The "Great Tribulation" and the Antichrist Summary
- Outline of the relevant Biblical Teaching
- Interpreting the biblical teaching
- ~What about the 70 ‘weeks’ of Daniel?
- ~The order of events associated with the End Time Great Tribulation
- ~Are the references to the End Time temple and “sacrifice and offering” literal?
- ~With whom does the Antichrist make a covenant?
- ~What is the mark of the Beast?
- Are there events today which could facilitate the rise of Antichrist?
- ~How do we respond to good moves which could ultimately lead to evils?
- ~Modern movement towards globalization
- ~Trends towards world government
- ~The Snowden revelations
- ~Arguments for World Government
- ~Lessons from the rise of Hitler
- ~Christian support for Hitler
- How do we respond to all this?
- Until now I have been writing mainly about signs of the End Times. Now I move on to the Great Tribulation and the Antichrist, a subject where numerous paranoid and even crazy ‘interpretations’ have been published. We need to avoid them but not to avoid the subject. It is important biblical teaching and we need to face up to it and understand it as best we can.
- Many Christians are facing serious persecution (“tribulation”) in the world today. It’s reasonable to expect this will get worse in the time approaching the Return of Christ. We could think of it as Satan having his final fling. Such an End Time tribulation is taught in Scripture.
- St John says there are many antichrists - people who deny that Jesus is the Christ and incarnate Son of God (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). But the NT also predicts a major Antichrist figure in the End Times, another aspect of Satan’s final fling. (I will use the term “Antichrist” in my writings although John is the only one who actually uses it).
- Unfortunately some fundamentalists become paranoid and jump to bizarre conclusions that the Antichrist is here now, for example, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Ronald Reagan or Mikhail Gorbachev (the details will be added to my blog soon). We must avoid both paranoia and naivety. On the other hand, we need to recognise factors and trends in modern society which could facilitate the fulfilment of the prophecies about the Antichrist. Joyce Baldwin in her commentary on Daniel says that the church has lost its nerve about saying prophecy foretells the future.
- Daniel predicts a period of 70 ‘weeks’ of years (i.e. seven-year periods) with the Anointed One (Messiah) 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, (c 530BC) predicts the arising of four ‘beasts’ or empires (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome), after which he sees a “little horn” (a symbol of power and authority, e.g. a powerful leader) which “had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully” (Dan 7:8). He goes on to prophesy 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” (Dan. 11:35-37). Commentators say that from verse 36 onwards there is a reference to the Antichrist (although that term is not used). On the other hand, some claim that it refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek king who entered Jerusalem in 167BC and desecrated the temple with an image of Zeus. But Joyce Baldwin in her commentary writes that the details do not fit Antiochus. She believes there is a double reference both to history and to the End Times. Daniel foretells that Antichrist will invade Israel (the ‘Beautiful Land’), “Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.” The Antichrist is the ultimate example of the deification of secular authority (cf. the Roman emperors who were proclaimed gods).
- Zechariah 12-14 is also seen as a description of the End Times. Joyce Baldwin relates these chapters to “the end of time” and “the day when the Lord will reign over the earth, and so to the end of time.” p. 70-71. She also draws parallels between Zechariah and the Book of Revelation. These chapters describe the following:
- 1. 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.
- 2. The nations will be defeated (12:6-9; 14:2-3, 11-15). This would seem to be the Battle of Armageddon.
- 3. The Lord will return to the Mt of Olives (14:4). He defeats the Antichrist.
- 4. The Jewish people look on the one they have pierced (12:10) and are cleansed from sin (13:1). Baldwin considers various interpretations but relates this to Jesus. 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).
- 5. 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. See the fuller version at http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=422
- Jesus predicts “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) Matt 24:15-22. He is quoting Dan 9:27.
- Paul predicts “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). Many believe this is the same as the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ set up 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). This is the ultimate rebellion against God.
- John 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?” (1 John 2:18, 22f. cf. 2 John 7).
- In the very symbolical Book of Revelation, many think that the “beast coming out of the sea” which is followed and worshipped by the whole world (Rev 13:1-8, 11-18) is the Antichrist. Then there is the “beast coming out of the earth” – the False Prophet – who 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) and upon 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).
- Remember that prophecy can be fulfilled more than once – an initial fulfilment or fulfilments and then a final major fulfilment. So one “tribulation” is 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. 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. Scholars agree with this idea of an End Time great tribulation and Antichrist (see http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=422).
- Again, one fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy that a prince would come and destroy the temple may be Titus the Roman general in AD70. But the NT sees an End Time fulfilment.
- There has been much debate about Daniel’s prophecy of 70 ‘weeks’ of years (7-year periods). He split them into 69 ‘weeks’ (483 years) plus one ‘week’ (7 years). Some take these figures as symbolical, others as literal. There is disagreement over the starting date of the 483 years (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.
- Daniel predicts the coming prince will make a covenant with the Jewish people for the 70th ‘week’ (7-year period) but will break it and put an end to sacrifice and offering.” (Dan 9:27). Some see the prince as Jesus ending the OT sacrificial system and establishing the New Covenant. But the prince then sets up “the abomination that cases desolation” so he can’t be Jesus.
- We’ll come back to all this but it seems to me that the 70th ‘week’ of Daniel’s prophecy is quite separate from the other 69 ‘weeks’ 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. On the other hand, 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 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 the church is raptured to heaven 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 Great Tribulation foretold by Jesus (whether it lasts 7 years or not) and is raptured after that when Jesus returns to earth. Some say the church is raptured to heaven, safely out of the way. Others say 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 before 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.
- In my understanding, we seem to have the following aspects mentioned in Scripture:
- 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 about the idea 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.
- a. Are the references to the temple and “sacrifice and offering” literal?
- b. With whom does the Antichrist make a covenant?
- It seems Paul refers to a literal temple in 2 Thess. 2: “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.”
- Ezekiel prophecies about a new temple and resumption of the sacrifices in great detail (Ezek. 40-46). However:
- · He also prophecies that David will be king at that time (37:24) which is not literal.
- · He prophecies that a river will flow from under the south side of the temple and into the Dead Sea making the salt water fresh (cf Zech. 14:8). Many would not see this as literal.
- · He also predicts specific areas for the 12 tribes to settle in the End Times which, in view of the loss of the ten tribes, seems non-literal (Ezek. 48)
- · He also prophecies God will dwell in the Temple forever but the ‘temple’ is now the church 1 Pet 2:4ff
- Could the prophecies refer to AD70 when the Romans worshiped their pagan standards in the temple? Not really:
- · Jesus refers to the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ as a person (using the masculine) in Mark 13:14.
- · Paul goes on to say that 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.
- Would God want the Jewish people to re-build the temple and resume the sacrifices in the End Times?
- I do not believe he would because the death and high priesthood of Jesus have replaced the old sacrificial system. He is the “great high priest” (Heb 4:14) who “provided purification for sins” (Heb 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” (Heb 7:27 cf 9:28; 10:14). 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” (Heb 9:24). The earthly sanctuary (temple) “is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Heb 8:5, cf. 9:24). The old covenant (with its animal sacrifices) “is obsolete and outdated” (Heb 8:13). “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:1-4).
- 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/ ). They have created all the gold and silver vessels, furniture and instruments used in the sacrificial services together with the robes, breastplate, ephod and golden crown of the high priest. So there is certainly an organised group campaigning for the rebuilding of the temple. However, 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.
- It would not be the messianic Jewish people (who accept Jesus as Messiah) because they would not want to renew the animal sacrifices.
- 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 (who do not accept Jesus as Messiah)
- · 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 have been many ideas about this, some of them weird and ridiculous. More recently people have thought it is the bar code used on the packaging of many goods today. Others refer to the micro-chips which some people have implanted under their skin today. 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.’
- 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.
- 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.
- Then there is the NUMBER OF THE BEAST 666 which has provoked much speculation. Perhaps the most convincing is that it is 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’ of Rev 12-13) is 666 and always falls short and fails. This seems more credible but we really cannot be sure what 666 means.
- This is an area in which there has been much paranoid and bizarre speculation. God has not called us to be paranoid. But neither has he called us to be naïve. 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- Here are some of the steps towards world government (much more detail is at http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=422):
- · Globalisation on a large scale began in the 19th century. Britain was the first global economic superpower and others followed. Steamships and rail travel facilitated international trade. Various international organisations were established
- · The World Wars encouraged globalisation. After the First World War the League of Nations was set up.
- · Globalisation grew much more rapidly after the Second World War. The United Nations replaced the League of Nations. Then there was the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (1944), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1947) removing trade restrictions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The World Federalist Movement was set up in 1947 to facilitate World Federal Government.
- · The Internet (2.3 billion users in 2012) and air travel have helped create our global village. Multinational corporations employ some 3 billion people. National economies are becoming more interdependent leading to the single world market. 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.
- · During the Cold War the European Community was developed with 27 members and half a billion people. Ten other such unions with a combined membership of 195 nations were also formed around the world.
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.”
- Modern states 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. In May 2012 the UK Home Secretary proposed a law giving police and security services the power to monitor emails and internet use of everyone in Britain. It was severely criticised by human rights organisations and a former Director of Public Prosecutions.
- John Naughton, Professor of the public understanding of technology, Open University: “We have constructed an architecture of state surveillance that would make Orwell gasp … 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.”
- George Monbiot commented in the Guardian: “We should not fear some Orwellian future state where we're subjected to total electronic scrutiny – it's our present reality
- 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.”
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'.”
- Geoffrey Blainey, an eminent Australian historian, wrote: “For the first time in human history, world government of some sort is now possible.” He sees it happening within the next century or so.
- The idea of world government 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 it because the world was firmly divided in two. Since the end of the Cold War, the idea of global political integration rather than a central government authority with powers of coercion is more popular. Criticisms of world government include:
- · It 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.
- · International co-operation would be sufficient.
- · It could become tyrannical
- BUT listen to these scholars:
- 1. Thomas G. Weiss, Presidential Professor of Political Science at City University of New York and co-director of the UN Intellectual History Project is 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. (Weiss, T.G., 2009, “What Happened to the Idea of World Government,” International Studies Quarterly 53, 253–271)
- Alexander Wendt, Professor of International Security at the University of Chicago: “I have argued that a world state will emerge whether or not anyone intends to bring it about.” “My own guess is that a world state will emerge within 100–200(?) years.” “Were a ‘completed’ EU to be globalized it would be a world state.” (http://www.humiliationstudies.org/documents/WendtWhyaWorldStateisInevitable.pdf
- So these scholars believe that nations are facing various global problems and it is argued they can only be effectively tackled on a global basis:
- War and terrorism: It is only a matter of time before terrorists obtain nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Modern weapons, especially nuclear weapons require international control.
- Economic considerations: The global market requires harmonising the policies of the major economies around the world.
- Global warming: Gary Stix, senior editor of Scientific American in an article Effective World Government will be needed to stave off climate catastrophe, wrote: In it he said: “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?”
- World Poverty & Inequality: The Trades Union Congress stated: “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 … One aspect of globalisation is the increasing power of multinationals to disrupt collective bargaining agreements or bargaining structures.” One argument for world government is to control multinationals.
- In 1963 Pope John XXIII expressed the hope that one day “a true world political authority” would be created. In 2011 Pope Benedict XVI agreed. “In 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 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.”
- The idea of the Antichrist, a charismatic world leader who succeeds in causing people to worship him might seem the stuff of fiction. But the example of Nazi Germany is instructive. How is it that within a few years a proud civilised nation became committed worshippers of a little lance corporal?
- Professor Bruce Loebs, quotes historians:
- · 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.”
- 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.”
- Others 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.”
- · “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.”
- 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.”
- 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'.”
- Professor Robert P. Erickson 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 Bishop Kaller wrote: “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’ and on a visit to a concentration camp, called out 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.”
- 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 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.
- We should avoid 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. Those of us in the West should remember that many of our fellow Christians are experiencing such things far more than we are.
- 2. Trust in God’s promises to keep us in suffering (rather than from suffering) cf. John 17:14-15.
- 3. Pray without ceasing.
- 4. Support one another.
- 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).
 Ian Kershaw, The Hitler Myth, History Today, Volume 35: Issue 11. See http://www.historytoday.com/ian-kershaw/hitler-myth
© Tony Higton: see conditions for copying on the Home Page