It is a question that many of us still ask today. It is not so curious that we should want to ask this question. Sometimes, political and social events in the world take turns that are highly unpredictable and even upsetting. These frightening developments make us all wonder if they are perhaps harbingers of the end of the age and the return of Jesus Christ.
The disciples did not exactly get a straightforward answer to their question. What they got was instead a series of parables to help them (and us) determine the social and political atmosphere that will be present in the days leading up to the end of the age. I am not going to go through all of those parables right now, for that is a lengthy process and I have done that in other places (see the book, Watching for the Day).
There are only two statements of Jesus that I want you to take away with you today. First of all, in speaking about the social and political atmosphere in the end times, Jesus said of the initial stages, “All these things are merely the beginnings of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8 NAS). The second statement of Jesus is one with which he concluded two of his parables, “Be on the alert, for you do not know the day [nor the hour] that your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42; 25:13).
A New Word
As you consider these two statements of Jesus, please now consider a word that has been introduced into the English language: Brexit. Although it is a very new word in our English vocabulary, almost everyone already knows what it means. If you do not, do a quick google search on it.
In fact, if you are a Christian, and to make your search more interesting, in the search bar type: “brexit and biblical prophecy.” You will find out not only the meaning of the word, but a whole host of people who claim to be Bible teachers and who will tell you exactly how Brexit was predicted in Biblical prophecy and how it signals that Jesus is coming back very soon. Often there is a postscript saying something to the order of, “Please send me some money so that I can get this message out to millions of people!”
Then, after you have done your internet search, step back and let the words of Jesus return to your thinking. “All these things are merely the beginnings of birth pangs. Be on the alert then.”
Despite my cynicism for some of the people who claim to know exactly how Brexit fits into Biblical prophecy, I do not deny that I also believe that what is currently happening in Britain and in Europe is significant in terms of events surrounding the question that the disciples asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” (To continue reading, please click the READ MORE button below)
Europe and the End Times
Especially in Daniel chapter seven, and Revelation chapter seventeen, visions where given to Daniel and to John that in very many ways seem to have as their fulfillment what we now know as the countries of Europe. Since this is the best explanation of these prophecies that we have at the present, whenever something of major political development happens in Europe, anyone who is a believer in Christ and in the Bible should take special notice.
That is why it was significant in the years of World War II when Adolf Hitler was attempting to conquer all of Europe and unify the nations under the rule of the German Third Reich. That is also why it was significant when later in the twentieth century and the beginning of this century, the nations of Europe decided to unify themselves into the European Union. These events at the time did seem to have a certain ring of prophetic fulfillment to them, and in fact, to a certain degree they did.
“All these things are merely the beginnings of birth pangs,” Jesus said.
For centuries, people who study the Bible have commonly understood that the fourth beast of Daniel chapter seven, and the woman sitting on the scarlet beast of Revelation chapter seventeen as some type revived but corrupted and ungodly European empire. Because of this, it is no wonder that we, as believers, should be interested what is happening with the political situation in Europe.
Here is Daniel’s description of what he saw:
I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet, and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates.
I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.
Thus he said: “The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.
Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.”
Now John’s description of the woman of Revelation seventeen:
And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly.
And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.
“Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.” (Revelation 17:3-13)
Considering this woman of Revelation seventeen who rides a scarlet beast, it is interesting to note that the continent of Europe receives its name from Greek Mythology in which the maiden Europa, a beautiful woman of high lineage from Phoenicia, was seduced by the god Zeus, who had disguised himself as a bull and persuaded Europa to climb on his back. Once she had done so, Zeus the bull carried her away over the sea to the island of Crete.
A woman riding a bull has long been one of the symbols for the continent of Europe. The image is presently seen on some of the euro coins, in a large painting in the EU Parliament building, and as a sculpture outside the Council of Europe building in Brussels. In fact, the symbol is quite common and instantly recognized as a symbol of Europe.
And now, in the recent decades, the countries of Europe have decided to align themselves under the European Union, giving them a common economy, which is the world’s largest. Along with this gigantic economy, the EU has also become the world’s largest trading block.
To be fair, the EU as we know it now is not entirely motivated by economics. It does have its more altruistic aspects, as is presently being witnessed by its attempt to receive millions of political refugees from the Middle East. However, there can be no doubt that economics is the driving force behind the reasons for the existence of the EU. Were there no economic benefits for the countries of Europe to be part of the EU, none would choose to give up any portion of their sovereignty for the benefit of the entire region. It is the economic strength of the union that keeps them there.
Why Do You Want to Leave Us?
But now, the Brits have had enough. They have voted to dismount themselves from the bull and to leave Europa. In doing so, the other nations on the bull’s back have become troubled, and some fear that others may do what Britain has done, thus upsetting the whole ride.
Given the economic benefits of remaining with the EU, why would Britain decide to do this in the first place? It is just this fact that I find so interesting and why this decision is so unusual in our day. It is a decision based not on economics.
In our world where “follow the money” is the name of the game, this is a highly unusual move. By this vote, the Brits have made a statement that there are some things that are more important than money, and to this I say, “Bully for the Brits!”
I do not know what all of these reasons are. You can read the news reports and commentaries as well as I, but as I have read them, I have found that I had to wonder if the reporter himself had some political leanings as to how the story was presented. How many interviews did he or she have to conduct before they got the ones that they were looking for? One reporter had people tell her that their vote was motivated by the EU forcing to the country to take in people who might be terrorists. Another reporter was told by voters that they were trying to protect their jobs from cheap, imported labour (notice the English spelling).
What about the US? (By that I mean “us”)
I understand that many of us even in the United States may have lost a lot of retirement savings as a result of the Brexit vote, at least temporarily so. I understand that the decision for Britain to leave the European Union has caused near panic in the stock markets of the world. I understand that the economies of the world and especially Europe will now have to totally rethink many of their trade agreements and business practices.
Despite these things that we see as negatives, there is a large part of me that is cheering this decision by the English people. I know that many of them woke up the day after the decision with regrets, thinking that, economically speaking this may have been a wrong move. They may be right in that, at least for the short term, but it is almost refreshing in these days when people decide to do something apart from the economic consequences.
However, none of this has anything to do with my more upbeat assessment of what has happened. My optimism in this decision has more to do with what I see as a setback of the prevailing world-view that has been foisted upon the thinking of the people of the world. This is the thinking that it is best to leave the decision making in the hands of a few people in bureaucratic positions who believe that they have a better overall view of what the needs are, and how we are to address them.
Here in the United States, for instance, we like to congratulate ourselves, especially in this time of the year around Independence Day, that we live in a free society. “Our leaders are not people who have taken their position upon themselves,” we tell ourselves, “but our leaders are people whom we, as voters, have chosen.” We like to think that it is we citizens who wield the real power in our country. Our representatives are our servants.
As you watch this year’s Independence Day fireworks, ask yourself if this actually the reality of the situation. Step back a moment from eating your watermelon and grill-fried hamburgers to assess some of those things not only being allowed in our nation in these days, but actually being promoted by some of those in the very top offices of our government. Are these the things that you would choose for the lives of those in your family?
Bureaucrat or Savior?
True freedom in this world is really only an illusion. No bureaucrat can lead us to freedom. Only a Savior can do that. That savior is not the one that will one day emerge out of the kingdoms of the fourth beast of Daniel’s book, or the woman riding a beast in John’s vision. The Savior that we need is the Creator of all that there is.
Jesus said, “If the Son has set you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
We also need to remember that we should not expect that as the time for the end of the age approaches that life will become easier. Like the birth pangs of a mother in labor, upsetting events in the world will become more severe, and they will come at increasingly shorter intervals.
That is why Jesus said when he was about to leave this world, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27 NAS).
And remember he said also concerning events that are moving our world, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day in which the Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42)