 Thess. 2:8-10).
- Paul is predicting the ultimate rebellion against God, which focuses on a very powerful, Satanically-inspired leader. However, he will not appear to be evil to many people in the world. He will be in fact an evil parody of the Messiah, the Anti-Christ, seeking to make out that he is the true Messiah. Paul, however, reassures the Thessalonians that only those who have “refused to love the truth and so be saved” (v 11) will be deceived by him.
- John is the only one who uses the term Antichrist and many believe this is the same person as the “man of lawlessness” who sets up the “abomination that causes desolation,” namely “sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” John writes: “The antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. …. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist – denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:18, 22f. cf. 2 John 7). As we have stressed, there have been many antichrists but it appears there will be one ultimate fulfilment.
- The other factor is that Daniel predicts a period of 70 ‘weeks’ of years (i.e. seven-year periods) with the Anointed One dying after 69 ‘weeks’ and the distinct 70 ‘week’ being associated with the person who will set up the “abomination that causes desolation” (Dan 9:26-27). This 70th ‘week’ is seen by many as the period of the Great Tribulation. We shall return to this.
- Daniel, who was writing c 530BC after Cyrus the Persian had conquered Babylon, predicts the arising of four ‘beasts’ or empires which are generally thought to be the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires, after which he sees a “little horn” which “had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully” (Dan 7:8). The word ‘horn’ in the Bible is used symbolically of power and authority and can mean king or kingdom.
- He goes on to prophesy in 11:35-37 about a king “in the time of the end” who “will do as he pleases” and “will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods.” The Antichrist is the ultimate example of the deification of secular authority (cf. the Roman emperors who were proclaimed gods).
- Many think that the “man of lawlessness” or Antichrist is depicted in the Book of Revelation as the “beast coming out of the sea” which is followed and worshipped by the whole world (Rev 13:1-8, 11-18). The “beast coming out of the earth” – the False Prophet - manipulates humanity to worship the Antichrist using economic boycotts and death threats. It forces people to receive the “mark of the Beast” without which they could not buy or sell. The Antichrist (Rev 17:16) brings destruction on the world’s corrupt and unjust economic and religious system (“Babylon” falls, Rev 18) which affects all who worship the Antichrist. The Antichrist survives until, with nearly absolute power, he wages war on Christians and is finally consigned to hell (Rev 19:19-20). The great tribulation is also mentioned in Rev 7:14.
- DANIEL prophesies a ruler who half way through a 7-year period “will set up an abomination that causes desolation” (Dan 9:27 cf Dan 11:31).
- JESUS quotes Daniel and applies his prophecy to the End Times. The ‘abomination that causes desolation’ is masculine (a person) “standing in the holy place”; immediately followed by “great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again [There has already been greater distress than that which happened up to an including AD70, e.g. the Holocaust]. Shortly afterwards the earth will mourn to see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” and gathering the elect (Matt 24:15-31). This is clearly the Second Coming, so the ultimate ‘abomination that causes desolation’ will be shortly before the Second Coming.
- It seems clear that PAUL is describing the same thing in 2 Thess. 2:3-12: The Last Day will be preceded by the rebellious “man of lawlessness” who “will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”
- JOHN says the Antichrist will come in the last hour (1 John 2:18), will deny the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22) and the incarnation (2 John 7). By definition, Antichrist claims to be an alternative Christ.
- Then REVELATION 13 speaks of the ‘beast’ who utters “proud words and blasphemies” exercises authority “for forty-two months” [same time period as Daniel]. Blasphemes and slanders God, attacks the saints, is given authority over the whole world who worship him (Rev 13:5-8).
- We should bear in mind that prophecy can be fulfilled more than once – an initial fulfilment or fulfilments and then a final major fulfilment. So prophecy about tribulation can have a fulfilment, for example, in the terrible treatment of the Jews by the Romans in AD 70 but Jesus speaks of “great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Matt 24:21-22). This surely can’t be limited to AD70, terrible though it was. Surely the Holocaust was worse. As for Christians, there have been terrible persecutions. But, it seems clear there will be an End Time great tribulation.
- Similar comments may be made about the Antichrist. After all, as we have noted, John says there are many antichrists (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). So one fulfilment of the “abomination that causes desolation” could be the Roman desecration of the temple in AD70. But 2 Thess. 2:1-12 describes a future “man of lawlessness” associated with the return of Christ, who is generally recognised as the End Time Antichrist. Then there are the references to the Beast in Revelation 13 which most scholars say was written well after AD70. John probably saw the beast as the persecuting Roman Empire but it seems clear, especially in the light of 2 Thess. 2:1-12, that the ultimate fulfilment is in the End Time Antichrist.
- We look now at what some scholars say about these passages.
- Professor CEB Cranfield comments on Matthew 24:14-20 (about ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ and the ‘great distress.’ He writes that these verses can refer to the war of AD70 well, but says:
- “On the other hand, II Thess. ii.3-10 strongly supports the identification of' the abomination of desolation' with Antichrist, and the curious masculine hestekota [“standing”] is perhaps further support for this interpretation, and vv. 19f. appear to be eschatological. It seems then that neither an exclusively historical nor an exclusively eschatological interpretation is satisfactory, and that we must allow for a double reference, for a mingling of historical and eschatological ….. Hestekota The masculine suggests that what is meant by it is no mere idolatrous object but Antichrist himself.”
- He continues: “Luke rightly recognized in the events of the years 66-70 a fulfilment of Jesus' words, but it was not a fulfilment without remainder. Antichrist was indeed present in the fierce nationalism of the Jews and the pride of Rome, and thus incarnate stood 'where he ought not'. But there was more to come. The new Israel like the old would be sinful and would again and again be menaced by divine judgement, and Antichrist would again and again embody himself in proud and sacrilegious men. Thus in the crises of history the eschatological is foreshadowed. The divine judgements in history are, so to speak, rehearsals of the last judgement, and the successive incarnations of Antichrist are foreshadowings of the last supreme concentration of the rebelliousness of the devil before the End. So for us the fulfilment of these verses is past, present and future, and they are rightly included under the heading ' Signs of the End' or ' Characteristics of the Last Times'. The key to their understanding is the recognition that there is here a double reference. The impending judgement on Jerusalem and the events connected with it are for Jesus as it were a transparent object in the foreground through which he sees the last events before the End, which they indeed foreshadow.”
- Professor G G Findlay commented on the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
- “St Paul …. appears to foresee the rise of an apostate Church paving the way for the advent of an atheistic world-power. So it is ‘out of the’ restless, murmuring ‘sea’ of the nations and their ‘many waters’ that ‘the Wild Beast’ of Rev. xiii. 1, xvii. 1, 15, ‘comes up.’ This combination Dan. viii. 23 already presents: ‘When the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance...shall arise.’ ….. The Apostles are only projecting into the future the development of a ‘mystery of lawlessness’—a tendency of inscrutable force, springing from unsounded depths of evil in human nature—that was ‘already at work’ before the eyes of all men, masquerading in the robes of Godhead on the imperial stage at Rome …. Antiochus Epiphanes and Gaius Caligula have sat as models for his Antichrist; the Emperor Elagabalus (218:—222 a.d.), in more Oriental fashion, subsequently reproduced the type.”
- Prof. Robert Mounce comments: “There is little doubt that for John the beast was the Roman Empire as persecutor of the church. It was that spirit of imperial power which claimed a religious sanction for its gross injustices. Yet the beast is more than the Roman Empire. John's Vision grew out of the details of his own historical situation, but its complete fulfillment awaits the final denouement of human history. The beast has always been, and will be in a final intensified manifestation, the deification of secular authority.”
- Prof, G B Caird wrote: “All political power is the gift of God; but when men deify the state, either directly by a religious cult or indirectly by demanding for it the total loyalty and obedience that are due to God alone, it ceases to be human and becomes bestial ...... when men worship the state, according to it the absolute loyalty and obedience that are due not to Caesar but to God, the state goes over to the Enemy. What Satan calls from the abyss is not government, but that abuse of government, the omnicompetent state. It is thus misleading to say that the monster is Rome ... because Rome is only its latest embodiment.
- Caird adds: “John does not actually use the title Antichrist for the monster, though he might well have done.”
- Rev 13:8 states that “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Mounce comments: “The worship of a satanically inspired perversion of secular authority is the ultimate offense against the one true God.”
- There is a second beast in Revelation 13:11 and Mounce comments: “The role of the second beast is to bring men to worship the first beast. To achieve this end he is empowered to work miracles. By economic boycott and the threat of death he intends to make all men worship the Image of the beast. This priestly role identifies the second beast as a religious power. In John's day the reference would be either to the local priests of the imperial cult or to the provincial council responsible for enforcing emperor worship throughout Asia. In the final days of Antichrist the false prophet stands for the role of false religion in effecting the manipulation of mankind to the worship of secular power. It is the universal victory of humanism.”
- But Michael Wilcock writes: “Religion, indeed, is too narrow an identification of the second beast. He is, in modern parlance, the ideology—whether religious, philosophical, or political—which 'gives breath to' any human social structure organized independently of God.”
- From the text of Scripture and the comments of these scholars it is clear therefore that the Bible foretells that just before the return of Christ, Antichrist will emerge. He will be rebellious and boastful, but I suspect that will not be overt. Rather he will seek to display characteristics which parody the true Messiah and deceive those who do not have faith in Christ. He will have remarkable abilities and will welcome adulation or worship of himself. This will be linked with worship of the omnicompetent state and the encouragement of absolute loyalty and obedience – a deification of secular authority.
- The NIV Study Bible interprets the ‘little horn’ of Daniel 7:8 as “The antichrist or a world sharing in the characteristics of the antichrist.” It relates the words “a mouth that spoke boastfully” to 11:36; 2 Thess. 2:4 and Rev 13:5-6. It identifies the king of the end time who exalts himself above every god as the Antichrist and adds: “The details do not fit what is known of Antiochus Epiphanes. See. 2 Thess. 2:4 cf. Rev 13:5-8.” Antiochus Epiphanes was a Greek king who entered Jerusalem in 167BC and set up an idol of Zeus in the temple, with an altar for idolatrous sacrifices.
- Joyce Baldwin comments on Daniel 11:36-39:
- “While it is true that Antiochus IV fulfils in a general way the description given in these verses, there are discrepancies when it comes to detail regarding his religious practice ..... At this point we do well to consider the time-honoured question whether in this chapter reference is being made only to Antiochus IV, or whether there is a secondary reference also to some later ruler or rulers of whom he is a prototype.... The very introduction of the term Anti-Christ to a text given before the Christ had even come raises the question of a-priori reasoning. It raises acutely the matter of exegetical method, and it is preferable to avoid a term which occurs first in the Epistles of John (1 Jn. 2:18, 22f; 4:3; 2 Jn. 7). Nevertheless there are reasons for thinking that, although the chapter finds its first fulfilment in the character and reign of Antiochus IV, the matter does not stop there. Notice that … there are details which do not apply to Antiochus if our information about him from other sources is accurate …. What the book suggests and later prophecy confirms (cf. Mk. 13 :14ff. and the parallelism of the book of Revelation) is that the escalation of opposition will culminate in a final onslaught in which evil will appear to triumph, and only the intervention of God will prove the contrary.”
- We have noted that prophecy can be fulfilled more than once – an initial fulfilment or fulfilments and then a final major fulfilment. Daniel’s prophecy of 69 “sevens” (seven year periods) until an anointed one is put to death is interpreted by some as referring to events taking place in the second century BC. Be that as it may, it seems clear that it had a future fulfilment (in view of NT teaching), namely the “Anointed One” who would be put to death (Dan 9:25-26) is referring to the Messiah (although the phrase did not yet have that specific meaning). Also the prince who would then come and destroy the temple seems to refer to Titus the Roman general in AD70. (It can hardly refer to Antiochus Epiphanes who desecrated the Temple in the second century BC because he did not destroy either the temple or the city of Jerusalem).
- Joyce Baldwin comments: “The historical interpretation is surely correct in seeing a primary fulfilment of Daniel's prophecy in the second century BC, but to confine its meaning to that period is to close one's eyes to the witness of Jesus and of the New Testament writers in general that it also had a future significance.”
- She adds: “The book of the Revelation takes up the symbolism of 'half of the week', expressed in 11:2 as forty-two months, during which the holy city is trampled under foot, and in 13:5 the beast has authority for the same period. If this book was written, as most scholars claim it was, after the fall of Jerusalem, it makes a further application of our passage to an end-time yet to be. Thus the New Testament positively encourages the view that, while there are interim events which bear out the truth of the imagery, it points forward to a culmination at the end of history.”
- There is some debate over the starting date of the prophecy of the 69 “sevens” (sevens of years, i.e. 483 years) before the Anointed One was killed (485BC or 445BC) but either way the figure of 483 years comes remarkably close to the time of Christ, although the figures are not absolutely precise. Joyce Baldwin writes: “In view of the fact that other numbers, such as the number 70, have symbolic significance, to take one particular number and apply it literally is to take the best of both worlds, and calls in question one's methodology.” That comment must be taken seriously but, nevertheless, the timing of the literal interpretation is remarkable. Also Daniel writes in the same chapter “I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years” (Dan 9:2) and that is a literal number.
- Daniel then speaks of the 70th seven: “He will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven”. In the middle of the “seven” he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.” (Dan 9:27). Some see this as Christ (the Anointed One) fulfilling (and so ending) the OT sacrificial system, establishing the New Covenant. There are those who describe Jesus as ‘coming’ in AD70 in judgment to end the OT sacrificial system.
- However, Dan 9:27 continues: “And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” This cannot refer to the Messiah. Rather it applies to “the abomination which causes desolation” described by Jesus which occurs at a time of “great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again” (Matt 24:15, 21) which, as I have said, I cannot accept ultimately refers to the desecration of the temple by Titus but must apply to the End Time great tribulation. Surely Dan 9:27 also applies to “the man of lawlessness” who “will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
- It therefore seems to me that the 70th seven of Daniel’s prophecy is quite separate from the other 69 sevens and belongs in the End Times. I am hesitant about taking numbers literally in the Book of Revelation because they are frequently used symbolically. However, if it is credible to take the 69 sevens as literal seven year periods then it is not wild speculation to regard the coming great tribulation as lasting seven years.
- If it is correct to take the “seven” as literal years then it is reasonable to take the three and a half years (Dan 9:27), 42 months (Rev 11:2; 13:5), 1,260 days (Rev 11:2) as literal. However, it may be that the figures seven and three and a half are not to be taken strictly literally but rather as referring to a firm limitation on the freedom of the Antichrist. So I don’t have a problem with the idea of the great tribulation lasting seven years and being divided in two, but it is not something about which I would be dogmatic.
- There has been a great deal of controversy over the order of events associated with the Great Tribulation. There are four main views of the order of events associated with the Great Tribulation, mainly to do with when the ‘Rapture’ of the church (to meet the Lord in the air 1 Thess. 4:17) takes place.
- 1. The Pre-tribulation view
- This holds that the church is raptured before the Great Tribulation begins, so the church is safely out of the way in heaven when the 7-year wrath of God breaks out on earth.
- 2. The Mid-tribulation view
- This holds that the church is raptured half way through the 7-year Great Tribulation when the Antichrist turns against the Jewish people, so the church is safely out of the way in heaven when the (3.5 year) wrath of God breaks out on earth.
- 3. The Pre-wrath view
- This holds that half way through the 7-year Great Tribulation when the Antichrist turns against the Jewish people, the wrath of Satan is revealed on earth (with the church still on earth). Then shortly afterwards the wrath of God is revealed on earth, but those who hold this view believe the church cannot experience the wrath of God. It will “be saved from God’s wrath” (Rom 5:9). So this view holds that the church will be raptured to heaven after the wrath of Satan but before the wrath of God breaks out some time after the middle of the 7-year Great Tribulation.
- 4. The Post-tribulation Rapture view
- This view holds that the church goes through the End Time Great Tribulation foretold by Jesus (whether it lasts 7 years or not) and is raptured after that when Jesus returns to earth. Some who hold this view believe the church is raptured to heaven, so it is safely out of the way when Jesus returns in judgment on the earth. Others believe that the church is caught up to meet the Lord and then escorts him to earth (after the historical tradition of the leaders and people of a city going out to meet a visiting king and to escort him into the city).
- I have explained above why I believe that the Rapture is the church being caught up to meet the Lord and then escorting him to earth. I have also pointed out that there is no evidence in Scripture for two returns of Jesus. I therefore believe that the Rapture occurs after the Great Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth, accompanied by the church. God will keep us in the tribulation rather than keeping us from the tribulation.
- People who hold the various different views of the tribulation and rapture delight to produce charts and so, not to be out-done (!), I am happy to join in, hoping my simple chart will make the difference between the various views clearer.
THE GREAT TRIBULATION (seven years?)
Pre-tribulation Rapture view
The church ‘raptured’ to heaven before the Tribulation
wrath of God
Mid-tribulation Rapture view
3.5 year wrath of
The church ‘raptured’ to heaven in the middle of the Tribulation
Pre-wrath Rapture view (i.e. wrath of God)
Wrath of Satan
The wrath of Satan begins in the middle of the Tribulation, shortly followed by the wrath of God
Wrath of God
The church ‘raptured’ to heaven after the wrath of Satan before the wrath of God
Post-tribulation Rapture view
The church ‘raptured’ to meet the returning Jesus after the Tribulation and either goes to heaven or returns to earth
- The “ruler who will come” (widely recognized as the Antichrist by those who accept the final fulfilment of the prophecy is still future) “will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven”. In the middle of the “seven” he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Dan 9:26-27).
- Jesus warned: “When you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation,” spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt 24:15-16). Literally that would mean (as Daniel said) an abomination set up in the Temple and the word “standing” in the Greek is masculine referring to a person rather than a thing (or an idol). This is in line with what Paul writes: “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:4).
- Following the scholars quoted above, I see this as referring ultimately to still future End Times events.
- There seems to be some parallel with the woman clothed with the sun in Rev 12:6, 14 who “fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days …. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the snake’s reach.” The ‘woman’ is often interpreted as the believing messianic community from whom Christ descended (Rev 12:5) and is afterwards persecuted, but protected by God in the ‘wilderness’: a place of spiritual refuge. More clearly there seems to be a parallel between the “beast” in Rev 13:5 and the Antichrist: “The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months.”
- So, if it is right to connect all these references, we seem to have the following aspects mentioned:
- 1. The Antichrist makes a covenant “with many for one ‘seven’”.
- 2. He breaks that covenant in the middle of the ‘seven’ putting an end to sacrifice and offering.
- 3. He sets himself up in the temple as the “abomination that causes desolation” claiming to be God.
- 4. He attacks the believing community.
- 5. He destroys the world’s political, economic and religious system.
- 6. He is ultimately destroyed by Jesus at his second coming.
- Much of this creates little difficulty, in my opinion, but there are some questions:
- a. Are the references to the temple and “sacrifice and offering” literal?
- b. With whom does the Antichrist make a covenant?
- There is a widespread opinion that the Antichrist makes a (7-year) covenant with the Jewish people who have rebuilt the temple and resumed the sacrificial system, then he breaks that covenant after 3.5 years abolishing the sacrifices. How credible is this literal interpretation?
- A straightforward reading of what Paul says in 2 Thess. 2 would suggest he is referring to the literal temple: “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” Some would apply this to what happened in AD70 when the Romans worshiped their pagan standards in the temple. But, as we have seen, Jesus refers the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ as a person (using the masculine) in Mark 13:14. Also Paul goes on to say that the “coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie” and the Lord Jesus will overthrow him “with the breath of his mouth and destroy [him] by the splendour of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8-9). This cannot be fulfilled by the AD70 events but is clearly referring to the End Times.
- Some Christians welcome the idea of the rebuilding of the temple (cf. Ezekiel’s third temple) and even the renewal of the animal sacrifices. We came across such people in Jerusalem. They are clearly unaware that the renewal of the sacrificial system would be totally contradictory to the finality of the sacrifice of Christ which fulfilled and did away with the need of a sacrificial system. However there is an important question.
- Ezekiel’s prophecy needs to be seen in context. He prophesies a messianic kingdom where:
- · God has gathered them “out of the nations where they have gone …. back into their own land” (37:21).
- · “David will be king over them” (37:24). This is not literal but means a descendant of David, i.e. Jesus. (One could argue this is evidence that the prophecy about the temple should not be taken literally either).
- · They will be obedient to God (37:23-24).
- · God will “make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant” (37:26).
- · God says: “I will put my sanctuary among them for ever” (37:26-28).
- · All the nations will know that the Lord makes Israel holy when his “sanctuary is among them for ever” (37:28).
- · However, the restoration of Israel will bring about a massive coalition of world powers to destroy God’s kingdom (the invasion of “Gog” which is defeated, in chapters 38-39).
- It is at this stage that Ezekiel begins his extensive prophecy about the new temple in chapters 40-48. There are various interpretations of this passage.
- The literal interpretation
- I am not someone who rushes to adopt a symbolic interpretation of prophetic passages. It is important to have a clear indication that a passage cannot be literal before coming to such an interpretation. However, there are various problems with the literal interpretation.
- Ezekiel’s prophecy about the temple is very detailed about measurements of the many aspects of the building, the clothes priests should wear, the sacrifices which should be offered, etc. On the face of it, this seems to imply that it is a prophecy about a literal temple. Having said that, Ezekiel then prophesies about the river flowing from under the south side of the temple which flows into the Dead Sea making the salt water fresh (cf Zech. 14:8). Many would see this as symbolic of the “rivers of living water” Jesus promises to those who come to him, namely the Spirit (John 7:37-39). He also prophesies specific areas where the 12 tribes would settle in the End Times, which, in view of the 10 tribes being lost, seems non-literal. Then Ezekiel prophesies God will dwell in the Temple forever (Ezek 43:7) but God’s ‘temple’ is now the church composed of both Jewish and Gentile believers (1 Pet 2:4-10). Again this suggests a non-literal fulfilment.
- The most important problem is that it seems clear that God would not want Israel to renew the sacrificial system. This would be contrary to the truth that they are fulfilled (and therefore done away with) by the cross and the death of the Lamb of God. It is true that some sacrifices were not to do with forgiveness/redemption. But if the temple were rebuilt, it would doubtless major on sacrifices for forgiveness/redemption. I think believers should not be associated with that because it is contradictory to the Gospel.
- This is clearly taught in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Jesus is the “great high priest who has ascended into heaven” (4:14). He “provided purification for sins” (1:3). “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (7:27 cf 9:28; 10:14). “In fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one” (8:6). “He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption” (9:12). He “did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (9:24)
- The earthly sanctuary (temple) “is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (8:5, cf. 9:24). The old covenant (with its animal sacrifices) “is obsolete and outdated” (8:13). “The gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations applying until the time of the new order” (9:9-10). “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship …. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:1-4).
- It seems clear to me that the NT rules out any idea of God wanting the temple sacrificial system to be restored. (The idea in the Scofield Bible that the renewal of the sacrificial system would be a memorial of Jesus’ sacrifice is an interpretation born of desperation. It is totally unconvincing).
- The symbolic interpretation
- John B Taylor comments that “there are many elements [in chapters 40-48] which are so impracticable that a literal interpretation must be ruled out e.g. the siting on a very high mountain, 40:2; the impossible source and course of the river of life, 47:1-12; the unreality of the boundaries of the tribes which could never be worked out geographically in hilly Israel.” Like many others, he sees the prophecy as fulfilled symbolically. Some see it as fulfilled in the church. Others see it as simply conveying principles. John Taylor gives the following summary:
- · Centrality of worship (expressed in meticulous detail and concern for ritual).
- · Abiding presence of God amidst his people.
- · Blessings that will flow from God’s presence to barren places of earth (river of life).
- · The orderly allocation of duties and privileges to all God’s people (cf temple duties and apportionment of land (cf Rev 7:4-8).
- I am convinced that God would not wish the temple sacrificial system to be renewed in the End Times. But the question remains: will the temple be rebuilt in the End Times? It is not beyond the bounds of credibility. The Temple Institute in Jerusalem states that its “ultimate goal is to see Israel rebuild the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, in accord with the Biblical commandments” (see http://www.templeinstitute.org/). I went round their visitor centre when we lived in Jerusalem. They have created all the gold and silver vessels used in the sacrificial services, the golden menorah (7-branched candlestick), the golden incense altar, the golden showbread table and the musical instruments played by the Levitical choir. They have also created the robes, breastplate, ephod and golden crown of the high priest. All of these are strictly in accordance with the biblical pattern.
- So there is certainly an organised group campaigning for the rebuilding of the temple. On the other hand, given the great sensitivities on Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, any attempt to rebuild the temple there would create a very strong reaction from the Muslim community.
- Daniel speaks of “ruler who will come” confirming “a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’” Is that really with the non-messianic Jewish people (i.e. Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah) or is it with the believing community? If the prophecy that “All Israel will be saved” has not been fulfilled then there would be a substantial non-messianic Jewish community.
- If it has been fulfilled it would seem very doubtful that there would be a substantial non-messianic Jewish community. Could the covenant therefore be with a very large messianic Jewish community? The problems with this are that hopefully such a messianic community would recognise the Antichrist for who he is and, secondly, they would not renew the sacrificial system.
- The references with respect to the Antichrist’s covenant, about the temple and “sacrifice and offering” could only be literal if:
- · the prophecy “All Israel will be saved” has not been fulfilled by then
- · a large non-messianic Jewish community remains
- · the temple has been rebuilt and the sacrificial system resumed by that community (despite that not being God’s will).
- The prophecies seem to require this to be the case. One additional factor is that it would hardly be surprising if the Antichrist was motivated to some extent by anti-Semitism, the world’s longest hatred, which can only be explained in terms of demonic reaction to God’s continuing purpose for the Jewish people. So it is not inconceivable that he could pretend to make a covenant with the Jews and then break it. Daniel sees the ending of the sacrificial system as preparing the way for the setting up of the “abomination which causes desolation” – the worship of the Antichrist (Dan 9:27).
- There is one other matter which needs to be looked at briefly:
- The mark of the Beast and its number has been a happy hunting ground for endless speculation. Some regard the bar code used on the packaging of many goods today as a sinister forerunner of the mark of the Beast. People have already had micro-chips implanted under their skin. The chip is a radio frequency identification device (RFID) and is the size of a grain of rice or the tip of a ballpoint pen. It is a tiny transmitter-computer which never runs down and has a life expectancy of 20 years. It is injected by a special ‘intravenous needle.’
- Inevitably, rumours circulated in America that before Obamacare is implemented all Americans and babies will receive RFID injected under the skin, to take effect on March 23, 2013. This is, of course, nonsense.
- More recently a patent has been applied for an electronic skin tattoo that incorporates a microphone and power supply which could be applied to the skin for long-time use, monitoring the wearer’s heart and brain and relaying the information to medical professionals. But it could also be used as a lie-detector. “It is contemplated that a user that may be nervous or engaging in speaking falsehoods may exhibit different galvanic skin response than a more confident, truth telling individual,” reads the patent. The author of the newspaper article reporting this added: “The idea of an un-removable tattoo being applied as a permanent lie-detector sounds like a sci-fi subplot, but apparently it’s not beyond the remit of a patent application.”
- John predicts that the Beast will force “all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Rev 13:16-17). Although I don’t like the paranoid speculation about these matters I have to admit that what John is referring to could, in theory, be something like the devices mentioned above especially as it is about permission to buy or sell, i.e. a sort of PIN number or password. Certainly modern technology encourages a literal interpretation of the mark of the Beast.
- Religious tattoos were common in the ancient world and some people were tattooed with a symbol of the god they worshipped.
- However, when it comes to the meaning of 666, there has been much speculation. A favourite today is that it is the numerical equivalent of “Nero Caesar.” There was a myth that Nero, who was a Roman emperor who persecuted Christians, had not actually died but would return. (It is also true that the Greek word “beast” when transliterated into Hebrew has the numerical value of 666. That would make sense of Rev 13:18 “Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.”). There are however questions about the Nero interpretation:
- 1. In order to make the name equivalent of 666 the Greek letters have to be transposed into Hebrew letters, whereas Revelation was written in Greek not Hebrew.
- 2. Many of John’s intended readers (to whom he wrote in Greek) would not understand Hebrew which would rather hinder the “revelation” aspect you mention. The defence that every non-Hebrew speaking reader would know a Hebrew-speaking believer seems rather weak. Revelation was written quite late (most scholars say c. 95AD) when there would have been many believers and churches throughout the then-known world. It seems unlikely that they would understand a Hebrew transliteration of a misspelt Greek form of a Latin name and the numerical equivalent of Hebrew letters in Hebrew gematria (the practice of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase).
- 3. “Nero Caesar” only amounts to 666 if “Caesar” is misspelt. The defence that such misspelling is found in contemporary Judaism again is rather weak because it relies on many of John’s non-Jewish readers knowing about that. “Nero” can also be misspelt but that leads to the alternative figure of 616, the number of the Beast according to some ancient manuscripts.
- 4. There is no evidence of contemporary Christian writers understanding 666 as referring to Nero, which is strange if that is what John expected people to understand.
- If the Nero interpretation is correct it does not mean that John was only addressing his contemporary generation. Richard Bauckham says: “John is making use of the legend of the return of Nero: Nero one of the seven emperors of Rome, will return as the final Antichrist.”
- Others interpret it as a number which falls short of the perfect number 7. So the real Trinity would be 777 but the evil trinity (the dragon and two beasts) is 666 and always falls short and fails. This seems more credible but we really cannot be sure what 666 means.
- I said earlier in this paper that it is important that we avoid both paranoia and naivety. On the one hand, we must not jump to hasty conclusions. On the other, without being dogmatic, we need to recognise factors and trends in modern society which could facilitate the fulfilment of the prophecies about the Antichrist. Whilst being properly critical, we must also avoid cynicism.
- We need to face up to the current and future failings and evils in society, in particular injustice, declining moral standards, church decline and apostasy, oppression and persecution, false prophets and messiahs, as well as natural disasters: war, famine, earthquakes, disease. And, of course, the media constantly emphasise such things.
- But we need also to remember what theologians call the general work of the Holy Spirit or common grace, i.e. God’s beneficial influence in society, and not to sink into doom and gloom. There is an immense amount of good in the world and I want to make this point as strongly as I can. Just read through this list of words and thank God for the great deal of good there is in human society: affection, altruism, bravery, caring, charity, compassion, conscientiousness, consideration, co-operation, courage, courtesy, devotion, empathy, fairness, forgiveness, friendship, generosity, gentleness, goodness, helpfulness, humility, humour, honesty, idealism, integrity, justice, kindness, love, loyalty, patience, perseverance, reliability, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, sympathy, tact, tenderness, thoughtfulness, tolerance, trust, unselfishness.
- So, seeking to avoid paranoia, hasty conclusions and undue negativism, we nevertheless need to face up to the dangers in modern society. One complication is that not infrequently good things with beneficial effects and actions taken with positive motives can lead on to unintentional bad results. We have to be realistic about that. So, for example, the abortion law was liberalized to allow abortion where the mother’s life was at risk, but it has led to abortion on demand. Homosexuality was decriminalised, but it has led on to the undermining of marriage (and more problems to come). Thinking towards the future, supporting a Palestinian state is in accordance with principles of justice and equity but it could lead to Israel’s existence being threatened. Globalisation can benefit the poor and vulnerable, prevent war, injustice, oppression. But could it lead to an oppressive world government?
- We cannot just take a negative approach, for example, opposing the EU because it might go wrong and become oppressive. We have to support the good intentions and beneficial actions which people take, whilst looking critically for any negative threats, and taking whatever action we can to prevent those threats becoming reality.
- We need to bear in mind the important moral principle of sometimes having to choose the lesser of two evils. Will the benefits of a certain action significantly outweigh any negative risks involved? We cannot function ethically on the basis of what might go wrong:
- · Cars are an advantage but lead to accidents
- · Planes are an advantage but lead to aerial wars and bombing
- · Armies are necessary but lead to atrocities
- · Nuclear power is beneficial but leads to nuclear weapons
- Maybe Murphy’s Law is relevant: “Anything which can go wrong will go wrong!” After all, we are dealing with human nature and, whereas the good qualities mentioned above are very widespread, unfortunately bad qualities are common too: selfishness, greed, injustice, pride, corruption, divisiveness, hatred, etc.
- St John writes: “You have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:18-19).
- So John is saying that the spirit of Antichrist is around already and there have been preliminary manifestations of it. He is referring to apostates. We could also include people like Adolf Hitler and similar charismatic evil dictators. They are not the (ultimate) Antichrist, but they manifest the antichrist spirit. This is in harmony with other biblical prophecies which have multiple fulfilments and then one ultimate fulfilment.
- How are we sensibly and realistically to assess what, if any, indications there are today which are relevant to this very late sign of the end times? Two main such indications are the modern movement towards globalisation and the rise of modern dictators which we shall now examine. But I would also add the decline and rejection of Christianity especially in the West whilst general non-religious ‘spirituality’ thrives. It seems to me that such a vague spirituality renders people open to spiritual deceit and ultimately to the deceit of the Antichrist.
- It seems clear that the Antichrist is a worldwide ruler and this is made explicit in the passage about the “Beast” in Rev 13:7-8: “It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast.”
- It is the same in the passage about the second Beast in Revelation 13:11-14, 16-17: “Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It.... made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast..... it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. ..... It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.”
- So we are to expect a charismatic leader who has authority over the whole world and unites it in worship of himself. In the last few decades especially, we have seen the world become a global village with jet travel, global media, the internet, an increasing number of global organisations and a gradually growing opinion that we need world government.
- There are, of course, great benefits in globalization and there would be great benefits in world government. I am not one of those who subscribes to a narrow nationalism, as do some of our right of centre politicians. But I do believe that there are also great dangers in world government. There will be many people who believe that, basically, all would go well given world government but they need to realize that this belief is in the realm of prophecy. They have no proof. For myself, I prefer to rely on biblical prophecy which says that ultimately world government will basically go wrong, very seriously wrong. The fact that we are moving steadily and inevitably towards it is therefore a matter of concern.
- I am not into paranoid conspiracy theories. But neither am I naïve enough to believe there isn’t a great deal of self-seeking manipulation by the rich and powerful going on behind the scenes. I don’t think that is a new thing but in our modern global village it is more dangerous.
- So let us examine how true it is that the current world situation is moving towards being a setting where the fulfillment of the antichrist prophecies can be facilitated.
- As in the case of the Antichrist, there is a great deal of paranoid, and sometimes ridiculous, writing about world government. We need to see both the benefits and the dangers of world government.
- Globalisation is more than economic co-operation and international business. It includes shared transport, communication, technology, culture, sport, etc. It is “all those processes by which the peoples of the world are incorporated into a single world society.”
- Economic globalisation includes international trade, co-ordination of finance and migration of workers. It involves loosening or removal of regulations.
- There is a long historical background to modern economic globalisation. International trade operated in the ancient world. Trade routes such as the Silk Road connected Africa, Asia and Europe centuries ago. However globalisation on a large scale began in the 19th century. Britain became the first global economic superpower and other countries followed suit with colonisation. (This sort of globalisation was based upon military invasion). Steamships and rail travel facilitated international trade.
- After the Second World War globalisation grew much more rapidly and accelerated even further during the period from the 1980s. Obviously the growth of information technology: the internet (with 2.3 billion users in 2012) and the World Wide Web have facilitated this, as has the development of air travel. We now really do live in a global village.
Many say globalisation is the end of the nation state
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Union made a controversial speech in 2010 in which he said that “the time of the homogenous nation state is over … In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion – it is a lie
Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union, believed that through economic and similar co-operation members of the EU would ‘sleepwalk’ into political union.
The December 2012 US National Intelligence Council predicted possible world scenarios in 2030. Firstly, it includes the possibility of large scale conflicts leading to a “complete breakdown and reversal of globalisation.” Secondly, it includes the possibility of the US, Europe and China co-operating to stop a large scale conflict “broadly leading to worldwide cooperation to deal with global challenges.” Thirdly, it includes the possibility of a world where inequalities dominate leading to political and social tensions. Finally, it describes the possibility of “a Nonstate World.”
Immanuel Wallerstein who was Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, believes that the nation-state system no longer works and that it will break down in the next 25 to 50 years and there will be a time of great conflicts and disorder.
Others say globalisation won’t eradicate the nation state
Martin Wolf, associate editor and chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, writes: “Contrary to one common assumption, the modern form of globalisation will not spell the end of the modern nation-state.” He adds: “Globalisation does not make states unnecessary. On the contrary, for people to be successful in exploiting the opportunities afforded by international integration, they need states at both ends of their transactions. Failed states, disorderly states, weak states, and corrupt states are shunned as the black holes of the global economic system.”
What, then, is the effect of globalisation?
Jayantha Dhanapala, who was Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations, writes: “Globalisation is an ongoing process, not a completed condition. Against the grand tapestry of history, it has arguably just started. It has grown from a purely economic or technological concept and now implies evolutionary change on a cultural dimension as well. Information communicated through modern print and electronic media is not just affecting commerce, but shaping world-views, relations inside families, and attitudes of citizens to the state. The process, however, has still not significantly touched an extraordinary proportion of humanity and hence has not yet truly earned its title, globalisation …. Nor has globalisation ushered in a golden age of world peace. In the decade since the end of the Cold War, over five million people have been killed in armed conflicts around the world.
Professor Richard Brinkman wrote: “It appears arguable that while the nation-state is far from finished, there is good reason to doubt that states hold the monopoly power within the politics of globalisation.”
- The ideas of world citizenship or a world government are also not new: they have been around for thousands of years amongst the ancient Chinese, Greeks and Romans, for example. In the Middle Ages people had the idea of a revived Roman Empire, often linked with a Christian rule throughout the world. There were arguments as to whether the secular rulers were subject to the pope or not. In 1304 Dante wrote that war could be eliminated if “the whole earth and all that humans can possess be a monarchy, that is, one government under one ruler. Because he possesses everything, the ruler would not desire to possess anything further, and thus, he would hold kings contentedly within the borders of their kingdoms, and keep peace among them.”
- Candidates for the ruler of the world included Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the kings of France, Spain and Italy. In the 18th century Immanuel Kant proposed a world republic, rather than a (potentially despotic) universal monarchy.
- The ideas behind world government were evident in the 19th century. Tennyson’s famous poem Locksley Hall, written in 1842, included the words:
- For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see
- Saw a Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be ...
- Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer
- and the battle-flags were furled
- In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
- There the common sense of most shall hold
- a fretful realm in awe
- And the kindly earth shall slumber
- lapt in universal law.
- International organisations began in earnest in the mid-19th century. The International Peace Congress began in 1843, followed by the International Red Cross (1863), the Telegraphic Union (1865) and the Universal Postal Union (1874), the Institute of International Law (1873) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (1886).
- After the First World War, the League of Nations was set up and by 1935 had 58 members. It was replaced by the United Nations after the trauma of the Second World War. That war had seen over 60 million people killed, mostly civilians) and the first use of nuclear weapons. After the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists lobbied for a world federalist government which could control atomic energy. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 and people like Churchill, Einstein, Ghandi and Bertrand Russell called for federal world government. For example Einstein wrote to the United Nations in October 1947:
- “The United Nations is an extremely important and useful institution provided the peoples and Governments of the world realize that it is merely a transitional system toward the final goal, which is the establishment of a supranational authority vested with sufficient legislative and executive powers to keep the peace. The present impact lies in the fact that there is no sufficient, reliable supra-national authority .... The United Nations now and world Government eventually must serve one single goal the guarantee of the security, tranquillity, and the welfare of all mankind.”
- The World Federalist Movement was set up in 1947. On its current website it states: “We fear that the United Nation's efforts towards peace, like those of the League of Nations, may not be successful, if the world is not willing to take this next step to World Federal Government.” It continues to affirm the following principles:
- · Limitation of national sovereignty, and the transfer to the world federal government of such legislative, executive and judicial powers as relate to the world affairs.
- · Enforcement of world law directly on the individual whoever or wherever he may be, within the jurisdiction of the world federal government: guarantee of the rights of man and suppression of all attempts against the security of the federation.
- · Creation of supranational armed forces capable of guaranteeing the security of the world federal government and of its member states. Disarmament of member nations to the level of their internal policing requirements.
- · Ownership and control by the world federal government of atomic development and of other scientific discoveries capable of mass destruction.
- · Power to raise adequate revenues directly and independently of state taxes.
- However the Cold War (1945-89) rendered all ideas of world government impractical. The world was divided into two camps.
- The UN set up the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organization and the International Telecommunications Union. It has also, of course, provide peacekeeping forces around the globe. The 20th century also saw the establishment of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The eight richest nations have come together in the G8 and 20 nations have joined in the G20.
- The World Bank, which provides loans to developing countries, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were set up in 1944. The IMF describes itself as “an organization of 188 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”
- The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which led to removal of trade restrictions, was signed in 1947 and then was replaced in 1995 by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Various Free Trade Areas have been set up.
- There are now, of course, many multinational corporations and transnational companies who employ some 3 billion people.
- The huge amount of cross-border movement of goods, services, technology and capital means that national economies are becoming more interdependent. This integration has led to the global market place or single world market. The involvement of China and India has provided about half of this labour force.
- World trade has increased over 100 times since the 1950s (from $95bn to $12 trillion). Banks and investors now have trillions of dollars of assets invested overseas.
- Professor Geoff Mulgan said: “[T]he starting point for understanding the world today is not the size of its GDP or the destructive power of its weapons systems, but the fact that it is so much more joined together than before. It may look like it is made up of separate and sovereign individuals, firms, nations or cities, but the deeper reality is one of multiple connections.”
- More recently, Gideon Rachman chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times wrote an article in which he outlined three major reasons for moving towards world government “global warming, a global financial crisis and a “global war on terror.” He went on to say that global transport and communication has shrunk the world and quoted Geoffrey Blainey, an eminent Australian historian, who wrote: “For the first time in human history, world government of some sort is now possible.” Blainey foresees this happening within the next century or so.
- But Rachman points out that economic crises and climate change could push even China and the US towards global governance much sooner than that, despite their emphasis on national sovereignty. He continues: “So, it seems, everything is in place. For the first time since homo sapiens began to doodle on cave walls, there is an argument, an opportunity and a means to make serious steps towards a world government.” He does point out though that many people don’t like the idea.
- Globalisation inevitably has an effect on the importance and freedom of nation states. Internationalisation of financial markets, technology and some manufacturing and services restrict the freedom of nation states.
- National functions are to some degree replaced by international agreements and institutions such as the International Criminal Court, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, or the European Union and the European Central Bank.
- Professor Colin Leys wrote: “It is not just that governments can no longer ‘manage’ their national economies, to survive in office they must increasingly ‘manage’ national politics in such a ways as to adapt them to the pressures of trans-national market forces.”
- The distinction between national policies and global policies is becoming less clear. Social and economic lawmaking and regulation is increasingly supranational. But many people worry that such global governance is not sufficiently democratic. So there are calls for the extension of liberal democratic institutions to the transnational level.
- During the Cold War the European Community was developed and with the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 became the European Union. It now has 27 members and includes half a billion people. The EC was set up primarily to secure peace in Europe. After the Second World War, continental Europe was humiliated, having experienced defeat and the full horrors of occupation. Fifty million Europeans had been killed - the biggest slaughter in the history of mankind - in two nationalistic wars between ‘Christian’ countries. The EC’s founders were consumed by the ideal of creating such economic interdependence in Europe, particularly between Germany and France, that this carnage would never be repeated.
- Ten other such unions with a combined membership of 195 nations were also formed around the world. When the Cold War ended in 1991 interest in federal world government came to the fore again. One very significant move towards world government was the establishment of the International Criminal Court in 2002 supported by 139 nations.
- Since the end of the Cold War there has been a call for a UN Parliamentary Assembly which could eventually lead to a directly-elected UN Parliament.
- The Independent Working Group on the Future of the United Nations stated:
- “We imagine that the UN of the next century would still remain an organization of nation-states responding to its members' concerns and needs. By the mid-twenty-first century, however, it is likely that the nature of statehood and assumptions about national sovereignty will have evolved in response to global needs and to an enlarged sense of world community. The communications revolution will have created a greater awareness of the interconnectedness of all human society. Disparate peoples and cultures will have become more familiar with one another. A growing awareness that the gravest challenges are global ones will have generated an acceptance of the critical need for collective action.”
- In modern times the state can quickly target our home phone, mobile, email, passport number, credit card numbers, address, or any of our log-ins to a web service. They can access the content of our communications via any of those means, gather information about anyone with whom we communicate, get a full picture of all our internet use, and track our location online and offline. They can even, by looking at our internet searches, know what’s on our minds.
- The Coalition UK government published its programme for government in May 2010. It said: We will be strong in defence of freedom. The Government believes that the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties. We need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness.”
- However, in April 2012 Home Secretary Theresa May was criticised for planning to give police and security services the power to monitor emails and internet use of everyone in Britain. The Independent saw this as “a fundamental shift in the relationship between the individual and the state. Until now, that relationship has in part rested on the understanding that citizens can only be put under surveillance when a court has been convinced that there is good reason to do so.” The government claimed it would not mean any access to the content of the email but Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge and a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: “No expert I've ever spoken to can see how this could possibly be done without …. allowing access to the actual message that was sent.” James Ball commented: “It's a telling sign of how many real-world freedoms have been sacrificed online, then, that a government that just two years ago pledged to ‘reverse the rise of the surveillance state” feels able to propose real-time monitoring of all email and social media communications. The Guardian commented: “As with many a dangerous idea – it is perfectly possible to pitch the case for them in a tone of sweet reason.” Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, vetoed the idea being included in the Queen’s Speech but Theresa May sought to revive it after the killing of the soldier in Woolwich.
- The Government published its draft Communications Data Bill later in 2012. It aimed to update the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000—RIPA— to set out the conditions which the law enforcement agencies and others have to satisfy if they wish to access communications data—the details about communications, but not their content.
- What Nick Brown, Labour MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne East, a member of the committee scrutinizing the Bill, wrote is disturbing: “The Tories and the Lib Dems are trying to push through legislation which both parties shrilly opposed in 2009. The Home Secretary hasn’t found the answers to overcome the objections that persuaded the then Labour Government not to proceed with similar legislation. Almost every witness to the Joint Committee, from civil liberties groups to service providers, complained of a lack of clarity from the Home Office about what is being proposed and a lack of consultation over whether it would work.”
- The Human Rights organisation Liberty commented: “Liberty has never opposed targeted surveillance with prior authorisation, on the basis of individual suspicion, but this Draft Bill amounts to nothing less than blanket surveillance of the population at large, turning a nation of citizens into a nation of suspects.” It pointed out that it was very similar to the bill introduced by the Labour Government. Nick Clegg had commented on the Labour Bill in February 2008 “It is this Government that has turned the British public into the most spied upon on the planet.’ Similarly David Cameron said: “Today we are in danger of living in a control state. Every month over 1,000 surveillance operations are carried out. The tentacles of the state can even rifle through your bins for juicy information.’
- Liberty also quoted the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken MacDonald QC, speaking about the proposal who said “This database would be an unimaginable hellhouse of personal private information. It would be a complete readout of every citizen's life in the most intimate and demeaning detail. No government of any colour is to be trusted with such a roadmap to our souls.”
- John Naughton is professor of the public understanding of technology at the Open University: “As the revelations of Edward Snowden have recently underlined, we have constructed an architecture of state surveillance that would make Orwell gasp. And indeed for a long time, for those of us who worry about such things, it was the internet's capability to facilitate such comprehensive surveillance that attracted most attention.”
- It is disturbing that Chris Huhne, who was in the Cabinet from 2010 – 2012 and a member of the National Security Council (NSC), said that he was totally unaware of Prism, the national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency and Tempora, a GCHQ internet surveillance system. Huhne said: “The Home Office was happy to allow the NSC and the cabinet – let alone parliament – to remain in utter ignorance of Prism/Tempora while deciding on the communications data bill ….Joseph Goebbels was simply wrong when he argued that ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’. Information is power, and the necessary consequence is that privacy is freedom. Only totalitarians pry absolutely.”
- The editor of The Guardian which published many of Edward Snowden’s files objected to what he saw as undue pressure on him from government circles. He wrote: “The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like ‘when’.”
- He warned that the stories they had published about Snowden files were not about totalitarianism but that an infrastructure had been created that could be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands. “Obama is a nice guy. David Cameron is a nice social Democrat. About three hours from London in Greece there are some very nasty political parties. What there is is the infrastructure for total surveillance. In history, all the precedents are unhappy.” He added: “The ability of these big agencies, on an international basis, to keep entire populations under some form of surveillance, and their ability to use engineering and algorithms to erect a system of monitoring and surveillance, is astonishing.”
- In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Company, Thomas Drake, another former N.S.A. whistleblower in 2010, said of the Snowden revelations: “The government is desperate to not deal with the actual exposures, the content of the disclosures. Because they do reveal a vast, systemic, institutionalized, industrial-scale Leviathan surveillance state that has clearly gone far beyond the original mandate to deal with terrorism—far beyond.”
- In October 2013 Andrew Parker, Head of MI5, insisted: “The law requires that we only collect and access information that we really need to perform our functions. In some quarters there seems to be a vague notion that we monitor everyone and all their communications, browsing at will through peoples’ private lives for anything that looks interesting. That is, of course, utter nonsense.”
- However the NSA provides millions of pounds of funding each year to GCHQ. The Snowden documents also showed the NSA expects results from GCHQ in return for its cash. One, dating from 2010 “raised a number of issues with regards to meeting NSA's minimum expectations”. It said GCHQ “still remains short of the full NSA ask”. Another strategy briefing remarked: "GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight."
- Henry Porter wrote in The Guardian:
- “It is an alarming fact that over the last two weeks, as details of Prism and the covert acquisition of phone records have been laid bare, politician after politician, on both sides of the Atlantic and from both sides of the left-right divide, has argued that the loss of a little liberty is a small sacrifice to make for security. Most appreciate that no such transaction exists in the real world, for the very reason that those making the argument stand to gain so much from public acquiescence. This is about the unscrutinised power of a deep state and its burgeoning influence on society. Thanks to Snowden, the world has evidence of the totally monitored future that GCHQ and NSA plan for us, and that political establishments turn a blind eye to. As he said of the US's director of national intelligence James Clapper's assurances to Congress, ‘Baldly lying to the public is the evidence of subverted democracy.’
- The story of MTI [The GCHQ/NSA programme Mastering the Internet] must surely shake that complacency and demand a review of the profit-and-loss account in the safety versus liberty debate. And that must take in the effect the actions and views of a generation of middle-aged politicians, journalists and spies will have on people aged under 25, who may have to live with total surveillance under regimes that may be much less benign than the ones we know. As I have asked before, will my generation pass on a society that is substantially less free than the one we inherited, together with tools of oppression never before seen?”
- He warned about the danger of ‘function creep’: “The law of function creep means that oppressive measures passed to address terrorism and crime are invariably deployed in much less threatening contexts. For example, the spread of surveillance under the last government's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act resulted in local councils using counter-terror methods to mount undercover operations against fly-tippers and those suspected of lying in school applications …. Already, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras monitor Britain's major roads, and real-time surveillance is a feature of the system. He adds that there have already been prosecutions of police officers for misuse of the police national computer and the Automatic Number Plate Recognition surveillance system. He says this surveillance system is the instrument of a “state that grants itself the right to universal suspicion, while enjoying the protection of a new law, brought in by a lawyer, that allows evidence of official misconduct to be heard in secret” (see below).
- George Monbiot commented: “We should not fear some Orwellian future state where we're subjected to total electronic scrutiny – it's our present reality ….. If the state is prepared to abuse its powers and instruments so widely and gravely in cases such as this, where there is a high risk of detection, and if it is prepared to intrude so far into people's lives that its officers live with activists and father their children, what is it not prepared to do while spying undetectably on our private correspondence?” He added: “Talking to Sunday's Observer, a senior intelligence source expressed his or her concerns about mass surveillance. ‘If there was the wrong political change, it could be very dangerous. All you need is to have the wrong government in place.’”
- John Naughton, Professor of the public understanding of technology at the Open University, wrote in the Observer in June 2013 “Most people will just shrug their shoulders and get on with life. They will accept the assurances of those in authority and move on. If they do, then they will have missed something important. It is that our democracies have indeed reached a pivotal point. Ever since it first became clear that the internet was going to become the nervous system of the planet, the 64 billion dollar question was whether it would be ‘captured’ by giant corporations or by governments. Now we know the answer: it's ‘both’ ….. What we're witnessing is the metamorphosis of our democracies into national security states in which the prerogatives of security authorities trump every other consideration and in which critical or sceptical appraisal of them is ruled out of court.”
- Andrew Rennison, the UK’s first surveillance camera commissioner, predicted that there would be a public outcry if facial recognition systems and HD cameras are allowed to loom over our public areas. He said: “The technology has overtaken our ability to regulate it. I’m convinced that if we don’t regulate it properly – i.e. the technological ability to use millions of images we capture – there will be a huge public backlash. It is the Big Brother scenario playing out large. It’s the ability to pick out your face in a crowd from a camera which is probably half a mile away.”
- In 2006 Richard Thomas, when he was the UK Information Commissioner, said: “Two years ago I warned that we were in danger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society. Today I fear that we are in fact waking up to a surveillance society that is already all around us.” The Surveillance Studies Network, a group of academics, published a study in 2006. Dr David Murakami Wood, who headed the study, said: “Surveillance is not a malign plot hatched by evil powers to control the population. But the surveillance society has come about almost without us realising.”
- In 2012 the government drafted new legislation about secret court hearings for the first time in the UK. One aspect was ‘closed material procedures’ (CMPs) which enabled authorities to introduce sensitive information in a trial that can only be seen by the judge and security-cleared ‘special advocates’ who represent the interest of an individual claimant. The special advocate may not give his or her client precise details of the evidence and can only provide a ‘gist’ or loose summary. The claimant may not therefore be aware of all the allegations being made. Critics say this results in parties to a legal dispute no longer being on an equal footing, tilting the advantage in the government's favour. These proposals were condemned by parliament's human rights committee and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
- David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation said: “Under the procedure devised in the bill, the judge does have the last word.” Lord Neuberger, the UK’s most senior judge, said that anyone “interested in justice and democracy” would be “very troubled” by the prospect of cases being heard behind closed doors.
In September 2014 the UN received a report from Ben Emmerson QC the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. It stated that the fact that intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have access to the communications of every internet user “amounts to a systematic interference with the right to respect for the privacy of communications, and requires a correspondingly compelling justification.”
UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, addressed the Tory Party Conference about the danger of Islamic State militants even seizing nuclear weapons. She said she wanted to revive the Communications Data Bill requiring companies to keep records of people’s internet, email and mobile phone activity, but not their contents, which was abandoned by the government in 2013. Commenting on that Bill, Dominic Grieve, ex-Attorney General, said: “Any restriction on freedom of expression of individuals outside the criminal law is something that has to be approached with very great caution.” Also David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary said: “These are quite incredible powers to limit democratic rights, rights that people have had for 200 years in this country. It will have real trouble both getting through the House of Commons and indeed real difficulty standing up in front of the court.” It is disturbing, therefore, that the government is persisting in trying to pass such a bill into law.
In July 2014 the House of Commons approved The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill which 15 academic experts in technology law, in a letter to MPs, described as "a serious expansion of the British surveillance state.”
Andrew Caplen, President of the Law Society, commented: “We are concerned that introducing emergency legislation does nothing to enhance the rule of law or address the fact that we are increasingly becoming a 'surveillance society'.”
- The trend towards world government is not the whole story. We have already noted that the idea was popular immediately after the atom bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War. Then the Cold War effectively prevented any serious consideration of world government because the world was firmly divided in two.
- Since the end of the Cold War, the two ideas of world government (a central authority with powers of coercion) and ‘global governance’ (political integration without the power of coercion) vie with one another. The latter would limit the sovereignty of individual states more seriously than at present. Liberal thinkers warn of the danger of world government becoming tyrannical. Instead they support ideas of a global parliament, an international criminal court, demilitarization of states, and global distributive justice in the form of a guaranteed annual income for each individual. But they want a non-dominating government in a non-dominating international order or local and cultural autonomy in the context of global regulatory regimes.
- I said at the outset that even writing the title of this paper makes me feel slightly vulnerable to charges of being a nutcase! It would be even worse if I were to be associated with the anti-world government conspiracy theory constituency.
- I read of one group who (seriously) believe that the secret elite (whoever they may be) have been programming the world population to believe in aliens in order to encourage support for world government. They even suggested that “hologram technology” could stage a space-vehicle landing on the White House lawn to back up the scare story!
- They also wonder if “foul play” was involved in the Chernobyl, BP “Deepwater Horizon” and Fukushima disasters in order encourage support for world government.
- It would be naive to deny the possibility of any power group manipulating in favour of global trade, finance or even political change, but I find the anti-world government conspiracy theory paranoid and unrealistic.
- There are, however, more thoughtful criticisms of world government. One is that world government is unrealistic, given the jealousies, divisions and self-seeking attitudes prevalent in the world. Nations tend to hunker down into national concerns when times are difficult.
- Another is that the big problems facing the world, global warming, poverty, war, etc., could be solved by international co-operation without moves towards world government. This is disputed by some scholars as we shall see.
- A third objection is that world government could become tyrannical on the principle that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This latter objection is held by (sensible) people in a secular context but the potential for evil is also in harmony with biblical prophecy.
- Simon Jenkins, wrote in the Guardian in September 2011 about the European debt crisis:
- “I regard myself as a "good" European, but as far as the EU was concerned, that idealism was dented as each advance of Brussels power took ever greater liberties with Europe's taxpayers and legislators: regulating, subsidising and corrupting all it touched …. Because being "pro-Europe" is a faith cult rather than a policy, its adherents dare not raise a peep of protest at its outrages. Not for the first time in Europe's history, a centralised superstate stalks the continent with a retinue of uncritical appeasers unable to see the wood for the tax-free salaries. Sceptics are treated like Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind – traitors to the great confederacy who should be shot for speaking home truths. This is a true reformation moment in Europe's history, when a centralised and authoritarian Holy Roman Empire, grown fat and arrogant on the tithes of subject peoples, suddenly overreaches its power and faces a crisis of legitimacy.”
- “Those in charge merely demand "ever closer union", which means ever more power over subordinate democracy.”
- However there are scholars who write very positively about world government. For example, Thomas G. Weiss, Presidential Professor of Political Science at City University of New York and co-director of the UN Intellectual History Project, wrote an article in 2009 entitled “What Happened to the Idea of World Government?” He was very critical of the inadequacies of the UN and “global governance” to cope with the major threats faced by modern states: climate change, migration, and pandemics to terrorism, financial instability, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which, he says require global action. He laments the fact that interest in world government, which was common in the 1940s amidst fear of atomic warfare, has declined remarkably.
- He writes that “current intergovernmental organizations are insufficient in scope and ambition, inadequate in resources and reach, and incoherent in policies and philosophies.” He points out that the global economic crash of 2008 made clear “the risks, problems, and enormous costs of a global economy without adequate international institutions, democratic decision making, and powers to bring order, spread risks, and enforce compliance.”
- He concludes: “Most countries, and especially the major powers, are not ready to accept the need for elements of global government and the inroads that this would entail for their own autonomy. Nonetheless, the logic of interdependence and a growing number of systemwide and life-threatening crises place this possibility more
- squarely on the international agenda and make parts of a world federal government an idea that is both necessary and possible.”
- Alexander Wendt, Professor of International Security at the University of Chicago, wrote a paper in 2003 entitled “Why a World State is Inevitable.” He argues that “a global monopoly on the legitimate use of organized violence — a world state — is inevitable” because of “the logic of anarchy, which generates a tendency for military technology and war to become increasingly destructive.” He added: “My own guess is that a world state will emerge within 100–200(?) years.” He points out that people like Kant who rejected a world state did so because they had no knowledge of modern weapons which are so devastating and costly in terms of people’s lives.
- He added that “As long as binding choices can be made, decision-making in a world state could involve broad deliberation in a ‘strong’ public sphere rather than command by one person ….. The EU is already not far from meeting these requirements on a regional level. Were a ‘completed’ EU to be globalized it would be a world state.” I would add that such a structure could easily become dominated by a charismatic leader.
- Wendt explains that “if Great Powers insist on retaining their sovereignty …. a non-binding collective security system is not a stable end-state. As such, we can expect individuals and Small Powers to continue pressing for recognition, and as their violence potential grows through the diffusion of more destructive weapons they will be able increasingly to threaten the Great Powers (think North Korea here, or al-Qaeda).”
- Wendt concludes that a world state is inevitable because of the danger of anarchy. Only a world state can prevent such anarchy. He adds: “I have argued that a world state will emerge whether or not anyone intends to bring it about.”
- One encouraging fact for proponents of world government is the International Criminal Court which has the power to try individuals, including heads of state, for the offences of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It does not, however, limit the sovereignty of well-run states because it can only act if national courts fail to take appropriate action against such criminals.
- Nations are facing various global problems and it is argued they can only be effectively tackled on a global basis.
- Worldwide terrorism is a huge threat. Many feel it is only a matter of time before terrorists obtain nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Then there are wars and situations which could lead to war, especially in the Middle East. The pressure is on for a truly global response to these issues.The Independent Working Group on the Future of the United Nations (formed in 1993) proposed that “A United Nations Rapid Reaction Force should be established for urgent deployment on the decisions of the Security Council.” Modern weapons, especially nuclear weapons require international control.
- Prof. Carlo Strenger Ph.D. (Chair of the Clinical Graduate Program at the Department of Psychology of Tel Aviv University) wrote:
Middle East represents one of humanity's greatest challenges—as 9/11 and the
ensuing wars have shown, in an age of global interdependence, tribal religious
conceptions have catastrophic implications; in an age of proliferating weapons
of mass destruction, apocalyptic ideologies that want to bring about the
messianic age (whether the Christian Apocalypse, the return of the 12th Mahdi
or the Jewish Messiah) represent a global danger of growing proportions ….
There is only one way to lower the danger of nuclear terrorism …. the next
generation needs to be educated within an ethics of global cooperation from
earliest childhood onward. Psychological research shows that beliefs
inculcated in early childhood are almost impossible to change. ….This may sound
like a utopia, but it isn't. I keep participating in events like the
Singularity Convention. There is, today, a global network of people for whom
world-citizenship is a lived reality put into daily practice, whether through
research on humanity's global concerns, the defense of human rights, or
creating art that increases empathy between different groups.
The problem is that fundamentalists of most religions try everything to shield their children from global perspectives, fearing that it will undermine their separatist agenda. It is one of our most daunting tasks to convince them that humanity can no longer afford hatred of the other, bigotry and limited horizons; and that their children will be happier, more successful and productive, if they are allowed to leave archaic tribalism and join the quest for a safer, more fulfilling future for humanity as a whole.”
- The Independent Working Group on the Future of the United Nations pointed out that: “There has been a growing interdependence of world economies .... As the global economy becomes interdependent the enhanced UN system will have begun to harmonize trade practices, technological cooperation and monetary policies of Member States and international institutions.”
- So it proposed: “The establishment of an Economic Council as a principal organ of the United Nations is recommended. The Economic Council should, in consultation with the Social Council, the Security Council and the General Assembly, be empowered to formulate guidelines to integrate the work of all UN agencies; including international institutions, programs, and offices engaged in economic issues.” It would harmonise the economic policies of the major economies around the world.
- Dr Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College, Dublin warned:
- Senior bankers hold enormous power, greater than that of many elected national leaders. Largely unaccountable except to occasional shareholders meetings and often quiescent boards, their power is much less constrained than that of democratically elected leaders. And given that power is one of the most potent brain-changing drugs known to humankind, unconstrained power has enormously distorting effects on behaviour, emotions and thinking.
- Holding power changes brains by boosting testosterone, which in turn increases the chemical messenger dopamine in the brain's reward systems. Extraordinary power causes extraordinary brain changes, which in their extreme form manifest themselves in personality distortions, such as those seen in dictators like Muammar Gaddafi.
- The "masters of the universe" who have arisen out of a deregulated world financial system were given unprecedented power that inevitably must have caused major changes to their brains. While power in moderate doses can make people smarter, more strategic in their thinking, bolder and less depressed, in too-large doses it can make them egocentric and un-empathic, greedy for rewards – financial, sexual, interpersonal, material – likely to treat others as objects, and with a dulled perception of risk.”
- I came across two relevant historical quotations:
- James Garfield, President of the United States in 1881 made the following comment which I suspect is still relevant: “Whoever controls the volume of money in our country is absolute master of all industry and commerce…and when you realize that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.”
- Similarly, Josiah Stamp, Director of the Bank of England in 1928 said: “Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take it away from them, and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money.”
- Will Hutton reported that Lord Mandelson (cabinet minister under Tony Blair and European Commissioner) was urging “a strengthening in global governance along with a serious commitment at home to industrial policy, a robust social safety net and regulation of errant business. Otherwise, he warned, the legitimacy of globalisation and modern capitalism would become profoundly questioned.” He was supported by the IMF and World Bank. Hutton commented: "We can retreat to our national laagers, which would be an economic disaster, or we can build an interdependent world that works. There is only one option to choose.”
- Global warming
- In the March 2012 issue of Science 32 scientists produced an article Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance in which they said:
- “Science assessments indicate that human activities are moving several of Earth's sub-systems outside the range of natural variability typical for the previous 500,000 years (, ). Human societies must now change course and steer away from critical tipping points in the Earth system that might lead to rapid and irreversible change (). This requires fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions toward more effective Earth system governance and planetary stewardship.”
- Paddy Ashdown, President of UNICEF UK, wrote in The Independent that we need a Financial Transaction Tax (or Tobin Tax) to counteract global warming. He added: “The poorest and most vulnerable feel the effect of climate change the most. There are approximately 756 million children living in the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change. The 2007 Stern Review noted that if climate change goes unchecked it could cause between an additional 60,000 and 250,000 child deaths in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa alone. These will be the poorest, most vulnerable children. It is outrageous that we are just letting this happen.”
- Commenting on this article, Gary Stix, a senior editor of Scientific American wrote an article Effective World Government will be needed to stave off climate catastrophe. In it he said: “Unfortunately, far more is needed. To be effective, a new set of institutions would have to be imbued with heavy-handed, transnational enforcement powers. .... How do we create new institutions with enforcement powers way beyond the current mandate of the U.N.? Could we ensure against a malevolent dictator who might abuse the power of such organizations?”
- Supporters of globalisation point out that countries such as India, China, Vietnam, and Uganda which have embraced globalisation have seen remarkable reduction in poverty.
- However the Trades Union Congress states:
- “Globalisation can be a force for good. It has the potential to generate wealth and improve living standards. But it isn't doing that well at the moment.
- The benefits from increased trade, investment, and technological innovation are not fairly distributed. The experience of the international trade union movement suggests that the reality for the majority of the world's population is that things are getting worse.
- Globalisation as we know it is increasing the gap between rich and poor. This is because the policies that drive the globalisation process are largely focussed on the needs of business.”
- It adds: “One aspect of globalisation is the increasing power of multinationals to disrupt collective bargaining agreements or bargaining structures.”
- In fact, the income gap over the last 40 years between the 10 richest countries and the 10 poorest countries is getting wider. In 1960 it stood at around 30-1 in 1990 60-1 and 2000 it reached 75-1.
- In 2011 the Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace produced a report Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority which pointed out the fact that “Global economic well-being, .... grew during the second half of the twentieth century, to an extent and with a speed never experienced in the history of humankind.” But it added that “inequalities within and between various countries have also grown significantly” and the situation of some countries has worsened. It also stated that “modern means of communication make these great economic, social and cultural inequalities obvious to everyone, rich and poor alike, giving rise to tensions and to massive migratory movements .... If no solutions are found to the various forms of injustice, the negative effects that will follow on the social, political and economic level will be destined to create a climate of growing hostility and even violence, and ultimately undermine the very foundations of democratic institutions, even the ones considered most solid.”
- In January 2012 Jeffrey Sachs, economics professor at Columbia University wrote on the Financial Times website:
21st century predicament is that these moral strictures have mostly vanished.
Global capitalism has mostly shed its moral constraints. Self-interest is no
longer embedded in higher values. Consumerism is the world’s secular religion,
more than science, humanism, or any other -ism. “Greed is good” is not only the
mantra of a 1980s Hollywood moral fable: it is the operating principle of the
top tiers of world society....
Unless we regain our moral bearings our scope for collective action will be lost. The day may soon arrive when the political system implodes, markets have utterly devastated the environment, and gluttony relentlessly commands our personal choices.
- The G20 has listed 11 countries which are tax havens. Dr David McNair, Economic Adviser to Christian Aid said: “The situation that exists at present has been called the ugliest chapter in global economic affairs since slavery. That is not an exaggeration. ‘We estimate that developing countries lose around $160 billion a year because of tax dodging by multinationals and other companies trading internationally. That lost tax revenue could save lives.”
- It is clear that one of the main arguments for world government is so that there can be control of the very powerful multi-national companies (although many argue this could be achieved without world government).
- Stephen Schifferes, Professor of Financial Journalism at City University points out that:
- “The speed and scale of economic change has made it increasingly difficult for governments to keep their economic destiny in their own hands. And what is most disturbing for many people is that no-one seems to be in charge, or be able to agree fair rules for the new global economic order.”
- He adds: “The international institutions meant to deal with the globalising world are all in trouble. For example, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is now under fire for failing to take into account labour standards or the environmental impact of trade. And its efforts to break down global trade barriers are faltering.
- And the IMF has found it increasingly difficult to influence the world's capital markets, whose huge financial flows dwarf its resources - or to correct the huge global imbalances that arise from trade.”
- There are other very powerful groups which also need to be controlled. For example Aditya Chakrabortty, economics leader writer, in The Guardian in January 2012 warned about the enormous power of the ratings agencies (which assign credit ratings to organisations and governments):
- “S&P [Standard & Poor’s] and its rival Moody's have a power over governments and corporations that far outranks any influence you or I as voters or workers might have.” He said that they are not renowned for the competence or analysis, but they are not averse to meddling in politics and adds: “So, the agencies are neither accurate nor merely observers – yet they bully governments around the world and make billions doing so. The obvious solution would be to take this public service into public hands. Let's have a ratings agency run by the UN, funded by pooled contributions from both lenders and borrowers. It should be the only one to have preferential access to data from corporates and countries. Let's make the ratings business a utility, rather than a semi-cartel that intimidates elected politicians and rakes in excess profits. It's time to break up the bullying double-act.”
- In 1963 Pope John XXIII in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris observed that the world was heading towards ever greater unification. He also expressed the hope that one day “a true world political authority” would be created.
- Pope Benedict, in his Message for World Day of Peace, January 10, 2009 said: “One of the major ways of building peace is globalization directed towards the interests of the whole human family. In order to govern globalization, however, we need a strong global solidarity between the rich and poor, as well as within individual countries, including affluent ones.”
- Later that year he wrote:
- “To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, …. such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.”
- The 2011 Pontifical Council report stated:
- “In the same spirit of Pacem in Terris, Benedict XVI himself expressed the need to create a world political authority. This seems obvious if we consider the fact that the agenda of questions to be dealt with globally is becoming ever longer. Think, for example, of peace and security; disarmament and arms control; promotion and protection of fundamental human rights; management of the economy and development policies; management of the migratory flows and food security, and protection of the environment. In all these areas, the growing interdependence between States and regions of the world becomes more and more obvious as well as the need for answers that are not just sectorial and isolated, but systematic and integrated, rich in solidarity and subsidiarity and geared to the universal common good.”
- However it also warned:
- “The governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together.” It commented: “Only in this way can the danger of a central Authority’s bureaucratic isolation be avoided, which would otherwise risk being delegitimized by an excessive distance from the realities on which it is based and easily fall prey to paternalistic, technocratic or hegemonic temptations.
a world on its way to rapid globalization, the reference to a world Authority
becomes the only horizon compatible with the new realities of our time and the
needs of humankind. However, it should not be forgotten that this development,
given wounded human nature, will not come about without anguish and suffering.
Through the account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), the Bible warns us
how the “diversity” of peoples can turn into a vehicle for selfishness and an
instrument of division. In humanity there is a real risk that peoples will end
up not understanding each other and that cultural diversities will lead to
irremediable oppositions. The image of the Tower of Babel also warns us that we
must avoid a “unity” that is only apparent, where selfishness and divisions
endure because the foundations of the society are not stable. In both cases,
Babel is the image of what peoples and individuals can become when they do not
recognize their intrinsic transcendent dignity and brotherhood.
- The spirit of Babel is the antithesis of the Spirit of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12), of God’s design for the whole of humanity: that is, unity in truth. Only a spirit of concord that rises above divisions and conflicts will allow humanity to be authentically one family and to conceive of a new world with the creation of a world public Authority at the service of the common good.”
- Having examined the subject, given the strong arguments for closer international co-operation, even without recourse to biblical prophecy, it seems reasonable to expect that the overall trend towards world government will continue, and that it will go wrong. World government is likely to become tyrannical.
However Dr Seth Baum, Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, says: “A global government might begin benevolent, but it could turn sour, even becoming the oppressive disaster that the conspiracy theorists fear. And if it does, there would be no other government out there to keep it in check … if we do end up with an oppressive global government, it would probably follow from an initial, benevolent global government.”
Threats to Democracy: Changes in world politics
In September 2014 Amol Rajan, editor of the The Independent, wrote an editorial in which he said “We have entered a post-American age. Two of the biggest and best ideas that the United States has stood for – liberalism and democracy – are in retreat around the world.” He continued that since the late 20th century “Democracy has taken a pounding. Illiberal powers such as China and Russia are in the ascendant; the Arab Spring was a crushing disappointment; Turkey’s increasingly despotic leader has left Indonesia as essentially the last big Islamic democracy; and a deep antipathy towards political elites has taken hold in Britain, France and America, making governing them very difficult.”
Threats to democracy: Political use of the threat of terrorism
There is, of course, a serious threat of terrorism but there is also a danger of such a threat being used, deliberately or unintentionally, to undermine the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens. In 2010, the all-party parliamentary committee on human rights concluded the following: “Since 9/11, the government has continuously justified many of its counter terrorism measures on the basis that there is a public emergency threatening the life of the nation...we are concerned that the government’s approach means, that in effect, there is a permanent state of emergency and that this inevitably has a deleterious effect on the public debate about the justification for counter terrorism.”
I have already noted that to be anti-Muslim is not a Christian attitude. We are to love our Muslim neighbour as much as we love our other neighbours.
Nevertheless we have already noted that much of the growing persecution of Christians is by Muslims and this is not the only cause of concern with respect to Islam.
Islam is projected to be the largest religion in the world by 2100.
The Pew Research Center, an American think tank which provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends, has recently published the first formal demographic predictions about “The Future of World Religions.” Together with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, it has gathered data from more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers, which has taken six years to complete.
It reports that, at present rates, Islam will grow faster than any other religion (twice as fast as the world population), partly due to fertility rates, and by 2050 will nearly equal the number of Christians in the world. Muslims, which numbered 1.6 billion in 2010, will then number 2.8 billion, or 30% of the population, and Christians 2.9 billion, or 31% of the population. In Europe, where 5.9% of the population are Muslim currently, 10.2% of the population will be Muslim by 2050. By 2070 the number of Muslims will equal the number of Christians (32% of the world population). By 2100 1% more of the world’s population would be Muslim than would be Christian
Between now and 2050, according to present rates, 40 million will convert to Christianity but 106 million will leave Christianity, most of them joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated. For example, in the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050. The population of Europe is projected to decline and the number of Christians is expected to decline from 553 million (three quarters of the population) to 454 million (two thirds of the population).
However elsewhere in the world the number of Christians is expected to grow, although as a percentage of the population the number will decline except in Asia and the Pacific.
So Islam will grow increasingly dominant in the world, doubling in numbers by 2070 and becoming the biggest religious community in the world. Muslims will almost double in number in Europe too. Christianity will continue to grow but a massive 106 million are projected to leave Christianity by 2050. Incidentally, this is hardly the love of most [Christians] growing cold (Matt 24:12) but it is a massive turning away from the faith.
We must remember that Islam is an antichrist (alternative Christ) religion.
I know I'm on sensitive ground. I'm not agreeing with those who resent Muslims being here or having equal rights and equal respect. Such attitudes are wrong. I am concerned about the implications of the spiritual dominance of Islam.
I always want to show respect to people of other religions and, where possible, to show respect for what they believe. Nevertheless I do believe it is right to make necessary criticisms of their beliefs too. This is the case with Islam. My most serious criticism of Islam is that it is an antichrist religion (“anti” in the original meaning of “in place of”):
• It has a false view of Jesus (Isa): he is not divine, did not die on the cross and so did not rise from the dead.
• But this Jesus will return to kill the Antichrist (as viewed by Muslims) and to set up a short period of peace and justice before dying.
• This Jesus will be a committed Muslim. Christians and Jews will join him in the Islamic faith. All religion other than Islam will be wiped out.
This Jesus is antichrist, i.e. an “alternative” Christ who ends up opposing the true church.
For more on this subject see Islam in the End Times
- There have, of course, been examples of political deification in history. For example, the Roman emperors were deemed to be gods. Of the modern examples, Nazi Germany is perhaps the most obvious, and the most sinister. How is it that within a few years a proud civilised nation became committed worshippers of a little lance corporal? How is it that, according to Professor Ian Kershaw, “the 12 years of Hitler’s rule permanently changed Germany, Europe, and the world.”
- Kershaw writes elsewhere: “A regime responsible for the most destructive war in history, leaving upwards of 40 million people dead, that perpetrated, on behalf of the most modern, economically advanced, and culturally developed country on the continent of Europe, the worst genocide yet known to mankind, has an obvious claim to singularity.”
- The New York Times commented that Hitler was a nobody but “before the climax of a career unparalleled in history, he had subdued nine nations, defied successfully and humiliated the greatest powers of Europe, and created a social and economic system founded upon the complete subjection of scores of millions to his will in all basic features of social, political, economic and cultural life.”
- Bruce Loebs, Professor of Communication & Rhetorical Studies at Idaho State University, has written about Hitler’s Rhetorical Theory. In that paper he quotes historians who hold that the crucial factor in Nazism’s power was Hitler’s charismatic personality and rhetoric:
- Professor Robert Waite, “Hitler was Nazidom. Seldom in the history of western civilization has so much depended on one man’s personality.”
- Friedrich Meinecke, Hitler “is one of the great examples of the singular and incalculable power of personality in historical life.”
- William Shirer, who heard Hitler often, declares, “Hitler has a magic power to sway millions with his voice.”
- Professor Trevor Roper explains, “Hitler, at the beginning, had only his voice...that was his only instrument of power. His only asset was his demagogic power over the masses, his voice.”
- Hitler was a natural orator but there was much more to it than that. Listen to what those who had direct experience of him have said in interviews:
- · An officer who fought on the Eastern front said: “This man emanated an almost indescribable demonic effect on individuals which only a few were able to escape and which one can’t really understand if one has not experienced it oneself.”
- · Ulrich de Maiziere, General Staff Officer: Hitler had “demonic charisma.”
- · Winrich Behr, Officer at Stalingrad, “He’s an unbelievably impressive man. Whether you take it as a kind of hypnotism or just an impression he made on many people, you can’t deny its existence.”
- · One woman said: “A certain something he had can’t be grasped rationally. He had an awe which somehow spread over us.”
- Other people said:
- · “It was something like a religious delusion”
- · “It was an extremely deep inner love.”
- · “It was a form of mass hypnosis which had me under its spell”
- · “We had the unswerving belief that the Fuehrer would do everything right. He was made out to be God – as
- God-like. And we saw him as God too.”
- · “God didn’t exist but the Fuehrer was sent to us by providence.”
- · “He was the supreme father. You just can’t believe it today”
- · “Just like God. He was just like God to me.”
- · “Hitler was beyond our reach. I would go so far as to say he was God.”
- Other significant comments:
- · “When you think about it today, it’s unbelievable how people were seduced, particularly the younger people.”
- · “People who perpetrated the Final Solution were otherwise normal, decent people – they went to church.”
- · “Since Hitler, we know what people are capable of doing to each other.”
- Karl Jaspers, philosopher persecuted by the Nazis, “That which has happened is a warning. To forget it is guilt. It was possible for this to happen and it remains possible for it to happen again at any minute.”
- The importance of propaganda
- In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote a good deal about propaganda. He wrote: “I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to orators and not to great writers.” “The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. All great movements are popular movements. They are the volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotions."
- During the First World War he came to recognise the power of British propaganda and lamented the inability of the German leadership to make use of such a powerful tool. He wrote: “I soon came to realize that the right use of propaganda was an art in itself and that this art was practically unknown to our bourgeois parties.” He added: “It is nothing but a weapon, and indeed a most terrifying weapon in the hands of those who know how to use it.” “More than once I was tormented by the thought that if Providence had put the conduct of German propaganda into my hands, instead of into the hands of those incompetent and even criminal ignoramuses and weaklings, the outcome of the struggle might have been different.”
- Chapter 6 of Mein Kampf is entitled War Propaganda. In it Hitler wrote that propaganda "must always address itself to the broad masses of the people .... The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses ..... The aim of propaganda is not to try to pass judgment on conflicting rights, giving each its due, but exclusively to emphasize the right which we are asserting. Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side.”
- He writes of his own experience of using propaganda with respect to the fact that the German people had believed the British “propaganda” that the Versailles Treaty was what they deserved for starting the First World War. He says: “I spoke on this theme before an assembly of two thousand persons, during which I often saw three thousand six hundred hostile eyes fixed on me. And three hours later I had in front of me a swaying mass of righteous indignation and fury. A great lie had been uprooted from the hearts and brains of a crowd composed of thousands of individuals and a truth had been implanted in its place.”
- So Hitler devoted himself to the work of propaganda, knowing that good propaganda simply repeats again and again a few main points. His main points were the difficult situation Germany was in after the First World War, the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty, the corrupt Weimar government and the Communists and Jews who betrayed Germany in 1918 and so were “the most diabolical creatures in existence.”
- He reported “It was due to the effect of our propaganda that within a short period of time hundreds of thousands of citizens became convinced in their hearts that we were right and wished us victory, although personally they were too timid to make sacrifices for our cause or even participate in it.”
- Ian Kershaw comments: “Unquestionably, the adulation of Hitler by millions of Germans who may otherwise have been only marginally committed to the Nazi ideology, or party, was a crucial element of political integration in the Third Reich.”
- Trish Roberts-Miller, Professor of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Texas writes: “Some people don't distinguish demagoguery from propaganda (which is generally defined as dishonest and fallacious discourse intended to further the power or agenda of the propagator), but I would say that it is a subset of propaganda: demagoguery is polarizing propaganda that functions to motivate people by rousing and justifying hatred of an outgroup. In other words, all demagoguery is propaganda, but not all propaganda is demagoguery.” Hitler is clearly a demagogue as this definition indicates. She adds: “A demagogue presents her/her cause as the cause of Good, as one stage in the eternal battle between Good and Evil. They often use religious language, comparing themselves explicitly or implicitly to religious figures (Jesus, John the Baptist, or Mohammed), or describing the conflict as apocalyptic (meaning the battle at the end of the world).
- Le Bon says that the purpose of this strategy is to make the person a god, and the cause a religion. Once one has done that, then a supporter will put “all the resources of his mind, the complete submission of his will, and the whole-souled ardour of fanaticism at the service of a cause of an individual who becomes the goal and guide of his thoughts and actions”
- Because of their belief in the power of propaganda, the Nazis used radio broadcasts in their 1932/3 election campaigns. Goebbels set up the Reich Radio Company. The Nazis promoted the production of cheap radio sets the “People's Receiver.” In fact, Germany had the highest percentage of radio owners by 1939. Radio broadcasts were also put out by loudspeakers in public places (cafes, factories, offices etc). Also “Radio wardens" were appointed to make sure people listened.” The Nazi's also bought up two-thirds of newspapers by 1939 and a state news agency vetted all news before it reached journalists. So the Nazis made use of the emerging mass media.
- Other factors behind the rise of Hitler
- Ian Kershaw does not believe that Hitler’s personality and propaganda skills were the only factor in the success of Nazism. He believed this was also due to “the internalization of the ideological goals by a new, modern power-élite, operating alongside weakened old élites through the bureaucratic sophistication of a modern state ....”
- The New York Times commented: “The factor that gave his movement this great impetus was the economic crisis that broke over the world in 1929 and struck Germany with particular severity. Nearly 7,000,000 unemployed, added to the millions of impoverished middle-class people and the hundreds of thousands of professionals and jobless intellectuals, provided a setting made to order for Hitler.” After the 1929 Wall Street crash, the US called in its loans to Germany, and the German economy collapsed. Unemployment soared and people were starving on the streets. They wanted someone to blame and someone to be their saviour.
- Hitler managed to deceive Christians. Ian Kershaw writes: “Grotesque as it seems, Hitler himself continued to be widely regarded as a God-fearing and deeply religious man. Even church leaders with a reputation for hostility to Nazism were persuaded of his sincerity, belief in God, and acceptance of the role of Christianity and the churches. Their public avowals of obedience to the Fuhrer and recognition of his leadership and achievements played no small part in helping to give legitimation to the 'Hitler Myth'.”
- Hitler also came to power in the context of the deep humiliation of the German people after the Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War. He traded on that humiliation, regularly referring to “The Treaty of Shame” ad the German people, not unnaturally, embraced his efforts to bring back national pride.
- Another very important and sinister factor was, of course, anti-Semitism. It was helpful politically to have a scapegoat, in this case the hated Jewish people. But Hitler also traded on that anti-Semitism (which is still widespread in the world today) to enlist the support of militant nationalists.
- Christian support for Hitler
- Professor Robert P. Erickson in his book, “Theologians Under Hitler” describes how three distinguished Protestant theologians, Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, and Emanual Hirsch, “supported Hitler openly, enthusiastically, and with little restraint.” In fact, they tended “to see God's hand in the elevation of Hitler to power.” Althaus described Hitler’s rise to power as “a gift and miracle of God.” He added: “we Christians know ourselves bound by God's will to the promotion of National Socialism.” All three were anti-Semitic.
- Catholic enthusiasm for Hitler’s acts of aggression was summed up in a pastoral letter issued by Bishop Kaller of Ermland in January 1941: “In this staunchly Christian spirit we also now participate wholeheartedly in the great struggle of our people for the protection of their life and importance in the world. With admiration we look upon our army, which in courageous fighting under extraordinary leadership has achieved and continues to achieve unparalleled success. We thank God for his support. Especially as Christians we are determined to rally all our strength so that the final victory will be secured for our fatherland. Especially as believing Christians, inspired by God’s love, we faithfully stand behind our Fuhrer who with firm hands guides the fortunes of our people”
- Bishop Wilhelm Berning frequently signed his letters to the authorities, ‘Heil Hitler.’ On a visit to one of the concentration camps, he spoke to the prisoners about the “obligation enjoined by faith to obedience and loyalty to nation and government,” he shared a glass of beer with the guards, and then he uttered a threefold “Sieg Heil to Fuehrer and Fatherland”
- The Augsburg diocesan newspaper declared in April 1941 that “the person of the Fuehrer contains the strength, greatness and future of the German people.”
- Other modern dictators
- Professor Barry Rubin writes of modern dictators, as opposed to traditional dictators. These modern dictators claim they are democratic and stress “personal freedom, the right to dissent and debate freely, fair elections,
- and the due process of law. Their claims receive formal approval at the United Nations and international conferences. Consequently, the most successful representative democracies now exist side by side with the most powerful dictatorships ever known.” “A new kind of political regime arose in the Third World: the modern dictatorship that combined populism, nationalism, mobilization, and repression.” These modern dictatorships seek to convince “large portion of the people-through persuasion, benefits, and organic links-that they should support it.” The Egyptian writer Tawfiq al-Hakim wrote that the Nasser regime: “bewitched us with the glitter of hope and intoxicated us with the wine of ‘attainment’ and ‘glory,’ and we got so drunk that we lost consciousness.”
- Rubin says that “As a charismatic leader whose speeches, public personality, physical appearance, and promises must appeal to at least a large section of his people, the modern dictator is already quite different from the traditional dictator, who was indifferent to his public image except purely for the sake of his own ego.” One of his main attributes is to communicate directly with the masses which is superior to parliamentary democracy. He must show that the old regime is illegitimate and should be rejected. Rubin goes on to refer to modern dictators such as Hitler, Mussolini, Mao Tse Tung, Peron, Nasser, Khomeini and Gaddafi.
- Rubin adds: “As the modern dictatorship’s ideology recognizes, power springs from controlling and using a wide variety of institutions and channels, including the military, repression, culture, education, ideology, youth and professional organizations, and the media.”
- The rise of Hitler, and other modern dictators, is instructive because it shows how an antichrist figure can arise. Hitler’s amazing rise to power and the hugely devastating effect of his leadership shows the power of a demagogue. It illustrates the power of manipulative propaganda which is, in recent decades, very much more powerful in modern media. It shows the strong tendency of human beings to worship the demagogue, given a charismatic personality and gifted rhetoric. Other factors also were important, such as economic disaster and treatment of “opposition groups” as scapegoats.
- We none of us know the details about the Antichrist but we can at least see here that the world is more ready for him than it was a century or so ago. It doesn’t take much imagination now to think of a demonically-inspired, charismatic orator who rises to world power in combatting huge challenges (perhaps economic) in our global village, gaining extra support through anti-Semitism and antagonism towards Israel, and then becomes a world dictator, using all the facilities of modern technology to control the population. To think this could not happen is surely naïve.
- I have consistently warned against paranoia or jumping to simplistic interpretations of prophecy. Rather we should take the following steps:
- 1. Recognise that suffering, oppression and persecution are not alien to the Christian experience. Rather they are predicted by Jesus and others as part of every age. The Book of Revelation aims to encourage Christians of all generations to be ready for and respond properly to such suffering. We have merely been examining the ultimate example of it. Those of us in the West should remember that many of our fellow Christians are experiencing such things far more than we are.
- We should not be surprised when we suffer as though something strange were happening to us (1 Peter 4:12) but rejoice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13). In fact, Jesus promises we will be persecuted (Mark 10:29-30; John 15:20 cf. 2 Tim 3:12). We are blessed when we are persecuted because our reward is great in heaven (Matt 5:11-12). We should rejoice and glory in suffering because we have been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41) and because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Rom 5:2-14). It shows we are co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Rom 8:17). It comes so that the proven genuineness of our faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7). Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom 8:17-19). We should pray for those who persecute us (Matt 5:44) and bless them (Rom 12:14).
- 2. Trust in God’s promises to keep us in suffering (rather than from suffering). This is expressed by Jesus in his prayer: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:14-15). It is not the way of Christ to whisk us away from suffering but to guard and protect us in suffering.
- 3. Pray without ceasing. We are not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, to present our requests to God (Php 4:6). Remembering that the end of all things is near, we are to be alert and of sober mind so that we may pray (1 Pet 4:7).
- 4. Support one another. If one part of the Body of Christ suffers every part suffers with it (1 Cor 12:26). That means we should suffer with the persecuted church today.
- 5. Rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy that we are receiving the end result of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Pet. 1:8-9).
 Joyce Baldwin, Daniel, Tyndale OT Commentaries, Intervarsity Press, Leicester 1978, p. 184f
 Joyce Baldwin, Daniel, Tyndale OT Commentaries, Inter-varsity Press 1978, pp. 198-202.
 Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Tyndale OT Commentaries, Inter-varsity Press 1972, p. 73
 Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 191f.
 Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 194.
 C E B Cranfield, The Gospel according to Mark, Cambridge University Press 1959, p. 401f
 Robert H Mounce, The Book of Revelation, International Commentary on the NT, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1977, P. 251
 Caird, op. cit., pp. 162, 164.
 Ibid., p. 165.
 Mounce, op. cit., p. 255.
 Ibid., p. 259.
 Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation, IVP, Leicester 1975, p. 127
 Baldwin, op. cit., 198-201.
 Baldwin, op. cit., p. 173.
 Baldwin, op. cit., p.174f.
 Baldwin, op. cit., p. 176.
 John B Taylor, Ezekiel: an Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale OT Commentaries, Tyndale Press London 1969, p. 252.
 Ibid., p. 253f.
 Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, T& T Clark Edinburgh 1993, p. 387.
 Bauckham, op. cit., p. 389.
 Bauckham, op. cit., p. 396
 Martin Albrow and Elizabeth King (eds.) (1990). Globalization, Knowledge and Society London: Sage. p. 8.
 Dante, Convivio (The Banquet) 169.
Geoff Mulgan, Connexity: Responsibility, Freedom, Business and Power in the New Century (revised edn.) (London: Viking, 1998), 3.
 Gideon Rachman, “And now for a world government” Financial Times 8th December 2008.
 Colin Leys, Market-Driven Politics, Verso 2003.
 The Arab League (1945, 22 nations), the Association of SE Asian Nations (1967, 10 nations), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (1969, 57 nations and claims to represent the Global Islamic World or ummah), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (1985, 8 nations), the Turkic Council (1992, 4 nations), the Organisation of Central American States (1993, 7 nations plus observers), the Caribbean Community (1995, 15 nations), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation 2001, 6 nations including Russia and Chi-na), the African Union (2002, 54 African nations) and the Union of S American Nations in (2004, 12 nations).
 “The Coalition: our programme for government” p. 11.
 “Leading article: A dangerous erosion of individual liberty” Independent 3rd April 2012.
 “Email surveillance plans face Lib Dem rebellion” Guardian 2nd April 2012.
 “The surveillance state: growing under a coalition that pledged to reverse it” Guardian 2nd April 2012.
 “Monitoring communications: shrivelling the domain of privacy” Guardian 2nd April 2012.
 “Not fit for purpose: why this Bill is unworkable, ill-considered, and an affront to our privacy” Independent 11th December 2012.
 Hansard, 6 Feb 2008 : Column 951.
 David Cameron, Speech “Giving Power Back to the People” 25th June 2009.
 “Aldous Huxley - the prophet of our brave new digital dystopia” Guardian 22 November 2013.
 Article by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor Guardian 6th October 2013.
 Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian, 19th August 2013.
 Alan Rusbridger , “NSA surveillance goes beyond Orwell's imagination” The Guardian 23rd September 2013.
 James Ball, “Edward Snowden NSA files - secret surveillance and our revelations so far,” The Guardian 21st August 2013.
 “GCHQ revelations - mastery of the internet will mean mastery of everyone” Guardian 21st June 2013.
 Henry Porter, “Privacy from state snooping defines a true democracy” The Guardian 3rd April 2012.
 George Monbiot, “How can we invest our trust in a government that spies on us?” the Guardian 24th June 2013
 John Naughton, “If you think GCHQ spying revelations don't matter, it's time to think again” Observer 22nd June 2013.
 Andrew Rennison, “New HD CCTV puts human rights at risk,” The Independent 3rd October 2012 .http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/new-hd-cctv-puts-human-rights-at-risk-8194844.html
 “Spy planes, clothes scanners and secret cameras: Britain's surveillance future,” The Guardian 2nd November 2006.
 International Studies Quarterly (2009) 53, 253–271
 Ibid., p. 261
 Ibid., p. 264
 Ibid., p. 266
 Ibid., p. 266
 European Journal of International Relations, SAGE Publications and ECPR-European Consortium for Political Research, Vol. 9(4): 491–542. See http://www.humiliationstudies.org/documents/WendtWhyaWorldStateisInevitable.pdf)
 Ibid., p. 491
 Ibid., p. 506
 Ibid., p. 524
 Carlo Strenger, Psychology Today 27th March 2012 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/homo-globalis/201203/tribalism-world-citizenship
 Ian Robertson, “Bankers and the neuroscience of greed,” Guardian 2nd July 2012.
 Will Hutton, “Globalisation can work, but only with a unified international plan,” The Observer 29th January 2012.
 Paddy Ashdown: We need a Tobin tax – but not to fill black holes, http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/paddy-ashdown-we-need-a-tobin-tax--but-not-to-fill-black-holes-6272819.html
 Encyclical Letter “Caritas In Veritate” of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, 29.06.09, Section 67 http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_en.html
 Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris (New York-London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998), xx., quoted in Professor Bruce Loebs, Hitler's Rhetorical Theory, Relevant Rhetoric Vol. 1 2010. See
 Ian Kershaw, Hitler and the Uniqueness of Nazism, Journal of Contemporary History 2004; 39; 239. See http://www.mconway.net/page1/page4/files/Uniqueness%20of%20Nazism.pdf
 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Author’s Introduction. See http://www.greatwar.nl/books/meinkampf/meinkampf.pdf
 Ibid., p. 95.
 Ibid., p. 153.
 Ibid., p. 155.
 Ibid., p. 163.
 Ibid., p. 156.
 Ibid., p. 158.
 Ibid., p. 384-5.
 Ibid., p. 477.
 Ian Kershaw, The Hitler Myth, History Today, Volume 35: Issue 11. See http://www.historytoday.com/ian-kershaw/hitler-myth
 Trish Roberts-Miller, Characteristics of Demagoguery. See http://www.drw.utexas.edu/roberts-miller/handouts/demagoguery
 Ian Kershaw, Hitler and the Uniqueness of Nazism.
 Op. cit.
 Ian Kershaw, The Hitler Myth, History Today, Volume 35: Issue 11. See http://www.historytoday.com/ian-kershaw/hitler-myth
 Guenter Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, Da Capo Press, 2000. Reprint of 1964 edition, p.230, quoted in Gerald Darring, The German Church and the Holocaust http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/resources/04German.htm
 Ethel Mary , "Attitudes of the German Catholic Hierarchy Toward the Regime: A Study in German Psycho-Political Culture," Western Political Quarterly 22, 1969, 68, quoted in Gerald Darring, The German Church and the Holocaust http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/resources/04German.htm
 Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965, p. 72, quoted in Gerald Darring, The German Church and the Holocaust http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/resources/04German.htm
 Barry Rubin, Modern Dictators: Third World Coup Makers, Strongmen and Populist Tyrants, Mcgraw-Hill (Mar 1987), p. 2. See http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.104.995
 Ibid., p. 6.
 Ibid., p. 7-8.
 Tawfiq al-Hakim, The Return of Consciousness, (New York University Studies in Near Eastern Civilization), New York University Press; 1st English ed edition (June 1, 1985), p. 39-43.
 Barry Rubin, op., cit. p. 9-10.
 Ibid., p. 168.
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